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?




8700e65e 845e 4b1b 91cc df27687f9454hilde45
Don't overlook building one from a kit. There are plenty of SET preamps kits and plans which are as good as many very expensive manufactured preamps. I made one using Arcturus 27 triodes with blue glass.
Speaking from my own experience I have a Rogue Audio 99 Magnum and have never had any issues ever in almost 15 years. I love the sound of the 6sn7 tube which led me down road of 6sn7 variants, like the 6fg8, and others. Anyway fwiw the 99 sounds great with the right tubes.

Atma-sphere MP-3..you'll simply love it as long as you have low noise tubes to accommodate it.

@ferrox
Atma-sphere MP-3..you’ll simply love it as long as you have low noise tubes to accommodate it.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
ferrox,
Agree with your "noise" considerations, x 11 tubes. Worth noting for sure. Good point. Last week I had a few email exchanges with Ralph at Atma-sphere, nice people. Never heard their gear, a local dealer almost carried them a while back. Was interested in hearing them beyond an engineering discussion. I reached out to them merely trying to understand the design and reasoning - it would seem like potential for  added  noise due to sheer quantity. Also asked if they could build a nice amp with half the tubes to gain perspective.  Love the look of their very industrial looking tube amps, nice point-to-point under the good. However, correct me where I’m off but it kinda seems like they are into "more is better" logic though, good grief, why so many tubes to accomplish a fairly simple preamp function -

Your thoughts?

MP-3 Tube complement (11 tubes)?:
7 x 12AT7
2 x 6SN7GT
2 x 12AU7
OP, here.

LISTENING UPDATE: With an initial budget seeking $3k or less, I auditioned:

* Quicksilver Integrated Amp
against
* Atoll separates (MA100, 60w amp & Atoll HD 120 preamp)

Source: Atoll CD player
DAC was in CD player.
Speakers were Dynaudio Evoke 10’s.

I was hoping that they would set me up with more powerful Atoll (the 100 watt integrated) but they didn’t. So, I spent a lot of time comparing various types of music between the QS Integrated and the Atoll 60 watt. I also asked that a setup be done with QS preamp and an Atoll (or whatever) power amp, but that did not happen.

Quick reflections were that the QS integrated was phenomenally good — rich, luscious, great control over bass and lovely soundstage. However, the volume had to be turned a fair way up and my impression is that the amp was reaching close to its limit.

The Atoll was really good up to a point, but then, especially in the highs, it became almost shrill. I’ve been reading that a big sign that an amp is having a challenge is when the highs get shrill and the soundstage collapses. That definitely happened with the Atoll/ Dyns at higher volumes. I wish they had set me up with a bigger amp.

This is where the listening day ended. I had a couple of exchanges with the sales guy that left me a bit perplexed.

First, when I said I was concerned that the QS might not have quite enough power, he said I could go QS Preamp plus QS monoblocks but that was it. He suggested going to a Rogue Cronus Magnum integrated ($3k) instead. (I'm not dead-set against the monoblocks, but I'm setting up a fairly compact space as was hoping not to sprawl out so many components.)

Second, when I said that I was still interested in trying a tube pre/solid state combo, he seemed to deflect from that idea. “Then you’re getting into matching them and you’ve got additional cables involved. You really make the most of the combo when you get an integrated or at least separates from the same company.”

So, not only did we NOT try any kind of hybrid today (as I had requested) but he also made it seem as if I was getting into complicated and too-deep waters by trying to mix and match tube amp and preamp. My sense from what I’ve read on the blogs and elsewhere indicates that this is not so difficult. I sense he was trying to “steer me” toward an easy, all-in-one solution, even if it was no longer QS, which I definitely liked a lot.

Any thoughts about my experience and what the sales guy was saying and/or about the Rogue Cronus Magnum appreciated.