Well, this doesn't help we need to know what equipnment you have. It isn't that simple. One amp can sound grate with one speaker and pre and crappy with another.
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Supratek! I feel these preamps are the best value out there. They sound fantastic and look beautiful. Each preamp is hand built by Mick Maloney in Western Australia. He builds models that range from about $2500 to around $8000, both with and without phono stage. I highly recommend getting a phono stage as Mick is known for the beautiful sound of his phono stage.
I dunno. The only way to determine that is to audition each of them in your system. Hearing them side by side by side at a dealer would be helpful provided the amplification and speakers were similiar (ideally identical) to your own. However the chance that any retailer has both Hovland and CAT is small although you may find one in larger metropolitan areas. Supratek does not do retail so a 3 way comparison is quite unlikely.
Performance vs. $$$ I think Supratek is untouchable as you are saving 40%-50% buying owner direct. All of course IMO.
FYI, I have the Grange not the Cortese.
Frankpiet I sure it's in the same "league" but I've never heard any of them in a direct A/B comparison with my gear which in the ONLY way to know; the bottom line is, it depends on what YOU like. Don't be concerned with reviews and retailers where agendas abound. I've owned ARC, CJ, Dayton Wright, Pass, Harmon Kardon, Dynaco, and Aesthetix preamps over the last 40 years. The Grange is my favorite and more than likely my last preamp.
With regards to Grange/Cortese, again I've never heard an A/B comparison. However there are quite a few Cortese owners here on Audiogon with sophisticated systems who love it. IMO (and this may start a ruckus here) it's difficult to purchase more for your money when you buy a Supratek. There is no retail intermediary adding 40%-50% to the purchase price. Lastly, there are very few used Suprateks on Audiogon. Why? Owners tend to keep them. If you happen to see one posted it generally sells very quickly.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IMO
I went from a CAT Mk. III with phono (not Ultimate, of which I understand there are two iterations higher on the food chain than the Mk. III) to a Hovland line stage. In my system, and comparing only the line stages, the Hovland was clearly better, but again, it was not being compared to the best CAT preamp. The CAT was by no means a slouch and had a very good on-board phono stage. I only sold the CAT because it had way too much gain partnered with sensitive amps -- it drove my VAC tube amps to super-loud levels at only 9 O'Clock on the volume control.
Incidentally, the Hovland has unshielded outputs and can be noisy.
Either new or used, there are a lot of very good tube preamps for $10k or under. I would focus on something with a low output impedence that can drive any interconnects and amps (e.g., be careful of the otherwise very fine c-j ART and 16 in this regard) and with a reputation for build quality (e.g., VAC, CAT, BAT).
Also, and this anticipates your next thread, the very best solid-state preamps can layer sound and have a great midrange like good tube preamps, plus, they are almost always quieter, which can be extremely important in a revealing system. After years of playing this game, I settled on a top-shelf solid-state preamp (Rowland Coherence II). The top Lamm preamp and the preamp in the DCC2 are two more solid-state preamps (there are others) that are first-rate and within your budget.
Speedy Gonzales: Sorry, but "Raquel" is my wife's name. I was trying to place a bid on a cartridge about five years ago and couldn't remember or find my password for my then-user name. My wife was standing beside me, and, the clock on the auction down to a few minutes and lacking a better idea, we did a new user name using her name. I got the cartridge, and now I get marriage proposals from A-Goners. Sorry to disappoint.
Wyetech Opal. Tube pre with all the benefits of tubes (realism, soundstage, etc.), with none of the downsides (weak or bloated bass, excessive warmth, etc.) Built to outlast the listener and a unique beauty to boot. About $8600. Used to have a Hovland HP-100, great pre but in a different class. Have heard the CJ's but they have in varying degrees the CJ "golden glow". Wyetech is dead neutral. Almost never found on used market, which should tell you something.
One man's opinion.
The deHavilland Mercury has given me 7 months of musical pleasure adding more realism and even less listening fatigue to an already excellent system. It is extremely natural sounding. I had the Pass 2.5 before the Mercury. I would rate the Pass 9/10 and Mercury 9.5/10. I think it is a very good value for the money. I have found out many times you have to listen for yourself. Artg was disappointed, but after 40 years of being an audiophile I recommend giving the Mercury a try.
And to reiterate for the 10th time, I freely admit my experience with the Mercury 2 might have been due to mismatch with the Berning amp (but to be clear, three other seasoned audiophiles had the same exact impression of it IN MY SYSTEM - so it's not only my ears or the stuff between them).
I have nothing but respect for Kara and the folks at deHavilland, and it does not suprise me ONE bit that the merc would be pure sonic bliss in someone else's system! Moreover, i apprecate that they allow a 30 day listen period with full refund if the unit does not match up well with your system. More should do that.
I have to agree, the Wyetech Opal is the best I have heard.
Detail,soundstage and all instruments sound so lifelike.I picked up a used one at a great price and changed the tubes. I cannot believe the difference it made to my system as soon as switched out the SS pre. I am using a Linar 250i SS amp and Accustic Arts drive/dac to drive Gershman RX 20. I think I have found what I have been searching for all along.
I do understand what you are saying but I want to make it clear that I chose my moniker carefully so that everyone on audiogon would know I a am a dealer. Certainly not ashamed of it. So I won't be disclosing anytime soon. People are not stupid and they can quickly see for them selves.
It might be noted that most every one who posts on audiogon has at one time or another sold something as well or is going to sell something. So if I had a piece of used gear I might have an alias and use that to pump it up.
My point is don't believe everything you read even from the "non-dealers".
By the way I don't care if you buy a Mercury from me or from deHavilland directly or find one on audiogon used. I still love it. It seems to make the music sound approachable. I am not alone......http://blog.stereophile.com/rmaf2010//index1.html
Depends on the system and how it matches and interacts with your other components. So with that said, there is a lot to choose from in that price range. I certainly don't have experience of hearing a lot of stuff, but I have heard about 20 or so preamps. Of those my favorite is the Herron preamp. Really lit up my system.
I do understand what you are saying but I want to make it clear that I chose my moniker carefully so that everyone on audiogon would know I a am a dealer. Certainly not ashamed of it. So I won't be disclosing anytime soon. People are not stupid and they can quickly see for them selves.<<
Well that is really lame and a complete cop out. Many others have chosen their names "carefully". Here is a list to review:
What do they have in common? All are "audio" related but NONE are dealers like you.
When discussing a product in which there is a financial interest, a disclosure is mandatory.
To not do so is unprofessional but more importantly deceptive to the readers who depend on honesty and integrity from forum posters.
I've not heard any preamp close to $10,000 that does not perform EXCEPTIONALLY well, really. Only issue would be some tube linestages with some SS amps with very low input impedance. Everyone will tell your the favourite, which is likely the one they currently own, and they may very well have different "sound" preferences than yours. Most recently, I've owned great linestages from CAT, ARC, Lamm, Joule, Dodd, Placette Active, BENT Tap, and Atma-sphere - all exceptional, but with my current setup, I prefer my $450 Lightspeed Attenuator and for my preference the best "preamp" under $10,000.
Frank, did you say you tried the Ayre pre with your Ayre amp and thought you could do better? If so, in what way?