No idea what to do with the money?
Go for Pass Labs or Spectral or Mark Levinson or Dartzeel or Shindo or Lamm or McIntosh or MBL or Chord or Burmester or Ayre or NAD or Sim Audio or Bryston or Linn or Accuphase or Naim or .....
It is really doubtful that you could EVER find a preamp that is better than the Veloce, It might be tie to replace the tubes OR it might be time to replace the batteries ( which can also make it sound a bit hard), but I certainly would not change the preamp.
I hear the Audio Research Ref-5 SE sounds pretty good.
Is your upgrade limited to consideration of the preamp? Also, what is your budget?
If you are only looking at the preamp (and I am assuming you only need a line stage), some options you may want to consider in the ~$20-25k price range include the SmC VRE-1C, the Doshi Alaap 3.0, and the Constellation Virgo II. For a little on the higher end, the the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II may also be worth your consideration.
However, I think you would be better served looking at your speakers, and to a lesser extent, your amp. I think you will get a much bigger bang for your upgrade dollar, and will be able to address the "hardness" that you identified.
I would think about changing your source first. I always thought that Esoteric Dac's were a little leaner and brighter than what I care for.
did you mate the Krell w/ th B.A.T. Rex?
Your gear looks very good, perhaps a change of cabling?
Either all SilTech or all Stealth?
Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Go with what Jwpstayman told you...Those two items should be checked FIRST by doing BOTH at the same time!
I have a feeling all other suggestions, though admirable, will not be necessary.
Have you though about Aesthetix? I have heard them a few times and they always impressed
Hi Huntermusic, your Esoteric K-01 has a very nice low 47ohm output impedance and your Krell has an equally very nice 100kohm input impedance. Perfect recipe for a passive preamp.
You should for peanuts ($49) try out this cheap one first and see what you think, then if you like what you hear and want some thing more esoteric, keep in touch.http://schiit.com/products/sys
The Veloce is a fantastic-sounding pre-amp. Very hard to top preamps like that or Esoteric C-02 or C-02X (both worth a look if you are hunting an alternative) or Ypsilon,.....but like others have said, look at the rest of your system as well to ensure you are not overlooking another key upgrade.
Thanks for all the advice. I guess it is time to do some listening to new equipment. I do not buy any new gear without auditioning the piece at home in my system. Some dealers do not do that. Too bad for them. The system sounds terrific. My listening room is 18' x 18' w a 10 ft. ceiling and extremely well damped--It is my library. I forgot to mention that I also use an HRS system for the shelving and amp stand. This single addition to the system made a bigger difference in sound quality than any piece of gear I have added to the system. For a variety of reasons I cannot move the gear around. I am considering a speaker cable upgrade but at the present time I am running 9 meters of cable under the floor to the speakers. It is an expensive proposition. Moving the amp and using longer IC cables would require some work by my contractor to modify some cabinetry. I am not eager to do this.
The amp is on its own dedicated 30 amp line, and the rest of the equipment is on two dedicated 20 amp lines. I got rid of the power conditioner about two years ago; it added a layer of its own to the sound. It became very clear after I added the HRS system to the equipment.
Frankly I think that the hardness I detect may just be from the last batch of CDs and SACDs I ordered from Elusive Disc. As you all know all CDs and SACDs sound different.Many of the recordings that I listen to sound fantastic. And let's face it, we all go through periods where one's system doesn't sound as good as one remembers---and then, voila, it sounds fantastic again.
By the way, the speakers never sound bright or hard, it is usually apparent on specific recordings.
I think the first order of business, the easiest, and the cheapest is to check the tubes in the Veloce, and try new tubes or other tubes. I can only guess at the hours on the tubes now but I would say 1000 hours, maybe 1500 tops.
Any more thoughts are appreciated.
Just the other day my system sounded off. The word "hardening" hadn't occurred to me but seems apt, especially on female vocals.
I reduced the toe-in on my Revel M20s by only a few degrees and everything snapped into focus. Smooth vocals back again.
Hunter: out of curiosity, do you have the original Veloce, or the later so-called "Lithio" model? I had both in my system, and the later version is dramatically better in every respect. It replaced a Lamm L2 Reference line stage, and I am still using the Veloce. I am running real DR tubes in it (not so easy to find, they are counterfeited with abandon). It works well in my system, with my ears. (Not meant to shill for Veloce).
Hope you sort it out.
another vote for new batteries (first). and I would only consider batter operated preamps after having one.
I googled the cables and it seems that the speaker cables are getting older. Just a thought, but perhaps a pair of cables for the speakers is in order. If nothing else, it would provide one with a different flavor just by swapping them in now and then. I'd suggest Cardas or Kimber, something with warmer attributes. It's fun to experiment and listen to the results.
Timrhu, I thought that toe-in is a big no,no. You might want to consider not doing that at all. But I could see how angling the speakers more towards the listener would create a much brighter/harder sound.
Huntermusic, maybe the components are sounding harder because they are breaking in? Or that you are leaving them powered up longer. I noticed that when I leave my system on overnight before a listening session it transforms itself. This could be for the better or worse.