I am a fan of Conrad-Johnson preamps especially their older models say PV12 and earlier some good reading in the archives on them. Especially the PV 11, disclosure former owner
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I agree with Uru975; I just sold a PV10al a sweet sounding little gem it tis. I love the CONRAD JOHNSON sound. I especially adore AUDIO RESEARCH, there older models under 1k if your not concerned about phono stage are the sp6a they have sold for as low as 850.00 the (SP14) 1k and up. The better preamps are the (LS) line stage amps w/o phono stage. The (LS7) has sold for as little as 1k the (LS1)which is really an (SP9) w/o phono stage as little as 600.00
TAD 150 Signature. I sold my Melos SHA Gold when I got this as the line stage was noticeably better. No longer made by Bizzy Bee audio. I think there were about 400 units sold. Weak point is the remote control. I purchased a much nicer one and transferred the codes. Put the original remote in the drawer.
Without any reservations I would strongly recommend the new Norh ACA-2B tube preamp for $299.00 plus shipping from overseas. Bested most all the tube preamps I have had regardless of price. Transparency, detail, and big dynamics were its best attributes. When compared to other tube preamps (and I have tried some the pres DVDGRECO mentioned) it was like removing a veil from the music.
I agree with you Mingles - he may be getting paralysis by analysis at this point.
For under 1K the choices are pretty limited.
For under 1K the only Modwright is the 9.0SE which is not the tube rectified version - so it may not give the warmth that he needs.
VTL 2.5 probably will - I have only heard the 5.5.
Quicksilver Remote control linestage will and you can tube roll to tailor the sound.
I can't comment on what a new 1K or less pre-amp or less today sounds like, or more importantly how it would sound in a given system. My thoughts would be you would have better results with an acknowledged great preamp from the past maybe 20-25 years ago where you aren't compromising as much to meet a price point.
Any of the older Conrad-Johnson pre-amps would be something to consider as well as ARC maybe an SP-6 or SP-8. CJ's of that era might not be as good in bass control as the ARC's but so far as overall musicality goes, either would beat most of what you will find at 1K new today is my best bet, YMMV. I know where I would go, even an old CAT if you can find one at this price point would be better in almost all ways. You might want to try one. One thing for certain, you aren't going to lose anything for trying as these units can EASILY be resold for what you paid. Do some research and find out what you can. Stereophile archives can help with this. Good CJ include the PV-7, PV-5, PV-10, Premier 3 (good luck with that one!) and pretty much all the PV's.
I made the plunge a few months back on a TAD150 that cam up on the gon. After only a short listening session, I decided to purchase different tubes in an effort to achieve silky mids and larger soundstage. I 've tried sylvania 12at7 WA JHS (unmatched set) and recently purchased a matched pair of NOS Mazda 12at7 from Brent Jesse. The mazda's only have 15hrs on them- so I am hoping they change after full burn-in????
I am beginning to think the only way to achieve the silky mids & 3-d soundstage maybe with a pre with tube rectification such as Mapletree or juicy peach(bluberry). I''ve heard good things about belles 21A with aurua cap upgrade???
I would get a new Mapletree Audio linestage or full funtion preamp at this price point and even if I could afford considerably higher. Not audio jewelry (thick aluminium or steel face plates, etc) but well thouhght innards and curcuit design and tube rectification in a second chassis - VERY hard to beat at the price and well beyond.
I just put in a pair of NOS Mullards from Brent J. and WOW, these present the music in a way I have been looking for. silky mids, 3-d, bass, LP like from the cdp.
I even tried a mini comparsion between my Herron VTSP 1A, the differences between the two are difficult to find.. The source material is the key as well