Buy an Adcom GFP-750 ($750 or so used)and quit while you're ahead--you can spend much much more--and actually get worse performance. I also liked the Krell KAV-250p if you want a more upscale name, and those can be had for $1200 used. If you need tubes to add a bit of euphony and take the edge off CD, the Rogue Audio Ninety-nine preamp is nice for the price (very good bass & dynamics and a sweet plausible sonic portrait) and should be in your price range used. Happy Hunting, Frank
The Conrad Johnson PV10 is full function tube and is a giant killer, it retails for around $1200 - you can get on this site for about half that. It's sound is definetly on the tube side; warm, full on the bottom end and extended and smooth on the top end. It's addicting. Good luck with your choice.
The advice so far is pretty good. At the $1200 range, you have several choices, and two of them are Adcom: 1. Adcom GFP-750 - an outstanding preamp at retail price of $1250, or around $900 used. 2. Adcom GTP-750 pre/pro, which can be gotten used for around $1300. This unit is all-digital and has Dolby Digital, DTS, and Pro-Logic built in, plus other DSP features. Has 3 digital and 6 analog inputs. 3. Bryston BP-20 or BP-25. Bryston builds great gear, and all their stuff has a 20-year warranty. You couldn't go far wrong with any of these units.
GO WITH AN AUDIO RESEARCH LS2, LS2MK2, LS2B, OR LS2BMK2,(REMOTE CONTROL WAS AN OPTION ON THE UNITS). THESE UNITS WILL BE MUCH MORE CLEAR AND DYNAMIC THAN THE ADCOM PLUS THE AUDIO RESEARCH WILL ALWAYS BE IN DEMAND AND WILL NOT LOOSE MUCH MORE OF ITS VALUE THAN THEY ARE RIGHT NOW.I HAVE SEEN THE LS2 AT $800 AND LS2BMK2 AT $1200 SO TAKE YOUR PICK ANYWHERE IN BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT MODELS. I PERSONALLY OWNED ALL BUT THE LS2MK2 AND HAD NO PROBLEMS WITH THE UNITS AS THE BUILD QUALITY IS MUCH BETTER THAN THE ADCOM IMHO.
.... Sonic Frontiers Line 1; neutral, detailed, smooth, and very well built-- should be available used for $1200-1300. Happy Hunting. Craig.
The Bryston BP-25 (not the 20) is a very musical, accurate pre-amp with useful features such as balanced and RCA in's and out's, and a nice headphone output. It is definitely in a class above the Adcom stuff. It has the sound of a tube preamp without any hassles. Talk about maintaining its value--it has a 20 year warranty! Much sweeter sounding than Audio Research gear.
the lastest version of the linn kairn, w/the "slimline" version of their brilliant power supply is absolutely awesome. great detail, transparancy, soundstage - width *&* depth, weyy neutral tonal balance. also unbelievably user friendly, w/great remote, two tape loops, 6 inputs (or 5, plus fono), three main outputs, and ability to run remote-room set-ups, or to be used w/a home theatre set-up, & not degrade the sound of your 2-channel stereo. i got mine for considerably less than $1200; i had an older linn w/brilliant p/s, was going to go to tubes, but i'm *way* happy w/this latest version.
The latest used or demo Audible Illusions M3A with upgraded tubes is a tough act to follow.Great detail,soundstage, sounstage depth,transparency, micro and macro dynamics, great bass ,smooth highs and outstanding mids .A full warm and natural realistic sound!Not tubey,not cold it does it just right,at least in my system it does, and my audio buddies love the sound,not bad since the two of them can be very critical .The M3 has been around since 1993 and has been refined every year.In 1996 it was so much improved that it became the M3A and refinements have occured each year,right up to the current model.The latest model ,no longer has the rep. of being a tube eater as this problem of limited tube choices has been solved! On the down side their service is very slow and as long as you do not need a phono upgrade you will not need to wait up to 3 months as others have.It has been so fine tuned with constant upgrades and top parts as well as built like a tank that service is a very rare possibility.It is a worthy contender in the $1200. price range.Some say that the L-1 is the same pre amp without the phono stage and this is wrong as the L-1 has not had all of the production upgrades of the M3A .Happy hunting.
I can sell you my presence audio linestage for less than $1200(see preamps-tube). It is fundamentally a better unit than the audible illusions preamp. Sorry about the plug, but you'll thank me later
I WOULD STICK WITH AUDIO RESEARCH.NOT ONLY DO THEY SOUND THE BEST, THIS COMPANY IS THE BEST.
I like the Audio Research SP series.They are excellant sounding preamps. 89vett
i had only one experience w/ar - their sp9 mkll. i bought one used a few years ago, it was positively *awful*! the dealer suggested new sovtek 6922's. an improvement, but still unbelievably dull & slow - it was like the music was in slo-motion. even my old adcom gft1a was more listenable. i *wanted* to like it, cuz it was so nice-looking, but the dealer took it back after a week of my trying. arcam stuff creamed it, my old electrocompaniet ec1a (which i still love, but it doesn't have remote) creamed it, my old linn kairn creamed it, my new linn kairn creams it. perhaps other ar stuff is better...
I got a Pass Aleph Pre-amp used for $1200.00 bucks, Machined black metal case, sweet looking Blue Light, just SWEET. Was rated very High (as is all Pass Equipment is).
Check my current auction (ends 7/1 P.M.) for a mint ARC LS-2 linestage preamp. Includes a NOS Amperex tube!! Orig.box and owners manal. Only $799.00 min. bid with no reserve. Orig. sold for $2,495.00. Plus we welcome all major credit cards! Thanks. Mike Stereo Exchange Levittown, PA 215-943-0529. Open Sat from 11:00 to 6:00 EDT.
Find a Threshold T3 - for the money, there is nothing better. Second choice would be a Bryston BP-25. Both have remotes and sound great (the Threshold is better).
A female audiophile has just asked me to sell her Conrad Johnson PV 12L linestage preamp with NOS Mullard tubes and upgraded power cord. Stock retail is $1995- she wants $875. The beauty of this is that you can try it, if it doesn't make magic, you can sell it without loosing money.
Listen,Tweek or whatever else you are.Just shut up,then go to your nearest junk shop and beg for sale there.
I have owned the Adcom,(as well as PS Audio, Quad 33 among others) all were good amps, each with their strengths and weaknesses, however the Audio Researce for build quality and inner detail surpasses all the others that I have owned.) You can pick up one of various models for a reasonable price from many on-line dealers.
If you can tolerate a passive line stage in your system, the Reference Line Preemminance 1a ($600, used)or the Preemminance 2 ($800-900, used) will nail ANY of the preamps listed above. Caution!!...you will be spoiled for life....but a little less light in the wallet.
I suggest the Welborne Labs Reveille Tube Linestage. I recently purchased a used unit and am very, very happy with it. You are welcome to write for further elaboration. God bless.