The Aesthetix IO comes to mind, or are you unhappy with Aesthetix products?
Is it not possible to replace your Wavac?
Is it not possible to replace your Wavac?
I'll throw in the Single Power units.Ultimate Maestro SDS XLR. I have an upgraded prototype MPX3 SLAM the designer shipped too me to play with. I can only imagine what the top headamps/preamplifiers can do. 150lbs is a lot of preamp..this is a serious piece of equipment! Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the top models. I'm not affiliated with this dealer or the company. I just know this is some great sounding equipment. The units even come Gold or Nickel plated at your request. All units are custom built to the owner's taste. It doesn't get much more esoteric than that. Mikhail is also one of the nicest guys you can call and chat with in the industry.
I am completely satisfied with my Callisto preamp and also have to add that Jim White has been incredibly accomodating and helpful. I would recommend Aesthetix to anyone looking for a preamp. I'm simply thinking about getting an interesing preamp for my half-built second system.
Fi does look interesting, as does single power.
I sold the Wavac at a too low price a few years back, before the MSRP doubled. It was the singularly most musical (romantic) preamp I have owned and imparted a magic that made everything sound good. The rationalist in me said that can't be so I sold it thinking neutrality was more important. I'd say that music is a visceral experience first and cerebral second.
Thanks Restock! I forgot to add ..the last time I spoke to Mikhail. He was designing tube adapters for his preamps. He said it was possible to try a huge variety of tubes/voltages just by popping in the inserts. Unfortunetly these adapters only work with the Single Power preamps. So skys the limit on tube rolling!
Any of the progression of Emmanual Go's First Sound preamps, beginning with the Presence Deluxe Mk II, very impressive, simple dual-mono construction, massive power supply, all copper-plated steel chassis, one tube in the signal path, tube shunt regulated B+, point-to-point, dead quite. Finally found my pre-amp-for-life ... ahem, I think.
A while ago I had the newest Viva preamp, phonostage, and their Verona amps in for a listen. The preamp and phonostage are each 2 chassis units that have innovative power supplies that use a 300B tube as a rectifier. Great build quality, very reliable, fabulous looks, and man, the performance captured my soul. The current Viva products are highly worth a listen and consideration. See Viva website. Certainly the Viva Linea 45 fits your requirement of a highend preamp that is esoteric and in your price range.
I auditioned and put in an order for an Emotive Audio Epifania linestage. I have no idea about it's topology, except that the manufacturer claims that the signal passes through only one output tube and somehow the output impedance is kept very low without the use of a cathode follower.
The Epifania can be ordered with several options -- with or without teflon caps (quite expensive), manual or remote control (volume, balance, mute and input switching), and choice of wood for the base. The base model is something like $17,000.
As far as I know, it has only been reviewed once, by the recording engineer Steve Hoffman, for the on-line magazine Tone. I believe this is the same person who has given rave reviews to WAVAC amplifiers so he is on the same page as you are.
Another vote for the New Audio Frontiers "Absolute" preamplifier. As a note, our company is the US distributor of NAF and with extensive experience with the Wavac products....the NAF "Absolute" is very special and thankfully a very honorable company!!!!
Reviews and info on our website (www.tmhaudio.com) for those inquisitive minds. btw, their "845" SET amps are nothing short of stunning - all relatively affordable for ultra high performance products, too.
I think I would also throw in a vote for Viva. Their pre-amps and amps really deliver a truly lush life-like sound. It's like the singers are standing in the room with you -haunting, really.
And they also fit your other criteria..... esoteric, obscure, hard to find, 'Spensive, sexy good looks, great finish, exotic, jaw dropping, "what the hell is that?" etc.
I have just picked up the "VivA Fono" stage. This stage works extremely well with my Lyra Titan cartridge once I removed the loading resistors and substituted the 12AX7 tubes with Amperex Bugle Boys (the model I tried was originally set up for a Transfiguration Orpheus).
The Fono is, in my setup, rich, musical and non-mechanical sounding. It is not overly warm or sluggish and it does not round off detail.
My only big "issues" with it have to do with size and difficulty integrating it into my setup. It is comprised of two very big, albeit well constructed, boxes.
This is rare/obscure/hi-end. Hand built to any spec with no distribution. Not much info out there, but some people have raved about them.
He can make any one in any fashion you like.
For example a QA-806 made with separate power supplies and a 2 colour chassis including piano black finish with all the extra options (inputs, remote, etc) would be pricey, impressive, and nice.....
You have to speak with Albert to really understand the options on all of the preamps.