You will certainly hear ehem... difference especially after a while you'll start to develop sibliance and many unwanted colors.
Designing good tube pre is a complicated and expencive issue that figures at least $1000 for used unit.
You can search among vintage Audio Research or Macintosh tube preamp units otherwise not sure if any other small brands might produce something descent.
AES & Antique Sound labs.
AMC makes cheap and decent tube pre.
OTherwise, please look into Bel Canto.
watch for a used conrad johnson PV 5,6,or7 (300-500)they will perform with the ability to determine what your seeking. if you decided to not keep around, will be able to liquidate without any dificulty.
Does this mean that the CJ PV-10AL that retailed for $1k is not a good design?
What about Rogue 66, readily available for less than $1k?
What about one of several AR preamp models, again readily available for less than a kilobuck?
What about a CAT with some scratches on its face available for less than $1k?
I hope that my sarcasm has not fallen on a deaf(golden) ear.
I will stipiulate that within a particular manufacturer's products, if they offer more than one preamp, and one costs $400, and the other costs $4000, the $4000 pre stands a good chance of sounding better.
But if you're saying that you can't get a good sounding preamp at less than $1k USED, you're just wrong.
Cheers, and good luck.
Forget all these $1000 models. They're all great, but you asked for inexpensive. The Bottlehead Foreplay is VERY highly regarded, and can be found used for $150-300.
CJ and Rogue you've mentioned are fall onto the category of hobbyist-designed and built products. For its performance and reliability they should realy cost much less than being currently sold.
It's realy new for me to se CAT for less than a kilobuck but if that's the case than it's realy a great deal.
I always was excited the way Audio Research designs any product they sell and agree that their models deserve attention for all.
You can take my kilobuck statement as in-out range and in on more or less degree absolutely subjectively on inexpencive products something is missing what should be present.
Basically all I'm saying is not to fall onto belief that it will improve cause very often it will not if not carefully examined and/or tested.
For example, quite objectively, if I look onto Foreplay that is sold with kits or assembled by some small hobbyist company for quite cheap why should I believe that it will sound better than SS preamp manufactured by large manufacturer such as McIntosh, Audio Research or Plinius?
MY only advice to our "host" was to try a tubed preamp.
I think, for the same dollar, you get better sound from tubes than SS. Maybe solid state starts to sound better once you get beyong your Bryston, perhaps toward some upper end Levinson or Rowland. I'm not into "slam" or measurements like slew rate, THD, etc. I know what sounds like music, and it comes from warmly glowing bottles.
IF you think Rogue and CJ are hobbyist, well, that's your opinion. I'm not sure what you mean, exactly. Someone had to build them. IF "Hobbyist" means that the person building them was into Audio, then I'd agree. I know that Bill and Lew over at CJ started their business that way.
Can't speak for Mark and Marc @ Rogue, but their products have been well received the world over, they were both employed in the communications industry before starting Rogue, and thy both have an interest in audio.
Maybe you feel as though your system, and your opinions are the end all truth. More power to you. FWIW, I doubt that oyu feel this way, but by saying everythign below $1000 used is crap, you're certainly not perpetuating our hobby- if anythign, you're discouraging any "lurkers" that might feel to unacustomed to our lingo to join in the discussion, or worse, to go but an MP3 player. Whenever I can, I will help a newcomer by offering helpful advice. I didn't come out of the womb with golden ears.
Sonic Frontiers original SFL-1 is available used under $500. and is an excellent sounding hybrid tube pre-amp with a single tube-- and yes you can definitely get that lush tube sound with just a single tube. I used one for several years. Cheers. Craig
I think most used Conrad Johnson tubed units are a "bargain"
At least for my ears and wallet. I bought a used PV11 in 1998 and it made a definite improvement to my system. No current "upgrade fever" as I still really enjoy the music through my system. It has an excellent phono stage to boot if you like playing with vinyl.
In any event, have fun!
ASL, Audcom, the new tubes pre's from China are, sadly, very good, and very affordable.
Build your own - that's EXACTLY what I did. Bottlehead makes one called the Foreplay. Its super good, costs something like $250, and takes about 8 hours to build. I hadn't soldered ever, and I was able to put it together without a single problem. GREAT instructions.
If you like it, you can upgrade it. Or you sell it here for what you paid and buy a nicer make/model.
my vote for an entry-level preamp goes to
If you can do without a remote, it can be had
for under 500$ ( I think the list is 1100$? ) and sounds
better than the remote version.
It doesn't have the warmish romantic *tube sound*,
but, its neutral midband ( I prefer it that way ) has a
plenty of resolution, clarity and immediacy which lacks in many entry-level
A good bass control and excellent pacing are added bonus
for most tube preamps in this price range as well.
Only caviat is that it has a good amout of gain so that
make sure it'll work with your amp before commit.
I have owned 2 budget tube pre's. Both inexpensive both awesome sound and value.
First I owned an Audio Electronic Supply AE-3 not only was it inexpensive....for very little $$ you can perform many DIY upgrades and Mods that improve performance exponentially. Even better it only runs on 2 6sn7's so tube rolling is very cheap and easy!
Now I have a Rogue 66 Magnum. A GREAT budget tube pre. She is more transparent with Blacker backgrounds than the AE-3...but I have to admit, I really miss the AE-3. The phono stage on the Magnum is not my taste...I liked the Creek 0BH-8se much better that was replaced. I was disappointed ...I was expecting an improvement in my phono stage.
So yes ..my vote goes wholeheartedly to the AE-3!
I have a Quicksilver phono stage that sounds great. If you have a TT try a phono tube stage and see how how you like it. Just a suggestion IMHO.
Love the Black flat discs best
audio experience, here on Audiogon
Try to check the Space-Tech Lab pre-amps, they are real good sound with more than reasonable price. Just go www.space-tech-lab.com and see. I own several pieces of their equipment, QA-114,VP-105,DA-512X,3WXO-passive, never fails me, really better performance than those selling several times more expensive from market. The look might not be as great as those quantity productions, but is still reasonably looking good, you can't ask for too much from a all hand-made piece, I saw and listen their pre beat down those Jadis, Conrad-Johnson, Audio Research and Sonic Frontier in their shop, very impress.
Rogue 66 or 99 in the used market. I would go for the Magnum version 99 for $1000 - $1500