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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Given OP budget of $2K, he is unlikely to find anything decent in ARC preamp range. Don’t think he wants to own a 10 plus years old ARC preamp. IME, ARC is a very linear sounding, they sound more like solid state than any other tube preamp I’ve heard. I have owned both LS28 and Ref 6 and eventually sold both of them. 

Before ARC fans gets bent out of shape over my feedback, I should mention that my current reference is Shindo Monbrison preamp.
@richdirector — thanks for those suggestions. I don't plan on playing vinyl, but I'll take a look.
@4425 thanks — I will avoid boat anchors. By "unknown brand" I assume you mean "not well known" or "not artisanal" (to borrow a foodie term).
deHavilland Ultraverve tube preamp.  Simple, solid, really nice sound.  Uses four tubes.  The one 6sn7 tube gives this preamp its signature voicing.  I prefer vintage GT's, and military 6sn7's.  Point to point wiring. Nothing fancy, just solid with a great musical sound.  My philosophy is to "keep it simple".  I use the tubed deHavilland preamp with a Bryston 14bsst solid state amp. I love music and am always looking on how to improve the sound quality...but honestly, I don't think I can make it much better relative to my room. I also run my steamer/DAC through my pre...not a hint of digital brightness and no musical fatigue which I attribute to my deHavilland Ultraverve.
+1 pfeiffer, as I said earlier - you can buy a used Ultraverve. 
+1 pfeiffer, as I said earlier - you can buy a used Ultraverve.