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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^^This man knows what he's talking about
1. It baffles me, if one can afford it, why one would NOT go tube preamp. 
2. If you are set on buying new you seem to have done a good bit of research and u can't really offer an opinion. But, if you are willing to buy used Conrad-Johnson really can't be beat and has scads of options at many price points. New would be well over $2k. 
Yours is a pretty common story, myself included.  Took the plunge into tubes some years back with a Jolida 502brc integrated and was glad I did.  Love the tube sound.  I was apprehensive at first but nothing to worry about really - piece of cake.  Most of the newer tube gear is easy to bias, some even with auto bias.  I have installed a couple new sets of tubes over the years, pretty easy.  

Then wanted to see what the fuss was with SS/tube mix so picked up a McCormack dna .5 here on Agon.  Was considering a Freya but bought a Schiit Saga + B-stock pre to go with it as a start.  Sounded great, especially for the money!  But, not especially tubey, and not enough gain IMO.  Then recently purchased a Rogue Perseus (again here on Agon) tube pre and am very happy with it.  Head and shoulders above the Saga.  But at around $1,800 brand new that should be no surprise.  Nice tube sound with the control of 100 watts of SS.  

I think a tube integrated is a great start for you.  The Primaluna stuff is nice.  Never owned any but have done several listening sessions.  Still love my Jolida.  I wouldn't ignore the Rogue gear either.  Very well made, and sounds great.  Not sure about the repairs your dealer was talking about.  I haven't heard of excessive quality issues.  If you are going the Schiit route (and it is hard to pass up for the price!) skip the Saga and get the Freya.  If you buy used you can really stretch that $3k budget.  I have less than $2k into the Mc/Rogue combo.  Bottom line: maybe just a little more work with tubes but well worth it IMHO.
@andrewkelley -- Andrew, I would appreciate if I could pick your brain a minute.  I've been in the market for a tertiary listening system in my house for about 8, long months. After much research reading, asking Forum questions, and watching YouTube videos, I'm now at the stage of convincing myself that my decision is the right choice for my current needs.  I have decided on buying Schiit Products: a Freya+, a Loki, and either a Vidar or Aegir.  I will be using them with a new Sutherland KC Vibe Phono Preamp, Klipsch Forte II speakers, and a brand new (still boxed needing to be built) Fluance RT-85 turntable or a vintage 1987 Rega P3 in mint condition.  

After reading your reply above, can you explain why you would go with Aegir over Vidar (I have asked this question several times and nobody will give an explanation why they would choose one over the other), and why would you use two set up in Mono Blocks versus using just one in standard stereo mode.  Caveat:  I know absolutely NOTHING about using amps as Mono Blocks instead of using just one amp.  I imagine it is for the purity, clarity, and drain on the component -- instead of one amp trying to serve two speaker's needs you have an amp dedicated to the left channel needs and an amp dedicated to the right channels needs.  (At its basic level, is that a pretty fundamentally correct answer?  If no, please correct me).

I appreciate your help.  I am wanting Tubes for this system, the the Freya+ is a slam dunk.  I'm just clueless on the bottom line differences between the Vidar and Aegir -- there is not much money difference but what is the product and performance differences.  As far as the Mono Block goes, you have me baffled...and not in a speaker design or room treatment way!

Again, thanks.

Allen Fields
I have gone tube preamp and SS power a class mono.... So etching about tubes in front end just sing. I'm in UK so have tried first of all a croft 25R which is amazing but in MM stage then found a SH tron Seven line preamp which bettered the croft slightly. Also changed to MC cart so have a separate more versatile phono stage. 
Again if you can demo at home that's the best solution as shop demos can be too short and you end up liking something there that makes you a bit edgy in extended listening once home again....... 
My 2p worth