So many preamps, so little time

I am trying to move up the tube audio food chain having left solid state recently (after listening to tubes I can never go back). Since then I have gone from ultra-linear tube amps to a used pair of Cary 805AE (300b) monoblocks (very happy!). I still have a Primaluna Prolouge 3 tube preamp; I rolled a pair NOS Radiotechniques (French military 1955)and a pair of Pope Holland (NOS 1959) replacing the stock Chineese 12AX7 and 12AU7 (which have really opened up that little preamp).

My interconnects are Acoustic Zen and speaker cables are Red Dawns (Silver)connected to a pair of Vienna Acoustic Concert Grands (sensitivity 91db). I have a Cary 300/303 CD player, and PS Audio line regenerator.

My sound room is small (12 x 12)so my listening is mostly direct energy from the speakers. Still, I enjoy a wonderful soundstage with much of the benefits that tubes provide.

I would appreciate your recommendations on a preamp upgrade. I have tried bypassing the preamp altogether but have decided not to go down that road. I expect to be looking in the used market for something.

Is it a waste of money to buy a balanced-preamp with an un-balanced system? I find reviews aren't any help (every preamp out there is "always the best"). What do you guys like? Any input would be appreciated.
Hi Erfranke, take a look at my Gon review of the Audio Valve Eklipse preamp for the details regarding its sonic performance. I still have not found a better sounding linestage in my system even at almost triple the price of the Eklipse. I have owned or auditioned some of the highest regarded passive, SS, and tube preamps on the market and still have not found one I like better sonicly. Good luck in your search.
check out the axiom piece i got it with the caddock up grade,they offer a modded unit my ls2 sits idle (saving energy)$165 new used $85 used great sounding music doesnt have to break the bank Good luck
Buy one of those Sonic Euphoria PLCs on the Gon right now. Game over.....

Stay with Cary... SLP-98 if you are on a budget, SLP-05 if you can spend a bit more. The 05 is a phenomenal pre.
For me, a good tube preamp that mated nicely with a Cary V12i amp is the Joule Electra LA-100 MkIII. Might be worth trug with your 805AE.

Stick with single ended versus introducing a balanced preamp. While most balanced preamps have the option to use single ended outputs they sound best when using the balanced outputs.
Are preamps based upon 6SN7 tube circuit designs superior or inferior to 12AX/12AU tube circuit designs?
Both Cary's are good choices. I bought an 05 recently after a lot of aduditions and am very happy. Big improvement in sound quality.

The deHavilland Mercury and Ultra-Verve are also excellent and a little less expensiive. There is a UV on the Gon right now..........
Cary SLP98P or (L). Balanced won't matter. I hooked up my bal. Cary CAD120S XLR's on amp to RCA's on preamp and it made no difference. The preamp has a main vol. control and a left and right vol. or bal. controls. BTW the amp and preamp are a match made in heaven. Happy listening.
In my system, the Sonic Euphoria sounded far better than the deHavilland ultraverve. The Cary SLP-98 and many more expensive tube preamps have also been laid to waste by some form of transformer based passive as well. System synergy is key of course, but the OP seems to have a passive friendly system.

Would have to agree with Shakey. Passive preamps did in my SLP-98 and Joule Electra LA-100MkIII, as well as a couple others.

I had the SLP-98 mated with my V12i and while there is definitely synergy, IMO it was too much of the Cary house sound for me. The Joule alleviated that, and had better frequency extension.

As for 6SN7 designs versus the smaller signal tube designs, there is a lot more to it than the tubes. I have had both types of designs in my system and while I think highly of the sound that 6SN7 tubes can deliver, I've quite enjoyed a number of 12AU7, 12AX7, and 6DJ8/6922 tubes as well.
Many good suggestions but you may want to check one of the Shindo preamps such as the Auriges line stage. The Shindo preamps are extremely musical.

I am jazzed, the Gon has an 05 for sale in my own backyard. Offered him $4000, see what he says.

The 05 better be heads and shoulders better than a 98, which sounded slow and lethargic to me.

The H20 Fire preamp has been compared to many of the above. If you want power, information, dynamics, depth, warmth oh shoot..... It has it all. It is the only preamp I have had in my system that adds to the enjoyment over straight amp feeding. And does it ever!!
I love my VTL TL-5.5, it replaced a Cry SLP98F1. I'd love to mate it with VTL tube amplification, but haven't got there yet.

The only think the 05 shares with the 98 is the name on the front. Totally different beast IMO.
Accustic Arts has recently introduced tube-hybrid reference
Could you please share your comments about it comparing with Eklipse if you test it, and do you know what is the price and which type tubes it uses.