Tube Pre-amp BAT, ARC, EAR, Sonic Frontiers

Hello everybody
My system is:
Accuphase dp-57
Electrocompaniet AW120
Usher Audio CP-6381

I need a preamp. After reading lots of topics i marked personally: BAT, Sonic Frontiers, ARC and EAR pre-amps. Does anyone have any ideas which one could match better? Or maybe another suggestion?
Unfortunatly I have no possibility to listen to them in my system. EAR is an exeption. I will listen to EAR-864 tomorrow. But I am more inspired of SF and BAT.
ARC, sweet and a good value. EAR while a good unit, is outrageously priced now with the pound/dollar relationship. If you still want it I suggest you order from a UK dealer and safe the 20% VAT. Beware of used EAR, very expensive to service.
I recently purchased a Belles 21A after having an ARC LS-25 Mk II and the Modwright 9.0 with tube rectified power supply. In my system the Belles is the equal, if not better, than the two of those. The Belles is an underrated gem.
Snarkonmars, take a look at my review of the Flora preamp here on the GON, that will give the details why I chose it over many other highly regarded linestages. It is also a price "killer" at $3000.00 compared to much more expensive pieces that it out performs sonicly.
what is your system, Kira?
I respect Belles as well. I heard all the best about solid state but never heard anything about their tube preamps though. Could you compare ARC and Belles in more detail?
Some of my friends warned me that ARC sometimes could sound dry.
Thank you Teajay
I have read your review. What was the system?
Nice system. You've put a lot of thought into selecting good components that provide synergy. There is tough competition in your price range for a well-designed preamp. I think it will come down to the preamps strengths and what suits your listening experience. Other suggestions:

Aesthetix Calypso $4500
Audio Valve Eclipse $4500
Thank you very much, Lapierre for your kind words and high marks of my system :-) Yes, Aesthetix Calypso is on my list also. I can meet it quite rarely so this was the only reason why i did not put it in my 1 post.
Well I will define my level up research :-)
Sonic Frontiers Line 3
Audio Research LS25 mk2 or?
Aesthetix Calypso
Audio Valve Eclipse
now i also got very positive feedback about Belles 21A though I heard Belles 28A ref (although it is a solid state but remarcable pre!)
Indeed I paid so much attantion to synergy in my system. I've passed a lot of amps and couple of CD-players. Now I love the sound and do not want to spoil it with wrong preamp.
My problem is that I cannot listen to those preamps marked above. I live in Ukraine and here it is a problem. So the only choice is to read a lot then buy it and try it :-)
As i said earlier today I will listen to EAR 864 just to clarify for myself what good preamp can add to my system (i hope add, no subtract :-)
and then I will tell you about my influences.

Thank you
I will add art audio preamp on your list,I personally
recomend Art audio's preamp,for my taste they are very
musical,I used to own audio research preamp,and heard
tube preamps.And Joe is a very nice person to deal with.
Thanks Bon
Morning :-)
so i auditioned EAR 864 yesterday. What to say. Difference between Accuphase---EAR---Electrocompaniet and Accuphase---Electrocompaniet was not stunning. At first sight everythin' kept the same. In a while I noticed that sound without EAR became less natural and less involving.
Also EAR added sweetness so i would prefer to keep that natural and involving impressions but subtract sweetness.
Anyway now i am convinced that good preamp won't spoil my system synergy.
To say the truth my first candidates are Sonic frontiers, Aesthetix Calypso and Belles 28A ref (up to forum discussions they got mostly positive feedback)
Also EAR added sweetness so i would prefer to keep that natural and involving impressions but subtract sweetness.

Check out ARC LS-25MkII.
At least consider the Einstein. With NOS tubes, it is world class and very reliable.

Don't forget you can always tweak the sound by using NOS tubes. Then you can look at Interconnects and Power Cords for the preamp to help refine the sound. But your tubes will have the most impact in sound refinement.
thank you very much to everyone who paid attantion to my problem
I made up my mind to try Belles 28A reference

Time will show
Hi everyone

As I said earlier I got Belles 28A ref as a pre-amp. I am listening to my new system 2 days and impressions are not monosemantic. I got better bass control and wide scene but at the same time lost naturalness. Sound became nipped and a bit dry

I will try not to make hasty conclusions but.....

sell it and try something else.
I'll put a vote in for the SF Line 3, very good on its right, but if you send it in to Pcx, Chris will turn it into something really really good.
Yeah, SF line 3 was in my short list but at last minute I changed my mind and got Belles. You know it happenes sometimes
I forgot to mention that i am looking for balanced preamp.

Does anybody know the real difference between normal and SE models of SF?
yes with each change there is a jump in performance from normal to se to se+. more transparent, better bass definition, lower noise level...
Snarkonmars, If you are looking for balanced tube preamps, I would think your short list would look a little different. Am I missing something?
Hello Atmasphere

at the start balanced preamp was not that principal. But now I am on balanced connection so....
BAT, SF, EAR and ARC are in short list anyway

I am more on SF line 3SE side to say the truth
Snarkonmars, I don't think SF ever made a balanced preamp, although they have the connections. At least I say that in the context of being fully balanced throughout, like our preamps are.
what is the advantage of fully balanced preamp then?
SF preamps are completely balanced input to output. I have the schematics....
One more thing. I found that my sources and preamp sounded unequivocally better with a power regenerator. Tried numerous conditioners, but nothing was as good as complete regeneration. Not really surprising. I use the PS Audio P500; best $600 I've ever spent on audio. You could buy one on the 'gon and sell it for pretty much what you bought it for if you don't like it....
Are you using the SF Line 3 on regenerated power?
I tried that when I owned an SF Line 3 and the Line 3 sounded much better plugged straight into the wall. It has such a huge separte power supply, my findings were that conditioning made it sound worse.
Guys, all power questions really depend on your personal home condition. Also some ppl like regenerators and some ppl do not. it is okay
What is the advantage of fully balanced preamp then?

Balanced (hopefully differential as well) circuits have the advantage of increased power supply noise rejection and often a considerable ability to reject hum when directly subjected to hum fields from a power transformer. Differential circuits also have the advantage of a theoretical 6 db/stage of gain less noise. Over the entire preamp this itself can be quite an advantage.

In practice, the actual noise advantage over single-ended is usually a little less than 6 db, but not by much if the circuit is designed correctly. If you give it the benefit of the doubt and say, 4 db, and if you were to have 3 stages of gain in the preamp, the noise advantage would still be at least 12db, which is significant.

If, on knowing this is the case, one were to design a balanced preamp that took advantage of this fact, it would be possible to build a preamp with less gain stages. That would be a simpler signal path- less places for the signal to get messed up.

Not everyone knows this, but phono cartridges are inherently balanced (if you've ever wondered why phono systems are the only single-ended source that needs that extra ground wire, its because its a balanced source that is being used single-ended). So it is possible to have the signal go from the MC phono cartridge to the output of the preamp, be balanced all the way and only encounter three gain stages.

A balanced preamp can accept balanced inputs. Balanced interconnect cables (if built correctly) will inherently sound better than single ended cables as a number of cable issues are reduced by going balanced. Finally, the output of the preamp, if it really supports the balanced standard, will be able to drive cables 100 feet long without degradation. This means that you can put the front end of the system where you want it, rather that being constrained by a short cable requirement. It also means that the interconnect cable between the preamp and amplifier will not be dictating the sound of the system.

So- for audiophiles anyway, the advantages are profound.
Dear Atmasphere
thank you for detailed reply
but I meant what is the advantage of fully balanced (like BAT) before ARC or SF which have RCA and XLR as an option
ARC LS* and REF preamps are balanced, same as BAT.
On balanced ARC preamps there is actually a switch that you have to set to "Balanced" if you are running with XLRs. BAT just doesn't provide RCA ins/outs, but they do provide an XLR-RCA adapters, so you can use whatever either RCA or XLR.
yeah Audphile1
that's what I know
i was just wandering what did Atmasphere mean by: " Snarkonmars, I don't think SF ever made a balanced preamp, although they have the connections. At least I say that in the context of being fully balanced throughout, like our preamps are."

I recon that fully balanced preamp does not allow you to connect via RCA (XLR-RCA adapter is a compromise anyway). If you have option to connect with XLR and RCA this is just more flexible and universal...
I got rid of the Line 2. My P8i drives BAT monoblocks directly via its balanced outputs and a pair of 3m interconnects.
Snarkonmars, what I meant was that some products have an XLR connection when the internal circuitry is single-ended. There is no advantage to the connector; the advantage lies in the topography.

BTW any balanced preamp will convert a single-ended signal to balanced without issue or degradation, as part of the normal operation of the preamp. We've not been providing single-ended connections for the most part (although we have always had 2 single-ended line inputs) in an effort to convince the user to hook things up right and get the most out of the preamp as a result (I'm sure that's why BAT has does it that way too). That's why we've always had a balanced input for the phono (in fact we were the first to offer that feature), as it is a balanced source anyway.
I was auditioning Magnepan 3.6 to buy. The place was an ARC dealer. I took my Sonic Frontiers Line 3 modified by Chris at the Parts Connection,over $2000.00 mod, sounds better than the ARC LS25 latest. This was using ARCs equipment. I wanted to compare the ref 3 but they had sold it. I really like my Line 3. I also have the Sonic Frontiers Power 3 mono amps. They have 28 tubes so it nice to just call Chris when you need something. He is easy to deal with.
I bought SF Line 3 almost 2 years ago and happy with it