Need a big favor picking a preamp

I recently tried out an Esoteric E-02 phonostage and have decided to buy one.  (It was a big step up from a Parasound JC3+, which surprised me.)  I'm working on my preamp stage now, and tried out a Dan D'Angostino Momentum HD preamp and the Exoteric Grandioso C1X


Dan's preamp was fantasic, but I makes me feel like I need to be wearing several gold chains when using it.  Perhaps also a toupee and some gold nugget rings.  "Gaudy" is the word when I look at it. 


I also tried out a Esoteric Grandioso C1X, which was fantastic, but a bit cold, and much of my system is already Esoteric Grandioso, and it's getting a bit fanboyish.   Unfortunately I did not have it when I tried out the E-02, but I assume the two would be excellent together.

I would say the D'Angostino preamp is "more musical", while the Esoteric more "more precise".

There's a third contender I have never heard on my system, but loved when I heard elsewhere on a similar system -- Nagra HD preamp -- it had the precision of the Esoteric and had just a tad bit of tube sound.  It's also startlingly expensive.

I tried out several others that just didn't fit my system: Pass Labs being one, which surprised me.

So, please advise:

D'Angostino Momentum?

Esoteric C1X

Nagra HD


The downstream are two Classe Delta Monoblocks, Bowers 800s, SVS PB16 ultras.  Upstream Digital: Esoteric K-03XD and Lumin U1  Upstream Analog: Esoteric E-02 and alternating between a VPI Titan and Esoteric Grandioso turntable.

Current preamp is a Prima Luna Evo 400, which I love the looks of, and punches WAY above its weight for the price, but it's time to go.





"Curious as to why you’re moving on from the prima Luna evo 400, that’s on my radar as a preamp upgrade…"

That's a fair question.  I think it's mainly because I'm an incessant tinker with all things electronic.  The Prima Luna Evo 400 is a very nice preamp, and certainly one of the best tube pieces for a person who doesn't want to mess with tubes. 

Since we went with a watch analogy above, I'll switch to cars.   If you think of a typical high-end tube pre-amp as a Ferrari, it's amazing, but a lot of trouble for a daily driver car. The Evo 400 is akin to a Porsche.  It's a reliable sports car, not particularly troublesome, and can easily serve as a daily driver, albeit one that bounces you around on your commute.  I'm looking for a preamp that is akin to Range Rover with 580 HP and even more torque where I can not worry about being crushed by an oilfield truck, but can still smoke the wheels at 80mph when I punch the gas.

Long way of saying, the Evo 400 is a really good choice.  It's got balanced input/output, true dual mono.  I've been happy with it, but looking for a bit more, which unfortunately means a huge move up in price, probably $70K or maybe $150K if I go with Captain Nemo (lol)'s Relentless.

Depending on where this goes, I may be a source for a used Evo, although I may keep it and move it to my ski house.  Still have the boxes! 

I had the top of the line Classe mono-block amps a few years back. I used to own all Classe gear 20 years ago too. Give the new Classe preamp an audition. Another very good preamp is the PS Audio BHK signature preamp. I sold my Classe gear and went with PS Audio BHK gear. I like the sound quality of the D'Agostino equipment.

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Just for fun look at an Audio Research Ref 6.
Heard it a couple times at a local dealer and

it sounded just great. Was a bit above my budget, 

so I’m saving up to get one.