We think you will find that the Rogue offers a high level of performance for the price. We have auditioned this preamp with the 88 amplifier, and found the music quality to be on par with more expensive brands.
We also have appreciated time with the Conrad-Johnson PV-10 tube preamp. It's so smooth (i.e. warm) that you might want to use it with a solid state power amp to get the best of both worlds. We have received wonderful sound with this preamp teamed up with the Clayton Audio S40 pure Class A stereo power amplifier.
The Rogue gear I've heard certainly was smooth--a bit too smooth for my liking in that it obscured enough detail that it detracted from the music. I also had a chance to audition the McCormack RLD-1 which is a solid state unit but does sound a bit on the warmer side without sacrificing as much detail as the Rogue. The soundstage was voluminous and tonality of instruments and vocals were totally fleshed out and full. It also has the home theater loop, and you won't have to mess with any tubes if that's any concern. I'd highly recommend you give this unit a listen as it sounds like it offers everything you're looking for in a preamp. It's also reasonably priced for the performance at around $1700. Best of luck.
I just went through a similar time of trying to find anew pre-amp in the same price range as the Rogue Magnum. I should say that I am not really a tube guy, but I did check some out. I also looked at the Muse Model 3; though I concluded to really get top performance from it required the external power supply which adds quite a bit to the cost ($600). In the end I bought the Musical Fidelity A3cr and I absolutely love it. you should check out the Wes Phillips review on onhifi.com (it is also Stereophile Recommended "Class B", etc). I liked it so much I just bought the matching power amp, which is if anything even more impressive (it got a Stereophile Recommended "Class A") . Together the sound is as good or better than any system I have ever heard.(Admittedly, I have not heard the C-J Art or the ML Reference components under good conditions) Nonetheless for $1500 each they are astounding.
The only drawback is that they are hard to find in a store. however, I believe that Upscale Audio is giving the Audio Advisor like 30-day return policy.
Good luck, I know how hard it is to find the right pre-amp.
I owned a Rogue 66 before upgrading to Air Tight. I found the 66 to be warm and musical and a good match to my Maggies with their ribbon tweeter. If you get the remote control volume, I think you may loose the tape monitor button. Also, the mute on my 66 just lowered the volume about 20dB or so, it did not cut the signal. However, the 66 is one of the best values in tube preamps and well worth an audition.
The Kora Eclipes is a huge value! When I bought mine 1998, it retailed for close to $7000. They had some issues I guess and you can find that same unit new for under $2000 (retail $4000+). Please try it, it may now be the best buy in audio. At $7000 it was a great unit, at $2000 it's a steal!
The Audio Research tube preamps also sound nice, and have theatre pass-thrus.
For those who owned Rogue 66, did you notice any interchannel (source) talk and transformer hum? I've heard from other owners about these issues.
I'm a BIG fan of resolution (imaging) and soundstage. Admittedly, tube-based preamps probably provide a bigger soundstage than their SS counterpart.
Thanks for all the inputs so far. Looking forward to reading some more.
As Yoda said, "There is another". As you are CD based, your amp has a good amount of gain, and your ribbons are VERY revealing, you really ought to check out one of the Reference Line Preemminance pre-amps. They are "passive" preamps with full switching and tape loop facilities. The newer versions have dual, stepped attenuators. They are astonishingly transparent and dynamic. Best of all they go for about $400-600 here. If resolution, dynamics and soundstaging are big hitters in your book, you will probably decide to keep it within seconds after hearing something played thru one. Good luck.
You should consider a PASS Labs Aleph P. Ihad one for 4 years, and the only reason I traded it in was because I wanted a home theater pre-amp/processor. These things are built like a tank, they are completely balanced throughout, and sound awesome. I wouldn't describe the sound as dark, there is very little sonic signature to it at all. It it extremely transparent. They are available used for about $1500 for a non-remote version, and usually about $500 more for the remote version.
I've had a few preamps in my system over the past year. My system at the time, consisted of CJ Premier 11a tube amp, Denon DCD-1650AR CD player used as transport, MSB Gold Link III 24/96 DAC, and Thicl CS 1.5 speakers. I tried the following preamps:
Conrad-Johnson PV-14L tube preamp, sweet warm smooth midrange but I felt it rolled off too much at the upper and lower frequency extremes and lacked low end punch in my setup. Probably a better match for use with a solid-state amp or a system that is somewhat "bright".
Audio Research LS-16 tube preamp, not as sweet and warm as the CJ in the midrange but good soundstage and better low frequency punch and improved treble. More neutral sounding than the CJ PV-14L. Doesn't go overboard with too much of that tube sound but still slightly smooth and warm in the mids.
Adcom GFP-750 solid-state preamp... I am amazed! Although I miss the midrange warmth offered by the tube preamps, I am very impressed with this modest solid-state unit. I would say that its the most accurate sounding preamp I have used in my system with outstanding low end punch and good treble and soundstage. I just wish it had a bit more midrange warmth.
I am currently using the Adcom GFP-750 in my system but also keep the Audio Research LS-16 nearby. I've been swapping between these two for the past couple weeks and can't decide which one I prefer.
All of these preamps offer a pass through feature for easy integration into a home theatre setup.
I love my Rogue 66. This has to be one of the best buys in audio.
The 66 is indeed slightly warm (but not wooly), has a huge soundstage with excellent imaging and impressive dynamics. Very natural tonality. I think it has good detail, though not as much as its big brother, the 99, or other preamps costing 3-4x as much (duh!!). I've not had any hum or cross talk issues. The 66 will benefit from a tube roll, especially Amperex Bugleboys. If imaging and soundstage are a priority, tubes are where it's at.
BTW, I've been contemplating an upgrade, and I'm looking at preamps in the 3-5K range to better the 66.