I've been on "search" myself. I heard good things about all of the pre-amps you mentioned, plus, "Audible illusions" "Anthem pre-1" and couple of others...! However, the funds are "tight" so i had to be "inventive". I found the DIY (kit)or assembled pre-amp based on famous Marantz 7. You can find more info. from "Parts Express" and Valve Audio Laboratory. The model is MP-L1S MKII. Good luck!
Conrad Johnson PV10A. I love mine.
I love my Rogue66. Another good choice would be Sonic Frontiers SFL1 -Signature. Should be within your price range. Good Luck
The VAL MP-L1S, has beed discontinued! However, you can get the schematics for the same. But, with so many good used Pre-amps on sale, why bother? The choice is made and based your source, and the amp AND the speakers you have. Most people should build their "system" around Pre-amp. Not "vice-versa". The pre-amp is THE most important "piece" in one's "system", and you should spend the most of your money on, or to say at least, same as your amp! Rergards!
I would have to agree with Rgd on the Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 or SFL-1 Signature. After owning one of these gems and putting a good tube in it they are very hard to beat for the money. I have to admit that it had an amazing soundsatge , good depth , and very very nice tonal balance. For the used price in $550.00 to $700.00 range this is, as it was called back in it's day "A Giant Killer". Excellent bass signal and very natural highs when matched to the right amp. You can buy it and re-sell it for the same money if you don't like it. They stay at the same price and are always looked for by others......Good Luck !
Totally auditionable so check it out for yourself. At least as good as any other of these suggestions if not better. Check it out at www.audioelectronicsupply.com for $599 assembled.
Ditto on Conrad Johnson PV-10A. Anthem pretty good also.
I agree with the Conrad-Johnson pv10a excellent preamp I preffer the pv11 though if you can get a good deal on one. What kind of amp and speakers are you using this also plays an important role in system matching
The Quicksilver line stage tube preamp is very nice. I believe there is one listed by a dealer for $449 here on Audiogon. I have owned my Quicksilver preamp for almost 2 yrs. When I bought it is was the older 12au7a version. I just sent it in and had it updated to the 12ax7 tubes and it sounds even better. Quicksilver is all about customer support. The preamp is a beauty as well. It has a very natural smooth sound, but it doesn't go so far as to sound overly warm or liquid as some other tube gear can. Some of the other preamps listed above are great as well, but for the money it is very hard to beat the Quicksilver. Also if you want phono the older preamp from Quicksilver has a phono stage. Or you can buy the seperate Quicksilver phono stage preamp. Good Luck!!
A couple choices- you can get a CJ PV 12L for around $800- put in some NOS tubes and change out the power cord. On the solid state side look for a used Klyne 5-6 series. Both are huge bang for the buck bargains. Tweak them with products from www.audiotweakers.com
Rogue 66 Conrad Johnson PV 7 both good choices.
Counterpoint SA1000, SA3000 or the all tube SA5.1 w/separate tube power supply unit for about $500. All excellent value and is upgradeable.
OLDER CONRAD JOHNSON PV5. EXCELENT AND A NICE PHONO STAGE... (JUST IN CASE). CAN FIND THEM FOR $650.00 OR SO.
I have owned many of the CJ PV series and think they all have their merits. In your pricerange the PV-10 is a great performer. The sonic equal to the PV-10 and the better of many others is the Van Alstine Super Pas 4i Buffered. Don't let all the hype sway you...this pre is a killer. You can have a new one for your budget and live happily ever after. A tube phono section to boot. Go to AVAHIFI.com and take a look. Best time you will spend today on this subject.
I agree with Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 or SFL-1 Signature-- used one myself for several years. The single tube makes tube rolling inexpensive. Luck. Craig
Anthem with NOS tubes is nice.
I have a Rogue 66 with NOS Mullard CV-4003 from Upscale Audio. It made a huge improvement to my system. Very detailed, textured and dynamic. I directly compared it (with stock tubes) to the CJ PV-10a and the Rogue trounced the CJ. I also compared it to a BAT 3Ki which was close, the BAT being darker with a potentially better bottom end. The BAT also starts at $2000. I also had an Audio Research LS-15 in the system on loan which may have been 10% better than the stock Rogue. The tube roll, for a $100, probably made a 25% difference - it now sounds pretty close to an AR LS-25 I heard (which was awesome). With the 66 you have to choose between a bitchin' metal remote or a phono stage. I took the remote, but now want phono, so I may upgrade to the 99. I hear Stereophile just gave it Class "B" in the new issue, FWIW. I'd get a 66 and spend another hundred on a tube roll and you have a great preamp!
NEW p-3 gives you single stage class A hand wired(no pc board) in silver wireing with alps attenuator, Hovland Musicaps, tube standby/instant -on feature,all in a half rack unique format... check out mine or any others as an option at this price point.
You can't go wrong with any conrad-johnson pre-amp. I've owned and loved the PV-6 and still own(and love) a PV-5. If you can hold out a bit longer,I wouldn't be surprised to see the Premier 3 creeping near you price range. That would be cool. Good luck in tour search Bob
Cary SLP 50 and EAR 834 are 2 that should not be over looked