I agree with Shadorne in principal that a pre-amp SHOULD be better than a passive, as Chris Bryan put it in the July-Sept issue of HIFICRITIC 'The very best pre-amps are definitely superior to the even the best passives, volume potentiometers or switched resistors." The problem is the cost of "the very best pre-amps". Some quite expensive ones have failed to equal a passive; in the test following the previous quote Bryan found that the Aesthetix Calypso,Bryston BP26 and Roksan Platinum PR15B all failed to equal a Audio Synthesis Passion passive, which scored 30 on their scale. The Aesthetix did best, 20 with standard tubes and 26 with selected older ones. The Bryston scored 16 despite measuring very well and the Roksan 20. The very best pre-amps , such as the C-J CT5 score 90 or above on this scale. The Creek $500 passive scored in the high 30s. So you can pay out several thousand dollars and not equal the sound of a good passive but the best actives are considerably better. This is in line with my own experience, I am currently using a passive myself. BUT I have amps that work well with passives [not all do] and while I have good pre-amps on hand they are not in the Super class. So again as in so many things in audio there are no simple answers, passives ,in the right system ,give a lot of bang for the buck, best actives at top. Even there exceptions exist, in the same issue they found that the dCS Scarlatti CD player sounded better direct than through the AR Reference 3 pre, which is the best pre they have tested. DISCLAIMER, for all I know YOUR system may be entirely different but I think the proceeding may shed some light on why there is so divergent a range of opinions on this subject. It is my own feeling that pre-amp design has not advanced as fast as amp design and there are some very overpriced ones out there. I AM not talking about YOURS so put that brick back in your pocket. I have omitted all mention of the variation in the quality of player output stages, it is a whole topic in itself.