I have the MFA Magus, and I think it is awesome for the money. Really nice phono stage, and plenty of gain. You might not need phono now, but you might want it later, and this phono stage is a good one. It's like getting the great phono stage for free, because this linestage is also great for the money.
You should check out the Antique Sound Labs AQ2001DT preamp. I auditioned it with the Tulip amp and was very very impressed. They bettered the Rogue 88/66 setup for a lot less money. Both setups were playing Tannoy D700s. www.divertech.com. Arthur
I went through this about three years ago and wound up listening to virtually all of the stuff on your list - the Blue Circle BC21 was slightly but definitely better than the competition that you have listed. BUT...I did not listen to the Magus, and it is well regarded by a number of people. Bottom line: try and listen to as many of them as possible and trust your ears.
Check out the Marsh p2000t, tube hybrid, this is their description:
The P2000t Tube Hybrid Performance Pre-Amp
A superior perfromance tube preamp with triode tube, one of the most linear devices ever developed was designed for the lowest distortion possible. Here it is combined with the FET, creating a new and entirely modern circuit called the " Trans-Mu amplification stage." This brings out all the benefits of the triode tube- extremely low noise, wide frequency response, low distortion - and eliminates the triode's drawbacks.Each channel uses two triode tubes with a push-pull output for low output impedance. The P2000t is able to drive even the longest cables without music deterioration.The filament voltage is direct voltage through a powerful C-multiplier filter, which ensure the lowest noise and the longest, most reliable operation. How low is low? Dead quiet-so you can hear event the most subtle elements in the music. Marsh-designed capacitors provide great accuracy and high-resolution of details- for the most realistic music reproduction possible and for reliable, long-life performance.Both line amplifiers are fitted with remote 12VDC control for custom installation and easy on/off control of other equipment in the system.
I bought mines used here at AG for $895. It is an incredible preamp that sounds with the best regardless of price. Be aware that there is no remote which is the only drawback. Good luck in your search.
ASL also makes a remote controlled 2A3 preamp for under $1200
I have had two of the preamps on your list, the Audio Research LS1 and the Conrad Johnson PV10a. I did not care for the ARC LS1 at all, very sterile sounding. I have not owned but also heard the ARC LS7 and did not care for it either. I guess I don't like the ARC sound. I love my CJ. Probably not neutral but very musical with a great phono stage. It is currently for sale if you are interested as I am going with a Musical Fidelity to match my power amp and get a remote. See my ad if you are interested. Would be well under your budget and fairly easy to resell if you decide it is not for you. I also owned a Counterpoint tube pre although older and lower in the line than the ones you mentioned. Mine was very noisy and not reliable. For the money I think you could do better with a company still in business.
I have not heard the ARC LS 2 or 3, but they got good reviews. There are also a number of very respected Agon members that swear by Blue Circle and Rogue. Both would probably be good choices. Tube pre amps can very in sound quite a bit. Auditioning is always recommended if you can.
I thank everyone for the responses so far.
TWL, MFA is out of business. Is there anyone that can service this unit if there is a problem? I have also heard that this unit is better when modified.
There is a MFA Magus B for sale on AGON right now. Any info on this unit would be helpful.
Yes, the MFA products can be serviced and upgraded by one of the original designers, Bruce Moore, through RB Audio in California. I bought my preamp from him and the upgrades also.
Hiflyer if you get a chance listen the Aronov LS9000. I replaced a AE-3 with one and I never looked back. Just for your info the AE-3 replaced a LS-7. I thought the LS-7 just didn't cut it. Best of luck on your search.
The Sonic Frontiers Line 1 is an excellent sounding full featured pre-amp (no phono). I use the Line 1 in my 2nd system and have also used it in my main system very successfully. IMO, it is on par with the more expensive Line 2, and is even better when you find tubes you really like. Cheers. Craig
You should also consider BAT VK3i at that price point, esp. if your amp can handle a balanced input. It will accept s.e. and balanced, and provides both balanced and s.e. output.
Don't overlook the Audible Illusions. I've owned mine for over 8 years and have never had a problem. It's easy on tubes (I replace mine every 3 - 4 years) and replacement tubes are relatively inexpensive. Only downside is it's not remote controlled. I do get tired of having to adjust the dual volume pots for about every third CD. This preamp continues to be highly rated by reviewers and IMHO deserves it.
The BC21 and PV10 go great with SS amps if that's your goal.
I would give the nod to the BC21 (I've owned both), but your taste may be different.
Are there any remote controlled preamps worth looking at? I do not want to compromise the sound though.
VTL preamps have remotes. No compromise on sound.
The MFA Magus, and orginal Audible Illusions Modulus were both designed by Bruce Moore. There are similarities in their designs. I like the Audible Illusions preamps too.
Hi Guys and Gals,
I have narrowed the search down to Sonic Frontiers, EAR and Audible Illusions in the used 700.00 price range. Any other thoughts or ideas?
ARC LS-7 is a nice line stage in your price range. Just 1 tube to play with and tweek till your hearts content. It's a "better" SFL-1 IMO. and Im not a big AI fan. ARC always seemed just a little bit better to my ears!
After posting this thread,I realized that the LS-7 actually has 4 tubes, not 1. Still a better sonic deal than most other pre amps, especially at the prices being listed of late!