Good tube preamp w/ HT bypass

I've finally decided to snag an AVM30 for my pre-pro, and aragon 8008 amps for my amplification (or Sherbourne 7/2100 - I bought both, and will sell whichever I like less).

However, I keep hearing about tubes! I don't have any experience with them, but I'd love to give it a try. I've read that by combining SS amplification with tube preamps, I can preserve the bass control of the SS w/ the midrange of tubes.

SO - are there any preamps you can recommend to me to try and/or demo? I need it to have HT bypass, so I can use my HT rig separately from this...

I've read the Rogue Magnum 66 is good... The audio research sp-16l is supposed to be good... And the TAD-150 was recommended to me ( but I can't find any other information on it.

Non tube pres that have been recommended to me are the sonic euphoria plc and adcom 750; but i'm not sure if either would better the avm30.

Oh; budget would be $500-1000, used or new. Thanks for any recommendations!
Forgot to mention; I'd like it to have a remote.

I also had sonic frontiers L1, mccormack rld-1 (is this solid state?), and arc ls1 to me...

Thanks again!
I love the Sonic Frontiers Line 3 or line 2. Both can be had with a remote
How about a hybrid tube/ss pre like a belles 21A. It has remote and HT bypass. A little more than your budget though, around $1300-$1350 used.

I don't know too much about the belles; can you tell me a little more? It's SS and tube? Have you heard it against any of the other units above?

I looked at the mccormack; it's definitely SS. Good looking unit though!

Sonic; can you tell me a little more about the sonic frontiers units? Have you heard it against any of the units I listed above?

Thanks to both of you!
i owned an arc sp-16l before i decided to sell it. it was a great tubed pre with ht bypass. i highly recommend it. i have no experience with the other pre's you list. i'm currently waiting on the arrival of a supratek chardonnay tubed pre for my two channel system.
Anyone have experience with the Anthem Pre 2L? It looks to be priced similar to the Rogue Magnum 66 ($5-700 used).

Kevin - is ARC an acronym for audio research?
I'll second the Second Frontiers, Line 1 or Line 2 (the Line 3, which is the best one, appears to be out of the price range you are looking at). Build quality is excellent, has HT bypass, very cool remote, will match very well with your AVM, and is an excellent preamp for a tube beginner. I used a Line 1 in my combo Music/HT room and really loved up. Good luck!
BAT VK3i with remote would be at teh top of your price range. It has an HT (unity gain) bypass setting.
Ok; so far we have:

Rogue Magnum 66 - 0 votes

The audio research sp-16l - 2 votes

Sonic Frontiers Line 1-3 - 2 votes

belles 21A - 1 vote

Anthem Pre 2L? - no votes

Looks like the Rogue and Anthem aren't too well known?

The SF line 3 is too much, as is the ARC sp-16l; I can't find any of them anywhere near to $1k. Do any of the above sound close to those?

Can anyone describe how these sound? Are they very accurate, or do they add a lot of "tube" to the sound?

Thanks again!

I have not yet heard the Belles pre, but it will be arriving any day now. It is a hybrid, combining tubes and ss, a FET valve design I believe. Audio by Van Alstine also offers such a pre. May also be a name to consider, not sure of the features though.

Good luck,
I have the Anthem AVM20 for HT and a Cary SLP2002 tubed preamp for 2 channel. The Cary has a HT bypass and with the right tubes, the Cary preamp is an absolute steal used. I have compared it to the Bat VK30 and it stomps all over it. It is a little more than your budget at 1400-1600 used. Have you purchased the AVM30? If not then I know where you could get a great deal on a demo AVM20 which would free up some resources for a nicer 2 channel preamp. If not, then my vote is on the Anthem Pre-2LSE.

I don't believe that the 21a is a hybrid, but a true tube pre with an emitter follower configuration. I had the pre at one time and remember it having 2 12Au7s and no FETs. The pre sounded great after replacing the coupling caps with equivalent Auricaps and rolling in Mullard CV4003s instead of stock tubes.

Thanx for the info/correction, I will have to check it out.

Ok - so far:

Rogue Magnum 66 - 0 votes

The audio research sp-16l - 2 votes - too expensive

Sonic Frontiers Line 1-3 - 2 votes (3 is too expensive, and 2 looks to be also???)

belles 21A - 1 vote

Anthem Pre 2L? - 1 vote

Cary SLP2002 - 1 vote - too expensive

BAT VK3i - 1 vote

Looks like the Rogue is not well known at all; the sonic frontiers is the most popular. Does the SF come in any color but gold? It sounds stupid, but dang that would look ugly in my rack!

Tsmack; I've got a price of $2k new for the AVM30; let me know what info you have on a used amv20!

Thanks for all the comments so far! It looks like most have their definite favorites and haven't heard some of the others...

Keep 'em coming please!
SF came in gold or black. I have the latter.

I have a CJ PV14L.. like the sound and it has a remote and HT bypass. Might be able to get close to budget used.
Well; I seem to have ran up against another problem.

Will most of these preamps mentioned alter the sound even in bypass mode? I don't want a timbral shift when listening to my HT; but in another discussion, it was mentioned that most preamps will run through the tubes/etc even in bypass mode.

Anyone have an idea about this? Know of any preamps that pass the signal from in-out on the bypass mode without going through the circuitry?
I thought I posted this yesterday but I'll try again:

The SF Line series has dual paralleled outputs for SE and for BAL. How about feeding the HT L/R outs to one on the OUTS on the SF? As long as the HT pre/pro is off, it should not load the SF running in stereo. As long as the SF is off, the HT output should be fed directly to the other SF OUT and on to its amp.

I have not tried this and I cannot be certain it will work but it may be a solution.

Thanks for the reply! I think I need to get my hands on a few and try them out. So far, the CJ PV14l, anthem pre2l, cary slp2002, and the SF line 1-2 all sound good. I need to do a little research on them and see what the processor loops do on each...

I wish Utah wasn't in the middle of nowhere for tube equipment; most of the dealers here give you a blank look and a stare when tubes are brought up. "Why would you want to move backwards in technology?" one of them told me. Uugh.
Is there a reason why you are committed to tubes? I would think one should choose on the basis of sound and auditioning and keep one's options open.

No, not really; I've just heard good things from tubes lately, and really been interested. I supposed I could pick up an adcom gfp-750 and run it in passive w/ HT bypass engaged; that wouldn't add any sonic signature. And it seems to be highly rated....
I just checked the schematics for the SF Line series and the HT bypass is a complete bypass: No active circuitry except for switching.


Wow, great! Thanks for that information!

I just bought a line-1 here, but it hasn't arrived yet. I'm hoping it's what I am looking for; I've read that they are very neutral; I hope it's not so transparent that my numerous poorly recorded CD's don't sound too bad to listen to! ;-)

To ask you another question Kal; how long do tubes usually last, and how do I know when they go 'bad'?
Hey kincade
How did you make out with your quest for tube integration into your HT? I'm starting down the EXACT same road you've already traveled. I've been told that the use of tube preamps can possibly cause dammage to a SS amp. Did you run into any of that?

Well - I bought a line-1 and compared it with my Statement D1 - and it sounded no better, and IMHO a little worse. It was definitely harsher on the top end. To be honest, I don't know if it was the line-1, the modded JD100 I swapped in at the same time, or both together. I definitely was not happy though; it sounded more solid state than my SS gear did!

The real clincher was badly recorded CD's; I don't know if it is the D1's upsampling, but with most of my rock CD's it was downright painful to listen on the line-1. The D1 seemed to take that edge off of it.

I then bought a line-2 in mint condition; and haven't even taken it out of the box yet. ;-) I think I'm just going to sell it, sell the wally-modded JD100, buy another stock JD100 and stay happy with my D1 for now and enjoy my music.

My only complaint on the line series is that the HT bypass loop is only single ended, not balanced. Other than that, it's an incredibly beefy and well built piece of equipment.

As far as damage, none whatsoever; it worked perfectly. I something could happen, but it was fine for me.
Hi Kincade,

I'm sorry to hear that the SF Line 1 didn't live up to your expectations. I agree that SF gears are slightly cleaner in their presentation and 'untubey' in comparison with other tube preamps but I wouldn't use the word 'harsh' to describe the top-end of the Line 1. I would think it's somewhere in your chain that has led to the perceived harshness. Seems like your Anthem Statement D1 is a much smoother machine than the Sonic Frontiers.
Thanks for the info Kincade. I appreciate it. I'm tossing around either a Cary SLP2002 or an ARC LS 16, in the tube world. I'm also hoping to get a listen to an H-Cat P-12A preamp it's SS and supposedly THE preamp! I hope it pans out. The HCAT is really expensive compared to the tube stuff though.

Was the Modded JD 100 new? Maybe that's why it seemed harsh. I've heard good things about them. Have you put it up for sale yet? Isn't it amazing how much time and money gets put into this 'Hobby"?