best preamp under 500 for cheap, poor student

here are the latest specs of my dorm system (keeps changing!...I keep getting stuff from my dad's house!)

Source Technics DVD 1 10
Amp1 Electrocompaniet aw100
amp surround: marantz pm17sa
amp center nOrh Le Amp (with EVS goldmund attenuator)

Speakers: JM Labs Mezzo Utopia
Spekers surround: Home made (JM Labs, PHL and Philips) 92dB
Center : KEF Reference

I am doing most of the volume control with the dvd audio player's in-built processor. I have posted about thirty five thousand posts asking what's wrong with this and NO ONE seems to answer that question.

so if that's not the way one controls the volume suggest a sub$500 alternative ss or tube to control my electrocompaniet aw100
Why not sell everything, and go with a Linn Classik K preamplifier / power amplifier / cd player / am-fm tuner ($1950) and a pair of Linn Kan speakers ($545)?

It's the best bang-for-the-buck system, and it's small which would be ideal in a dorm room.

If you want surround for TV, add the Sennheiser headphone / surround headphone amplifier for a few hundred dollars.
...Mezzo Utopia do not seem to be a poor student's speakers!
Used Conrad Johnson PV-10AL tube preamp. Can't go wrong with this one for $500.

To answer your question, if the DVD player's volume control sounds good to you and gives adequate gain, I would question buying a pre. If, however, such is not the case, or you need to switch other sources, then a pre would be in order.

The used CJ is a good recommendation and I would add the Bottlehead Foreplay if you're interested in tubes. If your preference is solid state, then a used Sonographe SC26 or Adcom 750 (a bit of a budget stretch) would do nicely.
At the NYC High End show, the YBA room featured a pair of JM Labs Utopias (what the heck are you doing with the Mezzos on a cheap student's budget) driven by the Audio Refinement (YBA) integrated. It was awesome... we kept coming back to the room to relax and listen to music after hearing some of the hifi exhibitions. I think the integrated can be had for around $500 used.

Looking at your system.....I want your dad!!

My dad's system was a coffin sized TV/Radio/Phono... It got loud (amazingly I didn't blow it on Led Zep's Trampled underfoot..) but it was nothing like what you've gotten from your dad!!!
Antique sound lab 2004. $279.00 brand new. Check here on Audiogon or at There are certainly many other choices if you are willing to buy used--and especially if you are patient.
why does everyone punish me for the mezzo utopias. My dad is a rich cardiac surgeon who recently finance my electrocompaniet marantz combo and my brother is a rich cardiologist who used the mezzo utopia when he was training in Paris. I. myself cannot afford the spikes under the speakers!!
Find a old Apt Holman preamp. Superbly made, extremely
versatile, very musical. They can be had used for less
than $300. I currently use Mark Levinson equipment, and
have owned Spectral, Audio Research, Pass, and many others.
The Apt is not far behind.
Subdoofus- We are all just jealous. No need to apologize for your good fortune.
You can get a used Acurus ACT-3 pre/pro without the ABM (bass management) for $500. You can get the upgrade for $200 (would make a nice Chirstmas present from Dad or brother).
Luxman CL-35MK III all tube with phono
NAD C160 comes with remote and all the bells and whistles for around 500. here is the link ...

a few suggestions: space tech labs, anthem 1l or 2l, mccormack tlc or mld, monolithic sound or any of the many decent passive units in this price range.
for that price anything other than a passive would be two coloured and would be unworthy of you're resolving speakers. The problem with digital volume controls is that the as you turn the volume down you lose resolution. I believe Creek has an inexpensive remote passive. I think you will quickly be frustrated with a cheap tube preas you will lose the transparecny you are currently enjoying. THe passive will simply give you the best at all volume levels.
Look on E-bay for a Dynaco PAS 3. Tube wonder with phono stage. Very sweet <$300. Only problem is close spaced RCA inputs.
Subdoofus: are you looking for a video/audio pre? If so, you'll need one that supports multichannel (pass through feature) -- for surround.
But what exactly is wrong, to your ears or eyes, w/ your system that a pre would solve? Assuming it's the sound then, as suggested above, going w/ an active pre may cost well above $500 for better dynamics AND transparency (i.e. check out passive). Another route would be to check out another, better sounding, source player that offers variable volume output.

Lastly, regarding a 2channel pre with HT processor, also check out the relevant thread here at A'gon!

Good luck!
Try FT Audio's LW-1 Passive Controller ($500), they have a 30-day return/trial period. The unit delivers transparency, dynamics, imaging, soundstage, and amazingly deep & full bass. It doesn't have any of the sonic flaws commonly associated with passive pre's. And it also has 5 inputs, although no remote, but your a student so your room can't be that big.

Many people have replaced their high-end active tube and SS preamps with this unit. And it matches well with a large range of amplifiers. Contact Paul Lamm, the US/Worldwide distributor for FT Audio, and he'll honestly let you know if it will work well in your system. I called and he was honest enough to tell me that it wasn't an optimal match with my old amplifier.

GoodSound Review

UHF Magazine

Audio Ideas
i know audiogoners have conflicting opinions on ELAD but i heard it's transparent, uncolored and is very nice....the only problem is will it match well with my ss electrocompaniet aw100?
because component matching is equally important
One of the best used buys in solid state preamps is the Adcom GFP-565. It got great reviews in the audio mags in the early 90's, and had one of the best phono preamp stages around. You can sometimes find this preamp on the used market for around $300.
Also a good buy in used preamp is the B&K Pro10MC Sonata. It goes for $300 or less on the net. It is a MOSFET design for tubelike sound and has a good phono section that is internal switch for MC or MM.

I bought mine new in 1992 and am still using it.