What is a very nice sounding tube preamp?


I'm looking for a nice tube preamp. I don't want to spend a fortune. Does anyone know of a spatial tube preamp that is not #3,000? I'd like some help. I know there's someone that knows of a special tube preamp, that very nice. Would some one make discisions? OPPO 95, Emotiva XPA-1's Mono's. Thanks! Breeze1
rcrane6043
I have not heard them, but have read good things about Rogue and Doge tube preamps.
There is a VAC Standard preamp with some upgrades for sale now in the classifieds for about half of the amount you mention in your post that would seem to me to meet your criteria. While I have not heard this particular model (I have heard their more expensive offerings), I have found VAC to be among the handful of manufacturers who make unfailingly musical products. I can also vouch for Rogue, another manufacturer of quality tube equipment.
Joule Electra LA 100 Mk III is a good one, and you should be able to find one at a fair price. Read the reviews from when it came out. I have one, and like it very much.
I own a Vac Standard and have to say it is a very good preamp.
I have tens of thousands of equipment. And the VAC Standard is a match.
I have mine AC from a Furman REF20i via a Pangea AC9SE powercord.
I paid $1,400 for mine here. With the upgrade that one has YES grab it.
The VAC Standard has a separate power supply, and is RCA in out only. four tubes two 12Au7 and two 12AX7. Runs very cool. I leave mine on 24/7 thhree years now.
It really IS a $4,000 preamp.
That is only the second one I have seen. I bought the first. So they are rare enough not to pass up.
In addition to the previous recommendations, all very sound,

I own a new , Jolida Fusion, owned a Audible Illusion 3a bought used. Both at your price point and very good. You might also consider Quicksilver.

Enjoy and let us know your choice.

The Joule Electra LA-150 SE and the LA-300 ME are both excellent. I recommend trying to get a used LA-150 SE, get new tubes and you'll be in audio nirvana.
Look at the Aesthetix Calypso.
Quicksilver real nice!
You really need to take a close look at the Eastern Electric Avant... I bought one a few months back and honestly, it's one of the best values ever. The sound is truly amazing! Now, is it perfect? No... the balanced input is marked XRL... but heck, that's about the only thing I can fault, and I can really live with that!
Gill Audio Alana by Art Audio - There is a used one advertised for $2,200 on US Audio Mart. The seller also had an Art Audio Vinyl One that I purchased.

I own a Gill Alana and give it a high recommendation.
The VACs are good choices, but I have slightly preferred the BAT pres. would keep an eye out for a nice used BAT VK-31se or VK-3ix.
ditto the Aesthetix Calypso... so nice, I've owned it twice!
TRY TO GET THE JOULE ELECTRA LA 100 MK 2 IS WAS THE BEST
PRODUTION WITH PURIST AUDIO THERE ALSO WITH CARDAS WIRE
THE REASON IS THE FOLLOWING THE LA 100 CAME WITH 2 5751
1 SYLVANIA GAIN STAGE 1 RCA BLACK 3 MICAS FOR MU FOLOWER
BOTH 5751 MUSICAL INSTRUMENT TONALITY EXCELLENT WITH CORRECT
PRESENTATION WITH SYLVANIA 6350 AS A UPGRADE IS GOOD BUT NOT
ACURATE IN THE PRESETATION HERE IS THE PROBLEM REAL WITH 6350 ONCE THEY RUN OUT IS GONNA BE DIFICULT TO GET IT AND VERY PRICY IN THE 5751 THERE A LOT OUT THERE IN DIFERENT
PRODUCTION THE AVILABILITY IS ENDLESS A LOT I AM SERVICE
TECH FOR OVER 35 YEAR I USED TO OWNE THE 300 ME,LA150SE
JOULE ELECTRA THE LA 100 MK2 IS MY FAVORITE BESIDE MY COUNTERPOINT SA 5.1 IN WHITCH VERY UNRIABLE EVEN WITH THE UPGRADES ONCE YOU GET THE SA5 RUNNING ITS MAGICAL ONE WORD
OF ADVICE JOULE ELECTRA COMPANY HAVING SOME BIG PROBLEM
SUPPORT FROM JOULE IS NONE BY PHONE THE PERSON WHO ANSWER
DONT KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE PRODUCT AND HE WILL TELL YOU
TO EMAIL JUD BARBER IN WHICH HE NEVER ANSWER THE EMAIL BUT
NO PROBLEM JOULE ELECTRA IS A RELIABLE PRODUCT AND EASY TO
FIX PARTS IS NO PROBLEM THEY AVIALABLE IN THE MARKET AND A GOOD SERVICE TECH(SPECIALIZED IN TUBES)GOOD LUCK I HOPE YOU GET ONE
Can't go wrong with ARC. Many in your price range used. There is benefit going with a long time industry leader in tube gear especially first time around in case customer service is needed at some point.

The VAC unit is very nice also.
EAR 864 is a great sounding pre designed by Tim de Paravicini with output transformers, balanced operation, and includes a phono stage. Should be able to find used at a good price.
Mystere CA-21 preamp is excellent- a 45 pound beautiful music maker!
Here's an alternative...build your own. Check out the #26 Preamp thread on DIYAudio, you can build a fantastic-sounding preamp for little money if you're willing to spend some time and effort. Mine came out sounding better than any commercial pre I've ever heard, and the sense of accomplishment makes it even better.

It's really a great hobby. BTW, if anyone here in near NJ and wants to hear what one of these homebrews sounds like, send me a message and you can stop by to hear.
Comments to what I've owned or heard -

* Counterpoint - SA-1000 modded by Alta Vista - warm, musical, great for $600 used. Very average unmodded but modded it's transformed to another level

* TAD 150 Signature - just sounds nice all the way around. Can't go wrong for around $750 if you find one. Although the phono stage section is not that good. Has remote

* VTL 2.5 - not as good as the TAD in my opinion. Seems to have a serious following here. Has remote

* Audible Illusions 3 - very detailed, open but not as warm as the other preamps mentioned. Cooked a quad set of NOS National 6922 tubes in < 200 hours. Tube life is better with Russian tubes. You'll be limited in tube rolling options given how hard it runs the tubes. Cost me $675 about 7 years ago. No remote

* Ming Da MC-7r - (my current preamp). This preamp cost less than any of the above mentioned preamps and betters all of them. Mine is extensively modded by Response Audio with V-caps.... Mods alone cost $900. Most folks will simply dismiss it since it's Chinese. No remote or phono stage though. This cost me just $550.

** Never tried Juicy Music Peach or Blueberry but have read they are warm, very musical

** Never tried Manley Shrimp but have read solid reviews

**** Doge 8 Clarity - friend has one running NOS Radio Technique tubes. The best preamp I've heard but at $2k too pricey for me. Has very nice phono stage, and remote. I've read reviews from owners claiming it easily competes with preamps costing thousands more.

Have to put my two cents in here forte joule la 100. I have the cardas version.
I agree with Audiojan. The Eastern Electric Avant is a sensational preamp at it's price point, it really is. It has a very big soundstage, which I really like. For the money you can't go wrong.
Why do you want a tube preamp to go with that equipment? I have tried some tube preamps and have to say I am a bit disappointed after reading about all the hype. I've tried some recent (only a few years old) Audio Research and Cary models, which are highly respected among tube-o-philes. After having experimented with these 2 tube models, I am still debating, but I think I may be coming to the conclusion that I prefer the higher level of transparency and better bass control that my old Forte solid state provides....
A variety of thoughts --

You can go cheap and pick up a Little Dot MkIII headphone amp, which also has a set of preamp outputs. Sam Tellig in Stereophile laughed his evil laugh as he challenged people to try this little $200 gem as a preamp. I tried it -- and I'll be darned, it's warm, lively, and full of old-fashioned tube presence and midrange magic. Definitely not the last word in accuracy or transparency, but it's enjoyable and fun. (The Little Dot is not recommended for use with direct-coupled amps due to lack of capacitors blocking potential DC output.) Often sold used on head-fi, and available new on eBay (use the official seller, davidzhezhe).

Years ago I used Conrad-Johnson PV12L or CJ-PV10AL. They still show up used every now and then. Spearit Sound is offering the current evolution of the model, called the Classic. The PV-12 and 10 line stages use only two 12AU7 tubes. They add a nice touch of warmth, and, as I recall, roll off the highs a bit.

I also tried Audio Research LS-7. Quite a contrast to the C-J. The ARC sound (with a factory-supplied set of new Sovtek 6922 tubes) was brightly lit, highly energized, almost in your face. Exciting, but over time a bit fatiguing. Which is NOT to say that this description applies to other ARC preamps, new or old.

Finally, I've been reading a lot about the deHavilland UltraVerve 3. Google for many enthusiastic reviews. I wish I could hear this in my own system. I can't speak from firsthand experience, but I am tempted...
I have a Manley Jumbo Shrimp that has excellent spatial and depth of stage characteristics.
I've really enjoyed my Joule LA 100. It's a keeper! Although I'm currently using an Aesthetix Janus Signature, I'm hanging on to my Joule.
If transparency is what you seek, check out SAS Audio labs preamp.
The OP has probably found a preamp however I feel that I must offer my 2cents:

I finally found a Vac Standard Preamp. I entered the Vac family in October of 2012 with a Renaissance 30/30mkII and the Standard seemed like a good choice. Speakers are Silverline Sonatina I.

Standards/LEs don't come up for sale often and it's easy to see why. The Standard seems to be known for its soundstage and musical presentation. These were immediately apparent.

Just as soon as I had accepted the Standard into my system. I found a Standard LE which I bought. After 2 months of swapping back and forth I decided to keep the Standard LE because it has a remote.

As noted in almost every VAC thread I've read: Kevin Hayes and his company are a wealth of information and stand behind their products.

I love my Standard (and LE).