Manley Jumbo Shrimp meets all parameters you've laid out including used price. Oh, and I run one now so I know. I'm running it with Manley Mahi Mahi monoblocks and Penaudio Cenya monitors.
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I have an almost brand-new CODA solid-state 05x preamplifier that would probably work for you. It has the full five year transferable warranty available. The unit features full function remote control capability. This solid-state preamp sounds exceptionally close to tubes. The technology gap between solid-state and tubes is rapidly closing. I can work with you on price if you think it might offer an effective solution for you. I bought it for my second system - my first system uses tubes. I'm currently consolidating equipment across platforms; the CODA needs a new home. Read the review from 6 Moons for more details. Write me if you're interested.
Did not think of attenuators. Looked at the modwright. I'll check out the Manley this week, if a dealer has a used one or demo. Don't like using dealers to demo, only to go home and buy used elsewhere. But that Manley wasn't even on my radar. I'll do some homework on it. Thanks.
The Capri might work, but the cinsinance scared me off Rowland. I'll check with a local dealer on it.
Generally speaking, its a tough question you ask, but its good that you realize the problem is the preamp. Its probably the hardest component to get right. The only preamp I've owned that you have is the PCA-2. I wasn't impressed with it. It had a very polite sound but just didn't inspire in any way. I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty certain you would like a Conrad Johnson Premier 16 if you can find one. I had mine next to the PCA-2 and it just beat it in every aspect. Given your description, I think its exactly what you are looking for.
As far as tubes go, you need to be careful. You can easily get one that is not to your liking. The sound of tube preamps vary just like every other component. Again, given your description, I think you may like something from Sonic Frontiers or an entry level BAT (used).
One last option I would recommend you look at is a good passive line stage. How well a passive works can vary greatly so I think a demo would be mandatory.
If you don't have a way to demo anything, I would try to buy something used for a good price. If you end up not liking it, you should be able to sell it for close to what you paid. Its a good way to go if you don't have any other options.
There's a lot of great equipment out there other than what I list. I'm sure some of the other members will give you some solid recommendations, as well.
When I owned a DNA-1, I first paired it with an Audible Illusions M3a and then a Manley Shrimp. Both sounded very good with the amp. If you need a phono stage, the AI has one while the Manley doesn't. However, Manley takes the prize when it comes to customer service and communication. The newer Jumbo Shrimp also comes with a remote control if that's important to you.
Unfortunately, as others have mentioned here, finding the right preamp is the hardest thing for most of us to do. That being said, a VAC Auricle preamp might be just what you are looking for, at way less then you'd expect to pay.
My preamp merry-go-round ended when I got the Musical Fidelity kW preamp. They show up here used for around $2k. Does all that you are looking for. Great bass, lovely treble. A hybrid design that lets tubes and transisters each do what they do best. Check out the Stereophile review for details and measurements.
I have a SimAudio Moon P-5 that I purchased for under $2,000 (a good deal!). It sounds great to me, but I haven't had a broad range of experience with pre-amps.
I'm curious what folks say about the Benchmark DAC-1 -- I know some people use it as a preamp. I'm considering whether it would be a good choice for a buddy of mine who doesn't have a lot of cash to sling around.
Is the DAC-1 authentically high-end? I've heard conflicting opinions.
Backgroundblur: Your JKDAC32 dac gives out 2.1v at less than 100ohms output impedance.
Your McCormack Power Drive DNA-1 power amplifier has 1.2v input sensitivity to make it give out it's full output of 150w into 8ohm, this combined with 100kohm it's input impedance makes it a really great match for a 10kohm passive preamp, which are 4 to 5 times cheaper than your budget and may even sound better.
Densen Audio B200+
Not only is it a good pre-amp that can be found for under 2k second hand ($2200 retail), but it looks like pure sex.
Backgroundblur, Yes, the Eastern Electric Avant is very good. I would encourage you to replace some tubes, you only have to do a few at first, maybe to a pair to match up with just input or better yet just one tube if you are using balanced inputs. EE should be able to help you with tube selection. Anyway, if you like the stock version of this preamp, tube rolling will improve it's performance even more.
There is one excellent Preamp that is constantly overlooked and that is the Onkyo P-3000R which lists for $1699.00. I recently had the pleasure to listen to this work of art with the M-5000R amp. Wow!!! The pristine crystal clarity is stunning. The echo/hall effect and 3-D imaging is first rate. Very smooth. Sounds like a tube Preamp. Comes with a built in DAC and phono stage and also a head phone jack. Under the hood you will find a toroidal and a block transformer. One is for power and the other for filtering. The Preamp has a very classy retro 80's look with a black satin front panel and knobs. The unit is heavy at just under 25 pounds. For its performance level and build quality, I doubt you will find any other Preamp on the market that will even come close at $2K or under. A steal...