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I have owned a couple of pre-amps in this range. Not nearly as many as some people on AudiogoN, but the one that has impressed me the most is the Klyne LX 7.5b. FWIW HiFi+ listed it as one of their products of the year two or three years ago.
I had a Krell pre-amp before the Klyne, and I found the Klyne to be far more musical. It did not have the level of detail the Krell had, but I'm not sure I hear that level of detail in live music.
There are lots of products out there, maybe a little more info about your preferences would be helpful too.
Modwright ... 9.0 SE
Dan is a great man.
So many choices - you will get many opinions here. There probably will be many great combos.
I will only chant that:
"I LOVE A TUBED LINESTAGE" With or without a tubed amp. It made me a believer in about 30 seconds. I'm running a Levinson 23.5 and it brought it to life.
Happy, happy, horse
For that price you can get a new Modwright SWL 9.0 SE (with Bybee and Blackgate upgrades) hybrid linestage.
It is incredibly open, quiet, transparent, dynamic and three dimensional. Rivals linestages costing far more. Check out the reviews at "6 Moons" and "Enjoy The Music."
Both writers bought the review unit.
I suggest the Tung Sol over the Jan Philips tubes.
Bat VK=3,VK-5,VK-30 or 30 SE would work well and be in your price range.I've used at least 10 (past 5 yrs.) preamps including Classe CP-50,Adcom 750,CJ 14& Premier 18LS,Rogue Magnum 99,Sonic Frontiers Line 1 & Line 1SE,Bel Canto Pre-1,and Ps Audio PCA-2.My current BAT 50 SE is by far the best(and a few of the others were quite good).The 50-SE features great user interface;is clean,quiet and dynamic.I've also heard the 31 SE and 51 SE at a friends house and been mightily impressed by both.My amp at this time is a Plinius 100 Mk.III which should be similar to the Pass.Just a note.The best value I have heard is the Consonance T-1(retail around $1500).Steve Monte at Quest for sound lent it to me while he was re-tubing my BAT.While not as absolutely quiet,it may have been more musical than my 50 SE.I prefer the BAT interface,but for pure Sonics the T-1 is hard to beat!!!
I'll second the Herron VTSP-1a/166. Wonderful preamp for full price and a steal at its current used price of less than 2k.
I used to own the Joule-Electra LA-100 MkIII which is also an nice pre, albeit more lush sounding than real life and a bit lazy without the right power cord.
I'm hankering for the Herron VTSP-2.
I'm going to toss in my Chapter Audio Preface preamp that I recently put up for sale on Agon for $2900. I've owned a number of preamps including the Placette Active Linestage, Pass Labs X2.5, X-1, and a few others, and this 1.5 year old $8500 msrp unit edged out that competition performance-wise.
It also happens to be the most handsome preamp I've owned (if you're into that kind a' thing). Especially in the dark.
I'm selling only because I no longer need a preamp with my new APL 3910 (if it ever arrives).
Thanks for the opportunity to advertise for free. :)