Is there a killer preamp for 1500?

I'm looking for the best preamp I can get for $1500 or less. I like tubes, but will consider SS if there's a compelling reason. I've been using passive preamps for the past year and really appreciate their transparency, openness and silence. I'm looking for similar qualities in your recommendation.

More than likely, I'll be buying used. Phono stage is unnecessary. Remote volume would be nice, but it's not a deal breaker. Amps are Antique Sound Lab AQ1008. Input impedance 100k. Input sensitivity 1v. Speakers are Alon Model V.

Any thoughts on the usual suspects?

AI Mod3A
Rogue 99
VTL 5.5

Thanks for your help!
I can only comment on the Rogue 99. I had the magnum version in one of my systems and found it rather nice, but certainly no "killer preamp".
Mingles, as you appear to be potentially open to a SS solution, you may want to have a look at the JRDG Capri pre--which includes a remote control. At $2500 new, it is often offered used on Agon below your celing price . I currently prefer it to my own ARC Ref 3. I have just posted some updated comparative observations at:
I've bought two 100 WPC monoblock Push-pull amps, a 25 WPC SEP amp and a preamp from Lamphear Electronics, Rome, NY, during the first six months of 2008. I couldn't be happier.

The guy is unreal about making the best possible product for the money. He's a perfectionist. My preamp (below) has enough juice to run 20 amps and it will put any Conrad Johnson product to shame. If you want something truly special, try Blair Lamphear and you'll never regret it.

The LE-PREAMP#1 Is the flagship and has the following features:
A) 600 Ohm Output
B) 1+ Watts of output power
C) Transformer coupled output
D) 6SN7 Driver and EL84 or 6V6 output stage
Competition Class: $5,000 and above
Promotion Price: $875.00 if you can still get it

You can tell from the basic spec's it's not your average preamp and will severely outperform most anything on the market. It will be able to drive any load to it's full potential without even trying. It will be 100% hand made and wired.

Regards, Hume
Guido, I just finished reading your Capri forum. Thanks for pointing it out. Very interesting. Unfortunately, the units on Agon right now are out of my price range, but I'm not in a hurry, so I'll keep it on my radar.

Any thoughts on the Audio Note L2 and L3 kits?
Bnrlaw, I forgot about Juicy Music. Thanks for that reminder. I know they make good products. How does the Peach compare to units in the 1500 price range?

Hume, I can't seem to find the LE-PREAMP. Can you point me to a link?
I've heard the VTL 5.5 is excellent. I had the 2.5 TL, very nice for the $$, but not a "killer preamp". So if the 5.5 is better.....

I strongly urge you to add Cary pre-amps to your list. I have a Cary SLP-98 & love it. I doubt there is anything "better" at the used price range.

Oh, & a CJ-PF-R preamp is very hard to beat at around $1k used, I think, if you're open to SS.
I had a C-J PFR for several years. I just sold it and now have a C-J CT 5(new $8500.00). The PFR is just as clear and crisp and rhythmic but not as detailed. Having been working on a system and listening to a variety of equipment over the years, the PFR deserves its former "Class A" rating and would kick butt on the large majority of pre amps today.
I have been very happy with a Belles 21A pre, and I upgraded it with the Auricap upgrade.

A tube pre with the detail of ss...
Promitheus Audio TVC Dual Box passive preamp at about $800-$900 is the absolute " Killer ". I simplly don't know of anything better for that kind of money. There are few reports from the press but what you need to read is the experiances from the users on AC forum. Those are in regards to the older version of TVC preamp. But it is this new all out , statment piece that you want to get. It can be also ordered with parts of your choice as well as ins and outs...that being RCAs or Balance. What is even more interesting - their new four of five channel passive preamp for SACD of HT.....This is the one I am getting to complement my stereo rig. It also can be build to your specifications and taste. Unbelievable value and performance. I can not see how someone could go wrong with TVC as it is simplly stuning. It is one of those secrets that no one is talking about........but cat is out of the bag , so just enjoy and be prepered for the ride of your life. And don't forget to fasten your seat belts.

Happy listening and enjoy the music

Audio Mirror PP1 or Joule Electra LA-100 Mk3 research both of them. I have the Audio Mirror was going to buy the Joule. I went with the PP1 because it was less money.
Look at the Coda on agon and save yourself a few hundred in the meantime and also you will have a fantastic pre with remote.
You might want to add the Cary SLP98 to your list. It is an exceptional preamp and a used one can be had on Audiogon in your price range.
I would say take a hard look at Space-Tech-Labs, hand built by one man in Vancouver Canada. Albert is very well respected, quite a few people have sold much more expensive preamps to get into his stuff. Not audio porn, just very high quality with some unique designs. I will be having him build me one in the near future.
The AI MOD preamp I had was very high gain, 30db so keep that in mind if your amp has 1v sensitivity. I couldn't live with the gain issue, very little volume control and tube noise was easily heard with 89db speakers.
I'll just throw this out there. a Accuphase C200 is currently on ebay for 800. I currently own one since new and recently purchased another....I like em. I don't no if there is a preamp with the same build quality. Even stock they sound wonderful...but my upgraded one with Nichicon fine gold caps is absolutely stunning. So for about 1150-1200 bucks upgraded you could have a very nice preamp with many features and sonic performance that would give many high-end preamps a run.
I want to thank everyone for the suggestions. I have to admit, it's a bit overwhelming.
The more I read, the deeper the pool gets.

I should have done a better job defining the sound I'm looking for. I own two very good
passive preamps: Bent TVC with S&B trannies and silver wire; and Sonic Euphoria with
autoformers. I love the transparency, detail and spaciousness they offer, but I feel they're
missing some mid-bass presence. I discovered this recently while AB'ing the Bent against
a Modulus 3A. The Bent had a little more air, but it was thinner in the mid bass. We
played the same material back to back and switched preamps. There may have been an
impedance mismatch between the TVC and my friend's Bedini amp, but we both agreed
the Modulus had a fuller, richer sound.

Without getting sidetracked on the differences between passives and actives, I want to
make it clear that I'm looking for an active. I want to try something different than what I
have. I want it to be dead quiet and spacious like the TVC, but I want it to be lush as
well. Am I asking for too much at this price point? I'm not looking for an overly euphonic
sound, but I like a little color without bloat or mush. Analytical and neutral preamps are
out of the question.

After sifting through the forums and reading reviews, I've ruled out the Modwright and
the Rogue.

The Cary SLP-98 interests me quite a bit. Everyone seems to like it for its warmth, which
is exactly what I'm after.

Conrad Johnson also interests me, but I don't know which models to focus on.

Jeff Rowland Capri gets glowing reviews, but it's out of my price range.

Audible Illusions Mod3A is an obvious contender, but I'm concerned about the noise I
heard in our listening session. It may have been the tubes or the power conditioner or
any number of fixable things, but the Modulus does have a reputation for noisy switches
and volume controls.

Joule Electra LA-100 Mk3 is also a contender, but finding one in my price range will
require some patience.

PrimaLuna ProLogue, Juicy Music Peach, Audio Mirror, EE Minimax are all very well
respected with loyal owners that love them, but I don't know how to wade through
"owner delight" and reality. I can't audition them all. Some say the Minimax
with tweaks is a giant killer. Is it true? I don't know...

Space-Tech-Labs looks very interesting, but I don't know where to find user reviews, let
alone audition without committing to purchase.

I appreciate the heads-up regarding the Accuphase C200. I'm sure it sounds great, but I
want something newer with less chance of needing repair.

The Ming Da MC-2A3 also caught my attention. Some say it needs tweaks to bring out
its full potential.

Fortunately, I'm not in a hurry. I'm ready to pounce, but I'm exercising patience. If you
have any thoughts or suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Many many thanks. -Mark
If lush and liquid is your cup of tea, you must try Blueberry preamp with Mullard tubes

Great value. I have listen to it last week. It is outstanding preamp.
It is also quiet. Has a lot of texture and soul.

Try to find every now and then a used Lector Zoe on Agon. An amazing pre that does'nt get the appreciation it deserves.Bought it a month ago - such a wide sounstage and rich musicality.
"The Cary SLP-98 interests me quite a bit", you say.

Well, you've had 2 or 3 recommendations for that one (one was mine). That's how I ended up with my SLP-98--considering every used preamp under $2500; VTL, ARC, C-J, etc, but when I posted about my search, I'd always get a few recommendations for the SLP-98.

One other nice thing about it--it's gorgeous. I have the black with the Jaguar Red chassis. I got real interested in Cary after buying a 303-200 CDP; another great looking/sounding component.
You've received a number of recommendations for worthy products, I'll add one more. If you like a very quiet, neutral, and extremely transparent preamp, the Italian Aloia PST 11.01 can be found for substantial markdowns on the used market. It lists for around $4000 and can be had used for 1k to 1.5k. It's build quality is superb, like a fine swiss watch. Martin Dewulf reviewed it in "Bound for Sound" and found it a little lean for his tastes in his system, HiFi Guide (Italian audio mag) called it "a window into the state of the art." I've been very impressed with mine, a great bargain. None of my partnered components are of a lean and treble emphasizing nature, I don't find the Aloia lean in the least. I also enjoy it's remote volume and switching capability.
Hi there,

I would highly recommend a Blue Circle BC-3 if you can find a used one. They don't have remotes, are really big and heavy but they sound wonderful. My partner plays piano and bass and feels that the preamp with Siemans tubes has perfect pitch. They usually go for around 1300-1500. Also, they have a nice smooth top-end that is very well extended, good detail and they also extend well in the bass. Only limitation is a lack of bass detail compared to really good ss preamps. Also, they have tons of drive. I would add that to your list.
Thanks for all the thoughtful suggestions. It's going to be a tough decision.

Can anyone tell me how the Cary SLP-94 sounds compared to the SLP-98? They use different tubes, so I assume they're different animals.
They are different animals but you'd be surprised how similar they sound. Cary seems to do a great job maintaining their house sound and both are evident in the SLP-94 and 98. IMO the SLP-98 gives you more flexibility to tailor the sound with 6SN7 tubes and their variants, as well as bit more extension. Of course if you go the F1 or direct coupled route with the SLP-98 you would be deviating from the original design path and sound.

Bear in mind that Dennis Had got a lot of mileage out of his SLP-50 design (even using it as the basis to design the NEW P-3 which was an private labeled Cary product I used to own). Also, consider the AES preamp that uses 6SN7 tubes is sort of a cross between the SLP-50 and SLP-98. In a sense all of the Cary tube preamps, with the possible exception of the SLP-05, share some lineage.
Thanks Clio09. I appreciate that info. I had an AE-3 with RCA Red Base 6SN7s about a year ago and it made my system seem bloated in the bottom end. It could have been my speakers or a lack room treatment or a combo of both. My room and system have changed quite a bit since then.

Should I expect a similar sound betw. the AE-3, SLP-94 and 98?
Yes, I think you should expect a similar sound. I've always thought Cary's weakness was on the low end, but that is not to say their tube gear doesn't exhibit good bass. I think it's typical of the Cary house sound to be a little bloated on the bottom end. Mids are Cary's strong suit IMO.

The direct coupled mod evens out the sound, tightening up the bass, and providing some additional speed. Maybe an SLP-98 with this mod would be appealing.

I've been having a bit of bass bloat lately due to slap echo and some properly positioned acoustic panels solved that problem.