Looking to upgrade my preamp, suggestions?


Decided it is time to try out a newer preamp, have upgraded everything else over last couple of months bar this so...
Present pre is an ARC LS2 with gold lion tube and herbies tube damper.
Rest is Esoteric sa-50, bat vk600se and b&w 804d.
Listen exclusively to rock music, old and new
Important to myself, solid bass, vocals and soundstage, a remote might be nice too...lol
Thinking along the lines so far of bat vk32se, a newer ARC like ls17 or 27. Yes all tubes
Suggestions along solid state lines please?
budget is about 3500 max
Prefer to hear from actual owners of preamps suggested for your actual experiences
thank you all in advance 
uberwaltz
I like my LS-25 Mk II - you might listen to an Ayre
I have been enjoying my Modwright LS36.5. Well designed preamp with isolated tube rectified power supply and a pair of 6H30's in signal output stage. 
Yeah lots of ARC used options in your price range would no doubt be good options. One other that has recently piqued my interest is Linear Tube Audio. They now have a remote version of their preamp at half your price range new, and I think they offer in-home trials that would be great at least for perspective if nothing else. Another good option would be VAC, but they’re pretty tough to find used in your price range.

I’d hesitate to recommend a solid state pre. I just think you’re used to the tubed sound, and although there are certainly some great solid state pres out there that may indeed help in the bass area there may be other trade-offs that might not be worth it. Plus there are so many great tubed options out there. FWIW and best of luck.

Yes I have to admit I am kinda used to and liking the tube pre stage, helps take the edge of some power amps sterility imho. Some call it colouration but as I mostly listen to rock I like  a bit of colour...lol.
Was also looking at an ayon product but cannot find many positive reviews on them?
If you want used, my BAT VK51SE originally sold for $9k, but I see them go for just about your $3500 budget. It would have nice synergy w/your amp. I've considered replacing it a couple of times and just couldn't find anything that suited me more without spending a boatload. The solid metal remote, mono switch, polarity switch, programmable name display, and programmable volume for each input all combine to make it very convenient. I always like to think of myself as someone who won't sacrifice sound quality for convenience, but I must admit these features are useful and nice to have.
If buying new, I strongly suggest checking out Backert Labs preamps. They sound amazing, are a tube roller's dream and offer great value. If I ever make a change, that's the first brand I will consider. Cheers,
Spencer  
@sbank 
yes the vk51se is also on my hotlist, although as it only has balanced inputs i was considering the vk32se more just for convenience
however i know bat make the xlr to rca adapters so always a way round things
Yeah, keeping that big amp of your close to the speakers with short cables and running longer balanced interconnects to the preamp on the side of the room with the source gear is the way to go! Cheers,
Spencer
Take a look at audionet pre g3 I have the same pre and it is a outstanding . There is one on here now 
has anybody any experience with mcintosh c48 preamp?
just looking at that it seems to cover all bases with dig inputs, mm and mc phono and headphone socket
a nice looking all in one but cannot find a single review anywhere
@milby1 
I did see the audionet unit earlier and was interested in it. How long have you had yours and what do you pair it with?
I've been very impressed with the Ayre K-5xeMP preamp I bought used.  As I understand it, Charles Hanson aims for a bit of tube-like sound without tube maintenance issues.  I have a lead on an Ayre VX-5 Twenty amp to go with it that I hope is realized next month.

db
I hi just bought a McIntosh C48 and will post my impressions when I receive it.  Will need to sell my Parasound P5 now..:-(
An Atma-Sphere MP-3 used,may be a bit more than your budget, but it does have remote option and you can run both balanced and RCA.
Ain't nothing like Zero feedback.
The Ayre would be a close match.
Bob
I tried many pre-amps under 10k. I ended up with the Gamut D3i stunning musical and transparent. I tried Luxman C700u, VAC R MKII, Hegel P30, PS audio BHK, McIntosh three of them and many others.
Best of luck.
DeHavilland Ultraverve, quiet with great imaging. 
Kind of pricy but I'm very satisfied with my McIntosh C2300 tube pre.

A little over your budget, but I bought a new Rogue RP5 tube preamp for 3500.00 in October 2016.  I like it very much and it gels perfectly with my system.

I'm kinda lovin my ARC Ref 5 SE - got it here on the 'gon. About twice your budget used, but if you're willing to save up, well worth it. VERY transparent, great bass, incredible detail, etc, etc.

I have had the pre close to two years,have the audionet amp running with it,match made in heaven with the combo. Also have a anthem p2 that I have used with it and was quite impressed with that also. If the one on here sells 4 what its going for, someone getting a heck of a deal.





 I agree with Lalitk, the Modright 36.5 is very hard to beat and IMHO, better than an ARC pre at the same price point. I compared my 36.5 with the more expensive ARC Ref 3 and clearly preferred the Modright
I decided to go with some convenience factors as well just to reduce the amount of "boxes" all connected up!
Went with a McIntosh C48. which has yet to arrive so hopefully not a bad choice, but this will allow me to get rid of the phono preamp, the headphone amp and to plug the digital inputs from the tv and the Vault direct into the Mac rather than going through the Esoteric.

Sometimes it cannot all just be purely what is the best sound but a compromise as well.
Hopefully the sound will not be a compromise but will soon know!
Congratulation on the McIntosh.   In your budget, I would go for ARC REF3 or EAR 868.  I prefer over MW 36.5 especially one without an external PS.
I think you already have a very fine preamp.
Another vote for ModWright. I've had the SWL9.0SE for many years with all the upgrades. 
I am presently using an Audio Research LS27 which I got for $4000.  But I previously had an LS26, which should be going for around $3000.  You can not do better for the money.  Plus are both single ended plus ballanced.
The C48 is probably as close as you'll get to a tube sound with an SS pre. I have no doubt you'll be pleased. Let us know...
I use a premium streaming service DEEZER, 16/48 and vinyl but most of my content is from DEEZER. I listen to old and new hard and prog rock. My system also consists of a older class D Rotel amplifier and B&W 600 series towers. My goal was to upgraded some components to take the edge off at higher volumes and add tube qualities to the sound. I added a Wadia 321 DAC and upgraded my preamp to a Rogue Audio RP-1. I am pretty satisfied with the results. I like the Tube/ Class D combination at this point. Maybe go full tube someday. Rogue also makes an RP-5 that comes in at about $3,500, it’s the next step up in the line from the RP-1. I like the people at Rogue. They answer the phone if you call them and gladly talk about the product. The only thing I don’t like is the remote does not turn on the unit and it does not work with my Furman on/off switch. There are lots of youtube vids about their stuff and reviews out there. Here is the chief designer Mark Obrien talking at Wilson Audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lSaMkzqTiA. PS Audio just came out with a new DAC/Preamp combo for $1,500 and I think they have or had a trial program going (solid state option). http://www.psaudio.com/products/stellar-gain-cell-dac/. I have never had any of their equipment other than power cords but their shop is just down the street from my house and they are really nice folks as well and when I called them to talk about the products they invited me down for a tour which I thought was cool.
Thank you everybody for your valuable input.
Yes I was drawn to another ARC like an ls26 or 27 but with the feature set of the C48 filling EVERYTHING i needed I gave it a whirl.
And what a whirl, already have it set up to my liking and yes I am liking it a lot.
Definitely tube like, warm, not sterile and plays MY music just how I like it.
The phono stage is particularly impressive for a built in one, better than the seperate phono pre I was using previously.
Time to stop spending money for a while......
Congrats on finding a pre that provides such satisfaction.
@rwwear
You are correct, the ARC LS2B IS an excellent preamp and one I have enjoyed for near on 4 years but it was time for a change and convenience.
The ARC is now for sale right here for much less than I paid so hopefully somebody will snap it up, enjoy it as much as I did and get themselves a very good buy in the process!
Post removed 
 Had quite a few hours with the C48 now and can sum up a little better.
Life with the LS2 was good but cd fed through its balanced inputs always sounded just a little forward, bright and aggressive, not terrible but compared to vinyl fed through rca it was very noticeable. The vinyl always sounded rich and warm and highly detailed.
Well the c48 manages to pull that off with every different input whether it is cd through balanced, vinyl through rca or the bluesound vault2 through digital coax. Everything sounds very warm and natural, very highly detailed and one track in particular I was listening to last night by Rush ,with my eyes closed ,startled me as it sounded like Geddy was singing to me personally over my right shoulder!
So far I am of the impression that the C48 is doing what a good preamp should and that is imparting negligible  sonic influences on the actual music.
Combine that with all the convenience factors of built in phono, headphones and 4 digital inputs and I would say I have just what I was looking for.
Oh and the remote, keep my backside in the sofa now!
If you keep the LS2, try a Mullard 6DJ8 in it. If it sells, an LS26 just came up on Audiogon, asking price $2750. It uses the 6H30 tube.
Classe CP-800. Loving mine. So versatile and it gets out of the way of the music. Doesn't have a "sound", so if that's what you like it's a good investment. 
when you compared your ARC with the McIntosh C48, did the ARC have fairly new tubes in it?

also, doesn't the C48 have its own DAC?  did you use that or the one in the CD player?


@randy_11
The arc ls2 only has one tube and yes it was fairly new and a big improvement over the old one.
i tried both dig inputs through the cd player and through the c48 but stuck with the c48 as just about every input whether digital, rca or balanced sounded very very similar, whereas there was a noticeable difference on the older arc depending on whether rca or balanced input.
Not saying the c48 is the last word in sound but for me with the convenience of the digital inputs(5 in total) two sets of xlr ins and rca inputs, plus mm and mc phono inputs and a headphone out...and a remote that also controls my mvp851....
well just a lot of convenience factors that were also very hard to ignore there!
convenience counts