Help with Pre-Amps

I guess you could call me a "audiophile virgin". Don't really know much about all of this stuff and that is why I'm seeking help/discussion. I wanted to really get into this so I went and bought a SOTA Star Sapphire Vacuum Table and I'm in the process of putting on a Rega RB301 Tonearm on it. I have purchased a Promitheus Audio(Nicholas Chua)phono-pre but now I'm to the point of purchasing my first preamp. Seeing as I have a phono-pre already what would be a good choice for a preamp. Should my future preamp have a phono stage as well? Why? More tonal choices or what? Any pre's made by Audio Research that would fit my bill? Is a preamp that does not have a phono stage considered a passive pre? Like I said--audio virgin. Someone please help! Thanks much! Phaseshifter.
TVC passive - great value
Blueberry preamp a bit on the warm side. Phono build in.
Modwright - nice , more on the neutral side.
AR are nice but I can not think of any model from the lower end that I acctuly like. Their recent top dogs are quite impresive though.
Supratek , if you can find it used. But it might not be the best choice if you are not into tube rolling. Its build in phono is of very high quality.

The rest of your system, budget and your preferences should dictate the choice of the preamp that suits you best.


A preamp that has a phono stage is considered a full funtion preamp. A preamp without a phono section is called a linestage. A passive preamp has no gain of its own and must be matched with a source ie phonostage or cd player with a high gain.

I have no personal experience with a passive preamp but have read they need to be matched carefully with the right source and amps. So they may not be a good first preamp unless you get good advise on what components will work well with them.

Hope this helps.

Would help to know price range to give advise on preamps to listen to.

Some pre-amps have great phono stages built in (AR-6 and more). However, most pre's that I've played with have second rate phono stages.
I'd say keep your phono stage. Try different pre-amps. I'd go with one with fewer "gadgets" will probably sound best. You need to first determine what you are looking for: Warmth, detail, tubes, solid state only, remote control...

Also, what cartridge are you using? Nice table and I'd hate to see a $99 cartridge on it. My Sota makes it very easy to tell the difference in cartridges. Also, make sure you set up the weight and tracking properly. That makes the biggest difference of all.
Sarcher30 summed up things for you nicely and I would agree with the comment about carefully pursuing a passive preamp. They are great when done right, but limiting for future changes and require careful matching. Probably not the best idea for a neophyte (as you state you are).

There are many excellent preamps in a wide range of price points. Probably the first things to do would be to:
Set budget levels
What is the amp?
What are the speakers?
Is there a specific type of sound/performance/characteristics that are most important to you?
Will you have sources other than the turntable? What?

Many of us could list off a bunch of preamps in various price ranges that can be recommended, both new and used. Obviously, you can get excellent values in used equipment - especially right now (it is amazing how low prices are going).

So instead of spuing out a bunch of loose recommendations, post as many answers as you can and then we will throw our hats/hearts and recommendations out for you.
Hello, I currently have a
Pioneer Elite C-91 pre amp.
The midrange is very nice and airy, it also has
alot of presence.
You might find 1-2 on the bay, per week.
Just be careful, the you get one with the
remote, that is, IF you want a preamp with a remote.
Wow!! Thanks for all the responses', I can tell already that you guys are going to be a big help to me. With that being said here goes;
-Dear Mrjstark-please explain to me what "Tube Rolling" is?
-Dear Sarcher30-since I have purchased a phono pre already with multiple gain chips, I should then look for a linestage pre(w/o a phono stage)-correct?
-Dear Sarcher30- between $750 and $1,000 for the pre(linestage) would be what I'm willing to spend.
-Dear Elevick-I'm a tube guy. A brief history of myself-I'm a musician(guitar player to be exact)and it's taken me roughly 20 years to get my guitar rig sounding like what I envisioned in my head if ya know what I mean. Of course I want warmth, definition, crystal clear sound stage etc. Is there a- say utilitarian linestage pre that might be a good choice until my ears have developed and I can truly discern the "flavor of the different pre's" and "hear in my head what I'm eventually looking for? Elevick as far as a cartridge I do not yet have one. Don't know what kind to look into yet. This is or should I say will be my 1st real audio set-up. Don't worry, I won't put a $99 cartridge on it I can asure you of that. I also do not have a power amp yet either, same holds true for the speakers. I'm putting this system together from scratch and so far I've only purchased the SOTA Star Sapphire, a SOTA reflex clamp and the Promitheus Audio Phono pre. Thanks much guys for all the input, I really need it but I guess I don't need to tell you guys that! Thanks in advance for your help.
Phaseeshifter. Yes I would go with a linestage since you already have a phonostage.

I don't have any experience with preamps in that price range. I went from a $3,000 integrated amp (preamp and amp in same box) to a $4,500 preamp. Both pieces were new.

Buying used will allow you to get nicer equipment for the price but is more of a hassel, and usually you lose the warrenty unless it is transferable to the second owner.

I'm sure someone will have some nice recomendations in your price range.

Tube rolling is simply changing the tubes that came stock with the equipment to a different brand or vintage to adjust the sound to your liking.

You might want to pick up a copy of Robert Harleys Complete Guide To High End Audio. Most of the questions you have are covered in it except for specific equipment recomendations.

Hi Sean,
I most certainly will pick up a copy of Robert Harleys book and thanks for the recommendation to do so. Hypothetical situation if I may. You are obviously very knowledgeable about high-end audio but say for instance you had a SOTA Star Sapphire(very heavy) in the neighborhood of 50lbs with a Rega RB301 on it what cartridge choice would you consider in the $750 plus, maybe a little more for the table. Does this question make any sense seeing as I have only the aforementioned equipment in our other threads?
thanks Sean,
In your price range, I would consider a Quicksilver Audio linestage, very, very good for the price. I don't think it is much above that new, and should be in your range used.
From the QS website:

"I don't know of a better line stage preamp for around a kilobuck." Sam Tellig, Stereophile,March 2001

The Quicksilver Line Stage Preamp embodies the Quicksilver philosophy of simplicity. It uses only one 12AX7 per channel, resulting in a very direct sound. A precision Alps attenuator, with 41 detents, is used for the volume control. The gold-plated Teflon insert RCA jacks are chassis mounted for long life. Gain is 18 db. Minimum load is 20 Kohms. Price $1095 NEW!
Another one is Mapletree Audio linestage. For about $800 it is a bargain with planty left for the phono amp/stage.
You would have to spend at least twice that much to get meaningful improvments.
keep in mind.......there is planty to choose from.
It all depends on your taste and preferences.
The hardest thing is to figure out what you really want and how much you want to spend to get there.

There's an Audible Illusions for sale today-great deal. Otherwise, the Forte, AR or Rogue are all $700 or less and will sound awesome.
Phaseshifter, I had a Benz Ace cartridge on my VPI Scout and liked the combo. I don't have experience with your turntable so its hard to tell if the Benz would work well.

If you bought your tt from a dealer they should know what works well. If not you could ask SOTA what they recommend.

As for the table I made a base for it that I filled with sand. The base was about 10 inches tall, and 20x20 inches wide. Then I put a piece of plywood on top that did'nt touch the sides and put the table for turntable on that.

The biggest improvement I made was when I attached a piece on wood on the outside of the base to support the turntable motor independently of the the table. That got rid of all of the motor noise going thru the turntable. Unfortunately you need a turntable that has its motor seperated from the plinth to do this.

The table I used to set the turntable on was nothing special but the base and the motor stand really helped get the most out of the turntable.

I would also consider the Audible Illusions Modulus 3 preamp.

Tube rolling is just changing tubes to find the ones you enjoy the most. As a guitar player, you have been doing this in all likelihood with your guitar amps.

Another good grouping of used preamps are many of the Audio Research ones. The list can go on and on, even at this price point.
I would listen to as many systems as possible before going any further with ANY decision. Since you have started with a good front end, I would now find what speakers you like. I would not listen to what the rags or anyone has to say.Listen,but be your own man and decide for yourself.If there is a audiophile group/club in your area;get involved. Unless you live near Chicago,New York or San Fran.,there are few boutiques that have good selections for you to listen to, so get in a club and go listen to others systems.Whatever speakers you go with will determine what amps to go with.I do not agree (respectfully)with the statement of buying a linestage because you have a phono pre already.I would buy a full featured preamp, so you can have the flexibility of using a step-up transformer (SUT)with a tube mm phono input.You can always plug your phono pre into one of the line stages at first and experiment later. The "gain chips" you speak of are probably load settings, not gain settings.This is for optimizing a low output moving coil(lomc) cartridge load.

The speaker choice is critical.If you get something very efficient it will allow you to go for amps that a less efficient speaker won't work with.
The audio "chain" symmetry is REALLY important.Not all amps work with all speakers, not all amps work well with all preamps.So you see, the speakers will determine the rest of the chain.
Some would argue,that the speakers and the cartridge will be the biggest influence in the sound and character of your system. This is why I stress to get out there and listen. Reading about sonics is almost useless.Until you experience a lot of different systems, you won't understand what the rags and other audiophiles are talking about.
I am sure a lot of what you read is confusing. It is.
Do your homework, but listen, listen,listen.
Lastly I would say that expensive doesn't mean good,especially with things like cables.This hobby has a lot of smoke and mirrors,flim flam and will prey on someone with no experience and a fat wallet. If a ad or review sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Emorrisiv, Phaseshifter had started this thread in 2008. I really doubt he's been waiting this long for your suggestion :)) Of course, I might be wrong...
lol! I am sure you are right. Talk about pompous!