Is there life after a KXR? Help

I finally found the ultimate preamp. My own version of audio nirvana. The Ayre KXR. The trouble is I can't afford to keep it. So now I have to find a worthy successor. I'm especially interested in a tubed pre. If it has a great phono stage that's a huge advantage but not required. The rest of my system are Ayre MXRs, and Aerial 20t speakers. I've owned (and liked) an Ayre K-1xe, Levinson 380s, and I've tried using a Wadia system and forgoing the preamp altogether. I intend to buy something used. $10,000 is the top of my budget but I could eek out a tad more if I had to.
If your budget is $10K, why not buy a used KX-R. You should be able to get one for $12K or less.

If you go with a CJ Art II, the ACT2, or the CT-5, I am sure you will not miss the KX-R terribly. Or you can get the Audio Research REF3, LS26 if balanced is your thing. All of these are super sounding zero negative feedback designs.

However, the tricky thing for me with any of the above options is that all of these preamps have too much gain for my situation. That should not be an issue for most.
Hello Mike,

Look into a BAT VK-52se. If your funds in the future allow you can have it upgraded to the REX without having to sell. Charles himself has made very positive comments on the sound of BAT based systems. Good luck whatever you decide.

As an aside, since you have tried both the KX-R and MX-R's, why did you decide to keep the MX-R's and sell the KX-R. Did you consider keeping the KX-R and selling the MX-R's ? The MX-R's could be replaced with the K1-XE.
Pinkus the MRX's are amps. The KRX and the K1xe are pre's
Some great suggestions above, the BAT VK52SE, or even a 51SE for a little less $$'s. Both work, however only the 52SE has a upgrade path like Tom suggests and the 52SE is a step up over the 51SE apparently...

Also, on a side note, given your phono comment, a Nagra PLP might be really great fit for you...I would check the Nagra option out also

I just sold a used KXR, the first one ever available used. I don't think one could be had for less than $12,000. Mine sold considerably higher than that. I still have the MXRs which are the amps. I would have kept the KXR and sold the amps if that opportunity had arisen instead. However an additional consideration is that my speakers match best with SS and it's hard to think I would have found another SS amp I liked remotely as much as the MXRs. I used to have a K-1xe. Liked it. It;s definitely a steal. I know I won't be satisfied there again after the KXR. You've hit on some other choices on my list though.

There have been a lot of comments about BAT options. I read through a number of posts on past forums that suggest they don't mate well with SS amps. I also saw a number of comments that the ARC 3 has some hiss issues which is a pet peeve of mine. Can anyone comment on that?

Tom- I assume you mean Charles Hansen. Any idea on where I could find that thread? I doubt Mr. Hansen will take my call. He's not happy that I sold the KXR.
Hello Mike,

Yes, I was referring to Charles Hansen. The particular thread that came to my mind I believe was on Audio Asylum. Try doing a search under "Eidolon Diamond". He was speaking very positively about the sound of the Eidolon Diamond driven by BAT electronics. There may be other threads as well.

I know of others (including a personal friend) who have mated BAT tube preamps with solid-state amps with no issues whatsoever and have had incredible results. In my experience what you are reading is simply not. Unless there is a technical mismatch of the pairing and the amp is of commensurate quality you should get stunning results.

If you call BAT with the technical details about the amp you plan on pairing the 52se with they'll give you the honest truth if they will work well together. They have integrity and will not tell you something just to get a sale. I promise!

There is a review of the 52se on positive feedback if you care to read it ... allow your ears to be the final judge

All the best,
VAC Ren Sig w phono should be right in your $ range.
Thanks Tom.
The logic behind this move escapes me. The KX-R is much more of a statement piece than the MX-R and is the foundation of a system. Good luck trying to replace it.
Cpk, thanks for the correction. What I meant is replace the MX-R's with the V1-XE.

I would suggest that you audition a Messenger with phono stage. This is the best preamp I have ever heard/owned, bar none.


P.S. I also own MX-Rs, driving SoundLab A-1PXs.

I struggled with that decision. In the end I decided the MXRs mate perfectly with my speakers and should therefore be kept together. They are both fabulous and I would have been disappointed to get rid of either of them.
Herron VTSP-3.
I like the Bat option or you may want to look at the Atma-Sphere MP-1 that includes a killer phono stage. Why does Charly give a crap about anyone selling his stuff? I sold a pair of MXR's (couldn't drive my Soundlabs) and the dealer and Charly had a fit. If I buy something with my money and don't like it, isn't that my own decision not my dealers or Charly's at Ayre. Nice stuff way over priced. IMHO.
If you didn't like it, fair enough. To claim it's overpriced, even with the caveat of it being your opinion, is not credible.


Maybe try a used Einstein "The Tube" preamplifier?

On some level I agree with your comments about Mr. Hansens response to someone re-selling his gear, but on the other hand I appreciate their concern and care for their stuff. I think they take great pride in their work and should be commended for it.

I like the Atma Sphere idea but I'm not sure the current used offering is priced correctly and I need to find something sooner than later. I'm just beginning to explore the BAT option.

As to the rest of your post I value your opinion but I take issue with the last part.just because they didn't jive with your sound labs doesn't mean they are "way over priced". I have compared a lot of gear over the years and in the right system they are as good as it gets (IMHO). I'm obviously not the only one who thinks that.


did you compare your MX-R's with Lamm's ? You mention that you have heard a lot of gear over the years, and I am wondering if the Lamm's happen to be one the amps that you have auditioned.
No Pinkus I have not but I'd like to. In fact I have not owned a tubed amp before, although I've heard quite a few in dealers showrooms. I subscribe to the theory that speakers usually sound best with one or the other depending on what the speaker designer intended them to be used with. The big tube amps can overcome that to a point but there is still an inherent design compromise that cannot be undone. Frankly I don't think my speakers would pair as well with tubes as they do SS. I'd like to move down that path but for now I'm enjoying the MXRs and I'm not looking forward to changing speakers.

not all Lamm's are tubed. In fact if I remember correctly, the Lamm Ref 1.2 are hybrid amps, where the tubes are present only in the input stage (small signal tubes), and the output stage is SS.

Should be interesting to compare the Lamm's against the MX-R. I personally would rather own the MX-R's simply because of aesthetics and convenience. The Lamm's are very big and run very hot.

However, I have to say that I have never, ever, ever heard anyone say that the Lamm's don't sound good, or are dry, etc. That has to be some kind of a record for any amp. Search through the archives, and forget about hearing bad things about Lamm' will not even hear anyone say that the Lamm's were outclassed by some other amp.
I don't get it. You say the KX-R is your "ultimate preamp" but you can't afford to keep it. You have it for sale, asking about $13K. Your budget for a replacement is $10K. Looking at the rest of your system, it strikes me as odd that the $3K difference is beyond your means . . . just saying.
Rufipennis- There's more to it than that but suffice it to say $10k is my top and that would probably have to include a phono stage. I appreciate the comments but the idea of this post is to get equipment suggestions not financial advice.
> In the end I decided the MXRs mate perfectly with my speakers and should therefore be kept together.

And yet you have your MX-Rs listed for sale here on Audiogon? Weird.
Happy New Year everyone!

I sure wish people could stay on subject and offer suggestions for potential replacements. I guess I offerred too much information.

Curriemt- You seem to be questioning something without actually expressing your point. Not sure what that's all about. I hate to offer such a mundane explanation to your conspiracy theory but.... yes it is a fact I did have my MXR's listed for sale too. Believe it or not the KXR did not sell right away. As I managed to get a bit overextended (hence the sale(s)) I decided to list the MXRs too and see what sold first. If they had I would have kept the KXR instead. Thanks for the reminder.
I wanted to buy your KXR, I really did but I just bought the MX-Rs and that's too much at once. On the subject of BAT preamps, I've found them to work very well with solid state amps. I've used the VK 5i, VK 50se, and now the VK 51se over the past 11 years with a Krell FPB 600. I don't have it set up yet but very soon I will be using my VK 51se with the MX-Rs. I can't say for sure yet but I have no doubt the combination will work very well. I'm switching to the MX-Rs because they're considered a great match for the Vandersteen 5As. If you're curious on how this all works out, I can keep you posted. I plan to use the VK51se with the MX-Rs until I can comfortably afford a KX-R which may be a while.
Sonofjim- Yeah I know the feeling. I bought my MXRs last summer. I thought I could swing them both but the stock market collapse changed that. I like your system. I plan to try 5as some day. Thanks for the BAT confirmation. I'd love to hear how it turns out fro you. The VK52 is intriguing as it's has an upgrade path to the top of the line model.
I have compared the Lamm M1.2 Ref to the MXR's. Let's just say that the MXR has some catching up to do. The only thing with the Lamm's is they are very preamp dependent. They don't like much gain. I also had the latest MXR with the newer transformers and Cardas wiring. All owners of the MXR should have that done as it gets rid of the transformer hum. The Cardas wiring helps also but it still doesn't catch the Lamms.
Mtdking- I think comparing both amps without considering associated equipment is short sighted. I'd suspect the speakers you're playing them into would have an effect. For instance on my Aerial 20ts I suspect the MXRs would sound better, and on a pair of 5as the Lamms might do a better job since they don't have to drive the bass. At the end of the day they're both at the top of their respective classes and system matching would determine which option is "the best".
I only have experience with the Lamm 1.2 Ref. It drove Eggleston Andra 2's w/o any issues, controllung the big 12" woofer without sweat. FWIW, I would think both amps can drive all but the most demanding loads. So, the simple synergy aspect would be the one to focus on more I would think. The Ayre/ 5A combo seem to be making many a happy camper though. That said, I would certainly like to catch another listen to the Lamm's on my 5A's.

I can tell you the Lamm's bass is where it separates itself from the MXR. I tired them both on Kharma Midi and also on 5A with the same results. The power was about the exact same on both amps even though they are rated much different. One is class A and the other is not. As all Lamm owners know don't let the power rating fool you. They have current and control which is much more important.

I don't own either of the two amps anymore for the record. I have found better amps then both for my system. I also had the ARC Ref210 that sounded better then both and had better bass.

BTW the big misconception with the 5A is that is doesn't matter what amp you use for the bass because it has a built in powered woofers. That is 100% wrong. It uses an active crossover so it acts differently then if you were to use a Sub woofer. Every amp I put on the 5A changed the bass 100% and it is not a small change either. With some amps I have the bass setting is flat and other I have as much as -3db down. 5A owners know what I'm talking about. People think they can just put an amp that has very little bass and they are not hearing what the speakers can really do. With the Lamm's I got flat bass in my room to 18hz with the MXR I got it flat to 24hz. Nothing different other then the amps. Plus the bass was tighter and much more defined with the Lamm.

For your 20T I think you need more power then either the Lamm or MXR can provide. Aerial will tell you that. The 20T love love current. I would love to hear the Krell EVO on them or a big Boulder. I think the 20T would be world beaters.

Buy a 2nd hand mac c2300. While not fully balanced it does have balanced outputs and inputs.
It has an wonderful MC and MM phono stage which can be adjusted on the fly as well as bass and treble if you want to.
the best thing is that it sounds very nice and gives you a lot of change on your $10k limit to better manage your hopefully short term financial worries.


you certainly seem to have auditioned a lot of equipment. I am curious as to which amps you have settled on for the moment.

Also what are your thoughts on the Audio Research Ref 110


I have great respect for the amount of good gear you have listened too. With all due respect though constantly changing speakers will make your general amp comparisons less applicable for the rest of us. In the case of the Lamms both the Vandersteen 5as and Kharma Midi are much more tube friendly speakers than mine. I've heard the current argument before. I'm no expert and no where near as knowledgeable as you are but the explanation of "tube friendly" and "SS friendly" speaker designs as explained by Ralph at Atma Sphere makes a lot of sense to me. In that explanation he describes the characteristics of tubes and SS as they relate to 4, 8, 16, etc. loads. Both the Kharma and 5as are 8 ohm loads and are generally efficient speaker. I don't doubt your empirical results but I would still say matching the right amp to the right speaker is more important than trying to find the "ultimate" amp. I'm sure the big Krells would sound great on my 20ts as would Levinson, Boulder, Classe, or just about any other great SS amp. However I've heard all of the ones mentioned and while they are all good they are also different. From there it comes down to taste. The big Krells are a bit bright for my taste. I think the Arye MXRs are better at capturing the emotion and space of the performance. I agree the Boulders would be exceptional but they're just too darn big! Thanks for chiming in.
The Lamm's are solid state.... I'm not sure what you mean?

I'm sorry I thought we were talking about a tube version.
agree on the lamms 1.2 ref- they are quite special amps! My 2.2s lamms are a keeper!!
4 1/2 years late.......I believe the Lamm 1.2 has a tube input stage and a SS Mosfit output stage.
Since you mentioned tubes you might want to look into the Aesthetix Signature Calypso. Even new its coming in at about 70% of your budget and it definitely is compatible with solid state amplification.
...information about K1xemp preamp. The sound from this pre can be made even better ....cleaner, clearer, wider sound stage, better bass, silkier highs by using it on Cardas blocks, having a rock on top (here in Arizona, there are dry river beds with smooth stones - I have one about 3 or 4 pounds on the K1, and another on the power supply)....also a bit heavier rock works wonders on the V1xe amp), and never use Cardas manufactured (includes Ayre's own ) cables. least you can pick up a KXR, now, for $12k or under. What a difference a few years make.