Which Tube Pre for 5K?

I'm considering the following: Aesthetix Calypso, VAC Standard, MkII, and Blue Circle BC3 Galatea, MkII (feel free to add others). I'm unable to audition any of these. I do want a fully balanced pre with a remote and would consider buying used.
Thanks all.
I have not heard any of the above pre amps, but I’m using the BAT VK 51se and to my ears it sounds great. Fully balance and it comes with a remote. You can get this one use around the price that you are looking.
Good list...but the BAT 51SE just can't be beat used at around 5k.
CAT is not balanced.
I wanted the same features in a tube pre. Last summer, I bought a new Calypso without hearing it first.

No regrets. No plan to replace it. It truely is a fantastic sounding pre-amp. It is built like a tank too!
CAT is not balanced. I am not either, apparently. No remote either. My bad.
Calypso was my second choice, but I didn't need the remote, and felt I didn't need balanced after hearing the CAT.
So my vote is Calpso (new) or VK51se (used).

Try the BAT 51se. Best sound and customer service I've come across!

All the best,

I've heard the BAT, the Aesthetix, the Blue Circle mentioned above, and I'll add another one - VTL 5.5. They are fine preamps. However, I've chosen to own the Audio Horizons TP 2.0, a balanced tube preamp. Audio Horizons has a home trial program. The fully loaded version (I own this one) costs less than $3.5K. I think it outperforms the other preamps mentioned above, but you can test that assertion in your own system.
Barrelchief, did you audition the VAC or BC? What tubes did you end up using with the Calypso?

I forgot to mention that there is another recent post in which other Audiogon members comment on the work of Joseph Chow and his Audio Horizons products. Search "Audio Horizons TP 2.0 Preamplifier."
The Audio Research Reference II Mk II is the best preamp I've ever heard and they are about 5K on Audiogon.
A CAT SL-1 is not balanced and has no remote, but, in my opinion, absolutely blows away the BAT 51SE sonically. The CAT Utimate has much better dynamics, extension and just a much better midrange. Anyway, that's my opinion. Other pres which don't fit your requirements, but which sound good are:

First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II - stunning dynamics, low-level detail and transparence, terrific female vocals. No remote and not balanced.

Ayre K-1Xe - balanced and has remote, but not a tube pre.
Haven't heard the latest model, so I cannot really comment sonically. Earlier model was slightly to the cooler side of neutral, but had great timbre and separation of instruments. Earlier model was a little soft on dynamics, but I heard this has long since been "corrected".

I would check out some of the solid state, no remote and single-ended entrants before simply ruling them out. You might find, after listening, that these are indeed worth consideration. If the answer is still no, then sorry for interrupting.


Based on my wish list, the Calypso was a recommendation from a dealer that has my complete trust and respect.

Because their previous recommendations have been great matches for my needs of the time, I jumped in with both feet. Once again, they were spot-on. Therefore, I did not audition any other pre's in comparrison. This was in replacement of a Rowland Synergy IIi, moving into tubes.

My music listening time is very limited these days. Therefore, I am still using the stock tubes that were supplied by Aesthetix. When I get around to it, I will tinker with rolling some tubes.

Good luck.
Unless you have to have new, at $5K, I would recommend the VAC Ren Mk2. It has a remote and accepts XLR at input and output although I am told it is not a balanced circuit internally.
I just heard the deHavilland Mercury2 and can highly recommend it.It made the hairs on my arms stand up(since I don't have any on my head).
I had similar requirements in terms of price and wanting a tube design, true balanced differential circuit and a remote. I bought the Calypso and havn't regretted it for a moment. I think the Calypso is an incredibly great unit. You may want to upgrade the stock tubes, however, which takes one pair 12ax7 and one pair 6dj8/6922. Good luck.

If you can squeeze in another $500-800 on the used market, the Aesthetix Callisto Signature would be a worthy consideration as a huge step above the CAT, BAT and ARC.