that's a tall order at that price level to meet your requirements? Might require a few hundred more dollars.
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I will vote on ARC LS3. I was using ARC LS3 (SS) before and have upgraded to Reference II (tube). From the bottom to the top. Although LS-3 is an ARC's lowest preamp model, it is still maintaining ARC's brand name standard that you can trust. It is well built with pretty good quality one in your price range. I believe the used LS3 (RCA only) runs just around $700.
In a solid state preamp, to do what you're asking?...I'd have to agree with "Sogood" in that a passive unit is best soincally. You'll give up ultimate dynamics, but a sub might help ya.
Although, I don't understand your problem with tube pre's, or pre's with more than 1 tube per se. Why's that? I would think as long as the preamp sounds like what you want, why would it matter to you?
There's good sound to be had with some of the pre's recommended above. Best at that price however is the $1200 Cary piece! YOu might be able to find a used one, but I doubt it.
Forgetting the fact I have one for sale, if you don't need to be on the common brand bandwagon, check out the Museatex Meitner Pa6i preamp. Although I believe Museatex Meitner is an unknown quantity to many, the fact their prices never go much below a certain price point probably means something to those who know the gear.
foreverhifi2000, I think it a disservice to those asking advise that you continually refer to a "lack of dynamics" or "You'll give up ultimate dynamics" when discussing passives - as if it were a given. You may have had that experience but many others of us have had the opposite experience. Yes, components must be matched carefully but the rewards in doing so are excellent. It is fair to discuss passives in that light. To present a lack of anything regarding a passive as a given, is just wrong because it just ain't true.
Larry does not mention his amp but, depending on it, I'd wager that one of the smaller Bents would provide as good or better performance than several of the other preamps listed here.
Audible Illusions L-1 preamp. You want beat it for the price. They ended up at about $2195 new before the L-2 came out and now sell for around $700 used. It is an all around great performer. Very transparent and neutral for a tube preamp. You can change the sound of this unit with different tubes. It seems to be more effected than most by tube brands. Lot of folks overlook this pre sadly.
It is as transparent as the TLC but delivers a more dynamic sound.
The Audible Illusions L-1 would probably be a good choice. The Meitner also has a strong following. However, I believe those two must be used single ended (rca connectors) and neither have processor loops. If you want the choice of balanced or single ended operation and a processor loop, the Adcom GFP 750 is a good suggestion (I just sold one with black gate capacitor upgrades), but an even better unit would be a Muse Model 3 (non-signature version) which would probably go for about $700-800 used, if you could find one. Good luck.
It has one tube more than your looking for, but I think the Cary SLP-50A is a real sleeper of a pre and can be found used right around that price range. Really outstanding value! SLP-50B uses the 6922 tubes (more common and popular than the 6CG7's in the SLP-50A). In my system I compared the two side by side for several weeks and swapped out all kinds of premium 6922 tubes in the "B". In the end I sold the B and kept the A. Still have it, still love it. In the ARC family, and more fitting your description, you may be able to find an LS-2B which is also a fine pre for the $. Also Quicksilver's Line Stage can be found in that range, as well as an older Audible Illusions. No long-term experience with either, but have heard and enjoyed both in various friends systems, and both have great reputations.
I would add to the list Aragon, I have the 18k pre amp with the external power supply and I love it. I think it really is a great piece of equipment, maybe the best in my system by my ears anyway. It doesn't have the HT pass through or the remote, though some of the newer aragon pre amps do have a remote. Occassionally one will pass through this site for a decent price (less that your price range anyway).
Music Reference RM-5 MK III is a sleeper since most of folks don't know much about the designer Roger Modjeski.
It uses 1 tube for line stage and 2 tubes for phono.
It has DIP switch wich allows you to adjust gain from 19DB to 35DB
Very solid build with nice warm sound. It works great with my DIY silver cables.
It works great with hard and bright amps.
In any case, it's all about system matching.