New to the two channel world - Advice needed on preamp

I am new to the two channel arena, but have been in AV my entire career. I am looking to find a solid preamp to match with my system.   I would be open to integrated amps if they are a better option.

Current Rig

Paradigm Prestige 85F’s and Prestige 1000SW Sub (Not sure if I really need a sub or not, but I have it nonetheless)
Bryston 4B-ST
Sony ZA3100ES (I know its an AVR, but it had the requisite preouts)

I listen mostly to FLAC files off of a PC. Looking to stay under $2K. Any advice for a newbie?
Since your speakers are bi-wire, I’d get a Balanced Audio Technology VK-300SE integrated (current model now called VK-3000SE). You could power the mids-highs with the BAT and bass with the Bryston (I used this very configuration with my B&W 804D3s with much success). Good luck!

P.S. The BAT has both balanced and RCA "Preamp out" connections which makes bi-amping a snap.
Pick yourself up something like a nobsound ns-05p to start . compare any preamp to that first . You may save yourself 2k that you can put elsewhere . For $50 every single audiophile should try one . This is for digital though 
Thank you for the tips!

dweller - The BAT you mention is $8K.  Is there a model that is closer to my budget that would serve me well?

maple - looks interesting.  I’m going to order one off of eBay and see how that sounds.
Try jbl nano patch or schiit sys passive preamp. If you need a remote the schiit saga s is quite cheap and has a passive mode as well
The rotel rc1590 will answer any prayers for best sound and configurability . The built in dac is smooth as silk . Also has a number of inputs both digital and analog to grow with any budding audiophile .

sound quality is every bit as good as my mac system. I have both .
Loo looks like you have a credible system. Thinking tubes or solid state? You might try adding a tube pre-amp. I have an Audible Illusions L3B and love it. Check out my other posts under “Rongold”
In your price range, I would not hesitate to recommend the Schiit Freya and the Parasound P6. Both excellent pres with different “sweet spots”. The Freya has a passive mode, a JFET mode and a tube mode. With plenty of balanced and AE inputs and multiple outputs, you can run a host of different amp/sub combos. The P6 is solid state and has a lot of useful bells and whistles. It has a very good DAC built in, it has excellent bass management and HT bypass. Also with tons of balanced and SE inputs and outputs. They both look and sound great, you can’t go wrong with either and you come in on budget.
Pretty much any preamp including tube pre-amps should work fine with that amp. So it really comes down to what you need in a pre-amp. You probably want a newer model with latest greatest usb input. Otherwise a separate dac with analog out.

integrated amps are also a very good choice these days but features vary widely as they do with pre-amps. Take a look at the Bel Canto c5i wihich is a true digital integrated amp. It’s a wonderful device packed with well executed modern technology and top notch. sound. I’ve had mine for a few years now. I decided to try the latest and greatest technology before giving more tubes a try. Glad I did. Don’t miss the tubes at all.

The BAT VK-300SE (used) is consistently fore sale in the low-to-mid $2000 range (astonishing considering its sound and power). Just look around.
Solid state, used you could just swing a Parasound JC2, maybe a Bryston.

Tube, old CJ or Luxman could fit in this price bracket. :)

Really recommend you listen, but my experience with Bryston is they do really well with a tube rather than SS front end.

Are you using the sony for your digital conversion as well? If so, does your stated budget need to cover both your dac and preamp needs? Are you using the sony for bass management or is that handled at the sub?
Ghasley- yes, right now the Sony is working as my preamp and dac. I can manage the sub from the front panel. 

Would a device like a Cambridge 851N or a NAD C658 work for me?  They seem to be a preamp, dac, and network streamer wrapped in one. 
Lots of things will work but what is it you are trying to accomplish? Separates or integrated 1 box system?
"...but my experience with Bryston is they do really well with a tube rather than SS front end. "

I fully concur. 
first you have to know what you are looking for .all those preamps suggested above sound different .you have two important things already:speakers and a very good power amp. one question should be-which preamp sounds the best with bryston and paradigm?  you should to go to stores or houses and get an idea about the sound signature of some preamps and guess if it will suit your system and acoustic conditions.a dac is very important as well
another question is which sound are you after? a used peachtree grand pre should be nice you can use the tube buffer or stay solid state . 

F917025 - I listen to a mix of rock, blues, and classical.  I prefer warm to bright, but love to pick out individual instruments and follow them through the song.  With me being new to this, I know the parts and what they do, I just don’t know which part is the best place to spend the money.  Preamp?  Interconnects? DAC?  I have listened to peach tree in the past and have been very impressed.  Would I biamp with the additional outputs on the Grand?
Hi theaudioninga,

I would read some other threads about preamps to learn more.

In the meantime, I would audition or purchase an older, used preamp from, say, Conrad Johnson or Audio Research.

You have to start somewhere and this would give you a general baseline to compare to what you read about in the various threads.

With CJ or AR you have a piece of gear with a good reputation that could be sold when you decide to try something different.

My opinion, I guess, is that a desired preamp is a journey and you would be lucky to pick one that you love on the first try.

Thanks for listening,


Thank you for the info Dspr. I agree. Audio is so personal. I will start with obtaining more knowledge and move forward from there. 

Thank you everyone that responded. Glad to be joining the two channel world. 
You might consider the Benchmark DAC3-L, which is a line preamp and state of the art DAC in your price range new . It has a usb input , 2 coax & 2 optical inputs , and 2 analog inputs . It has a lower noise floor than anything I saw mentioned , with 2 pair of RCA outputs for your amps and subwoofer , and a pair of balanced outputs should you later get a power amp having that professional grade of input . It also sounds fabulous and is reliable, and should you not like it , there will be no problem reselling it .
My opinion .
Another + for the Schiit Freya. Makes MUSIC.
dspr has given you good info. I am partial to CJ myself. however, ARC is a good choice as well. FWIW, I have a CJ PFR which I was waiting till fall to sell. It has been serviced, cleaned and  new  capacitors installed. this was done early this summer. I bought a CJ CT5 which is why I have the PFR. Email me if interested.  
given that you are playing at least cd quality stored on a ssd drive or streamed through a proper usb cable .the dac and preamp are very important to the total sound signature of the system .
cables:after proper component matching cables (rca/speaker)allow you a little more fine tuning sometimes it doesn't work like you hope... .a usb cable is not the same since cheap cables are not really made for audio so  get an entry level from one of the known companies .peachtree are a safe bet since they aim for pleasant sound and you at least solve the dac preamp issue and don't need to spend on interconnects. 
you can swap the 2 chinese 12au7 tubes for something like nos mullards(smooth and warm huge bass) or brimar(warmer less bass ) for 100-200$ and voice it more to the warm side and you have other options (nos are the best ).2 nice cheap small components are the loki eq and ifi itube2 tube preamp/buffer they will give more control over the tone and soundstage