Conrad Johnson Premier 14 is $1700-2300 used . I have not owned a better preamp in 30 years. The 14 is Lush, musical and envolving!
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I think you'll find many of us agree with your hunch, BAT makes terrific preamps. I haven't heard all the BAT preamps myself, but I did switch from AR SP9 Mk II and AR SP14 to a BAT VK30 about a year ago. Awesome preamp, and around $2000 used is an incredible bang-for-the-buck preamp. My experience with BAT, you can't go wrong. Best, Jeff
Sonic Frontiers Line 3 - great sound, separate power supply chassis and a really cool remote. Underwoodwally sells them on this site
We bought from his dad for a great price and he has taken over the business. And no I don't
"work" for him - I just like passing along a good thing when I know about it.
I'd suggest you demo a Joule Electra LA-100 MkIII. It's beautiful, extremely quiet and comes with a remote. It's dynamic with powerful bass and smooth and articulate midrange. I'm running mine with an Electrocompaniet EMC-1 cdp, and couldn't be happier.
You can sometimes find them used for under $2,000. I believe there's one currently for sale here on Audiogon that's been upgraded to MkIII status for $1,750. A new unit runs about $3,800.
I agree with the tube preamp. But don't(if you want to smooth things that is)get any of the BAT w/ the 6h30 tube.Don't get the Sonic Frontiers.Don't get an AR. The advise from Weiserb and Albertporter is good advise for what you are wanting. All the preamps mentioned are great, it's they all have their place. With you digital source, speakers, and your amp I would think that the last thing you need is a sterile,neutral preamp. It sounds to me like you need something with a little weight(sonically speaking). The AE3 DJH signature is a great preamp. The new Power Modules Belles20A is also a sleeper. This is my humble opionion. I've been there with the preamp hunt. You always want a neutral set of speakers so you you can tune to your taste with a pre. and amp. get into cables last, get the gear right first.
I second the recommendation of the Joule Electra preamp. They are extremely musical and dynamic. An equal but somewhat different kettle of fish from the BAT "SE" series of preamps (using the "supertube"), but far superior (I think) to the earlier BAT models that are likely to be in your price range. I have listened extensively to a system with the EMC-1 CD player and a Joule Electra preamp (an older LA 200), and in my opinion it is just plain more beautiful and engaging than just about any digital system I've heard.
I have the AES-3 Pramp standard model with oil caps. I to purchased from Upscale Audio. It is $750.00. I had used an Adcom 450 tuner/pre for years and wanted to smooth out the CD glear. The odd looking thing continues to amaze me the longer I use it. I have not changed out the original tubes yet, for now, I am just enjoying the music. This may be an inexpensive way to find what you are looking for. Good Luck in your quest!
You never mentioned if you were using the GFP-750 in active or passive mode ??? Since there are sonic differences between the two modes, clarifying this may also help you out in the long run. Sean
PS... Not ALL tube pieces are "warm, smooth & silky". Some have bloated bass, some are forward in the midrange and some demonstrate "glassy" hi-end. Like anything else, it will boil down to system synergy and personal taste. The one BIG advantage to tube gear is that "tube swapping" can change the sonic characteristics pretty drastically in a matter of minutes.
There have been several tube pre-amp recommendations recently in this forum, which added to these excellent additional recommendations, should be very useful to you. I think you will find that many will agree with me when I recommend you try a Rogue 99. I have compared this unit with several others and find it to be very musical, yet very detailed and dynamic. It is about as well rounded as you could want at its price point, and in my experience, difficult to beat without spending considerably more. The folks at Rogue are also very responsive and passionate. Check out the reviews. My listening tells me they are absolutely correct. Best of luck.
Eantala, I have owned both the NHT 3.3 and the Wadia 850 and when properly set up neither is particularly harsh sounding. Before spending money on another preamp, you should carefully examine your current setup. Equipment stands, isolation devices, room treatments, cleaning contact points, etc. As a last resort you might try changing interconnects or cables. Inserting a preamp into your system regardless of its quality, is probably an over reaction.
Onhwy61 is correct, you may not need a preamp. Another suggestion would be to try a line conditioner or something as simple as a power cord. One example (and I'm sure there are many others) is the TG Audio HSR-I pc, which does a great job of "smoothing out the sound" and retails for only $240. Would at least be worth a try before spending 2K on a preamp.
Suzy, is this the Suzy that I met over at AA? If so, HEY! Welcome to our world across town! I found that it's hard to get people to think about power cords until they are really eyeball deep into this madness and have upgraded everything else. When we started the upgrade journey, we started with the amps, then the preamp, and mingled everything else around those (eventually swapping out the whole setup, including all IC and cables -speaker and power)- even the amp another round or two until we settled where we are at the moment (have been for 8 months now!)The biggest difference that we saw was with the preamp. That is just our experience. It really does vary based upon what you have. (and the Line 3, with the right tubes, is mellow in the mids, detailed in the highs, and "ballsy" in the bass)
Hi Angela! Yup, it's me. The same Suzy from AA. After 20 years and more component changes than I can remember, my experience has been that just about anything has the potential to make a big difference in your system. The biggest difference I heard recently was a change in speaker cable -- I replaced $2000 worth of cable with a pair that retailed for about one fourth as much and was shocked at how much better it sounded. It's a myth that you have to always spend more to get better sound. Sometimes you just need to find the right tweak or component -- system synergy is as important as anything else. Nothing makes me happier than being able to improve the sound of my system and actually come out money ahead!
I like the GFP-750 in active mode mated to my CJ Premier 11a tube amp. It has very good bass extension and control plus it doesn't roll off the treble. Compared to the tube preamps I own, its a little harsh but maybe I just prefer that tube sound. On the other hand, the CJ PV-14L was very smooth with nice midrange warmth but seemed to roll off the extremes a bit. The Audio Research LS16 is not as warm in the midrange but extends the low-end and treble better, but not nearly as much as the Adcom GFP-750. It also has a nice soundstage and separates the instruments better than the Adcom. There is a smoothness that I like about the tube preamps but for speed, slam, and bandwidth, the Adcom is better. But I still prefer that tube sound if its not over done. It's a tough hobby!!
PS I sold the CJ PV-14L even though its an awesome preamp. I still have the Audio Research LS16 and the Adcom GFP-750.
Cornfedboy - I really don't want to trash the $2000 cable as I'm sure it sounds wonderful in other systems. It is a popular cable, and I don't want to be tarred and feathered by everyone that owns it :) The point was that a $500 cable sounded better as it was a better match for my system. (The $500 cable is made by Dunlavy - I believe it is called LCR Ultra. Not sure it is even on the market yet, as I picked up a sample at the last CES)
HAHHAHAHA.. I just HAD to laugh. Even though Dunlavy thinks that we can't tell the differences between cables under controlled conditions, he is working on bringing out "new & improved" versions of what he already considered to be the best on the market ?!?!?! The guy "slays me" to say the least.... Sean
PS... This is NOT to say that i don't respect Dunlavy's speakers or knowledge. I just don't like his "double standard" when it comes to saying one thing about cables and doing just the opposite.
HI people have suggested speaker cable / interconnect switch before looking into a preamp are there any in particular anybody can recommend currently using the Groneberg Quattro Reference speaker cables and interconects from Germany, that Klaus Bunge from Odyssey Audio sells. From what I can tell they are very fullbodied yet detailed and transparent. But can always try other things anyone got suggestions for something to soften the hard sound?
I thought I was stretching it to suggest a fluid to make the CDs less bright! Yeah, I sharpen the edge of CDs with the CD cutter (Audio Desk Systeme) and use a couple more fluids on them as well, but Optrix is a great place to start and all the rest of it, while additive, doesn't do as much as that first squirt of Optrix.......
Is it possible that you are now hearing some grain and sharpness in the high end of the NHTs? I have small NHTs for my HT, with nowhere near the resolution you have in the rest of my HT system, but I know that some say that they can be bright. As for a pre, I like my BAT VK3i which I recently retubed with Siemens NOS E88CCs and NOS GE 6V6GTs. Bought the tubes on ebay at a pretty decent price and it sounds great. I do have Vandersteens which some call a little laid back, but it was a big improvement over the stock Sovteks (which admittedly may have been a little long in the tooth).
And Suzy, we understand your reluctance to name names but hopefully the recent changes here (moderated forum) will help tame the harshest flames. Glad to hear a new voice.
try audible illusions modulus 3 A i picked one up at this site for 1100
ive also got an adcom 565 and the A I is a better pre amp not just spec-wise you can hear it it will smooth it out and actually give you more detail and put the vocals in their proper place and i have an extremely critical ear
but keep in mind nht s are a very very bright speaker
I am very happy with the Audio Research tubed preamps that have the InfiniCaps, whether stock or as an upgrade. For me, they made listening to CDs so much better that I laughed out loud with delight at the difference they made! I started out with a modded LS-7 and soon after sold it and bought the LS-15 and the LS-16 for our two main systems. (The LS-15 and LS-16 come stock with the InifiniCaps, and have the added advantage of remote volume control.)
Direct-in CD players and even the finest passive attenuators can't overcome the inherent harshness of the majority of original digital recordings. Only a tubed preamp will help with that. Is that added warmth and smoothness artificial? Who cares!?! The alternative is either to throw away half my collection of CDs or run screaming from the room. :-)