I thought I would add that I do not need phono. Thanks
19 responses Add your response
I will say that I am loving my Audio Research LS-7. It is my second one and definately in your price range. Easy to tube swap. Great clean sounding piece. No remote sorry.
No detachable power cord, easily converted. Sonically, very detailed almost analytical but truely non fataguing to listen to and built extremely well. Will give you some warmth.. The Dna is a nice piece.. This is a single ended unit, no balaced ins or outs... and an external phono section is needed, but most prefer that anyway.
Custom Audio LLC
I was wondering what it was about the tube preamp testimonials that made you decide to take the plunge. I think the reasoning behind your decision will help us in making suggestions.
That being said, I've been using a nice preamp the BC21 from Blue Circle for almost two years now. It's a discontinued model because of the scarcity of quality 6SN7 tubes [it uses only two], but it has a nice full, smooth sound with very good soundstaging. I've used it in conjunction with the companion Blue Circle BC22 amp along with other solid state amps such as the Pass Aleph 3, and my current BAT VK200 all with excellent results. For a few years the BC21 was well regarded by the folks at Stereophile who remarked how big it sounded when mated to a McCormack DNA1.
The BC21 doesn't have a phono stage or a remote control, although one could be retrofitted by Gilbert Yeung at Blue Circle, but I've never longed for a remote function. The BC21 has decently extended highs, a full midrange and full sounding bass. But the full sounding bass can at times come across as being slightly muddy and lacking in detail. This is probably a character of the 6SN7 tubes. The BC21 usually sells used for about $600-700.
For the past few months I've also had a BAT VK3i preamp which uses five tubes, four of which are 6922s. The BAT has a less midrange prominent sound with better defined bass, slightly more detail up top and better soundstage layering front to back. I haven't tube rolled this preamp at all the way I have with the BC21, but I feel it lacks the organic midrange I love about the BC21. This one may be too far out of your price range at $1200-1300 used.
I'm awaiting the delivery of an Eastern Electric MiniMax tube preamp to compare with these other two. Its cost is $1200 new.
Others you might consider are the Rogue 66, Audio Research LS7, Quicksilver, Audible Illusions L1, and the various Carys.
Good luck and welcome to the club!
I think if is a single comment, or logical arguement, that makes me want to use a tubed pre its this: SS equipment often claims to have a "tube-like" quality to it sound, but does tube equipment ever claim to have a "SS-like" quality to its sound?
I'm a little new to the high end, but the combination of a quality SS amp and a tubed pre just makes a lot of sense to me. It may not be quite "having your cake and eating it too" but I think it may be close. Ultimately, wouldn't we want to capture the best of both SS and Tube?
Really, I wish I didn't need a remote controlled unit, it would make this much easier and less expensive. But I am installing in a closet (to keep sticky toddler fingers away mainly) and I think I would miss it if I didn't have it. Do you, or anyone else, have comments on remote v. not? If you don't have one, do you miss it, or find it unnecessary? Other ideas?
Jb3, most of folks who choose tube gear because they don't like "SS-like" sound. However, it is possible to make tube gear sound like solid state with the exception of high current amp. Most of good sounding preamps don't come with remote control. The better volume control potentiometer doesn't come with remote capable. Remote is nice to have but I would choose quality over convenience.
I have my unit behind the clear cabinet door with a lock. It works quite well protecting from my toddlers.
You got me there Mattybumpkin! I'am not sure but from trying it on several amplifiers it seems standard.I listen at 9'Oclock on the dial.Warning this isn't a fluffy preamp..if you want fluffy buy a Cary tube preamp.But if you are looking for a natural sound thats fairly neutral ..this is it.Maximum output seems to be around 2 or 3 volts.Plenty for most amplifiers.
Just wanted to suggest an Audio Electronic Supply AE-3. This is Cary's subsidiary, a DIY kit company, but this little fellow (2 x 6SN7) has a large and loyal following. Rare on the used market, since my observation is that most people tend to keep them. Previously it was not possible to have a remote, but I think AES is now making a Signature model with remote.
I am using an older one that my brother built and I tested. Simple and beautiful (assembly-wise, sonically and physically). Check the website by going to Cary's website and clicking on Links. Great reputation, this little fellow!
Hope this helps!
Just a thought on your remote issue. As a number of posters have pointed out, requiring a remote with tube pre in your price range really limits your selection. Your concern seems to be more with safety regarding your toddler and less with convenience. With that in mind, might it not be possible build a rack or shelves in the closet that are high off enough off the ground to keep little fingers away? Your pre could be at eye-level (while standing) and your amp above it (making sure it has adequate ventilation of course).
Jb3, I agree with Seldenr on the AES AE-3. Its a dynamite preamp that either new or used is a fantastic bargain and a great intro into the world of tubes. I have one (factory assembled) that is going up for sale, because I just bought a new Rogue Magnum 99. Asking price is $350. This does NOT come with remote...but AES does sell a remote volume control....you would have to check their web site to see what the cost would be...they charge a extra $500 at time of manufacting for this feature, so it should be cheaper as a DIY. Just a thought.