Tube preamp with great pace?Cary, Supratek, etc.?

I am thinking seriously of moving to a tube preamp with the hope of breathing more life into my system. But I love the rhythmic core of music - call it PRAT, call it whatever - it is what grabs me, involves me, and keeps me up way, way too late listing to old LPs. I am afraid that without good, acurate pace, I don't care how "airy," "organic" or "blooming" the sound is, it just isn't musical to me. But if it can be combined with great pace, the tube sound is exactly what I am looking to add to my system.

So far, I've only been able to borrow a Rogue Magnum 88 to try in my system, and it was just too slow. I am considering a Cary SLP 98P, a Supratek Chenin, or perhaps a Herron VTSP1A/166. If anyone has heard these or any other tube preamp with good pace, please comment. Comparisons between them would be particularly welcome. My price range right now is 2K to 3K used, but if you know of something that is wonderful in this regard that costs more, I still want to hear about it.

There are few tube options available for me to audition in my area, and so generous Audiogoners, your input is greatly appreciated.

P.S. If you live in south-eastern Michigan and have a tube amp you are willing to let me hear, I offer in exchange lunch at the Ann Arbor restaurant of your choice.
I have the Cary SLP-98L and find it to be very musical, especially with vinyl. The combination of the Cary preamp with the Cary PH-301 tube phono stage produces a very magical sound from the LPs spinning on my SOTA Nova. I couldn't believe it at first and it has been getting better as it all breaks in. I run these through a Cary V12i and I have NOS tubes all around, which if you're considering the SLP-98 would involve a good investment in RCA or Sylvania 6SN7s (I use 6SN7W in the linestage and 6SN7WGT in the buffer on the SLP-98). They are a major improvement over the stock Chinese tubes.

I have not heard the Herron but have heard great things about it. I would have given it serious thought but I got a great deal on a store demo SLP-98 and I couldn't refuse. As for the Supratek, I was very infatuated with the idea of getting one, but waiting for a new one or taking my chances on a used one dissuaded me. If pace is what you're after I think you would be happy with a Cary SLP-98 assuming it meshes witht he rest of your set-up.
As a former owner of a Supratek Syrah and a current owner of a Herron VTSP1A/166 I would say that first of all they're both great preamps. The strengths of the Supratek were bloominess, warmth, and organic sound, while to me the Herron excelled at quiet, transparency, and "prat". They're both among the better preamps on the market, I personally preferred the Herron, others may feel differently. The best thing to do is somehow work out a way to audition both of them, and the Cary as well. I've never heard the Cary, but I did previously own Cary 300B Signature monos and I will say that the folks at Cary obviously know what they're doing, those were great sounding amps! Anyway I probably confused you more than I helped, but the good news is you're faced with a pretty fun problem to investigate, there's a lot of great gear out there, don't take any of this too seriously and have fun!
You need to have conrad johnson on your short list as they have a reputation of producing some of the finest tube pre-amps in the industry. At your price point the only two available are a premier 17lsI or a premier 14; both have a remote if that matters. If you can find a premier 16lsII or 17lsII used either would be the better choice with my preference being the 16lsII but either will cost you 4K+.

Put the DeHavilland UltraVerve on your list. It's very fast, has great PRAT, and let's you customize the sound by rolling just one 6SN7. It's a must hear.
I second Czbbcl's choices. C-J may make the best, heavy on the may, preamps around. I bought originally a PV 11 and after ten years upgraded to a Premier 16LSII, it is strictly magical. The Premier 17 goes for 2500 =/- 500 on average and is also a good deal. If you can handle the 4.5k or so for the Prmier 16LSII, which is actually a baby ART I would say go for it.
I agree with the above, c-j pres using the trickle down technology of the ART are simply musical!
I greatly appreciate the input. Many have recommended Conrad Johnson, but few have commented specifically on the issue of speed and pace in these preamps. If someone could chime in on that point I would be grateful.
ARC sp-11 MKII and CATS SL definitely have what you are looking for in terms of pace and liveliness.
Very tough choice anyway, Cary Herron Supratek are excellent choices you can't go wrong with eiter of them.
Good luck.
Cary SLP-2002 will give you the speed and rhythm of solid state. While providing the air and ambience of tubes. True balanced differential 4 line amp design.
If you know exactly what you are looking for sonic wise then you absolutely need to audition the equipment first or buy used and resell if it is not what you are looking for. People such as myself will give you opinions on what they like or hear but only you can make the decision on what you like or don't like. And for that my friend you need to audition in your system.

the 'pace' of recorded music is affected far more by your loudspeaker and the recording, than your amp or preamp. pretty much any quality amp ss or tube has the 'rhythm' thing down with a well matched speaker system. the material and driver/ribbon type also generally make a difference. also equipment which empasizes 'highs' and upper mids and 'sweeten' the female voice always sound faster and more open than ones that emulate the 'weight' of live music (real sounding drums, piano, organ,etc. and may not be as 'open' sounding.
Jay, my ears tell me differently. Yes, the ultimate source of pace is the source material - no audio gear can put in what the musicians left out. But anything else in the audio chain can kill good PRAT. You are right, poorly matched speakers and power amp can do it easily. But not all tube preamps - even some of those that are highly regarded - do pace equally well, or even adequately in my opinion.
all i'm saying is that i can't name any 'quality' preamps that don't have good prat. its simply inherant in all 'classic' components. accuphase, levinson,arc,mac,bryston,vac,cj,cary, naim....and yes...lots and lots more. i think the ability of any real hi end amp and preamp to deliver prat as well as tonal accuracy, with a wide variety of source components isn't that tough, provided they are well matched with speakers. unless you are purchasing some esoteric product with no track record or history whatsoever, there has never been a larger plate to choose from (even in michigan) then now. the reason naim is so synonomous with prat has more to do with system synergy than any exclusive attribute. trust your ears indeed, just don't believe that most respected hi end companies have somehow overlooked rhythm.
I think we will have to agree to disagree on this. I hear differences in the subjective sense of pace when substituting many components in and out of my system (or even between my Ikemi and my LP12). This may just be a matter of how much I value PRAT, which is probably more than most. I am not suggesting that any of the tube preamps you are listing don't do pace adequately for your tastes or those of many - just not necessarily for mine. But I am not alone in this. Most people I know believe tube equipment varies in this regard, and even stress how tube choice can affect pacing in any given piece. At any rate, thank you for taking the time to answer the thread, and enjoy your music.
by all means, you're welcome. remember, the top priorities in a club or disco/dj system for prerecorded music is volume and prat. the other qualities of playback take a back seat to both.
I would also recommend the deHavillands. If their preamps are anything like my Ios integrated they have good pacing. It ebbs and flows naturally with the music.

I think that as far as tube gear, VAC is very PRAT-friendly.

I think that many people who see the word PRaT will have a rough idea of what it means, but I also believe that if you haven't heard a properly setup Naim, Linn or Exposure system, you haven't really heard PRaT. I think many people will think about quick agile bass lines, and it is that, but until you have heard even the rata-tat-tat of cymbals making supreme musical sense, you haven't really heard PRaT. I am not trying to tell people what they know or don't know, but this is just my belief based on my own experiences.
the key to prat is matched components. naim, linn, and exposure (and revox, yes revox)have it. any of these companies would recommend 'like' components for best results.
jay_douglas_287, you are probably correct. The only problem I have with that is the same problem as the original poster I think. These "systems" seem to share a lack of tonality and spaciousness to go with their PRaT. I guess the best one can hope for is a compromise in the right direction.
Mike, well said. You are right on the money with both of your posts.
mike..i agree. prat is a 'live music'-like quality, but it does come at the expense of weight and tone, other 'life like' qualities. it has since jbl and ar fought for the wallets of hi fi enthusiasts worldwide. they were opposites AND they were both right.
Manley Steelhead is excellent and has top of line phonostage
I bought a brand new Magnum 99 from Paragon Sound up near you, and the entire time I owned it, the preamp never came around to sounding exceptional. Bought all sorts of NOS hoping that might be the ticket, but no luck.

I then purchased a Cary SLP98L and fell in love with my system all over again. Changed out the coupling caps to Hovlands and brought out a higher quality sound.

I live 45 minutes south of you, and might be able to take you up on your lunch offer, but mine is a line stage. Drop me a email if you want.


What tubes are you using in the SLP-98L? I bought mine about a month ago and got rid of the stock Chinese. I'm running cryoed Sylvania 6SN7Ws in the linestage and cryoed Sylvania 6SN7GTBs in the buffer. I've tried some other NOS combinations as well with great success.

It is a fine preamp and really sings.

Newmanoc - it's worth a listen at this close range.
Thanks for your response! I am happy to hear the Cary did for you what the Magnum 99 did not. What is the rest of your system? I would love to get together sometime and hear your SLP 98. The fact that it is line stage only is just fine, as I strongly suspect I would end up using my Dynavector P75 phono stage even if I got the 98P version. I'll be in Toronto starting tomorrow for a few days, and won't be answering email.

Chris Newman
Kek23 -
I can't believe I did it, but I got distracted trying to multitask and posted when I thought I was emailing. Embarrassing.

To any SLP 98 owner, does this preamp have a headphone out? I know the 2002 does.

No headphone out.
Yes I've heard a complete NAIM system. Great PRaT.

I will put Keith Herron's preamps and amps up against NAIM any day of the week.

The Cary preamp is a lovely sounding piece, but I wouldn't say PRaT is one of its virtues.

I would say the Herron Preamps and amps have great rhythm and timing. The music sounds..."alive" through Keith's elctronics. Not "golden" or "euphonic" but "alive". That's the key to PRaT IMO.

I use both the VTSP-1 preamp and the M150 mono amps.
I would put the Wright WLP20 on your list if you haven't purchased something yet. I just bought a used one and my foot is a tappin'. Much better rhythm than either my Dynaco PAS which I really enjoy and certaimly better than my ASL AQ 2006DT. Bass is tighter and deep, highs are spectacular and the PRAT is all there. I live in Royal Oak about 20 min. north of Detroit if you want a listen.

Newmanoc - Supratek Cabernet works for me. Fast leading edge transients, deft microdynamics and wonderful tone are some of the standout qualities with this preamp. Macrodynamics through the Cabernet seem stellar also but my speakers aren't the best when it comes to reproducing large scale so that opinion is shared with some reservation.

I haven't owned anyother DHT preamps but I've been told that these characteristics are found in other DHT preamps as well.