Need advice on a tube line stage

I'm looking to add a tube line stage to the herd. It will partner with a Bryston 4B SST2 amp through Thiel CS2.4 and GoldenEar Triton 2 loudspeakers. Primary source is a Cambridge Audio 840C CD player.

Budget is ~ $1,500 up to maybe $2,500 (but that end of the budget would probably force me to sell my current Parasound JC2).

Some options appear to be:

Trancendent Sound Grounded Grid (new $900)
Audio by Van Alstine Transcendence 9 (new 1,400)
Modwright SWL 9.0SE (mint used $1,450)
Quicksilver Remote Control Line Stage (new $1,600)
Audio by Van Alstine FET Valve CF (new $1,900)
conrad-johnson Classic 2SE (new $2,200)
Audible Illusions L3 (new $2,500 with some $ voodoo)

I would like a slightly more liquid presentation than I currently get with my current rig. More "musical". I no longer value extreme transparency as much as I did, partially because I'm no longer mixing records and don't need my system to double as a reference. That said, I don't want anything overly soft or veiled.

your list looks good - I'd add Joule Electra. I owned the 2.4's & you're on the right path, enjoy!
& Dehavilland....both are great!
Doge 8 Clarity and good NOS tubes
Thanks. Any thoughts on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the ones I posted or the others that have been suggested?
You can't go wrong with the Quicksilver. I have all QS gear and never a glitch in 6 years!
Also, look at Eastern Electric Avant,a true giant killer that does just what you want. With NOS tubes of course.

Also has tremendous dynamic range whilst maintaining harmonic
Your list is a good one overall IMHO. I'm about to sell my full service Quick pre (have a strong potential buyer at least) and I've loved it. IMO, it actually betters the new remote one if it's in good shape still. I may look for one of those used on the site as they are less than the new one. Have you heard the AI yet? If not, you need to. Forget reviews and just put it in the system and listen. The thing with tubed preamps is that many of them dont' match well with your SS amp. You really need to listen to them together to see if they can match. I've seen too many folks get a great pre and a great amp, but they don't match at all. You probably already know that, but some folks don't, so I thought I'd throw that out there.
VAC is wonderful get a used one also great service.
Personally I'd just stay away from the Chinese made ones. There are so many great choices.
Pulled the trigger on the used Modwright SWL-9.0se. Got it for $1,075. We'll see how it sounds. Thanks for all the advice!
Ja2austintx Hi, just to give another direction idea to you. Your Cambridge CDP has a very nice low output impedance at <50ohms and over 2v output this will drive virtually anything.

And your Bryston 4B SST2 has switchable gain of 1v or 2v input sensitivity for full output power.
If you select 1v on it and use this $99 passive pre that has a quality Alps Blue Velvet volume control. You will have more than enough gain, and the most transparent/dynamic sound, with most likely a more liquid presentation than what you are using at the moment.

Cheers George

Hi George -- I actually have a couple of good passive preamps. I'll give one a shot just for fun. I do need to bring in more than just the CD player, though.
Hi JA,
It will be interesting to see your findings with a passive unit(s). Curious as to which ones you will be trying.
I have found that passives and solid state amps don't provide the most potential the amp has to offer. There seems to be a lack of resolution and "drive" with passives.
After designing tube preamps for almost 20 years, I don't think I have 5 customers that prefer a passive unit. Not trying to start a debate of active vs passive but simply would like to hear about your findings.
That is consistent with my previous experience; hence, I have a couple of passives that aren't being used. :)
Wow thats great.
I have a great Audioprism Mantissa that would fit the bill
It's been fully upgraded and sounds very good
I hope you have 10kohm log value passive pot, as your poweramp is quite low in input impedance.
If any higher than 10k it won't be a great impedance match into your poweramp, gain will be fine, but impedance not very good.

As for inputs, the one I linked to (above) has 4 inputs with the better rotary selector, and great quality Alps Blue Velvet pot

PS: It's just been pointed out to me, for a few dollars more this seller has the same unit but with even better disctrete switched 1% metal film resistor volume pot, even better than the Alps Blue Velvet.


Cheers George
Hi Ja2austintx,
I hope you follow George's suggestion to try that passive. I think your Modwright with well chosen tubes is a good decision on your part. As with Response34 I'm genuinely interested in your comparison. My hunch is the Modwright is likely better, but directly comparing is the best method.
My Goldpoint SA2 (HT mod) has a 25 kOhm volume pot, so it might not work. I also have a Richard Lee Audio passive but I don't know how it's spec'ed. I emailed for more info.
It will still work great, but you won't get a great impedance match with your amp, as it ratio will be around 1:1 It may ever so slightly act as a bottleneck and reduce the transient impact just a touch, but this will be so slight you may not even hear it.
And use low capactitance interconnects from it to the amp (which most quality ones are anyway) <100pf (picofarad) per foot.

A 10kohm passive with your amp would be better, and your source will drive anything being <50ohms output impedance.

It will still be interesting to hear what you think even with the 25kohm passive.

Cheers George
Check out Prima Luna.

Separate power supplies for better imaging.

As with any tube preamp, the specific tubes will make a difference.
Second Eastern Electric Avant with nos tubes. So good that I can't decide whether to use my C-J Premier 14L or the Avant in my living room. It was really an ear opener to hear this small preamp at its price. Definitely under-hyped. It is a superb tube preamp and has balanced outs and one balanced input.
Is all/most Eastern Electric gear that good?

What do they do different I wonder?
We just added a less expensive preamp to our lineup. The line section version retails for $1900.00... There is a review of it on
EE builds to the highest standard coming out of China.
Everything they sell is excellent.
The Avant is top-notch.
Where can I get a new/used EE Avant? I checked the Morningstar Audio website, but only MiniMax is listed for sale. I've emailed them twice about Avant, but no reply. Is Avant no longer in production? I thought it is a newer and better preamp than the MiniMax. Is this correct? What about YS-Audio Symphonies Plus-R (for around $800)? Is it any good?
The best ive had here was a audio research ref one pre .should of never sold it ... im running a jolida and like it but not like a audio research
Bill has 1 or 2 Avants left. Spoke to him yesterday. Call him.

great choice on the ModWright, second on the Conrad Johnson. Either one will provide you with the needs of your existing system. Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Springbok how would you describe the differences between the Tad 150 and the Avant? I've been thinking of changing preamps lately.
I suggest the Exemplar Audio Exception line stage. There is one currently on this site. You could probably get in it for $2500. Very musical with that liquidity that will blow your mind.
The Modwright is pretty neutral. Not obviously tubed sounding and I think a very good value. It was not embarrassed when I got one to use while a $10K VAC was in the shop. Excellent customer service, too.
If you are interested having a tube preamp custom built with the options you want, we do a lot of custom builds. Of course doing comparisons going this route is not possible.
+1 on the Joule Electra.
For me there are so many tube options out there and you really do need to hear them in person. You can change the sound of nearly any tube pre by rolling tubes and drive yourself crazy. I've been a tube guy for years until I switched to Ayre, which I've found is as tube sounding as you get in SS gear. I personally like the Ayre better than the tubes. I have owned CJ, AR, AI and Quicksilver. Loved them all for various reasons and I traded up each time. I just got burned out changing tubes etc..., but that's me.

I've heard one Mod Wright upgrade and it made a huge difference, so I bet their pre is wonderful. I've liked Rogue, Quick and AI for the price, but overall it's so hard to beat AR gear. It's just built like a tank and they stand behind their gear. Most of the AR guys I know don't bother rolling tubes. The factory does a great job at sourcing the proper tubes to begin with.

I guess I'd start out at AR and go from there if I were to get back into tubes. Too bad Aesthetix gear isn't in your price range as their stuff sounds AWESOME.......I guess I'd have to audition AR and Aesthetix gear first.. YEs, that's my start, lol. Great luck