Looking For Single Source Tube Preamp

My system is currently a modified Denon 5910 as my only source, a passive Luminous Axiom as my preamp (volume control), B&K Sonata M200 mono amps, and Silverline Sonata 2 Speakers. I enjoy the sound of this set up; however some of the discs I listen to come out sounding a little harsh. I intend on keeping this a single source system. I have never had a tube anywhere in my system. I was thinking of trying a single source tube preamp to possibly smooth things out a little. I have read some threads, but I can't find much on single source tube preamps. Is there anyone out there with a similar set-up to mine that can offer suggestions?

I am aware of the Decware Zsla-1 preamp; however I have not heard it or seen much about it on Audiogon.
Check out this little guy. It has more than one input but has a tube.

I'd go for quality of sound regardless of the number of inputs...why limit your choices when there is no money to be saved anyway? Almost all preamps have more than one input.


Space tech has great sound, excellent quality and reasonable pricing.
Well, I don't know . . . . . . You have a very nice system and an intelligent way of configuring it. I don't think your (occasional?) problem is a "tube vs. no-tube" thing, otherwise it wouldn't be occasional, it would be all the time.

I'd look elsewhere. Cabling?, you didn't mention. Or probably more likely the source (the Denon). If I had your system, the first thing I'd be looking to upgrade (unless it turns out you have really crap cabling, which I doubt) would be the CDP.

If you are as you seem to imply, a single source digital guy (a perfectly valid approach, though not mine) you really owe it to yourself and your ears to work your way up to the finest you can afford in that department.

Going to tubes at this point represents a radical departure for you, and won't do anything to clear up the problems of harsh digital playback. I've nothing against Denon BTW, but your hearing is obviously getting more refined, and you can now enjoy the benefits of better digital playback equipment. Even an older Wadia or Levinson setup will IMO beat the pants off the modified Denon.

And one more thing: if you want to mess around with tubes a little, again, do it at the source -- ie a Cary CDP, etc.

I'm not familiar with your preamp or your speakers, but I've been running M200 Sonatas in many many different system configs - never any harshness. This includes using a Denon 2200 multi player as a source.

I think Nsgarch has given the best advice, but if you just want to experiment, the Dared 2000A is a 2 input tube preamp with remote volume. They show up on A'gon now and then for $300+ used with upgraded tubes, and I think can be bought directly for under $500 (or 450)

I have one and it's pretty nice for the $, and combines nicely with the M200s
Space Tech Labs can build you a single input tube preamp at a very reasonable price. They sell multi-input models, but Albert will pretty much do what you want.
If you have a preamp now or if you have a volume control on the cd, you can get a Musical Fidelity unit that has nothing but a tube buffer. (I forget what it's called.) You can put it anywhere in the signal chain.
Hi,I,m with Nsgarch on this one.Harshness can often be tamed with different cabling.The first thing to try would be solid core copper speaker cable rather than stranded. Solid core lighting cable can sound excellent and is very cheap from electrical suppliers.I know people with very expensive and fantastic sounding systems that use this.Commercial alternatives would be Axon 4 or Kimber.
The next thing to try would be carbon fibre interconnects like Van den Hul the First.These are the last word in smooth,sweet sound without loss of detail.

The Musical Design SP-2B is single tube design preamp. Very nice, very reasonable, and fully upgradable. There are two on Audiogon right now. Jim
If your Denon is the APL mod, then I doubt it is the problem. I have a very revealing system and there is no trace of hardness.
I'm also in agreement with Nsgarch. Cables or room treatments might be the ticket.

Good luck,
Kevin, check out this thread:


It's a report of a CDP shootout that includes a modified Denon 5910. Their main criticism was some "graininess".

I use the Paul Speltz Ant-Cables to my Speakers, which are solid core speaker wires. I have VeraStarr silver reference interconnects. My Denon player has the ALP clock in it with other modifications done by Hot Rod Audio (VeraStarr). I ended up with this player because my wife and I watch a lot of movies, and Denon has excellent video. It was a tradeoff. She wanted the Denon. I told her that the only way I would get the Denon was if it was Modded. As stated earlier, I do enjoy the sound of my system. Maybe when I said it sounded a little harsh, I might have meant there was glare or brightness to the sound on some discs. I just thought that a tube would smooth out the sound some. The Silverline speakers are very revealing and I had heard that they work very well with a tube setup.

Since your Sonatas are so efficient, why don't you just opt for a tube integrated with around 40 watts/channel or so? The Eastern Elecric E-520 and VTL IT-85 come to mind as contenders. I think you will realize the sound you are seeking better with this option than pairing the B&K amps with a tube pre. I have owned their amps in the past, and while not bad for the $$, I think the newer tube integrateds offer better sonics, especially since you don't need much power to make the Silverlines come to life.

I like your tube preamp idea...I switched from a Bent Audio passive volume control to a tubed preamp a couple years ago...I'm very happy with the smoothness tubes can bring into a system...I have extra pairs of tubes for a quick flavor change at any time.

Some cd's are bright...fact of life...your room could also be a little on the bright side, easy to figure that one out.

I'll have disagree with the others...cables can not add brightness and should never be used as tone controls in your system.

As I stated above...the number of inputs on the preamp are not important, a wider choice of preamps is. Do some searches at Audiogon and Audioasylum forums for a good used tubed preamp in your budget and flavor...I did and struck gold!

BTW, OZ has a great idea...I just went to tube amps myself, the Krell sits in the corner with nothing to do...poor thing!
Ozzy, I thought I might hear from you. You know my speakers better than anyone. I just scanned through the available integrated amps on Audiogon. Does anyone have any input on the Audio Note P2 SE that puts out 18 watts per chanel? Is 18 watts enough for my 96 db speakers? It has just a single input.
Depending on the size of your room and how loud you listen, you might get away with 18 watts. But remember, those speakers have two 10" woofers per side. You might not get the control down below with an SET. But if you don't tend to rock out a lot, it might not be an issue.


What preamp and amp are you using in your system?

When I first started this thread I was thinking single source preamp because of less switches in the line to deal with. Less in more.

I'm using an Audioprism Mantissa that I picked up here a couple years ago...somewhat hard to find. I had it mated with my Krell Ksa-250 and Apogee Duetta Signatures...very nice.

I now have the Mantissa mated with Rogue Audio tubed monos...driving the Apogees...better yet.

I had thought I would switch between the Krell and the Rogues every now and then...I don't seem to be doing that though at this point.

I agree, less could be more in many cases. In this case though, you would be cutting yourself out of many fine preamp choices because almost all your tubed preamp findings will have more than one input, less could be less.

FWIW, the Lamm LL2 Deluxe has one set of "Direct" inputs that bypasses the tape loop and another selector switch, and therefore provides the purest signal of all the available inputs.

This would seem to satisfy your desire for signal purity for one source, yet provide some flexibility for more sources down the road.
Thanks to everyone for your input. It's time for me to sift through your opinions and figure out what's best for me.