Suggestions? Tubed linestage pre-amp??

Budget <$3500. Would prefer new but not ruling out newer used. Do not need a phono stage or DAC, so linestage (tubed not ss) - but don't want passive...need some gain.

Just starting to put together a short list. Looking to upgrade the Consonance Reference 50 pre I'm using. Hoping to find dealers allowing in-home audition or money back trial period.

On the list so far:
Doge 8 SCR
Eastern Electric Minimax
PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium

Checked past threads to see if this might have been covered. Couldn't find it. If there's something relatively current I missed, do please point me to it.

Thanks in advance for your help.
06eb264a e8d8 4a8b 840c d8d32093f6bcghosthouse
I have a Doge 8 Clarity and it is by far the best tube preamp I've owned versus (VTL 2.5, Audible Illusions Modulus 3, TAD 150 Signature, Mike Elliot Modded Counterpoint SA-1000, Ming Da - Bill Baker modded). The Doge betters them all.
There are obviously better tube preamps. However, for its price range the Doge SCR is a serious contender. The Clarity version I have just 'sounds right'. Neutral, maybe a smidge on the warm side (which I like), big sound stage, good frequency extension on both ends, quiet background. Good NOS tubes is a must however. I use 1950's vintage Radio Technique tubes which seem just right without breaking the bank.
I'm sure other Agoners will suggest other choices - VAC, Cary, Joule, Manley, BAT.....
If you can audition the SCR at the same time as some of the above. It just may boil down to system synergy, and personal preference.
Goog luck :)

I'd go with a Don Allen preamp. It's the best I've had and beat out many more expensive preamps. I believe his new one is around $1,000. Don't let the price fool you, it is one of the best around.
Conrad Johnson. Check Spearit Sound on Agon or web. They had a whole bunch of stuff a few weeks ago, demos,used et.
Aesthetix Calypso used
Cary spl 88. Seems like you don't lose anything to ss in how quiet it is, in macro and micro dynamics, and pace. It seems it takes control and drives the music great. Swinging and toe tapping if you know what I mean. And it has a nice dose of tube traits-natural tonality, body, harmonic overtones, without any even slight syrupy effects. To me it is not warm or cool, lean or thick. Kind of a chameleon. I have had audible illusions l1 and audio research ls1 and I think the cary is better all around than both by a considerable margin with my 50's nos rca6sn7gt's. As things can be system dependent I think this unit would fit real well in a large range of systems.
Thanks to all of you for the input...the Doge certainly gets enthusiastic support from owners. CJ and Cary were not on my list, but I'll definitely include them.
Appreciate the additional suggestions.
I'll look into the Calypso, Jperry. Hope it isn't near the uber bucks price of their Callisto though.

Sean - thanks for the Don Allen recommendation. I had come across his name before but didn't have him on my list.
For around $1,000-$1500 you might be able to find a Modwright SWL 9.0 (no balanced) This uses a 5AR4 and 2 5687's Very tonally Beautiful and sweet , very open up top and solid in the bottom.. guitars and vocals really shine. ALSO, Check out the Dehavilland Ultraverve 3 it uses a 5AW4 for power and 1 6NS7 and 2 X 6AH4's. New around $2500......Kicks the Doge 8 Claritys butt!! AND I just purchased a BAT VK31se (4x6H30) for $2000 and it is very articulate and accurate, awesome dynamics and control. A great buy right now IMO.
Ghost - The Callisto is more $ for good reasonÂ….the Calypso sounds like a toy compared to the Callisto.
Cary 98.
The Calypso is less than half the list price of the Callisto, and is your price range used. I think there is one listed now for $2,400. No relationship with buyer, but I own one, like it, and think it is a great performer, especially at the used price.

And when you get down to it all of this stuff is a bunch of expensive toys ;-)
Thanks again to all, especially Matt. Plenty of options to consider. We do like
our toys, especially the good sounding bargains.
A used Emotive Audio Sira would be an excellent choice and is in your budget.
The best pre-amp I have ever owned was a CJ 17LS2. You should easily be able to find one in your price range.

you are in luck, as there has never been a better time to buy excellent used gear, and put the savings in your pocket. I like CJ and Aesthetix for openers. Keep me posted on your buying decision(s).
Jafant and all others - thanks yet again for the input. LOTS more choices than I thought. Not ready to pull the trigger yet (wish I were). There are several nice used pieces listed here. Trying not to rush into this decision "sight unheard" as it were. Not living in an urban area makes it difficult to audition. Even where in-home trial is offered, it won't be possible for all gear so access ends up being a big factor in the selection process. Have to say I'm more optimistic than when I started that a significant upgrade will be possible without breaking the bank.
Ghost, you don't need to change your budget, but if you can deploy more cash on a temporary basis you could probably buy both a used CJ ET-3 and Aesthetix Calypso, then sell off the one you like least in your system. You might have some shipping cost to absorb, but you get an inexpensive home trial.
If you get lucky, a used Shindo Auriges L might come up. Just be sure it will match with your amp impedence wise.
Thanks J and Truemaineiac - duly noted.

Anyone have experience with a Granite Audio 770-R?
Cary SLP-98, Aestheix Calypso, BAT VK-30/31/32 models, Conrad-Johnson.
I second the Cary SLP-98!
What are you looking to improve and what aspects of sound reproduction are most important to you? Would help to get more targeted recommendations.
Soix -
What am I looking for?
Best I can do is to say more of what other system upgrades have provided. Namely, more heft to the music...that is, a greater palpability without (to my ear) altering tonal balance.

Instead of looking at a 100 lb. music image, I want a 200 lb. image. I'm exaggerating to make a point and obviously wouldn't want something fat or slow sounding.

Greater stage maybe stronger, more stable cues on instrument and vocal placement. The Forests do a great job at imaging and I've spent a lot of time on placement. Not interested in changing speakers.

What is most important to me?
An enjoyable experience of the music (have that now, really) aided by a well-resolved, non-fatiguing, large 3D presentation (to the extent that one is embedded in the actual recording).

Prefer slightly warm tonal balance over rigorously neutral and with tightly controlled bass. At the same time, enjoy musical detail and resolution but not at the price of introduced harshness.

Don't think I'm offering any unique insights here. Expect many interested in audio would want the same. Thanks for your time.
Audio Horizons TP 2.3 gets my vote of confidence.
Thanks Sabai...I'll do some reading on the TP 2.3. Thanks also to Abrew and Triode.
You might want to take a look at the VAC Standard preamp that was just listed. No relation to the seller. If I did not have the Aesthetix Calypso/Rhea I would buy it. You do not see a lot of VAC equipment come up for sale and most of their new line is a lot more expensive than this piece.
The Modwright LS-100 is an exceptional PA, and falls within your budget new. There is a used one, in sliver, listed on AC, it is not mine nor do I know the seller.
Thanks Max and Jp. The list continues to grow.
If you can stretch a little I would suggest the Herron VTSP-3A. It would appear to meet your criteria and is an exceptional product. I moved through a number of line stages over the past several years and the Herron is by far the best--it ended my search. I wrote a lengthy review on this site which describes what I love about it which you can search for or click the link to it on the Herron site. Quiet, musically literate, sensible features, amazing build quality, even handed and neutral--just gets out of the way and lets you enjoy the music. Keith Herron offers incredible support for his customers and does have a trial purchase option if you have no local dealer. I've owned a few of the line stages suggested on this thread--in my system the Herron was vastly superior.
Lamm LL2 Deluxe, the older version, which is the same internally as the newer more expensive LL2.1 version, except the newer version has a 15dB gain reduction feature, if needed. Should be available used in the $2,800 TO $3,200 range. Extremely reliable and well-built. Very musical.
Lots of good choices mentioned so far. The DeHavilland Ultraverve's not been mentioned however. It's probably gotten more positive professional reviews than any other tubed line stage at this price point.
Thanks Photon and Mitch...
Photon - actually MattMiller did recommend the Dehavilland back on 8/11. Good to hear another vote for it, however.
My your own. You can build a preamp that is as good as or better than anything commercially available, because you can build it exactly how you want it to be, using top-notch components, and you don't have to worry about the commercial aspects that manufacturers fret over.

Use a directly heated triode tube like a 26, with DC regulated filaments...heavenly sounding.

An added benefit is the satisfaction of listening to music through your own creation. Sure there's a learning curve, but that's part of the fun! With the DIY audio sites around these days anyone (and I mean anyone) can learn rather quickly how to build tube gear, for not a lot of money (unless you want to it be!). What's harder is making it good sounding AND good looking, but that comes with time, too.

Just my 2 cents.
Joule Electra
An update...
In October, I had the opportunity to audition a JAS Bravo 1.1LE. This has a separate power supply and uses 12AX7 & 12AT7 tubes + a 5Z4P rectifier. This pre brought very nice musicality...a full, warm sound but seemed to give up too much resolution in my system. Subsequently, I was able to audition a used/re-tubed CJ 17LS pre running 4 newer JJ 6922 tubes. I almost bought this amp. Very nice heft to the sound with good detail and huge sound stage. BUT, ultimately, music just did not sound as good on it. In fact some of my favorite tracks sounded unpleasant. Not sure how else to describe things. As part of this (but not the full story) there was a sort of hardness to upper mid range. I went back and forth about keeping it. Went back to the Consonance Ref 50 (2 6H30s + 1 EZ80) with new EH gold pins in place of the stock Sovteks and all was right again. I had expected to really miss the CJ. That was not the case. PLUS - the EH gold pins (my dealer says the difference over the Sovteks is more than cosmetic and extends to internal build...I can't speak to this, just repeating what I was told) brought a tight and deeper bottom end. Much of what I wanted from an upgrade came with this tube switch...maybe the Sovteks were getting a little long in the tooth. Don't really thinks so, but have to consider the possibility. At any rate, decided to stick with the Cyber 50 and I've been enjoying the music ever since. Are there better pre amps out there? Certainly. Am I motivated at this time to hunt one down that works with my system...not so much. Things are really sounding great. Just switched out MA-1 ICs (pre to mono blocks) for MA-3s obtained via Morrow Audio's trade up program so expect more sonic goodness is on its way as these settle in. Thanks to all who made suggestions and offered input.
Ghost- I am not surprised by your observations with the products with tubed power supplies. For whatever reason, there is something magical dimensionally with tube rectifiers. If you end up with a product using the EZ80, the Amperex Bugle Boy is incredible .... And very cheap on ebay even if used. They last very very long.
Hey Jafox - I didn't think about the CJ not being tube rectified (I believe I am correct on this and that this is your point) whereas the JAS Bravo and the Consonance Ref 50 are (the Ref 50 uses an EZ80).

I'll look around for some Amperex and see how that goes. I did try an NOS EZ80 (can't recall brand) and it had a really weird effect like the music got all disembodied or something. Stuff seemed to be floating around. Too much of a good thing I suppose. Thanks for your input. Maybe one of these days I'll find an Aesthetix to audition but for right now...very happy.

If you like Conrad - Johnson gear, you owe it to yourself to audition the Aesthetix line of electronics. Do not buy anything until, you may have a missed-opportunity!

More importantly, which cables/power cords do you plan to use/own? Have fun and Happy listening!
LAMM LL2 Deluxe - the most resolving, well built reliable tubed line stage under $8,000 - for me anyway.