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Take a look at my review on the Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL headphone/preamplifier on hometheaterreview.com that I made one of my products of the year for the details of its performance. In one of my systems I have a pair of Pass Labs XA-60.8 mono-blocks that were a match in sonic heaven with the MicroZOTL. I have also heard with XA-30.8 with the same results.
I believe that Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL is a very special headphone amp / preamp.
Both TAS and Stereophile also have very positive reviews.
But with only two inputs / no remote / DC power supply.....
Hope I’ll have the chance to demo one in home in the future.
Because of space limit, I can only consider Pass Labs' SP10.
Actually I also considered Pass Labs' INT-60 integrated when I bought the XA30.8.
Pass' preamp has no HT bypass in or fixed record/tape out, so it can't be used with a headphone amp.
I would have purchased the INT-60 instead if not for the lacking of some preamp functions.
And I remember that lots of people recommend to mate tube preamp with solid state power amp.
I hope I can find other brand to match Pass perfectly.....
The the new Micro ZOTL version with 3 inputs and remote is called the MZ2-S. I have ordered one and will have it next week. I already own 2 Micro ZOTL's and can say that it's the finest preamp I've ever heard. The only thing that's hard to believe is the price. you can't go wrong with a trial period. If you don't like it send it back, even the shipping is cheap because the thing weights next to nothing.
The Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamp fits the bill. Plenty of inputs and a great MM MC phono stage, plus a processor loop and outputs for headphones. I am positively thrilled with mine and I have a;ways had tube preamps. It also is remote controlled and is dead quiet, even with the volume all the way up, no hiss whatsoever.
I am familiar with the Aesthetix Calypso and while it is not a warm preamp, it does respond to the tubes you put in it, so you can adjust the sound with tubes. It has a remote with balance control, which I like.
The only drawback with the tubes is that the tube that handles voltage amplification is a 12AX7, which is not as common and is usually more expensive than other tube types for NOS tubes. For current production tubes, cost is not a factor.
I don't know how it compares with the other preamps mentioned, but it's a good preamp and would work well in your system with the right tubes.Buy your tubes from a reputable dealer and talk to them about what you want soundwise before placing an order. That will save you a lot of money and help ensure you get the sound you want.
Some reputable dealers, but not all, are:
Vintage Tube Services
There are more. Just search the archives for "tube dealers" and you’ll find a number of threads on this topic.
Teajay, the Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL does not have balanced inputs outputs, and from what I know, pass amps sound better thru balanced inputs. So your combo of MicroZOTL and XA-60.8 or X250.8 sounded better using RCA inputs than other
Mcintosh C2500 can be had used or NOS
Mcintosh C2600 new
I recently purchased the C2500 NOS and love it. Before deciding, I researched VTL, CJ and AR, new and used. I’ve had it for three weeks now and it responds well to tube rolling and has an internal DAC, which I don’t use or need, plus two nice phono sections, MM and MC. In my system it has a smooth upper end and very good bass. It came with 6 12AX7’s that are ok. I put in two new Gold Lion in the main slots and and Mullards in the MC area, all were reissues.