Tube Preamp - What to buy?


Looking to take my first venture into the tube world and going with a tube preamp.  My budget is up to $2500 and willing to buy used or new however realize with my budget that used is probably a better path. I would like to have a built-in MM phone stage.  I am use to having a remote and tone controls, so that would be nice however not a necessity.  

For further information my speakers are Revel Performa3 F206 and the current amp(s) is Conrad Johnson SA-250 and I also have a Rotel RB1552.  I many be looking for an amp upgrade in the future, but one thing at a time. 

So far I have been looking at used Audio Research and Conrad Johnson preamps but very open to opinions on brand and model.  Thanks and I look forward to your opinions and experiences.  
speter04
Ear 912 ( by Tim de Paravicini ) ; Metronome Technologie C6 !
Save up some more money and get ear 912 .. the only preamp you need . With a phonostage that is superb. 
And it looks good too !


in that price range and with the ultimate goal of switching out your power amps   I would agree with several above get an integrated.   I have a Vincent integrated in  my bedroom system and the tube pre with  SS power really has a nice sound.  I know they are currently switching out models, offering deals on their midtier  right at your budget point.  or better yet wait for a sale and stretch the budget a little for a Cary 100 or talk to Klaus at Odessey in Indy and get something more bespoke.
The Don Sachs line stage preamp ($2500) is just the VTA SP-14 dressed up in a pretty case.  The SP-14 can be bought as a kjt ($1200) or fully assembled and tested ($1800).   The top line PH-16 phono preamp kit ($700) can also be had fully assembled and tested ($1000).  

The VTA products are very plain Jane and have a bit of a home brew look to them, which is why Don Sachs can charge you $1000 or so more for the good looks.  But what do you want to spend your money on?

On the other hand, a recommendation I'd also throw at you would be to find a fully restored...  are you ready...  Fisher 400 CX-2 (The President) preamp.  Easily the equal of a Mac C22 or Marantz 7, and they're gorgeous.  Typically around $3000.
I am in absolute love with my Audio Hungary Qualiton APR 204. Has everything you want , brand new, on budget. I was in an Audio Research LS-26 when this gem came along . My favorite preamp ever, and I’ve had many, by all the respected brands .