Please recommend preamp

I'm new at this but am trying to put together a nice system primarily for a large vinyl collection that can also play CDs and probably either a tuner or cassette player. I will have speakers in two rooms, neither very large. I started with the JBL 4312 speakers from my youth for the bedroom and then bought JBL L150As for the living room for $950.  I just got a QSC RMX2450 amp in excellent condition for $300. I think my next step is a pre-amp. What would be a good bet for around $1000?  I'm hoping to get it right the first time rather than test-drive and buy and sell; really, I just want to listen to my records.
The Audible Illusions 3A is priced used at about $1000-1200.  It has a very good phono stage in addition to all the inputs you desire.  It is a tube preamp with excellent definition.  I used an Audible Illusions 2D for 20 years with no troubles.  Did replace the 4 tubes twice in that time.  I have a AI 3A with the John Curl phono circuit that plays low output moving coil cartridges.  The 2D does not have enough output to play low output cartridges.  The Audible Illusions 2D preamp is the one component I didn't change through the years because I loved the sound of my system with it in there.  To beat the sound of the 3A in my system, I had to go to the TRL DUDE which is a $6000 preamp without a phono section.  The DUDE is a remarkable sounding preamp and would hold its own with much higher priced preamps.  At $1000, the AI  3A is unbeatable.  The AI preamps sound excellent through all your sources.
I am not familiar with your amp. I agree that the AI 3a is an excellent pre however has output impedance of 1600 ohms. May not be suitable for all amplifiers, those with low input impedance.  Are you looking for tube or solid state? I would suggest that you take a look at the preamp offerings here on AG, do an online search for additional info, make a short list of those that interest, and get back to us. Good luck in your search. 

Mesch makes an excellent point. Dorkwad has recommended a very nice product, that is in your price range, but unfortunately I don’t think it would be a good match for your amp. As is often the case with tube preamps its measured output impedance of around 1800 ohms (unbalanced only) is much too high to be a good match for the input impedance of your amp (10K unbalanced, 20K balanced). And I note that the manual for your amp recommends that it be used with a preamp having an output impedance of 600 ohms or less. Also, its gain is probably too high to be optimal for use with your very sensitive and very high powered amp, especially when playing CD’s. Gain that is too high in relation to the sensitivity and power capability of the amp (with the efficiency of the speakers also being a relevant factor, that apparently being moderate at 89 db/1W/1m for the L150A) would force you to use the volume control too close to the bottom of its range. Finally, although your amp can accept unbalanced inputs in certain ways, it does not provide RCA input connectors, and it appears to have been designed with the expectation that it would be likely to be driven with balanced signals.

IMO your chances of success would be greatest if you were to choose a solid state preamp providing both unbalanced (RCA) and balanced (XLR) outputs. Some of the older Classe preamps such as the CP-50 and CP-60, with the optional built-in phono stage, may be findable in your price range or for not much more, and should be fine choices. Some of the lesser models in that range, though, such as the CP-45 and perhaps the CP-30 and CP-35, may have line-stage gains that are somewhat higher than would be optimal for use with your amp.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Thank you so much, dorkwad, mesch, and almarg for your help. There's a solid state Nakamichi CA-7A on ebay. It includes the spec sheet, which is hard for me to read (and understand!), but I think it says:

Input Sensitivity/Impedence
   Phono MC   (36 dB Gain) 40 <symbol> V/100 ohms
                       (30 dB Gain) 80 <symbol> V/100 ohms
                       (24 dB Gain ) 160 <symbol> V/100 ohms
  Phono MM                           2.5  mV/50 Kohms
  Tuner/CD/aux/tape            150  mV/12.5 Kohms

Output level/impedence
    Pre Out 2 V/1 kohms
    Rec Out 150 mV/200 ohms

There's a lot more on there if you need something else.

Would this work?

I took a look at the specific listing you referred to for the CA-7A. It’s possible that it would work out ok but I wouldn’t recommend it.

First, the CA-7A dates back to around 1986, which raises concern about condition-related issues surfacing eventually if not sooner. I’d also be concerned about the possibility of condition-related issues because in this particular case I’d have less than complete confidence in how thoroughly it might have been tested and checked out, given that the seller appears to be a high volume business not necessarily specializing in audio equipment.

Also, the 1K output impedance of the unit, while perhaps marginally ok, exceeds the 600 ohm max recommendation that is stated in the manual for your amp. And it can be calculated from the specifications that are provided that its gain is probably too high to be optimal for use with your amp and speakers. Finally, it doesn’t provide balanced outputs, so you would have to connect it to your amp using adapters or adapter cables (although in itself that would be a relatively minor downside).

-- Al
OK I'll keep looking. Thanks for your help.
I've not dragged one home but at a local store I've listened to the Parasound P5 on an A23 amp on Magnepan 1.7 and it's a nice combination. The P5 is in your budget. ModWright SWL 9.0 would be something to look at but you'd need to pick up a phono preamp such as a Pro Ject unit to get you started and you could move up later to a better phono preamp down the road. Owned MW SWL 9.0 and its a great piece. I'd look at the Parasound.
Makem, if we bought amps just by specs, all of us would buy QSC amps.  However, these were designed for commercial use, not home use.  They are totally abusable and never fail.  I would bet that if you put these side by side with many 100 wpc home amps you would notice a huge difference.  No matter what preamp you buy, you will be limited by the QSC.  I've owned clubs and always used QSC.  I did learn the hard way after melting NAD and Niles gear.  Go compare your amp to a home amp before spending a dime on an expensive preamp.
elevick, I did buy the QSC from a professional sound guy. Are you suggesting I simply get a different amp so I'll have more choices for the preamp? I had looked at the NAD C165BEE on this QSC amp would "melt" it?

Thanks for your help.

Looking back at your original post I totally agree with elevick on the QSC. I don't know the JBL 150a but I do know the L100 very well and can only guess they have a similar sound. Not sure with newer more revealing gear you're going to really hear it or might hear the limitations of the older JBLs. Not bashing the JBLs but I'd look at a vintage Marantz 2265B, 2270 or something from that era. What is your current turntable set up? Are you also wanting to run both sets of speakers off the one system? Older Marantz receivers will sound nice and be a good match with the JBLs and I suspect that's the sound you're looking for. Nothing wrong with the pairing.
If you decide on replacing your amp, you might consider looking into an integrated amplifier. At the price points under consideration here, you would be likely to get a greater return on investment. 

Thanks mesch, adg101, and earlier posters. Guess I'm into buying and selling whether I intended to be or not if I have to get rid of the QSC...oh well.

I would be OK with just hooking up the JBL 150As and using my current system for the 4312s. I'm hoping to keep my current turntable, a YAMAHA P-520.

What do you think of using the NAD C-375BEE w/MM/MC phono integrated solid state unit for sale on this site?

(almarg: I did search for the Classe CP-50 or 60, but so far no luck.)
(adg101: I haven't investigated the Parasound yet.)
There's also a local guy selling a Harmon Kardon Citation Series 25 Preamp w/ a choice of 22 and/or 24 Power Amp. The 22 is 200watts into 8 ohms and the 24 is 100 watts per channel.
Regarding the NAD C-375BEE, if you haven’t already seen it you’ll want to read this review, which glowingly praises its sonics aside from those of the optional phono stage and the built-in headphone amp. Which of course, given that reviews should not be taken as gospel, is not to say that you or others wouldn’t be pleased with the phono stage. But you might want to consider the other 375BEE that is presently listed at Audiogon, apparently without a phono stage but with a manufacturer’s warranty. It could of course be used with a separately purchased standalone phono stage.

Regarding the HK units, as I said in connection with the Nakamichi preamp you mentioned earlier I personally would be hesitant to go with a 1980’s product, as I would expect that eventually if not sooner capacitors would need replacement, and there would be significant risk of other condition-related issues. Especially in the case of a solid state product, for which both the availability of replacement parts and the difficulty of their installation often tend to be more problematical than in the case of tube-based products.
I had looked at the NAD C165BEE on this QSC amp would "melt" it?
Since Elevick has not yet responded, I’ll take the liberty of clarifying his comments. The QSC amp would not have any adverse effects on the C165BEE or any other preamp. He was referring to NAD and other home-oriented power amplifiers, which he had found could not stand up to the rigors of commercial use. And he was implying that in contrast QSC amps were designed with ruggedness rather than sonics as the main priority. And that you may therefore do better in terms of sonics with an amp designed for use in the home.

I have no experience with QSC or other such products, so while that strikes me as certainly being a legitimate concern I can’t comment specifically. I’m just offering an interpretation of his comments.

-- Al

I am with Al regarding the purchase of the older equipment. I do like to buy used, however not vintage (with rare exceptions).  I have a NAD 526BEE and think it a great integrated for the price. It lacks a phono stage. I have not viewed the add for the  375BEE so don’t know asking price. Do know that it is just one series earlier than the 5x6 series so is not that old and has more power so can drive a wider range of speakers. 
It seems that should you sell the QSC and had a budget for a pre of $1000 you have a budget of ~$1200 for a integrated and phonostage. Is this your thinking?  

Al, I couldn't have said it better.  I have owned some HUGE clubs and have cooked more than one piece.  The worst casualty was melting some Niles gear after running too much wattage for too long of a time.  Our original QSC amps never failed us in 10+ years. But, when used at home, they sounded awful when compared to many home audio amps.

The L150 is fairly efficient and doesn't need a lot of power.  Because you need to run 2 pairs of speakers, some of the vintage receivers from Marantz, Nakamichi and others may make sense.  They have great built in tuners as well.
Check this out! My friend owns one and it is damn nice!
Fwiw, I am EXTREMELY pleased with the Decware CSP3.
shawnlh, do you have any idea what tubes the CSP3  likes ?
Schubert, I'm still running the stock tubes, and I haven't done any rolling as of yet. The sound is sublime as is. But from the research I've done, it seems that the stock output tubes are well liked and difficult to surpass. However, the input tube can be configured to your personal taste. I'm going to try one of these in the platinum grade cryo treated flavour.
The higher end CJ pre-amps are the best I have heard, esp. the ART. 
Check out the Parasound P-5 ..amazing pre amp for the money in amazing dac , phono stage , bass management 

get in touch with us for a special price 
You want to spend $1000 or less and want a phono section.   Were I you, I'd drop $920 on the SP14 kit from  It's not that hard to build it yourself.  This is a line stage preamp which will stand up against preamps costing much, much more, as well as the classics like the  McIntosh C22 or Marantz 7.

Pick up a cheap phono preamp and save your nickels until you can afford the phono preamp you really want.  Build the SP14 and not only will you have a true hi-end preamp that can't be beat, you'll enjoy the enormous satisfaction that comes only with building it yourself.
Thanks all!!

I also agree with Al,  some older SS stuff competes extremely well at a great price... I'd the Classe CP50 would be great, a Muse 3 Signature, An Adcom 750,  Audio Research LS-9 or LS3B, Coda Windows Continuum 4 or Coda CL and last but not least a Bel Canto Pre 2 or Pre 3. All of these can be had for $1000 or less and compete at a crazy level.  I hope this helps.


Look at the Audio-GD Master 7. It's Chinese and built like a tank.
If you read the product descriptions the designer really understands power supply design. I have some of his older gear and it is great. 
I meant Master 1
Thanks everybody. I ended up trading some of my mistakes and some cash for the NAD C-375 BEE w/phono listed on this site just to get up and running. When I know more about what's out there and my own listening capacity and tastes I'll probably come back to these suggestions without being so overwhelmed. This is an amazing bunch of posters with a wealth of experience, patience, and goodwill. Peace out.