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.




Holo Audio Serene with the upgrades.  I got one a few months ago and love the sound with both SS and tube amps.

Hi Dave.  I was in your position a few years back.  I'm familiar with the Nagra HD and Momentum, which are top-tier contenders (as you'd expect).  My research, comparisons and ear drew me to the Octave Jubilee Preamp.  It replaced my ARC Ref.10 and bested it in every possible way.  

The Jubilee pre is a hybrid design with a tube linestage and separate SS power supply.  It is very neutral with the ability to mine deeply into the both musical and spatial details (e.g. venue effects) with a phenomenal naturalness.  But of all its characteristics that really stands out is the Jubilee's holographic atmosphere that only valves can produce.  For me, it's a keeper!

Have fun in the hunt!


Why are you asking others about what you need to hear when you listen to your own system its like asking which sports car should I drive. You won't know until you drive it yourself.

I would recommend a Conrad Johnson ART 88 or an Audio Research Reference 10. From your descriptions of the sound qualities you are experiencing and desire these may add the warmth and musicality without discarding the detail.


”Why are you asking others about what you need to hear when you listen to your own system its like asking which sports car should I drive. You won't know until you drive it yourself”

To figure out what to test drive, of course.

I’ve made a successful career, and indeed life, in part by asking people who have more knowledge and experience — or just different experiences — what they thought about things.  I listen and weigh the advice or thoughts.  And frequently I learn about new things.  It’s the same reason I read what experts, or just those that come before, have done and thought about everything.

We stand on the backs of 10,000 years of human history.  It’s a waste not to learn from others’ experiences and ideas.

Indeed, while it may come to a surprise for those whose Internet forums to make pithy comments, otherwise be rude to others, and lash out for no good reason (other than to sate whatever demon troubles them — a mistake, for it only grows stronger) the real purpose of forums such as Audiogon is to learn from others and to help others.

I've learned a lot from this thread and been helped.  One day, I’d like the honor and privilege of returning the favor.