Solid State Preamp recommendation for $2500?


I am looking for some Solid State preamp recommendations. My budget is up to $2500, new or used, perhaps could be stretched to $3000 for something really special. I have fairly neutral, easygoing equipment (upgraded McCormack amp and Tyler Acoustics speakers) and like to listen to all kinds of music, but primarily jazz, classical, electronic, and some rock.

Due to changing circumstances in my system (or rather discoveries) I have pretty much determined that a solid state preamp is the only thing that will work in my system. I have an amp and speaker combo that puts out some serious white noise from tube preamps (I have tried 4 so far, all with the same results, and all preamps were OK in other systems). I have tried 2 solid state preamps, both were dead quiet. So, it is either get rid of the amp, or get a solid-state preamp. As my amplifier is a McCormack DNA-125 rev Gold, I would take a serious hit if I were to sell it, and it sounds pretty darn good. I am guessing I would have to spend alot more than the $2200 I have into it to get comparable performance. Unfortunately, I love tube preamps, but am totally fed up with background hiss that is audible at 15 feet and muddies the music.

I did hear a Classe CP-700 recently that sounded wonderful, but it overshoots my budget, and I can't help but think I am paying for features that I don't need, like the cool but (for me) useless interface). I just want a nice 2-channel preamp, old-school/no remote is fine.
If you're hearing audible hiss at 15'and the music is muddied the tube pre's you've heard are likely inexpensive or deficient.I wouldn't be so quick to write off tubes,there are some top tier pieces available in your price range that would be an excellent match with the McCormack.However if you are determined to go ss I would suggest a Jeff Rowland Capri.
I am using Tyler Acoustics with two Classe CA-150's as monoblocks with a preamp from Audio Horizons. I had a Classe CP-50, then a CJ 14LS-II which improved the overall sound. Then I upgraded my CD player and was unhappy. I now am quite happy with the pre from Joseph Chow at Audio Horizons. This combination works well for my tastes. Steve
Hello: If you love tube preamps then I would strongly suggest you try the NAT Audio "Plasma R" model which you may be able to afford in your budget. Guaranteed you won’t find ANY background noise. If alternatively, you prefer the solid state route then I can whole heartedly recommend the Audia Flight preamp currently being sold used or the ACCUSTIC ARTS. But, don’t give up on tubes just yet. If the design is well executed then there should be equally black backgrounds and total dead silence even if you place your ears next to the tweeters at moderate volume.
with out a doubt , the audio horizon preamp the best for that money , i have an mbl in main system audio horizon in bedroom system with audio research d 75 LOTS OF WOW FACTOR , PREAMP VERY VERY QUIET AND MUSICAL
A Jeff Rowland Capri will be dead quiet. Good used prices on them right now too. Klyne also gets good recommendations here as does the Placette Active.

What are some of the tubed preamps you have tried? As others have mentioned there could be a tube preamp that will provide better results. Maybe a used First Sound. Saw a couple for sale here recently.
I agree with several of the preamps mentioned thus far. Audio Horizons is dead
quiet. First Sound Presence Deluxe II is dead quiet. Modwright SWL9.0SE is dead
quiet. I have owned all of them.

IMO, if you have a problem with hiss using any of these three tube preamps,
then either you are more sensisitive than most to hiss, or there is something
amiss elsewhere in your system.

The Capri would be high on the list of solid state preamps based on comments
on these threads, as would a Klyne, but I have not heard either one.
Special thanks to Musical_sounds for more shilling on the NAT brand. Quickly making NAT the new D&K of 2008/2009 with his guerilla marketing.

Dawgcatching, I don't think a tube preamp will work for you, because the McCormack amps are noted for having low input impedences, and generally do not work well with tube preamps.

I'll also recommend the Klyne preamps as well as the JR Capri. Seem to be very good SS preamps. You may also consider mating your McCormack amp with the McCormack RLD-1 preamp.....could be some synergy there.

This review states the DNA-125 has 100 kOhm input impedance. I own solid state amps with 30 kOhm input impedance, and they work well with low output impedance tube preamps.

Is this spec on the DNA-125 incorrect?
Simple get a Klyne preamp and be done with the search
Re tube pre-amps, premium (tested for low noise) tubes can make all the difference between noise or silence. I have a bunch of tubed pre-amps and none of them make noise at 15' and most are dead quiet until you put you ear an inch or two from the tweeter, and even a couple pass dead quiet at max gain test. Now if you have a pre-amp with high gain and an amp with high sensitivity you might be hearing the sounds of a components noise floor, but that is a mis-match issue........

That said, if I wanted a SS pre-amp, I'd save a lot of money and find a used Threshold FET 10HE....its long in the tooth age wise, but sonically it is still very competitive IMHO. I used to run one with a Threshold SA amp and but for the fun I have with tubes I could still be happy if I had to have SS stuff.
Another option is a Juicy Music Peach, which has a selectable high and low output impedance feature. Works with both tube and solid state amps. The one I owned was very quiet. It was a really fun preamp.
Here is what I have tried:

Herron VTSP1a/166: super loud in my system, hiss could be heard in the next room. Unit was checked out by Keith twice, yet he couldn't find a problem. BTW, Keith is a great guy to deal with

Eastern Electric Minimax: both NOS and stock tubes: nearly as loud as the Herron, hiss easily heard at the listening position.

Dehavilland Ultraverve: quieter, but not quiet. Still getting hiss from time to time. I swapped tubes around, which minimized it. Using a Tung-Sol Black Glass 6SN7 originally, which was dead quiet in another system, but made a loud hiss in mine, so I did find a Hytron that is mostly quiet. Still, this is regarded as one of the quietest preamps on the market tube-wise.

There is definitely an incompatibility with the McCormack and the preamps I have tried that have been tube. I know it shouldn't necessarily be the case, but it has proven to be, which is why I am limiting myself to solid-state units at this time. I would rather hear a quiet solid state unit than a nice tube preamp with hiss in the background. I haven't tried any specific low-noise tubes, but the ones in the Dehavilland were supposedly low-noise NOS.
In that case, I think excellent options have already been mentioned: Klyne, Rowland Capri, McCormack RLD-1, older Pass Labs X2.5 or older Aleph P.

Pick one. You probably can't go wrong with any of them.
Tvad, you are correct, the input impedence for the DNA-125 is 100K, which wouldn't seem to cause an impedence mismatch. I must have been thinking of the DNA-500, which has a 10K input impedence.

However, the issue could be gain matching, as many tube preamps output a higher voltage than their SS counterparts. I also see that the DNA-125 requires only 1V input to drive full output, that's a relatively low sensitivity. By comparison, the DNA-500 requires 2.25 V for full output.
I could only find output voltage for the Dehavilland Ultraverve, which is 30V.

So a 30V maximum output from a preamp into a amp that only requires 1 volt input for full output could well be overloading the amp. Stick with SS preamps, many good ones have already been recommended.

If you liked the Classe consider the Classe CP-65. It was the top of the line Classe (other than the Omega series) before the touchscreen Delta series. It comes up occassionally for sale here. the CP-60 was similar, just the previous model. The CP-500 can also be had for less than $2500 used. Should be similar to the CP-700 but I have not compared then in detail. I use the CP-65 with a Levinon 432. It is dead quiet with very good dynamics.
PS Audio GCP/GCPS. Nothing compares in this price range. Next best would be the Parasound JC 2, which just got product of the year from Absolute Sound, but is $4000

Is the CP-65 essentially the same (sound-wise) as the CP-700? If so, I would likely be happy with it, as I don't need the CP-700's slick features. The outboard power supply was nice, however, and the unit sounded superior.

Any idea how the others mentioned sound compared to the CP-700? That is really the only nice SS preamp that has been in my system.
I have never been able to compare the CP-65 and the CP-700 in the same system, but my impression is that they are pretty similar in sound - both with the smooth, natural to slightly warm Classe sound. The CP-65 also has a separate power supply. It retailed originally for $5,000 but is usually listed at around $2,000 here these days. The CP-60 is very similar and is more like $1,500. The 65 has the 2 tone black and silver look, whereas the 60 came in all black or all silver. CP-65 is more refined, but not greatly different from the 60. Neither comes up often, but I think they are a great buy.
Predictably, I echo the suggestions on the JRDG Capri. I have commented on this device overabundantly on Agon, so I will spare any more of them here. You will find specs for the Capri at:
Suffice it to say that I have retired an Audio Research Ref 3 in favor of the Capri.
How about a Pass X1?

do you recommend the separate power supply with the Rowland? It is on my radar, as it gets many recommendations, and may be the type of clean, neutral sound I am looking for.

I see tons of Capri's listed, one going up seemingly every other day, which makes me wonder if this preamp is very system-dependent. Strange for such a highly-regarded preamp to be so common on the used market. There aren't any Rowland dealers around here: I called one 2-channel specialist in the area who was listed as a Rowland dealer, but they are no longer stocking.
You might look at a Spectral 30S. You don't need to use Mit in your application. There are two on audiogon. I would think you could get it foe 3K.
In regards to Classe pre amps the DR 7 ranks as one of the all time best reference preamps. Although not many produced due to its high cost, it remains today as reference for many equipment and music reviewers world wide. Very hard to find and only about one a year show up in the pre owned market and usually sell in the $2,500.00 to $3,500.00 depending on condition, and if comes with box and manual. It is a stunning performer.

As for myself I am using a Coda 01p preamp and could not be happier.
Update: I got my hands on a Dehavilland to try out, and it was noisy as well. Luckily, there were some other NOS tubes around to try, so I swapped in a Hytron 6SN7 and, for once, my system is quiet! Wow, does it sound good!

I may just go the Dehavilland route! According to Kara, it mates much better with very sensitive amps such as the McCormack. I am going to get a good SS unit in here to compare it with. The Dehavilland's soundstage is incredible and very realistic, but from what I can hear, the Classe was more taut in the low end. Also, on the Dehavilland, some trumpets come across as screechy: I am not sure if it was recorded this way and I just wasn't hearing it before. I heard slightly more detail on the Classe (like violiin strings reverberating that aren't quite there on the Dehavilland).

Thanks for all of the responses. It gives me something to work with if I do decide to get a solid state unit. I wish I had known about the possible incompatibility with a sensitive amp and a tube preamp before I went preamp hunting: then again, the journey is always fun!
The Dehavilland and the Herron are both great, and should be dead quiet. The Herron is as quiet as most ss preamps. I'm glad to see you are doing better now w/the Ultraverve, but it still seems strange that you have been having a problem with any of those you've mentioned. Have you discussed the problem w/Steve McCormack? Cheers,

Thanks for the update...yes, the journey IS the adventure....enjoy the ride. Tube rolling is fun for some, not so much so for others.

Thanks for starting this thread though and thanks to Ferrari I now know Classe made a DR 7. I have heard/owned/enjoyed many Classe products, but never heard of the DR 7 until now. That's wht makes these threads so fun and informative. FWIW Ferrari, I also owned a Coda 01p many years ago, and it is another great SS preamp suggestion. One of the best full function SS preamps out there, especially considering the price one could buy a used one for. However, I currently reside in Tubesville, and I can't see any going back to SS for me. I know enough to never say never though.....

I used, an old but upgraded, threshold NS-10 with my Mccormack DNA 125 and Thiel speakers, very nice. They come up on the Gon once in awhile usually in the 450 to 700 range. With the Thiels a very good combo.
No doubt the Threshold NS 10 remains as one of the finest preamps ever produced. It is of such empirical design, that no one has ever copied or ripped off the NS 10, not even the Chinese, which are ripping off many older designs now and maketing them as the new holy grail. Over the years I have had three or more of the NS 10 come through here and each time I am just astounded at the execution and sonics of the NS 10. This was Nelson Pass first preamp and he clearly put forth a timeless product that has more than withstood the test of time. On the diy site, there are many hobbyist that discuss the upgrades and modifications of the NS 10 and from time to time Nelson Pass chimes in to give deeper insight to the NS 10.

Yes, I did discuss the problem with both Steve and Kris at SMC, and they had me do a couple of tests on the amp. We pretty much concluded it wasn't any fault of the amp, but neither could put their finger on it (it was recently upgraded by them, and they didn't hear any sound issues when they had it).

It has been a long time since I have had a different amplifier in my system, but I bet the low sensitivity of the McCormack has something to do with it.
Any Accuphase