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.?



The impedance matches between preamp and amp and between dac and preamp are essential. The ratio of the successor input impedance to the predecessor output imp. should be as high as possible. As a rule of thumb, 10 is the minimum, 100 is preferrable and 1000 is ideal to maintain flatter response curve particularily on the low frequencies. Among the Class A recommended SS preamp by Stereophile, your better choices will be (1) Benchmark LA4 ($2500) and (2) Rotel Mich P5 ($4300). In particular, LA4 has high input imp. as 80k ohm and low output imp. as 30 ohm (SE) / 60 ohm (balanced). Those specs will render high imp. ratios close to or exceed 1000 that are considered ideal match. The Rotel P5, on the other ahand, will also match with your dac and amp well if you use balanced connections.

No matter what you have decide to purchase, it is suggested that you list both input / output impedances of the preamp and calculate the imp. ratios to justify if it matches well with your current dac / amp.  Then look at the reviews from the reviewers you trust to find out whether non-measurable listening experience is great.  I was sort of hesitated to recommend the crazy low-cost preamps Topping Pre90 because of the mixed reviews from the reviewers I trust.

Thanks all, for the further suggestions and especially to @lanx0003 for the advice.

Yes, matching the amp and preamp will be important -- I've done that matching before and it would be a necessary criterion applied to any short list of options.

The Topping Pre90 is class A rated in Stereophile. Reviewer Kalman Rubison bought three (!) of them for his system.