Tube Preamps...I'm sold

At the constant urging of my friend I finally decided to audition a tube preamp (Eistein The Tube). All I can say is I am completely sold on the benefits of tubes in my system. I am not sure I have the vocabulary to describe what I heard but everything just sounded right. Vocals has a realism that made it seem I was in the same room as the musician. Instruments sounded like they were supposed to. There were details I have never heard before. What is amazing to me is that I have what I believe to be a pretty good ss preamp (Classe CP-700).

Ok, now for the hard part...finding the right tube preamp. The Einstein is amazing but I want to audition more. Can anyone suggest a tube pre in the range of $10K and less? I would love to some one with an output trigger and very fine volume control (0.5db). Thats all I need.

Thanks in advance.

Happy Listening.
Audio Research Ref 3- probably a great choice.
Aesthetix Calypso
First Sound

There's plenty more based on what you are looking for or need. Do you want or need balanced inputs/outputs? Remote control? Mono/Stereo switch? HT bypass? etc.
Thanks for the responses. I would prefer balanced with a nice remote. I am only using this for 2 ch so I dont need HT pass. I also dont want tone control.
The Calypso from Aesthetix is a killer performer & value @ $4500 MSRP.

Balanced, Remote, sounds fantastic. Seriously , it performs up there with some pre's that are approaching 10K.

Shindo Monbrisson at $7,900.The best tube preamp you could hear,unless you want to try the more expensive Shindo preamps.
No balanced connections and no remote.
Hitherto unexperienced musical bliss.
Tboooe, you are ruined :-) You will come back to The Tube. Nothing else with the features you mention even comes close.
Try Audio Research Ref-3 or you can try the previous ARC REF-2 Mk2 used for less than a price of a new Calypso.
Try a ARC Ref 3 or wait for the new BAT VK-32/52 series to be revealed at the CES in another week. The Calypso is also a good recommendation, though not quite as quiet as the BAT or the ARC, it is unbeatable at it's price, me thinks.
VAC Ren Mk 2 new at about $2K less than the Einstein. It has a great remote. Occasionally available used. Only pres I have heard it used against were Calypso and Lamm LL2. Smoked them both, but of course its 2-3X price.
Hi Tboooe,

I would seriously consider the new BAT VK-52se at that price level. Also, when your funds allow you have the option of upgrading the 52se to the REX without having to sell the 52se.

Good luck,
if you don't need a phono stage, the supratek cabernet is a reference piece for only $5k. now you'll likely have to wait 6-8 months as they are hand built, but well worth the wait. i have a supratek chardonnay and malbec amps. the chardonnay is an excellent linestage that's best every other line stage i've owned before (aragon soundstage, pass labs x2.5, acoustic research sp-16l). best of all, mick can customize the cabernet to fit most any requirement you need. good luck in your hunt and have a happy new year.
Tom, what is the REX? Yes, BAT is on my shortlist.
I'm going out on a limb here because I haven't heard most of the preamps mentioned so far, but I would recommend the Mapletree Ultra 4A SE with the 2PS separate power supply, cost is around $700-800 for both. While waiting for the delivery, order an aftermarket umbilical cord from Revelation Audio (the cord that connects the linestage to the power supply), cost $169-199 depending on the length needed. You will not only have a linestage but a phone stage as well. With the Revelation Audio cord, you will have a fist class contender with plenty of dough left over for anything else your hearts desire.
Ditto on the ARC Ref-3. As to older ARC models, I actually think the later production Ref-1's - with Infinicaps - sound better than the Ref-II's, but IF, and only if, you run them with a really good set of NOS tubes.
do you have any objections to older products, say from the 80's or prior to that ?

if "old" is ok, how about an audio research sp 10, or one of the jadis preamps, conrad johnson pv 5 or conrad johnson premier 3, or mfa luminescence ???
I have used the Sonic frontiers pre-amps, an ARC SP3A , SP10, SP11, sp15, REF1 AND HAVE JUST ORDERED A REF 3 all have been very good but the ARC excell
The Audio Research Ref-3 is made right here in the USA
Hello Tboooe,

BAT has recently released 3 new preamps, the 32se, 52se, and the REX. The 32se being the direct replacement for the 31se and the 52se replacing the previous top of the line BAT tube preamp the 51se. BAT also has come out with REX which is their all out assault on preamp design. The REX is a 2 chassis unit with an all tube external power supply. The user has quite a bit of flexibility with the REX concerning different tube options to tailor it to suit their system and taste. BAT has made an upgrade path for the customer to go from the 52se to the REX.

Here is a little description from Victor Khomenko of BAT: "Well, as the cat is already partially out of the bag (we will probably ship the first ones this month), I think I can mention the base VK-52SE and its top of the line two-chassis REX version. The Rex has vacuum tube rectification, new custom oil caps on both the positive and negative rails of its symmetrical power supply, and comes with the same multiple choice current source option as the 32SE, as well as tube based AC shunt voltage regulators."

Hope this helps,
Tbooe, with all due respect, I'm glad your very excited regarding auditioning different reference level tube preamps, however let's not jump to the conclusion that they are far superior to the best of the reference solid state preamps around today.

The best of the reference tube/ss preamps sound much more alike then different today. Some still think regarding harmonics( leading edge-body-decay trails of an individual note) that tubes are more "real" sounding, but the great solid state gear I think nails this aspect of sound darn well along with the other virtues(no noise floor-microdetails-slam) that solid state has to offer.

Being a curious audiophile myself, I am now going through an audition of a very highly regarded/respected Japanese tube preamp that sells for $8000.00 to see if I was missing something by not having tubes in my system.

To be totally fair it's still breaking in, however so far it offers no significant sonic virtues over my Placette Active Line Stage. Maybe, a "touch" warmer, maybe, but it does not offer the details and soundstaging abilities that the Placette has. I have not decided if that smidgen of warmth is more "musical/organic" or not, even though it's slightly different.

Also, this linestage, being a tube preamp, should not be left on all the time, it's designer believes that a remote control would damage the sonics, so no remote, and finally the issue of retubing, I know tubes in preamps last for years and some audiophiles enjoy tube rolling, but I find these all to be hassles that I would gladly put up with if I heard something I wanted that could only be provided by a tube preamp.

It always comes down to personnal taste and system synergy regarding the best decision for our systems and enjoying music through it, so I hope you don't jump to the conclusion that a tubed preamp offers you something you can't get with a great solid state preamp, and go alittle further with your auditioning process and try a Placette, the new Bent Audio TAP passive, Accustic Arts MK3 preamp before making up your mind.
Tom, thanks for the input. If I go with BAT I will get the 52se so I can upgrade to the REX. Hopefully I can audition one after CES.

Teajay, great thoughts. No, I have not given up entirely on SS preamps. I am going to try the Accustic Arts, MBL, among others. Whatever I do next, I am hoping its the end of the road for a long time (yeah right!)
Teajay,why don'y you identify the "mystery" Japanese line stage?
Sounds like you tried the WRONG Japanese brand.
And do you really still place at the top of your list "soundstage" and "details"?
I moved beyond that audiophile Chimera years ago.
Might want to give great tube electronics a try and get back in touch with the music.Details and ss are for young beginners who don't know any better.
Clfcarney, I find your personnal remarks somewhat condescending, however I'll take the high road and respond to your question. But, first some remarks to your statements:

1) I love when my experience differs from others regarding certain pieces the response revolves around, "something most be wrong with your system" or your remark, "WRONG Japanese brand". I said in my orginial remarks to Tbooe that it comes down to personnal taste/system synergy, not who's right or wrong.

2) Take a look at my system and the type of music I listen to. Yes, I love microdynamics, laying in a big natural soundstage along with top/bottom extension, macrodynamics, transparency and above all "real/organic" timbres, so I'm not into a "HIFI" sonic signature at all. I have found alot of highly regarded tube amps and DACS to be very euphonic and not my cup of personnal sonic tea.

3) The preamp that I'm auditioning is the Shindo Labs Mon brisson, as far as I can tell it's a very well respected piece from a great company and designer. As I stated I got it brand new, it now has about 100 plus hours on it, so I still have not come to the conclusion it won't blossom more, but we well see. There was also a mixup regarding it's power cord, I'm using a different one that's recommended for absolute sonic performance, so I'm waiting to get the Shindo power cord before I come to any final conclusions.

3) I wish I was younger, I'm 54, and beginning all over again, to re-experience the first time the beauty of high end audio gear with great music, but your "high brow" statement that, "ss and details" are for young beginners smacks of someone who thinks he knows everything.

I listen to music at least 2 to 3 hours a day, so I think I'm in touch with the music and hope you enjoy your music as much as I enjoy listening to mine.
>>Details and ss are for young beginners who don't know any better.<<

Words of a true amateur.
I don't remember making any personal remarks,Teajay.And everbody finds me condescending(and that IS a personal remark).
The Monbrisson is not a linestage,it is a full function preamp with an unbelievable phonostage built in.
If you have access to a record player,or any analogue component,I urge you to give it a try through the Monbrisson.My digital sounded better than ever through my Shindo preamp,but it was only when I got back to analogue through the preamp that my system's full potential was realized.It provides a direct connection to the emotional essence and flow of the music that I have yet to experience with any other gear.Digital is not even close.It makes pretty sounds and detail and slam etc.,but not music,IMO.
Also,everyone I know of who uses Shindo gear uses the cords that come with the gear or the Shindo premium cords which are only about $400.
The shindo products are voiced by Ken Shindo,who has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know about making magic with a stereo,and that includes his cords and the NOS tubes that are in it.
No experimentation is necessary.
Also,I am just curious if you would care to divulge the dealer who provided you a new Monbrisson to audition but did so with the wrong cord.
As I understand it,there are only a handful of dealers in the US,and I don't know of any dealers who provide brand new unused gear for home trials--of any brand.As everyone knows,most gear doesn't sound its best untill it gets some hours on it.Surely your dealer knows that.
All in fun.
Clfcarney, well I'm glad you have a sense of humor regarding your own opinion of being condescending, on to your other statements and questions.

1) I prefer not to share the name of the dealer who I got the Shindo preamp, he's a fine gentleman with a great store who made a mistake of not making sure that the Shindo PC was in the unpacked shipping carton. We had a long discussion regarding how the Shindo PC was vital to get the best performance out of the preamp and not to experiement with other PC's. However, since I live in another state, it was not possible to go back and get the Shindo PC, so I'm breaking in the Preamp with a Harmonix Studio Master Cord and will recieve the Shindo PC this week through the mail.

2) Regardless, of what happened concerning the PC my audition period is at least two weeks, so the Shindo will be fully broken in and used with its stock PC before I come to any conclusions regarding its performance in my system.

3) It was also discussed that Mr. Shindo selects what he considers the optimum tubes for voicing his preamps, so tube rolling is not recommended.

4) I'm fully aware that the Shindo is a full function pre not just a line stage, with a highly regarded phono stage. However, without getting into a very subjective debate regarding analog vs digital, I'm not at all interested in vinyl and have not been for over fifteen years. I accept that you experience "the emotional essence and flow" of the music more with analog then digital, I don't. The way you describe what you like in your system's overall signature reminds me of much of the writing style of Sarjan and the boys over on Six Moons website that I find quite entertaining and very mumbo-jumbo and quite silly most of the time. I listen to music for pleasure and enjoyment on an emotional level, not to have a spiritual experience.

4) Quite right, let's have fun and let the music roll.

Shindo Monbrison
Point to point hand wired.....
I have used passive preamps in the past and liked it better than the active stages I tried.
I then went dCS straight into different amps for quite a while and preferred that to the couple of preamps that I tried(amateur that I am,Audiofeil).
But when I got my Shindo Vosne Romanee preamp,it was a complete change of landscape like no preamp had ever been before for me.
It was like adding another amp into the chain,it transformed my system in an almost unbelievably positive way.
So,forgive me if I seem incredulous at your initial reports,but they differ wildly from my own experience of the Shindo gear,and ,frankly, from every other report I have read of others who have actually heard the gear.
Even someone as mainstream as Michael Fremer was quoted as saying the Shindo demo was the best he heard at a show in the recent past(pretty sure it was he).
But maybe the Monbrisson isn't the best choice for an otherwise all ss and digital system with low efficiency speakers and a tough load.
With your preferences,Teajay,I'm kinda surprised you even wanted to try it.
Clfcarney, you do sound like Teajay's non-committal on the Shindo gear is hitting you particularly hard. First off, you are not a dealer or have any finacial involvement with Shindo by any chance, do you? I ask because your threads certainly smack of hyper-enthusiasm for the brand, almost like there is a monetary tie.
This may not be the case, maybe you are just new to the hobby and very loyal to this brand. Maybe defending it so enthusiastically helps you solidify purchase decisions that you've already made, who knows?
The point is, it appears to this unbiased viewer that you are blindly loyal to Shindo for some reason. You like the sound of Shindo, that's fine, but to question another's choice of preamps or sources, and denegating them because they don't mirror you own, shows either lack of experience or some financial investment.

These threads have been used before by those to schill their own products, see D&K. If you are not making money, and you are simply not experienced enough to know that system synergy is more important than any one piece of equipment, then perhaps this can be a valueable lesson for you. Teajay is allowed to NOT LIKE Shido equipment, and you are allowed to LIKE it. You don't need to be offended, he's not questioning your purchase decisions. Why does his choice of source, speakers, amp and preamp irritate you so much? Why is he not allowed to enjoy his system? Why do you feel the need to express that your opinion holds more value than his?

It is really sad to watch. I hope that you can learn to play well with others.

Happy New Year,

Well,Jmcgrogan2, I am surprised that in all fairness you don't ask Teajay if he has financial ties to placette.If you check,I think you will find that he has reccommended placette on more threads than I have ever mentioned Shindo.
And I am sorry that you are yet to find yourself a system that instills as much enthusiasm in you as mine does in me.
Dare I say,maybe you should give Shindo a try ,too.
I count at least 14 different plugs for Placette by Teajay.
I appear to have about 5 for Shindo.
So there! Jmcgrogan2
Hello all,

First let me than Cliff for his positive comments on Shindo. Cliff is not an employee but a very enthusiastic and loyal client with all good intentions.

Cliff makes some very interesting points about Shindo and how it plays with others. Its definitely designed and voiced as a complete system- everything has been done for you- cable, tubes, cord etc. It has a recipe that works. Cords like the Harmonix are excellent- on something other than a Shindo. When mating it with foreign systems its very much luck of the draw- it often works very well but it occasionally just doesn't click. Shindo is designing his system around high sensitivity speakers which convey nuance, detail, dynamics, subtlety. Its not hyped or designed to punch its way through dull systems. It doesn't respond well to tweaking. The tubes are rolled and should last many thousands of hours thanks to the types of tubes employed and because they're run easy.

If I can put some words into Cliff's mouth and help him explain what I believe he was trying to convey when he said detail and sound stage are for amateurs: Shindo, in a Shindo system, brings you to a place where music takes over and the system vanishes. Its not about looking at details and sound stage, its about the musicians, music and emotion. Detail is there, sound stage is there- in proportion and natural.

Best regards,
Anybody that makes a statement such as:

"Details and ss are for young beginners who don't know any better"

is clearly an amateur in the world of high end audio. Whether or not you own or have owned Shindo, dCS or any other well known brand is immaterial. You have displayed a total lack of understanding regarding solid state products and audio in general with such an absurd assertion. Some day and with more experience it will all make sense.

I stand by my assessment.
>>I believe he was trying to convey when he said detail and sound stage are for amateurs<<

No that's wrong. His original quote is:

"Might want to give great tube electronics a try and get back in touch with the music. Details and ss are for young beginners who don't know any better".

in which ss is clearly an allusion to solid state not sound stage.

He doesn't need apologists. He needs more experience.
Audiofeil,old age does not necessarily equate to the ability to make sound judgments in any field,and the evaluation of audio components is no exception.
And yes I am an amateur in audio.I don't make my living selling audio or anything related to it.
I vote for equipment with my own money and have to pay for everything I try.
I guess I will never aquire more "sense" about things audio,because I will never waste anymore of my money on SS gear that is hawked to to the audio masses by guys who have lost half their hearing and by companies that issue endless new revisions of the same old junk that wasn't very good when it first came out decades ago and isn't any better now.
I don't need your approbation or any one elses when evaluating equipment,I only need my ears.
And how do you like this statement:Solidstate SUCKS!
(Good) TUBES RULE!!!!!!
Clfcarney, let me comment on your statement that, "... 14 different plugs for Placette by Teajay". Yes, I shared on many different threads information on the Placette Active Line Stage regarding its sonic performance, build quality, and its very reasonable price, but not in the context of putting down other people's gear or their listening preferences.

On every review or thread I have ever posted I always state their is no BEST in the world, but many fine pieces of gear and personnal taste and system synergy are always the final factors.

Unfortunely, I believe because of your passion towards your Shindo gear and your unkind remarks towards other's listening preferences, it came across as if you don't have Shindo gear your really can't have a reference system or be involved with the music. That's way, in my opinion, you appeared to be a "schill" to John.

Everyone, including Jonathan the importer of Shindo gear has been a true pleasure to communicate and work with, and in no way was I putting down this fine line of gear. I have come to no conculsion regarding the Shindo preamp in my system yet, but either way I already can tell it's a very fine preamp, it just might be a different "flavor" that I personnally will not like as much in my system compared to other linestages I have auditioned.
You've proven my point regarding your knowledge with the most recent post.

Thanks for the validation of my initial assessment.

Just curious what decision you made on a new preamp. I was really surprised to read that you were pursuing a preamp outside of the CP-700. That is one of the best preamps out there, can be had for significantly less than its $7000 MSRP, and surpasses any preamp I have heard in or near its range (tube or otherwise). I have had the opportunity to hear it in a system I am very familiar with, and it was a best in class. Bettered the new Audio Research LS26 (which is $6500 MSRP). Not even close in performance.

Please update on what you have auditioned, when you have the opportunity.

I have not decided on a tube pre yet. If money was no object I would get the Einstein The Tube preamp but its $14K!!!. The CP-700 is indeed a very nice preamp but a bit too smooth for my tastes. There is something about tubes that just adds the texture in the midrange that I am looking for. Right now, my shortlist includes BAT VK-52se, VAC, ARC, and Cary....I hope to make a decision soon.
If you are going with ARC, you will need to move up to the REF 3 to supercede what you already own. If you are not hearing the differences between a CP-700 and something lesser in the ARC line, then there is something wrong with the synergy of the system (speakers, sources, cables, etc). The only ARC preamp that would give your Classe a run for its money, would be the ARC REF 3 preamp, and that would not be by much. In my opinion, definitely not a $3500 difference.

I know all of this equipment well, and would regret to see anyone make a mistake in an expensive upgrade option, even if they had money to burn. In my opinion, there is not a manufacturer that gives your CP-700 a run for its money other than the Einstein. Sometimes it takes a signficant financial investment to receive a true upgrade in system. Otherwise, it appears a unilateral move is being made.
mcrheist, good thoughts. I will be auditioning all the preamps I listed. One point to consider though, to me good tube preamps sound fundamentally different from good ss preamps. So while the Cp-700 is indeed a great preamp, it still does not give the sound that tubes do, which is what I am after. So in this case, it is not about the other preamps being better than the CP-700, but rather different and better suited to my tastes.
Don't forget Wyetech Opal, which may be the best of all and because it is only sold directly by mfr., is a very reasonable $8600. If you had normal dealer markup, marketing, ad costs, it would be $12K-$15K. And it is built to last a lifetime.

Nglaxer, I agree with you regarding the Wyetech Opal preamp, it's a great piece, however it's one of the least "tube" sounding tube preamps I have ever heard. Great details, macrodynamics, and prat, but if Tboooe is looking for some tube "warmth" the Opal would not be the sonic ticket.
Tboooe, regarding the newest ARC preamp line (LS17 and LS26) with the exception of the ARC REF 3, they are not "tube-like" at all. In fact, they sound very SS. Have you heard these in your system? The only one in their current line of preamps (LS17, LS26, REF 3) that sounds like "tubes" is the REF 3.

I state this as an enthusiaste of the LS26. I do not like the warm, syrupy, slow sound of tubes, so the LS26 is very much to my liking . But you state, "good tube preamps sound fundamentally different from good ss preamps. So while the Cp-700 is indeed a great preamp, it still does not give the sound that tubes do, which is what I am after." If you are after the sound of tubes, the ARC LS17 and LS26 are definitely not your remedy.

Be sure to demo in your system. And, if you think you are hearing tubes with the LS17 and LS26, I would state that it is the power of persuasion that is at work here. These sound more SS or at least equally as SS as the CP-700. Maybe you are just looking for a change of gear?

Best of luck. I really like the LS26 but my ultimate goal is to own the REF 3 unless ... (I'll leave it at that!)
I agree with Teajay on Wyetech Opal. You will not get the typical "warmth" and muddy or bloated bass you get with most tube pres. On the other hand, you will get the depth, soundstaging and general magic inherent in tube pres, plus the speed, dynamic range and deep tight bass you get on the best SS pres. All depends on what you are looking for.

Tboooe : As a tube guy for years (and years) the Audio Research Sp 10 MkII version offers classic sound an phono section to die for . I have owned a 1983 version for 10+ years. The sound is dependent on the quality/age of tubes and such, but is unmatchable in-terms of soundstage & "realism". I know as the years pass these preamps are harder to find ...They are worth the effort. You would be surprized at the # of audio reviewers that own/crave one. Best To Your Hunt
I upgraded from a Classe cp-60 to the ref-3 and for me it is quite significant. The classe is a great pre but I have never heard the depth of soundstage, harmonics and sense of space that I have now.

I tried the LS-26 and it is also an improvement over the CP-60, but I figured I only upgrade once a decade. so what the heck I got the ref-3 and a ph-7. I love classe and am still running my ca-400 on ML Summits. Very happy camper here.....Steve
Thanks Stesom...I actually just placed my order for the Ref3 last week...I agree that the Classe is a great pre (I had the CP-700) but something about the tubes......
E.A.R.834L! E.A.R.834L ! E.A.R.834L! TRUST ME!
Tboooe.......Now the wait begins. It is hard to believe that a 10K pre-amp is backordered 3-4 weeks, but it is that good. Report back when you get it and let it break in a while. I cannot stay away from my system, it just makes me want to listen for hours on end. I am going to audition a Ref-110 to see what that does over my classe ca-400. I may be all tubes by the end of the summer....Steve are right..hard to believe the backorder...i will keep you updated on my impressions once I get it.

Likewise, let me know what you think of the ARC amp. I am itching to try out the ARC cdp as well.

Now if only ARC would improve on the way their products look...