Pre amp and source suggestions for VR-4jr?

I am building a stereo that will also do some home theater work. After extensive reading I have come to the conclusion that I will get better sound for my dollar if I use a 2 channel Pre amp and then a home theater processor bypassed together. I am relatively new to this hobby and I am wondering if anyone has any recommendations on a good 2 channel pre amp for use with VR-4jr's and bel canto amplifiers. I don't have any bias for or against tubes, but I have never used them before. I don't mind buying used, and I think for a budget I would like to keep it below 1500-2000$ USD. If I can get great sound for much less, I don't have a burning desire to spend that much if it is not required. I have seen a number of "older" used/demo pieces in stores such as classe and I have no concern buying something a bit older as long as it sounds good. I would like to be able to use balanced XLR connections.
Any Ideas on the pre amp? Or a good universal player for the system?
Thanks you all in advance.
i have heard your speakers driven by naim cdx player and naim preamp/amp combo and it was awesome. unsure of the compatability with bel canto amp however.
You're a smart guy! Home theater thru a well put together 2 channel system negates the need for center channel, sub woofer, etc. No HT pre-processor I've heard can do straight 2 channel well.....and I've heard most of the high-end offerings.

I'm not familiar with your Bel Canto amps, as to a preamp, make sure the preamp will match with the input impedance of your Bel Cantos.

Do you have audiophile friends locally? If so ask them to bring their preamps over for you to try. Cables too!


Paul :-)
I have heard NAIM can sound great, but I have also read that you should not mix NAIM and other "non Naim" components together. Does that stand for their CDX player as well?

As for the home theater I may still wind up expanding it later to a full 5.1 but the emphasis is on the ability to play good 2 channel. Unfortunately I just moved and don't know anyone who has good equipment to try. Most of my friends who have " killer systems" here, have 200 dollar receivers by yamaha and kenwood............not exactly what I am looking to demo! How can you tell if a 2 channel pre has the ability to pass through a home theater processor? I have read something about unity gain but don't understand. anyone have 2 minutes and a box of crayons to help me out?