tube pre suggestion

Hi Everyone,

I'm currently running an all nuforce system with the P8 preamp and the ref 9SE (currently v1, soon to be v2) amps. I have this hooked to Thiel PCS speakers.

I'd like to dump the nuforce pre and try something else. I've heard that a tubed pre is the way to go with my amps...a buddy of mine who I trust heard the Modwright SWL 9.0 SE with the nuforce amps and said it was incredible.

I'm new to experimenting with preamps--my other system has a Krell integrated so I've never needed to play with in this area. Any suggestions on where to start? My budget is $1500-$2k, and I'm thinking used market exclusively to maximize my value.

Comments from the Audiogon Gurus are appreciated!
The Modwright has a great rep (never heard). Other good options in that price range would include First Sound, ARC, Joule-Electra & VAC. I've never heard them with the Nuforce. Others will chime in on how they mate with the analog switching technology nuforce uses (way over my head).
How does your Krell integrated sound through the Thiels?
I would guess that you prefer a very accurate, detailed and neutral sound. That's how I imagine your system must sound with the NuForce/Thiel combination. If you want to stay with this sound, then the First Sound Presence Deluxe II or Modwright 9.0SE are good choices.

If you want something that sounds a little rounder, and perhaps just a little softer in the highs, I'd suggest a Lamm LL2 Deluxe. The Joule and VAC would also move in this direction.
Take a look on the Audio Horizons threads. I don't think you can beat their preamps, and you get to try them for free. They certainly seem like a great value to me, from those that I respect highly. Note: I'm currently enthralled with a ARC Ref 3 preamp, which does not fall into your budgetary lines.


08-29-07: Jmcgrogan2
Take a look on the Audio Horizons threads. I don't think you can beat their preamps...

Is this comment based on having heard an AH preamp in your system?

I'm curious to hear one, but in four days since sending an email to the AH representative, I have yet to receive a reply. Mute or Balance features are common on preamps costing $3000+, and the AH lacks them. I like having these features.

Still, the ability to hear it in one's system essentially for free is an excellent opportunity.
Take a look on the Audio Horizons threads. I don't think you can beat their preamps, and you get to try them for free.

Of course you can beat them! But they are a great deal for the money.

Although I never got to audition an Audio Horizons pre, due to some shipping complications, I can tell you Victor and Joseph are outstanding folks. Be patient if you haven't received a reply yet, Victor volunteers his help as chief communicator because Joseph's English is limited. Hope this helps a bit.
HI Guys--I just wanted to thank everyone for the suggestions so far. Audiogon is filled with great people and sometimes in our hobby it's hard to get advice from people who don't have hidden agendas.

Stevecham--the Krell integrated does sound very good with the Thiels. I'm running that combo of the nuforce amps died on me. No idea what went wrong there, but my dealer is taking good care of me and is working out a good price on the upgrade as compensation.

Tvad--you are right with my taste in presentation! Good guess ;)

Thanks again for all the suggestions--I'll poke around and will check out the recommended units. If there are any other ideas please feel free to toss them in the ring...

Mute or Balance features are common on preamps costing $3000+
my preamp has neither, but I can't imagine trading it since I get everything I wanted from all the tube preamps I tried, plus stone dead quietness, and no tubes to mess with. It is a Tom Evans Vibe & Pulse.

If you need the tubes, the best I have owned in my system are a fully decked out AtmaSphere MP3 and a VTL 5.5, both of which I thought bettered the highly rated Calypso and SF Line 3SE. I would also like to try Joule-Electra. All of these range from the top of your budget to about 50% higher. Good luck.
I am not a tube preamp expert by any stretch but I believe I struck gold upon my first venture into tubes. I purchased a AE-3 DJH signature (cary) preamp. This preamp is not the soft or rolled off variety of tube preamp. It is dynamic and has an open sound. I have owned the Krell integrated and the Krell KRC3 preamp. While I enjoyed both of those units, I much prefer the sound of this little AE-3 preamp. I have experimented with tube rolling and it does further improve its sound. In a head to head comparison in my system I thought it bettered the VTL 5.5. It is important to realize that this preamp is not real flexible having only 3 inputs and only one set of outputs (RCA only).
Samgupta101: I have been running just about the same amps as you (Nuforce 9 modded by Reference Audio Mods to SE or better, but V1)along with the Modwright pre for a year now and am extremely satisfied with what I hear. My speakers are Von Schweikert VR4 jrs. The main tweaking I've done is with the tubes in the pre...the Sylvania GB65687s work best for me...but there are other choices and the tubes are fairly inexpensive...and only two of them. Interconnects seem to play a significant role too; I'm now using Acoustic Zen Mattrix Reference II over Audience Au24 and Speltz ICs. I do think it has alot to do with your ears and the system front end. My take on Nuforce and a tube preamp is that with the detail the Nuforces deliver to say this...body/weight/bloom a tubed pre's a great match and it works for me. Good luck!
Look into the Musical Designs SP2B...entry level price is $1000 and wonderfully upgradeable later on. It's a sleeper and often goes unnoticed. Its price \ performance ratio is remarkable.
Victor's e-mail address at Audio Horizon is: Unless he's traveling, I'm sure that he'll get back with you promptly. He's always been very responsive to my e-mails, unless he's on the road. Regarding the preamp's lack of mute switch and balance control, I don't know why Joseph didn't include them. I never bothered to ask as these two features weren't relevant to me. My guess on his omitting the balance switch is that it would degrade the sound. This preamp matches very well with my VAC Musicblocs.
08-29-07: Tvad

Is this comment based on having heard an AH preamp in your system?

To be honest, no I have not heard one in my system Grant. I have heard one in a friend's system though. I also have two 'cyber-friends' who swear by them. It was the lack of running fully balanced and lack of remote (which I've heard has since been cured) that kept me from buying one of Joseph's preamps. I do have first hand knowledge of his work though, as my cd player was modified by Joseph Chow.

If anyone has a classic vintage tuner from the 70's or earlier, Joseph can work miracles with his mods on these. I have a 1977 Harman/Kardon Citation Eighteen( Joseph mod) that is currently my favorite source. I have it cranked up right now to some classic jazz on my local NPR station 88.5.
Just wanted to thank everyone again for all the great suggestions. I've got many more leads to check out that I otherwise would not have known.

Mdrummer01--we also share the same choice of ICs...i've been runnng the AZ matrix IIs as well. Great soundstage and the used market is pretty fertile with them!

thanks again :)
Thanks, John. I have an AH 2.1nB preamp coming next week for an audition with my Belles 350A Reference and VAC Standard 160 monoblock amps.
This may be out of left field but..............

After a short time I found the combination of my SE's, and my speakers to be so transparently resolving that the presents of my tube preamplifier had me listening to the preamp. There is absolutely nothing incorrect about this after all this is all about a matter of taste and I can't comment on the P8.

I would strongly suggest you audition a battery powered preamp against a tube model along with a player/DAC with tubes in the output stage before you commit.
To get the best sound out of the AH preamp, if you have a nice pair of Siemens CCa tubes, put them in locations one and three. The preamp is also sensitive to power cords so experiments will be necessary there as well to fine tune the sound. Allow 40-60 hours break in( possibly more) for the new preamp before serious evaluations. Have fun in your evaluation. I'm also anxious to hear how the Belles 350A compares to the VAC Musicblocs.
Sherod, I have no 6922 at the moment, but I prefer Mullard 6922 over Siemens 6922. I'm going for a sound that's less analytical and precise than what Siemens generally deliver.

Thanks for the tips.