The Emotiva.com UPS-1 is geTting very good press and is well within your budget. They offer a 30 day trial period...
Thx Rlwainwright, I've noticed the USP-1 and am definitely curious about it. The specs certainly look impressive, especially at the price point. I see them sell on A-gon within hours of being listed, so I could always grab one and test drive it...If it's not for me, it won't be any trouble to move, that seems certain. I wonder if it would be an improvement over my P/LD-1100?
I currently enjoying a Kavent S-33 preamp. It does have 1 set of Balanced inputs to go along with 5 regular inputs. I also has 2 pair of outputs and a set of balanced outputs too. It is very similar to the Vincent SA-93 preamp. The remote is solid as well and can reduce the gain by -10dbs.
Another preamp if you can find it is a McCormack TLC-1 with remote volume control. Very rare but it does sound good too.
Good luck with your search.
Thanks everyone for all the suggestions so far. A couple of them were already on my radar (particularly the Adcom GFP-750) but many of them are new to me, thanks and keep them coming!
Question for "AVIDEO" who suggested the McIntoshes: I had noticed the C15 because there was one for sale on A-gon last week, but there seemed to be mixed reviews among Mac enthusiasts. Have you heard the C15 and if so, can you describe your thoughts on its sound quality?
Another general question for all: How much of a factor do you consider age to be when it comes to preamps? Or put another way, would today's $1500 pre blow away a 10-year old similarly priced pre just by virtue of accumulated technological / design advances?
Tlhiii, I'm not convinced that newer preamps are really any better than ones from a couple decades ago. As long as their capacitors, etc function OK, anyway.
Some other SS suggestions:
Classe DR-5, maybe -6
Musical Fidelity A3cr or A3.2cr
older NAD (can't remember the model at the moment)
Someone recommended the Innersound. I had that preamp for a while, since I have their amp (love the amp by the way). I found it sterile and uninvolving in my system, anyway. If you're going to reach, I'd recommend a Musical Fidelity 308cr. You'll pay around $1000-1200 for it, but it's a notch above the others I've listed, IMHO.
Ok lots of suggestions here. I have to tell you the Bel Canto Pre 3 is a top notch pre for $1000.
I am using one now while my tube pre is being built. I must tell you is surpasses many high dollar preamps I have heard and owned. Yes it is that good.
Very sweet and really has no significant weakness. A joy to use with wonderful build quality.If the tube unit I am waiting on was not the amazing piece it is, I would keep the Pre 3 as it pleases me as much or more then a slew of preamps costing up to $8000 new.
Dead quiet and really is very neutral sounding. Nice tone and quite dynamic also.
If I was building a modest system from scratch this pre would be my choice.
Speaking of NAD.
I owned a NAD1700 tuner preamp.
MM and MC switchable inputs.
20hz rumble filter...backpanel switchable.
triple turnover bass and treble. 60/120/250 bass:: 3k/6k/12k treble turnover.
2 tape monitor loops.
Hi and low level variable outputs....seems that in a modern system you could run outputs to an amp AND to a sub.
Pretty good FM tuner with an acceptable AM section, as well.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some other features.....but at 800$ retail in about '86, you could do worse. cost today? probably not much. I gave mine away with a fully functional remote...good for many NAD system components.
For maybe 100$, you could test it and probably not lose any money. The phono input alone makes it worth while to those who love there vinyl.
Thanks again to all, a few more possibilities added to my list from your suggestions.
The Bel Canto Pre3 seems to get high marks for transparency and detail in reviews, which are what I'm looking for. The aesthetics (i.e., silver faceplate) don't fit with the rest of my gear at all, but that's not a deal-breaker.
Does anyone have experience with the models noted below...? They seem to meet my criteria but haven't found too much info about them yet.
- Arcam FMJ C30 or C31?
- Cambridge Audio 840E
- Linn Kairn
OK, that's a fair question after I solicited input from you all...After doing more research on some of your suggestions, here's my final short list (in no particular order):
- Bel Canto Pre3
- Adcom GFP-750
- PS Audio PCA-2
The Adcom was already on my list, the PS Audio kind of but not really, and the Bel Canto not at all. So I owe the Board for contributing let's say 1.5 of my 3 choices!
I actually just bought my new (used) speakers as a first step in revamping my system, so I will probably not pull the trigger on a preamp for a little while yet, just to give my wallet a little time to recover. But now I know what I'm looking for and if I see a good deal on any of the items above I could easily decide not to be patient ;)
When you see a new thread started by me for "What's the best SS amp for <$1000?" you'll know I've plugged in a new pre and moved on to the last piece of the puzzle!
Those members who recommended Bel-Canto Pre-3. I think three questions need to be ask; Is the BC pre-amp musical and engaging?? (Transparency can be cold and analytical or warm and less detailed) Will it match with the different amps Tlhii may finally consider?? Is the unit still current?? (Though, this is the least important factor). I launched a thread several weeks ago, about if "same brand separates" offer better sound. I think the thread was 50/50 split
The Bel Canto is a wonderful balance of neutral, transparent and musical, smooth and sweet at the same time.
Never thin sounding or bright in any way. You can listen to music for hours without any fatigue.
It really is quite good and can be found used for $1000 or so.
I have owned some of the best pre's and the Pre 3 is very special at its price point.
Neutral is the best word to describe the Bel Canto Pre3. Volume goes up, or volume goes down with no coloration that I can hear, it's like no pre at all. I've owned a few decent amps but none have been as transparent as the Pre3.
Smooth operation is an added plus. The volume control seems infinitely adjustable, an excellent feature.
That's my take.
Disclaimer - I'm considering selling mine to simplify with an integrated amp but haven't committed to it yet. The last time I tried to replace it lasted about a month before I put the Pre3 back in the system.
Most of the reviews of the Pre3 jibe with what Timrhu & Grannyring have said above -- it's neutral and doesn't color the sound.
This fits well with my taste -- I prefer neutral and detailed and transparent, even what some might describe as a litte bit "foward" -- rather than "warm" or "sweet" or "laid back", etc., etc.
I could always swap out some interconnects and/or speaker cables to take the edge off the sound if it went too far.
[@Timrhu, please feel free to shoot me an email if you decide to let go of the Pre3.]
Just an update for those who pitched in with info or followed this thread: I ended up going with the Bel Canto Pre3 and it sounds fantastic in my system. I'm listening as I type this, as a matter of fact...Very happy with it.
It's a significant, not-at-all subtle upgrade in SQ from my Parasound P/LD-1100, more so than I expected to be honest. The old pre was clearly holding my new speakers back -- not anymore! They now sound every bit as good as they did when I first heard them demo-ing in the audio store.
Lots of good preamps were suggested by forum members, so hopefully this thread is helpful to others in the future. Thanks!
Next up...new amp :)
I second the McCormack RLD-1. I own one and find it very musical, fast, & involving with all types of music. Its ability to throw a huge soundstage, beyond the walls is another fine trait, I've tried it on tube and solid state power amps with superb results. I have no desire to look any further because I have had too many other solid state preamps.
I did read up on the RLD-1 and many people described it as having a "tubey" sound, or being particularly well-suited to pairing with a tube amp, so I didn't think it would be my thing (I prefer a very neutral sound). The RLD-1 is certainly a well-regarded piece of gear though, and was solidly in my price range. If I was looking for a little warmth in my system it probably would have been my choice.