Tube Preamplifier Time

First of all I'd like to say thanks to all you guys that contribute and share opinions on hi-fi gear as well as all the wonderfull music you've listened to. My musical tastes are all over the map including progressive rock, experimental & classic jazz, and I've just recently ventured into the wide world of clasical. I cant quite explain it but the mood that the latter style mentioned puts me in is completely different than that of any other musical enjoyment I've experienced. My setup currently consists of a pair of Thiel CS2.4 spks, Krell
KAV-A150a amplifier, Rotel RCD-1072, and a Marantz AV-550 preamp/processor all in a dedicated room w/9x10X11ft. dimensions. I guess the question that I have is what would you consider replacing the preamp with in a system like this that I've put together? I think that currently it plays to great enjoyment for my ears but have heard tubed preamps and no doubt want the company. Upon listening to a few models more than a year ago with no cash to purchase at the time I decided for example that the VTL5.5 was more up my alley than say a CarySL98(I believe that's the model) due to how warm the cary sounded. I would prefer to keep the cost below 3K if at all possible

Thanks ahead, Chris

The Modwright 9.0SE should be right up your alley. I owned the Cary SLP-98 and while I agree that it is warm, it is an incredible preamp. I now own a Joule Electra LA-100 MkIII and while it is a tad on the warm side, it is an extremely musical preamp (on your budget you'll need to buy one used). Having just begun to listen to more classical music myself, the Joule makes the strings come alive, the mids are lush but not syrupy, and the low end is extended and more controlled unlike other tube preamps.
Why not listen to a eastern MINI MAX Preamp. Tubed wonderfully clean without being too overdone in the mids.
Ive owned Audible illusions M3A's, Audio research LS15. Ls-2BII,ect. the Eastern is more enjoyable then the ones mentioned and you can pick up a modded version for 600.
Look up the reviews all 5 Star. The CAT II is my next choice At the 3 grand level.
Demo a Rogue 99 Magnum or used McIntosh C2200; both very dynamic tube preamps. And, both sweet mates for a SS amp.
I love my Herron VTSP-1A, it's neutral and transparent with just a touch of warmth. It's also the quietest tubed preamp I've ever owned. You can often find them used for just under $2K. Happy listening!
You have great choices at that price range. First Sound Presence DLX, BAT VK30, CAT, Joule, Supratek (mid price model used, Cabernet maybe). I prefered the First Sound or the Joule, but they are all outstanding. All very well respected, with good service (although Supratek is in Australia, they have made noises about setting up a US service station).
Thank you everyone for your reccomendation of a preamplifier to try out with my setup. Now the good news is that I live in nyc and can somewhat search these models out for listening sessions.

Enjoy the music! Chris

Liked the sound of VTL's 5.5 preamp during an in store demo and went out and bought my first piece of used gear from the site here. The first thing that entered my mind once playing the first cd inserted was, Oh man this is going to become a habit were I dont want it to! In that it drastically changed the overall sound of the system from what the marantz ss AV-550 pre I'd always owned and used since purchasing my first piece of hi-end equipment which is the Krell amp I've had for 7yrs. I guess the best way to describe the additional enjoyment the new preamp brings is that Bass had always just been a thump or tap to my ears whereas it's now felt with weight, texture and authority. Brass and violins have certainly been tamed down a bit and have a seamlessness layered feel from the high pitched noises that the marantz produced. So far and it's only been about 3hrs. of listening I find my self looking for details and clarity that were easier heard on the Marantz. The sound now has a warmth and instruments appear rounded off in detail where I'm struggling to hear everything on the recording. Maybe this is a low in trade for the strong points of tube technology. Perhaps I should play at louder levels? I think that their might be an impedence issue as one of the gentlemen over at VTL said the 5.5 would better match with my Krell amp. I havent changed the tubes or even checked to see if the units biased properlly which could be the reason for what I'm hearing but I doubt it. Just need to get used to this new sound which I feel really does bring me much nearer to a live music performance Chris
I used to own a VTL 5.5. I don't think there is a need to bias the unit. Certainly, impedance matching with the amplifier is an important consideration. I replaced my VTL 5.5 with an Audio Horizons TP 2.0nB because, apparently like you, I wanted the sound of tubes but also a sound that is well articulated and detailed.
At this time, I think there are better preamplifier choices for low wattage SET amps. That said, my TP preamp matches beautifully with my VTL MB 185s. Other users have reported similar results with other amplifiers (both tube and solid state). You may want to experiment by using the Audio Horizons free trial period. The Audio Horizons preamp can be purchased new for under $3K.
If I read your post correctly it sounds like you auditioned a VTL 5.5 at a dealer and then bought one on Audiogon. That's a pretty big no-no ethically speaking. If a dealer is spending the time and effort to set up demos for you he should be rewarded for his services. Otherwise you're just wasting his valuable time. If I somehow mis-understood you and this isn't what happened please accept my apologies. And whatever the case may be I still hope that you enjoy your new preamp.
If, as it appears to be the case, the original poster auditioned in a brick and mortar store then bought on-line, I have quite a different hope than expressed by Jond above. I hope the thing craps out and he as no recourse --that would be both justice served and a good lesson as to why one should purchase from dealers. The dealers I've dealt with have also serviced their products and I've never had to do any heavy lifting or pay anything for a repair.
Thanks for the replies guys!
I appreciate your words in relation to striving for what sounds like similar characteristics and am glad to know I'm understood and making some kind of sense when describing my systems sound and what I no longer hear without the solid state pre.
When I listened to the pre originally when auditioning the spks. that I purchased from the dealer brand new I kinda had a hunch that the combination would satisfy me. On a later visit and broke as a joke I still had dreams of getting the dreadfull marantz thingy out and a tube pre in which my dealer recommended for real Hi-Fi when I took the plunge for the Thiels. Major finacial recovery time it took me after dropping 4400 on them and a more than a year wait I decided to buy used and also a model lower TL2.5 which I have never heard or demoed. Come to think of it I think that I was originally sold on the spks while listening through a Burmester pre. Now, I totally can understand listening spent with the dealer is precious time and dont believe I could have had a better experience than that with which the gentleman over a Sound by Singer offered. With the courtesy that has always been given to me upon visiting this store you can bet it will be my new equipment purchasing stop and I by no means want to use him. Perhaps I should find other audiophiles locally to hear different equipment?


The VTL preamp I purchased used fried the power transformer within playing music for 25hrs. This is very heart breaking to me and will make me much more cautious in purchasing used equipment in the future. Bea over at VTL says to me that it's in great looking shape at which point I agree and also comment that it's surprising this happened. Should I look into cleaner power such as using a conditioner before connecting to the apartment wall?

Very sad times I tell ya not to have tunes at the moment very sad. In the mean time I have chucked out a bunch of bills to get a mapleshade samson v.1 equipment rack after realizing the terrible crap that is the Lovan hollow metal tubed MDF 3/4in fiberboard I once started out with upon getting my first system.
Preamp has come back from service after $350 in bills from VTL. Considering I'm very happy with how it sounds with the rest of the system I can say in addition with the $900 I paid used before it acted up I'm still feeling ok, The time lost while it was away seemed more painfull which brings me to a question I have for you out there listening. Should I protect my ac power with a line conditioner? I dont exactly know what caused the power transformer in the preamp to blow but I am suspect that it might have been something to do with the power.

I live in a nyc apartment where lights are always dimming, When the fridge kicks, electric heater is turned on and such. All my other components have been ok plugged into the wall sockets for at least a couple of yrs. now with nothing to worry about. Anybody with experience, reccomendations or ideas would be very appreciated.

I tried a Modwright 9 with the Kav 300i (used as power amp)-- the sound is actually very good!!!
How about the Bruce Rozenblit "Grounded Grid Preamp" which is available as a kit or assembled. Far below your 3K limit. It has pretty sparten features so depending on your needs it may not be right for you.

Thanks for the ideas guys. I am really in the market now for a conditioner of some sort being that my cd player started skipping on any disk I put in after adjusting the light dimmer control in the same room. The next morning it worked just fine so go figure? I believe the house may be wired funky and have unplugged all stereo components until further protection. Is the Shunyata or Nordost products any count? Dollar bills I know they cost alot of
Velocityofhue, I doubt that power conditioner will solve the skipping problem. It could be that the remote sensor on the unit itself reacting to light changes in the room and screwing up the playback. Try covering the sensor(or all of them on every component) with a piece of tape or something else and then see if it skips.

I use Shunyata Hydra4 and it's pretty good. Lowers the noise floor and makes the backgrounds quieter.
You can even plug your amp there as well, but with the amp, you should try it direct into wall and then into conditioner to compare and see if that's better for the amp.
Thanks Audphile1,
I appreciate your input on what could and maybe the culprit. To be more accurate the player goes into what seems like a laser tracking issue from the sound of it rather than a skip like I mentioned before. It usually happens on the second or so track on any cd and then every other one I put in until I turn the power off and back on again so it is an intermittent kind of problem. I played at least four cd's the other night without any problems. I'm gonna take a Furman ac power conditioner from the job in the mean time and see how it sounds.