Pre-amp upgrade time?


My current system: AR Ref110 tube amp, Cary slp03 pre, Cary cdp1 and ProAc Response D25.
I am getting Sony Hap-Z1ES this weekend. 
Music I like is mostly progressive rock and ambient electronic....
Love hearing wide soundstage, well defined instruments, clear vocals smack in the center but also quick, fast, tight bass.
Always tend to gravitate towards tubes but also felt in the past that they sometimes sound too slow and weak.... Wasn't happy with Cary 120 mk2, was OK with Sonic Frontier but didn't care for Pass Aleph 0s.(I know they are SS but sound like tubes).
Overall happy now but also ready for an upgrade..... I think that my amp is the strongest link in my system and while my CDP might be weakest...I think I would get most improvement if I look to upgrade my pre-amp.
What would you recommend and should I try to add SS preamp or stick to tubes?

Thanks
ether
Sounds like a used ARC Ref 3 preamp would seem to be a natural fit for your ARC amp, and the sound you are describing that you seek.
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,
Spencer
..just can't understand why so many come to a " time to upgrade" situation.   If something doesn't work, or is irritating its time to move on, but to upgrade incrementally doesn't make sense to me.  Most times the new component is just different ....better in some respects, not as good in others.
Sounds like a used ARC Ref 3 preamp would seem to be a natural fit for your ARC amp, and the sound you are describing that you seek.
 
 I totally agree. An ARC Ref preamp would be an excellent match. I own both a Ref 110 and Ref 5se, just superb together. 


I think the SLP-03 was one of Cary's weaker offerings.  The SLP-05 is lightyears better.  I'd put it toe to toe with the ARC REF preamps.
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.
Best, Fred
Cary SLP 05.

My friend has the arc5se.

It was pretty much a tie, we compared it in the same system and the same time.
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.

Linear Tube Audio MZ2-S preamp. Transformerless, deigned by David Berning. The most transparent pre I've ever heard.

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.

http://http//www.hificollective.co.uk/potentiometers/tkd-2cp-2511-mc-motorised-potentiometer.html

http://https//simplepleasuretubeamps.wordpress.com/products/
ether

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.


Nelson Pass:
" We’ve got lots of gain in our electronics. More gain than some of us need or want. At least 10 db more.

Think of it this way: If you are running your volume control down around 9 o’clock, you are actually throwing away signal level so that a subsequent gain stage can make it back up.

Routinely DIYers opt to make themselves a “passive preamp” - just an input selector and a volume control.

What could be better? Hardly any noise or distortion added by these simple passive parts. No feedback, no worrying about what type of capacitors – just musical perfection.

And yet there are guys out there who don’t care for the result. “It sucks the life out of the music”, is a commonly heard refrain (really - I’m being serious here!). Maybe they are reacting psychologically to the need to turn the volume control up compared to an active preamp."



Cheers George

That's a nice quote considering how Nelson makes a nearly $20k active preamp (really - I'm being serious here!)!  

;-)
That's a nice quote considering how Nelson makes a nearly $20k active preamp (really - I'm being serious here!)!  
He still needs beer money, from the " guys out there who don’t care for the result." 

Cheers George
Post removed 
http://www.psaudio.com/products/stellar-gain-cell-dac/

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".

http://audiophilereview.com/amps/nelson-pass-interview.html


http://www.rotel.com/product/rc-1590
source can have bass issues due to the output coupling capacitance and higher distortion due to greater load current.

if the resistance value of the potentiometer is low, the source can have bass issues due to the output coupling capacitor.

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

Cheers George
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):
http://www.coincidentspeaker.com/preamps.html

Here are a couple of reviews:
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/review-coincident-speaker-technology-statement-linestage-tube-preamp

http://www.high-endaudio.com/RC-Statement.html
ether,

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!
Budget permitting, the ARC Ref 10 is as good as current technology can get.  I have one and have not found better.
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"