What is the single best pre amp you have ever hear

I am not here to sell anything. I am a speaker manufacturer and had the opportunity to show at Capital Audio Fest with David Berning. David is an amazing man whom I respect greatly Even more amazing are his electronics. I heard his ZOTL ZH-30 amplifier and concluded it was the best sounding mid powered amp I have ever heard regardless of price. By best I mean able to play all types of music well. Back to preamps. Some preamps add this or that or sound euphoric or slow the tempo of music. This only shows up as you play other types of music At the show I was totally spoiled by the ZOTL Pre one preamp honesty. I thought it had the best timing and speed of transistor and musicality of tubes of anything I have heard to date. I would have to say it is on my top three list of best sounding preamps regardless of price. It is also the least expensive, nearly half the price of the others. Please before you respond try to have a listen to this extraordinary preamp. Let me know if you agree or disagree Thanks for you opinions Ralph
Cayin, Citation I, and yes I own it. I use it to mostly play vinyl.

Based on cost/build quality, probably recent top of the line Audio Research REf pre-amp or similar VTL, or MBL maybe.

Based on sound quality, that's a hard one! The sound quality performance of a good pre-amp is largely determined by the overall system it is used in. Also, features play an important role in best pre-amp for each case or individual. People value different things there which is why there are so many.

I will say that I have heard top notch sound quality from a variety of pre-amps at various price points in recent years, starting with some that can be had for not much.
TRON Syren
I've heard several Berning amps and while I'll say they were good they didn't make me run out and buy one.
On your pre-amp question, the best I've heard is the SMc VRE-1b, simply stunning. I had a Kondo M1000 ( over $95,000 retail) and the VRE was much more 3 dimensional sounding and musical that I quickly sold the Kondo.

(Dealer disclaimer)
Ref Audio Research.
Audio Research Reference 5 SE and the latest iteration of Mark Levinson No. 326S. Haven't heard the Berning.
First sound paramount plus mk3..
CAT Legend
Shindo Giscours. Would sure love to own one!
I thought the best preamp was the one you didn't hear.

The FM Acoustics 266. I have not heard S McCormack's "virtual reality engine" (VRE), but look forward to it soon.
Viva Audio Linea XP new.....for me.
Ayre KX-R .
While I chose ARC, ARC don't got "soul". CJ preamps got "soul", could anyone elaborate on other preamps.
VAC is the best I've heard
The best I have heard so far is our own, but of course I should be expected to say that. I like it because there are no coupling caps at the output, unusual in a tube preamp. This makes it very fast with very deep bass.

Other preamps that I also like a lot:
DeHavilland, ARC REF Anniversary, Aesthetix Signature, CAT and the Lamm. I'm also a big fan of the H/K Citation 1.
Conrad Johnson ART is my best so far. Their ACT 2.2 is close.

A big factor in trying to name "a" best is the road that leads from that preamp i.e. amp>speakers>room>ears. I've used these pres with ss,tubes,tripath chip type amps and with Magnepans,med-eff and hi-eff speakers and have enjoyed the outcome every time.
Like Atmasphere, I too would have to say our own Purity Audio Design pieces. There are other preamps I do like and dislike which aided in the design of ours.

Preamps I do like include; Shindo, Audio Note as well as some of the new upper end solid state units. There is a lot of good gear out there.
Conrad Johnson in tube and McIntosh in solid state.
Orpheus10, I can, but not sure if it would fall within the guidelines.
Soulution 720.
Essence Jasper Reference preamp. Only 7 were made. Mine has been modded with carbon nanotubes.
A Berning proto type tube pre-amp with a tube switching power supply with a pair of Berning prototype amps was part of a system with the closest approximation of live music I've personally heard, both precursors of the current Berning lineup which I haven't heard.
the preamplifier nut is one of the hardest to crack.

I really enjoyed my Threshold FET-10/HL linestage - though a little dark, it never got in the way of the music. The matching -10/PC phono preamp was good, but I've heard better.

I'm now running a Quicksilver full-function and found it's a good balance between musicality and audiophile tricks 'n' treats. Sure, I've heard more transparent/detailed gear, but the Quicksilver is a non-fatiguing good 'all-rounder'. Perhaps once I've upgraded my front end I'll check out some better units.
This is a weird thread. The OP says he's not selling anything, then pitches a preamp from a manufacturer with whom he has a commercial relationship. He asks for opinions on "best single best preamp you've ever heard," but asks that we listen to the one he's pitching before answering. To me, that sounds like selling.
Probably the E.A.R. 912
What is your speaker company which showed with Berning?
Wrm57, I can't speak for the OP but the fact that he didn't mention his company and that he disclosed that he was a speaker manufacturer doesn't throw up a red flag or indicate a hidden agenda from my perspective. I think the guy is genuinely impressed with Berning and if you're not aware, the amp he mentioned was voted amplification component of the year in TAS, for what that's worth, SOTA regardless of price. As in all things audio, some will agree and others will feel differently. There is NO question that Berning's designs are technically cutting edge and original. If you get the chance do a bit of research or listening if you haven't already.
Tubegroover: I never said he's pitching speakers. I said he appears to be pitching Berning, with whom he has a commercial affiliation. That affiliation raises a red flag for me. Whether Berning's designs are SOTA, or whether I've heard them, is completely irrelevant.
I never even for a moment thought you were inferring that he was pitching speakers by the fact he didn't mention his company and I surely got that you suspect that there may somehow be a cozy relationship for financial gain between him and David Berning, the reason I responded. In any case I feel pretty certain that Berning would be unaware of it, no conspiracy theories or hidden agendas on this one my friend :)
I'll take your word for it. I don't mean to cast unwarranted aspersions. I think it was a weird way to position the thread but I'm happy to let it go.

Bill, you are not the only one that noticed that...
Call me suspicious but when I first noticed this post a week ago, I too thought all the Berning praise was a bit odd. Especially since the OP was supposedly seeking opinions from others.

After rereading the OP, it seems to me, he's already made up his mind, Berning is the best?

Of course we know how these threads always go, ask for an opinion and whatever each poster owns, it's the best!
Audio Research 40th Anniversary, I had the Ref 5 and the 40th made the Ref 5 seem thin, it is simply amazing!
Kennyt I agree on the Ref 40!
Ypsilon, bar none. Jallen
Lamm LL2.1
All these best and worst threads are useless. They all end to the same conclusion, a list of all manufacturers on the planet.
^^ Yes, and the English language assigns a definition to the word 'best' in that there can. Be. Only. One.

Yet all manufacturers will tell you they have the best. They can't all be, so they must all be lying, as are all the reviewers, dealers and distributors. This is such endemic problem in the audio world, audiophiles are so used to it, that the only way to tell how something sounds is to play it in your own system.

The funny thing about that is that the objectivists and subjectivists find themselves in the same boat. The spec sheets certainly don't tell the story, so you have to take it home and play it.
Supratek Cabernet Dual
I'm amazed that Ayre isn't mentioned
Have to pick two.
Veloce LS-1
Another vote for Supratek Cabernet Dual!
Another vote for Supratek Cabernet Dual!
More specifically, the VAC Signature Mk IIa. Outstanding.
McIntosh 2301's are the best I've heard so far.
It takes 30,000.00 to finally make the Audio Research sound good, wow I'll stick with my preamp.
>>>>McIntosh 2301's are the best I've heard so far.<<<<

Is this a whoops? Thread is about preamps. Did you mean 2300?
'Been a while.  Any conclusions, e.g., from Ralph?  Is it still a "contender"?

ML 26 if you can get past the CAMACS...