BTW, I am not totally married to buying a tube pre. If anyone can suggest a SS pre that has characteristics that would match well with the McCormack, I am willing to give them a listen, too. Someone once suggested Bryston to me.
Having previously owned a Bryston BP-25 I can attest that in now way does it resemble a tube preamp. Tubes can color the music (I prefer it that way)and the BP-25 is brutally revealing with no coloration at all. Don't get me wrong - I think its a great preamp if you don't want the perceived hassle of tubes - no sonic signature whatsoever. If you are "married" to getting a tube preamp then don't even consider the BP-25 - it couldn't be farther from tube sound...
Rogue Magnum 99 pre. It comes with an analogue remote, headphone jack and optional phono stage. I am currently using the 66 Magnum pre with Rogue's M120 Magnum Monoblocs and I'm finding it hard to leave the house for any extended period of time. After the 66 Magnum is gone I'm moving up the 99 Magnum pre. For the price you can't beat it. Let us know what you end up with.
GoLden Tube SEP-2 or SEP-3 both have remote, optional phono, & are a great match with McCormack's amps, at about half or less than your $1500 budget.
I'd second Buckingham on the Rogue Magnum 99 pre. I currently own it after having owned a number of solid state pre's and it is exceptional! Depth of soundstage, detail, musicality, a perfect match to balance the "characteristics" of a solid state amp. Other amps that you might want to look at, however, based upon your price point are the SAS Audio 10A ($1,430), which is an exceptional pre and a used Cary SL-50B(possibly less than $800.00). Happy hunting.
Although slightly more than you want to spend, a used Klyne 7 series linestage may be an option. I had one in my system for a good while and found it a very neutral yet musical piece. Fabulous sounding and well made. I no longer have it, I've recently landed on the "no pre-amp is the best pre-amp" square, but it was one of the best pieces of gear I've owned, and fairly priced.
As Conrad-Johnson is the parent company of McCormack perhaps they will work well together.
I have a Sonic Frontiers Line 1 Special Edition. I love it. Its build is rock soild. Six 6dj8 tubes, 3-per-side to cancel out noise. Beautiful black and chrome finish. Remote control with everything on it including phase, display brightness and separate volume adjust for left and right channel to balance them out. Then it has a single main volume for over all volume control. Balanced and single ended inputs and outputs. And the Canadian dollar is week so we Americans can get them for less. Try upscaleaudio.com, get their phone number and call. Ask for Kevin Deal he'll take care of you for a lot less than the MSRP. Also go to the Sonic Frontiers website and look at this unit. It is so worth the money and built to last a lifetime.
If going SS why not try one of the McCormacks themselves? - RLD or ALD
If going with a McCormack product, the TLC-1 pre is the better choice although you'll also need the external phono stage. It will take some digging to find one with remote; their deluxe version was made with remote. I once had this full lineup: McC Phono stage, TLC-1 Dx -R, DNA-1 Deluxe. It was a good combo at a good price.
I totally disagree with the previous comments regarding Bryston BP-25. I've owned one for two years, and I'm just now selling it because I went to a BAT VK-30. The tubes are just slightly warmer with more air than the BP-25, which in itself is definitely on the warm side, far from "brutally honest." The Bryston is a superb product, very solidly constructed, and sounds quite musical. It does not possess the sweet openness of better tube equipment, but it is probably the equal of lesser tube gear, and far sweeter than most SS. It will never need to be fussed with. It is quiet as electronics can get. It mates very well with SS amps.
Thanks to all. A couple more to consider for the shortlist. I am curious as to no mention from anyone of Audio Research gear. (?)
I am using a McCormack DNA 1,with a Rogue 99 and psb stratus golds. I think its a great trio for the $. The Rogue is a new purchase, and was a nice step up from my old Conrad Johnson pv10a. As someone prior said, the Rogue has a nice phono stage, remote and head phone jack. As an added bonus, the customer service from Rogue is excellent. Have fun shopping. (this is supposed to be fun isnt it?) Mike
Lets face it, The McCormack amp will jump out an " get " you if your not careful. Any tube preamp is going to quiet it down some, as well as give it a sweeter sound and more depth. I once had the DNA-1 and I tryed the CJ PV-12, VAC CLA-1, and the BAT VK-5. All of them hepled to tone down the DNA-1 and give it better everything. But then one day I hooked up a cheap tube amp to one of the tube preamps. I was totaly blown away! Yes I lost a bit of bass, but everything else came to life. Do yourself a favor, go listen to a all tube setup.
Well, Tube777, be that as it may, I have decided to go with my purchase today of a Sonic Frontiers Line 2 to pair with the McCormack. Perhaps I will someday decide to resell it all and change everything, who knows. :-) I do know that I will enjoy the "you know" out of listening to my 2,000 old vinyls again on something worthwhile. Thanks to all who have made sugeestions and kept me looking!