What are my preamp choices?

I can't spend more than 2k and I don't care if it's solid state or tube, although I've never owned any tube gear. My music is all digital but I do not want a built in DAC as I have a good external DAC already. One feature that would be useful is three sets of RCA outputs (one for my power amps and two for the three subwoofers in my system). A full featured remote is a must. The idea of a tube preamp sounds fascinating as long as it is hassle free. Used equipment is fine as well. I will be using this preamp to feed the power amp section of a Harman Kardon hk990 which drives a pair of Usher Dancer Mini 2 DMD loudspeakers.
Are you able to completely bypass the preamp in your HK, or does it work like a pass through? Also, what are your options available to demo some preamps?
I can completely bypass the HK preamp and connect the output of a preamp directly into the power section of the HK990.
Here is a cj tubed pre-amp great unit for $1950 with remote. No Affiliation.


The Emotiva XSP-1 would seem to fit the bill. It's only $999 and come with a 5 year warranty. See link below...


Thoress 3 phono preamp 4k jump on a used one asap.
Are there any dealers where you can demo some preamps? Its good that you want to upgrade your preamp for better sound, but you have to be careful. Its the most important piece to get right, and because of this, its the one component that will make or break the system. Take your time and don't rush into anything. I can tell you for certain, you can get good results with both tube and solid state. Focus on getting the one that sounds best to you, and not force yourself to buy based on a certain type of design.

I will be using this preamp to feed the power amp section of a Harman Kardon hk990

Danoroo, hate to be the bearer of bad news but looking at this your HK990 intergrated doesn't have poweramp inputs, just preamp outputs.


Cheers George
Yikes. Nice catch George. Does that strike anyone as odd? HK must really like their preamp section.

I live in Houston which is an audio wasteland as far as I can tell. There seems to be a few stores in Dallas or maybe Austin where I could audition gear.

According to the owner's manual, the unbalanced input labeled "processor" connects directly to the HK990's power amp section. Can't I connect a preamp there? I've never owned separates before, so is there anything else I need to be aware of such as impedance matching or gain comparability?

Wow! Thanks Rlwainwright. This piece of gear looks very interesting. Fits my needs very well.
One review of the Emotiva XSP-1 states that this preamp should be used with power amps with an input impedance of at least 10 KOhms. I looked at all the specs on my HK 990 but saw no reference to that specific spec. How can I know that the Emotiva XSP-1 is fully compatible with my HK, if in fact it turns out that I can connect a preamp to it at all? My apologies for all these elementary questions but the realm of separates is completely new to me. Thanks for both your patience and input.

"Can't I connect a preamp there?"

Maybe?????, though it's odd it should be grouped in with all the source inputs, and not by itself like the preamp output.

And it's just a stereo amp why name it processor input, instead of being by itself and labelled poweramp input.

Before spending bucks on a preamp I would sus this out first.

Cheers George
Here is the exact text used in the manual when referring to the processor input:
"PROCESSOR Analog Inputs. These Inputs
go directly to the power amplifier section
of the HK 990, bypassing the Volume and
Tone Control. Here you can connect the
Front Channel Pre Out L+R signals from an
external surround processor, to benefit from
the superior power of the HK 990 and control
volume from the processor. NOTE: Only use
the Processor Input with a device that has its
own volume control! "

Sound good to go then by that, it would have been good to print that a bit better on the back of the amp and segregate it from the source input lot, by putting it by itself like the pre out is, and calling it poweramp input instead.

Cheers George
I’m late to the discussion but I am looking to hook up a Cambridge 851D to my HK990.

I contacted Harman Kardon and Cambridge Audio to find out if these components are compatible before purchasing the 851D. Still waiting for a response from HK but here is the response I received from Cambridge Audio…

"You can totally connect the Cambridge Audio Azur 851D to the Harman Kardon HK990. You can do that in several ways. You could use a digital input on the HK, but the best connection you have available would be to use the XLR output connectors on the back of the Cambridge into the HK XLR input. If you don’t have anything hooked to those on the HK you can expect some amazing sound with those hooked ups."