First Sound line stages vs. The competition

I now use the FS pres del 2 with my VAC 220 sig amps driving the Vandersteen 5a speakers and am quite pleased, especially with the Vac synergy with the Vandys. I am listening to analog, now using the Aesthetix io mk. 2( non- sig version), Basis 2500,graham 2.2, Koetsu RSP cart.. Redbook CD goes through my AA capitole 2 player. I feel like my next step is to upgrade the FS preamp, although it seems to be a very strong performer in its price range, and I have not once regretted owning the unit. However, I am considering spending 2-3 times its price on a new Pre-amp to replace it and naturally feel that this will buy me an increase in performance. My problem is That I am considering linestages which may be difficult to audition before purchasing such as the Vac Phi 2.0, The Messenger, or maybe the Lamm L2 Reference, the Lamm of course being the only of these 3 that is line level only, with the Vac avail. as Full- function only and the Messenger avail as either Full- function or linestage only. I would like to reconsider going up the line with a FS paramount ,but this would be probably the least chance of all for audition and for this reason , I admit it has not been on my short list of contenders. If any fellow members have some direct experience with the Pre-amps I am considering , your feedback woule be greatly appreciated.
You may also want to consider the Aesthetix Callisto, possibly with the 2nd power supply.
You may want to consider the Supratek line, most likely the Supratek Cabernet, given your pricepoint and associated equipment. The Supratek Grange would be another option, if you did want to go for a full function preamp. The Supratek line has been compared a lot to the First Sound line with (I believe) most but not all users preferring the sound of the Supratek. You can learn all about the line on the thread 'preamp deal of the century'. I bought the Supratek Syrah sight unseen, based on input in that thread. I couldn't be happier - it replaced a Sonic Frontiers Line 3, comfortably outclassing it. It's probably my most cherished component now, and the one least likely to be upgraded. It also looks phenomenal, if that's a bonus. The website is
Hi Fjn04,

I started off with the original FS (Presence Audio at that time) Deluxe model back in the mid-90s, then upgraded to the FS Paramount. I now have the latest iteration of the FS Paramount Special Edition. Although I have switched amplifiers and speakers as well over time, the upgrade within the FS line was well worth it. The level of improvement from Deluxe II to Paramount SE is significant. I've matched these preamps with a variety of tubed (ARC Classic 120, Art Audio Jota) and SS (Pass Aleph 0, Krell FPB 700CX, Rowland 302) with great success. If you have an opportunity to audition a FS Paramount, do so before excluding it from your short list. If you're in the NY/NJ area, you're welcome to have a listen. You can e-mail me privately.

Good luck!
Your need to audition before you buy is understandable. I lived with a Lamm LL2 for about a week and found it to have an output-to-input mismatch with my amplifiers (Cary SLAM-100 monos). The Lamm over-drove the Carys' sensitive (.75 V) input. I believe the L2 Reference has the same output as the LL2.

My First Sound 4.0 with Paramount Plus Upgrade is a great match with the Cary SLAM-100's both electrically and sonically. If your FS mates well with your VAC 220's, you may need to verify with VAC and or Lamm before assuming the Lamm L2 will work. Since the FS already mates electrically---I assume, you may want to consider upgrading within the First Sound line up. I have experience with the differences among the Presence Deluxe MKII, the PD 4.0, and now the 4.0 w Paramount Plus upgd. I am quite pleased with the Paramount Plus upgd and feel it was on par or a greater improvement than the PD to PD 4.0 jump.

BTW, compared the the Lamm LL2, the FS has a quieter idle noise floor and a lower noise floor during music play as well. The Lamm L2 Ref may be a different animal.