I can vouch for the First Sound also. Mine just came back less than two weeks ago, completely updated to current specs. While I would never claim it is "The Best," it is certainly a magical preamp. It does, however, take weeks to break in, as I found out. Once it does, though, you can expect an involving experience, musically speaking. It is quite dynamic, doesn't seem to slight any frequencies at the expense of others, and is just flat out beautiful. The neutrality is evidenced by its rendering of the differences between CDs (haven't gotten a phono stage yet). The CDs sound different cut to cut, which is an indicator of a component with little sound of its own. I'm thrilled with it. At the moment, it is partnered with a Marsh A400, which sounds pretty good, but my main amp is the Hurricanes (one is in the shop for a blown fuse repair),and even in the old version, it was magical. The ambience retrieval was super on the older version (my First Sound unit was originally built in 1993, according to Emanuel, so it was old, old, old) and, with the Hurricane amps, I could barely stop listening to it.
The biggest test of a component is whether or not it makes the music make sense, not it's "stupendous bass," or "great imaging." The First Sound delivers in spades. It has excellent tonality, and the "colors" of the instruments are beautiful, with out being Technicolor. You'll die over it.
I'm planning on getting a MicroGroove Plus phono stage; that should float my boat for the new few years...
Good Luck with whatever you choose. Whatever moves you to your soul is the best unit for you to buy.