Help selecting a new preamp


I want to replace my Outlaw Audio 976 preamp with a stereo only preamp, no tuner. Sources will be an OPPO 103, a Shiit D/A from my mac mini room server and a Teac 2300 r to r Power amp is a Carver Crimson 275... speakers are Goldenear Triton 2+......max 5k budget. Any help is greatly appreciated. Phono input OK but not a necessity...THANKS
rayburn_b
I highly recommend the Backert Labs Rhumba 1.3. You might also want to check out the Extreme version of this tube preamp. This does not come with a phono input though.

Thanks, reading about it now.!

Is a used preamp an option?
What are you looking to improve upon over your current preamp, and what overall sound reproduction characteristics are most important to you?  Are you looking for tubes or solid state, or either?
rayburn_b OP
  I want to replace my Outlaw Audio 976 preamp with a stereo only preamp

You can trial a Schiit Freya for a couple of weeks, they are so versatile, best mechanical volume control going around, let's you select between tube, solid state in active modes, and you can go strait passive with it as many have found and liked.
It's also got remote and xlr or rca inputs and outputs.

  https://www.schiit.com/products/freya-2
or to save $300 just the solid state and passive Freya
  https://www.schiit.com/products/freya-s

Cheers George
Thanks all for suggestions....I'm looking to simplify and improve sound quality over my existing preamp.  I originally wanted to switch video with audio and the Outlaw had great reviews and it was priced reasonably.  But, I've had problems with the preamp and Outlaw was at times difficult to deal with.  Also, at 65 and long days working sound reinforcement  in my youth I'm not sure that I would be able to discern audio differences between the top tier preamps.  Simplicity, minimal signal path are goals...Grateful for all the help I'm receiving..
rayburn_b OP
I’m looking to simplify and improve sound quality over my existing preamp.


With your sources OPPO 103, a Shiit D/A (at <100ohms output impedance) and poweramp Carver Crimson 275 (at 100kohms inputimpedance). A Schiit Sys at $49 would be a great match, and be more transparent than your current preamp, couldn’t get more simpler.
https://www.schiit.com/products/sys

Cheers George
Well, to simplify the SYS just might do the trick. To improve sound it depends on what improvements are called for. 

I own a SYS, and it is truly simple, having only 2 inputs and single output with volume control.  As a passive the sonics of your system will be determined mostly by the other components. Not costly to try.

I also have a tube preamp in my main system, I enjoy the impact tubes bring to the sonics, more 'bloom and air'. There are many to choose from that retail for far under your 5K budget and would fit nicely with your other components. If wanting a tube pre, check out Brown Audio Labs, Quicksilver, Don Sachs, Jolida, and the aforementioned Schiit Freya to mention a few. 
+2 for the Schiit Freya

Don Sachs Model 2 preamp or one of the new generation of Suprateks would be excellent and leave you some money for other upgrades. A good preamp will make a significant difference in your system, at least in my experience. I have owned two Suprateks and currently own the Sachs preamp, and can attest that either would be a great choice.
Waltersalas-
I am interested in hearing your thoughts about how the Sachs compares to the Suprateks you owned. Would you be willing to share some thoughts on that?
Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE stage 2 is an great sounding solid state preamp.
https://wyred4sound.com/products/pre-amps/stp-se
@markusthenaimnut --  I wish I could give you a more detailed comparison, but I have only had the Sachs preamp for a couple of weeks and am still waiting on Don's KT88 amp--which I also ordered-- to arrive. In the meantime, I've been using a pretty old, pretty cheap solid state amp with it, and the sound is surprisingly good. Even with these limitations, my first impressions of the Sachs preamp are positive. I can only imagine how good my system will sound once the amp arrives.

It has been about ten years since I had the Supratek, one of the few pieces of audio gear I regret selling. I am confident that Mick's latest iterations of his design are even better. 

I think it is highly likely that they sound more alike than different--very liquid, layered, dynamic, and musical. I have always been partial to preamps that employ the 6SN7 tube.

I doubt this is very helpful, but it's all I got for now.


Waltersalas - Would you say that the Don Sachs pre is in the same class as the Supratek pre”s ?
Quicksilver AT7 Line Stage. Hand built in the USA $1300
if you enjoy a very loud clicking sound as you adjust the volume
then the Schiit may be just right for you. 
You mention simplicity and minimum signal path as goals.
Look in US Audio Mart or Audiogon for a rebuilt Audible Illusions
L3 if like me you must have a remote.  Be patient. They sell quickly.
No phono stage on that model. They can be had between $1,000 -$1,500 from Galen in Texas when he has one. Do not buy anything older than the previous generation. I have one and I love it!!
if you enjoy a very loud clicking sound as you adjust the volume
then the Schiit may be just right for you.
No one enjoys it, but it not as bad as you make out, and only while adjusting the level.
It would be something "not to be enjoyed" if your source had some DC offset leakage, then it would be as you say " a very loud clicking sound" but that’s a problem with the source not the Schiit.
And all Schiit Freya’s and Saga’s come with remote, the $49 Sys does not, wonder why?

Cheers George
@gryphongryph 

Yes, I absolutely would, both in terms of build and sound quality. These are two outstanding designers.
You may want to check out a used Dehavilland Ultraverve, or new. Hand-wired, simple, 6sn7 based. See Dehavilland Electric Amplifier website. I bought a used one here on Agon and love it in my system. Easy to tweak the sound since there is only one 6sn7. I quickly sold my previous tube preamp. 
If your budget is less than 5K...the Primaluna Dialogue Premium preamp is a bargain on steroids at the asking price of $3,200.00 new.. or can be had used for around $2,200.00. Lots of info/reviews online. The new EVO lineup incorporates balanced in/out if needed also.   
For for SS, for the money the Musical Fidelity M6 Pre is back and at $2K is a stupidly good value with a strong phono stage.

The Art Audio Conductor Simply 2 is $5500 and brilliant. It has switchable gain and can be customized to your needs. It uses the same circuit as the Conductor but lacks the tape loop and headphone amp that the Conductor has.

It is a clear step up from the PS Audio BHK despite being a little less expensive because of the lack of the headphone amp and the fact that Art Audio is direct in the US so there is only the retail margin, not retail and wholesale.

I can arrange for you to hear the Conductor if you are in NYC, Boston or Philly. Otherwise it is a 30 day in-home demo on either and I have flexibility on both.

Let me me know if you are interested.  I will even take your Outlaw on trade for either.
I was lucky to find a used Einstein The tube mk2 for 4k. No looking back. May be hard to find though. 
I will not mention the 2 top tier preamps I had, because I do not believe in embarrassing companies, or others, who own them. I have been experimenting with passive pre's for over 25 years, and, thanks to georgehifi, I started again with an interest in passive. In 2017, I purchased a Luminous Audio Axiom II, Walker Mod, 3in, 2 out, single ended, with remote, and am extremely pleased with its " invisibility " of the unit. My priorities are, to hear my music without added warmth, coloration, editorializing, and allow my sources to run free. It truly shows the recorded music faithfully, and I hear what was done by the artists, mixing and mastering engineers, in the utmost natural ways. Some people love passive, some do not. I obviously do. Good Luck. Enjoy ! MrD.
At your price level the Linear Tube Audio Micro ZOTL is definitely worth a serious look. Teajay (a member here) did a nice review of it on 6moons, and he preferred it to the Backert Rhumba (not sure which version) and every other preamp he’s heard. I’d also second the Don Sachs preamp, which would be less than half the cost of the LTA pre. Both would be a huge upgrade over the Outlaw (as would the Backert for that matter). Best of luck.
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The  Primaluna Dialogue Premium is a good suggestion.  Very musical and sweet sounding.

For $5K I can build you something special to try out.  See my system for the preamp I offer.

Happy Listening.
Maybe ask Bob Carver, but my guess is he will tell you to find a Sunfire Stereo Pre, which is just about impossible now.

I will jump on the Schiit Freya wagon. I am using the Freya S now to replace my longtime Adcom GFP-750, which was considered by many to be one of the most transparent preamps ever made. In comparison to the Adcom, the Freya in active mode has far better imaging, with just a hint of glare in the upper midrange, likely because it only had a few hours on it (a week later it is gone). I hear no grain or other shortcomings in the Freya. If you like tubes try the Freya +. The Freyas are also fully balanced.

For reference I am using a Schiit Gungir MB DAC, Sunfire Stereo Amp (rebuilt by Bill Flanery last year) and Magnepan 3.5s (rebuilt by Magnepan last year). I have no urge to change my amp, but if I did, it would be for the Carver tubes.  


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A brand new Lamm LL2.1 can be had for just under $5,000.00 sitting on your doorstep if you shop and that ain't bad. Enjoy the music

Pass Labs Hpa 1. $3500 new. $2750 used from Reno HiFi with 2-3 year warranty. Reference preamp and headphone amp with 2 inputs. Rca only. No remote. No phono stage. Simple. Reviewed by Terry London for hometheaterreview.com
don't forget about Parasound JC2 (BP or not).. when it first came out, they were calling it a giant killer.. and you know, it still sounds great now as it did back then.. no tubes for simplicity, tilts slightly towards the warm side and still very detailed, used under $3k, and plenty of inputs/outputs... I own one... 
If your budget is $ 5000 pass on the Freya.  It is a tremendous value for the price and a great feature set with balanced and RCA inputs and outputs.  Passive, active and tube options for gain a great warranty and an innovative company behind it.  But it will not perform like a $ 5000 pre amp.  My Freya was noisy using tubes ( I heard they addressed this problem recently) and did not compare to a Decware CSP3 in terms of sonics.  I recently bought a used Allnic L-3000 and it is amazing sonically like the reviews describe and dead quiet.
My Decware cost twice as much as the Freya and was unquestionably more enjoyable.  And my Allnic was twice as expensive as the Decware and brings another level of refinement and enjoyment.
My Freya was noisy using tubes ( I heard they addressed this problem recently)
Many hundreds more have not had this problem, they are spec’d at 115db s/n for the tube stage, as good as many $5k tube preamps, you obviously had dud tube/s in yours. And Schiit honoured replacements tubes for those, if you complained.
  
Sure you don’t get exotic tubes for that price, but you find 9 out of 10 owners experiment with better brand of tube anyway, they love this preamp so much.

Cheers George
Thanks to all for the comments advice and direction.  Has anyone heard that Bob Carver will have a tube preamp in the fall?  Any info, or speculation?
I am very happy with my Audible Illusions preamp. It is tube and has very good reviews. Takes a 30  day burn in. The Rogue Audio is in your price range and has good sound. My son has one matched to Infinity RS2B sounds great v