Unless you’re very limited on shelf space I wouldn’t limit myself to a preamp with a phono stage especially at the level of your Pass. An older Audio Research Reference preamp or a ModWright LS 36.5 would be a good place to start. You could probably pick up a ModWright PH 9.0 and be in your budget. There’s a used LS 36.5 DM on here or TMR. ModWright LS 100 can be had with the built in phono if that’s a must. Not a big fan of McIntosh, just not my flavor.
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I owned Pass amps for decades and the best match was Audio Research preamps. The Phonostage is as important as the preamp and is best in a separate box… Audio Research also makes some of the finest.
I have also owned Pass preamps. I highly recommend Audio Research. They are natural and musical. Highly recommended. My systems are shown under my UserID. The longer I listened to music and appreciated the natural beauty of it, the more I was drawn to ARC.
@ghdprentice - awesome setups you have!
Yes - I have always loved Audio Research sound, but the reference line is out of my reach at this point. I was looking at LS28 SE which I think is a top flight preamp, but still at $10K USD no phono is tough for me.
The key question is what sound characteristics are most important to you. Forget about being drawn into looks unless McIntosh preamps give you the sonic qualities you’re looking for. Are you looking for more tube warmth and fullness or more neutrality with some tube magic? That should be your determining factor, so if you share that info you’ll get some great recommends here.
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