I am biased, of course, but here is what I have in my system:
Wolcott P220 Tube amps
Supratek Chenin preamp
I find a VERY synergistic mating of these components. They seem to reveal the organic rightness of my analog setup as well. Timbre, pace, image and soundstaging with these three match my listening priorities very nicely. While I have a CD player, I am largely a vinyl listener. The Chenin's phono stage is very hard to beat in it's price class, and very hard to better without spending large sums of money, period. Very flexible gain stage adjustments, and phono loading allow it to work with almost every MC cartridge out there.
you currently running your electronics balanced? if so, it might be worth keeping it that way. I would recommend the Aesthetix Calypso, or the Atmapshpere MP-1 (if its not too much of a reach) First Sound preamps are also very nice. vac renaissance also is stong. many good tubed preamps to try!
Thor Audio makes great sounding premps.
What's the Budget??? If, you can swing it ($6500.00-$7500.00)
BUY, a used "Tube Research Labs" GTP3, or 4. This will end of the chase for the Holy Grail, And you will still have money left for other goodies...
I would suggest Audio Research....depending on budget either their LS25 or Reference......to my ears, and with my 3.6's, it doesn't get any better..................
Just adding my couple of pennies to the discussion - I would go for the VAC Renaissance pre. They are fully balanced, with both RCA and XLR outputs, have a remote, home theater by-pass, can have a great internal phono stage. Excellent, refined TUBE harmonics that makes the most of the Maggies ribbons. The one component in my own system that will NEVER, ever be considered for upgrade!
I originally had the VTL 2.5 pre, but quickly upgraded to the VTL 5.5 pre. More open, detailed, tonally superior.
Though I'm not running the 3.6s, but using the smaller
MMGs. System: Wadia 301, VTL 5.5 pre, M/F XP200 mono blocks
and MMGs. Hope this helps.
I have one follow-up question to my original post. The VTL 5.5 is a dual mono design. I understand the theory and value of dual mono design in an amp; my previous amp was such. But does this design really offer appreciable benefit in a pre-amp? Does separating the signal paths really make that much difference? My thought is that more pre-amps would be made this way if it made a bigger difference. With pre-amps, I see more logic in separating out the power supply as many high-end units do.
Thanks for the data point. Can you expand on what you mean by "tonally superior?"
Have you played with different cables? What isn't your system doing now that you would like it to do?
I suppose the hi-fi term is called "timbre".
The VLT 5.5 was giving me a "truer facsimile of the real thing"; vocals & instrumentation sounded more real/true.
The 5.5 was far more open; had more "air" in between the instruments, etc. Hope this helps. At the end of the day, I enjoyed the music a lot more because of it sounding more real.
I would strongly recommend a BAT VK30se or beyond (balanced.com),McIntosh C2200, Aesthetix Calypso +, Audio Research, Conrad-Johnson. USE CAUTION with the Vk-50 series and higher, they only have balanced in/outs.
I think your ears will answer the dual-mono vs traditional. But I can say this it does make for a nice sound (dual-mono) and keeps noises and junk down or out. The VTL 5.5 is not truly balanced as I was told by an E.Engineer.
My Fav. system (beyond my own) is a full VTL set-up with the MB-450s and a 5.5 pre. What a system you have or will have.