If you're not dead set on the remote, I'd get a Supratek Syrah... see the thread about best preamps under $10k.
I have a similar system (Supratek--SMC DNA 0.5 Platinum--Ref. III's).
BAT 3i at the bottom of your price, 5i at the top end.
I owned a DNA-125 paired with a Sonic Frontiers Line 1 with great results. The McCormack with a very clear-sounding amp, but a bit lean as I recall, the Line 1 gave it a nice roundness to the sound. The line 1 also offers a ton of features : polarity reversal, programmable input, and the cool round remote, and much more. Add to this SF legendary build quality and parts selection and you might have a winner here. Good luck.
I have a DNA-500 - admittedly not a 125, but somewhat similar McC "house" sound, if you will.
My first preamp match was a VAC STD LE which I got for a little over $2K, used. The synergy was excellent, and this tube preamp has all the features you are looking for. Great sound, plus the pre is built like a tank, with the best support in the business, IMO, by Kevin Hayes. Excellent value as well. Many have successfully matched VAC gear with McCormack amps (and have big smiles on their faces). Worth a listen if you can find this pre..........
With no disrespect to Swampwalker, be careful with the Bat 3i and McCormack. The Bat preamp can leak DC and shut down McCormack amps.
I use ARC LS-15 with my DNA-125. My friend uses Sonic Frontiers Line-1. Both sound great with this amp. Both are reliable preamps with excellent sonics. Best of luck.
Whatever you do, get one with a finely stepped volume attenuator becasue the McCormack can go postal on gain in a hurry if you don't. If a remote is not a must, try a Herron VTSP-1A/166. A perfect match, IMHO.
I use a TAD-150 Signature with my 125 (stock) and I love it. Has everyting you are looking for except the price tag. Used 700 to 850 or so, new $1595 when they are in stock but Paul at Bizzy Bee won't have new ones again till Summer? Amazing for the money and has a decent phono stage. Sounds great.Throws an unbelieveable soundstage!
Note to Rwwear: Thanks for your caution, but you are just a little off-base. Your comment refers to the original amps (DNA-0.5, -1, and -2), not the current DNA-125, 225, or 500. The original amps had protection circuitry that was intended to sense potentially damaging DC levels, but could be triggered by high levels of low-frequency noise. This happened rarely, but I have seen it caused by a variety of tube preamps. A simple adjustment will fix this. The newer DNA amps are designed differently and are not sensitive to DC or low-frequency noise.
4yanx's comment is right on - tube preamps tend to run at rather high gain, so a high-resolution volume control makes life a whole lot easier.
Actually, I did have a problem with DC leakage/amp shutdown with a 0.5/3i combo. BAT diagnosed it as a bad resistor, fixed it in 24 hrs and I had it back in about 4 days total. Never had the problem again. And a hearty re-inforcement with the gain matching comments. I sold a CAT SL-1 MK2 that succeeded the BAT I had cause the stepped gain attenuator could not be properly "fine tuned".
Thanks for the update Steve. We used to sell BAT and McCormack years ago and often had problems when they were paired together.
A Threshold FET1, about 20 year old would be worth considering. Priced at around 2000$ when new, they usually go for up to 500-600$ and there is an auction on eBay right now for a nice MkII unit from Australia (at least judging by the pics). I own one that I bought 3 months ago for 220$ and I am delighted by the sound, includes an truly excellent adjustable phono stage (MM&MC). Add to that the fact it is a Nelson Pass design beautifully put together like some instrument-grade lab hardware, what more could you want? A remote control...
Rogue 66 Mag with RCA clear top 12au7's.Get ready to grin from ear to ear when you hear this combo.I own a Rogue 66 mag and have tried many amps,both ss and tube.Also I have tried all the makes of tubes worth mention.The RCA clear tops are my favorite in this pre.Try it,you'll like it. The Gixerman
audible illusions Modulus 3a
modwright swl 9.0 se
Any Conrad-Johnson preamps in his price range that would work well with this or other McCormack amps?
I just wanted to thank everyone for the great advice given in this thread. In the end I chose the VAC Standard LE and I'm very glad I did. The synergy with my DNA-125 is better than I expected. This combo is just magical. The VAC bettered my highly modded Melos SHA Gold Reference(Auricaps, Blackgates, Holcos) in every way. Next step is sending the STD LE in to Kevin Hayes for his MKII upgrade and the amp to SMC for an upgrade.
Perhaps you should concider the McCormack RLD-1. It is a fully remote, stereo pre-amp with the added feature of having a HT feed-thru. You can use your choice of processor types, plus have a TRUE "stereo" pre-amp without comprimize. It is a VERY good sounding pre-amp, with a ton of that vibrant drive and inner detail that separates the real "hi-end" from the wanna-bee's. It is "super" open, involving and, yes, (can be) "tube" sounding. It is VERY cable sensitive, so it's sonic charactor can be twisted around a bit. The RLD-1 is a bargin retail (1.8k), but used... about 1K or so.
I second the TAD-150 Signature but, they are no longer in production and if you can find one they are getting close to or more than a grand.I had mine with a DNA-1. I have since gone all tube but, the DNA-1-Tad combo was a winner.