Seeking suggestions for Preamp

Current speakers/amps:

- Wilson Sophia 2's
- Pass XA 100.5 and/or Citadel 1.5 amps

Preamps auditioned:
- Audio Research REF 3
- VTL 5.5
- Esoteric C-03
- Doshi Alaap

I don't like the REF 3 - there's nothing about it that I like. The VTL was dirty sounding. The Esoteric was nice, but brand new and I only auditioned it for an hour or so, but it didn't quite have the body I was looking for.

The Doshi has it in spades and might be my answer, but I'm looking to see what else is out there.

I'm looking for something romantic and a bit bloomy, but NOT noisy and very extended (don't like anything the least bit rolled off on top).

I'm about to try the Pass XP-20 preamp even though it's solid state.

Any ideas of other pre's to pursue?
Accuphase C-200
For a solid state amp, it will be like a clear window into the sound.
Hi Madfloyd,

I haven't heard the Doshi Alaap so I am not sure what type of sound you are going for. You might put the Cary SLP-05 on your list if you want to stay with tubes. I was auditioning an ARC LS-26 in my system with my Pass amp, and I didn't like it either. It had less body and more glare in the upper midrange than my solid state preamp. However, my buddy brought over a Cary and it mated very nicely with the Pass. Comparative to good solid state it sounded slightly colored, but not at all in a bad way.

A word of warning if you try the XP-20; if it is anything like the XP-10 it will sound withdrawn with no extension out of the box. It becomes a very different preamp as it warms up. Mine took about a week to really open up (judging by direct comparison to my existing preamp). It is very quiet when run balanced into a Pass amp. It is also proving to have excellent body for a solid state preamp. Haven't heard the XP-20 though.

Good luck,
For something different, might I suggest a passive pre? You never know, you might like it. Sonic Euphoria does it for me!

I am second for Cary SLP-05 - I think it is exactly what you are looking for. I do not like ARC either, but SLP-05 with NOS tubes in my system sounds exactly as you describes - "something romantic and a bit bloomy, but NOT noisy and very extended".
Good luck.
Audio Horizons with NOS tubes, very quiet and extended in dynamic range and frequency. 30 day trial but quite good out of the box and gets better. Terrific service and upgrade path. Has balanced outputs.
Those are great Pass amps - enjoy
Joule Marianne Electra (LA-300).
Joule Electra LAP 150 mk II.Wonderful pre - quiet,extended, dynamic and romantic to my ears although not bloomy really but musical.Very involving and virtually no fatigue factor.
The Alaap Doshi is a great start. You may also want to check out:

Messenger Preamp

Aria WV5 XL preamp

Shindo Petrus III Dual Mono Pre-Amplifier

VAC Renaissance Signature Mk II

Dodd Audio battery preamp. Great value. (owned it)
RWA Isabella (with DAC) is excellent to my ears but you might find it to textured.

affiliation with RWA

I own the CJ Act 2 and think it has the qualities your looking for. If you try or get to hear one make sure it's on a good isolation device so you get to hear how clear it is!
I recently travelled a similar path and settled on an Atma Sphere MP-1 MKIII. I'm very happy with it. The world class phono stage is a real bonus if you need it.

I also looked through SS preamps and I'm not convinced they will match your sound preferences. For me the best one I ever found was an Ayre KXR.
Well Madfloyd, here's another preamp for your audition list. I went through a long auditioning process, which included at least three of the linestages that you mention and others, and found that the AudioValve Eklipse was far above the other pieces not only sonicly but also in build quality. For alot more details take a look at my review of the Eklispe here on the GON.
It seems you prefer tubes, but as a suggestion, I would also look at the reflection OM1.
It's world class.
Thanks for the all the responses!
A VTL 5.5 is not designed to drive Solid State amps. For that you need the 6.5 or 7.5. Of course it would sound bad. It is a gross mismatch.
Coda,good stuff
04-21-09: Coffeey
Coda,good stuff

Yes it is, if you must do solid state. Fortunately for us, most of us have left SS for tubes......
I second VAC for tubes. On my 2nd VAC preamp and its very good, although I'm told the Renaissance Signature Mk 2 mentioned by John above is even better. I'd say it hits your parameters - the sound is very hypnotic (in a good way) and draws you into the music. Build quality/support are as good as it gets.
The Fire by Henry Ho.
All very fine choices but I would definitely add the Einstein preamp to your list
Absolutely the best preamp I have ever heard, bar none.

Disclaimer: My Messenger is presently up for auction. You can be DAMN sure that I wouldn't be parting with it if I didn't have to.
That last message was referring to The Messenger. Not sure why it dropped the first line. My apologies.
No remote on the Messenger I assume?
There is an Einstein on Audiogon right now, world class pre amp that allows tube rolling unlike ARC Ref 3. Make sure you use better feet and after market power cord to hear it's true potential, same goes for any tube pre amp.
Correct, no remote on the Messenger.
It may not be well known in the USA (yet), but if you are going for the very best preamp available, you should take a look at our fully balanced RTP3D.

A 4 page brochure and reviews on our site. And if you don't need balanced, then our SVP-2 preamp should be quite an eye opener. Again, a brochure and several reviews on our site.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)
'The very best preamp available'? Very interesting.. Do enlighten us as to what gives birth to this strong bold claim. Shoot-outs/comparisons made to? Differences? Panels?
Concerning the fully balanced RTP3D, the brochure covers most of the main differences to other preamps:

Shootouts without me being in attendance, try this:

Concerning the unbalanced SVP-2, here is the brochure:

and the most recent review:

I'm open for questions.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)
Allen- At this point, the "pitch" had probably better stop. This is not an advertising forum, in case you were confused.
I may be new here, but I was asked a specific question and was answering it by refering the asker to some links. I don't consider that advertising.

If I'm breaking forum rules, can you please tell me which ones?

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)
A specific question was asked and you referred the thread to marketing material for your product, instead of answering the question. Pretty simple.