Decent preamp


I didn't say good because I'm in the budget but what's a decent preamp I could buy to work with Aragon 2004 amp? I'm thinking tube but let me know your opinions. Was advised to stay away from emotiva and other factory direct brands but not sure if that's a valid opinion.
cygnusx8
Any time budget matters you will find far more value in integrated amps than separates. This holds true at least until you get into the tens of thousands of dollars. Especially since what you could get for the Aragon plus what you would need to spend for the quality level preamp it deserves- plus the extra power cord and interconnect they deserve- puts you into the range of something like a Prima Luna or Raven integrated that will be very hard to beat.

Either of these, PL or Raven, will be way better than good. Why settle for decent when you can have excellent?
A good choice that won't break the bank and get you into a tube preamp is the Counterpoint SA-2000 preamp.  Sent it to me when you are ready to upgrade and be happy for the rest of your life>

Happy Listening.
If your patient wait until a Proceed-Pre shows up. Make sure a working original remote is included. $500 could get one in good(7/10) condition.
The Schiit Freya + is a tube pre and is way more than decent.  It’s a great value at $899, and they offer an in-home trial period.  BTW, if you say you’re on a budget it’d be nice to know what that number is.  Just sayin’.
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Another Freya+ recommendation here. It's $899.
+ 1

Freya for the money, used 550.00 and up, 900.00 new. The two I saw had an active or passive options. No tone control, but a remote.

In passive, I used the remote volume control for an older preamp also, NO coloration, no noise, worked very well.
A/B the two, flip of a switch. Neighbors idea, works good too.

One of the two I saw actually bested a stock C2500. It (the Freya) had Tung Sol valves. Great options too. 6SN7 has lots of great valves to choose from.

I’m lookin for a good used one..too. ;-)

Regards
I agree with millercarbon that a good integrated is better value than separates for music but in my case I needed an AVR for movies, streaming,TV, bluray, etc. So I got a yammy aventage AVR and a schiit vidar amp driving maggie LRS speakers. This amp was only $700.
200wpc into 4 ohms which is good for maggies which tend to be very power-hungry. I use the AVR as a preamp. IMO (and I know I’m in the minority here) preamps do not really contribute much to "sound quality". I love this AVR. It does everything except make coffee.I’ve had it for a year and there’s still stuff on it I haven’t tried. A lot of bang for the buck. But it’s power/current output was a little low for the maggies.I did drive them with it for a while but at higher volume levels the AVR would get hot and shut down.
max to spend? consider used?
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I don't want to go over $500-600. Used is preferred since choices are limited for new ones in that price range. Sticking with separates. Already have an amp I like. No AVRs. They all have inflated power ratings.

The Audible Illusions M3 worked very well for me when I had the Aragon amp. The Aragon 24K was good as well.
Where did you hear ignore direct sales? I use ps audio equipment and they make some damn good stuff
It was more related to emotiva and other cheaper brands. I know PS Audio is top notch.
Luminous Audio Technology Axium passive pre. May not do better ever? Under 1K? 
I would recommend you stick with separates but your budget could be a problem. Used Modwright, Belles, DeHavilland or Van Alstine are all quality but may be too expensive. If you are not averse to Hong Kong designed and built I had an Audio Experience Symphonies tube pre which performed well before I upgraded to a Van Alstine. With tubes rolled to NOS RCAs there was not a great difference between the two preamps and the Audio Experience could probably be found for $600 or less. 
Second recommendation would be the DeHavilland preamp but again send it to me to upgrade.  Happy Listening.
I will 4th the suggestion that integrated amps can deliver a lot more value. But you dont want one. OK.

The secret is to read, a lot. You may think that recommendations here are easier or a short path to success. Not so.  At best you will get someone else's idea of ideal. At worst (normal)? you will get flawed suggestions based on limited scope of experience and one system - where a dull preamp may compensate, purely for example, for a bright speaker or amp.  But you still get a dull preamp.

Find some 10-15 year old stuff that got great reviews, is to your taste, and never took off. It will sell for 20 cents on the dollar, and some of it is far better than the names that "made it" due to luck or good marketing. Its hard to make a comprehensive list, and you have to kinda "go with the flow" of what is available. The Schiit stuff offers good value, yes, but the vast majority will be new. I vastly prefer their cheap stuff in general - that’s where they shine IMO.

Sorry but i am not up on all the best value preamps of the last 15 years. Thank goodness :-)
Per itsjustme's comment above:

Totally under the radar and far below your budget is the B&K Reference 30. Even though it’s a 5 channel, reviewers at the time felt that it’s 2 channel performance surpassed that of the B&K 2 channel preamp that was available at that time. Quite a thing for about $300 or less. Sold new for just under $3000. You would not be disappointed.
B&K reference 30 is what I have now but good suggestion. Not a bad preamp. Even has toslink inputs. Looking for something more musical I guess? B&K menus are a mess too. I'm an it guy and I can barely figure that mess out.
Agree with joey54, the AI 3 line stage preamp is tube, and will give you great sound in conjunction with a SS amp.  Had AI preamps for 24 years between a 2D and 3A.  If buying used gives you the willy's, buy one of AI's reconditioned ones that come up several times a year.  They are about $200-300 more, but the tubes, and innards will look and be much like new.

Bob
Hmm Van Alstine.. forgot about that brand. I'll take a look at those. Good suggestion. Proceed was a good one too. Thanks guys!
Vintage Conrad Johnson pv series pre..
sound great, built extremely well. Fun tube rolling as well. 
+1 to CJ. What you'll will be fairly old as their resale value is very high but there's a reason for that. 
Van alstine
conrad Johnson et 3 or 5
Way too many to list, a lot out there.

 Enjoy the ride!
Proceed, if you can find one.  A Mark Levinson in disguise, without the price tag.  Built like a tank.
I support the Freya + suggestion as well. It's balanced and akin to having three preamps in one box.   Depends on how patient you are.  I picked one up right here on Agon for $800 with an extra set of upgraded tubes! If you go this route make sure it's the Freya + and not the original Freya as it's a different beast. 
That proceed on eBay was for parts or not working. 
I found an amazing bargain on flea-bay. 
 Onkyo p-308.  Amazing preamp, quality, sound, superb piece!
   Love her!
arctikdeth, you're right about the Onykos. I owned the P303 way back in the early eighties. It was my first eye opener to a better world of electronics. Onyko reissued this great preamp called the P3000R. I'd give it a serious look. Joe
Croft IMO is the most bang for the buck in Audio .
Visit your local retailer. He will take into account your room size, your speakers, your listening habits, how you listen, what products make sense for you. I always buy 50% more power as a rule so you can have Dynamic range. This way your electronics breathe easily. Make sure you have lots of ventilation, clean the unit every year completely. Remove all cables and clean the ends. using Dioxit and other similar products will help. 
Just another way to look at all this. When I listen to the identical preamp you already have into a  McIntosh amp with the exact same output as your Aragon 2004 I experience a pretty extraordinary performance on all fronts with exceptional accuracy, clarity and separation. You may possibly be trying to improve the wrong end of your system. Just a thought.
here’s a classic Eico, a bit over budget, $750. returns accepted. Has 2 phono inputs, and mode switch like McIntosh preamps do, many other features modern preamps have dropped, i.e. more inputs, balance, tones, loudness compensation for low volume listening ...

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Eico-ST-84-12AX7-6X4-Tube-Preamp-Stereo-Pre-Amplifier/233560836018?hash=item36614f87b2%3Ag%3AXcEAAOSwMmhel7om&LH_BIN=1&LH_RPA=1

have a look at it's innards, looks very easy to replace anything that goes in the future, very easy to spray clean all the controls ...
where are you?  I'm in Plainfield, NJ, 07062

If close to me, I have 3 fisher 500c tube receivers, all working, I could verify one in my system and let you try it, keep or return it. no shipping helps a lot on these old dogs.

stay 10 feet away, (we're retired, haven't been out for weeks) 
I'm in Chicago. That Eico looks good but I've never heard of the brand. Have you had a chance to listen to it?
No, I just did a curiosity search on eBay. I've never seen or heard one.

Eico was back in the day of buying Kits to assemble yourself, or buying factory complete assembled units. 

a budget brand, (with features and specs equal to the high priced stuff). It's a lot of preamp for that price, other brands, equal features, will ask far more.

https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/eico/st-84.shtml

https://www.audioasylum.com/forums/amp/messages/5646.html

http://www.tronola.com/html/st84_mods.html

......................................

OTHERS....... Eico?????




Quicksilver or c-j.....    can be found for around or slightly more, huge value used of you can buy them right. 
Vincent Audio PHO 701. Excellent $599 unit. Very satisfied with the one I have in my main system. 
If all you need is a selector and volume, check this out:  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32968579204.html?spm=2114.12010612.8148356.36.422e1340ix3rkL
I bought one from Ray Mottram of tubes4hifi.com under his SP10 model number, but it's the same item.  DO NOT get the remote control version!  The simpler hands-on one is the way to go.  I use with hot rodded Dyna ST70 and it is clean, quiet and liquid sounding with the stock Chinese tubes.
Mark Levinson 326s preamp is worth to look at. Phono option boards is still obtainable. 
Do you guys think XLR connection makes a big difference in sound quality? 
Those Mark Levinson preamps are around $4,000 used. Phono add-on alone exceeds my budget. I hope no one suggests Boulder or Gryphon gear.
XLR is balanced (differential) signal path connection, and therefore immune to many kinds of EM noise. Used high end reliable preamp for 40% of new price is good deal, it can run almost forever. New ML preamp cost five times more, with comparable performance. 
B&K Pro 10 pre w outboard power supply.Bilt like a tank with very good mm/Mc phono stage.Has mono option and ca be run as a passive preamp.
Re used gear: +1 on c-j. I have the PV-10AL and the PF-R preamps which I just recapped. You can never go wrong with c-j sound. Their build quality is great, and on older products what you have to do is just replace the electrolytics, provided these units were not abused. Still, you'll have more peace of mind if you get a tech to take a look. 
Jolida fusion tube preamp. Really nice and musical. If I had to describe the sound in a word it would be juicy. 
UnderwoodHiFi is running an incredible special on W4S integrated amps, but hurry