I'd recommend one of these (in no particular order):
Klyne 7LX 3.5B
Tom Evans Vibe/Pulse
Pass Labs X1
that are currently advertised.
Obviously, there is no one "BEST", but MANY varied "BESTS".
I second the Pass Labs X1 (would seem to be a good fit for your amp) and the Bryston BP26. I chose the BP26 over the X1 primarily due to using Bryston 7B SST amps at the time.
The Jeff Rowland Capri has been recently compared to preamps in the 10K range. I have seen used Capri(s) on AudioGon at the 2K point. An amazing bargain!
I would vote for the Klyne 7. The unit closes the gap between Transistor and tubes. Sound is excellent and it has 2 gain pots, With those the owner can find the optimal setting for all kind of connected units.
placette passive preamp!
best of all i owned ( exept the VIOLA Cadenza 13000$)
you need a good matching impedance between the source and the amp
it is not good looking.
to cheap to be proud of it.
Audio Research LS-10. They rarely come up for sale. Outstanding. It can be had for about $2k.
I will agree with John's choice of the Klyne; series 6 or 7; either way you won't be disappointed.
another vote for the Pass Labs X-1
I vote for the ARC LS-10, Bryston second place.
Last year, I upgraded from the Krell KAV-280p to the PASS X1 (with full power supply) and there was no comparison - the X1 was simply in another league, I was suprised at what a difference a Preamp. could make in my System. My Amplifier was and still is the PASS X250.5 - I also tried the PASS X2.5 and an early-build X1 (with small power supply) and the late-build X1 (with full power supply) was significantly better than both. You will be hard-pressed to find a better Preamp. than the X1 to mate with your X250.5 regardless of cost. The new PASS XP10 offers mostly improved cosmetics and ergonomics over the final version of the X1, with minimal sonic improvement, at least from what I have heard.
Parasound JC-2. Excellent preamp.
Lihifi, would you explain your comment regarding "the small power supply" versus "the full power supply"? Are you talking about the original black plain-jane power supply case versus the later case that matched the preamp's case? It's my understanding that there are no electrical differences between the two - only the case of the power supply.
In your case Brytson.But that Placette is suposed to be a killer.Going to replace my KRC2 when I get chance but want tubes and polarity so BAT is best for me.I would sound killer with your rig s well but you said SS.
The Rowland Synergy IIi is competitive with the preamps mentioned in this thread, and the balanced circuit would compliment your Pass amp.
Bob_reynolds - The PASS X1 was in production for 10-years (1999 2008) over this long production period improvements were made to both the Control Unit and Power Supply. I owned - at the same time - an early-version of the X1 with the small power-supply, and a late-version with the full-size power-supply. The later version sounded noticeably better, so out of curiosity, I removed the top-cover of the Control Units and Power Supplies and found the PCBs and Electronic Components of the Control Units to be different as well as those of the Power Supplies - the full-size power supplys components could not fit in the small power supplys box. There are also differences in the Control Units Volume Knob, Buttons and Display.
The Placette is very good, but I would think not a very good match with the amp. It would be very interesting to hear the X1 against the Nelson's no gain buffered preamp from First Watt or against a BENT TAP or simimalr TVC/AVC versus the active pre.
I am running a Pass X250.5. After trying all sorts of preamps, I wound up purchasing an H2O Audio Fire, but I've actually never seen one up for sale used. I have a Pass XP-10 coming next week, which are sometimes available for around 3k. I can let you know how it compairs once I get it in the system.
I wonder how many people who are recommending passives have actually tried them with the X250.5. I wasn't too happy with the results when I tried a passive.
The H2O Fire will allow a firm grip on the bass but will remain very transparent (in a musical way) overall. It has less glare in the upper mids and treble than the Audio Research LS-26, but retains a fuller midrange than any other solid state preamp I've tried.
It appears you are only considering solid state. The Cary SLP-05 also sounds great with the X250.5, but is a little rolled off comparitively in the lowest bass.
To me the specs on the X250.5 do not look like a match for any type of passive (low sensitivity, input impedance, and gain). A low output impedance active preamp should do the trick, or the Pass B1 buffer preamp.
Many fine active preamp recommendations above. If it were me I'd stay in the Pass family, but the Klyne's have always been intriguing. I also own a Rowland Capri and while it is a lot of preamp for the money, especially at used prices, I can't say how it might match up with the X250.5.
I agree with Aljordan. I just heard his H2O Fire and Pass XP-10. They both sounded great, and quite similar, connected to my Pass amps. You could maybe find an XP-10 for just over $3K used or contact Mark @ RENO HIFI. He often has good deals on demos. I had the X-1 which was quite good, but the latest XP series is better. It is quieter, has less distortion, and is even closer to neutral resulting in better clarity, focus and soundstaging. The remote is also better. You can't go wrong mating either the X-1 or XP-10 to the X250.5 If you can find a used Fire, that would also be an excellent choice.