some like PrimaLuna
but most any re-amp should be able to drive most any amp - the issues - if any - relate to the amp and speakers (esp. electrostatics)
I think control functionality is important in a pre-amp...
I have an all ARC system. That is my personal favorite with Wilson speakers. I have also had the ARC Ref 40 in house with the D’Agostino Momentum stereo amp which sounded fabulous. I believe ARC pres and Dag amps are a very popular combination. Check out the virtual systems of Dag owners here and you will see that when they want tubes in the mix, it’s usually ARC.
However, I have heard all of these brands and each sounds great but each has a different "house sound". It will all come down to personal preference. I believe all would sound great with Thiels which are also very revealing but musical. I suggest that you ask people with Thiel speakers or dealers who sell Thiel. Lastly, some manufacturers will give you some guidance if you press them. Or at least they may tell you the leading brands that their customers often purchase. My guess is that ARC and VTL lead the pack in sales but that doesn’t mean they will be best for you. They are radically different sounding although neither is "colored". They simply project sound in a different way.
4425 thanks for you suggestion, i am actually considering the Dartzeel NHB-18NS but i was told that the XLR outputs are not at the same level as the single ended ones.
Since D'agostino amps only have balanced inputs that's something to take in consideration.
If i go to the Munich show this year i will ask Hervé Delétraz about that.
The good thing about the Dart is that you have the phono stage option and not worry about tube maintenance.
email Herve about the balanced question. he's a great guy and will respond quickly.,I think the overall quality of the unit and sonic superiority will supersede a minor loss with balanced cables if in fact it exists. i just don't think ARC's empty box can compete with hand built Swiss engineering from a genius like Herve. He's not going to MK 1/2/3 you either. on a side note I expect the Nagra would be awesome too. Read the stereophile ARC review comparing the two. You'll want the Dart. Plays at a higher level. FWIW
I have a VTL TL6.5 and like it very much - in regards to system synergy, the hybrid design of the VTL makes it compatible with pretty much any amps out there (due to low impedance of the FET drivers).
I've even driven amps with 50ohm input impedance with the VTL's - I don't think you want to try that with a pure tube design.
Can't comment on the VAC as I haven't tried that preamp but in terms of build quality - while I agree the VACs use nicer materials, the VTL's are as bulletproof as they come and have a lot of self-monitoring and fault isolation circuitry that I haven't see in a lot of other gear.
That said, I think once you are at this level, any of these will work for you and it's a matter of sonic preference and system synergy.
4425 i got a mail response from Hervé, it seems that he doesn't really like people using his NHB-18NS with other brand amps...
If i choose his NHB-18 NS he recommends purchasing the corresponding NHB-108 stereo amp.
He says this amp can drive pretty difficult loads like the Thiel CS 7.2s.
What do you guys think ?
I'm surprised he was not positive about using different different amps. I don't agree but I'm not him. I expect ARC would say the same thing but ARC preamps are used with many different brands of amps. No different for the Dart.
As great as the NHB -108 is I'd want more power for your speakers such as the Agostino Classic Stereo or a used Momentum Stereo unit. They are awesome. As always just my opinion.
"i am actually considering the Dartzeel NHB-18NS but i was told that the XLR outputs are not at the same level as the single ended ones."
John Atkinson, test of above preamp published in Stereophile:
"Turning to the NHB-18NS’s line-stage performance, I looked first at the balanced input. Measured at the balanced outputs with the input set to "Pro," this gave a maximum gain of 9.3dB. Switching in the –6dB input pad gave 4.85dB. Absolute polarity was preserved, indicating that the XLRs are wired with pin 2 hot. The input impedance was an extremely low 640 ohms, while the output impedance was a high 2500 ohms at low and midrange frequencies, rising to 3080 ohms at 20kHz. The input impedance is too low for many source components to give their best performance, the output impedance a little high for some power amplifiers.
The balanced input’s frequency response didn’t vary with different settings of the volume control, but it did peak by 0.75–1.25dB at 42kHz before precipitously rolling off (fig.3, top pair of traces). The audioband response was flat with the input switch set to "Pro," but with the input set to "–6dB," a –0.75dB trough appeared in the treble (fig.3, lower pair of traces). A glance under the preamp’s cover told me that the balanced input and output appear to be realized with transformers, which are presumably the cause of the response anomalies. Even so, I don’t feel the DarTZeel’s balanced inputs and outputs to be of much practical use, the unbalanced jacks being better behaved."
Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/dartzeel-nhb-18ns-preamplifier-measurements#d1Fd12jf0zGKjyAS.99
This confirms what you heard as well as this preamp’s incompatibility with other brands of amps (and sources) using XLR inputs/outputs as stated by the manufacturer.
I would look elsewhere, thieliste.