Which tubed pre to "flesh out" my mids???

Hello all...It is finally time to insert a linestage between my Wadia 302 and ASL 1009's. Ultimate priorities are a rich, lush midrange, and a tight bottom end. My preference leans toward the euphonic side, but I can't sacrifice much detail or dynamics to get it. I won't get a chance to audition much stuff prior to purchasing since I'll be buying used off the net...so if anyone has a clue how some linestages will work within my system and to my stated taste, any help would be appreciated...TIA.

Some contenders are the Joule LA-150mk11, Cat Ultimate, Supratek (forgot the model), Hovland (forget the model again), basically anything under $3k used thought that may rule out the Cat.


Wadia 302
ASL 1009DT
Sonus Faber Guarneri
TG Audio ic & speaker cables
Supratek will get you what you want, but service is a big question since the
company is out of business.

You might also check out DeHavilland Ultraverve and Atma-Sphere MP-3,
are both in your price range on the used market.

I have found that preamps utilizing 6SN7 tubes have a much more "midrangy"
sound than those utilizing any other tube type.
My preference leans toward the euphonic side, but I can't sacrifice much detail or dynamics to get it.

In my opinion that describes the Dehavilland Ultra Verve. I thought Dick Olsher's review (google or see at Dehavilland web site) was accurate and it's right at your price point.
I personally didn't care for the Joule, and the CAT is unlikely to "flesh out my mids," although with the CAT your bottom will be tighter than Halle Berry's. That CAT Ultimate II is a pretty nice preamp, and threw the absolute best bass I ever heard from my system - amazing. Otherwise, I found the CAT very clear, but for me a little too clear and slightly "hard" sounding, maybe due to the 29db gain. I found the MP3 mentioned to be quite clear and very "present" sounding, with good bass. If you can put up with a little more phat on your bottom, sort of a J Lo full but still nice bottom end, you could try the VTL 5.5 - one was just listed and sold in only a day or two. The VTL's midrange is rich sounding and the highs are nicely extended for a tubed preamp, also they usually go for about $2-2.5K. However, overall, if it were my $3K, I would not hesitate to pick off one of the listed Lamm LL2's.
First Sound
makes one of the best preamps that I know of.
First Sound
makes one of the best preamps that I know of.
Cenline (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers)


Ultimate priorities are a rich, lush midrange, and a tight bottom end. My preference leans toward the euphonic side.

However, my experience with a First Sound is that it fulfills only the tight bottom end criteria of the OP. Rich, lush midrange with a euphonic quality? Not that I've heard. Not even close.
Check out the c-j Premier 17LS2. It sells for about $3000 used and I think it will do what you are looking for. There is a Stereophile review of of the 17LS online (the 17LS2 is an upgraded version). I think the tested unit had an output impedence that topped out around 1.5 kohms so make sure that your amp has a high enough input impedence or it may cause bass problems.
Thanks for the replies...I'm gonna take out the Supratek and add the CJ 17 and Lamm LL2 as contenders.
Cary SLP-98, the F1 version (direct coupled for superb bass) in particular.
Of all the preamps I have owned, the Lamm LL2 Deluxe is perhaps my favorite,
and that's coming from someone who now owns a Lamm L2 Reference. It has a
certain magic that's difficult to explain. It requires quiet tubes, so be certain to
find good quality NOS tubes that are checked for low noise.

BTW, I also owned a Supratek Cortese at one point. The Cortese had more
"bloom" than the LL2 Deluxe, but other than that there was nothing
the LL2 Deluxe did not do better.
2nd the First Sound Deluxe.Tube rolling for desired sound is simple and Emmanual Go is wonderful on service.
If your source and amp are balanced designs (more than just having XLR I/Os) then your priority would be a balanced tube pre such as BAT, Vincent just came out with one though I have no idea as to its' sonic signature
Interesting post. Good stuff being discussed, but if your analysis of the the '302' is the same as mine, that is if anything the highs are a bit rolled but the mid-range and upper-mid range are a tad too crist (too fast or shortened decay, perhaps) then a SOTA pre-amp may be less of a solution than a pre-amp that allows you to get where you want to go by tube selection. FWIW, I never got where I wanted to go with my '302' direct to 6 different amps with all kinds of tubes, nor thru a couple of excellent pre-amps with limited tube selection. So far it sounds best to me using some fairly modest stuff (amp and pre-amp) which is very tunable without breaking the bank.

I replaced a CJ Premier 17LS2 with an Aesthetix Calypso and couldn't be happier.
Any tubed preamp in the Blue Circle line (BC 3, BC3000, etc.). BC preamps really shine in the mids.
Save your money and buy an Eastern Electric Minimax then experiment with different tubes. This thing is a Chameleon.
Audio Note Kits M3 MKII. bellaextreme dot com can assemble one with their own flavor of paasive parts. I'll never part with mine.
Joule-Electra issued, just now, super killer - to be shown at CES 2009 and I would start right there. Their previous preamp received Golden Ear Award from Harry Pearson of TAS last year so I presume this one should be indeed the "killer"
All The Best
I am doubtful the new Joule-Electra preamp will sell at the <$3000 price point
mentioned by the OP.
Dear Tvad - you are absolutely right. I have REX by BAT ($20k) and I know that Joule-Electra "Marianne Electra Memorial Edition Preamp" is much cheaper ...but not $3k. I saw in his list "Joule-Electra LA-150 MkII" and forgot about...pricing
My apologies
Hey Jman,

To me I would add a Blue Circle BC3 to your list...maybe an BC3000 version 1...

The Joule (I have a LA150 gen1 here, with the 6c45/6h30 circuit which is the most detailed and neutral of the LA150 gen1 or gen2 preamps I have listened to here, as the gen2 LA150 uses the 6350 tubes to great effect, warming things up a bit, softening the edges a hair - giving everything a little more "wet" presentation...) Anyway, the Joule doesn't really tighten the bass here, if anything it really fleshes it out, from the midbass on down...Big Bottom! But if you are looking to tighten things up, the Joule might not be it. As I hear it, tightening things up means to help clear it up, maybe less bass just more detailed too; which the Joule tends to fill it out more...

I moved from a BC3 Galatea to the Joule to bring the bass out more here. Flesh it out. The BC has great clean bass, and soundstages DEEP into the Bass, but it doesn't add anything. Great Mids!, superb layering and depth with seperation in the stage. Not as wide a stage as the Joule, but better depth... But the Joule adds and fills out the midbass and deep bass here. loosened it up a bit if anything. (which is what I was looking for with my Merlin VSM MXe speakers...). And Gilbert @ Blue Circle has/uses Wadia sources in his test systems. Its worth a Listen, esp as TG and BC play VERY nice together!
Joule-Electra bass is not tight? Perhaps if you put your preamp on Aurious or similar vibration control device, use tube dumpers (as NOS have some small tendency to have microphonic noise) it should tighten and clean things out for you substantially
All The Best
IMO, likely the tightness of bass has primarily to do with impedance match in the bass frequencies between preamp and amp than any other factor. High preamp impedance output at bass frequencies coupled with an amp's low input impedance in the same frequencies with result in subpar bass.

This is sometimes the case when tube preamps are used with solid state amps.
The Joule's bass is "fleshed out"... not super loose, not tight or damped down. It works for me! BUT in relation, the Blue Circle's bass/midbass is more neutral. I have ALL SORTS of isolation here, TG cones, Aurios, Neuance platforms, ...

But that goosing of the midbass/Bass of the Joule is why Bobby P loves the Joule with his speakers... Its fully fleshed out, yet clean, detailed, layered, blah,blah,... I like things that soundstage bass correctly, and both the Blue Circle and Joule do that, it's just that the BC bass is more "damped", thus sounding tighter... the Joule's bass is less damped, more fleshed out... (the Blue Circle had more hall info and air too, but that is another story...). BUT I like big bottoms! Thats why I have a Joule preamp! I also like the way the Joule soundstages the back corners of the stage, the way the Joule does voices, and the width/depth/height/layering/cohesiveness and separation at the same time, of a big symphonic work building to a full cresendo! Never looses its cool! (Same as the BC pre before it, just a bigger bottom end). The Joule does the "they are in your room" thing a bit more than BC, where the Blue Circle is more "you are at the recording" than the Joule. Very similar, but that hall info and bass info is where to 2 part ways... I went to Joule from Blue Circle preamps, wanting to keep eveything the BC did, but with a less damped bottom end - and that's what the Joule did here. I gave up some hall info and maybe some depth of stage of the BC going to the Joule, but things like isolation, how you run your cables, room treatments can help bring some of that back...
Hey Tvad, I hear you on impedance mismastches... but not the case here, as my BC amp has a 100k input impedance.

The one thing with the BC preamps is the amount of gain too, as I do prefer the lesser gain of the Joule. Still dynamic!, quiet,... but more play with the volume pot with the Joule. And remote too!

I am just calling it as I heard it here, over a long honeymoon with both for an extended period of time head to head... really working hard to get the best of both in terms of setup/synergy... but neither is perfect...
11-30-08: Monk
Hey Tvad, I hear you on impedance mismastches... but not the case here, as my BC amp has a 100k input impedance.
Yup. Impedance match is a non-issue in the case of an amp with 100k input impedance.
Thanks for all the suggestions, every single one merits serious consideration. Another contender has entered my mind...the ASL Flora. Any experiences or thoughts how it mates with the ASL 1009's? I'm not sure that it is considered on the warm side of neutral?