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. 




Consider used Ayre....I have a K5xemp,,,,,love it...nothing ever went wrong. Great open 3D sound.

The ARC LS series, used, could work well ( LS 26 was 2300 in 2018).

It has for me.

I purchased a like new Threshold T3i for $1200 that knocks the socks off much more expensive preamps!


I also purchased an Inspire LP3.1 tube preamp for $1250 that’s as silent as I’ve heard, which allows you to swap all kinds of tubes. There are all kinds of very good preamps if one chooses to buy used!


Currently there’s a tube BAT VK3Xi available for $1500. That’s a steal, and a modern preamp.

Do you actually need a preamp, or just switching and volume?  

Do you need gain? Phono stage? Tone or balance controls?  Built in phones amp? DAC? SE to XLR or visa versa?  Euphonic distortions? Those things send you to an active preamp. If not, passive is an option. 

Besides my Schiit Asgard, I have a JDS Atom+ on my desk.  I hear no fault with either. JDS is RCA only but $109. My previous preamps were another era. Hafler, Apt, Nakamichi, DIY passive then added a video driver buffer.  Of them, only the APT Holman I did not like. Hafler just worked and the Nak was sweet. 

 Spec wise, the Topping A70 Pro and A90 are good on paper. Never heard them. I  have see positive comments on the Ladder Bach, Emotiva,  and Gustard. Bigger bucks, Denafrips.   But a preamp should be easy and I have a hard time thinking a $1500 preamp is going to sound any better than my JDS and probably not as good as a passive.   You can of course spend $50,000 on a preamp and I am sure those who have believe they actually improve the sound which is of course impossible. They can only not screw it up or add distortion that you find pleasant.  If you like it is all that matters. If changing preamps "opens up" your system, all that means is you old preamp was not very good and your new one is better. May or may not be good, just better. 

Passives come from Alps pots, to resistor switches to relay resister ladders to opto-isolators  to multi-tap transformers.   A lot of creativity to extract the maximum money. 

FWIW, depending on my final DAC if I need a preamp for the remote volume or if I need balanced IO, I lean to the Schiit Kara.  But I might slap an E-bay motorized ALPS  or relay card in a box for a passive. If I need gain and phones, I could mod the Schiit or JDS for a remote volume using said E-bay wonders.  I only need a preamp if I go Chord or Denafrips. and only for remote volume. Otherwise, JDS and Schiit have me covered sonically.  DIY mods let me spend my SS check on the DAC and amp where it matters.