if you get a chance, check out the VTL 2.5 pre-amp or the Manley Purist. Very rare to find in the used market but can be bought for under $900 used. These are excellent tube pre-amp for the money.
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The best "used" product buys I've seen in a long time are the several BAT VK20's appearing at $1k. I've owned the VK30, VK30SE, VK5i, VK40, and the VK50SE...The VK20 @ a "used" price of $1k is an absolute steal! It's a far better performer than it's low used priced would suggest, and it has the identical user interface as the flagship VK50SE. It will provide you with outstanding performance and save you close to a grand from the price of a used VK30. I can't comment on the others you've mentioned as I've not owned them. I've also owned the Threshold T2, Coda, Pass P, Plinius M16, and obviously the sun rises and sets for me with the BAT products.
I was looking at listening to many of the pres on your list and sttled upon the Musical Fidelity A3cr. It cost $1595 new or around $1100 mint used. It is absolutely wonderful as long as you don't need balanced ins or outs. It has all the advantages of solid state without many of the drawbacks. If you like reviews, you should look at Wes Phillips and Sam Tellig's review. This is a truly special pre-amp at a very modest price.
Hi Say811, I currently own a melos ma-333 and find it moderately superior to my previous cj pv-7 preamp. I also don't think you can go wrong with a BAT product. I friend of mine has a gfp-750 and a pv-7 preamp and the cj wins hands down. the adcom is very clinical and detailed but, far less musical. I had also owned a pair of ads L-710's. Although this was/is a decent speaker, I think you will find FAR greater results in a speaker upgrade.
Hope this helps,
PM, the Adcom was designed by Nelson Pass. If you read reviews of his earlier preamp designs or are familiar with them, they are all noted for being "ultra accurate" i.e. "clinical" sounding. They might be a good choice to mate with his very smooth yet detailed sounding amps, but not for something that is already on the "etched" side of neutral. As to specifics, i've been told that the GFP sounds much better in the passive mode as compared to the active mode. Sean
I still like my Aleph P a lot. I asked Nelson how close the ADCOM is to this design, and he said all he did was give them the design...the execution was up to SADCOM. Not a good scenario. The Aleph P allows true balanced operation, which is great for longer runs to monos. It is DEAD silent, utterly neutral, and yes, maybe "clinical", Sean, but, frankly, I look for coloration in my transducers and room treatment, not my electronics. The last thing I want is a spectrally non-linear pre.
Plus the gorgeous remote and its clickety-clack ratcheting is fun, in a way. 35 lbs of overdesign, but at $1500-$2k
what a deal!
I had an Adcom 750 for a couple of years and thought it was great. That is, until I heard the Placette.
Tubes may beat the living crap out of anything solid state, but you have to like the sound of tubes. The Adcom in passive mode does very, very little to the signal, which strikes me as exactly what it should be doing. On the other hand, maybe you like a pre-amp that makes the system sound more "musical." I have a First Sound and I understand the appeal. So, Say881, you should try to listen to a few examples from both camps.
The 750 is a great preamp. I owned some much more expensive preamps at the same time, and quite frankly the 750 was not put down to far by them. Since you want to integrate it into a home theater, I would make it my number one choice. It has a home theater pass through that allows you to use the volume control on your tv or ht receiver. If you can live without the ht, my two favorites under 2k are the pass labs aleph P, and the BAT vk-5i. I like all the bat preamps - I'm in with coltrane on that one. Nothing compares to their 30 and 50 SE line.
Ernie, i was not "slamming" any of the Pass designed gear in any way. If you've read more than a few of my posts, which i know you have, you would know that i am a BIG fan of Nelson's work and typically recommend his products whole-heartedly.
As to his preamps, my comments were primarily based on his older Threshold designs as i'm not real familiar with his current stuff. I'm sure that his newer products are good, given his knowledge, experience and parts quality that we have available today. In fact, i've had other people recommend his model "L" ( i think that's what it was ) to me for use in my Father's system. With that in mind, it is "commonly accepted" that the older Threshold preamps were "etched" sounding. If you took offense to what i said, i'm sorry. I probably should have clarified myself better.
In terms of prefering a "coloured" preamp, that is not my bag either. I have always been a "straight wire with gain" man when it comes to preamps. My normal preamps of choice have nothing more than a volume, balance and mode selector on them. Like Nelson's designs, they stress wide-bandwidth, speed and simplicity. Those are all basic design considerations that i look for when shopping for products. After all, the more circuitry that you have, the less "pure signal" you are likely to hear. Sean
Auditioning gear is unfortunatly not an option for me so I'm trying to put togeather a system based on info gathered at audio sites(mainly this one) and reviews. Also, being a novice, I'm wondering if I have a sophisticated enough "ear" to tell the difference between a high end unit and something which audiophiles find lacking. Is there a big difference between my Adcom GTP-760 pre-proc. and a high quality pre-amp? When I upgraded my Cambridge Audio D-500SE cdp to the Arcam FMJ CD23 I heard what I BELIEVE to be an improvement in bass and in a sence of 3D spatial characteristics, but the difference was relatively small.
That being said, I find the music sometimes a little on the "thin" side and would like to get a heavier, more robust sound without losing detail and clarity. I also would like to get as much of a sence of space and precence as I can. I realize that my speakers are not up to snuff but I'm trying to get my electronics in order so that I can do justice to a really good pair.
P.S. I've noticed that after two posts on pre-amps, I've seen but one Krell recomendation. Should I infer anything from that
Say811, Krell makes good products and many people enjoy them. I used to have an all Krell system - but I think my ears got better as time went on. Today, I cannot listen to and enjoy Krell as much as I could a year or two ago.
If you are looking for body in your music, IMHO Krell is not the product for you.
If you take my earlier recommendation and try a Triode preamp from Supratek, you will see an enormous gain in musicality of your system - you WILL hear a difference. Regardless of your other components, the Supratek will transform your system.