Warmish SS pre:Rowland Synergy IIi preamp/others?

I am looking for a slightly warmish SS pre. I have pretty much narrowed it down to a pre in the $2000-$3000 used range. The best preamp I have yet tried (solid state) is a Classe CP-700, but it is out of my price range, used. I am looking at a CP-500, amongst others. What about the Rowland Synergy IIi? I couldn't find much around here. Pass X-1 was another option, but I was worried that it might be a little thin. I don't want a really thin sound, but something akin to a slight tube "ease" and musicality, but in a SS preamp. The Classe was very nice, and about the sound I was looking for. Other suggestions?

After listening to several preamps, I have come to the conclusion that a tube pre just won't work in my system. Every one I have tried has produced audible (at the listening position) hiss. This includes some very well regarded units up to $6K retail. Efficient speakers and 1v input sensitivity of the amp seems to be amplifying the background tube hiss. I listened to an I had a previous thread going, but that was before I had listened to some stuff and knew about the sound I was going for.

Amps are McCormack DNA-125 Rev. Gold, nice detailed SS sound, but still full.
the word "warm" and solid state in the same sentence is a contradiction. warmth is a coloration. i have yet to hear a warm-sounding solid state compoent.

i define warm as a slight attenuation in the upper mid/lower treble region in conjunction with a slight elevation in the region upper bass/lower midrange.

are there any solid state amps or preamps which satisfy the above definition ?
Classe Vintage amps and preamps have that description..Not sure about the newer models....
If I remember correctly, McCormack DNA-125 Rev. Gold may have a relatively low input impedance (perhaps 8K Ohms?). . . if that were so, best match will be with pres with very low output impedance, regardless of tubes or SS. Vintage Rowland devices are expected to sound 'warmer' than current models. . . and per the published specs the Synergy may fit the req of low output impedance at only 80 Ohms balanced. See:
I use Synergy IIi with Sonus Faber Cremona. Would not label the sound as 'warm' but it is definitely not 'thin'. To my ears the overall sound is 'musical' without drawing attention to itself. The Synergy IIi is designed to drive 600 ohm loads; thus a poweramp with lower input impedance is not a problem.
I've pretty much come to the conclusion that "warm" or "cool" are primarily functions of loudspeakers. If you want warm...find warm loudspeakers (maybe something that allows rolling off highs or boosting mids like the STE Labs Avatar).

I don't believe electronics, whether tube or solid state, are the best way to achieve system warmth.
Okay, maybe not "warm" but not "thin". I haven't liked MF pieces in the past, for that very reason. OTOH, the McCormack seems to be an amp that isn't thin at all, but still powerful. Rowland seems to get this characterization as well, as does Classe.
You might try an Ayre preamp. I wouldn't call them warm but some feel they are as "tube like" as solid state gets.
I have added a BAT SS preamp (VK-42se) to my system. it has added body and texure to the sound of my system. BAT might be worth a try for you too.
If you want a full bodied SS preamp, and like what you've heard from Classe, I would recommend one of the older Classe preamps. Either a Classe DR-6 or a CP-60 would fit nicely, and save you a few bucks.
I've owned many SS preamps, the JRDG Synergy II and Ayre K-1x amongst them (and many others).
IMHO, I would be choosing between an older Classe, or a Threshold (T2?) or a Coda (FET1?). I think these brands will best match with your McCormack amp's full bodied musicality.


Thanks for the heads-up. Is the CP60 still a good unit, even though they are 10 years old at this point? I see a Coda or Threshold unit come up every once in awhile for $500 or so, and they sell in a day, so I figured there was something to it.

How would you compare the Synergy II to the Classe? The Synergy is at the very top of what I am willing to pay, a CP-60 or DR-6 quite a bit less....
Chiho, have you considered newer pres within the JRDG product line? As I have written abundantly elsewhere, I am incredibly fond of the Rowland Capri. I can't make a personal comparison with the Synergy, as I haven't auditioned Synergy. . . but according to Mr. Rowland, Capri exceeds performance characteristics of the Synergy. Capri sounds very extended and linear with complex harmonic development. It does sound eminently musical and enjoyable to my ears, without IMO sounding 'warm' per se. . . as such, I would not characterize it as tuby per se, although it shares the sense of audible 'ease' of some tube designs. Pricewise, used Capris on Audiogon appear to be listed well below Synergy II offerings. Guido
Yes, I had looked at the Capri, but the mixed reviews turned me off. I did talk someone to had owned or auditioned several Rowland pieces, and thought the Capri to be way under the Synergy IIi performance-wise. Not having heard it personally nor having a Rowland dealer around to try, I can't personally comment. I know that with my speakers, the Rowlands tend to have great synergy in general, but that is with the older stuff. I haven't heard anything about the synergy with the newer digital units.
Chiho, Capri is not a digital pre. . . I believe it operates in class A and is based on the TI Burr Brown differentially balanced OPA1632 op-amp. Personally, I prefer it over my own ARC Ref 3 in all parameters, except for staging and imaging, where IMO the two devices are comparable instead. I know of only 1 (capsule) online review of Capri, which is suggestive of a foreshortened break in period because of mixed comments about resolution, frequency extension and staging/imaging.
I'd love to read other reviews of Capri. . . but I haven't seen too many. . . except for my own Audiogon freewheeling ramblings. For what it matters, I used Capri as my reference pre in my print review of the Vienna Mahler speakers on issue 188 of The Absolute Sound (December 2008). G.
Chiho, I haven't heard the JRDG Capri that Guido speaks of, so I can't offer any comment on it.

As to your question for me, the JRDG Synergy II and Ayre were fairly similar, very detailed, yet not harsh. I would say the older Classe's, Coda's and Threshold's were fuller and richer, if this is what you seek. These aforementioned preamps are not quite as fast or articulate as the Synergy II or Ayre, but have more body and musical weight. Which you would prefer would depend on your system and tastes.

Personally, I'm a fan of tube components, but if choosing a SS preamp, I would look for a Threshold T2 in your price range. After that I'd look for a Classe CP-60 or DR-6, and finally the Coda FET1. Yes, you could spend a lot less money on a top of the line preamp from yester-year. You could either invest your savings on upgrading the caps to modern day top of the line (V-Caps, Blackgates, etc) or just spend the savings on more music.

I'm a long-time tube guy, but recently tried the BAT VK42se in my system on a whim. It is an excellent piece, and definitely not thin sounding. Vocals are very present and full sounding, and instruments within the stage are well defined and have excellent dynamics. It is a quiet as a tomb. It's definietly a keeper... one of the very best linestages I've heard.

If you look long enough you should be able to find one slightly over your budget, in the $3200 - $3500 range. IMO it has all the magic of some of the best tube units I've heard with none of the noise issues. Of course it's also nice to not have to feed it expensive NOS tubes!
In the $2-$3K range the Rowland Synergy IIi might be at the upper end of your price range, but for what you are wanting would be well worth it.

I purchased one here on the 'Gon a few months ago and have been very pleased. I was wanting a nice warm pre, with low noise floor and dynamic slam, great smooth blooming mids and built like a tank and built to last. The Synergy IIi met all those criteria. Feel free to private email me if you would like to discuss further.