Fantasy or reality? Inexpensive solid state preamps that get you 80% there?

Recently, I posted asking about solid state preamps in the $4k region. I got some really good suggestions. Much appreciated. I have that list saved in a folder and will consult it.

I'm still a bit shy about spending $4k. So, lately, I've found myself reading about Schiit Saga and Freya S preamps. Why? Well, the idea of a non-tube preamp still appeals to me but these are much, much less expensive. 

I'm wondering if anyone has done some comparing of Schiit's Saga and Freya solid state preamps? Have you tried either of these preamps and come to some conclusions about their sonic worth compared to other more expensive solid state preamps? Were they worth it? Were they just a waste of time for you?

In brief:

Schiit Saga S vs. Freya S?
Schiit Saga or Freya vs. more costly solid state preamps?

The ultimate reason for asking is that this is a hobby where it's easy to plunk down small amounts of money (relatively) thinking that one can get 80% of what they want only to find that there's really no free lunch. If that's the case, I'll just keep saving for something better (Pass, Ayre, etc.). If not, I might just try a Saga or Freya (or something else — Parasound used? Etc.)


Van Alstine seems to be a good candidate which is above the cheaper stuff (Schiit, Topping) but still way below the others -- Benchmark, SPL, etc. 

Any opinions on the van alstine RB vs. SLR model preamps?


if you're ok with hybrids, the vincent sa31 or rogue rp! can be found for a grand or so and are at least 83% of the way there

Only issue with the pre90 is that it plays very loud with some amps. The only amps where the volume could move to more than 9AM was the Benchmark AHB2, Parasound A21+, and 1 more that I forgot. All 3 had gain adjustment on the amp. I tried a few other amps with the pre90 and they were awful with them with respect to volume. These included, the CODA #8, Krell Duo 175XD, D-Sonic amp, and LSA Voyager 350 GAN.

The LA4 works with everything and is a much better preamp.

@yyzsantabarbara Many here are liking the Benchmark. But at $2799 it's not in contention. I appreciate your comments about the Topping. Those comments are more on point.

If I were to consider the Benchmark at close to $3k, then the whole conversation would change. Then folks would point at Pass or Ayre etc. Or to some of the other expensive things already mentioned.

The challenge is really $1k or less, and it's my fault for not putting it more clearly in the OP and I have to keep reminding people skipping around the thread about it. Live and learn.