I have had the best sound with a passive QED preamp that was heavily modd'd (cardas wiring harness + cardas jacks, damp'd chassis) this has no noise, and although it has no additional gain over the source, it is very dynamic, great bass, bigger sound stage, more detail, no coloration.
I would never go back to an active preamp... maybe just a better passive (with better volume control)
The Aesthetix Callisto is extremely low noise, and with twin balanced stepped volume controls, one for each channel, it is capable of ultra low level resolution with high channel separation. The stock Sovtek tubes sound good in it due to the excellent design, but upgrading to selected NOS makes this the best preamp currently available (in my opinion).
Most high-quality tube preamps exhibit more noise than their SS counterparts and passive units. Most passives, no matter how pure and extended, lack the ultimate dynamics and rhythmic drive of high end active units.
I have 2 recommendations that may work for you. The first is the highly rated Adcom GFP-750 which is great for the money. The second is the InnerSound SS preamp, which is transparent, musical, detailed and extremely low in noise, and costs a bit more ($2995). To my ears, the InnerSound is more relaxed and involving than the Adcom, and equally if not more competent in all other parameters. It blows away many other preamps that I've tried.
You might try the Pass X-1 (and the matching phono amp, the X-ONO). Thewe are really quiet, and very fine. See Cordesman's reviews in (I think) the January and February Absolute Sound.
Check on Ron Welborne's Reveille Linestage (Welbornelabs.com).
YOUR BEST CHOICE would be an old original Thaedra,by GAS!!!the quietest pre i ever heard,actually all the gas preamps were quiet,i meen dead silent!this will hold it's own against any modern preamp!
I would like to second the X1 as a very quiet preamp. The X1 is as quiet as quiet gets, especially using balanced interconnects to a Pass X series amp(s). I think Pass Labs calls it Super Symmetry. I can tell you with my overly efficient horns(104db/1w), they are very quiet. Much quieter than my ARC or Krell equipment ever was. I went to the Pass to get the low noise that I was accustomed to prior to the horns going into the system.
have you ever EVER experienced noise problems in home audio due to not using balanced interconnect's?i havent!xlr's should only be used in extremely long run's!
Thanks for the many that provided comments here. I had a McCormack/Mod Squad Deluxe Line Drive (late model) Preamp. The one with no internal circuit boards only volume/switching controls with Wonder Wire connected to the WBT type connectors on the back. It was a really nice preamp and obviously no noise of its own. But like Plato comments it (passive preamp) lacked drive to create dynamics I am looking for. I have given some passing thoughts to the ultra inexpensive Adcom but wondered about parts quality and build quality. I will be digging into the other recommendations during the next few months. Again thanks for all that commented and if anyone else has any comments please add them.
I'm going to assume your post was aimed at me. While I won't agree or disagree with your view of balanced interconnects and long runs, there are few things you may want to consider in the future. When you use exclamation marks after your sentences, it is taken to those reading these sentences that you are yelling.
More importantly to this forum, as you may or may not know, the upper end amps of the Pass Labs, ARC and Krell lines are only available with balanced inputs. Are you saying that it would be better to use non-balanced cables with balanced-ended adapters? This I would have to disagree with.
Best Regards, AaronM
Many advantages of a passive are combined with selected attributes of an active linestage in Steve McCormack's very affordable TLC-1 "passive buffered" pre. Stereophile ClassA recommended; it has multiple inputs, 2 defeatable loops, and choices of an active buffered (unity gain) output or a passive output, and is absolutely quiet in either output mode. Also it's upgradable in various ways via SMC Audio's hot rod program. Minimalist in many ways, yet very flexible. I have the same ultrasensitive 104dB speakers that Aaronm uses, and have no noise issues with the TLC-1.
I am in the same boat and currently have the Placette passive on order for a 30 day home trial. It uses all Vishay S102 resistors for the lowest possible indcuctance) in an L pad configuration which provides constant "resistance not impedance" to the source. It also provides the luxury of a remote. FWIW TAS picked it twice in the recommended system section this month. Dynamics are supposed to great but if they are little lacking I have the SCE Harmonic Recovery System that can be inserted into the loop.
My Aleph P is DEAD quiet, and available used under $2k.