generally the valves in a preamp are trouble free. i would however email van alstine for advice and alternatives......
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I have a Audio Research SP16 tube preamp and love it. It cost $2000 without phono and $2500 with phono (which I have). The SP16 has 2 sets of outputs, a HT processor, full function remote and a immence sound stage. I have a Classe model 4 preamp in my bedroom and brought it out into the lvg room for a comparison against the SP16. There was no comparison, I put the Classe back into the bedroom right away (which does fine there with a little Adcom power amp and small Alon speakers).
I may switch around power amps but my SP16 is there to stay. I have it coupled with Quicksilver Silver Sixties and Vandersteen 2CEs (I'm looking to add a Vandy sub soon).
I was just wondering if you solved your preamp problem yet?
I would also recommend you listen to the Musical Design SP-2B Signature or Platinum pre amplifier.
For what it's worth I'll share my experience this weekend with the MD SP-2B and a few other amps.
I just spent the weekend playing with the SP-2B hooked up to the Van Alstine OmegaStar 440Ex Amplifier and the Musical Design 75-B amplifier.
The VA and the SP-2B sounded very nice together. The 440 had plenty of power to spare, decent imaging, good bass etc. I gave them both two days to warm up first and my feet were definately tapping.
After that I put in the Musical Design 75B 75 watt ss amp ($900). There was a huge difference in the upper registers. Much more detail and decay on the cymbols, piano and guitars. Images were a little less defined, but had more space around them. Sound stadge was deeper and more realistic. Bass and Midrange were as good as the VA. The only problem was that it was only 75 watts and when listening at higher volumes it lost control a little bit during challenging passages of music, not much but you could notice it. The 440 did better at staying in contol during large passages and at higher volumes. but over all, I found the MD more musical and more involving. In the Musical Design, I have never heard an amplifer that has that kind of detail and imaging for any where near that kind of price.
I if had to choose between the VA and the MD, I would choose the MD. In fact, after switching back and forth about 4 different times, over three days, between the two amps, today I made the last switch and I will stick with the MD. Although, I'm now temped to try their D150 model which has twice the power. Don't get me wrong, the VA was still a very enjoyable amp and I liked it a lot more thought I would.