Preamp choices:Short list


Ok so I want to transition to a truly balanced system. My current components are single ended only. I have 3 choices of pre's: BAT vk-42SE, BAT vk-23SE or Rogue RP-7. Are there any clear front runners? (Note the 42SE is older, carries risk of servicing?). Thanks
jimbones
Nearly all components have massive transformers mounted way over on one side in order to keep them away from sensitive circuits. Because of this its very hard to find anything that is truly balanced. A simpler solution is to just move the springs around to where it sits level.
Can I ask why you want balanced interconnects/gear? 
I had a Rogue RP 5 and it is the single ended version of your preamp., plus a phono stage.  I found it to be very good sounding.
@russ69 , I currently have a 20 ft RCA and get noise. I'd like to get to a fully balanced system. My DAC and mu phonostage are balanced as well
https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/benchmark-media-systems-la4-line-amplifier-and-dac3-b-dac

This is an incredible BALANCED preamp (read the TAS review from 3 weeks ago). It will not alter your signal with "enhancements" that a lot of people like. Sounds like your DAC, phono, and speakers (and maybe wires) can add the tone and leave the preamp with no signal enhancements.

I owned the BAT 42VK-SE it is not as good as the 1/3 the price LA4 or HPA4 refereed in the links above. BTW - Vicktor at BAT will always service those units or maybe the guys that bought BAT.

Some interesting info on Balanced vs Unbalanced
https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/application_notes/balanced-vs-unbalanced-analog-interfaces



not not sure of budget but being single ended, which some prefer, i’d look at the cj art that just came up. won’t last long. it’s among the best ever. 
in ss i think that the ml 523 would be exceptional given my experience with a 326s. it was really good in my system and should have kept it.
you can find a used 523 for under 9k at times.
fwiw
This is a very important issue particularly if you keep your amplifiers where they perform best which is right next to the speaker keeping speaker cables as short as possible. This means that you have to run long signal cables to the amplifiers and balanced cables can make these longer runs with far less noise. It is best to have all your analog equipment balanced but as Atma-sphere has related on numerous occasions there is real balance and fake balanced so you have to be careful until the industry settles this out. Some companies like Parasound try to go both ways. The JC1's have a gain switch, low gain for true balanced operation and high gain for fake balanced operation. Mono amps without balanced inputs are IMHO a total waste of money being compromised from the start. There is absolutely no advantage in remaining unbalanced.
Art gone already. what a piece.. 
Why only those three?  What pre are you using now, and what sound characteristics are you most looking for?  Budget?  You really didn’t give much to go on here to form a basis for a meaningful recommendation.  
@soix  I am currently using a Modwright LS100 (with all NOS tubes) and Wells Audio Inamorata. I like the sound of a tube pre. I have not found solid state to have the fullness in the lower mids. I have tried some solid state but they tend to sound thin. But the bass in SS is better. The Wells is a SS amp that has "tube like" qualities. Sonically they sound good but I am getting noise. Now here is the kicker: I am getting older and want simplicity and reliability in my system. I don't want to be screwing around with tubes and chasing down issues. Also I can't lift 75lb amps any more. So I am in a quandary, I like a certain sound but may not achieve it the way I am going. My first preference based on this is a SS Pre and Class D amp. If I can't do that it's a tube pre with Class D amp. My speakers are 92db efficient I run 2 GR Research subs driven by Rythmik amps. I hope I covered everything. Thank you for taking the time to consider. (BTW, @yyzsantabarbara suggested Benchmark, the only reason I am not jumping on their pre is I am afraid of it being analytical sounding and far from tubes. They do have a trial so there is no risk.
You might want to give Decware ZEN Triode preamp a listen, made here in the USA with lifetime warranty to original purchaser, $2,995.00 custom made, they only start to build it after you order it truly a work of art, no circuit boards all hand made.
Here is the info for the Decware Preamp DECWARE Zen Triode Balanced Preamplifier model ZTPRE  or if you want to use a tube preamp for your 5.1 surround you could try the Decware Zen Ultra Preamp.
DECWARE - Audiophile Home Theater 6 channel all tube Preamp model Zen ULTRA,  it is also $2,995.00 
If you want to expand your list the Benchmark LA4 was recently given a glowing review in Stereophile.
Frank Van Alstine was once reputed to say that "balanced is a solution looking for a problem". I'm inclined to believe him.
Prima Luna EVO 400 is fully balanced, highly regarded and worth a look

J.Chip

I have a Rogue rp 7 and really enjoy it    Not a real tubey or mushy sound.  Nice deep layered soundstage ,with just a hint of warmth , Upgrade the stock JJ tubes to a good NOS and you will be in good shape.
I can only compare to a Modwright Anniversery, MicroZotl2.0s, that I owned in the past but a clear 2 steps up the ladder from them. Think there may be a couple for sale right now. 3k seem to be the number on a previously owned unit
Take a look at the Atmasphere MP-3. Truly balanced design from beginning to end, in the same price range, and fully customizable by Ralph and crew.

I thought the LS100 had balanced outputs albeit not "true balanced"?
SUPRATEK has balanced in their preamps.  Beautiful sound
MicroZOTL preamp. Sells for about 4,500.00. I also have the Supratek Sauvignon and I like the MicroZOTL better.
Go with the BAT Preamp. I have a VK50-SE that I acquired last Summer. I love it ! I too prefer a Fully (and truly) Balanced Audio chain that a Single ended one. With XLR, you can hot swap cables without worrying about blowing things up. With RCA, you can’t by design.

I'm also not a fan of point to point wired Amps/Preamps. PCB's are the only way and I've been Troubleshooting them for over 25 years. Much easier to repair than point to point (even if a trace gets burnt now and then).
I like my new Luxman CL1000 and I only play SACDs and CDs. Also, I like the ARC Reference 10 preamplifier, but then, I am an old tube guy.
@mazian what is wrong with balanced, in what way would SE be better?
Consider looking for a VAC preamp.  All previously made equipment is still fully supported by the factory and the quality and sound is exceptional.
The people in here speaking up AGAINST the common mode noise rejection offered by true balanced connections/designs are Luddites.


In no case is SE better than balanced. 
Post removed 
I'll offer that my BAT VK-33SE is outstanding.  Of all my gear over past years never have I had a better staging and imaging than with the VK-33SE.  As for the two BAT preamps you cited, the VK-42SE is by far the superior over the VK-23.  
BAT is excellent in their service ethics.  If ever you needed any service on the VK-42SE you would be taken care of very well.
I hope this helps you.
PS AUDIO BHK Preamp ! -  Hybrid  
mazian

how old is that quote?

Ive been a ’phile for 5 decades. Paul McGowan (PS Audio) was one of the first to make reasonably priced differentially/true balanced components, but it took many decades to catch on.

Much/most of the components with XLR I/Os are not true balanced, but thankfully true balanced is becoming more available at reasonable prices


hth
Now here is the kicker: I am getting older and want simplicity and reliability in my system. I don't want to be screwing around with tubes and chasing down issues. Also I can't lift 75lb amps any more. So I am in a quandary, I like a certain sound but may not achieve it the way I am going.
I'm not sure why 75pounds is a thing, but FWIW, our MP-1 preamp weights about half that, and that's for two pieces, not one. So if you can mange 15-20 pounds you'll be alright. FWIW one of the founders of BAT was a customer of ours before he went into business.


One tip: whatever preamp you get, check with the manufacturer to see if it supports something called 'AES48' which is the balanced line standard. If they say 'no', or don't know, or don't know what you're talking about, then the benefits of balanced line won't be realized with their products! The benefit of balanced line is immunity to ground loops, immunity to the 'sound' of the interconnect cable, the ability to run long interconnect cables without degradation and rejection of noise that might get impinged on the cable as it goes from point A to B.


What this means is that if your preamp supports the standard, you won't have to use expensive cables to get them to sound right and an expensive cable won't seem worth the extra money. They'll all sound extremely similar. I own monoblock amps so I can keep my speaker cables short and long interconnects. The cables are Mogami which are not expensive by high end audio standards and I run 30 feet of it. At audio shows I've run as much as 50 feet.
@atmasphere I played lots of abusive sports for many years. Im not young and have had 5 orthopedic surgeries in the last 7 years (that includes one back surgery) That should be pretty clear that I can not be doing heavy lifting. I am also planning years our as I hope to have the next set of equipment into my 70's. I have 25 ft mogami that I plan to use going forward. I think were are basically in agreement.
Hello,
I am not familiar with BAT. I am demoing the Rouge RP7 and RP9. They are incredible. Plus, there are options for balanced and unbalanced for inputs and outputs. It has extra outputs for subs, full remote control and a home theater pass through. Crazy good options. Also going to look into the Rouge Dragon amplifier. If you are looking for a deal on Rouge RP7 or RP9 look into https://holmaudio.com/rogue-audio/
Call and ask for Mike about price ;)
+1 ncdogdoc on the Atmosphere, though Ive never had the privilege of hearing any of their kit

AND it's 'merican made
If you are set on a brand like BAT go for it, I am not personally familiar with their sound although I have read the equipment is very good.
I am familiar with atmasphere balanced amps and preamp and you won't go wrong with an MP-1 or MP-3 preamps, very light, I have owned both and both are outstanding.
The Coda 07X would be a fine option. I have also heard the Ps Audio BHK. Quite nice indeed. If on a budget, the Schiit Freya+ is very tough to beat indeed. It is flexible, versatile and affordable. 
Jimbones I don't know why you think tubes are a problem, I have a tube preamp that is point to point wired and I've left it on for nearly two years except during thunderstorms.
I have a single ended triode par of monoblocks which I built because I can't afford to buy what fits my tastes. For my preampier I have always used a simple SET using either a 6J5, a 76, a 6P5, and finally Arcturis 27 because I like blue glass instead of clear glass and the 27 has a wonderful sound. I found an Alps volume control sounds more alive than the stepped attenuaters using the best metal foil resistors. They are easy to build and you can build the power supply in a separate chassis to keep stray transformer magnetic fields away from sensitive circuits. I have a 45 SET amplifier but I discovered Magnepan speakers which sound to me more like a live performance in the opera house than vastly more expensive and complicated cone speaker arrays with all their crossover and resistor, capacitor, inductor equalizer circuits to compensate for the back EMF electro-mechanical deviations in frequency response. But a 45 can't drive Magnepans. I ended up building a pair of 833A monoblock amplifier stages and replaced the output transformers on the 45 amplifiers with Lundahl LL2736 transformers the 600 Ohm outputs I connect between ground and the grids of the 833As which are very linear at 1000 anode Volts and zero grid bias Voltage (they draw about 115 ma.) I put the 833A amps on the floor next to the Magnepans and run thin Teflon insulated wires from the 350 plate Volt B+ out to the Lundahl 5k windings and back to the 45 anodes. This higher Voltage low signal current over the long distances from my 45 amp and preamp cabinet circumvents the dilemma of long speaker cables vs long interconnect cables and is insensitive to induced noise; it has all the virtues of high Voltage power-lines for cross country power transmission. Shielding and capacitance between wires is insignificant.
Even if I could afford the luxury of buying factory amps and preamps, I would lose the freedom of having exactly what  want and prefer.
I don't know if this fits your criteria but First Sound makes the most musically and emotionally engaging line-stage preamps I've ever heard. And I've auditioned quite a few high-end systems. Emmanuel's preamps are also upgradable (within certain limitations) so you can start with a preamp that's within your budget and later upgrade if you wish. You can contact First Sound with any questions you have.
Hello Jim,
I used the Rouge RP7 with a pair of Esoteric MG20 speakers. These are not bass heavy speakers. But they are very good detailed speakers that physically disappeared when played through the Rouge RP7. What I was very excited about was it balanced the sound beautifully without the use of subs. I used these speakers through a Mark Levenson and a Hegel 390 integrated amps. With these two brands they lacked a balanced sound they lacked bass. With the Rouge RP7 the sound was perfect. That says a lot about this preamp. 
I would second the recommendation of the PS Audio BHK Signature preamp.  There is a link on this page for a video of Bascom H. King talking about balanced audio.  

https://www.psaudio.com/bhk-preamplifier/
Get something better VAC.