Also, throw Lamm Industries L1 in there as one of my auditioning choices. Thanks
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I heard the CAT signature against a Bruce Moore Companion II Line Stage pre-amp and the CAT LOST! no joke. The Bruce Moore retail for only $1,800. This is the pre-amp you should A/B against the CAT. You will be blown away. Soundstage and dynamics and the smooth top end you ever heard. Good Luck. The good news is when you sell the CAT you can get a good resale!
I use the Ultimate now, I've owned and auditioned Audio Research, Melos,Illusion and have friends who own Krell, Bat etc. To hear the differences you need to start at your cables. We switched cables in systems and you will be amazed the differences. What you are using now didn't compare well with NBS. When switching componets you could clearly hear diferences you couldn't beleived existed.
I really have to say that the Lamm line stages are the best out of the lot. You won't go wrong with either the L1 or the LL2. I used to own a CAT mkIII, with a CJ Premiere 7 for a few years. Around a year and a half ago I upgraded my whole system and bought an ARC Ref One, and later around June 99, I purchased the ML 32 to go with my Levinson 33 amplifiers and Levinson digital front end. I picked the 32 after direct comparison with the ART and the Burmeister. It seemed that each one of them had certain strengths and weaknesses, and there would be compromises no matter which preamp I selected. After agonizing for a month I ended up with the ML32. The situation did not change much from that either, I was continuously changing preamps between the Levinson, ARC, CAT and pair passive attenuators. None was satisfying enough. Then in September I had a chance to try out Lamm's preamps. In 30 seconds I bought two of them, one for each channel. There's no compromise with Lamm. It's clearly superior to everything else, and actually the only preamp that sounds like real music, the rest are all hifi. Needless to say that after this experience, my amplifiers are now Lamm too. I never owned Thor, but heard them in a friends system. I'm really wondering what the all the fuss is about. The Thor has a typical dark tube sound with a weak bass. The darkness in the pre is there to compensate for the sound of the Thor amps, which are a bit hard sounding with a strong glare in the upper mid areas. I have no experience with Atmasphere, but I can tell you that the AYRE and the Blue Circle are not in the same sonic league as of the rest of your choices. The Spectral is in a different class of its own. I'm yet to figure out if I actually like it or not. It's very, very fast, with an analytical presentation but at the same time very smooth. It can be extremely impressive and mesmerizing at times. I keep on borrowing it from the dealer to try out, but still in the end it's just, still, amazing hifi and not music, like the Lamms. Then there's the restriction of having to only use MIT cables with it. This is the biggest no no. You're welcome to contact me if you need more information on these preamps; email@example.com.
I own the K1 and it is a very clear, dynamic preamp. Perhaps the best SS I've owned (that includes the Lev 380, Aleph P, Rowland Synergy, KRC-3, DMC-20). I also own a WAVAC PRX-1, probably the most glorious sounding preamp I've ever heard. Liquid magic. Once owned the SL1-III, Premier 14, SFL2 and others whose names elude me. I like tube preamps for certain things and SS for others. I don't expect to change the K1 or the WAVAC for a long time. Plus, I find that simpler is better, both sonically and psychologically. I cannot tell you how neurotic I became A/B-ing polarity, balance, the display dimming, etc. Went nuts and never allowed myself a chance to listen to the music. The CAT is very different from the K1, both are very good.