Check out Backert Labs, they specialize in preamps and they sound great. I've heard them in a number of systems and they always have impressed. They also are good for tube rolling if you are into that.
This is a newer smaller company and they will give you personal service.
Someday I hope to own one of their preamps. Cheers,
I agree with Spencer. I just visited Backert Labs last week to get my EAR 868 repaired. I got a chance to hear Bob's Rhumba preamp while there. Very impressive. The "fastest" and punchiest tube preamp I've heard most likely due to his patented innovative power supply plus, I'm sure, his careful build quality.
I should add, I have no financial connection to his company. I went to his facility on the recommendation of a few good folks on this forum about 2 months ago. To those people, I say thank you again.
If you truly want something special as I have done and others
check out a Direct Heated Triode preamplifier transformer coupled and fully regulated . Using a quality pair of 45 tubes, and 6ax4 rectifier tubes
Lundahl transformer based withseperate power supply . Every bit as good
if not better to the Battery-capacitor Rosse Lio,which is almost $9500 now ? which BTW can be ordered use several different tube types
but the 45 is known for its depth and realism ,and noise floor well below
1%. In the $6k range This will compete without question the best of them.
This is what a single ended preamp is all about .it will pick up detail like no other
i am working on having another one built which can be built for $2k less in one chassis ,and still unbeatable in its price class . Look up Radu Tarta .he has been working with DHT ,and tube amps for close to 40 years. Best of luck.
I second the Shiny Eyes 4P1L tube preamp from Radu Tarta! I had mine made with a custom TKD remote volume pot. Very reasonable in cost and very well made.
The Sony Hap-Z1ES has 2.1v output from a 230ohm source a great match for a 10kohm passive such as the $49 Shiit Sys, and you can return it if you don’t like it. And you’ll have plenty of gain with the AR amp, and it’s got input impedance of a very high 300kohms another great match for a passive.
Here's another quote from an interview with Mr. Pass regarding active vs passive preamps:
AR: What's your position on passive versus active preamps?
NP: You'd think that a minimalist switch and variable resistor in a box would be as good or better than active stages, but often it is not.
Some of the issues are well understood; for instance if the resistance value of the potentiometer is low, the source can have bass issues due to the output coupling capacitance and higher distortion due to greater load current. At the other extreme, if the resistance is too high it can create distortion and high frequency issues by presenting a high source impedance to the power amp.
Then there are things that don't show up in the usual measurements and we simply observe that the active circuit sounds better than the passive.
I file these under "How About That".
source can have bass issues due to the output coupling capacitance and higher distortion due to greater load current.
Exacatly the same if it sees a 10kohm passive or a Class-D amp which many are 10kohm as well.
It’s the fault of the coupling cap in the source or preamp output not being large enough in mF’s, not the fault of the passive, this is why I have always said the best cap is no cap, dc servos can take the place of them.
This why I state, low output impedance "across the audio band" for passives even if they have a coupling cap, and why Stereophile come down on coupling caps not being large enough on sources or preamps outputs they test, because this coupling cap is expensive, and the larger they are the more they cost. hail DC servo’s
Everyone's preference is different. If u want really tight bass, but smooth highs and mids, try tubes in the front with a beefy SS power amp. Class A bias is best for that quick and tight bottom end. I have had a couple of Krell power amps and am very happy with their performance. You're used to the tube rush sound, so this may be worth a try. I've been using a Calypso as my preamp, with Krell mono blocks as my power. For the first time, I'm happy just to sit and listen.
Check out the Coincident Technology Statement Linestage ($6,000 new):
Here are a couple of reviews:
what brand(s) cabling are you using to tie your system together?
Next, I would keep the pre-amp & cdp by the same manufacturer (Cary or ARC). The ARC Ref3 or Ref5 w/ an ARC spinner would be a very fine upgrade. Or, the Cary SLP05 would compliment your Cary cdp1 nicely.
Keep me posted and Happy Listening!
Jafant - I am using XLO Reference balanced all around.
I am leaning toward getting an ARC Ref 3.... of course one can't go wrong with ARC Ref line of audio gear.
I just got new tubes KT120 for my ARC Ref 110 and that was a nice improvement over the old tubes...
Overall I have been happy with the sound....just that finances have improved and I am lucky to be able to look for the "next level"