A preamp recommendation

Hello everyone,  I'm looking for a "neutral" preamp that does not emphasize and de-emphasize any frequency range but has just a tiny bit of warmth.  Accurate harmonic information resulting in natural instrumental timbre, outstanding sound staging and imaging, solid extended bass without typical under controlled bass of typical tubes or over damped bass of transistors, crystalline smooth extended high frequency, excellent micro and macro dynamics, and clear transparent sound are all important to me.  I don't like hyper detailed sound typical of some transistor preamps or overly smooth warm sound of some tube preamps.  Currently, my favorite preamp is an autoformer passive preamp which gives many of the sound quality I like, but it lacks the drive and impact I get from active preamps. I have auditioned some top preamps from Audio Research, D'Agustino, Pass, among others, but was underwhelmed due to lack of transparency, inaccurate timbre, and/or significant deviation from overall neutrality.  I don't care if the preamp is solid state or tube, long as my requirements are met.  All of my amps have input impedance of 50KOhms or above. Which preamp would best fit my taste?  Any preamp new or used $15k or under would be on my list. Thank you.


yyz... was there some way other than tonal character in which you felt the CODA was much different from the LA4 or just slightly (or a lot?)  warmer?   In other words, to you, is it (roughly) an LA4 with an added dash of warmth?  Or are there other differences in terms of imaging/bass etc.  I'm sure many people myself included would like to know how those two square off in a bit more (forgive the pun) detail:)

@abramsmatch I think 9 out of 10 people on A’gon would prefer the CODA 07x. The CODA is not crystal clear or sterile as the LA4. Your comment above that you better have a great amp if you use the LA4 is right on the money. I have an incredible amp, the KRELL Dou 176XD paired with the LA4. This amp is supposed to be 175 Class A watts, if 175 watts are ever needed. It is a super smooth and a somewhat detailed amp. It also has a nice sounding bass, maybe not the tightest but I like it. It is also an amp that newer gets fatiguing.

Wit the LA4 I feel I am hearing just the amp, especially on the top end. With the CODA I feel that it adds some extra bit of sonic character to the KRELL. I think most people would find this adds to a slightly richer or moister sound. I am thinking of cake as I right this 😀 .I was using the CODA 07x with the KRELL for months and liked it but I knew it was not the cleanest KRELL sound.

Another thing that bugged me was that when no music was playing the CODA 07x had a tiny bit of hiss. You need to put your ear near the tweeter to hear it. With the LA4 is it pure silence. That hiss bugs me in a way that is likely irrational, but it does make me think about it. With the LA4 I do not have this irrational concern.

In terms of imaging, bass, soundstage. I cannot tell much difference between the 2. My room is a bit of a limiting factor. I agree with Terry London’s review of the CODA 07x. It is very much like tube based gear but with the benefits of SS gear.

I have come to the conclusion, after a lot of gear changes in the past 2 years, that I want the preamp to do nothing to the sound, such as the LA4 or Topping pre90. I do not mind a DAC adding some flavor nor the amp. My current big speaker are Thiel CS3.7’s which I feel are neutral. My next speakers for my second system will almost certainly be warmer and I am not enthused about using the warm CODA 07x preamp with them. A second LA4 will be what I use.


BTW - to give some context, to my ears, if the Schitt Freya+ is 10/10 in the warmth department, the CODA 07x is 5/10. The LA4 is 1/10

BTW2 - With certain gear the LA4 was unlistenable and fatiguing. I actually sold the Benchmark HPA4 (identical sound to the LA4) because it was awful with my RAAL SR1a headphones (using an amp interface box) and got the CODA 07x. The CODA was the very best preamp to tame the SR1a. I got the Topping pre90 ($799) to get occasionally go back to the HPA4 sound. It was a PIA to use so I sold it and got the LA4. I no longer need the CODA 07x to tame the SR1a since I have something that is made just for the SR1a and it kills the CODA 07x with the SR1a headphone (not a fair comparison).

I use the 07x with 2 systems (headphone and 2-channel) at the same time since it has dual XLR outputs. Some of my comments will be confusing if you do not know about the outputs.


Thanks so much! Very helpful yyz. For clarity, I actually was using a Freya S (solid state version) in buffered 1x mode, which I felt offered the best combination of clarity and tone with enough dynamics. (I preferred the buffered stage to the active and passive stages; the former of which was slightly colored and the latter slightly less dynamic). I’ve never actually heard the Freya + tubed version. I feel your description of the CODA places another fave preamp of mine near it on the tonal spectrum; the Hegel P30 which I also currently have in house. It too is slightly warmer than the benchmark with wider staging and more ’sweep’/dynamism’, but definitely less quiet in terms of background (not necessarily hiss per se) and general ’orderliness’ of sonics/instrumental placement. It’s also a touch forward with horns on certain pieces etc by way of comparison with the LA4, which seems to have a ’place for everything and everything in its place.’ I too had the Topping pre 90 and returned it due to poor remote functionality/reception and a sound which seemd even a bit more ’sterile/austere’ than the LA4 though I could have been biased as I hated the remote control function (you needed an add-on laser sight on your remote and special forces training to hit the exact and precise right spot to make the knob turn!).


I will add I have yet to hear the Benchmark sound ’too bright’ or un-listenable with either of my two dacs or with various wires and a couple sets of speakers (all with same amp though). It is always very listenable/never drives me out of the room-- but it certainly isnt ’warm and inviting’ overall- though with some recordings it actually can sound that way!


Wish I could hear the CODA...  HA! maybe I could if I buy it from you;)

I could have been biased as I hated the remote control function (you needed an add-on laser sight on your remote and special forces training to hit the exact and precise right spot to make the knob turn!).

So that is how to use the pre90 remote, I also had major issues using it. However, the biggest problem with the pre90 (forget what Stereophile says) is that it has volume issues with almost all amps. It worked great with the Benchmark AHB2 and the Parasound A21+. With about 4 other amps it was crap.

When I say the Benchmark LA4 was unlistenable I am only referring to the RAAL SR1a (a great piece). Just bad synergy there. With 2-channel gear the LA4 always worked, unlike the pre90.


I am just seeing this thread and rarely post on here but i would be remiss if i did not let you know about a not very well known brand…

The brand is Canor and i am listening to there Hyperion Preamp as i type this…This has to be the best preamp at any price below 30k-

Its tube based, built like a dang tank, separate chambers internally, neutral with a hint of warmth. I really cannot think of a box this unit does not check. This is an end game preamp.


For those that play at this level i highly recommend giving this unit strong consideration and the USA Distributor is one of the best in this business. He offers customer service second to none.

This unit replaced a Mac C22 in my system and won shootouts over the likes of AR and many others i tried in my hunt for the best Preamp i could find

Cheers and best in listening!