Comparing 3 Tubed Preamps. Impressions?

I've narrowed my search for a preamp to the following 3: Audible illusions L2 (same as M3a sans phono stage), Blue Circle BC3, and the Herron VTSP-1A. I'm currently using a Pass Aleph amp (with a 47k input impedance so a tubed pre shouldn't be an issue). In time I might consider a same-family amp if the synergy is there. I can listen to the Herron, but not the other 2, so I'm looking for impressions from anyone who has compared them or any mix of them, or has any comments on any one single unit. I have experience with a passive pre and like the transparency and neutrality, but need more dynamics and bass punch. Much appreciated!
Your search-set sounds kind of like the one I came up with about this time last year (and I too am located in an area where there aren't dealers nearby and was moving to tubes from a passive pre). To your list I'd also suggest adding the First Sound Presence Deluxe and Joule LA 100 MK III. I ended up buying a used Presence Deluxe and a Joule LA 75 Mk II, figuring I'd keep the one I like more. I auditioned each one for a month or so, starting with the Joule. The Presence has not left my system.
The Joule is a great preamp and has the benefit of a standby setting, where the tubes remain warm and ready to juice up. On the other hand, the FS has an attenuator for each channel which is a definite advantage and a separate power supply, but no standby function. I just leave mine powered-up all of the time if I'm going to use it every day. Other than that, it has a bit too much gain than I prefer, meaning that I only use the steps between 7 and 9 o'clock, and when it is turned all the way down, it still produces sound.
I suggest you check out the reviews of each one in the Soundstage
archives. Good luck. Regards, Jim
I had an Audible Illusions L1, went to a Copland CSA 303, to a Hovland HP 100, and back to a Copland, this time a CTA 305. The Coplands have the most holographic presentation I have heard, so far. The imaging is the best with having the most body and density that the illusion of performers in front of me. Good extension at both ends also.
This line does not get any press over here in the 'States so I would encourage you to seek out a dealer and try it. Frank at the Audio Outlet in Mt Kisco, NY is a great guy to work with. Hope I could help.
Thought I'd chime in on the BC3. In my system it is the one piece I will not part with. I have an entire Blue Circle system with Dyn speakers.
The BC3 is above all things a musical piece of equipment. In fact I didn't know or understand what the audio review term "musical" meant until I listed to a BC3. The purity of music that this thing eminates amazes me with every CD I play. Images are so palpable in my room that I look at the musicand sound coming at me. The midrange is vivid and clear yet remains detailed even with the stock Sovtek tubes. The high end is extended and transparent with no grime, glassiness or glare.
I have had a lot of fun tube rolling with it as well. I replaced the stock Sovtek's with Siemens Ecc88 and the top end has become even more extended yet sweeter and it has also added a bit of inner detail to the mids. With two tubes this piece is easy to tweak to your exact tastes. I also love the way it looks! The Galate power supply came with it so I can't comment on the Despina, but either are a steal at the price especially since you can buy with a steep discount here on audiogon. I whole heartedly recommend the Bc3 but take note I have not heard the other preamps you mentioned. Blue circle in a couple of words: Musical, pure, transparent, sweet.
Have fun!
Thanks everyone for your comments. I have been leaning towards the Blue Circle and I'm still leaning in that direction. I have a Blue Circle CS integrated in my office and I've been very impressed with it. But I can already hear my wife's expression when she tries to figure out how to adjust the volume! Vikvilkhu, any concerns about the volume with the limited number of steps? What about low-level listening (late night, relaxing, etc)? It seems that at this price point there are many good options and I'm sorry that I can't personally demo them all.
I think the Audible Illusions eara has ended. Accurate minus the musicality is just not going to get it done anymore. The BlueCircle is a can not lose purchase. The Herron is also a can not lose purchase with some build quality advantages such as the volume control and electronic switches which will last longer than anything else. Its also musical like the BC. Good Luck