Ha, I am looking to upgrade my preamp for the Classe CA2200 as well. I think that this is a wonderful amp and really deserves a really nice pre-amp. I auditioned the VTL 6.5 and it was magical, huge soundstage, helped better define the base and brought a bigger three dementional sound to my system. The only thing that I didn't like was the price of the 6.5. I also listened to the 5.5, and really liked it but it was not much different from my Belles 21A with Auricaps and NOS tubes. As I am pretty happy with the belles for now I may wait for the Next Gen 5.5 to come out, though initial reports at shows suggest it is not quiet the 6.5. I have also considered an Aesthetix Janus signature as a full function pre-amp.
I've been considering the Aesthetix Calypso, but there have been a number posts about tube rush issues, months of tube rolling to find the right combo and relatively short tube life. But this might not reflect the majority experience.
I have a Calypso. They ship it set to the highest gain setting which is to high for most systems. That's why there are reports of tube rush. To change the gain setting you just have to move some jumpers inside. Also the stock tubes tend to go noisy pretty quick unless you get lucky and receive a good set. I Switched to NOS and haven't had any problems at all. I've had these for almost 3 years. I listen for about 2 to 3 hours a day. So that's at least 2,100 hours and counting. I recently bought a new set to have a back up. I put these in and there wasn't much difference in the sound so I put the old ones back in.
Not sure if it's the right fit for your system but it definitely is worth a listen.
The info on the Calypso if very helpful. Thanks.
If you don't mind me asking, how pricey are the NOS tubes and how challenging is moving the jumpers?
How about the First Sound Presence or Wyetech Opal? Is a phono stage a necessity?
The top of the Calypso is held in place with Velcro, for easy access, replacing the tubes and changing the gain setting are simple. Amperex 6922 PQ are $200 a set or Mullard 6922's are $280 a set and Mullard CV 4004 are $180 a set.
For many years the "synergistic" combo was Audio Reasearch pre, Classe amp, Thiel speakers and all MIT cabling. I have followed this guide line with great success with Thiel 2 2s and 5is. Pre's were LS15 and Ref1. Amps CA100 and CA400. Cabling MIT 350 Ref and 850 Ref.
the VTL 5.5 is supposed to be excellent. I have a Cary SLP98 that I love--extremely quiet, "neutral", looks gorgeous. ARC & C-J worth checking out of course.....
Samhar beat me to it. You can move the jumpers by hand. You just need to unplug it for a half hour to let the capacitors discharge.
Phono stage is NOT a necessity. Thanks to everyone who's posted so far. All of the information is highly useful. This is why I love a'gon.
Does the Classe have a balanced input? Would you like balanced operation?
Yes, Classe allows you to use Balanced or Unbalanced input.
Atmasphere or Sonic Frontiers?
Ditto the comments from Samhar & Sarcher30 on the Aesthetix Calypso. Needs the right NOS tubes to sound it's best. I use Mullard CV 4004's & white label Amperex 6922's. Brent Jesse Recording & Brendan @ Tubeworld are good trustworthy sources for buying NOS tubes.
If you can go with balanced, it will reduce the sonic artifact of the interconnect cables. If done right, balanced line will allow you to go with very inexpensive cables with no sonic artifact at all. I've seen $85.00 cables (25 feet long) replace $25,000 worth of cables (24 feet long) with no audible difference at all...
Try to audition an all ECC83/12ax7 linestage.
Any brand suggestions on the ECC83/12ax7? I'm new to all of this.
What characteristics are you interested in?
Mullard CV-4004/M8137 or Brimar:warmer/fuller tonal balance
Siemens/Amperex:linear with good transient behavior.
I'm sure there will be other recommendations to come.
Ditto choosing Mullard CV-4004's tubes for 12AX7/ECC83. Amperex white labels for 6922's.
I believe the higher end Classe' amps have DC protection circutry. I don't know if yours does too. If it doesn't and it's a direct coupled design, I believe you might want to consider using a direct coupled tube pre as any DC leakeage from some tube pres might cause damage to your amp.
DC won't do anything to an amp. Its one's speakers that are at risk.
I am using a ARC LS5 MKIII which has been modded by Great Northern Sound... good combo!
I ended up going with a conrad-johnson CT5. The teflon capacitors are amazing and the single triode approach was a nice match as well...just enough tube romance without sacrificing detail.