Top Ten Tube PreAmp of all time?

This thread for you tubeguys.Nominate your favorite tube Pre Amp of all time. More info for audiogon members the better. Remember some members are just starting their high end experience.
Audio Research SP-10 Mk2 especially phono stage
Bat VK 50se!!!
I have owned several...but only one that I would say has a place on a top ten list,..the Conrad Johnson ART.
I second the ARC SP-10 mk2 and would like to add the Jadis JP-80mc.
conrad-johnson pv9a real sleeper. also now using a cj pv11
A Dynaco Pas3x only when used in conjunction with Nepalese Temple Ball.
Hi, The Bat VK50se! What a wonderful piece, just stunning in its musicality.
I have to go along with the SP10 MKII but my new favorite is the Atma-Sphere MP-1 MKII.
VTL TL 5.5 soooooo sweeeeeet. Full body and great soundstage. A must see before buying anything else. It blows away pre amps twice the price.
Audible Illusions 3A or if you prefer less warmth the L1. A friend has a Marantz 7C that he claims is tops. It has had the usual maintenance plus a rebuilt (rewound) power transformer and also the addition of a custom designed volume pot that maintains the soundstage and detail as the volume drops. My personal favorite is the L1. I withdraw the Pas3x in favor of these.
I agree with Dekay on the Audible Illusions 3A. I have had mine for about 5 years and have no desire to replace it. I play a lot of LP's and I love it's phono stage.
Sonic Frontier Line 3 with micro-matched tubes. Canary CA 801.
I "voted" for Marantz 9 (or 8b) amp, i'll vote for Marantz 7 pre-amp!
BAT VK50SE for sure. Honorable mention: ARC SP11 w/Amperex 7308's.
Where are you CAT owners? This is a popularity contest;your vote counts;stand up and be counted.Pay no mind that it is THEE BEST,under 6 grand.
Conrad Johnson Premier 3..
I would think that the CAT SL-1 (any model) would have to be in just about anyone's top ten. The CAT just eclipses everything else I have heard, especially if you do your own tube rolling to match the rest of your system. Yes Avguygeorge, I will stand up and be counted. Bass extension, midrange presence, soundstage, dynamics, transparency, smoothness. I just don't see how it can get much better than this. But, my mind is still open and while I haven't heard everything mentioned in this thread, IMO, some of the suggestions just don't compare. I understand listening evaluations are subjective, so don't get mad at me guys.
I agree the CJ PV-9a is the best non Premier preamp they ever made. Phono stage is incredible. The ART is the top of the list.
Audio Research Reference one, replaced my SP11 Mk II which I loved for years
Jadis JP80mc, my favorite for years. A classical lover's heaven! Also the Aesthetix IO (haven't listened to the matching line stage, but if it's anywhere near as good, it should be included). The ARC SP-10 Mk II is also a classic. In the less expensive stuff, the Audible Illusions 3A. Everything else mentioned is also worthy-there's no shortage of fine tube preamps.
Rogue 66
Essence Audio Jasper: These hand made 50# behemoths are utterly neutral, wonderfully musical and best of all, do not fail with years of listening. At $10000 new they are a bit pricey but can be had on the used market for a fraction of the new price. If you love tubes and demand reliability, this is the one.
CJ PV10 huge bang for the buck - even better is the Premier 17LS.
I really like the Encore DL 2010.2, has everything at a very reasonable price, great phono stage. Not very well known, but has done well in Stereophile shows. Worth checking out.
this is kinda silly, really - who has compared even more than a *handful* of all these preamps? and, they will perform differently in in different systems. that said, i will totally ignore it, & cast my wote for the melos music director - simply an amazing unit! ;~) doug
you haven't heard real music until you have heard it through a Thor TA-1000 linestage tube pre-amp. this is the best next thing than the real live performance. I've tried different ones thru the years ,but this one is a keeper
JOULE ELECTRA LA100mk3 or LA200mk3 and CJ16LS.truly musical instruments.
I also nominate the Joule Electra LA100MKIII, but realize without a phono stage it's not everyone's cup of tea. 2nd best w/phono would be ARC SP-9MKIII.
Do most of you agree that the SP-10 is better than an SP-11? Is it a one or two chassis unit? I had an SP-9 MK I (?) which was just fine but didn't exactly make me weak at the knees.
There are many who prefer the SP-10 (which I recall is a two-chasis unit) to the SP-11 in their MkII versions. The SP-11 was more neutral and had better deep bass, but certainly lacked the tube bloom and dimensionality of the SP-10. I had an SP-11 for 4 years, it was the first high-end preamp I'd owned. Back then, I was slowly being weaned from solid state to tubes, so I probably would not have appreciated the SP-10 as much as I do now. A classic case of tube vs. (hybrid) solid state preferences, I guess; your taste would decide which was "better". From the prices of used 10s and 11s, I'd say they're both held in high esteem by audiophiles. The SP-9 was ARC's attempt to make a budget SP-11 hybrid, and in its MkI version had mixed reviews; it certainly did not have a tubed preamp sound. I can say that the SP-15, which was the SP-11's replacement and had half as many tubes as the SP-11, never seemed to have the critical or popular success of either the 10 or 11. By the time it came out, I was growing enough in my appreciation of tubed equipment to prefer my SP-11 and resist upgrade fever. Had I been into the high end earlier and owned an SP-10, I probably would have resisted the urge to get an SP-11 as well. mk2-vac renaissance sig-mfa-sp10mk2-
I agree with Sedond, this is silly. Due to system surenergy. Why this is so, you ask or don't ask. But the Bat 3i sounds great in my system, but for some unknown reason the Bat 50se doesn't.
Reprince is right. So far as the differences between the SP-10 and SP-11, certainly the 10 euphonized the sound more than the 11 which was more transparent and probably closer to neutral across the board (hybrid). The 10 with all tube power supply has the ability to make more music sound live without any loss of musical information, an ever lovin bloomer. It just pulls you into the music, you really don't care if it's ultimately accurate or not. Interestingly enough I have just done an extended listen with the 10 Mk2 in my system and with an upgrade in caps, wires and resistors it just might hold its own against the top tube pre-amps out there.
Tubegroover: I would not doubt it; my JP80 is a pretty old design as well, and I'm not selling it soon (I heard somewhere it was similar in circuitry to the ARC SP6, but with a much better power supply and point-to-point wiring). A friend of mine redid his SP-10 with silver wiring and had a great-sounding pre (don't know if he still has it). Not a bad product to buy used and try a few upgrades on.
I have owned an ARC SP10Mk2 for many years. It's wonderful, but it could use a bit more clarity. I've thought about upgrading the internal parts, but I would hate to destroy the original voicing, and also the resale value. I know Great Northern Sound Company can do extensive mods, but for the price, I could buy something state of the art used! Do you guys have any suggestions? Thanks.
hi martin,

go to the tech-talk topic & czech out the *believers vs non believers* & the ps-audio threads. yule learn that all electronics sound alike, w/the possible exception of toob-stuff - which sounds distorted, so those of us who like toobs obviously prefer more distortion... ;~)

that said, i defy ewe to find a better-sounding preamp than the melos music-director for ~$2k used. or for *any* price, for that matter... :>)

my opinion, of course! doug s.

Martin, without a price range it's kind of tough to answer your question. There are plenty of suggestions in this thread above. If you listen primarily to classical or jazz, I'd suggest a used Jadis, but that's not cheap, even used; also, among the newer equipment, the Herron line and phono stages are excellent, with a very clean, detailed yet dimensional presentation. But I would not dismiss the thought of having your SP-10 modified by Great Northern Sound or another skilled modifier; I think that you'd find that may bring you a "state of the art" preamp as well. There isn't that much new in preamp circuitry that I've seen which would make your preamp obsolete, and I would expect that upgrades in capacitors, resistors and the like might give you the added clarity you're looking for without necessarily losing the character of the unit that you like. Just my opinion.....
rcprince is rite - if ya like the basic tonal character of yer current pre, then a parts upgrade may put ya in fat-city... ;~)

good luck, doug s.

Hello Ferrari,
Jadis JP80 to draw me into the music, as once the all tube, two chassis Beverdige did in the seventies. JP 200 balanced with the Aesthetix IO phonostage in front has given me the most musical, dynamic and deadquiet vinyl rendering, which I've heard on my stators so far. Might fiddle around with tubes in the future, but doubt if I'll ever change this vinyl setup again.
Hey Detlof, I gather the I/O has broken in, or was it the cables that were the problem when you first started listening (I remember your posts on the Jadis Fidelity thread)? You still feel the I/O is a little colder?
Greetings, Rcprince! I commend you on your mnestic powers.
Yes its all broken in, except for my ears. I am still of two minds. I find the IO much quieter with a wider and deeper soundstage and a tad better separation between indiviual instruments. Probably, I must grudgingly admit, that its also more neutral. But I love that tad of euphonic coloration in the Jadis' mids, I love that bloom of individual instruments, that sonic aura, the JP80 can place around the sound of a solo violin and above all the holographic rendering of voices. The 200 does this even more than the JP 80. They are sonically very similar, only the 200 has a punch, which I never thought possible from a preamp. So I've found the Aesthetix/Jadis 200Bal a very happy marriage. However so far I mainly listen to chamber music through this combination. For big classical stuff or opera I have myself a Jadis fest with the JP80 as the RHIAA phono part through the 200's. Unfortunatedly the latter are only on loan so far, so if I suddenly disappear from Audiogon, I will probably have been caught robbing a bank in order to keep those four chassis marvels.
The older JP200 had a phono stage; I gather this one doesn't. I also have listened to a JP200 and thought it the best full-featured preamp I'd ever heard; I would consider it over my JP80, but the cost!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sadly, Rcprince, I have to agree with you on all counts.
I have owned the SP-10, SP-11, and JP-80MC. I have auditioned the JP200 but never extensively as owning. The SP-11 has never been a contender. Interestingly, the SP-10 improved markedly when re-tubed with 6922s for 6DJ8s. I still remember the utter musicality and enjoyment from this preamp as unsurpassed. My JP-80MC usurped the musical crown until I had to re-tube it. I was never able even to approximate the original magical qualities of this preamp despite replacement tube sets from Jadis, RAM, or $$$NOS. I still longed for the re-tubed SP-10. Now I would'nt think of using a preamp (tube or SS) without a remote volume/mute control at least. But I'd be hard-pressed to rack my aural memory and choose between these two classics for the front end honors of my apocryphal audio valediction.
Apocryphal Audio Valediction? .... Do they have a website?
No but they should, AAV being symptomatic of endstage Audiophilia Nervosa!
SP10 vs SP10 MKII differences?? can someone tell me the differences here? anyone know about how much the upgrade to the mkII would cost?
Can someone offer up an opinion: which has a better phono stage, the arc sp10, sp10II or the arc ph3 SE??? ive got to make a decision soon. cant audition and am going on reviews in stereophile and hopefully thought from this site.
Kublakhan Call Leonard at ARC (763) 577-9700 for upgrade info. I would also speak with Steve Huntley of phone 651-578-0657. Used to work for ARC and does mods. He would be throughly familiar with the differences and might offer greater insight. He personally has a 10 Mk2 that he has modified. Personally, I wouldn't pass on a SP-10 for a PH-3. If you ask Leonard I'm sure he would tell you that their current PH3 phono stage is better so I wouldn't be so ready to take his word for it.