Well, as an owner of an ARC REF 6SE, no question that would be my recommendation. It's the cost is a bit too high just buy a Ref 6... or Ref 5SE. I owned a REF 5SE for many years... the 6SE sounds better... but I would prefer that to anything else. This is what Audio Research is known for... You have some great components... the preamp is at the center of it all... it is critical to get this right. The ARC is highly detailed, natural sounding with exceptional midrange bloom and detailed bass.
@fuzztone - thanks for your responses. The existing Dartzeel equipment is not in my budget. I searched fo any announcement of a new preamplifier, but could not find any information. Would you elaborate please?
I'm not sure the Denafrips Athena competes at the kind of price point you are comfortable with but I sure am happy with mine. Four XLR inputs, one RCA input, two XLR outputs and one RCA output. 60 step remote control. $2000. I'm not sure how to describe the sound except to say it is the first preamp I've tried that improves over DAC direct to amp. But I know nothing about truly high end preamps. Sadly no returns and not many reviews.
On your list, I like the Ayre. I have always like the sound of that brand and it has been a part of some of the best sounding systems I have ever heard and I used to have a K5xeMP.
Another option would be the PS Audio BHK Signature. I personally owned this for a stretch and enjoyed it paired with VTL MB-185s. The stock tubes are horrid but if you roll in NOS Tunsgrams, it is outstanding.
I ultimately moved away from balanced systems and run single ended gear now but that is more the nature of the brands I import.
i have no relationship with Ayre or PS Audio other than being a happy former owner.
Although the Backert is a fantastic sounding pre, and has XLR outputs, it's not truly balanced. So that may not meet your requirement.
When I've heard Wilsons sound there best it's always been with tube amps and preamps (usually VTL), so of your choices, I'd suggest the Ref 6 (or 5 for cost).
Personally, BAT and VTL would be added to the contenders. Cheers,
Indeed. welcome to 2021. A world where you can become the slave to the renters of most all your music needs for the price they set which is guaranteed to increase until you ditch it like the people who have ditched cable TV which used to cost $10 month. Of course that will not include all the music which was not digitized. But on the bright side, you won't have any music to pack & move when you xcan no longer afford the rent or when the owner decides to rent to his children or other relatives.
Yep, thats the modern world.
So, you’ve got a fairly expensive system and about to drop up to another $10k on a preamp, and you can’t communicate THE most important info necessary to make an informed recommendation — what sound characteristics you’re looking for from the new pre? Are you planning on making a purchase decision at this level based on what WE like? This is truly sad, and I shan’t waste my time tilting at someone’s ghost windmill, but I hope everyone else enjoys whacking away. Peace out.
You might find the S.A.Laboratory Thunderbird interesting for that set of criteria and budget. Extremely high quality. Finished in your choice of actual Ferrari paint!
Heads up that I'm a S.A.Lab dealer.
Not very enlightened. I already have both ROON and Qobuz. Along with on air FM access to one of the best radio stations in the world on an incredible tuner. This station plays mostly music that I have never heard before (and I know music). My classic SACD player, that was modified 20 years ago, stil sounds like a million bucks on things like my SACD of DSOTM. Not going to get that musical experience with Qobuz or Tidal. Considerd yourself a little enlightened.
To everyone who has made suggestions or constructive comments, thank you. I aapreciate your time and effort.
Some time ago, I bought a smoker before I knew what aspects were important to me, or how to use it. A few years later, I was a national champion. Some of us learn by doing. Oh, and now I use that knowledge to help others, many that don’t know why they want in a new pit.
I read way more than I post, because I want to learn. I find this forum can be very helpful. I’ve also logged a ton of miles and hours, listening and auditioning. I’ve read many of your helpful posts. Today you decided to chastise me for being honest. That’s okay, I’m a big boy. Next time though, if you have nothing constructive to add, keep scrolling. There are many other positive, helpful people here on Audiogon.
That is a nice list of contender preamplifiers you have. With your generous budget I would suggest consideration of a used Atma-sphere MP-1 preamplifier. It is a splendid unit.
The Aesthetix Calypso or Pallene might be a good fit and are both balanced designs and sound great in every system I have heard them in.. Both are hybrid designs. I have not heard either with any Parasound amps so some additional research may be requires. Homnestly I would try to hear whatever you are going to buy in your system first to be sure that they play well together. Good Luck!
Townshend Audio Allegri Reference preamp..It's a passive preamp. I think it has everything you listed. Look into it.
I just received mine yesterday to run a pair of Jeff Rowland Model 12 monoblocks driving JM Lab/Focal Mezzo Utopia's.
My phono pre is a tube Rogue Audio Ares Magnum. With a Vertere MG-1 TT for stereo and a Basis Audio TT as my mono table.
Your digital setup must be pretty mediocre then if you can’t get Qobuz into it in high quality. They have every SACD ever released in even higher quality than was available on disk. Roon can also access local hard drive storage as well. And there’s probably 100000 internet radio stations. And let’s not mention the degraded quality passing the signal through all the extra circuitry and interconnects. Yuck, disgusting. I haven’t ran a preamp for 20 years now.
@amplifierdude My digital is actually excellent read some of my posts on the subject to likely learn some things. I have been with ROON even before they released the first product and use almost every feature on it. I also setup (for $$) ROON based streaming listening stations for audio shows.
If you have had decent gear for 20 years and you make such comments then I must conclude it is your hearing that is deficient. Streaming radio vs over the air FM, sure thing. Have fun in your digital world.
Why not a "plain" Ref 6? That can be had for under 10K. Snagging a 6SE at that price point is...optimistic. I’ve moved on from my Ref 6, to a VAC Master, and yet I still admire the 6. It’s really a matter of system matching and personal preference as to which is better. The Master is unabashedly tube sounding - in one of the most resolving and beautiful implementations possible for that path. On the other hand, the Ref 6 straddles the line between traditional top tube and top SS sonics very successfully. Because of that, it can match nicely with different amplifiers. I had to work a bit more to start tapping the Master's potential in my system.
Rafael Todes reviewed the Townshend Audio Allegri Reference for www.stereonet.co.uk and he uses the Bartok. He performs with the Allegri String Quartet. I believe he subsequently bought one for his own system - I've had mine for just over a year and am delighted with it. No expensive mains lead required and built in seismic suspension, it appears to fit your requirement for two XLR inputs plus balanced output. I prefer balanced to power amp. It needs some time to bed in due to the copious use of Townshend's Fractal wiring internally.
Occasionally in the corporate world some employee that skirted on the edge of getting fired would finally reach his melting point, write an email copied to all employees condemning the incompetence of everyone around and above him and quit. It would bring a smile to my face because the content of the memo would so completely discredit him in every ones eyes that none of us on the executive staff would bother to comment to each other, only a sigh of relief and move on to something with substance. I don't think anyone in the company would read more than a sentence.