Budget or size restraints?
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There are a million units that you could pick. Budget is the biggest constraint as there are preamps that can be had for less than $1000 or you could spend $30,000 without blinking an eye.
When taking into account the Hugo 2 a your DAC, my hunch is you would be looking in the $2000 to $3000 range. Chord is out as their least expensive preamp is way more.
For a good value, the Musical Fidelity M6s PRE is great for $2K. You could look at Rogue if you are willing to consider tubes and the the RP1 and RP5 would be nice options at $1500 and $3500 respectively.
The PS Audio Stellar Pre is a nice unit for $2499. Parasound has a preamp in this price range as does Vincent. Just above there is the Art Audio VPS at $4K. Lots of choices.
I am an MF dealer and have access to some other brands. PM me if you narrow it down and want to discuss ordering.
Just be careful you already have a dac that put’s out 3v!! most amps are at full power with 1- 2v in.
So what you need is a preamp with "low or zero gain", other wise you’ll be turning down the Chord volume too much and introducing "Bit Stripping"
I suggest a $399 Shiit Saga or $299 Saga S both have unity (zero) gain, in passive mode or active mode. leave your Chord volume up close to full then
and then get a separate phono stage with up to 60db of gain, they are around you have to search.
@shahram - Would be around 1500USD max. Same value and tier as my speaker.
@verdantaudio - Thanks for your recommendations. But my budget is a bit lower. And sorry I am not from the US, so impossible to do business with you though I am felling tempted.
@georgehifi - Thanks for that insightful technical bits of the DAC’s output voltage. Your suggestions seem to fit and I can try to do a test with my local dealers here. But would try the Saga S, or may be Freya S, since I am afraid the models with tube might alter the sound signature from the Hugo DAC.
After all, really appreciate all for your helpful knowledge.
May I offer a different parameter as to this "selection process" the preamp has to "fit" in the system......the amp (s) the preamp and the speakers.......and then the room as the forth part of the system.....sources are not the same as foundation parts
My search continues for a preamp in front of Radio Craftsman 500 monoblocks.....which drive a pair of Sachiko rear loaded horns......so far I have yet to find a tube preamp that I like as much as the hafler 110 ---just acquired a heathkit SP-2 ( a 'restored' fisher copy??) to check out... have not found a tube pre as "likeable " as the SS Halfler ( refurb'ed and upgraded) fisher 400C is mentioned as what they used back then 1959-62....... Lafayette KT600 was another but so rare indeed... anyway, this is my "process " as I have little chance to just try out a preamp........
a follow up my past audio systems were integrated amps and souces direct connected to the amp no preamp this is a regular config for low power tube amps and horns.......which leaves me as a hifi fan with not a whit what to do when I want to use a R2R for the analog source......and preamps w/ all the design juices on vinyl connections and what for tape? a couple of rca's? oh! I whine again......still it sounds to me that the SS Hafler preamp on the KT66 tube mono's and horns is quite adceptable!
I got the Benchmark HPA4 preamp + headphone amp yesterday and have been playing it for the past 24 hours. It is hooked up to the Benchmark DAC3B which was also purchased yesterday. I bought these at a discount from a dealer and did not try the 30 day free home trial from Benchmark. The Benchmark designers have said that the units really do not need burn-in.
The HPA4 is now driving my headphones to burn-in for 200 hours and also my KEF LS50’s connected to the OK amp section of my Peachtree NOVA 150 integrated.
All I can say is that my shins are hurting from all the toe tapping I have been doing while listening to the KEF LS50 speakers (not headphones). I am burning some nice calories listening to the tunes now. The 2 Benchmark’s are incredible together, I have read posts from people that are pairing the Chord DACS with this preamp.
I am not going to keep the Peachtree NOVA as a long term solution for amplification. I will be adding the Benchmark AHB2 amp soon and another much more expensive amp as an alternative (maybe Class A).
Give yourself a 30 day home trial on this preamp. It is a giant slayer based on my hearing. I have also heard a lot of very expensive gear.
https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/7605 (last photo is the Benchmark gear)
BTW - I am not a headphone guy but decided to spend the $500 dollars extra and buy the HPA4 instead of the $2500 LA4 preamp without headphone amplification. A quick 10 minute listen to the headphones seems to indicate that was a wise move.
Next thing to do is to buy the under $100 Benchmark XLR interconnects to hook up the DAC + Preamp + Amp. I am currently using $500- $1000 Audience XLR interconnects. They sound good but I think the Benchmark maybe better.
@jamesgang - thanks for your information. Looks like your recommendations are a bit hard to find around my places. I will need to list them out and find out a way to have a look and check it out.
@yyzsantabarbara - Benchmark seem to fit your ears, I hope it would fit mine too, since I am using Chord Hugo now. Will definitely have a look.