Consider a Melos SHA-Gold. It also has headphone. $750 might be pushing it, but not by a lot. I sold mine used for $900 two years ago, so perhaps $800?
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I looked at SF and Melos; I know Melos went under and I suspect SF is heading that way (if they haven't closed up shop already). It's always nice to know you can get your stuff serviced if need be. I'll certainly look at the PV11, didn't see any when I was browsing but then again, I had to give up cuz I was cross-eyed. Thanks, Jeff
With all due respect to Soundwatts the PV-11 doesn't come with a remote and no c-j has balanced in-puts or out-puts. Sonic Frontiers is out of business, but, one of the original owners has set up a new shop that specializes in parts and is maintaining as well as offering up grades on Sonic Frontier gear. An unusual set of circumstances that should negate your otherwise very real concern. The SF stuff is reputed to be a very good match with Classe', and not because they are both from Canada.
The LS-9 appears to be a Solid State preamp, although it does meet the rest of my criteria. I looked at Rogue but again, I want to stay balanced if possible. The SF stuff is intriguing; whether or not Chris keeps on working on them is up in the air (I imagine he will). Not fond of the gold face plate at all... I know some have black face plates as well. A few more bucks but at this point I'm leaning heavily towards a BAT VK-3i. I honestly had no idea my wish list would make it so difficult to come up with a list of contenders. Thanks, Jeff
I will throw in one more contender, the PSE HL-1. In terms of your requirements, I believe that it covers all of the bases:
It is a tube hybrid (uses 6922's)
It comes with a remote control
It has Balanced Outputs
It has more than your required number of inputs, one of which is Balanced (no phono)
It has a black faceplate with silver accessories
If it makes a difference, it has a theater pass-thru
I got VERY lucky and found a very sweet deal on a unit with cosmetic damage and a missing remote. I was turned on to this unit by AG member Richfield_hunter and by remarks about PSE by Albert_porter. I will acknowledge that this is my first tube pre, so I am yet a bit new to the game, but I LOVE this unit. In going thru a purchase search, I came to many of the same conclusions that you have detailed, and my list of candidates come down to the same short list. I am also using ML Aerius' and have found that this pre has mated very nicely with them. I am a happy camper.
The only negative that I can add about the PSE HL-1 is that on the used market it is about as scarce as hens teeth and is usually priced a bit above your budget. If there are any other thoughts I can answer about this unit, drop me an email.