Placette Passive can't really be beat at any price. plus it has a remote control!
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If you want a remote, Placette is a no-brainer. I have been contemplating one lately myself. I've never heard one in my own system, but have been impressed by them in other systems. If you can stretch your budget a little for a used one, I don't think you'd be disappointed.
A used Reference Line Audio passive is within your budget. I love mine. The original company is sadly defunct, but Scott Nixon can do anything you need for one, even add a remote to certain models.
The EVS attenuators are supposed to be great, haven't heard them though. Well within your budget.
My personal experience with the Creek wasn't good. It certainly could have been a system dependant issue.
The McCormack TLC-1 is very transparent & is certainly inexpensive; try to find a TLC-1 Deluxe if possible - there are even some out there with remote control. Passive & buffered-active outputs are both included.
those budget models from Creek & Adcom are only worth their low price & for good reason (-:
If you just want to get your feet wet...get a Luminous Axiom for $150....even less if you buy used. At that price, you have no risk. I've owned a couple of Lumninous Axioms and they performed quite well.
I bought a Placette and it bested the Luminous Axiom. But, the Luminous Axiom was no slouch by any means.
Here are my two cents worth for the Placette RVC. System matching--finding that synergy of compnents--is most important here.
My RVC has worked not-so-well with some of my set-ups; it has worked, is is currecntly, with other set-ups.
I have never had a desire to sell it. I know that it is an outstanding passive.
If your key workd is inexpensive regardless of inconvenience, then nothing beats EVS Ultimate attenuators. If you don't want to have to reach behind your amp to change the volume, Creek offers good sound for the value, and so does CI audio, both small units with 2 or 3 inputs and priced under $500. I noticed several good advice regarding the Placette, but that may not be considered inexpensive for some. If you are looking at that price range, you should definitively consider the Sonic Euphoria PLC, which can also be remote controled. I has had very favorable reviews, and looks a lot nicer than the Placette.
Very impressive performance with my EVS Ultimate Attenuators from Ric Schultz of tweakaudio.com, whose bare bones website hardly does justice to his superb products, and modifications.
You eliminate need for a pair of interconnects, because these insert directly into the amp input jacks. So, $350 gets the job done.
Highly recommendable for a single source, perfectionist, simple signal path system, but you still have to get up from your listening chair (?audiophile aerobics) to adjust the volume controls.
EVS Ultimate Attenuators.
I own them and find them a huge bang for the buck. I personally prefer having dual volume controls as I can easily center the soundstage if I shift listening positions.
I also own a Django TVC passive silver wired with S&B transformers. The EVS are one fifth the price and virtually identical performers to my ears.
Best wishes whatever you decide.