Help With New Preamp Decision

Like most of us, I am constantly in the process of slowly (as funds allow) upgrading my system to what most would consider "mid fi" or low end "hi fi". I have been reading a lot lately on the subject of SQ upgrades, and what comes up frequently is that the preamplifier might be the foundation of moving to the next level as I upgrade.

True or not, that is the direction I have decided to virtual system is listed. And yes I know I need to upgrade other components as well, so I'd like to keep this on the idea of a preamp.

In doing a LOT of research, I've come across several preamps that I am most interested in and would appreciate some ideas/thoughts/input/recommendations. I want fully balanced XLR with RCA inputs and outputs,  be tube based, and I have no need or desire for a phone input. Max budget is $6,000.....or just a few shekels more.

(1) Aric Audio Motherlode XL $6,125 - Incredible reviews, Aric has a phenomenal reputation, and seems to be an all around great builder in this field -

(2) Backert Labs Rhumba 1.4 $5,000 - I have this lower on my wish list, as it is Backert's entry level preamp, what I'd really like is the Rhumba Extreme....but no way I can justify the $8,500 price. And finding a used Rhumba Extreme 1.3 has proved impossible, though I'm not opposed to it. 

(3) Don Sachs and Lynn Olson new Raven (Revolution) preamp $5,000 - His reputation alone makes this preamp important, and he is an all around great and giving guy of his time. I've communicated several times with Don, and he flat out tells me this is the best preamp he has ever designed by far and is a "cost no object" project. I think that production starts Jan/Feb this year (being built by Spatial Audio Labs) 


(4) Atma-Sphere MP3 Mk 3.3 $5,650 - Venerable favorite, it's a well known and well reviewed product

(5) Linear Tube Audio MicorZOTL $5,750 with balanced inputs and Level 2, see this well reviewed and well thought of brand a lot  


Thank you in advance for your input


Of course, based n personal experience, I would recommend the Backert. All the prices you ave listed are MSRP. Talk to the dealers and you might get some discounts.

Soix & Woots, I thought about older ARCs.....but that brings it's own issue with older preamps. If I did buy used, it would probably be a newer product like Backert Rhumba Extreme. I like the idea of buying new, or newish.

I believe all of the options I posted originally are fully balanced XLR, it is an option on the MicroZOTL

I believe all of the options I posted originally are fully balanced XLR, it is an option on the MicroZOTL

I would double check that. Last I looked you don’t get fully balanced in Backert preamps til you get above the Rhumba, but I could be wrong and maybe something changed. With the LTA you can get balanced inputs with the upgraded transformer, but I don’t think it’s fully balanced from input to output. Again, I could be wrong but definitely worth checking into.

As an aside, if you don’t already know I’d check if your amps are fully balanced from input to output. If not then having a fully-balanced preamp is not as big of a deal because it gets converted in the amp to single ended anyway. If your amps are not fully balanced then it opens up more options on the preamp end. Just something to check just in case.

I recently learned of First Sound Audio and a friend of mine has one and absolutely loves it.  No remote, though.  I would love to try one in my system.  Does anyone else have experience with first sound audio?

From the Backert website:

"Fully Balanced XLR Input and Output

Shown below is the rear panel of the Rhumba 1.2 Extreme. The Rhumba 1.4 is very similar, except that it has two fully balanced XLR inputs and two fully balanced XLR outputs."

Hfihandyman, the First Sounds are single ended RCA