Tube pre-amps $3500 under to add "warmth"

I'm interested in thoughts. Looking to add a touch of warmth to an all solid state digital based system. I am considering the following but have not heard any except VTL.

Modwright SWLP 9.0 SE
Dodd battery
Supratek Sauvignon
VTL 5.5
Audio Horizons TP 2.0

Anyone had the opportunity to compare some of these?
You can eliminate the Modwright. I owned it. Its sound is close to solid state, and it is definitely not warm.

In its place you can add the Lamm LL2 Deluxe.
Look no further than the Juicymusic Audio Peach linestage!
The Peach is a giant killer.
I can second the comment about the Modwright, too.
Used Joule-Electra LA-100 mk. 3.

Incredibly musical preamp, seemingly often way underpriced in the used market (two currently available at $1795 / $1750 and I've seen others lower than that in the past).
I would add conrad johnson to your list. Not sure whether or not they are warm sounding but they are certainly very musical.

The Hovland HP100 would definitely satisfy the 'warmth' requirement. Very musical as well.
Re the Conrad-Johnsons, if you can find a used Premier 17LS2, for around $3K or so, grab it. This thing is supremely musical with your "touch of warmth" to boot. Note I'm talking about the 17LS2, not the 17LS. the "2" sold for $6K new, the plain version was $4.5K and was well worth the difference sonically. Plus you get a great remote, plenty of inputs and outputs, and it ain't bad looking. Good luck, Dave
I am biased as an owner but the Melody SHW 1688 II sounds like it would also be worth auditioning. Very musical - great tone.
Thanks for the tip on the other pre-amps to consider. I'll start doing some research. Keep the thoughts coming.
How about the First Sound Presence Deluxe MKII.
I'll second the Joule LA-100 MkIII. Very musical and at used prices tough to beat. At new prices they are slighly over your budget.
Try the Audio Research Reference 1
CJ is the way to go
I will most definitely "third" the Joule Electra LA-100 Mk III. Extremely musical. I would, without hesitation, call it one of the best preamps under $5k.

I think it sounds better than the more expensive LA-150.

Insanely good deal for $1800 or so.

Cary SLP-98 F1.
I second the SLP-98 option. It is warmer than a McIntosh C2200 but it doesn't fall into a syrupy trap. I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for the suggestions guys. I'm not looking for a used unit really, so am going to stick with factory fresh this time. I've narrowed it down to the Audio Horizons, Dodd and Supratek Sauvignon. The Dodd is so new there doesn't seem to be anyone with any usefull listening impressions. I don't know who 10audio is and they spend nearly as much time reviewing the Placette as they did the new Dodd so it isn't particulary helpful. I also have no way of hearing it before I buy, which is always a bit unnerving with so little user impressions. It is a new product with a relatively new technology, ergo may have some bugs to be worked out, so I'm leaning toward the others ever so slightly.

The Supratek is a little exotic, which has pluses and minuses. It's such a beautiful piece of art. They seem to be a little fussy, though, just reading the posts on the deal of a lifetime thread. A few hum problems here and microphonic issue there. What do you expect when it literally travels half way around the world to get here I guess.

The Audio Horizon users that have written are certainly passionate about their TP 2.0s, which is a good sign. I haven't really come across anyone who has heard it and not liked it, although I'm sure there have been. The 30 day home audition period is just a good business plan for this hobby and I respect and appreciate that. If it does come with a remote now, then it moves to the top of my list.

I may order a Sauvignon, let it break in and listen to it for a while then order an Audio Horizons and evaluate it. If I prefer the Audio Horizons, I'll sell the Sauvignon, if my taste turns out to be wine, then return the Audio Horizons.
hi clio09:

are the earlier joule electra preamps of the la-100, namely the mark one and mark two, more euphonic ??
You might look into a Gill Audio/Art Audio "Alana" Preamp. I am way more than surprized at how good this sounds. 6922's, no cathode follower, very musical and it's only got 10 hours on it so far. Good luck.
If your amp is SS, make sure the input impedance of the amp is at least 10x greater than the output impedance of the preamp across the entire bandwidth. Many tubed preamps have rising output impedance at lower frequencies, which could result in a low bass frequency roll off. I owned the 5.5, and it was fun musically, and pretty extended, with punchy, although slightly ill-defined, bass. The main drawback in my system, was a lack of soundstage focus. Still a nice preamp and fun/musical to listen to. I liked the Atma-Sphere MP-3, but be sure you listen to one with the teflon capacitor and regulated power supply upgrades. It too, is very fun to listen to, very open sounding, with excellent soundstaging and also a driving bass you can feel in your chest.
another vote for CJ, I used a Premier 17 mark 1 for 2 years. The best amp I have had, detailed but warm, wide deep soundstage. I only got rid of it because I went integrated. I can't comment on the differnce between mark 1 and 2, but my understanding is the change was because the existing capacitors were no longer available. A mark 1 will be well below $3500
I owned the 5.5 it is slightly to the side of warm.. and is well balanced, you want better frequency extension and warmth overall... Look at the audio mirror PP1.. its under a grand new and definatley competes with the best on the market since they upgraded the wiring and caps to sonicaps in the newer versions.
Mrtennis, based on information contained in the manual, the primary difference between the early LA-100 preamps and the MkIII version was that the mu follower tube in the signal path was a 5751 (RCA black plate I believe was Jud Barbers preference) and this was changed to a 6350 (Sylvania NOS was the preference) when the MkIII came out. I would have to go back and read the manual, but I believe the original LA- 100 used 10EM7 tubes in the power supply and when they became somewhat obsolete Jud Barber changed the circuit so that later versions used 6EM7 tubes which were more readily available.

I doubt these changes would make a significant difference in the sonics of the different versions of the LA-100. In my system I found this tube preamp to be a bit more neutral than most tube preamps I have heard (especially versus my Cary SLP-98), with excellent extension at each end, and yes, a bit euphonic in the mids, but overall an extremely musical preamp. On the other hand the LA-150 MkI was a little too neutral and IMO lacked some of the musicality the LA-100 MkIII possessed. The LA-150 MkII has addressed some of these issues and instead of the Russian tubes in the signal path, use 6350 tubes.

I wish I still owned my Joule and I know that someday I will revisit and spend some more time with another Joule preamp. If you have the opportunity you should listen to one.

Thanks for the tip on output impedence. My amps SS amp has an input impedence of 100k so need to keep it at 10k output impedence for the preamp then.
Gjames, at 100K ohms, you will fortunately be able to use most of the tube preamps out there without any sonic penalty. My amp has input impedance of only 10K ohms and was considerably more difficult to match. Have fun.
hi aball:

are there any tube preamps you are aware of, which you would call syrupy ? the term is frequently used, but i have yet to hear a preamp i have described as syrupy.

i wasn't looking for a preamp, until today. i have an old prreamp from the 90's which needs to be replaced.

i too am looking for a warm, but also euphonic preamp. it's not easy. most tube preamps are two detailed and spectrally unbalanced for my taste. i just returned from ces and didn't hear one preamp i wanted to own.

What preamps did you hear at CES?
i visited so many rooms at T.H.E. show and the Venetian, that i may have lost track of some of them.

suffice it to say, i was not impressed with any particular preamp. since i myself am looking for a tube preamp, the situation is disappointing.

i have no preamp in mind that i would really like to audition, although i am thinking about the mcintosh 220.

i will now list some of the preamps that i heard, but i may not be able to provide model numbers:

gill audio, art audio, audio research, melody, navison, modwright, aesthetix, unison, bat, cat, antique sound lab, quad, zanden, granite audio, einstein audio, ayon, artemis labs, von gaylord, consonance, herron and hovland.

the above are all tube products. obviously, there were solid state preamps as well.

you might ask, why haven't i singled out one of these products as worthy of my attention.

the answer is simple. i broght a cd of an acoustic guitar. i was not satisfied with the sound of the guitar on most of the stereo systems i heard at the show.

obviously this is the right thread to discuss these matters. i am looking for a very warm preamp and cd player. i also spoke to the designer of dodd audio and he commented that his preamp is basically neutral.
>>you might ask, why haven't i singled out one of these products as worthy of my attention.<<

You listed some very good equipment. Perhaps you are unrealistic in your expectations and/or your listening skills need refining.
its not that my expectations are unrealistic, or my hearing is deficient, because i visted these rooms with three other people and our observations concurred most of the time.

the problem is that manufacturers are attempting to design very linear components. unfortunately components are not perfect. there are flaws. the flaws usually comprise extra energy in the upper midrange/lower treble which create timbral inaccuracy.
Mrtennis, maybe the room acoustics or partnering equipment and cables were not optimal. Not quite sure why you would want a "syrupy" sound, and my guess is you would tire of it. Try the Atma-Sphere, it just sounds right, and it is fun to listen to. The only sure way is to try the stuff in your own system. Good luck. I have been having a similar problem finding a SS pre to live with.
Mr. Tennis, have you auditioned a Jadis JPL? That might be the sort of thing you're looking for (or, even better, a Jadis JP80 or JPS2 line stage). Jadis is very natural sounding on recordings of acoustic instruments. From my limited auditoning, I'd say that Shindo Labs preamps might also be worthwhile hearing as well.
You may end up having to consider a vintage tube preamp (Conrad Johnson comes to mind), if you want something "syrupy". Or, picking up new that is close to your ideal and do some tube rolling.
Mrtennis: Are you after a line stage or a full-function preamp? For older models of the extra-warm persuasion in the $1k range, consider the CJ Premier 10 for the former and the ARC SP-8 for the latter. Both of these models may have lacked many refinements at the frequency extremes, low-level resolution and dynamics of today's models, but the mids from each were glorious.
You can't beat a 300b for warmth.Especially the TJ meshplates.Look for preamps that use the 300b.I own a Supratek Cabernet that uses these tubes but there must be others.
hi rcprince:

i owned a jadis jpl and sold it within several months.

i did not like the preamp. it was too detailed and transparent. there was no tube bloom. the one jadis components i did like were the ja 80 and def 7 amps. both were very rich, euphonic and a joy to listen to. the other jadis component i liked was the orchestra, an integrated amp. i am not a fan of their preamps.
hi mitch2:

i have never liked the atmosphere electronics. again, it's the modern tube design, on the neutral side. yes, its very transparent and it's not edgy, but there is no romance. it is not tube like in the classic sense.
i have listened to both in my own system.

the pv5 is more tube like then the pv 10 and the sp 8 is not very tube like. i have listened to the sp6's and sp3's.

my concern about some of the older preamps is the possibility that parts will nedd replacement and then the preamp will change its sound.

i have heard several single ended amplifiers i like, but very few preamps.

hopefully, i'll find one. i am looking into the audio note preamps, but i have no idea as to their sonic signatures.

i remember listening to an mfa luminescence which i liked years ago, but there were many versions of this preamp.
The SP-8 is not tube like? I give up!
hi jafox:

the jadis ja 80, the original defy 7, some of the cj pv5 preamps are all examples of the classic tube sound--creamy, rich, and carmel colored--yummy.

audio research pramps do not have the classic tube sound.
it's no big deal. very few tube preamps have that sound.
I think it's quite clear that mrt really doen't have a concept of what tubed gear, past or present, should sound like.

His unrealistic expectations run contrary to almost every manufacturer and participant here so let him pout, complain, and whine.

I'm amazed there is an editor willing to publish his drivel.
I'm surprised about Mr. Tennis' reaction to the JPL too; at least the earlier version of that line stage, with Telefunken or EI tubes in it, has all the tube bloom you could want (the JP80 even more so), particularly when I had it paired with the Jadis JA80 amps. What was in the rest of the system? Could the source of your problem be there (i.e., pairing the tube preamp with an early solid state amp or CD player)? Definitely a mystery. I would think that the Audio Note components would fill the bill too, but now I'm not so sure.
The original AI Model 3 may be your cup of tea.The tubes used can make a large difference in presentation and harmonic content.
The differing opinions of Mrtennis and Audiofeil make for interesting reading.

Audiofeil,I think you are being a bit harsh.

Many people still want a tube preamp that has that classic tubey sound.Unfortunately this is typically delivered with a loss of performance in other areas[and I have owned and heard many tube preamps like this].So in this regard you are generally correct.
There are tube preamps that sound both modern and tubey though.I own one and have never been more satisfied with any component.It is an absolute keeper.
hi tpsonic:

what is the ai model 3 ? is it a 6sn7 based preamp ?

what is the website that describes this product ?

the beef i have with audiofeil is partially the result of his not reading what i say. if i hear a bunch of stereo systems each having different preamps, i report what i hear. it's not a matter of expectation its a matter of perception and taste. a dealer has a vested interest in selling products he carries and may be sensitive to comments about them. that's ok. people have different perceptions and taste. when comments are made out of ignorance or there is an attempt to invalidate perceptions, that's just audio redneck behavior.

audiofeil, i have nothing against you, personally and i recognize i may be stepping on your feet, but i would one can be civil about differences and be a mature adult.
it's only material objects we are discussing here, not high priority issues. lighten up.

by the way jtgofish, what preamp do you currently own ?

at this point my preamp candidates include, shindo, prima luna and audio note.
Audible Illusions.I love my PrimaLuna integrated,but my friend had the pre and reported that it was a little "fkat" in its' depth/spatial presentation.
hi rcprince:

at the time, i owned a pair of sonus faber amator electa speakers, a tube amp (i don't remember which) and not sure of what digital source i was using as well.

the jadis components i mentioned struck me as very vintage tube-like, but not the jpl. the telefunken tube which was one of the tubes in the preamp is not my cup of tea either.

i stand by my original statement that this preamp, as compared to an original pv5, is not particulary tube like.

it would be most useful if a bunch of us could evaluate the same stereo system and comparte notes. i think what is occuring is a diefference in perception. how dark is dark, or for a better analogy, how many teaspoons of sugar is needed for a cup of coffeee to be considered sweet ?
MrT--Well, I must admit that a CJ PV5 is a different animal than the Jadis, it certainly has more of that old-fashioned tube sound that it appears you're looking for. Jadis, in its earlier versions before they started using Philips caps, has more of what you're looking for than most preamps, but it still might not fill the bill. My old JP80MC would have given you what you wanted, I think, because I had it modified by Andy Bouwman at Vintage Tube Services with what he then called his "Romantic Era" treatment (as I did with my JA80s as well). I don't think that Andy does this anymore on a large scale, but you might want to call him just to see, as he is a fan of the old-fashioned tube sound and I believe was designing a preamp that would bring back a lot of that tube magic. Worth a try if you're seriously looking for that sound--in fact, he might be able to re-fit an old CJ for you with vintage parts so you wouldn't have to worry about replacing the old parts with newer, more "modern-sounding" (for lack of a better phrase) components.
... if i hear a bunch of stereo systems each having different preamps, i report what i hear.

Yes, but you are hearing and reporting on differences between systems.....NOT preamps.

MrT - Are you coming to conclusions on the differences of preamps based on each of them being heard in different systems? If so, how can you say one preamp is "warmer" than the other. For example, I can take the warmest preamp from the 80s, use it to drive a Mark Levinson (Madrigal) amp from the 90s and then into a pair of Thiel 2 or 3 series speakers. In such a system, there is no way anyone would ever know that there was a tube preamp in the system at'd swear you also had a Krell or Madrigal preamp from the same era.
A lot of interesting ideas and opinions being floated. Jafox makes a valid point about hearing various preamplifiers in various systems making if difficult to judge the preamp on its own, especially in reference to how it might sound in Mrtennis' system. Trying a component in one's own system/room is the only way to accurately gauge how it will sound in one's system. Cabling can/will make a significant difference in sound as well.

In my opinion, when looking for a current production preamp, and wanting a "classic" tube sound, one might be better served not considering what most people consider the "better/state of the art" models. Most producers seem to be designing towards a more neutral presentation, especially toward the top of their line/s.

I previously owned a VTL TL-2.5, which has a bit of the "classic" sound, while moving up the line to the 5.5 is less so. Both sound fantastic, but are slightly different flavors. The 2.5, tubed with Mullard or Amperex Bugle Boy tubes(Mullards my personal fave), leans heavily toward a "classic" sound...without being too much of a good thing.