top 5 preamps under $1,200

I am shopping for a newly - used preamp to pair with my B&K ST202 sonata amp and Alon II speakers. I mostly use my Jolida CD player. Love the open, live performance improvement the Jolida made to my system. Yes, I also currently use a B&K ST10pro MC pre-amp. I am searching for another pre-amp to further increase the soundstage, "live - performance" sound.. I have a short list- audible illusion 3m, Rogue 99 magnum..... Are there others??
Used Muse model 3, Classe 30, Sunfire vacume tube control, McCormack Micro Line Drive
Keep your eyes open for a used Mapletree 2A or 4A
Used Conrad Johnson tube units - PV11, PV12, et. al.
TAD 150 Signature, VTL 2.5, Juicy Music Peach, Manley Shrimp
All the suggestions are nice. I would add the McCormack ADL preamp to the list. Very musical, full function and half your budget. Good luck
Innersound $1200 here on Agon,makes me wonder if people even look at the ads for how long some products sit for sale
Used Bel Canto Pre3. I've tried to replace mine twice, won't do it again. So simple to use and really it's like it's not even there as the volume rises or lowers.
I've seen audilble illusions module 3 and/ rogue 99 go for $800, which is better? Is it value added to spend $300 more on VTL?
Mapletree 2A os first rate. Tube regulated power supply in a separate chassis, point-to-point, and 6sn7 or 12sn7 (cheaper NOS)with the flip of a switch. Previously owned CAT, Lamm, ARC, Dodd, and Joule - all wonderful, but this little preamp, $800 with blackgate filter capacitor upgrade should not be dismissed because it is not $5-8K; it will suprise the heck out of you...

But for me the best preamp, at any price is the $450 Lightspeed Attenuator - limited to 1 input/output, and you need to basically use tube amps fpr high input impedance, but it is the best I have heard for my taste.
A second vote for the TAD 150 Sig.
I really like my TAD 150 Sig. which resides in my main rig with a TAD-60 amp. But you can't go wrong with a CJ PV10,11,12. I have a PV10 in my 2nd system with a SS amp (Classe CA100) and it sounds very nice. Rocks better than the all tube setup. I have had the CJ in my main room at times and I could happily live with it there. Before I got the TAD-60, I had a McCormack DNA-125 mated with the 150 Sig. and it was a very good match. Although I have never heard the VTL or the Peach, they always seem to be held in high regard. IMHO, if you like what a tube CD player did for your system you will be amazed at what a decent tube preamp will do. BTW, the BAT 3i might be another consideration. Many good choices under $1200 used.
I once had an Audible Illusions Modulus 3. Sounded nice but the brand new National 6922 tubes only lasted about 200 hours. Be sure to use Russian miltary spec tubes if you get the AI preamp. I acquired my mint VTL 2.5 (no phono stage) locally for just $775. Very happy with it for money spent. The TAD 150 Signature did not have quite the same detail but very close and sounded a bit warmer with a wider sound stage versus the VTL. Seriously, if you can get a TAD for $800 or so and don't care about built in phono I'd say go for it. The line stage section is very nice. Only uses (2) 12??7 tubes so tube rolling is fairly cheap. Tube life also not a concern. Best of luck.
"I've seen audilble illusions module 3 and/ rogue 99 go for $800, which is better? Is it value added to spend $300 more on VTL?"
I would suggest the VTL,too,although I think they all are very good preamps. But here's some more info that might help you decide if the $300 is worth it:
1. Both the AI and Rogue99 have separate power supplies. Usually a positive thing but thought you'd like to know in case you have space issues with another box.
2. The AI is phase inverting- meaning pos. and neg.are reversed on all signals passed through it.AI seems to think this isn't a big deal even though it will feed your amp this inverted signal and requires correcting(reversing)at the speaker terminals. AI claims they didn't want to add any "unnecessary" parts to signal paths but that logic is just lame,imho. Rogue and VTL are both regular, noninverting preamps.
3. Only the VTL has HT (Home theater) passthrough circuitry. This is only important if you want to integrate your 2channel systen into a home theatersystem either now or in the future. I'm not sure exactly how you could incorporate HT with the AI or Rogue.or if this is even relevant to your uusage.
I tried to be unbiased in the above info but, ultimately, I am biased toward the VTL. A few years ago I was searching for a tubed preamp mainly for 2 channel listening but also wanted HT passthru. I was able to try the Cary 98 and the VTL 2.5in my system. The VTL was just what I was looking for and bought a new unit from a local dealer. I swapped in NOS Mullard tubes about a year ago and this added a little more warmth without diminishing details. I'm not associated with VTL, just a very satisfied customer. Hope this helps and good luck!
Another option to consider - there's an integrated amp
'Tube Audio Designs TAD-60 w/extras reduced a lot' posted on Agon for a very nice price. No phono of course plus limited inputs. To offset the limited input concerns on the integrated amp I would use a Calrad multi input to one output good quality selector box which is less than $40. I got mine from Cable and Connectors in Conn. and use it to switch between 2 turn tables feeding one phono stage. Not sure on the efficiency of your speakers but the TAD should drive most speakers out there. AND - it sounds nice, very well made, plus Paul G of Tube Audio Design is a great guy to deal with for customer support/issues. Finally the TAD will hold its value. You can resell it down the road for close to what you'd pay for it. B&K amps are nice for the money, a great value but I'm guessing you'd like the TAD better. I have no association with the seller. :)

12-28-10: Pdspecl
I once had an Audible Illusions Modulus 3. Sounded nice but the brand new National 6922 tubes only lasted about 200 hours. Be sure to use Russian miltary spec tubes if you get the AI preamp.

I have 2 friends still using their Audible Illusions Modulus 3 and they have excellent results with Reflektor 6H23P-EB tube. Very durable, transparent, good extension in both ends, super low noise and low microphonics.
Check out Van Alstine ( A long history of solid products for a good price!
Does anyone know of a TAD 150 for sale in there area? Maybe on Craigslist ... ???

Based on the excellent feedback TAD 150 (1), VTL 2.5 (2), Maple tree(3)
The TAD 150s do come up for sale from time to time.
According to Paul G he only made 350 of these units.
So not too many to go around. Just a guess but I suspect VTL has more volume with the 2.5 preamps.
what does the audience think of prima luna prologue 3?
Get a used Audio Horizons preamp.
Dodd Audio Tube Buffer, simple clen remote control