Tube pre for Forte 4a

Hey guys. Loving my new amp despite the Majik in the loop. Looking forward to swapping it out with something more involving, and would like to play with tubes. So the first question is: how well does this amp mate with tube preamps? Second, any recommendations?

My budget is under $1,500US and if I can tuck it under a grand, then all the better (that means I can get it earlier).

Thanks in advance for the thoughts.
My Forte 4A works well with a Tube preamp however I was very pleasantly surprised how will it sound with the Channel Island Audio VPC-1 passive preamp. A real ear opener!
Thanks for the reply, Lak. (I've enjoyed your posts and have found them very informative)

The Channel Island preamp is fits EXACTLY with my audio philosophy. But I have tempered my view as I learn (read - become confused) about high-end audio. I am under the impression that an active preamp is a vital portion of the playback process. If this is not true for my system, then I'd love to ditch the headaches and go with something simple like the VPC-1. Therefore, could you go into a bit more detail on what I might expect to hear between the VCP-1 and, lets say the Cary designed AE-3 (and variants)?

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

The 4a works great with Audio Research preamps. I had the LS2B - excellent combo.


Very nice looking system!

The Channel Island passive preamp let more details, imaging and bass into my room. I’ve tried this with my tube system and my two SS systems. I have to give Psychicanimal credit because he’s the one that shared this idea with me and actually brought his preamp over so that I could audition it in my system. I was impressed by it enough that I purchased one for myself. The price is right, new $249. You just have to be sure that your interconnects are no longer than 1/M, 1.5/M at the longest.
Short/er cables, any CD 2V source worth owning [playing!], and an amp of perhaps higher gain ~30 dB Can offer sonic nirvana despite what many "active" guys say. My tube-buffered passive was the best linestage I ever owned of ~20 used in my 30 years in this game. I traded it only to try a high-end headphone rig that did not last, I surely regret trading it away as it was a one-off by Tutay, one of the all-time true tube gurus. Drove my 25' i/c without degradation and it was good to 50' according to the Tom.

I now run a 1V dac into a 6 dB preamp, operating near the top of its single-resistor volume network into a gaincard clone and modest but swell 88 dB SEAS monitors. Finest kind for the bedroom. Big rig has a dac w/ analog-domain volume. I lost a power cable and interconnect, two i/c points of connection and the preamp itself. Sublime sonics, fewer boxes, and zero upgrades afer three years except for my marvelous 35W Class A 85# behemoth [amp]. The floor below suffered a little but my back is better %o)

Traded away Two 4a yrs ago, Doh! 2nd biggest audio trangression [see above]. Best of luck in the search for musical ectasy. I'll take that over irrational exuberance anyway. Gizmo's gone, Green-pan lives but looks 20 yrs dead. No justice, at least not in this America. Trip
What about an older pass linestage, from the Aleph series? It can be passive and active should you wish, it seems that it is one with the best compromise if you doubt that passive can satisfy you...because there is always an element of doubt. The non remote version of this preamp goes between 1k-1.5K, the remote controlled version is very hot in the used market and can easily go for 2K....This being said, all Pass linestages are popular in the second hand market. There is also another preamp, the popular Adcom 750, which is also offer passivity and active stages, should you wish, but as someone else stated in a review, it is no match to the newer Pass X series, and possibly superficially similar to the old Aleph P series. If you like minimalism, as if seems your audio philosophy stands, then go the Aleph Ls are as minimal, but not flimsy as they come. Check some threads on them.

The only tubed preamp that I think could match the minimalist philosophy might be the First Sound active preamps...for they were developed from the idea of passives, which Emmanuel stopped making in favor of the highly tauted First Sound Presence Deluxe II...not well reviewed in magazines, but with a cult following.

Lak himself has a First Sound Presence linestage on his set up, does this tell you something?

I myself have the Presence Deluxe MKI, seating on my rack waiting for the time when I switch back to it and a dynamic pair of speakers.
How can I forget, the Bent Noh is having favorable reviews across the Audiocircle forum. Even MSRP is below your target range, I have seen used ones for about $850, if they are to be found.
I have a Forte' 4a.
Originally I used a Counterpoint SA2000 hybred preamp. Loved the sound (hated the repairs) so I dumped the Counterpoint for a Adcom.
But if i would have stuck with the Counterpoint, it really sounded wonderful with the Forte amp!!!
Quick update.

Purchased an Audio Electronics AE-3 DJH. All of a day old and enjoying the 'new' sound. Will take a while to break-in and unfold, at which time I'll update my system page.

This has been a major shift in my system (going from a Majik integrated to seperates) and will take a while to fine tune. But I could not have gotten this far, this comfortably, without this amazing forum and the informed opinions of so many. So thanks!

Mprime: I'll be curious to see what you think of this combo. My experience with Forte' amps tells me that they don't work especially well with specific types of tube gear. I don't want to place pre-concieved ideas into your head about what to expect ( good or bad ), so please keep us up to date once you think you've got a pretty good handle on this combo. Sean
A follow up for Sean.

I could not be happier.

Please keep in mind I am using the amp with RCA inputs; that increases the input impedance to 47k (as you know) which - if I understand properly - more than clears the 10:1 "rule" (the DJH is 600 ohms). But aside from the spec, there is music there. Real music. The kind of music I heard growing up with musicians passing through my house (my mom was on the board of a major symphony and played surrogate mother to many of the performers -- insturments were played constantly in the house which has given me, for better or worse, a rather grooved idea of what music should sound like).

I still have some tube rolling to do, cables to select, and, quite candidly, perhaps a speaker change. I am also curious to "upgrade" the Forte (increase the filter capacitance and perhaps the rectifiers) but feel no rush to do so.

I'll go on later in my virtual system page, but for now just say that the DJH and Forte are a grand match.