Schitt Freya +
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Keep in mind really-really good 6SN7 tubes are becoming harder to find, just went through this past few years trying several new, multiple NOS collections, adding a few more NOS. Then, bought some boutique 6SN7s no longer made. If you do go with a 6SN7 based preamp, and must buy new tubes, try the Sophia Electric Blue - not cheap but nice.
Looking around you see a bit of a paradigm shift by some preamp and amp designers now leaning back to 12AU7, 12AT7s for better tube availability.
re: SLP-98*, while It’s well above your price point for a new one, keep any eye out for a good used one. A good friend who bought my prior tube amplifier also demo’d the XA-25 with is SLP-98 and liked it a lot. Has an outboard transformer and decent volume control for a remote preamp. Also, has two sets of pre-outs, kinda rare.
I spoke with Nelson a year ago and he told me personally that he has several customers running the SLP-98 with his XA amps, fwiw. I won’t give up my 6SN7 based preamp for a long time, but I’ve managed to hoard away multiple quads of NOS and new boutique 6SN7s as backup just in case - the majority of the new re-issue and new limited production 6SN7s just did not cut it for me. Your results may vary...
larry-forgot to mention- nothing by schitt. I had an unpleasant experience with them. Additionally the noise from the volume control gets on your nerves.
decooney, bigG and jond,
Those names I will investigate. The Cary SLP05 is one I like
but used they still go at 3,500.
Mod and dehav are both two I want to learn more about.
If I only require 1 or 2 of the 6SN7S I can probably find them
Thank you all so much for your experience.
Supratek - I think the Chardonnay is priced right around $2000. Seek out the thread entitled "Preamp Deal of the Century". At one time that thread had 26 million hits. I don't think I ever read through each and every of the 70+ pages. But I read enough to persuade me to bite the bullet on a Supratek.
Wonderful, custom-built, point-to-point wiring, gorgeous. and Lifetime guarantee.
I have had excellent service from Schiit...I was shipped a new Aegir and when I suspected it to be "too sensitive," meaning it shut itself down too easily, they arranged for a new one with the return of the old one immediately, free of charge and really could not have been nicer or more professional. I own a few things from Schiit, a couple of headphone amps and a Loki, as well as an original version Freya (mine is dead quiet and sonically transparent in all 3 modes)...a GREAT preamp and the new Freya + might be better...note there’s nothing like these things at any price, and if the super accurate level change click bothers anybody, who cares? It simply means it’s working, and it works amazingly well. I think the response to Schiit’s products is overwhelmingly positive with some outliers certainly as they ship a lot of stuff, but don’t dismiss ’em without more research as they're an astonishing bargain in most cases. By the way, there are MANY sources for great 6SN7GTBs including Viva Tubes, and my preferred are GE NOS...plentiful and great sounding.
Just two years ago I bought multiple matched quads of really good NOS Sylvania Black Long Plate plate 3-hole 6SN7GTB tubes for $200-225 a quad. Sure, there are sources, including Viva below, 3x the price now days. Sure, GEs are available for notably less cost.
Tests NOS Matched Quad (4x) Sylvania 6SN7GT Black 3 Rivet T Bad Boy Plate Tubes
"Bad Boys" have been expensive for a long time, so I get that. NOS Chrome Domes and GEs aren’t so expensive at all (yet) and sound great."
True. One can find lower cost tubes. As long as one buys from a reputable tube dealer with good test equipment, it helps. Some noisey tubes out there being sold as matched pair NOS too on auctions.
Have you seen what some "good" testing tubes look like on a curve tracer, looking for matched triodes within each tube? My tube sources pass and sell them off as non-matched, non-NOS, lower grade with that disclaimer regardless of brand. Others will say, if it works use it, okay, hope they don’t pay too much for them. Finding good ones that truly test as NOS and balanced triodes on each side of the tube is getting to be harder to find. Best of luck.