I have an Audio Research LS 8 Mk 2 that works great in my system, I miss a balance control though. You get ARC build quality in a no frills package: just right for this audio cheapskate. Besides, the lack of a remote control is good for the waistline.
The original 6SN7 tube Blue Circle BC21.
Copland CTA301 MKII. $900-$1200 used, nothing compares.
I think the choice of such things comes down to synergy with the amps you are using it with. I can highly recommend Cary's SLP-50A. Sounds wonderful with my SET amps. You'll have plenty of change left over from your $1k to purchase that Close-and-Play turntable you've been lusting after too. You'll need one as the Cary is only a line stage pre. The Close-and-Play uses two 'D' batteries and has it's very own integrated amp and speakers!! One of the great audio bargains on the used market!! The SLP-50A is also a great bargain IMO. Stone-simple two-tube design. Built like a tank. I would say it's 'sexy'...it looks better than any of the closed-box solutions. They can be had with an optional remote, and either a gold or black face. The older versions, like the one I have, came with the most gorgeous solid billet aluminum remote I've ever seen, which may break some of your toes if you should drop it on your foot. Newer versions of the SLP-50B (uses 6922 family of tubes instead of 6CG7's) more likely will have the newer plastic remote more on par in quality with that Close-and-Play turntable (the remote that is). Cary also offers some upgrades that I've been told make a significant improvement in the sound by installing oil caps. You can do this yourself if you're down with the circuits and wrangle a soldering iron.
I'm realizing as I'm blabbering on, that this is a frequently asked question here. You may want to take some time and search the archives for further answers. There are plenty of great box-solution tube pre-amps on the used market in that price bracket, but I wouldn't call them "sexy". OK, I guess the Blue Circle does have that neato blue light on it, but it's still just a box. Among other excellent choices might include Audible Illusions 3 series, Quicksilver, and various ARC models to name but a few. All are pretty boring boxes. All are great bargains for the money you will spend on them, and have the potential for being a great asset to your system depending on what you match them up with. You might want to mention the rest of your system. That way you may get suggestions from folks who've actually used the pre's they are suggesting to you with similar components.
Cmidnight, if you think you'd find a soft glowing blue circle, large round cherry knobs and a pair of 6SN7 tubes sexy, I'd suggest the Blue Circle BC21 as well. Sugarbrie knows I love mine.
Oh, my Gunbei, didn't your parents ever tell you about 'forbidden love'? And Sugarbrie watches!?!?! I confess, I'm guilty as well....let the world judge us...I don't care, just as long as I can be together with my tubes!! There's nothing like a pair of bare-naked, hot and hard tubes with their glass nipples pointing to the heavens to get your juices flowing. Why I've got a stirring in my loins just thinking about it! Pardon me while I go surf some some hi-end sites for hot pics and downloads.....
Listen to the Audible Illusions L-1. They sell for about $750 and still compare with the best. This is the linestage of the AI M3A. It was on everyones top list for years. It still compares with anything near its price range. It retailed for $2195. It has been replaced with the L-2 an upgraded version with remote.
The AI preamps have been overlooked lately because they have been out a while. Don't overlook these!
This is wonderful, thanks for the responses. I have seen Audible Illusions at the top of many lists and I've been leaning toward that manufacturer. Here are some on the facts; I'm especailly interested in a superior MM phono section. I've kept'd my records in good condition since I bought my first Kingston Trio album in `59 and in the `80's I bought a B&O which I still like. I'll be using this preamp with Hafler SS 150 w Transnova and Sonus Faber Concertinos. The Sonus Fabers were a really big improvement to my system and now I want to complete it nicely with some cables and good pre. I'm also interested in a system that will provide full musicality at the lowerer end of the volume control.
Damn Marco!!! The way you love your tubes I'll bet you gotta clean 'em after every listen! Be cautious when downloading any pics of 6922s. Pete Townshend got in big trouble for downloading those little buggers.
Cmidnight, I used to own Concertinos but never concurrently with a tube preamp. I'd think the Sonus Fabers would like tubes though. Good luck!
You're absolutely right Gunbei, but the maintenance is better than the alternative: I tried the more responsible and safe route, which would also keep things pretty neat and tidy, but the latex kept melting with the heat of the tubes (OUCH!). I gave up on the 6922's long ago. I prefer the more mature Bottlehead shots. Gotta love those curves!
I purchased a used Audio Research LS-2, and it sounds great. It will run you well under $1,000, probably about $600 or so, depending on model. (It used to be rated "A" by Stereophile about 10 years ago. Still sounds great to me.)
FYI: I use it with a Mark Levinson No. 23 amp, running the Revel Ultima Studios. My front end is a Basis 1400 TT, with RB 300 arm and Glider cartridge. It sounds very nice as a system.
Good Luck, and have fun assembling the system!
As an amendment to my previous posting, I should mention that the LS-2 is a line only pre-amp. I run a used Audio Research PH3 as my phono preamp. (It cost me $850).
(I don't want to give you the impression that it has a phono stage).
Try a Quicksilver full function preamp..oh for about $600, very stiff power supply and the midrange of tubes, well, you have to try it.
I haven't heard much from the crowd about CJ 10A. I mention this because on the used market they seem to be very reasonably priced. I'm sure there are better sounding amps but for 500-$600?
Music Reference RM-5 MK III. This is nice preamp for the price. Great phono and line stage. Many user don't know how to match this preamp with their amp. It's great for solid state amp not tube amp.
I agree that the CJ PV-10 is a very nice preamp.