Best Options For A Tubed Preamp - $2500 Or Less, Preferably Used To Maximize Value

As the title says, I'm interested in your thoughts on what are the ebst options for a tube based preamp, $2500 or under. I generally buy used to maximize what I can get. Definitely prefer a warmer sound signature, but not to the degree where details and impact are lost. 

What are the best values out there, in this price range, in your opinion? Any expertise, perspectives and experience greatly appreciated. Thanks. 



+1 for ARC

I have went through many line stages over the past 5 years that included the LS 26 & 27.  I would not recommend simply looking at them in the sense of the number as your sequential options.  I would stay within a generation.  For example, the LS17 & LS26 and then the LS17SE and LS27.  The 27 was a significant upgrade over the 26 and the aesthetics are nice upgrade as well if that appeals to you.  I never had a 17SE but have always heard and read they were quite impressive.  

Like most of the top brands, these older models hold their value quite well.  I believe you could find a 17SE for around $2000 and an 27 for around $3000.  These prices haven't changed much in the past 4-5 years and won't likely drop significantly anytime soon for one in great condition.  This all to say, try one if you find it and if it turns out to not be the sound you are looking for...sell it.

Good luck!

+1 for the RP-5.  Those are available for around $2k.  Modwright over on TMR for around that pricepoint as well.

I would recommend the Schiit Freya + with some top notch tubes.  The tubes make this into a whole other preamp than stock.  I really love that you get the passive mode as well which can be nice for some music and for a different flavor at times.  Tube mode I like the best but nice to have the option.  I have recently owned the ARC Ref 6 and the Cary SLP 05 which I bought hoping to upgrade from the Freya +.  I think these both sounded marginally better but not what you would think for 10X the cost I spend a lot of time going back and forth with all these preamps and also the Benchmark LA4.  In the end I sold the big huge hot and heavy tube preamps as they just weren't enough better to justify the hassle of having to turn them on and off every time I want to play music.  The LA4 preamp is also very good and I think better than the Freya + when you compare in passive mode.  The Freya + lacks a balance control and a record output otherwise it's just about perfect and really gives the big dogs a run for their money.  Schiit stuff in general is great bang for the buck.  I also use the Tyr monos and I have sold most of my other amps as I just enjoy these a little more and easy to live with.  The Tyr and Freya + is an amazing combo when you consider amp and preamp at 4K retail. Amazing.