best preamps in the 4K-8K range


I'm looking for some opinions on preamps. My current system is: Ayre Cx-7 CD player, Arcam AV8 preamp, Cary 500 MB monoblocks (currently using arcam P7 preamp, but have the Carys on order), Dali euphonia MS4 speakers, Richard Gray Power. I find m current system nice, but slightly analytical, and not as 3-dimentional as I'd like. I'd also like some more musicality with a touch of warmth. I have been thinking about BAT, Cary, Herron and Pass labs preamps--some would need to be picked up used on audiogon to stay in my price range. I would certainly appreciate any thoughts on what might go well with my system from any audiogoners. Thanks
tcheathertree
Check out www.H-cat.com for info on the North American Products 12 preamp ($3995.00). IHMO, I don't think there is anything better. I have owned many fine preamps over the years (Audio Research, Threshold, Spectral, Krell just to mention a few. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You should trust your own ears on your selection.
Any VAC Renaissance Signature Mk. II will do the job & more. Find one with the phono section & you're in like Flint!
Regards
Richard
You should definitely checkout the VTL 6.5. I went on a long quest for a new preamp and got that one. It has a good measure of warmth without being mushy. I found the BAT to be a little soft. On the slightly less warm side, but still definitely a tube preamp is the ARC Ref 3. The VTL lists for $8500 and the Ref 3 for $10k, but deals can be had on demos, etc.
Herron preamps are very neutral. Not sure there will be enough warmth there for you. I used to own a Joule Electra LA-100 MkIII (I compared it in my system with my friends Herron) which I felt was incredibly musical with just the right touch of warmth for my system. I ran it with a solid state amp. The LA-100 is actually a tad more neutral than most preamps I have heard, but if you get a chance, check into one of these or the newest version of the LA-150.
currently on audiogon are some very nice pre's from joule well under your price point. before you buy amy of the units mentioned please do yourself a favor and listen to a joule 100 or 150. you'll have to spend a heap of money to do better. and I mean a heap..... and no, I do not have one for sale but I do listen to one every day
If only this were so easy...... I also am currently in the same hunt, and have been for a couple of months now. I also went through this in 2004. The preamp is the most difficult component to recommend, IMHO. It is so system, taste, and feature dependant, that it's almost impossible for anyone to tell you what will work best for your system/tastes/needs.

I think you will find that the current popular choice in your price range is a ARC Ref 3, used or demo. However, that could change soon with the new BAT's coming out at the CES this week. Keep in mind that the latest, hottest preamp may not be the best fit for you however. You may prefer the Cary SLP-05 to mate with your new Cary monoblocks. Only your ears can decide.

Happy Hunting,

John
I really like my Herron!
Placette active
Can't go wrong with VAC. VAC is classic. The ARC Ref 3 is another good choice, but finding one for $8k this early in the game? You'll need a connection. And it won't necessarily assuage the clinical sound you seek to change.

How about the CJ flagships? Last year's flagship might be available in the $8k range.

The VAC or CJ will get you more warmth, and a less analytical presentation. IMO, VAC gets the music right.
I agree with the VAC. Used Ren Mk2 w/line stage should be near the bottom of your range and if you get lucky, you can get a Ren Sig Mk 2 near the top of your range. Of course, I own the Ren Mk 2 and love it. I will say that it is possible that the Cary amp may give you the warmth you are looking for. The Joules are excellent and also since you don't need a line stage, First Sound. Really quite neutral and might work just fine with the Carys.
With respect to Swampwalker, IMO the First Sound won't get you where you want to go with more warmth and a less analytical sound. The First Sound preamps are Ferraris, and it sounds to me like you want a Rolls.
A CJ Premier 16, version 2. Man this is pure musical magic and the backbone of a great system. Get it and Amperex NOS's. Heaven.

Bill
Take a look at the Valve Audio Genesis from Music Direct.
This is absolutely the best IMHO.

Regards,
Dewald
I would certainly put Music First Pre-Amp on the short list. It is passive pre-amp with S&B trainnies and it sounds really good. There are two versions of it: one silver and one copper (cheaper). Both of them are really good and will outperform many much more excpencive active, SS or tube, pre-amps. You have to hear it to believe it ...
First Sound won't get you where you want to go with more warmth and a less analytical sound. The First Sound preamps are Ferraris, and it sounds to me like you want a Rolls.
Tvad

Of course that could all change when the Cary monoblocks replace the Arcam amp. Maybe he should hold off asking for preamp advice until he hears the new amps. I know I would.
Tcheathertree, I just posted a review on the Bent Tap passive linestage compared to the Placette Active linestage that will provide you with information on both of these wonderful pieces. Each is in your budget range, so I would recommend you put both on your audition list.
Thanks guys for the great advice. I believe it was "tvad" who put it best when he said that I was looking for a Rolls, not a ferrari. I am interested in the VAC and Joule preamps...also cj, but I am reading that their recent preamps are not really warm in character....anyone have a comment on that?
01-09-07: Tcheathertree
Thanks guys for the great advice. I believe it was "tvad" who put it best when he said that I was looking for a Rolls, not a ferrari. I am interested in the VAC and Joule preamps...also cj, but I am reading that their recent preamps are not really warm in character....anyone have a comment on that?

Out of curiousity, have you heard the Cary amps yet?
I ask because I think the Cary amps will take you pretty far in the direction you want to go, compared to the Arcam amp. They might even change your preamp goals.

John
CJ's preamps still have warmth to them. My CT6 is very satisfying, and the CT5 is the next step up and a world class product.
there is only one which is used as the in store reference of many in the industry. CAT! untouchable for the value and the phono stage is better than Audio Research Ref Phono which is one of the few decent sounding products that ARthat they made. Check with postings as far as tube rolling. Older units give you more flexibility. Newer ultimates change to amperex ,noisy midrange heaven though and bass less control. tradeoffs !tradeoffs!highend audio!!!goog luck..with alot more dough asthetix, KOndo ,this is next level...good luck
RE CJ preamp
I heard the CT6 + the newest tube replacement for their 140wpc (160?) amp on some off shore plannars, this time last year.

Warm rich and full is not how I would characterize the current CJ tube line. At the same time I heard the cj 14 preamp too. Neutral is the watchword for CJ now. IMO.

The thing being overlooked here is if a tube preamp is being sought, changing out tubes in it opens the door to a fair amount of other choices in sonic quality.

Given what I read about Mr. Head of Cary (?), the big Cary SS monos were voiced to his top two anniversary tube amps. 805 & 211, I believe. i don't think given Cary's house sound, those amps are gonna be strickly SS sounding. personally, I'm real curious as to their properties. Playing them first seems the for sure thing to do prior to making any plunge into uncharted waters.

it might be hot to go, 'as is', once they get plugged in.

Good luck