Kondo Audio Note
You may want to differentiate between phono and line capabilities.
Allot of quality choices here but not really relevant until you put them in the context of related components.
I am getting a Criterion soon,, if there is any friends in L.A that owns a FM 255 maybe you can come by and test it out with me ,, love to learn more stuff,,
I could make you listen Viola Cadenza/Spirito and also,
all depends on where you live, I'm in France.
Viola is one of the best SS Electronics Musicality of time and reliability also manufacture a great value for resale.
Allot of amazing WORLD CLASS pre-amps mentioned above and still a few more names that need mention but that being said there really won't be any "BEST" just sonically different and the end result will be determined with the rest of the associated pces paired up with. I haven't heard every pre out there but the pre's mentioned above I have heard REF3, Jadis 80, Doshi, JR Criterion and my fav. over those is the VAC Sig. MK2a. So much that I'm now ordering the VAC Statement 450 mono's to be paired up it along with my MBL 101E's, main source TW-Acustic Raven AC3.
Experience Music Kahn LCR phono stage with mercury rectification and Slagle stepups;
Experience Music DHT line stage with 71A tube;
http://jeffreywjackson.com/The_Line_Stage.htm (older pic -- new chassis similar to phono stage)
Where does First Sound fit in? I am considering buying a used one but have no way to listen first.
I have heard VAC Renaissance MKIII with Phi 200 with Tidal Contriva all with NBS 0 cables ... a disastrous set-up ... I don't what was wrong but for sure it was definitively wrong !
I have heard that Alon Wolf from Magico is using VAC for testing, so it must be quite good ...
are you now using MBL electronic ?
I love the 101 ;-)
no, I tried 9008 and 9011 mono's and did not like the over all sound.
I actually owned their pre for a few years and currently own the 1621a transport. This transport and the 101's are my favorite pces from this manufacture.
Currently using Bryston 28 Squared mono blocks paired up with the VAC Sig. MK2a pre with phono, very nice match and my MBL's have never performed or sounded so marvelous.
I would say that the FM 266 is easily the best of the mentioned candidates. It is so musical yet detailed and lacks absolutely nothing in its rich presentation.
Nice thread, I hope it recieves more inputs no pun intended.
Roysen, my belief is that there is no best just different and what one prefers in their specific set-up.
Among the few very best preamps I suggest you might add the new Viva Linea from Viva Audio and Lyra Connoisseur.
For me these 2 with Jadis and Kondo Japan are the top5 but different flavors.
The more neutral and more compatible of them all are the Viva and Lyra.
I have owned the Joule Electra LA 300ME for the past year+ and my search for a great preamp is over. How does it compare to the above mentioned preamps, I can't tell you. I have compared the LA 300ME to some other high priced pres and for my ear the JE would be hard to beat IMHO.
This could be a list of the hardest to find preamps if you consider the USA market. FM Acoustics has one dealer in Colorado; Jadis is not distributed in the US as far as I know, although you might get it from Canada and the Viola has perhaps three dealers? The chances of hearing any together, particularly new or demo items is pretty remote. I would say that the Jadis looks like a sonic outlier relative to the other three. I've owned the Criterion and it is a big improvement in clarity over JRs previous preamps (I've owned Coherence II and Synergy). I would consider Viola if I could arrange a local demo and also would put Jadis on any short list of all tube systems to build.
As for FMA; I've heard the full FMA setup, met Manuel Huber (a very nice, knowledgeable and enthusiastic person) but it doesn't make my list of things I'd someday like to own (realistic or not).