cambridge or nad preamp

I've narrow my choice between the Cambridge 500 or the Nad 160 preamps. My other equipment are the Odyseey Stratos amp and Monitor Audio Silver 5i for my mains. All opinions are needed. This will be my first preamp.I plan to start between the $300 to $500 price range then progress upwards. Thanks to all who replys.
If you want new, then the C500 is a good choice.

For used there are much better things to be had for $300 to $500.

I started with a Cambridge C500 preamp a few years ago when I first wanted to play around with separates. I say a few year ago, because I was probably the first person in the country to have one. I got it from a dealer who had dropped Cambridge, but got one by mistake from the distributor as a pre-demo before they were to start selling them. So he sold it to me for about dealer cost. It had the optional $60 phono stage. I only paid like $225 for both. My first power amp was a Conrad Johnson Sonograph set that I picked up used. It had the SC26 preamp with the SA250 Power amp. So I got to do my first showdown in my home and the Cambridge was slightly better than Sonograph preamp to my ears. Since the Sonograph was a $1000 new list price preamp, I was impressed. I kept the SC26 in the closet until I resold the SA250 later.

The C500 is very neutral for an inexpensive preamp. It does not add or subtract anything from the sound that I could hear.

My next step was an original Conrad Johnson tube PV-10 pre I picked up used for $525. (Another one with phono; a must for me). It was a very noticeable improvement, which is why I said if you don't mind used, you can go much further for $500. The SA250 amp was replaced later by the CJ MF2100.

I now have a solid state CJ Motif MC-8 (great phono) with a Blue Circle BC-22 power amp. It really sings!!

You may want to stay away from tubes starting out?? For solid state used under $500 you may find older Conrad Johnson's PF-1L, PF-2L, Superphon Revelation, Acurus RP-11, various Bryston and Adcom.

For a new C500 there is a demo at for $229 and the phono for $50 if you want that. They have a 30 day return policy which gives you a change to try it.

Trip, Sugarbrie's advice parallels my experience with preamps. I went from an Adcom gtp-400 preamp to a Cambridge c500 & the Cambridge was much better. This was with an Adcom amp & Maggie 1.6's. Then I got a Belles 150a Hot Rod amp & found the Cambridge lacking something, although it was neutral and committed no active sonic sins. The phono section was decent enough for something so inexpensive. I replaced the Cambridge with a used Music Reference RM5III preamp that I have about $600 invested in ($2000.00 retail new.) This was an Ebay auction that turned out to be one the best deals I ever got. Excellent synergy with the Belles and this pre is MUCH better than the Cambridge. The choices Sugarbrie lists used around the $500.00 level are all good. Good luck, Will.
I think the advice of going used is VERY good. If you go with something like Bryston, there is a fully transferable 20 year waranty so you can get a used one without much worry. Look for an old 11B. My first separate pre-amp was a 0.5b that while inferior to what I have now, was awfully good for the money and indestructable to boot.
If you are persuaded to look at the used market then check also for Audiolab pre-amps ... they sound great, they're versatile, and they last forever. And for some reason they're cheap used on this side of the Atlantic.
All good advice. Used is definitely your way to go. You can pickup a used Anthem Pre1L for $395 on the AudiogoN right now (unless it's been sold already). Lots of great stuff for under $500, virtually all better than the Cambridge or NAD. Plus, by going used, you won't take the hit in depreciation like you would with the NAD and Cambridge, neither of which will have much demand in the used market.

Just doing a very quick search, I found a PS Audio 5.5 ($395), Threshold NS10 ($400), Aragon 24K ($350), Audio Research LS3 ($500), Meridian 501 ($400), etc., etc.

All good stuff. Enjoy your purchase! Good luck.