You can get an ARC Ref2 within your budget. I love mine. You could also get an LS-26 which is supposed to be great too (I haven’t auditioned one myself).
- 28 posts total
- 28 posts total
My amp is the Pass Labs x250.5 and speakers are my dear old B&W Matrix 803 s2. I'd say dynamics and musical realism are the Ref2's strong points. I've owned 3 tube preamps (granted, not very many compared to many others here) and it combines the "tube magic" with a dynamic punch that I haven't experienced with other tubed preamps. For me it's the best overall performance I've had in my system (although no tubed unit is as downright quiet as a well designed solid state pre). The Ref2 is a clear and definitive step up from my Cary SLP-98 F1 and two steps up from my ARC LS-16mkII.
I think I may have misread your requirements. Are you looking for a preamp with a built in phono stage? If so, then the Ref2 is not what you are looking for because it is a line stage and you'd have to add a phono stage. BTW, I like your Pass XP-15 choice, those are supposed to be incredible. Pass phono stages are highly thought of. So are their XP-10/20 line stages. In your budget I'd also look at a used XP-10 if you want a great line stage.
@abrew19 Thanks, yes I am looking for a preamp with phono. I really liked the New Record Day review of the Pass XP-15 and he too uses it with a Cronus Magnum so although the source and speakers differ, there are still some parallels. I auditioned the Rogue Ares tube preamp and I just didn't care for the tube on tube. Too much for me. I enjoyed an SS phono-pre matched with my tube power amp.