Help picking a tube preamp, please

Can you suggest a new tube preamp? This is the kind of thing I'm looking for:

-the usual goals for good dynamics and detail, quiet background, uncolored and even tonality and good imaging, but I'm especially keen on articulate bass extension. I frequently listen at lower levels, so appreciate the bass extension.
- small, fine volume-control steps via remote control. This is absolutely key for enjoyment.
- no phono input needed. Actually, only one or maybe two inputs are needed.
- budget $6-7k-ish, new or newer-used. Budgets are mere guidelines.
- must be available for an in-home demo somehow.
- emotionally I prefer point-point wiring, but execution is all that matters.
- if a preamp is sold with more shrill reissue tubes, I can fix that later with some nice NOS ones.

Connected gear: both hi-res and redbook files fed from a CAPS Zuma SoTM server computer into a Hegel HD25 DAC, said preamp into Quicksilver Silver 88 amps with some NOS input tubes and KT150 output tubes driving Sonus Faber Elipsa SE speakers, all wired up with Kimber 1026, 1126, and 6065 hybrid cabling.

Thanks much, Ralph
I suggest a MODWRIGHT SWL 9.0 SE , you can find them used for $1500. This preamp sounds great at lower volumes and has warmth and beauty and tonal accuracy, one of the best bargains in tube preamps. Also I would highly recommend the Manley labs Jumbo Shrimp.These 2 preamps will offer a great match with your quicksilvers.
Mattmiller -

How finely does the remote volume control step? I ask because I wondered the same for the ModWright 36.5 model and found this:
You might want to consider the Herron VTSP-3A(r02), at $6550 new.

I haven't heard it, but Herron products just about always seem to receive glowing comments from A'gon members and other users, who also invariably mention that Keith Herron is an absolute pleasure to deal with.

It is described as having 100 step remotely controllable volume, which I would expect to allow 1 db or better resolution over most of its range.

Caveats are that all of its inputs and outputs are single-ended, and I have no knowledge of whether or not in-home auditions or return privileges are possible.

-- Al
So you want a vacuum tube preamp. A quaint little box filled with 19th century technology, the warm orange glow of hot little glass bottles void of atmosphere but full of metals banned in most countries these days. Who can't be pulled back to yesteryear with those warm full tones magically pouring from those ubiquitous glass bottles. A miracle of genius and determination coaxing electrons through near lethal high voltage circuits. Oh the thrill of the music knowing death is just a finger poke away.
What an accomplishment creating sound out of decaying metal filaments spitting electrons into space. Wonderful, beautiful sound as long as everything is perfect: Bias voltage not too low or too high, no vibrations, heat not too low or too high, no radio signals/RFI to botch things up, connections not corroded and lastly humidity not too high or too low. So get your tube preamp, shop for just the right tubes, check the tubes for proper operation, check all connections, check voltages, let the unit warm up, kick back and enjoy.
Don't worry, I'm immersed in this hobby up to my neck too.
Al has a good suggestion heed it.
If you want good increment control over the entire volume range, this can only be achieved by a pre that has full range of motion control with your amp without having too much gain.
This pre can be set/switched to high or minimal gain, which means the full 100 steps of the volume control may be at your disposal. Instead of just from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock for full level.

Cheers George
Don't ya love asking for suggestions of tube pre-amps to check out, and getting lectured on the obsolescence of tube pre-amps?!
Cary SLP98 or perhaps SLP05.

***Cary dealer disclaimer***
Hello Agoners,

I really appreciate all the input, and reckon that we are all more lost without each other! There are some good suggestions to start; Cary SLP-05 gets frequently suggested, BAT, Herron and VTL. Curiously nobody mentioned Aesthetix. The 10Y arises curiousity... I couldn't find about costs. A suggestion had me thinking in a tangent...

Since my sole source is digital, then how about leaving out the preamp in favor of a DAC with a proper analog volume control? I don't need source selection, and can still consort with Tonywinsc about NOS tubes in my Quicksilver Silver power amps. My source is a PCM/DSD library from JRiver on a micro Zuma SoTM CAPs. Selling my current SS preamp and PCM DAC will net around $7500, funds that can be recycled into a PCM/DSD DAC with a proper volume control.

A potential candidate is the MSB Analog DAC, which does all this and potentially offers upgrade capacity. The volume control is 1db (78) stepped-attenuator. There's someone selling their Herron VTSP-3Ar02 here on A'gon because they did the same exact thing. Thoughts?
The Modwright uses a standard ALPS type motorized steps. I like your idea of skipping the preamp and buying the MSB.
Second the Herron VTSP-3Ar02. Best pre I have owned by far and meets all of your stated criteria. Low or high gain setting combined with volume steps allow very fine gradations of volume adjustment. I'm using very high efficiency speakers and have it in the "low" gain mode and can select exactly the preferred volume for each recording. The Herron makes gorgeous music plain and simple. Give Keith a call and see if you can try one via him or a local dealer. Stellar preamp!
Ok, I'll keep Herron in mind. Tho I think my next step is to try some DAC with volume control. MSB Analog DAC? A Lampizator?
You might want to try the Audio Horizons TP 2.3 preamp.
Ralph, Have you thought about Conrad Johnson? I have a CT5 that I believe would meet your criteria. I believe it's the first one of theirs with Teflon capacitors that really tighten the sound from the earlier generations of CJ.
I use it with Shunyata power cords and they may be responsible for some of the control as well, not sure.
Also, it has discrete volume steps (0.5db steps, I believe). Original list was $8k, but used ones should be a lot less.
CJ has replaced it with an ET5, but I haven't heard that so I'm no help on that.
I am on a similar hunt, looking to change my Music First Baby reference passive, into an Audio Research Ref 75 power amp. I say looking, because I think the Passive will take some beating. I don't particularly like the Arc reference 3 pre, cetainly compared with the Music First.

As Sabai suggested, I was looking at the Audio Horizon. It has good reviews and an enthusiastic following on this site. It is by direct sale, so good value for money and is available for home audition. The makers offer a wide range of possible upgrades and balanced and RCA inputs and ouputs. It seems a no brainer to me.
David, if you have a Ref 75 you must use a preamp that is balanced. The Ref 75 cannot accept a single-ended preamp, unless you use a line transformer to convert from single-ended to balanced.
Hi folks,

I first considered the C-J... they are hybrid... I was told they had a particular coloration.

Still, since I have a single source, a digital library, I could consider a DAC with a good pre out. Is that an oxymoron? Bad move? I email one owner of the MSB Analog DAC who loved the sound but did have reliability problems.

I did order at no risk the new Vinnie Rossie LIO; has a tube stage and DAC with off-grid supply. Might it be a step down for me? It will be here around the first of the year, so I ought to get some other preamps in for comparison. Maybe the ET5, maybe Herron. Nobody mention Aesthetix...
Thanks Atmasphere, I did realise I would need balanced outs. The Audio Horizon does offer that as an option.

considering you own SF speakers, I would consider the ARC line or Rogue Audio line. Both lines are sonic matches for your loudspeakers.

Additionally, the Aesthetix are very fine products, I do not know about pairing w/ the QuickSilver?

Keep me posted and Happy Listening!
Get a Thoress great preamp blew away my ARC.
Manley steelhead and skipjack
Hello again A'goners!

Still interested in what y'all have to say about a preamp; I'm been searching around for options. Recall that my sole source is SoTM USB digital, and any preamp I get must have small-step remote volume control to fit my music library and lifestyle. I have a wonderfully sounding Hegel P30 preamp for sale that does not have small remote volume steps. I’m seeking a well-toned tube preamp that has articulate bass grip. I also now have a library of DSD files so might consider replacing my PCM-only DAC in the process. Here’s my current list of preamps and DAC+pre’s to audition:

Aesthestix Calypso Signature (perhaps Callisto?)
Vinnie Rossie LIO, arriving in January. Shootout planned then!
Audio Research REF5SE
Grace M905 DAC w/ volume
MSB Analog DAC w/ volume
Auralic Vega – DAC only

Here’s some others that haven’t made the short list but could:
Lampizator 4 w/ 64 step preamp. But apparently requires manual DSD/PCM switching.
Allnic L3000 $12k 41 steps, 14 or 20db gain
Purity Reference 1db steps, $12.5k; also single-ended Foundation model coming soon
Balanced Audio Technology VK-33SE? 0.5db steps
Herron VTSP-3A(r02) - funny but a seller of this pointed me to the MSB Analog DAC.
Zesto Leto – TAD speakers with these sounded best of my short tour of RMAF. Gaudy styling!

Correct me if I’m wrong on any of these. So many well-reputed preamps without any volume remote:
First Sounds
Lamm LL2.1 Deluxe $6K
Vacuum State
Thomas Mayer’s 10Y Linestage

Other remote-controlled preamps are out because they do not have small steps:
Audio Horizon TP2.3 Linestage (PCM only DAC?)
Musica Bella
Music First Audio
Nagra Jaz
Prima Luna Dialogue Premium
Audio Valve Eklipse; motorized Alps pot
Don't know about the current crop but my VK3i had 99 steps and a remote. Some consider them a bit on the dark side. VAC pre-amps have remote and are among the best out there. I do not believe that mine had discrete steps.
Ralph, just so you know, on our preamp (Atma-Sphere) the steps are very close together at low volume settings for more control with high output digital sources.

Regarding bass: with a patented direct coupled output the MP-1 is the king of the hill, bar none. Disclaimer: manufacturer.
Hey Ralph, have you looked at a Manley Labs Jumbo Shrimp ? It uses a very precise radio controlled volume remote called the Remora...O and by the way its a awesome sounding preamp. I use it over a McIntosh, BAT, Mod Wright, Prima Luna. I have heard all of them very intimately. The Manley is the best sounding pre amp for under $2100 used and $3600 new, that I have heard.
I would do the 30 day trial with the $7000 Placette Audio Active Linestage. It pretty much is the answer for your requirements. "good dynamics and detail, quiet background, uncolored and even tonality and good imaging, but I'm especially keen on articulate bass extension. I frequently listen at lower levels, so appreciate the bass extension."

The bass is simply stunning. It is unity gain so if you don't need gain in a line stage it will have a distinct advantage.

A friend has this and the bass is unbelievable. I recently implemented their totally passive remote volume control in my Loesch preamp and the bass improvement was stunning.

No tubes in this unit, but since it is transformer based, no solid state either.
The Atma MP1 is for real. With vcaps, competes with anything. Also try the Calypso by Aesthetix. Calypso slightly warm of neutral...Very slightly. I own one. Considered the MP1 as well. PT