Tube Pre-Amp Recommendation

Im new to this forum but have spent few months reading into posts. The more i read the more i get confused on my first purchase of a Good quality Tube Pre-amp. At this very moment I have always used Solid states pre-amp but after hearing the Audio Research Arc Ref 5 and 3 I am on the upgrade bug. Considering these units cost allot of money I need some suggestion if there are other Tube Pre-Amp which can either match similar levels to the Arc Ref 5 or better it.

I am not bothered about name brands or looks of the unit rather on how it presents the music to me.
I have not own a Tube Gear before in my life, and not sure on how to go about it. BTW I am in Indonesia (A British Expat Working and Living Here)

Demoing unit is out of the question here, even buying a unit here is so much more expensive then back at home In the UK. I prefer to Buy from USA (Will use a Power converter if needed)

My Current Setup is:
Speakers: Philharmonics 3
Amplifier: Audio GD Master 2 Series Mono Blocks (Will Upgrade Later to Krell, Macintosh or Pass)
CD player: Oppo 95 Using on Board DAC for the time being. Looking to upgrade later on for DAC
Room: Heavily treated, with Foam, Acoustic Panels, Bass Traps in all 4 Corners.

Budget less than 6000 Dollars.

Need Performance Level Matching that of Arc Ref 5Se or better.

Need suggestion and opinion on how to go about this. I prefer fasting sound more to neutral. Slight warm but not too much. I did find Cary SLP05 Pretty Warm, however on Ebay it slipped my fingers otherwise I was going to pull the trigger on that. I will being pairing this with Solid State Amplifier don’t want to get into Power Amps using Tubes for the next few years at least.

Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks Guys
I can recommend the Dodd preamp if a single ended battery preamp will do. I thought it kicked my Calypso’s ass but couldn’t stomach the battery as I like to use tubes for TV and movies too. A friend tried it with compared it with an ARC Ref 5 preamp and thought the ARC sounded best with his ARC CD player but not as well with is ARC PH7 phono preamp.

A few of people here at Audiogon seem to like the Dude preamp better than some of the ARCs. You can find Dude reviews in the review section.

I highly recommend the Manley Jumbo Shrimp, fast, quiet, warm, dynamic and wonderful soundstage. Timbre is accurate. Made in the USA.

A true bargain.
Has anyone compared the Dude Pre-amp with Arc Ref5se?
The Dude is amazing and I have only compared to the Ref3 in a friends system. He had Coincident Total Victory V speakers, Bel Canto Ref 500 amps and a very nice analog front end.

The Dude just had more dynamics, scale, authority and overall ease. The AR sounded small in comparison if you will.
Well the ARC 5 SE and the Cary SLP 05 are two very different sounding preamps. I find your prescribed sonic qualities a bit confusing:
I prefer fasting sound more to neutral. Slight warm but not too much.

It seems to me that you are looking for a tube preamp on the faster side of neutral. The ARC is about as fast as they come, the Cary is on the slower, musical side of neutral. Another brand on the fast side of neutral that you may consider is VAC. Aesthetix and VTL also fall into this category, as may others that I have not heard. I have not had an opportunity to listen to The Dude, so I can not comment there.

Of these, my preference would be for a VAC. I find them almost as articulate as the ARC models, but with just a subtle hint of sweetness. As always, YMMV.
I meant, Fast and Neatural sound. I did find the Cary SLP05 a bit bloated in the midrange which seems unbalanced.
I highly recommend the SAS Audio Labs 11A. Incredibly neutral and transparent tube preamp!
A preamp as good or better than an Audio Research Ref5 Se is going to cost way more than $6,000.
IMO any of the suggestions so far are only around the quality of the Audio Research REF3.
Personally if I were the op, I would buy the Audio Research REF3, which is about $5,000. have it sent to ARC for retubing first, before sending it to you where you are.
Have them send a spare set of tubes. (and include the original tubes.
Between all this you may have a good preamp like you want, and around the cost you are looking for.
Your pie in the sky wanting a preamp better tan what you could possibly afford, and the likelyhood of just being scammed by some fast talking whoever.. (Basically I am saying no such thing as a free lunch, that is no cheaper preamp is a 'giantkiller' period.)
I would suggest go for the ARC REF3.
As usual, Elizabeth is on target. I *have* heard the Dodd outclass the Ref 3 but your resale will never compare to any ARC gear. The new Conrad Johnson ET5 is quite fast and can be obtained used within your budget, but I've never compared it to the ARC Ref 5.
Given your description of what you are trying to achieve, you would probably like an Aesthetix Calypso. I like it better than the ARC myself.
The Dude costs $6000 and I am most confident it is as good....period. Love to compare as I would be shocked if it was not better. Price has almost nothing to do with this comparison. Now, I have listened to and compared many an expensive preamp to the Dude and am in a position to make this kind of statement. In other words, I have had the experience.
+1 Grannyring, a TRL Dude will definately put your worries about another preamp that's "better sounding or more $$" to rest.
I am looking into Dude Pre-amp now. Also been looking at the Dodd for my HT system as the Pre-amp seems to have a HT bypass. Just purchased Danley Sound Labs for the HT Room with a ATI 3007 Amplifier. Still Looking for a Denon AVP Pre-amp to upgrade that system too.

If the Dude is trully top class i am seriously considering this. Just need someone to confirm if this will outclass atleast the Ref 3 or is on similar levels to Ref 5 im happy with that.
I meant to type Dude and not Dodd in my last post. Sorry for the confusion!
The 2 Dudes that recommend the Dude are spot on.I owned a REF 3,it was a very accomplished pre amp but not in the same league as the Dude.
Dragon Vibe, I am in Southern MN should you want to see and hear or compare to a pre of your choice.
Look into the Cayin/VAS Citation I, an updating of the original HK Citation I. I've enjoyed it for over three years now and can highly recommend it, especially for vinyl. Great sound, great value.
Are they any specification on the Big Dude?
find it be alarming nothing is talked about its connectors or other technical specification which may help one to determine its synergy electronically if everything matches.
Can the Arcs be upgraded? how much would cost to upgrade Ref 5 to 5se
The more i read about Dude, The more im finding its only a small circle of people who own this and talk about it the most for marketting. However no real world specification is shown or any good close up images on the internal.

Head fi has a post claimsing its all a scam....hmmm where are the real picture and spec if its that good surly it should not be big sales talk about having no time. Not being offensive but come on 6000 few other boutiqe stores got it right with the info pics.
Anyone with experience with DODD? i like the processor bypass idea.
I owned the Dodd buffer and replaced it with the Dude. There is absolutely no comparison between the two. The Dude is the real deal. The only reason I sold mine is that I need a balanced pre for my balanced source.

Yes, I might get a balanced Dude....
Dragon. See my feedback and understand I am a seasoned, experienced and rational aphile. The forum you speak of is a joke and the whole thing just not worth the time given to the keystrokes in this post.

The input impedance is 147k and call the builder Paul for whatever spec you must have. Paul has sold many, many of these Dudes and most just enjoy and don't spend time on posts etc....

These are built like a tank at just shy of 70 pounds with Duelund CAST caps, Shallco attenuators, solid core copper wire throughout, hard wired by Paul one at a time, a forest of large can computer grade capacitors in the power supply, high quality resistors, ceramic tube sockets, an incredible circuit developed by Paul, and a power supply more robust then most amplifiers regardless of cost.

The unit uses 6sn7 tubes and is also tube regulated. No fuses to muck up the signal, rather a very high quality circuit breaker as the on/off. Top quality Cardas connectors throughout. An absolute tank and glorious preamp.

Paul makes every one and he does not have a marketing department, web page consultant etc..... You pay for him, his design, his circuit with no pad for middlemen or marketing. That is why it is reasonably priced.

He can and will tell you more should you call him.

Lots of us Agoners own his stuff and would not deal with or be bothered with dealing with anyone or any piece of gear not top notch.

I hope to only be sure you look at all your choices in an educated manner. Some prefer to deal with large companies with no wait time and many people behind the scenes. I happen to like buying from small companies of one or two people. I find this is where brilliance and incredible value and be found. If I need to know something, I ask the man to designed and built it. No need for a fancy spec sheet or whatever.

In terms of seeing or hearing a unit you can call Paul to locate an owner near you. Lots of Dude pics on the net by the way. Even internals.

Have fun!
Grannyring, you did your best, let him buy the ARC or Dodd.
They are also good preamps as you know Rx8man, but the Dude is so special I sometimes must let others know. I realize a potential buyer must be comportable buying from a small operation.

Dragon, forgot to mention that Paul makes Dudes to suit whatever needs you have. So Dudes have different inputs, outputs, tubes types etc... to fit what you want. This makes it impossible to print one set of specs as you can imagine. For example my Dude has two 6sn7 tubes per channel instead of one for more gain.....
I bought the Dude based on the postings here and everything that is said is true. It truly changed what I thought was possible with my system.

Consider the amount of marketing a company does and whether they have a resellar/distributor model. If they do, part of what your purchase price is for those things. It is obvious to at least me, the money you are paying for a Dude all goes into quality parts, labor and unbelievable sound quality and nothing else.
Granny ring I'd still like to compare my CST with the Dude perhaps after the holidays and the blizzards.

Will have to find and research into this, spending 6000 grand on a pre-amp from user rave reviews on here is a some anmount of risk taking.

I am finalsing my list to the following:

Dodd (Used this with my Theatre Setup)
Coincident Statement

I will try to find pictures of the internal of dude. I did request it from Paul. If yuou guys can share pictures i would like to see them.
Does The Dude offer a free home trial period? That may work for you Dragon_vibe.
The problem is Dude :-) im not in the USA. If Paul Allowed this i would take up on the offer and bite the bullet on Customs Charges. I really want to try this gear out.

I have purchased many things in the past with out listening to the gear, some have been good suggestion whilst others i ended up being dissapointed and had the burden of losing the cash out and going through the headache of selling it.
I have asked pual a series of questions but never got the full answer. He just went on saying well he has sold this and sold that. Im confused.
I got a email from Pual today. Claims i made 2 of his customers angry???? what the hell is going on???

Here is a snippet. My email was asking on build times


This is wrong.

If you really desire that I be discredited and go out of business, then I will at your wish if you truly believe that I shouldn't be in business and I shouldn't sell preamps to those that wish them. But words do have consequences when left unchallenged on an internet post that gets read worldwide. I don't think it's in your best interest but it may well be. I know that you've angered a few of my customers who you don't know and haven't posted and want to know from me if I care or want to have the record set straight. So we don't need any of this to go on. I think the ARC is right for you right now and will be exactly what you need. Then I'll go along servicing my two customers.

Is he reffering to both of you or has paul mistaken me for someone else. All these responses are very confusing.
Dragon, you have many good choices given and I am sure anyone of the suggestions will sound quite good. In terms of your confusion with the email sent to you, well please consider a couple of things from the builders perspective.

Stating a small group of folks purchased the Dude is really not true or accurate. Actually many have been sold each year for several years, but most owners are music lovers not inclined to spend time here as I do. Your post also suggests just two people do his marketing ( pointing to me) when of coarse I am not at all their marketing arm, but simply an active and passionate audiophile who posts regularly on many subjects.

When you bring up things like scams, no internal pics, displeasure with this and that one can certainly understand the builders concern and caution.

Many preamps have no internal pics . You won't find any on the fine Coincident and many small operation products. This is common. In addition, it is common for a company not to loan out amps or preamps on trial that take one person weeks to make. My goodness how or why should a one man operation do this. Surely such an offer is not reasonable on a 70 pound labor of love that requires weeks of preparation.

Lastly, no I am not angry and certainly he has many, many owners besides me and other posters who love his gear and enjoy Paul's service. His world is far bigger then me and the posters here and I understand you would not know this.
The Dude is off the List for sure because I still dont know what this guy is talking about but im not paying someone 6000 dollars specially when i get emails like this

Zafir, please take any TRL product off your product search. We have nothing to do with people who openly criticize us by posting personal communication without our expressed permission. This lack of character or integrity is unacceptable by itself. Your knowing that I don't post online so that I won't come after you to set the record straight is plain cowardly. Besides, since your first email and your involvement with those crystals creeped me out on the spot as it just disturbs me.
So you've just shortened your journey and can cross one more company off your list. That's good, it gets you to your goal....

Critize what??? I dont understand when someone needs to part 6000 dollars do they not have the right to ask people questions and investigate or research?

I wont be bother with this. The dude is of the list as the dude is too crazy for me.
Abruce, let's make it happen for sure. Will be fun. Big blizzard right now!
I just got a second hand Dude with remote, It beats my Modwright LS100.
I know you replaced the output Cap with Duelund CAST-PIO,
what value did you use?
Is the White Cap under the 6SN7 output tube?
How does the Dude Compare to the Coincident Statement Line-Stage pre-amplifier which is supposed to be highly reviewed professionally online?

I could believe the joy the dude brings but it lacks enough information online to justify the cost for those who can’t listen to it. If Paul and his team made the little effort online giving out clear information it helps people with matching specification on Impedance and other criteria for synergy matching. Paul may think I’m criticizing but asking questions an investigating and having them answered online helps everyone to understand better.

Im looking at the Coincident Statement Line-Stage now, as dude is off my list as requested by paul
I looked at the Coincident before the Dude but it's not remote and after emailing him it was clear that he's not someone I'd want to do business with anyway.
Teeteebid. The CAST will raise the performance in ways you don't think are possible. Congrats on your purchase. Please tell me the amp you are using and the input impedance of that amp. The coupling cap I used was .47uf and they are on sale at Parts Connextion. That value or .22uf works great with most amps and especially tube amps with input impedances of 100k ohms.

Feel free to email me and I can help you through the update. Not sure how experienced you are with soldering and this sort of thing.
Grannyring. Thank you for the useful information.
I have Odyssey Audio Daul Mono with input impedance of 22K
I am good with soldering, I mod my DAC, solid preamp with following parts, OPamp, Black gate CAPs, Soft recovery Diodes, resistors.
Will get 2 .47uf from Parts Conextion before they raise the price.
Will contact you for more details on this upgrade.
Teeteebid, in what respects does the Dude beat the LS100; interested as I have the latter?
Dragon_vibe, why don't you just leave The Dude alone, like you said you were going to do? Smaller manufacturers, like TRL, are not for everyone. If you want something with lots of information and formal reviews, then you will need to pay for that marketing campaign. It sounds like you want an Audio Research preamp. So just go and get one already.

I've been in this "game" a long time, and as with any decision in life, there are +'s and -'s to any decision. You say you want to spend less than $6000, but want something equal or better than a ARC Ref 5SE. Since you cannot even buy a used Ref 5SE for $6000, that leaves you only with the choice of a small, boutiques type manufacturer, where your money is invested in the product and not in marketing.

Generally, boutique brands that I've heard or owned do offer more bang for the buck. However, you usually will not find them at discount on the used market, and they tend to drain you if you decide to change direction and sell. You should only buy if you intend to keep it for quite a while, IMHO.

Again, I have never heard The Dude, so I cannot say anything about it. However, it sounds as if you had a falling out with the manufacturer, and said you were going to leave them off your list. I suggest that you follow up on your promise, and move on.
Teeteebid, please email me before buying based on your comments. I have an ad for some cables here and you can contact me through it....
Yep They are off my list for sure, I am looking at the following:

Coincident Statement Line-Stage pre-amplifier
Atma-Sphere preamp
Einstein preamp
VAC Signature MK2
The only one on your list that I'm not crazy about is the Einstein. I feel it is to forward and a little on the brighter side of neutral.
"I could believe the joy the dude brings but it lacks enough information online to justify the cost for those who can’t listen to it."

Bit of an understatement, don't you think?

I couldn't believe the lack of info. on TRL's website.

5 tubes. $6000. Pay me.

You gotta be kidding

I too was put off by the lack of information on the Dude website. No one is asking for fancy advertising with nice interactive screens; Up to date pics with some specs would suffice. Also wasn't fond of the correspondence via email with Paul. I guess its hit or miss with him. I ended up buying a Canary pre which i'm very happy with. You should check out the Canary CA-906, well within your price range used and an excellent pre. All the pre amps yo have listed are excellent products though so either way you'll be getting a good product.
Guys, Guys, Guys!

I don't own a Dude, but I have heard one in a friend's system. He was a very happy owner. The guy who builds them isn't asking for this attention. He isn't trolling or posting. Unless someone posts a personal experience with his actual gear that was negative, a disservice is (however unintentionally) being done here.

I have no dog in this fight other than a general regard for the feelings of people who are minding their own business. It's time to let this guy continue to make an honest living (there's no evidence I've been able to find that should inpugn his itegrity)

How would *you* like to find a lengthy discussion on line about whether or not *you* are honest when no one actually has evidence or a complaint? It's hard to unring a bell, so let's please stop ringing it.
My advice would be look for a good 2nd hand Ayon CD-5s on the 'Gon. You should be able to pick one up for about $6k on a haggle. The CD-5s has a more musical sounding dac than your Oppo & factory stock the built in preamp sounds better than an ARC Ref 3. With upgraded output tubes the CD-5s would give an ARC Ref 5 a good run for it's money. Plus you're getting a much superior transport at the same time. If you want to know how to push the performance of the 5s closer to an ARC Ref 5SE, send me a PM and I can give you some advice on some cost effective upgrade options. If you can make do with 1 xlr, 1 rca & various digital inputs, then in your system this would be my first choice.
Ya who really cares about websites. It's about the sound and unless you
have heard, then perhaps your words are noise. The best speakers I
have heard are from a one man company with a website you would also
moan about - Intuitive Design. who cares. Don't buy if you need a good
website. Pretty simple.

Fact is you will miss some of the best sounding gear. I have heard gear
from awesome looking websites that make my ears hurt. Really? Websites
play no roll in the way gear sounds.