Seriously considering tube preamp…opinions?

Tube virgin, here. I am building a system and I'm trying to contain the preamp/amp cost to $3k or so. (I could go up a little.) 

I'm inclined not to dive into tubes all the way through, but get a solid state on the output end. (Open to suggestions; inclined toward PS Audio, Parasound.) I'm reading around about tube preamps and have talked with my local dealer, who sells Black Ice/Jolida and Prima Luna (PL). He used to carry Rogue but said they kept coming back for repairs. That's why he carries PL.

I'm asking these questions after having established (via reviews, comments) that Schiit gear is quite the value. Lately, I've been reading about Decware and other small tube makers. I'm very curious about buying direct, if possible, and a company that stands behind their products is crucial.

So, your opinions about tube integrated or *especially* tube preamps —

1. Who do you like? Consider I want to do pre/amp for a total of $3k if possible.

2. Do you think PL is worth all that money just for a preamp? I get the feeling they're high quality but a bit over-hyped. (No disrespect to the highly passionate Kevin Deal, but he's all over my search results.) And what would you think about $2k/$1k preamp-to-amp spending ratio?

3. Any sense of what happened to Jolida since the name change to "Black Ice"? I see there's a sordid story there but did the re-branding clear up the mess? Any experiences with the Black Ice company?

4. I know there are many Schiit fans out there; so my question would be -- did anyone consider Schiit for tube preamp and go another way? Or move beyond Schiit for any particular reason? It's hard not to just capitulate and do a Freya+ or Saga+ but why wouldn't one just go with Schiit?

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Showing 4 responses by moofoo

+1 on the Ultraverve from Dehavilland. I bought one used for less than half your budget and immediately sold my Primaluna preamp. The Ultraverve sounded much better than the PL in my system. I rolled many tubes in the PL but to me the key is the UV is a 6SN7 based unit. It made a big difference from the 12AU7 PL. Bigger, more natural sound, yet all the detail is there and more space between instruments. PL makes good products, gets all the reviews, and served me well...but Kara Chaffee’s product is much better in my system. She is great to work with on new and used gear. If you have a problem, questions, etc. with your gear, there is nothing like speaking directly with the person who designed, built, wrote the manual for, and shipped it! Just my opinion. 
I understand. Once I heard the Ultraverve I contacted her to build me a modified Mercury 3 pre. She was great to work with, period. I am keeping both preamps. There are many folks like her in the industry. We read about them all the time here on A’gon. I am glad I am a music lover! A great lifestyle!
+1 pfeiffer, as I said earlier - you can buy a used Ultraverve. 
+1 pfeiffer, as I said earlier - you can buy a used Ultraverve.