Preamp for a Line Magnetic i518?

I am interested in adding a preamp to my system. Currently using a Line Magnetic 518 integrated 845 SET. I listen mostly to vinyl with a Chinook phono amp and VPI Prime turntable with Lyra Delos. Speakers are PSB Imagine T3. Any thoughts on adding a preamp and suggestions? Partial to tubes but let me know if there is any ss that would possibly be a better match? Budget approx $3500. I appreciate any/all advice....thanks.


There's has been much positive talk and commentary regarding the Linear Tube Audio Micro ZOTL preamp. Professional reviewers and actual owners are very happy with its sound quality.


Thanks Charles...I will look into that.

Anyone else have some thoughts on a preamp for my system?  Sure would appreciate hearing more ideas. 
A used Shindo Aurieges

I read up on both preamps mentioned. It seems as if the Micro ZOTL is primarily a headphone amp and only puts out 1W. Is this really enough output to serve as a preamp. I'm not really knowledgeable on in depth electrical issues. Also it actually has speaker inputs. I assume if I were to set up as a preamp I would continue to run my speakers from my LM.  The Shindo is of course beautiful as well but the price of the Micro ZOTL is attractive!

Any other preamp contenders?
The Micro ZOTL can be used solely as a preamp if desired.  I'd email gon member teajay  via the audiogon site. He did a full professional review ànd now owns one. 
I’m also thinking a Shindo Preamp, in this range the Aurieges MM, with phono. You would be simplifying the system, but also some of the loading and gain options of your Chinook. If you want to explore this area, I would think Arizona Hi-Fi or Don Better to be good sources. Not sure if you have thought about an SUT, which may be another option to explore along with the Shindo. With the above suggestion, you would replace your Manley. If you prefer to keep it, there’s also the Aurieges L, line stage preamp.
Thanks all. I will email teajay. 

fjn04, there are two Aurieges listed is an older version with 2 units (w/separate power unit) and the other a combined 1 unit. Do you, or anyone else, know if there are any sonic differences?  Not sure why Shindo went from original external power source to internal power later. 

Just curious, are you using the stock tubes in the 518ia or have you swapped them out; and if the latter what do you feel is missing that is casuing you to want to go with a separate preamp? I have the 518 and with the exception of the stock 845 swapped in NOS 5AR4, 6L6GCs and 5751s and find it pretty engaging as is. Thanks

Sorry- I haven't a clue, though I do find that 2 chassis version to be very interesting. Matt at Pitch Perfect will sometimes have a used one for sale as well. I ran my Monbrison in to an LM 211 IA without issue, but the 211 does not have a PRE IN like your 518. So in my case, I believe it may have been a compromise. I would reach out to users of Shindo pre and LM with PRE IN.... I would ask their opinion to see if the LM PRE IN allowed the Shindo to open up VC enough, and have small enough steps. I don't know the technical terms well enough to explain my last point, but hopefully you understand.  

facten....yes I have rolled some tubes. Philips 5R4GYS rectifier, SED Winged C EL34s, and Psvane TII 12ax7. Haven't  changed out the 845s yet but would like to soon.  Not sure which ones so haven't done that yet.

I don't really feel (or know) anything is missing per se. I've had it set up like this for about a year and am very happy with my system as is overall. But can't help but wonder if I added a preamp could I be "happier."  Just thinking it could be even better. Most people I have talked with seem to think a compatible preamp would add some more dimension and be a positive addition.  What speakers are you using?

yes I keep in touch with Matt. I bought my LM 518ia from him as well as my LM 515 CD player. Great guy!

I have absolutely no lack of VC now. I listen pretty loud sometimes and never go past 11 o'clock. Do you think adding a preamp might affect the volume?
ekimg, I have Daedalus Argo V2s - 98db steady 6ohm impedence 
I believe that the Shindo Aurieges has fairly high gain. You "may" run into the issue of using the VC in only the lower setting (9 of clock range) or it could become too loud. Matt would likely know if that’s a potential concern. In most cases a good active preamplifier is an asset and will improve the sound quality IMO. Overall system gain is something that requires consideration.
Charles is right about the high gain. You can run the Shindo through the line input if that is the case and use the (I think) passive volume control on the Line Magnetic as a trim pot, like the trim pots on Shindo amplifiers.

You should also try the direct input. See which one you like best and which sounds best to you.
I was speaking more to the point that Charles1dad mentioned. Just couldn't explain it as well. (-:
I was one of the first use of LTA MZ-2s with the remote option. I used it solely as tube preamlifier. It was pretty ok, not very impressive imo. Then again I was using Melody P2688 preamp (suppose to be one of the best preamp). So, it was hard to be impressed. 

There was some input issues being one of the first unit to have remote. The LTA guys were amazing with support and when I had to return the item - no questions asked. Very impressed with their professionalism. 

I also used a ifi iCan pro as preamp. It was as good as LTA MZ-2s.

I have a LM 518 powering Daedalus DA-RMa V2 speakers and have tried a range of preamps with it.  TRL Dude, Tortuga LDR passive, Lampizator integrated passive, Vinnie Rossi AVC/LIO, and most recently iFi iTube2, LTA MZ2-S, Tubes4Hifi SP14, and Don Sachs Model 2.  

First, I would say that it's always worth bypassing the volume pot and going with the direct line input.  That integrated volume control on the 518 sucks the life out of the music - definitely a weak link.  Second, I'm a fan of a well-designed tube preamp in front of the 518.  It's a shame LM didn't design the direct line input to bypass the 12AX7 preamp stage, but even still, I find a nice tube preamp between source and the Line Magnetic to do wonders.  My favorite of the above is what I currently own - the Don Sachs.  For me, it gets the detail, tube dimensionality, tone, and meat on the bones, but also with a pace and rhythm that gives soul to the music.  the LTA MZ2-S just didn't do the soul thing - though it was more detailed and open sounding.  But the MZ2-S is a very nice and highly refined preamp, for sure.  Just a different presentation style than the Don Sachs - up to one's tastes which one they'd prefer, IMO.

Finally, a friend owns the LM 218, which is basically the 518 without tube rectification or direct line input.  He fronts it with a Shindo pre with internal phono pre as well.  He has found the ideal Shindo VC setting at around 11am on the dial and leaves it there, then uses the 218's pot for VC.  I love the sound of the Shindo/218 in his system - makes beautiful music.  I just wonder how much better it could be if he didn't have to go through the 218's VC pot.

Also, I would say definitely upgrade those 845 tubes.  I think the Psvane TII's are absolutely worth the $$ stretch - a warm and rich tonal sound with greatly improved refinement over the stock tubes.  But if the rest of the system is up to it, the Psvane WE replica's are the real deal.  If my current tubes fail sometime soon (hopefully not), I'd be interested in trying a couple of the new upper crust 845's that Shuguang and Psvane have released.  The 518 absolutely can benefit from the top tubes out there, and not just in the 845 position.

A very Informative post and I've been pondering a pre-amp for my LM 508IA for a year now and the Sachs has got me thinking.

Which Sachs model did you get and which upgrade path did you take?

Strongly recommend the deHavilland Ultraverve. beautiful sounding with no electronic artifacts, great company. I love mine.

I thought I would add a review on the Ultraverve. This review features a number of preamplifiers compared to each other. Good read.

genjamon: thanks for the response. I had put getting a preamp on hold for a few months but am thinking of it again. I did review some info on the Don Sachs and based on that and your experience with this and others I am seriously thinking of adding a preamp to my LM518 again. I like what you said about the Don Sachs...similar to what I enjoy sonically. Couple questions:  I assume you hook it up into the LM pre in rather than other inputs?  And what interconnects are you using between the pre and LM?

I just rolled in new 845 tubes....Shugang  Replica WE845. Very recent so not fully ready to make a report out but the are sounding very nice out of the box. Also one of my Psvane TII 12ax7 tubes died so I have reinstalled the original tubes for now. Any thoughts on a good upgrade for the 12ax7s?

soundsrealaudio:  also checked out the Ultraverve....looks very interesting too. Couldn't seem to find current cost?  Do you know?


I use NOS Tungsol 5751s in my 518IA; I prefer the slightly lower gain of the 5751 vis a vis the 12ax7
facten...thanks for the info. Obviously the 5751 is compatible change for the 12ax7?  What is the benefit for lower gain in your opinion?
I am suprised that the LM518IA will drive the PSB Imagine T3's. I believe it is rated at 22 watts. I am running Shindo Aurieges pre and I tried a Will Vincent Baldwin Amp which I believe is at 25 watts and I felt it was very much underpowered for the PSB's.
I have a 518ia and am considering an external preamp. But if the direct input only bypasses the pot and not the preamp section, would another active preamp only cause harm? Maybe The best scenario is a good passive preamp with a better attenuator?
Wanted to bump this up as I have a Line Magnetic 805ia and am considering adding a separate preamp as well. I have considered a few but based on reading, these are intriguing: 

  • PS Audio BHK Preamp
  • Audio Research LS27 Preamp
  • Don Sachs Model 2 Preamp
  • Melody PB101 Preamp
  • Modwright LS100 Preamp
  • Luxman C700 or C900 Preamp

Does anyone have any experience pairing these preamps up with their tube amps? Would love to hear your thoughts. 
Freesole, I I will let you know about the LM 518 and ps audio bhk combo in a a week or so. I just got the LM and am letting it settle in without adding the pre for a minute 
@akiravelvet awesome, congrats and enjoy! Would love to hear your thoughts when you can share them. 
Surprised no one mentioned the Atma-Sphere MP-3 as a contender here!
@ozzy62 That's a legit question. Both the 518 and 508 don't really pass the preamp section, so isn't adding another PREAMP just adding more stuff into the signal chain?
@divertiti That is what I was advised and just to check, I bought a Don Sachs Preamp just to see if I would hear a difference. The difference was hard to pick out over time. In speaking with the distributor of LM, they have said the same - the preamp stage is not bypassed on the LM integrated amps (508/518/805/845). I have the 805ia.