Do you mean without built in DAC and plan to add a separate?
Without DAC or remote capability If a remote wasn’t mandatory there are some very good sounding used preamps by Sumo, McCormack micro drive, Sugden AU-41, NAD monitor series come to mind, Bryston 0.5.
RC preamps at and under $500 Classe CP-35, also research Rotel and Nad they both make a handful of modestly priced good sounding preamps. Personally I would look for a Classe 35. I know there are two currently for sale if you perform some searches they shouldn’t be difficult to track down.
I know its a matter of opinion but there are a few dated NAD preamps (and built in phono stages) that punch higher than there price would suggest. Being said I was not sure on your DAC situation. this would leave some room to play and get you into something. And also leave a step in the form of cash to build on towards the other box.
500 can only get you so far. The Classe does not have a built in DAC but it is RC and an excellent sounding preamp with build quality. Baby steps, try to practice patience otherwise you may end up disappointed.
Not sure what the rest of your system is so I'll throw a dart with my bad eye on this one. Guessing your system is totally digital as you expressed no need for a phono stage. Finding something for $5-700 is tuff so here's what I'd do; find a used Cambridge 851C. It has a great preamp, killer DAC and sounds great going directly into an amp and it has a nice remote. I've listened to the entry Parasound Halo preamp and it doesn't get close to the preamp or DAC of the 851C. If you're amp has balanced inputs the 851C has balanced out too. As a CDP it is as good as you're going to get without selling the farm and if you're using you're computer or media server it's built for that too; all kinds of digital inputs. You're going to have to increase your budget a little but you'll be happy. It's built very well too if that matters.
Cambridge 851D might be something to look at if you don't spin CDs or have another player you want to keep. I've not heard the 851D, but would think its for the most part an 851C without the transport.
Get the aragon 28k preamp if u can find one. I have owned it for 20yrs. In those years, it beats all my new purchases to replace it. Musical fidelity ac3r, rogue audio, simaudio 740p.
During my process to upgrade it, i brought it for comparison with accuphase 2410, ayre kx5, ayre k5xemp, jeff rowland capri, mbl preamp, the aragon never paled in comparisonin terms of Clarity, openess and dynamics.
I finally bought the sim 740p based on reviews and without audition.
Sold the 740p after 3months.
Still stuck with this vintage, its simply irreplaceable.
well, I answered your thread for a $400 preamp.... The suggestions here are similar... When you get to that $700ish price point, things change.... At that price I would look at an Adcom GFP750 (Only this model in Adcom).... I would look for a Muse Model 3 or Model 3 Signature if possible. I would look for a Bel Canto Pre 1. These all sound Great, the are all single ended or balanced, they all have remotes.... I hope this helps, Tim
Thanks but it seems that none of those three have digital inputs. The Aragon 28k seems to only have RCA analog inputs too, based on Google searches. The Cambridge 851C seems to be a CD Player, DAC, and pre-amp (digital only) all in one case. That would solve my clutter problem for sure. Is the sound quality comparable to or better than a Cal Audio player?
Digital inputs? as in Optical? USB? Coax? So, you are confirming the questions that you want an on board DAC? I can understand that. I would only comment that the quality level of a few of these preamps mentioned are far above anything that you will likely find at their price point with a built in DAC. I could be wrong.... I can say that I've tried a few under $100 DACs and have been pleasantly surprised. I'm sure that you could also get recommendations there.... On this tread and the last, Classe CP35 has been mentioned. I have seen these on Craigslist (might have been a CP30) for as low as $300 and they do go regularly for under $500. Not as detailed as some of the others, but smooth and musical.... Good luck with your search.
DacMagic Plus by Cambridge Audio can be used as a preamp. However it does not include any analog inputs. Several digital inputs. XLR and RCA analog outputs. Wolfson DAC Technology. $399.00 music direct.
I would go with George suggestion and get a 5-6 year old $3,000 avr that they are selling for nothing because it has no HDMI instead of paying a ridiculous 70%-80% of new price for a unit that had a 70% mark up to begin with
There are at least 5 processors close to your price range like that listed here right now. They have same or much better DACs or twice as many DACs than used stereo pres that people want 5-10 times as much for. Plus you could use them for audiophile audio in 3-4 rooms at the same time with amps. Or just run hdmi to your tv and digital out back to receiver and you have everything the new models have and more. lis758ec lis761c4 lis75623
In the theme of dinasty, the Parasound AVC-2500. Does everything you're asking for. Originally $3500.00, used $400ish, maybe even less. You didn't specify what digital in's you needed. The AVC-2500 does not have hdmi, but it does have optical, coax and, of course analog. It's for home theater setups, so it has bass management plus some other eq functions.