You should be looking for a true balanced pre-amp, such as an ARC LS3B. I picked up an Audio Experience Balanced line stage (circa $1000, new) for about $600 used (less than one year old), for my M60's. It uses TWO volume controls, however, one for each channel, which makes for a bit of a hassle, especially in a darkened room. I just LOVE the sound, though. You get to swap tubes if you like (2-12AT7's and 2-12AU7's) to experiment a bit and the price is very reasonable considering the excellant build quality and sound level achieved. Of course, if you can afford it, Atma-Sphere also makes some absolutely fantastic preamps too. Make sure that your looking at fully balanced designs, whatever you should choose. Happy Listening.
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I appreciate the responses, but my problem is that there is no way i can afford to buy an atmasphere and an expensive preamp, so atmasphere preamps and aesthetix are out of the question. I've never used a preamp, so I'm not quite sure how great an effect they can have on the overall sound, but would it be entirely ridiculous to use a cheap Chinese made preamp, like a Dared, or radii, used cayin, etc. or some other budget preamp with a high quality piece like the Atmaspheres? I don't think I would want to spend much more than $600-$700, and really the goal would be to spend as little as possible. Are there any preamps in this price range that show up regularly on Audiogon that would be able to allow the Atmaspheres to show their stuff?
Are many preamps not fully balanced? Sorry, I'm a complete no-nothing when it comes to the technical side of preamps.
Because I own one and because i know it would fit your budget and it has balanced outputs for your amp and a Cd player read the reviews on the Nelson Pass mosfet design Adcom GTP 750. It's been a Stereophile Budget reference for quite a few years and you see them all the time on here and Ebay.
Trust your ears.
Marco, here are some preamps (used) I'd consider for your application at or below your price limit. None of them will be embarrassed by the pairing with an Atma-Sphere amp. They're all tube units, they're all single-ended (RCA), and none of them do anything wrong to the sound...
Conrad-Johnson PV10A or PV10B
Consonance T-1 or T-99 (the T-99 is only $825 new)
Mpignone: "Are many preamps not fully balanced?"
Most preamps and most amps do not use balanced circuitry, they use single-ended circuitry. Balanced circuitry requires about double the parts, etc. Many manufacturers (such as conrad-johnson) choose NOT to spend the money to create balanced circuitry, as they believe it is NOT inherently better (or at least that single-ended circuitry is NOT inherently inferior).
I hope to have a pair of AS poweramps, the 140-Watt MA-1-IIIs, by the end of the year; I do NOT plan to use a balanced preamp with them.
Jeffrey- I would caution you on the Atmas running single-ended. I had a buzz I could not get rid of (Ralph calls for a shorting pin in the XLRs if you run single-ended, but it was not a complete solution for me), but more importantly, they sound better through the XLR input even from my VAC pre, which I am told is only a pseudo-balanced output.
Mpignone, Please except my apology for having a complete brain fade and suggesting those very expensive preamps. I read your question... walked away to attend to something and then came back and was completely off point.
I too would suggest the Ear/Yoshino 834L, or I would offer a Juicy Merlin, Peach, Extreme, Blueberry (don't be put off by the names), PrimaLuna Prologue 5. Just to name a few.
If you absolutely want a balanced line stage, the BAT VK3 is an excellent choice....and sometimes falls around $1k or so. Otherwise I would give serious consideration to the CJ models suggested by Rushton. Finding something under $1k because you maxed out your budget on the Atma amp will be difficult. And what speakers do you have? The Atma amps might not be a good choice at all here.
For tube models, various Counterpoints or Melos or even ARC LS7 would get my vote. If you were willing to go solid state at the start, something like the McCormack Line Drive would be a great value.
Mcfarland: The first truly balanced line stage from ARC was the LS5. The LS1, LS2, LS3 and SP15 may have had XLR connectors but they went through conversion circuits to obtain two phases....and what's the point of all that nonsense!
Prior to my MP3, I had an audible illusions M3 which was excellent with the S30. I used single-ended interconnects with the shorting plugs without any problems. The AI M3's or M3a's are almost always available on Audiogon in the $700-800 range. The PV10 mentioned above would also be an excellent choice.
My speakers are Soliloquy 8.2s. They were one of the first 2 models produced when Cary/Dennis Had owned the company. They are probably 91db (no documentation available for these), and I'm not sure of the impedance, but I think even the smaller Atmas can run them quite well.
Still debating this, but this thread has helped greatly. Depending on finances over the next few months, I expect to go in this direction.
Thanks for all the responses.