Advice? Less than $4k, solid state preamp, neutral to gentle

There are many many posts about recommendations for preamps, so many to sift through that I thought getting a couple answers off the top of your heads might be ok to ask for.

Here's my situation: I am looking for a backup, solid state preamp to work with (a) Quicksilver mono block amps and (b) a Pass XA 25. I have (c) two DACs that I like, a Schiit Bifrost 2/64 and a modded-out MHDT Orchid. My speakers (d) are Ascend Acoustics Sierra Towers w/RAAL tweeters, and I have three subs.

My current preamps are both tube -- one is a 6SN7 preamp similar to an Ultraverve 3 and the other is a Quicksilver Line Stage.

I like having solid state alternatives to tube gear both to hear different sonic presentations and also in case I want to give tubes a break or if a tube goes bad.

I have tried autoformer preamps (more or less a straight wire with gain) such as the Bent Tapx and I don't like it on my system. I need a bit more.

If money was no object, I'd probably go drop $5k on an Ayre KX-5. That is a bit steep for me at the moment.

So, the question is: What solid state preamp, less than $4k, used or new, would you recommend to give a fairly neutral to warm/gentle presentation? Or that you simply like for reliability, interface, etc.?



Well personally  I like the Ayre  k1xe  better than the newer ones and you should find one within your budget. If you find a k1 it can be brought up to the  ce standard. The k3 is also nice but it is a step.down but still very good. If you like Ayre stick with the best. 



Yes, you hit the nail on the head with Ayre. I auditioned several pre-amps before settling on the neutral character of the Ayre. You should be able to find a used K-5xe or 5xeMP, for $2k or less. There’s one available on Audiogon. And Ayre customer support is excellent. I own three pieces of Ayre equipment and they have been extremely reliable.   



Continued appreciation for the suggestions. That Schiit Freya might really be the sweet spot if I get chickensh*t about spending up to the Ayre or Pass levels.

Just pointing out that 3 subwoofers is only an issue if the preamp has no monaural sub output. So a Parasound Halo P6 would be perfect with a Y connector to creat a 3rd output. No need to spend more of your tuition money on a backup pre.