Suggestion for preamp - Spendor's & Cary

I have moved from an integrated amp (Creek 5350 SE and/or modified Scott 299B) to separates. I purchased a Cary CAD 808 (Rocket 88) and need some help with choosing a pre-amp. Speakers are Spendor SP 9/1’s. I am presently using a borrowed Luxman tube pre-amp (I have to give that back) I like the Luxman but don’t have anything to compare it to. I find I sometimes push the volume pretty far. I listen to everything but mostly folk, rock, acoustic blues. I like acoustic guitar music with simple arrangements and I like to occasionally get the blood stirring with something that really jumps.

I love the detail and soundstage I have heard from tubes but don’t feel as though I have realized the capabilities of the large Spendors with their 12” drivers. Spendors are 90db efficient.

Price range about $1,000.00 or less.

Thanks in advance for thoughtful comments and advice.
You think you haven't realized the capabilities of the Spendor's. In exactly what regard?

If you are happy with the detail and soundstage you now have then what else exists other the power? Do you listen at high volume?

FWIW Cary tube amps, if they err they probably err on the warm side of the spectrum. I had initially thought you might find this so and want a tubed pre-amp with a more crisp tone to compensate. Perhaps you just need a more powerfull amp, tube or SS, OR the Spendors just don't have a bass capabilities you thought. They might not be the latest word in eithr depth or tightness.

If you're looking for 'power' you'll not find it in a pre-amp. If you're looking to tighten up the bass and more crisp sound all around there are some good possibilities in your price range.

Thanks for your thoughts Newbee,

I normally listen at a moderate volume but occasionally listen loud. With the combination I am using (Cary & Luxman - both tubed) I turn the volume up 3/4 of the way. (for loud) I'm just not used to that. I think I can adjust.

Otherwise your assessment is well put. "tighten up the bass and more crisp sound" without losing detail and soundstage.

Suggestions are welcome. Tube or SS.


I don't think the Cary your using is going to do the trick if your looking for gut wrenching bass, or if you want to tun it up and have the music blow your hair back. Your only pumping 40 watts into those big Spendors. But if you like the amp then I would look for either a ss pre or a pre that employees a 6922 tube.

I'm not a SS guy so I'll pass on recomendations of SS pre-amps. I would though if looking for one myself, look at vintage Threshold pre-amps like the FET10Hi. I have emmense respect for product from the original Threshold company run by Nelson Pass, especially his SA series amps of which the FET10 was the accompaning pre-amp. I've seen it appear on A'Gon from time to time for $750 +/-. It could be a great buy for you.

ARC makes fine tube pre amps, very well constructed and they provide outstanding service if needed. They have a house sound which most folks would consider cool in tone, and some consider some models 'bright'. But they are available used in your price range - just do a lot of research befor you commit. Most models have used 6922's but the latest SP16's, I think, use 12AX7's. Don't let youself let the tube type dictate your decision, at least with ARC. One of the benefits of any 12AX7 based pre-amp is there are a lot more tube rolling possibilities using either new production or NOS tubes. 6922's are a bit more difficult and the great ones can get a bit pricy.

Also consider pre-amps by VTL and Manley if you can find any in your price range. The are also well known for their more 'modern' tube sound.

If you venturesome there are a number of Chinese pre-amps that sonically could fit your needs but be wary unless you can asssure your self that you can get service if it becomes necessary.

Belles 21A pre while tubed, is very detailed, fast and extended while retaining those other tube characteristics. I use it with my Cary/AES Six Pac tube monos. Look for the review of the 21A on the web.

At the risk of getting totally of the gents original intention.....

I myself am definitely the last word when it come to high-end audio. I don't read all the articles form various stereo magazines. Therefor I don't know how to express all those wonderful phrases such as: It felt like there was a veil lifted, soundsatage, the decay, etc. I can listed to a system and notice that one pre is sweeter, or one pre has more bass. So I guess I'm not totally tone deaf :)

However I do have " friends in high places " if you will. I of course enjoy picking the minds of these folks. It is my understanding from various folks that tinker with the stuff that if, one uses the exact same components to build the board, power supply, capacitors, IC's etc. That 6922 is the most neutral sounding ( even cold and analytical of the tubes for a pre. Next in line ( of the most often tubes used is the 6sn7, and after that is close to a tie between 12ax7 ( just a bit cooler that the 12au7 ) That is why I suggested a 6922 tubed unit. But try a few in a blind test if your not convinced. ARC LS1500 ( or whatever ) against the SP16. Blue Circle also switch from a 6sn7 to a 6922. And I know the quicksilver pre's do employee both 6922 or 12ax7. I'm willing to be if you listened with a blind fold you will find in most cases the 6922 will have the coolest most analytical sound. Of course there will be exceptions. But a general rule of thumb will be the 6922. That is why I advised that something with a 6922 would be appropriate. I simply thought he would have a better chance the getting something that would " lift a veil " off the amp, if you will.

Kt88, Interesting comments. Did I somewhere say that you were wrong re your comments about 6922 based tube amps in general? I don't think so!

I have had an ARC (an SP10 and its partnered D115) for many years that uses 6922's/6dj8's. This has created a long term interest in ARC products including their amps and much hands on tube experimentation. I was also aware of their SP8 which used some 12AX's and the SP16 which has gone back to using 12AX's. Did I not say that many folks would consider ARC's to be cool in tone...? Did I not recommend ARC as a possible choice that would work for him?

What I did say, and apparently this is what offended you, was to keep an open mind re tube type, once again refering to an ARC tube pre-amp. Apart from the ARC SP16 and SP8, I happen to have another non ARC Line stage which uses 2 12AU7's and one 12AX7 and can sound, tonally, almost identical to my ARC (depending on the tube selection I make).

So your friends are right, you are right, but in my mind its never wrong to keep an open mind regarding other possibilities.

More importantly perhaps, if you have personally experienced 'other possibilities' then shouldn't you pass them on to folks who need the information? At least thats how I operate. Sorry if this offended you.

In the future I will recall your declaration that "you are definitely the last word when it comes to audio" and I'll act more deferential. :-)

LOL!! Actually the line should have been written " I myself am definitely NOT NOT NOT the last word when it comes to high-end audio "

I am not offended in your post all at. Just having a casual voice of opinion. Yes it is good to keep an open mind about things. My only point was to steer the gent to what would open up the system the most.

Thanks to both of you Gentlemen for the advice. I will look into the reviews of the brands you have suggested.

For a moment I thought I was getting direction from the allmighty himself - Newbee, you shouldn't have corrected yourself. I was quite impressed. :)
Late post. The Spendors, all big Spendors, devour power. The more quality tube power you can feed them the better. Forget their power rating, feed them plenty. Things just get better. I would look at some strong monblocs and stick with tubes. Spendor and great tube gear is one the best sounds out there, no doubt. You just need to power them up to have them shine.
I used the Cary V12i with my Spendor 1/2e speakers and at 50 watts triode/100 watts ultralinear that just was not enough power for them. I moved to a 225 watt custom made solid state amp and the difference was not subtle. The speakers really opened up, especially in the bass and lower frequencies. I'll not advocate you get a solid state amp, but there are several high power tube amps/hybrids out there you should look at as an alternative. This IMO would give you more bang for the buck versus a new tube preamp.