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Best two channel preamp?


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A friend of mine brought over his Tube Nirvana Aretha Pre-amp about a month ago. It was very good, and it was the only Tube Pre-amp I could find that has Tone Controls (I know - Evil to some people - But Check out his Reasoning on his website). It also has an option for remote control volume.  I ordered one immediately. Many Options of Wood, Panel Color, etc...... Custom Builder named Holger - Very Nice to deal with.



Edited by Cut-Throat
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  • 3 weeks later...

Some great suggestions here. Of those mentioned, I've had the Cary Slp-98 and loved it. A beautiful looking and sounding unit. I regret selling it. I'd love to hear Craig's pre. Is he still making it? Currently, I've got a Shindo preamp and the original BB in the house. They are in very different systems and are in different price ranges but, honestly, I could happily live with the BB. Plus, opinions may differ, but I love the looks.


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Edited by kev313
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Given any thought to Odyssey Audio Candela?

I believe it is around $1,600 brand new with a 20 year warranty.

I picked one up used and have been using it for only a week now and so far I like it.

I may not have as much experience with tubes as many of you, but it has impressed me.


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Examples not typically mentioned on the forum:   Convergent Audio Technology (CAT) SL1 (IMO, one of the classics) Audio Research LS25 (6922 tubes) Audio Research LS25 Mk II (6H30 tubes) Audible Illusions Modulus 3A (IME, need quality tubes and eats weaker tubes for lunch) Manley Labs Shrimp ModWright SWL 9.0SE Cary Audio SLP98 (Line Stage uses 6SN7 similar to SLP05 and suspect sonic signature may be similar) Lamm LL2 Tube Research Labs (TRL) The Dude (IMO, nice implementation of 6SN7 tubes) Audio Research LS26 Audio Research SP10 (uses twelve 6922 tubes, and IME, needs quality tubes and it seemed to devour weaker tubes quickly) Audio Research SP11 Harman Kardon Citation I (complete restoration)     Disclaimer: In relation to any forum member or anyone reading these threads and lurking; I cannot determine, and do not profess to know, if you will experience any system synergies; I have not performed any type of analysis to determine if my list of preamplifiers will be appropriately gain matched and impedance matched when used in any music reproduction systems other than my own.  

I thoroughly agree re the CAT SL-1, very clean and three-dimensional.  Its build quality and even the packaging are superlative.  Gain matching with LOMC carts and Klipsch efficiency has been a problem although recent models have n improved gain structure.  It should be auditioned in your system for noise compatibility.


The ARC SP-11 has been somewhat infamous for its thin sound in the bass, so you must audition it as well.


I suggest you add Joule Electra preamps.  Earlier models were the LA-100 and LAP-150, the latter adding a phono stage.  They are no longer made, as Jud Barber has retired.  The electronic build quality is excellent, while the physical structure and build quality are indifferent at best.  I like the Joule in my system (an LAP-150) at least as well as any other preamp I have heard.  Those who have heard and like my system should know that its linearity and clarity are due in no small part to the preamp.  Joule pre's come in various configurations and chassis arrangements, so you need to understand just what you are looking at.  I do, however, believe they're among the good preamps around.

Edited by LarryC
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been using a JM Peach on my all analog setup since they came out.  I think that was about 2003 or 2004, not sure.  The thing got sent back to Mark D for just about every upgrade and it is still perfect today, never failed or broke.  Love the sound for an all tube setup.  Fun to listen to for the 3D characteristics.  Have to be very careful with the PCB mounted RCA jacks.


I recently replaced it with an NBS and that is a very solid preamp as well.  Heavy duty build.  The Jupiter caps give it a different sound than I have been used to but in general I think it is a clear upgrade.  Dead quiet, clean sound.....huge midrange.  Can't really fault it in any way.  Sounds great with the VRDs.


I also have a Mac C220 tube preamp that I use on my MCM digital setup and it is also a nice preamp.  Clean, and clear.  However, and I don't know why, it lacks the 3D characteristics of the Peach and NBS.  It may not be the preamp.  But still, it is a fine sounding unit that I would buy again.

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I had The Mac C220 in my house for awhile with Tele smooth plate 12AX7 and worked great.  I demoed the MAC C2300 with stock tubes and did not like it as much.  I returned it to the dealer.  I later got a used C2200. 


The stock tubes on the McIntosh preamps to me seem a little Dark.  Mark1101.....Don't you have genelex in yours?

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One thing I forgot to mention that I found to be a huge advantage with the NBS is that it has 2 sets of outputs that can be used simultaneously.  One set can go to an amp to power subs while the other can power the amp for the mains.


With the Peach, I had to use an RCA splitter.  While this worked, it produced a lower output that was noticeable even in loZ mode.  Didn't have the guts to do it all.


The NBS has plenty of drive to power both sets of outputs equally well at the same time.


For instance, I have the VRDs powering the main speakers, and a separate amp power my subs.  Result is excellent.

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