You may want to look at preamps by Blue Circle BC-3.1 and BC-3000. I have owned the BC-3.1 and it threw one heck of a soundstage.
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here's my recent experience. i was using a linn kairn w/the latest slimline briliant power supply, & it was excellent in all areas, except depth. i'm using meret re monitors, biamped w/a pair of electrocompaniet amps; crossed-over at 60hz w/a marchand 24db/octave x-over, to a pair of vmps larger subs, driven by a pair of bridged adcom gfa-555's. it had dynamics, clarity, detail, soundstage height & width, timbral accuracy, but no depth. so, i went on a tube-preamp search. here's *my* opinions on three - good-better-best: good: rogue 99 w/magnum upgrades. might have done better, but i believe there was an impedence mismatch w/this in my system, which led to poor bass response - both texturally & dynamically. in fairness to the rogue, tho, if i dint have this bass problem, i would have stopped here & not continued the search. while i missed not having a tape monitor loop & a balance control, it is a very nice-sounding unit. better: the cary slp 98-l bettered the rogue in my system in all areas, but not by a huge margin. in the bass, tho, the cary got it right, where the rogue didn't, in my set-up. it *might* have ended here, but i found the opportunity to get a good deal on a melos music director, due to the companys' recent shakey history, so i took a gamble. well, this thing is absolutely fantastic! incredible dynamics, great soundstage, including depth, detail & transparency and accuracy as good as any top solid-state preamp, imho. but, yes, melos had some problems, & i have been affected. this unit dint have all the latest music director updates as the owner claimed, and the remote wasn't functioning properly, so i sent it to the *new* melos to have them completed. i can't really fault the previous owner, who i believe sold me what he thought was a music director in good faith. this unit *did* have about half the updates from a ma-333, so it seems the *old* melos took a little advantage when the previous owner sent it in for upgrading. the seller agreed to split the cost or take it back; i chose to keep it. i can't wait to get to back, when i do, the cary will be put up for sale... (shameless plug!) ;~) doug
I owned the BAT VK-5i at one time and out of all the preamps I owned (several), it was the most 3-D with pinpoint imaging. Almost to the point of being distracting. I now own the Thor TA-1000 linestage. It has great depth and imaging and is 3-D, but it is very musical and not at all distracting. The Thor is by far the least mechanical sounding preamp I've ever owned. It's a bit expensive, but has all the attributes I was after. mike
(Continued from last post hit the wrong button) quite transparent is the ARC SP-8 if you can find one used at a reasonable price (800.00 or less). Both these pre-amps will provide what you are looking for at a bargain. I am quite familiar with both of these pieces and can't recommend them highly enough based on your criteria and price point. I still use an SP-8 and really can't want for more than it offers without spending MUCHO more. Good luck!