Preamp recommendations up to $2000

Hi everyone. The upgrade bug has reared it's head again and I'm starting to look for a better preamp. My present system is: Audio Note CD-2, Mapletree 2A SE pre, Edge G4 amp, and GMA Pico Executive speakers. I listen to mostly classical, with some pop/rock.

I don't have the audio vocabulary some of you do, but I guess I'm looking for a more open sound with a little more presence. I also wouldn't mind if the bass was a little fuller.

Although the Mapletree is a tube preamp, I would like all suggestions, including SS.

Check the "goN" for the following:

Jeff Rowland Capri S preamplifier with phono card

Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS line stage preamp
Shindo Aurieges L
Hovland HP-100 with mm and mc-7 phono
A used Atma-Sphere MP-3 is another to consider.

If you stretch your budget to $2500, you may be able to find a used Lamm
LL2 Deluxe or First Sound Presence Deluxe II.
Audio Horizons TP 2.0 or 2.1
Lamm LL2
Supratek Chenin.
All used of course and yes if you could stretch that budget another $500 you'll be well rewarded.
Though they do not come up FS often, look for PS Audio GCP. I owned on for a number of years.
I second LaPierre's suggestion for Rowland Capri as an excellent SS option. I also listen mostly to classical music and prefer Capri over ARC Ref 3 for extension, linearity, and harmonic integrity. Just 2 words of qualification. . .
1. Capri is symmetrically balanced and will ield best results in a fully balanced configuration using XLR ICs throughout the system.
2. The bass generated by Capri is deep, tuneful, has authority. . . but is not 'full', if full means yielding a euphonic emphasis of the lower octaves.

The PrimaLuna amps sound great, and are very user-friendly, if you want to stick to the tubes.
A VAC Standard Le used is a good deal at 2000 $ used. Includes a mc/mm phono stage.
For solid state I would look at Klyne and for tube I also like Atmasphere.
Looking at this thread, there are really outstanding suggestions offered. All of them winners.
I just auditioned a Bryston BP-6 that's in your price range, and if "open" is what you're after I can't imagine it getting much better than this. Ultra clean and undistorted sound with holographic imaging in spades that emerges from a crystal clear backdrop. Only negative is it doesn't offer balanced connections if that matters. Best of luck.
For $2000 used, I would suggest the Pass X-1. It is extremely neutral and quiet, though I haven't heard it with the Edge amp. There are a few reviews online.
I am quite happy with my newly acquired Modright swlp 9.0se w/ external tube PS. I have it driving VTL Deluxe 300 monoblocks into Infinity Gammas. Very detailed and not harsh at all. Very nice preamp and a steal at the price.
Dodd Battery Preamp. You don't find many used, but close to that price new.
I've taken a flyer on a Juicy Music Peach. Very curious to hear what a well regarded, sub $1000 (used), 6922 based preamp can do.

Boy there is a deHavilland Ultraverve on agon for $1900+-. Go to the dehavilland website and read Dick Olshers review. Enough said.
I would have thought that "neutrality" was the ideal for a preamp. That is, if possible, the preamp should do as little sonically to the source signal as possible. I'm not sure what's meant by "presence" exactly, or "openness," (no criticism of your vocabulary, by the way--audiophilese is laden with such obscurities) but I would think bass would be better addressed w/ tone controls, room treatments and the like. Ideally, to my way of thinking, the best preamp is the one that exactly matches the sound of the source fed directly into the amp, unless of course you're using the preamp to mollify the perceived deficiencies of something else in your system.
Many different preamps offering varying degrees of coloration in high end
audio. It would appear the OP's idea of ideal is something with coloration rather
than neutrality.
A second vote for the PASS X1 or X2.5 - both are excellent neutral sounding well-built fully balanced Preamps. - with great customer service from PASS as well. Worth checking out...
The Ultra SL hybrid tube/solid state preamp from Audio by Van Alstine is a terrific component regardless of cost, but it does happen to cost less than $2k.
Audio Research LS5 MKIII it's the one componant of mine I've never been tempted to upgrade.
I would expect sounds real, and any retailer for that matter, to disclose their affilitaion with the products endorsed in a thread.

Not doing so is unethical.

I'd be very interested in your observations on the Juicy Music pre.
2nd DODD battery pre.
Great.....if not awesome. Especially when compared to preamps in that class and price range.
Garage brand at its best.........Right Bill?

OP, any thoughts?
Elvis has left the building.

Based on his thread history, the odds of him returning are 1:5.
LOL, No, I'm still here. I got more replies than I thought I would and am trying to research them all. I kindly thank everyone who has replied.

As to my thoughts, I haven't formed any concrete ones yet. I wish I could go to $2500, but really can't. I'm leaning to staying with tubes and am wondering how much improvement some of these suggestions would make over my budget model. Wish there was somewhere to rent some of this equipment to listen to for awhile.

I'm in a similar boat as you regarding a possible pre-amp upgrade in the same general price range. I have identified many options including some mentioned here. I think when and if I do it, I will create a short list and then look to see which ones match up best to my amp in regards to output impedance and sensitivity levels to narrow it down further. I have no idea yet at this point exactly where that would leave me.

One option I would consider that would not get much mention otherwise I think is a vintage Tandberg pre-amp only because I have owned a Tandberg receiver (TR2080) and mated it with my system with very excellent results in the past and I think a Tandberg pre-amp would be even more exceptional.
Audible Illusions Modulud 3A...(I love saying that). Its around 800-1200 used. Tubed pre. Go for the L2 version if you can (comes with remote). Amazing pre for half of what your willing to pay. Look it up on google and here in the forums...its an amazing piece that is many ways approaches my 10,000 Wytech Labs Opal pre. No joke.
If you have any money tied up in a good power cable, or were going to, then consider that the Dodd doesn't need one, since it runs off battery power.
Of the suggestions above that are in or close to $2k, nothing comes close IME. The Supratek is closest, and includes a very good phono stage, but note that the company isn't in business any longer, if that matters to you.

Haven't heard the Rowland Capri. Cheers,

Just to give you some perspective on the Dodd, I've come to prefer it after having owned CAT, Lamm, Joule, Placette Active and Passive, Atma-sphere (which I prefer with my Atma amps) and a BENT Tap-X. I'm not saying you would like it better than any of these, though most would be out of the price range you are considering, but the Dodd certainly competes in this league. I especially like it with some NOS Amperex rolled in, the preamp essentially let's you hear the tube to some extent so it can be "voiced" to your preference - it doesn't sound at all badd with the JJ it comes with. As a former owner of the AI 3A, I can say that all of the above preamps were preferable to my ears - though for $800-1,200 it is a might fine sounding unit, just not in the same league with Dodd IMHO.
I second the deHavilland. There is a Mercury II for sale right now on Audiogon for $1995. If I didn't already own one, I'd buy it.
What is the input impedance of your Edge amp? Not sure about the output impedance of the other amps mentioned (AI was quite high if I remember correctly) but the Dodd is a 200 ohm output impedance (a very good thing for balanced sound across the bandwidth) single ended which about as low I've seen on a tube preamp and should be quite compatible with lowish input impedances found on most SS amps.
It's too bad the Dodd does not have a tape loop. It'd open up the possibilities to more buyers. 200 ohms output impedance is a good spec for use with low impedance solid state amps.

The Juicy Music Peach has a tape loop, and a Lo Z (80 ohm) output impedance option. Two reasons I chose to give it a try.

If Gary's preamp had a tape loop, I'd likely have tried it long ago.
There a Modwright with Tube recitfier and upgraded caps for $1700 here. That's a excellent preamp for that $$
No association. I own a Modwright and a Supratek . They do sound different but one is not really better than the other.
One needs to be sold soon, but the market here is pretty bad and if you have the bucks nows the time to find some great deals.

When will you get the Juicy Music?
I know i said I was leaning toward tubes, but does anyone have any experience with the Blue Circle BC 103 or CJ Premier 18LS? Thanks.
Juicy Music Peach was received today and installed. Really fun preamp! Very quiet.

It has two output impedance settings: SuperLo Z (90 ohms) for use with low input impedance amps (typically SS), and HiZ (3500 ohms) for use with typical tube amps. I find myself using SuperLo Z with my Pass Labs amps that have fairly low input impedance specs.

The HiZ mode reminds me of triode mode on an amp that has both triode and pentode modes; it has a wide image with lots of air and a touch of softness. The SuperLo Z mode would be analogous to pentode mode: a bit more punch, and a slightly deeper yet narrower image. I can definitely see where the HiZ mode could be preferable in a system with tube amps because of the very natural presentation of the music.

Lots of toe tapping going on here at Chez Tvad.
If you could stretch your budget about $400, an Aesthetix Calpso used would be really nice.

The switchable output impedance settings is intriguing to me.

How is the detail and imaging accuracy with each?

Does it have a phono pre-amp built in that can take a low out MC cart?

Also, how many outputs does it provide? Can it support a processor and output for recording concurrently?
Detail and imaging accuracy is equal on both settings, IMO.

It does not have a built in phono. The Blueberry model has a built in phono, but the Blueberry does not have the SuperLo Z output option.

It has four inputs, plus a tape loop input. One set of main outputs, plus tape loop outputs. It has a Home Theater bypass switch

Details here.

What are your impressions compared to other Preamps you are familiar with?

What do you think a Peach would do for my system?
What are your impressions compared to other Preamps you are familiar with?
I think it is very close to the Lamm LL2 Deluxe. Similar qualities. In fact, hearing the Peach made me think of giving an LL2 Deluxe a try in my present system, which is something I had thought would not work.

I like the Peach better than I did the Modwright SWP9.0SE.

What do you think a Peach would do for my system?
Mapman (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers)
Only you can answer that.


Keep the thoughts coming.

The Peach is high on my consideration list for next pre-amp in my system at some point.

I see there is a deHavilland Mercury on agon for $1900. Don't let that slip by.