Sonic Frontiers Line 1 or 2 is in your price range and are great pieces. BAT is nice, but don't think you can get one under $2K.
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A descent preamp that do not colour the signal cannot be cheaper than $2k even used. The only way to get a great uncoloured budget performance is to get a passive preamp that will literally smoke anything under $2k. By getting an active preamp you will color the bright Krell even more. There are the following choices to your consearn:
Creek OBH14 - remote volume control/input selector; EVS volume pots(they're very inconvenient but claim to sound superb); McCormack TLC1 with buffered active tape loop; MicCormack micro Line Drive(has both active and passive outs); and finally Placcette that claims to be the best passive preamp with remote.
In order make a successfull setup with passive preamp it is essencial but not urgent to have your amp's input impedance >=40Kohm. If your amplifier has low input impedance 20Kohm or less you can acquire the Musical Fidality X-can tube buffer that will elimitate the impedance mismatch. It can be acquired for bellow $200 in addition to your passive preamplifier. It's more important to have a large enough output from your CD player wich I believe has enough.
Marakanetz, my amp has 47K input impedance and my sony book says 2 Vrms ( at 50 kilohms ) analog out. I have never used a passive pre before. Don't know if it is the speakers or the sony but the amp does not sound bright at all. I will do a search on some of your ideas. I have never heard any Placcette gear.
Sugarbrie's recommendation is a fine one.
In addition, there are 2 Joule LA100 MkIIIs listed in the classifieds for $1800, one with and one without the phono pre. This is a superb unit, and upgradeable to Jed's latest gem, the LA150. They have a simple but useful remote for volume and balance control. Perhaps you can bargain one of the owners down to or near your target.
Many people run the other way when you mention a passive. I have heard other passives with the typical shortcomings often associated, so I can understand why.
I do not perceive a loss of dynamics with the Placette Passive and it sounds more transparent and detailed than the active preamp it replaced that was 4X the price.
The cd player I had when I changed to the passive also had 2v on the RCA outputs. I can verify this combination is awesome and would expect it to rock your world with the Krell and VMPS.
The Placette will reveal any weak link in your system and you will hear the difference in cables and cords very easily. Use short interconnects, 2m or less. Read this:
I would strongly suggest the Adcom 750. There is nothing below $3k US that will touch it. It offers both passive and active operation, is a Nelson Pass design, and offers both true balanced and s/e operation. There are several for sale for $750 US here on A'gon. There are also simple mods that will make the active option untouchable. Pocket the difference and get some new cables!
OOOPS!!! I forgot to mention Adcom GFP750. Ivanj, right on!
Don't spend too much on cables for passive preamps. AudioQuest DiamondBlack tended to work the best with passives. You can also get VanDenHul Type2. I've never heard F.T. audio but in general terms you simply ought to try any passive v.s. active that is 2x or 3x the price of passive and see the result. After that I'll guarrantee that you will forget about using active preamp.
Hey IvanJ...good suggestion, but for $1500 he could buy himself a used Pass Aleph P with remote (even better, and the design that inspired the Adcom model).
I would also recommend checking out tube preamps. The above suggestions are good, and I'd also add a used Counterpoint SA-5000 to your list (it has a phono pre too, if that matters).
I'm glad I asked for some help on this. I have been putting all of your ideas into the search engines on some of the sites and they all sound good on the feedback. I think I will try passive and tubes. I live in Michigan and I retired from General Motors about six months ago. Now every day is the weekend and I find myself turning on my system every day. ( can,t seem to get enough.) I bought a sunfire pre. for movies but I'm tired of having a t.v. in front of me all the time. I bought way to much gear for this hometheater crap. I like music alot more it seems. I guess I had forgot that. ( Hope the wife help me pay for all this). She likes movies better. Thanks guys
Fpeel, I'll still have yhe hometheater in the old room. Krell kav500,Sunfire theater grand,vmps 626's and vmps passive sub powered by Onkyo M504 amp. I started this hometheater project with an Onkyo receiver and kept adding on and on and on. ( she thinks I'm nuts}. I still have all that crap sitting around + more stuff. Maybe she's right?
I have the same Krell Amp .
I have used the Melos SHA Gold Preamp (Upgraded to the reference) and that worked very well with my Meridian 508.24 CD Player and the Krell KSA-250 Amp.
Alas, the Melos stopped working and I am going to see how much it takes to fix from Melos Restorations.
In the Mean time I saw a deal on a used Plinius Preamp CD Lad MK11 that I went ahead and purchased . As soon as I recieve it I will comment on this Amp/ Preamp combo.