Why isn't an Ayre preamp under your consideration? You can't do better.
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As a fan of tube preamps, Klyne is the only SS preamp that I would consider.
I certainly haven't heard them all, but I've owned Levinson, Krell, Classe, Rowland, Klyne, Coda, Threshold and had Ayre, Pass Labs, Spectral, and BAT preamps in my system.
I have not heard Vitus, Burmester, MBL, etc., but they may be over your $10K range, even used.
Curiously, how hard is it to change tubes? Some tube designs even have the tubes openly accessible.
Dear Infection:. I really like the VTL. Really, the only reason to switch is to avoid having to pull the unit out a couple of times per year and change the tubes.
I like noromance's advice--. When it comes time to change the tubes, and if I do not want to do it, I will hire someone!
Thanks for all the comments.
I've had a VTL 2.5 for over 12 years that is on 24x7 and serves double duty for music and TV -- i.e. it sees a LOT of use. I finally did a re-tube this year. To be fair, one tube started acting up about a 18 months ago, but the preamp certainly does not require new tubes every couple of years, let alone a couple of times per year as you've experienced with your 5.5. Have you spoken with VTL about your experience to get their perspective?