It seems that you are looking a tube preamplifier, but if you decide for a solid state non balanced preamplifier, I may suggest the McCormack RLD-1. I bought mine used for $1,100.00(shipping included). Yes, remote control is a blessing for lazy audiophiles like me.
For that money, Rogue, Blue Circle and Placette could be found here at AudioGon for under $1,250.00.
Just my .02cents.
Hi Paul; The Sonic Frontiers Line 1 is an excellent pre-amp with all the functions you could want on the "way cool" remote-- and besides that it also sounds great. I have both a Line 2 SE and a standard Line 1, and can highly recommend either. While my Line 2 was in being up-graded to SE, I used the Line 1 in my main stereo system for 5-6 weeks, and barely noticed the change. Good Hunting. Craig
I've got a Bat vk 20 and I am completely satisfied. If you shop you can find one on the net tnat will fall into your budget. It sounds great and works well with a wide variety of amplifiers. The Conrad Johnson PFR will also work well for you especially with the Sonograph amp.
What else is in your system? What amps are you considering?
You may also consider the Adcom GFP 750. It has balanced and single ended I/O, sounds not at all in passive mode, and comes with a unique remote. Nelson Pass design, I've seen em for <$900 on Audiogon.
Thanks for the replys. In response to the question about the rest of my system: Theil 2.2, Cambridge DVD/CD, Syngergistic Research and Cardas cables.
What amp am I thinking about? I am open to suggestions here too, but am leaning towards:
Plinius SA 100MK2
Conrad Johnson MF 2300
Bell Canto Evo
Really want the preamp to have source selection as well as volume. Does the BAT VK20 have source, or just volume on the remote?
Thanks again for the feedback. Paul
I like all your gear and nominations. I'd suggest the C-J PFR and 2300 A.
try a used VTL 2.5 used....
re: Adcom GFP-750 Yes,it is a Nelson Pass design but it almost stops there.Adcom took the design and went running with it.I didn't turn out true to the original design.
The reliability is hit and miss also.There's lots of defective units being repaired by a less than concerned company.Plus the reviews are weird.For all the + reviews there are as many - reviews.
I think its one of the most confusing products in a long time.
Rogue,Melos,Cary are sure winners.
If you like the tube pre sound I would suggest sticking with it. BAT VK3i is in your ball park and was designed to work with either ss or tube gear. I think you will find it to be sweeter than the Sonic Frontiers. I think the pre you are running now is a little sweeter than the BAT.
The Rogue 66 is quite a different animal ( IMHO ) than the BAT. Not as sweet but does sound quite good from top to bottom. I do find it to be just a bit noisey if you put it in with equipment costing twice as much. But for your application it would be perfect. If you get reall lucky you may find a Rogue 99 pre for $1250.
You might also try to find a CJ tube pre. I think I saw a pv14al ( or something like that ) on auction here. But there are other CJ tube pre's you might look into as well. VTL has improved ( I think ) there 2.5 pre as well, but I have never heard it with a ss amp.
Your cables are also warm sounding, so I'm guessing you like the warm sound. Have you ever thought of purchasing a tube amp to go with your pre? I think you will be surpiresd how much better it will sound with your tube pre.
The Aloia preamp bettered a $6000 pre in my system. Still one of the steals or should I say reasonably priced products in all highend
Try finding a used Kora Eclipse. It sounds extremely dimensional. Has RCA as well as Balanced outs. Phono stage, outboard power supply. We are talking a different league. We know, we have had the steals and deals:) IOHO
I have a BAT VK3i and love it, but the remote is volume only. Has a unity gain setting for HT pass-thru, and multiple volume pre-sets (not sure what that's worth if you cant switch sources remotely), and a mute, but no source switching. IMO, the only defect in an otherwise great product that would be right in your price range (and the remote can be retro-fitted to an non-remote unit).
I think you're getting some excellent recommendations and had a GREAT list to start off with as well. I wholehartedly agree with David on the Adcom and will leave it at that. I wanted to have you think further about the full function remote. You'll probably find you get up to do other things when you change sources and that volume only isn't as inconvenient as you think. Remote source selection costs money and degrades performance, so if you're looking at 2 pre's at the same price point, the volume only remote unit will likely sound better. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this further.
I'm going to second the vote for the Sonic Frontiers Line 1. Matched with cardas cables and some NOS tubes, it'll give you a nice warmer sound that at the same time, puts forth tons of detail. It has all the features that you could want and has a way cool remote. For the prices they go for used, they are an absolute steal. Good Luck!
Pass Aleph P. I owned Sonic Frontiers Line pre amp and the Pass is by far and away a cleaner, truer, and more musical pre amp. In fact, I wish there was some way you or anyone here could come my way and listen to the fabulous Pass Aleph P ($1500) and the even more fabulous Pass X150 amp powering Apogee Duetta Signatures. Simply end game. I've listened to all the amps you are considering on Apogee ribbon speakers and the Pass amps are significantly better. There is a real reason for the difference and deserves further reading about.
I'll just chime in and say that my system apparently differs from the above post as it was a major upgrade going from the Pass Aleph P to the SF Line 2. I found the Pass Aleph P to be very detailed but dry in the midrange. I am biamping Legacy Focus speakers with an AES Superamp Signature and Parsound 1500A power amps. I understand that the Line 1 sounds similar to the Line 2, possibly lacking a little in the bass definition, and would highly recommend it considering the firesale prices I've seen.
Thanks for all the replys. I wonder about the CJ PF14? I am guessing I can stretch and get a demo one (they retail for $2k). How does it compair to the PFR? I would much prefer tubes, as I like to roll my own, but the full function tube-pre options seem limmitited.
I seem to rememember the PF14 has a funky tube, and CJ does not support changing them. Anyone know the story on the Conrad Johnson PF-14? thanks again
I don't believe in reviewer's comments off hand, but one professional reviewer I read on the net for the SF Line 1 commented on a midband slight chalky dryness. Darn if the reviewer wasn't right on. Everything else was exemplary about the Line 1. I am running a Pass Aleph P with a Pass X-150 driving Apogee Duetta Signatures. The mids are perfection. We just had a four cd player shoot out at my place and the Pass duo adopted the subtle characteristics of each player. With all solid state players the mids were a tad dry, such is the case pf the digital cd medium. Only the tubed cd player totally clarified the mids. Tubes are important. If you get the front end right, the Pass amps will be a blessing. They have been for me. I don't miss the Sonic Frontiers at all.
As Muralman1 stated, "tubes are important" and can make or break a preamp (or amp). Maybe that is where we differed on our judgment of the SF Line series preamps. I would also agree that the Line 2 sounds dry in the mids when using stock Sovtek 6922's. Sovteks seem to have that characteristic with most 6922 based preamps. It is also my understanding that reviewers make their observations based upon stock tubes which can be very unfortunate. Many preamps can sound very different with NOS tubes. I've tried Sovteks (current production and NOS), Amperex, Mullard and Siemans. My observations on the SF Line 2 are based on using Siemans 7308's in all 6 positions. I, for one, will never go back to solid state.
Of the preamps in the ~$1000 range the BAT VK-20 is the best I've owned.
I have owned the following preamps and liked them in the following order regardless of price: BAT VK30se, BAT VK20, CJ PF-R, McCormack TLC-1, ARC LS16, CJ PV-14L, Classe CP-35, Creek OBH-12, Adcom GFP-750.
Of the solid-state preamps I would give the (slight) edge to the CJ PF-R sonically but it's volume control can be quite sensitive and difficult to precisely adjust especially with the remote and especially if your system gain is fairly high. The useable volume control range in my system was between 7 O'clock and 9 O'clock - not much adjustment range.
The BAT VK20 is right up there with the CJ PF-R and it has the best user interface on the planet plus it offers balanced XLR and single-ended RCA in/outs. It has a hefty aluminum remote and a wonderfully designed user interface including programmable characters for each source.
Of the tube preamps that I've owned, only the BAT VK30se delivers solid and tight bass along with that nice 3 dimensional tube sound. The other tube preamps in my list were not quite there in the bass department and the CJ PV-14L was especially lacking although it had a very sweet midrange.
The Adcom was my least favorite. Mine was totally reliable but I've heard horror stories from others. I simply didn't like the sound in my system. In passive mode this preamp required AC power - and not just to illuminate the front panel lights or allow for remote volume control. It simply does not work w/o AC power. Why would a "passive" preamp require power? (The McCormack TLC-1 passive does not requir e power). In passive mode the Adcom sounded dull and lifeless and lacking dynamics. In active mode it was bright and aggressive to my ears. I'd take the Creek OBH-12 over the Adcom.
Yes, I agree with Yowser. Different tubes will alter the sound accordingly. My SF sounded positively awful with it's Sovteks. Using different tubes, the sound neared perfection. I never went on to Telefunken or Siemens because of the expense. After I had sold the Sonic Frontiers, I was told just changing the last two tubes would do the trick. I wonder if anyone has tried that?
I meant the pV-14, the newer tube remote preamp from Conrad Johnson in the above quesion (How's it sound? Compaired to the PFR, can you change the tubes?...). Sorry for the mis-type.
Hey AbeCollins, Great feedback. Thanks for the info. Think the BAT or CJ is the more reliable? I've never had BAT grear, but good experiences with CJ.
The CJ PV-14L is nice looking and has a good user interface but I found the lower bass to be weak compared to other tube preamps I have owned and the highs were slightly rolled off. The PV-14L uses two 6C4WA tubes and I think you can find NOS tubes but I never tried "tube rolling" this pream. The ARC LS16 was much better in delivering the lower bass (but it costs more) and the BAT VK30se is better yet (and yes, it costs even more). BAT seems to do a great job with the sonics AS WELL AS the user interface. I would never pay huge bucks for a "high-end" tube preamp that forced me to get up out of my chair to adjust the volume or change input source! There's no excuse for this level of minimalist design in this day and age and especially at the ridiculously outrageous prices for some of these pieces.
Between the CJ PF-R and the BAT VK20 solid-state preamps, I felt that the CJ PF-R had slightly better dynamics and a sweeter sound. I really loved the sound of this preamp. I prefered the CJ PF-R sonics over the VK20 but the VK20 was very close and it has a MUCH better user interface and it has balanced XLR ins/out (in addition to standard RCA's) vs RCA's only with the CJ. The CJ PF-R uses a motor-driven volume pot and like I mentioned in my previous post, the volume control range is very limited (7 O'clock to 9 O'clock of practical adjustment range). This made it very difficult to precisely adjust the volume especially with the remote... I would always overshoot or undershoot my desired setting. This is a common complaint with the CJ PF-R. I doubt that anyone could use this preamp with the volume pot beyond the 10 o'clock position.
I couldn't tell you which is more reliable between BAT and CJ. Both companies make outstanding products and stand by their gear. I currently own a BAT preamp and two CJ power amps.
I stand by my original opinion. The BAT VK20 is the best value in the $1000 - $1200 range(used) and I'm entitled to my opinion, right? ;-)