Budget preamp recommendation...besides Schiit.

What are some other budget friendly preamps besides Schiit, the king of budget electronics? With similar quality of build and sound, both solid state or tube options would be welcome. 




I have had the following sort of affordable preamps in the last 3 years:

- Schitt Freya+

- Topping pre90

- Benchmark LA4/HPA4

- Holo Serene

The Benchmark and Holo are better than anything at any price from my perspective of how a preamp should work. That is no noise on the speakers, no addition to the sound so all  you hear is the other gear, and a great volume control.

I am going to sell my LA4 because I want to get the HPA4 (again). I now have a way to use the headphone amp of the HPA4 with my RAAL phones. I could not before.




Depending on what you consider budget, the LTA MicroZOTL MZ2 is an amazing bargain.

Rogue RP1 is very good. Build quality, sound, responds extremely well to tube rolling and cable changes. As an added bonus, it sports a very good Phono stage. 

Dont hate on it but Emotiva XSP-1 Gen 2, excellent fully differential balanced 2 channel pre-amp, read the reviews, if you can find one, it seriously replaced my Krell KAV 250p, and no it is not a home theatre preamp, the soundstage actually blew me and a couple of listening buddies away, we went into it thinking how everyone else thinks about Emotiva equipment, but the proof was in the puddin as they say✌️🎶, excellent mc/mm phono stage also.

Nelson Pass Nutube Korg B1.

Such a lot on offer for such a little outlay.

Khozmo passives or Hattor passive/active, both made with high quality attenuators and parts plus huge selection of options between the two "sister" companies (i.e., same owner/manufacturer - Hattor is to Khozmo what Lincoln is to Ford).

What’s wrong with Schiit? I have found that the Freya+ is quite responsive to different tubes, thus giving the ability to tailor the sound effectively.


I second Quicksilver or Conrad Johnson .   CJs are tough to find at a reasonable price though.     

The preamp is the most important component in your system, choose carefully 

If you are interested in a kit, the Akitika PR102 is both transparent and well featured with modular options to include headphone and phono, with or without motorized remote control. Price is very reasonable for the performance.  This is really the only true “budget” alternative to Schiit.  Well under a grand. 

It would help you narrow the choices if you first clarify features:

a. definite;

b. desired, not absolute

It's hard to keep the list short, but, for low cost ......

My suspicion is that used could match a new budget price and be 'better' and include more ......

Used, with remote volume control is a short list, and many sellers forget to mention the remote, so if interested, do a quick check elsewhere for manual/feature info.

Oh yeah, budget: stretch it,

consider extra cost divided by many years, not much really, just gotta get the dough now: so sell something, give up doing stuff, go out to eat less, buy less content for a while, tell the wife NO MORE SHOES (just for a year)

Consider Icon Audio out of UK. Their No. Am. Distributor in Canada in excellent. 

I currently have a Parasound P5 preamp for sale here. It's in Mint condition and I'm open to offers. See if it fits your needs. 

Try to find a used Herron preamp.  Failing that, an ARC SP-6b.  The SP-6b is NOT in the same league as the Herron preamps, but it does have a nice phono stage.

Lot's of good ideas, many more expensive than the Schiit $300-850 price range.

I'll look preowned and see what hits a cord with me.

Thanks again and good day.


Topping Pre90  - very clean and balanced or single ended options with stepped relay volume control.

Audio-GD is noted for the value in their pre-amps...I have one....They sound like pre's that are TWICE the cost. Call Wally.

I have made references in the past on this forum to the Pre-Amp suggested in a earlier post in this thread.

The basic model will cost not much more than what might be what the OP expects to spend a their minimum outlay.

The follow is a copy/paste from another thread. It will show one reason why I have made the suggestion about this model.  

"One of the above KB1 owners had a Loan of a Bespoke Built KB1 at the time they were having demo's of Pre Amp's to be used with EAR Power Amp's, approx' £20000 of Pre-Amp's were home demo'd of which one was a EAR 868 and retailing at £5000. The Pre-Amp options were not limited to a Budget, the KB1 won the system owners favour, and a Bespoke Built KB1 is used in the system. 

Note: The KB1 does not do full bodied/lush as a presentation."

Don’t skimp here. As mentioned maybe most important component. Get something that you can be happy with for a long time. Benchmark is amazing and the SPL’s are as well. 

Look into...

-Bottlehead Moreplay (tube kit @ <$500)

-Musical Paradise MP-701 MkII (ready to go tube for <$800)

The MP can be purchased from a vendor in the US or Canada for less $ than those offered from China.





Orrr.. Look into an older ARC preamp?

SP8, SP9… Or if you can stretch a bit SP11.


Happy listening. 

@elliottbnewcombjr said, "tell the wife NO MORE SHOES (just for a year)". Uh, a divorce will cost you a LOT more than any preamp. Tread carefully. 


The Parasound P6 and the Z-Pre 3 sound virtually the same as preamps, that is pretty much silent. The difference is the features, the P6 has a DAC, balanced connections, and a variable crossover for the sub. If you don't need those features I would get the Z-Pre. I own the ZPre and have used it in my desktop system and my main system. Small, nice remote, sounds fantastic and not just for the money. Extremely clean signal.

No experience with, but the Van Alstine pre is supposed to be really good. No other component influences the overall character of your electronics as the preamp. Stretch the budget a little and buy one that you won’t have the urge to upgrade anytime soon. Buy once, cry once !

I would recommend a used Backert or the current deal they are offering on their 1.3 models. They use two 12AU 7 tubes and have a completely neutral  sound signature and yet add real depth, clarity and realism to a system. Highly recommended!



I've been waiting for someone to comment on that very risky idea. Cost of divorce is a good one.

Quicksilver for sure. Simple, fantastic sounding, and affordable either in remote or non-remote version. I've had the 6922 remote version since 2014 without a hiccup...just a superb pre.

"So many suggestions" - Yes, that is what you are going to get, based on that type of question.

Used Backert - great suggestion, but hard to find.

Forgot to mention: Aric Audio.

Be willing to stretch the budget, and not limit yourself too much, on a preamp.

used rogue audio RH 5 , headphone amp linestage.

2 tube followers

adjustable gain.

has balanced in and out

not classic tubey but refined, super clear, dynamic driving sound and huge soundstage.  

Parasound New Clasic 200 Pre (the NC 200 Intergrated same but with power).

Lots of input/output options, built in DAC, MM/MC phono, Sub out, Hi-pass / low pass, HT by-pass, and tone controll all fully operational by one of the best remotes anywhere. Each input option can also have its own volume level match. 



Another vote for the LTA MZ2.  I just upgraded to the MZ3 and will be selling my MZ2. I used a Schit Magnius, a diy Nutube amp, and a JDS OL switcher previously. 

Why not a Schiit Freya +? They're amazing sounding USA made and worthy of their Class A rating. Nothing else comes close in price or features...you can tube roll, go passive, whatever. They even have a new one called a Kaya if you aren't a tube fan, similar features for 700 bucks, and I bet it sounds fabulous. What...too inexpensive?

I have 2 systems, one considerably higher than the other, and both are anchored by the Benchmark LA-4 pre -amp, balanced.  30 day trial period, guaranteed to keep. One of the best pieces of Audio equipment around, and actually priced reasonably, rare today. Robert TN

1+ on the LA4. I have been saying this for almost a decade now. I got laughed out of the "Best Amp" thread for saying this a few years ago. Using the LA4 or (Holo Serene preamp) with really great gear is not a mismatch.

Cheap killer preamp? The Chinese Weiliang-made MBL 6010d clone is just that. Just be shure to give it some good sounding op-amps. 

BB OPA627 single op-amps + 4xTexas Instruments LME49720 dual op-amps makes this into a balanced giant-killer. Extremely open and dynamic, wery low noise. It dissapears like a good pre should do and to a price..