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


@vthokie83 your finalists are all well respected preamps.  Congratulations on the new Aric Audio Motherlode XL!  I hope after receiving it you can break away from the music long enough to let us know how satisfied you are!

A good grouping!

My experience with the Backert has been positive - except that the sound sounds a bit manufactured - not musical or organic.

I love the LTA gear, but overall, the pre sounds thin compared to real life.

A Pre to try is the Coincident Pre...uses the transformers to drive the sound and their product/reputation is pristine.



@paul_lindemann Just wondering which Backert preamp did you experience?  I have the Rhumba Extreme and was initially a little disappointed.  It came with re-issue Gold Lion's which to me sounded congested.  I contacted Andy Tebbe at Backert Labs and had it upgraded to 1.4 status and it still sounded congested.  He suggested trying his "secret mystery" tubes and voila, sounded much better.  I was then on a quest to find even better tubes and settled on Amperex 7316's which I've seen recommended here by other users.  It now lives up to its reputation.  I agree with your assessment of LTA gear.

For what the Rhumba 1.4 Extreme sells for new it should not sound congested. I can't imagine that's typical. Wondering if you gave the "upgrades" long enough to break in.