Used Preamp on a budget advice please.


I’m currently running a top of the line Yamaha AVR as my preamp in a system consisting of a Threshold S500/II, B&W 802 S2 and B&W 801 S2 speakers, which I swap from time to time. I’m also just using a Yamaha DVD player as a CD player, but am planning to buy an older, higher end CD player as well. I also use a PC with iTunes running to an Audioengine D1 DAC. I also have a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable and would need to a phono amp for the products listed below.

I’m going to add an older preamp (with remote) for 2 channel to try to extract more definition, depth, etc, and to try to warm up the sound (the plan is to add a passive, high quality RCA switch to choose between preamp and AVR). I have a limited budget of up $700 and have been doing lots of looking. It appears that for my budget and need for a remote control, older pre/pro’s may be the best approach. I’m curious if anyone has any advice, opinion, or ideas on my approach and the following preamp possibilities:

Classe SSP-300
Classe SSP-75
Classe SSP-30 MK II
Cary Cinema 6
Simaudio Moon Stargate
Parasound C2
Krell Showcase PR
Krell KAV-250P

Thanks!
dastro
Used CJ for a great preamp.Good luck!!
Yea, I've been looking for CJ's, but if they're remote capable, they're newer and out of my price range.  Thanks for the advice!
Dastro - Your philosophy and approach is absolutely sound.

In almost every respect the very best deals on used 2ch stereo preamps on the market today might just be older extreme high-end pre/pro's that lack HDMI and modern processing formats.

I think that adding an SSP-300 into your existing system might be an interesting experiment.  Also, with the vast array of hookups and routing options, you should be able to forego that passive RCA switcher and run the Classe and the Yamaha together without need for another piece of equipment.

Greg

Well, the Krell KAV-250p has a "home theater passthrough" mode that can be configured on input #3.  You would just take the left/right pre-outs from the Yamaha and connect them directly into input 3 on the Krell.  This will save you the cost of the RCA switcher and extra RCA cable.  Also, I think you'd get a bit better performance from this 2-channel preamp then you would from the multi-channel Pre/Pros you listed.

http://krellonline.com/assets/support/KAV250P_V000_MAN.pdf

Referenced on page 8 of the user manual.

.

Well, the Krell KAV-250p has a "home theater passthrough" mode that can be configured on input #3. You would just take the left/right pre-outs from the Yamaha and connect them directly into input 3 on the Krell. This will save you the cost of the RCA switcher and extra RCA cable. Also, I think you'd get a bit better performance from this 2-channel preamp then you would from the multi-channel Pre/Pros you listed.

http://krellonline.com/assets/support/KAV250P_V000_MAN.pdf

Referenced on page 8 of the user manual.


Auxinput, thanks for the input.

The Krell 250P interests me, but time and time again, I'm reading that the Krell sound is more forward and brighter than Classe, which is what I'm trying to avoid.  I guess I can always try various pieces and sell what doesn't work for me. 
Dastro - Your philosophy and approach is absolutely sound.

In almost every respect the very best deals on used 2ch stereo preamps on the market today might just be older extreme high-end pre/pro's that lack HDMI and modern processing formats.

I think that adding an SSP-300 into your existing system might be an interesting experiment.  Also, with the vast array of hookups and routing options, you should be able to forego that passive RCA switcher and run the Classe and the Yamaha together without need for another piece of equipment.
Greg,  do you know how I would be able to connect the AVR to the SSP-300?  I'm not quite sure what inputs I would connect it to.

Thanks!

The 250P is the Krell item that was actually somewhat in-between the older Krell sound and the newer "bright/forward" Krell sound. The 250P had good resolution and definition, but had just a tiny bit of warmth there as well. If you’re really worried about this, maybe look for a Krell KRC-3 (it still has a home theater passthrough). The KRC series is older than KAV-250p and a bit warmer, but sometimes you can hear sibilance in vocals and a tiny bit of smear (from the warmth). I would avoid the Showcase / HTS7.1 / KAV-280p if you don’t want the forward/bright sound.

The 280p pushed for resolution and clarity and strength in signal.  This is actually what I love because the resolution reveals more realistic sounds.  Though, you will want to make sure you stay away from silver interconnects and speaker cables.

The older Classe preamps (like CP45 / CP60) were VERY VERY warm and slow. (way too warm/slow for me). I think the newer stuff is not as warm. I’ve read descriptions of the newer Classe as being very smooth, silky, liquidy (maybe the SSP-300 would have some of this).

I don’t know what the Simaudio / Parasound stuff sounds like.

Like gregkohanmim has said, you could really use any preamp here. If it doesn’t have a home-theater passthrough, you would have to reset the volume to a specific level every time you use the signals from the Yamaha. (maybe set at 50% / 75% / or a specific number on the preamp display).

"Greg, do you know how I would be able to connect the AVR to the SSP-300? I'm not quite sure what inputs I would connect it to."

Dastro - I'd have to check the manual for the SSP but I think that it allows for HT type bypass as does the CP series (manual is online). - Otherwise, you'd probably need to look at the manual and connections on your Yamaha to see what's possible (you'd need preamp inputs - totally bypassing the processor/ volume, etc).

I think that the weirdest part of this potential setup that you're pursuing is the fact that you're utilizing the amps in the AVR so you really don't get to bypass it completely with a new pre/pro.

Still I'd look at your manual and see what's possible but I'll bet in the end you might end up w/ either 2 dedicated systems or at least going w/ separates.

At the end of the day, however, the older processor that are pre-HDMI are insanely cheap for a high-end 2CH setup - incorporating that into a modern AVR, however, that's a different thing altogether...

Still worth some research and experimentation IMHO.

Greg



dastro

Your Threshold Threshold S500/II (great amp BTW I had one) only needs around 1.2v input to give full 250w output, so a low gain preamp would be best to have so you can have a good range of rotation on the volume control, as most sources are over >2v output.
And it has a 75kohm input impedance, which would be a great match for a passive preamp. The way I used it.

I would say being new school this maybe better and it’s new with warranty and it has remote, trial the Schiit Audio Freya (from the guy who designed Theta Audio’s best products) , as it can be a passive pre, active tube pre, or active solid state pre. So you can suit your moods. All with low gain so you’ll have plenty of range control with your volume control.
Plus it has balanced or rca input and outputs and comes with a extremely high quality 128 position relay based volume control, and it’s all remote controllable as well. For just $699 with a trial period, so you could send it back if you don’t like it.
http://schiit.com/products/freya

And they make a great phono stage as well mm/mc.
http://schiit.com/products/mani

Cheers George

Dastro - I'd have to check the manual for the SSP but I think that it allows for HT type bypass as does the CP series (manual is online). - Otherwise, you'd probably need to look at the manual and connections on your Yamaha to see what's possible (you'd need preamp inputs - totally bypassing the processor/ volume, etc).

I think that the weirdest part of this potential setup that you're pursuing is the fact that you're utilizing the amps in the AVR so you really don't get to bypass it completely with a new pre/pro.

Still I'd look at your manual and see what's possible but I'll bet in the end you might end up w/ either 2 dedicated systems or at least going w/ separates.

At the end of the day, however, the older processor that are pre-HDMI are insanely cheap for a high-end 2CH setup - incorporating that into a modern AVR, however, that's a different thing altogether...

Still worth some research and experimentation IMHO.

Greg
Grey,  I'm not using the amps in the AVR, I have separate amps.  I'm only utilizing the Yamaha currently as a pre/pro.
Thanks,

dAvid

Your Threshold Threshold S500/II (great amp BTW I had one) only needs around 1.2v input to give full 250w output, so a low gain preamp would be best to have so you can have a good range of rotation on the volume control, as most sources are over >2v output.
And it has a 75kohm input impedance, which would be a great match for a passive preamp. The way I used it.

I would say being new school this maybe better and it's new with warranty and it has remote.
Try the Schiit Audio Freya (from the guy who designed Theta Audio’s best products) , as it can be a passive pre, active tube pre, or active solid state pre. So you can suit your moods. All with low gain so you’ll have plenty of range control with your volume control.
Plus it has balanced or rca input and outputs and comes with a extremely high quality 128 position relay based volume control, and it’s all remote controlable as well. For just $699 with a trial period, so you could send it back if you don’t like it.
http://schiit.com/products/freya

And they make a great phono stage as well mm/mc.
http://schiit.com/products/mani

George,

Yea, I love that Threshold.  It taught me a great lesson about amps.  Before that I was using an Aragon 4004 Mk 2, which was a revelation compared to 2 ADCOM 555's bridged on my 802s.  The Threshold grips and controls the woofers and completely changed the sound.

You are the second person to recommend the Schiit Freya.  Mmmmm, I'll probably have to check one out. 

Thanks for the help.
You could also get a used McCormack Preamp.
"Greg, I'm not using the amps in the AVR, I have separate amps. I'm only utilizing the Yamaha currently as a pre/pro."

Ah - That being the case - use your AVR for video and audio processing for surround only and run all audio pre-outs from it to the SSP and then the SSP to your amps with all of your sources connected to it and you're done.

Simple!

Greg
dastro
You are the second person to recommend the Schiit Freya. Mmmmm, I'll probably have to check one out.  

Thanks for the help.
Good idea, it's got all you want even remote control, bonus is, it and the phono stage is the same colour as your Threshold, and you can send them back if not happy.

Cheers George 
Okay, I pulled the trigger on the Krell mentioned above. The price was very low so if it doesn't work out I can easily recover the cost. 

I lusted for Krell at Progressive Audio in Columbus during my college years- this made the decision a little easier. If I don't like the sound I'm going to try the Schiit Freya. 

Now, I get to choose a CD player, maybe a dac, and a phono preamp.  Isn't this hobby/obsession/craziness/wallet draining fun?
As George mentioned, and as being kinda fan of low-gain preamps, I’d recommend McCormack mid-90’s preamps such as TLC or RLD.
You’ll need to find them with optional phonostage installed or purchase a phono board and mount it on your own.
Most of SMC preamps have either unity or low gain of 6dB that give you flexibility to use either their active or passive section depending on mood or music you want to listen to.
I owned passive/active Mod Squad Line drive miniature preamp that had either passive mode(no power required) or active mode with user adjustable gain under top cover by combination of jumpers from 0 to 12dB which I kept in the middle of section 6dB. Still remember fun of having that luxury to be comfortable at certain music I listen to to certain mode I choose.
When I purchased less sensitive amp (2.4V for full power), I had to sell it to get higher gain preamp and that was for me Classe 60. That one had remote receiver, but getting an original remote was challenge. Therefore I built one myself with parts from partsexpress.com. They sell internally
@dastro

I used to own a Hafler amp, then an Adcom 555 and then an Aragon 2004 mkii (which I thought sounded better than the 4004 in a/b comparison, btw). Also spent a lot of time time in Progressive Audio. They got a lot of my money.

Don’t know if you were around when big Henry (beard) was there. He was trying to sell me a CJ preamp ($1000), and suggested that I bring in a lower priced ($699 if I remember right) Bryston ss preamp to a/b with their CJ. I did so... and the Bryston schiit all over the CJ, even in different matching configurations. You should’ve seen Henry’s jaw hit the floor. High-larious. They must have hated me there.

In that vein, back in 1995 while I was stationed at Ft Rucker, I got the bright idea to audition three preamps in my home. I was running the Aragon 2004 MKII with a set of PSB Stratus Golds. Anyway, one was a $5500 Krell, another was a $4500 Audio Research, and the last was a Melos Audio MA-333a. The latter was used at $2000, previously owned by none other than Barry Gordy of Motown. The MA-333a smoked the others in that setup. I mean smoked. The AR sounded veiled in comparison, while the Krell sounded speedy and contrived.

Later on, I took it to a buddy’s house in Atlanta, who also happened to work for HiFi Buys when they were the bee’s knees. He had another audiophile friend there that was quite proud of his Counterpoint (SA-7 if I remember right), and his jaw was likewise as Henry’s when he heard the Melos. But from what I remember, the Counterpoint was closer in the running than the AR or the Krell. He was running Martin Logans, btw.

So much is predicated on matching. Best advice I’ve gotten... try before you buy.
We have a Parasound P- 5 preamp .it was opened brand new and ..Parasound used it at CES Show for 4 days  then factory packed it and sold it to us as exibition stock ..comes I with full warranty ..color is black and it looks brand new .. Cost is $695.00 plus shipping..it is an amazing pre-amp with Dac , bass management , full function remote -and phono section 
http://www.questforsound.com/preamps/preamps_parasound_halo_P5.htm

Good Listening
stephen
www.questforsound.com 
SSP-30 has given my ML Spires the airy, 3 dimensional sound I have been missing for many years. 
(Was using them with Marantz AV-7005 before)
Can't say enough good about Classe.
Those older AV receivers are finally put top-quality pre-amps in reach.
good luck

Hi, for your budget and prefered signature sound you might consider the Audio-gd Master 1. This is a wonderful preamp with great imaging, details, punchy and refined sound. Way superior to Musical Fidelity  a5 pre and Teddy Pardo PR1. Also the synergy with my Forte 1a (Threshold) is really nice, and maybe better (surely different) than with the Audio-gd Master 3 power amp. Just my 50 cents. 
As you, I had a Yamaha, and after a lot of research with a similar budget of yours, I got an anthem avm 20 and is great, make some research on them maybe you can reach a avm 30 or even a 40
I've decided to try a few options, new and old. I bought a Krell KAV-250P and a Parasound P5. 

I got a great deal on both and each has home theater pass through.  The Krell comes highly recommended as does the P5, but maybe to a slightly lesser degree. I'll post my findings after listening. 

Check out the Morrison ELAD too...only 2 inputs but sounds great
Of these, I've only heard the Krell, Its not as good as the newer Krells.  I have heard a few Old Classe,   The 6 & 60 are both great, the 6 is a bit darker than the 60. 
Also,  look at a Muse Model 3 Signature and an Audio Research LS9,  Might find an Adcom GFP750 at that price, then by a sheer stroke of luck maybe a  Belcanto Pre1... Pre 2 or 3 would be great, but I doubt that you'll find one at your price point... Good hunting, Tim
Well, the Krell KAV-250P showed up yesterday.  I connected it using the identical cables as my Yamaha Aventage HTR.  I'm running the Yamaha to Krell using it's theater throughput input.  This is interesting because with 2 different CD players in the system, it allows me to do real-time A-B listening using 2 copies of the same CD.

I've been told this Krell model is considered entry level Krell quality but I have a new found respect for the Yamaha HTR's preamp section.  I've had three people and myself do comparisons and if there are differences, they are incredibly subtle, almost to the point of being negligible.

To many on this forum, this may sound unbelievable and possibly sacriligious, but I am confident in my and others' opinion.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the 2 units have a similar sound or are of similar quality but I have a feeling it is my speakers (B&W 802 S2) that are the issue. 

I think the speakers just do not have the resolution that is needed to articulate the differences.  This is based on listening to a pair of B&W 801 S2's on the Yamaha (with Threshold) system (this is the basis for a different thread I started a couple months ago.).  The 801's are much more revealing when it comes to equipment and source material  Possibly the best resolution test I've found is using the Yamaha's "Pure Direct" mode.  When this mode is engaged with the 801s, the difference is not subtle.  It is like a veil has been lifted and the sound is more articulate and the soundstage is greatly enhanced.  With the 802's, I notice zero difference when the direct mode is engaged.  I find this very interesting since the the 2 speakers share the same midrange and tweeter units.  The 801s mids are glaring and fatiguing to me- and they lack midbass punch and have a somewhat boomy bass at times, probably due to my room.  This is why they are not my main listeners.  It has been stated that the 801s, atleast to some people, at first discover a heightened presence and resolution in the mids and lower treble only to realize this is due to somewhat increased levels in those frequencies, sometimes resulting in fatigue.

When time allows I plan on connecting the 801s to the Krell to see how they work with one another.  If there is an improvement, this will then put me on the search to replace the 802s.  I find this a daunting task as I will want to buy used to get the most for my dollars but will be limited to what is close for auditioning purposes. 

Lastly, I also have a Parasound P5 arriving today as well.  When the bug bites, it sometimes bites hard....

Hi dastro. A couple thoughts. You did emphasize that you wanted a "warmer" type sound. The term "warm" does not always mean resolution. If you want more resolution, you might have to sacrifice some warmth because the higher resolution character may be towards the bright/forward side of things.

Also, what CD Players and interconnects are you using? I have been in situations where the interconnect is not able to show the true resolution of the source. I have compared two different DACs with a lower end interconnect. With that, there was hardly any difference between the two DACs. However, when putting a very excellent interconnect into play (i.e. solid-core OCC copper, Futurech XLR connectors), it became totally obvious that one DAC was highly superior over the other DAC.

Your CD players may not be able to provide a real high resolution signal. This may also be a limiting factor in things.

With everything else, I would not say the Krell KAV-250p is a super high resolution preamp. It is not forward/bright, but there are other preamps that are definitely superior. The Parasound P5 might give you higher resolution and also be just a little bit more forward than the Krell. I am interested in hearing your results with the P5.

Hi dastro. A couple thoughts. You did emphasize that you wanted a "warmer" type sound. The term "warm" does not always mean resolution. If you want more resolution, you might have to sacrifice some warmth because the higher resolution character may be towards the bright/forward side of things.

Also, what CD Players and interconnects are you using? I have been in situations where the interconnect is not able to show the true resolution of the source. I have compared two different DACs with a lower end interconnect. With that, there was hardly any difference between the two DACs. However, when putting a very excellent interconnect into play (i.e. solid-core OCC copper, Futurech XLR connectors), it became totally obvious that one DAC was highly superior over the other DAC.

Your CD players may not be able to provide a real high resolution signal. This may also be a limiting factor in things.

With everything else, I would not say the Krell KAV-250p is a super high resolution preamp. It is not forward/bright, but there are other preamps that are definitely superior. The Parasound P5 might give you higher resolution and also be just a little bit more forward than the Krell. I am interested in hearing your results with the P5.

Thanks for the response, auxinput.

You point is very valid.  Warmer..., hmmmm, I may already have a somewhat warm sound using the 802s (as compared to the not so warm 801s)!  I'm using a Yamaha DVD player as one of the CD players running HDMI to the Yamaha HTR.  I'm using a Sony SACD DVP-S9000ES into the Krell.  Except for the HDMI, I'm using all Canare Star-Quad cable.  I understand this as being good quality cable for the low cost, but it could have its limitations- engineers may disagree.  It has been an upgrade to vintage Monster products I was previously using.

The P5 just arrived.  It's the unit that Parasound used at CES so it should be properly broken in...
No ones mentioned the Classe CP500. I picked one up for $1100.00! It is fabulous. Joe
After hours and hours of listening with the P5, it is indeed a keeper.  To my ears and perception, it has a more balanced, fuller sound than the Yamaha HTR.  The soundstage width and depth is also enhanced and the whole experience is just more involving. 

A gentleman that auditioned and purchased a pair of 801 S2 with it loved it so much he's contemplating replacing his AR LS15 with one.


Georgehifi, I am under the impression that the Threshold S 500 II has an input sensitivity of 2.2 V for full output. If that's not the case I hope someone will correct me. Depending on the source of course, but with most digital devices that might be adequate, but with other sources such as tuners, etc., it might not.
dastro, I haven't actually verified each of your proposed pre choices, but it would seem that many have balanced outputs, and your Threshold S 500 II only has single ended RCA inputs. It would seem to me  as though quite a bit of cost (parts, etc.) would have went into making these pres capable of true(?) balanced operation. Perhaps you might get more for your money from a pre that put more of it's money elsewhere.
Though it might stretch the budget a  bit, perhaps something like a c-j PFR with it's HT pass through would fit the bill in usability, sonics, and budget.  Keep in mind that in many cases you could use an unused tape output as a HT pass through.
@dastro - I'm glad the P5 worked out.  It's sometimes hard to put into words what we're looking for, especially if we don't know.  Also, the 250p could be so old that it needs to be recapped.