Preamp for Bel Canto Ref1000 MKII monos


I'm currently using Bel Canto Pre3 with my Ref1000 MKII monoblocks driving Focal Electra 1038. The source is highly optimized PC connected to a tube DSD DAC (Musical Paradise MP-D2) I like the sound and there is nothing specific that I don't like about Pre3 but I'm itching to try a different preamp with balanced IN/OUT, solid state or tubes. Any recommendations, opinions?

Thank you all!
Hi yrogins,

     You'll likely need to provide a budget and the type of sound influence you prefer in a preamp to receive meaningful suggestions.

     Your Bel Canto Ref1000 MKII monoblocks, as I'm sure you're aware, are very good class D amps that have a very neutral sound quality. These amps just accurately and faithfully amplify the inputted signals without adding or omitting anything; resulting in the audio ideal of 'a straight wire with gain'.  
     Because of this neutrality, your system sound will mainly be determined by the sound qualities of everything upstream from your very revealing monoblock amps, including your source, preamp and even the power chords and interconnects utilized.  
     This means that, to get the overall system sound you want, it is critical that you select a preamp that you like the sound of.  
     The reality is that you have a wide variety of preamps to choose from with each imparting its own sonic signature ranging from neutral (typically the solid state units) to the overtly flavored (typically the tubed units).
     Eliminating those that lack balanced inputs and outputs will reduce the candidates but preamps that are fully internally balanced, as opposed to simply having balanced inputs/outputs,  are generally the more expensive units.

    I believe you need to carefully determine your budget and describe, as best you can, the sonic qualities you desire for your system.  I know this may not be easy but is necessary so that members can offer you meaningful advice.

Hi @noble100 

Thank you for your detailed response. My budget would be 2-3k for used or new preamp.

You are right my monoblocks are very neutral so is my Pre3. My speakers are also on a neutral/bright side. It's hard to describe the sound that I'm looking for my system. The best description would be through a metaphor e.g. I would be happy with intimate sound of acoustic guitar with nylon strings played in a small hall as opposed to a sound of acoustic guitar with steel strings played in a large hall. But don't get me wrong..I listen to all kind of music including jazz, rock and electronica.


I own the Bel Canto Ref 500M's - excellent amps.  I've used 5 preamps with those amps including a Bel Canto pre1.  The best by far, and the one that I'm going to keep for a long time, is the Conrad Johnson Classic SE.  The sound is sublime.  I listen to rock, jazz and blues.  My speakers also tend to be bright, now they sound perfect.  I've used 3 different CJ tube preamps with the BC's and they've all have great synergy.    

   Just to let you know, I also use class D monoblock amps in my system, D-Sonic M3-600-M.  They're also very neutral and revealing like your Bel Cantos are.
    Initially, I paired them with a VTL 2.5 preamp with NOS (new old stock) Mullard tubes.  This gave me a warmer, more immediate and dimensional total system sound that seemed very life-like;  as if the musicians were in my room or I was at the venue, especially on good acoustic recordings.  I think this is very similar to what you described as "intimate".

     I think irish_tim's suggestion of a Conrad Johnson Classic SE preamp may also be to your liking.  You should be aware, however, that both the VTL and Conrad Johnson only have unbalanced RCA outputs while your amps have the choice of either RCA or XLR inputs. You stated you'd like to try a preamp that has XLR outputs, if not a fully balanced preamp.

       Here's a link to a previous Audiogon discussion of fully balanced preamps that you might find useful:  

Thank you both for your input. What is your opinion on McIntosh c2200 or even c2300?



With the input impedance of your BC 1000 monoblocks being 200k ohms balanced and 100k ohms unbalanced. These amps are a perfect candidate for the Schiit Freya,

1: balance or rca
2: remote control
3: you can select between active tube, active s/s, or passive operation, all of which are a perfect match with the 1000 MkII’s high input impedance.
4: It also has a very high class volume control being 128 position switched relay operation

You can select what your mood is with the 3 different modes and it has a trial period.

It’s designed by Mike Moffat who was the chief designer at Theta, so he knows his stuff. And because it’s not a "glitz queen" to look at, it’s a very good price at $699 refundable if not happy.

Cheers George

I'm in a similar situation looking to replace my solid state pre with something to spice things up and possibly infuse even more life into the music.  This one has caught my eye, fits in your budget new, and has a brief in-home trial.  Best of luck in your search.