Looking for a preamp with XLR connections

Looking for a reference preamp with XLR inputs and outputs. Looking to spend less than 10k, no tubes. Any suggestion? Thought about the schitt Freya+, but audio science review just review it, and the measurements were aweful. 
Thank you for your recommendations. 


@yyzsantabarbara  For years I used the Benchmark DAC3/L DAC/preamp with a pair of KEF LS50's and compared a stereo AHB2 to the Ayre V5xe.  I preferred the Ayre, I felt that I could see into the music better.  The AHB2 was not inspiring to me in that setup or with a pair of Vivid V1.5's.  On the Vivids, I much preferred the Pass XA25, as it provided more body to the midrange, which I found to be more flat and less engaging with the AHB2 (run in stereo).  I've never heard the AHB2's as monoblocks, though I've read that it offers more headroom.  That was my experience.  I recently upgraded my DAC3 to a Weiss 501, and while it was definitely an improvement, I'm not sure it warranted 4x the price of the Benchmark.  As I mentioned, my info about the Benchmark dedicated preamp is via a friend whose ears I trust - never heard it.

Someone I know compared the Weiss 501 to the DAC3B and they preferred the Weiss also. I use the DAC3B with a tube headphone amp and it works better than my 'best' DAC with those tubes. So the DAC3B, while not my best overall DAC,  works like a champ in 1 setup, and that is perfect.


The DAC3 HGC that I had for a while was rather frustrating for me when used as a preamp, especially at low volume. The Benchmark LA4 preamp is of a much high caliber when comparing the preamp functionality of the DAC3 lineup.

The LA4 preamp should be used with a system that has a amp whose sonics that one loves. This statement regarding the LA4 is repeated by a few others on Audiogon.



Bel Canto PRE5. All analog. Dead quiet.  True balanced. Dynamic Range 125dB. $2,300. 

While balanced and differential circuits are usually superior, it is not universally so. I’ve seen measurements of at least half a dozen products for which the single-ended connections resulted in the same or better performance than the balanced option. Case in point is the Cary SLP-05 preamp (which is fully differential even). 

What matters most is compatibility between the separate components in order to minimize ground loops. Well designed gear does not induce ground loops regardless of circuit and connection type. It also helps to avoid using “boutique” or audiophile brand cables, since many of them have completely ineffective shielding and poor quality terminations. 


This is why I talk about the balanced standard.

If the balanced standard is supported ground loops don't occur. This is because in a balanced connection, ground is ignored- its not part of the signal path as it is in a single-ended connection! Its merely there for shielding.

When the balanced standard is ignored as we see in so many high end audio products, all bets are off. In a lot of balanced tube preamps in particular, the balanced output is simply two single-ended outputs (one out of phase with the other), each of which reference ground. That means that the ground isn't being ignored. When this happens all bets are off; such a preamp doesn't support AES48.


“The person that started this thread said "no tubes". Why all the suggestions of tube preamps?”

Experience. By folks understanding what it takes to get great sound. A kind, well intended nudge to reconsider the premises of the question.