Preamp Advice/experiences needed

I recently auditioned a Vac Renaissance Mk 5 and it was damn fine. But there are some issues I have with it that would not make it a great fit in my system and also costs a bit much. I also have on my short list the Aesthetix Calypso Eclipse and Ayre KX-5 twenty. Can anyone chime in with their experiences? any advice is appreciated. (my pwr amp is CJ Premiere 12 monos). TIA


@jimbones you can find virtual systems here:

Just click create a system and don't forget to add pics!

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If you can find a used Rogue Athena it meets your criteria (for a LOT less money) and I personally prefer its sound quality over their newer RP-9. I’ve also had a Ren V and felt its bass response was a little soft, Fantastic midrange, though.

Above that the Audio Research Reference 6 (used) is better than all of these preamps and also meets your requirements, though at a higher price-point. The Athena is just so good for "cheap" though.

Was Kevin Carter ever really with VAC? I don’t think that is clear. Anyways, K&K seems to have shuttered in the last few years. The onboard phono stages in VAC preamps are hard to beat, IMO.

of course an Aesthetix can run w a VAC. especially w tubes sourced from Andy as a poster has noted and w HRS grade isolation… but frankly the Ayre, ARC and Aesthetix are all really balanced and SE sub optimal in all, Yes i have setup all 3. i think CJ more appropriate, IF your long term plan is to stay w SE input power amp.