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I am looking for a secondhand/ex demo tube preamp for a Gamut D200i which is a Danish manufactured solid state power amp which works optimally using its balanced inputs. The Gamut has adjustable gain and is rated at 240 watts into 8 ohms. It has a matching solid state preamp, the D3i but as the old adage goes I would like to "inject some tube warmth into my system". I use a Resolution Audio Cantata source and Sonus Faber Cremona Floorstanders(pre M series). I will be ultimately looking at a vinyl source once I get the funds together! As I am based in Ireland there is limited opportunity to demo gear. Accordingly, I would welcome readers comments/recommendations. The preamp must be tube and truly fully balanced. A phono stage is not necessary. There are some worthy contenders out there but they are not true balanced. Those I have been reading about/considering and which appear meet my requirements/buget are as follows:
cary slp 05
blue circle BC3000 mark 2 Gpz
bat vk 51 or 52 se(rex better but probably too recent and expensive)
arc reference 3
audio note m5
aesthetix callisto signature mark2
Thanks very much in anticipation.
Having purged myself of tubes a few years ago, I think it's safe to say, you should expand your perimeters to include solid state. No harm in giving them a listen. If your system is somewhat sterile sounding, adding some warm may give you temporary relief, but with warmth you'll always get unnatural coloration.
Add the top VAC preamps to your list--the Phi Beta and 2a Signature. These sometimes show up used for under $10K without phono. I run a Phi Beta into SS monos (Bryston 28B-SST2) with superb results. It's no longer available new but here's a link to details:
If you are looking to buy new I would get the BAT VK-52se and when funds permit have BAT upgrade it to the REX. If don't mind going used you probably could find a used REX slightly above your budget. Good luck!
Very "musical", detailed and transparent. It's a hybrid using any of the 6922/6DG7/7308 tubes. It pairs well with SS and tube amps.
Observe, before you think
blue circle BC3000 mark 2 Gpz
Agree on the sound aspect (well mine doesn't have the super big PS), but "hybrid"?
True the PS is not tube, so maybe not "pure tube" fits, but "hybrid" I would think is typically reserved for a combination of tube and SS active gain stages and/or buffers.
In other words I would say the BC3000 is a tube preamplifier, not a hybrid.
BC calls it a "Dual Mono Linestage Tube Preamplifier"
.... maybe there something about the balanced version specifically that make it a hybrid?
Short’s the best position they is. Bullet in the Brain
Atma Sphere preamps are one of the few that is truly balanced input to output and may be the only balanced tube preamp that is not capacitively coupled on the output. I have used my MP1 with Boulder, Bryston, Pass amps with outstanding results.
and though the OP states a phono stage is not necessay, an MP-1 with phono deserves strong consideration. As far as injecting "tube warmth" into the system, I would say instead that the Atma-Sphere pre-amps inject "tube realism." Good luck.
Ditto that, one of the most neutral audio devices that I have experienced.
Ralphs' implementation of the fabulous 6SN7 tube in full balanced
product is one to consider.
I would scratch the ARC Ref. 3 off your list, if you're looking for tube warmth.
It is a great tube preamp, IMHO, but having tube warmth is not one of its sonic characteristics. It is very neutral with an almost solid state sound, but with the holographic soundstaging that tubes can provide. (Excellent flat frequency response, with deep and tight bass, and a well extended treble.) It has lots of features and a nice remote control. (The Ref. 5 is slightly better, as it has slightly deeper bass response, but they are very much cut from the same cloth, and unless you have very deep pockets, the additional cost might not be worth it to you.)
You might want to check out some of the better Conrad Johnson preamps, like the ACT 2, if you're looking for some tube warmth.
Good Luck in your search.
Einstein The Tube
I scratch build my tube preamps. I have one in the works now. But I needed a tube preamp in a hurry to get me by.
So I bought this one.
Behringer MIC2200 2-Ch Tube Mic/Line Preamplifier
It was $99! It sounds incredible, detailed and quiet. I realize that it's not a Marantz but what an amazing value. It uses XLR connections.
you cannot create a stereo line stage with a single dual triode. The tube is there largely for show most likely performing buffer duty. The gain is provided by $.26 NJM 4580 op amps as found in all Behringer products.
Well, yeah, but it costs $99 so it uses opamps. And the tube is only a buffer. It's not going to be a Lamm at $99. As a stop gap or as an instrument for experimentation it's a huge bargain. It does have balanced inputs/outputs.
And it sounds great for the money. I sometimes wonder how many of the golden ears could tell the difference by the sound alone.
Well, yeah, but it costs $99 so it uses opamps.
is really not a tube preamp.
I sometimes wonder how many of the golden ears could tell the difference by the sound alone.
Most likely, ALL of them.
For a while, I owned a Behringer EQ used with powered subs. Just for grins, I tried it full range with the vintage system in the garage. Even with the controls flat, the sound became bright and edgier and the soundfield shrank.
With CDPs and DACs, folks can often use attenuators instead. I made one out of parts from Radio Shack for under $20 that would have been a noticeable improvement.
I completed my DIY preamp so I no longer will be using the Behringer. It did sound good. For the price it's actually incredible.
But I just want to make a point here. The Krell S300i intgrated uses OP177G op amps and is made in China. Personally I wouldn't buy one.
But I wonder how many S300i owners would sniff at a Behringer? Sometimes it pays to hang around in DIY forums. It gives the music lover a different perspective on the equipment.
The Krell S300i intgrated uses OP177G op amps and is made in China. Personally I wouldn't buy one.
It bears little similarity to the kind of build quality and performance that established their reputation.
But I wonder how many S300i owners would sniff at a Behringer?
Honestly, I couldn't care less.
The price of a really good 12AX7 or sub can run over $99.99. Even a lower quality tube costs something. The chasis and face plate of many pre amps would cost multiples of the price of this entire unit. If he can get this for European voltage it seems like a no brainer. I might buy one myself. All that said....
Of the pres you listed I know the SLP-05, the Aesthex and have heard the BAT. The one I think may give you most of what you want is the Cary. That pre uses 6SN7s thru out, which you can roll if your not happy with the ones you get with the pre initially. The Cary cost under 10,000 so you can buy this new. The styock tubes are Chinese if I'm not mistaken, which don't provide much warmth. Upscale Audio sells them and can assist you in choosing tubes. Upscale has NOS tubes in stock and know the pre well. Not sure if Uncle Kevin at Upscale can sell overseas and with duty etc. it might be prohibitive.
Having owned the Cary SLP-05 and more recently, the Aesthetix Calypso Signature, I would choose the Cary for it's superb sonics.
However, if I needed more flexibility with inputs/outputs, remote control source switching, repeatable remote volume control, etc., I would lean toward the Aesthetix, which is also very good.
But if sonics were my only criteria, the Cary SLP-05 would win hands down.
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