Mixed Brand Pre-Amp Power Amp Pairings that Work

I am thinking of and starting from scratch and revamping my pre-amp to power amp chain. I know that the performance of these two elements will be tightly coupled, so they need to match.

I suppose the easiest thing for me to do would likely be to stick with one brand (potentially even an integrated) and assume that they have optimally paired their own components to work well together. But even if I ended up getting pre- and power from one brand, I would want to do some thinking about the best pairing.

I would love to hear from folks here with more experience than me with off brand pairings. What worked? What didn't? All thoughts are much appreciated


@saulh IDK if this is "off branding", I have the Prima Luna HP & Don Sachs D2 pre. Sounds good to me, but again, this is my first tube Amp & pr-amp.

I have a Luxman CL38u se tube preamp and a Bryston 3B Cube amp w/a pair of Aerial 5T’s. Very happy w/the combo.

I'm running a Musical Fidelity MS8  preamp with a Parasound Halo JC5 with fantastic results.

The obvious answer is to read reviews and demo as much equipment possible and identify a pre and amp (or integrated) that match with your sonic preferences and the rest of your system. Another way to go and which is how I ended up building my system is to pick a very neutral and uncolored preamp (Bryston BP-6) and paired it with my McCormack amp that has sound characteristics that really appeal to me and that the Bryston just let shine through unadulterated. Point is there’s more than one way to go hear and there’s no one right answer.  No question an integrated will be easier and likely cheaper way to go unless you’re purchasing megabuck components or want the flexibility to mix-n-match brands and sound characteristics. Hope this helps, and best of luck.

I have a Luxman C-900u driving a Sugden FBA-800 and the pairing is excellent!

Let's face it: a whole lot more combinations are going to work just fine, compared to those that won't.  The one technical issue has already been mentioned: impedance matching.  Beyond that, I suppose you could end up with a bright preamp and a bright amp that together were too much, and likewise a syrupy preamp with a syrupy amp. But pretty much the world is your oyster. I'd wager most same-brand preamp+amp combos are because the owner particularly likes how that brand sounds, rather than any other concern.  Similar observations apply to the "full loom" issue.

My Mark Levinson 380s matches very well with my AGD Audion Mono Blocks.  Sounds super with my Spatial Audio X5s.  Very neutral and revealing combination.


I agree with @soix -- you just have to listen. That said, when I have paired pre and power amps a couple of times, (once Bryston, once Classé), the result was excellent.

Currently using an Anthem STR Preamp with Apollon monoblocks built around the PuriFi 1ET400A module. I like it as much as any pairing I’ve tried. Quiet, dynamic, and neutral.

Good equipment will sound good..just watch two things: impedance matching and voltage output on pre- and voltage sensitivity for the amplifier.

I've done a lot of mixing between phono / preamp / power components of the brands Rogue / ARC / VAC. Assuming you've eliminated egregious electrical mismatches, the sonic pairings can work out great or be mediocre. It's incredibly system dependent - you just have to be able to try it home or be willing to buy / try / sell. Or be like me and just keep it all so you can explore various matches over time lol. The sonic match between pre and power is particularly important - and can be very finicky! The choice of power tubes KT88 vs. KT120 in my VAC 200iQ monos can make or break preamp matches. I'd previously found the full VAC stack to be sluggish for fast paced rock, but that turned out to be a couple of tube rolling choices I made over the years. Going back to more of the stock VAC tubes, except for a V1 rolling to NOS 6SN7, resolved that issue. Of course you can mix cartridge and SUT pairings into the mess too lol. At least my speakers & room have been consistent!

I've got a Herron Audio tube preamp going into an MSB S-200 power amp, and the sound is superb... 

Pretty much all of top level hobbyists choose the best pre-amp and choose an amp from different manufacturers. That is what I see on most systems, swapping gear is a constant process and being bound by just one manufacturer is very limiting. I've only had one matched system in 60 years and it didn't last long. 

I had a pairing in mind and contacted a fellow in Germany who evaluates equipment professionally.  I noticed in a few of his tests of some front end gear he used my proposed pairing in his reference system.  He wrote back confirming the pairing.  (Fairaudio.de)  

The EAR 868 and the Bryston 4B3 play very well together.  

I have mixed and matched for most of the last fifty years. At first because the best in each category was made by a different manufacturer and also a lack of funds to buy what I really wanted.


Much more recently… with adequate funds, simply by upgrading I ended up with nearly all Audio Reseach equipment minus one. My audio dealer brought over the one missing piece without me asking and said just try this. I was sold in a few minutes.


I think the world has changed. There are some high end companies where you get a huge advantage in synergy. Audio Research is definitely one of them. I will not be mixing and matching any more.

Even in the relatively small world of high end audio there are of course different schools of engineers. Two like-minded engineers were (both are recently deceased) Roger Modjeski of Music Reference (and RAM Tube Works) and Tim de Paravicini of EAR-Yoshino, both experts in the field of tube amplification circuitry and the design and build of transformers.

I have found the EAR-Yoshino 868 pre-amp to be a superb partner with any of Modjeski's power amps (the RM-9, RM-10, and RM-200, all of which I own in Mk.2 form). The EAR 868 affords both single-ended and true AES48-compliant balanced outputs (via Paravicini's own transformers), so can be mated with both the single-ended input RM-9 and RM-10 amps and the balanced-input only RM-200. Unlike almost all other tube amplifier makers, Modjeski hand-wound his own transformers. 

A combo that is unknown, to most of you out there is: Backert Labs and McGary Audio. If you dig yourself out of the marketing and review mentality you will get to listen to this magnificent examples of super bargain audio here.😇


Thank you for you incredible insight. Please share your experience, systems, history, and venue so we can benefit from your unique insight.

I have an ARC LS27 preamp paired with a Luxman M900U power amp, Speakers Harbeth 40.2 anniversary. I think that combination works really well.

 CODA 07x preamp + KRELL Duo 175XD what I use now.

The Benchmark LA4 + KRELL Duo 175XD is superb though I no longer use it due to being short 1 connection. 

I sold my CODA #8 but ANY preamp + amp combos of the following 4 items is great,

Benchmark LA4 preamp, Benchmark AHB2 amp, CODA 07x preamp, and CODA #8 amp




An original version Schiit Freya 9 with NOS GE tubes into a Pass Labs XA-25. Yeah man. Yeah. That's right...

I remember that Jay's Audio Lab mentioned this a while ago. His take was that everyone should start with the same brand since that will work. Then you can try to switch one part and listen if the sound improves. This means borrowing amps or buying but being prepared to sell directly if it does not improve things.may have been for high end amps but it is an interesting idea.

Impedance matching and voltage output can be tricky. My

Supratek Cabernet pre has very high output and makes finding power amps

a bit difficult especially if one is looking for class A power amps.

I prefer the sound of an Ayre K-5xeMP preamp with JC 1 monoblocks to that of a JC 2 preamp.  I've yet to try a V-5xe amp with that preamp, but may be doing so soon.  I do use the newer KX-5 Twenty & VX-5 Twenty pairing in another setup.


I know that the performance of these two elements will be tightly coupled, so they need to match.


assume that they have optimally paired their own components to work well together

Utter bleedin’ nonsense 😲

Other than face plate esthetics, it 100% irrelevant. Assuming the gear was actually listened to and didn’t go directly from design to shipping, any impressions are only valid on the test system & program.

Change source / load / interconnects and room / program and any matching is toast.

And what anyone else has is 200% irrelevant for the same reasons. Best advice is to ignore every "I have..."

Many times better sound than two of the same brand.

I tried the same brand approach for elegance's sake and it wasn't that great.  

For me Cary Audio tube pre, Pass Labs Class A power. Amazingly good.


Allnic L8000DHT with Pass XA60.8 on Mangepan 3.7i's.  Amazing but the input sensitivity of the Pass is 1.1V to full output.  I ordered a second set of low output DHT tubes but still can hardly get to 12 oclock on the attenuator.  Fortunately the Allnic has a constant impedance attenuator so it doesnt need to get wide open to sound its best.

I would have paid more attention to the pre-amp output and sensitivity of the amp if I had known to.  The Allnic is my forever pre-amp,  I am not looking to change the Pass amps at this time but if I do I will look for a higher input sensitivity like 2.6 volts.


I also found preamp power amp from same company to be optimal. Levinson no.26 with a Levinson no.23.5 , Levinson no. 380s with no.332 . Audio Research LS 2B with ARC Classic 120’s , Krell KRC 3 with Krell KSA 100s. Now a days I use an Aesthetix Mimas. Sounds great

Finally, Just received my new ATI 6002 AMP, ( powerful and dynamic and detailed) It is married to my Benchmark line amp the LA-4,  through a Benchmark DAC 3B into Tekton Double Impacts    R & R never sounded so dynamic!!!!!   7 year warranty on Amp and 5 on LA-4, piece of mind. You can actually talk to a human on the phone if need be at both places!!!!

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