Passive preamps - differences between technologies


I have been wondering what are the main differences in the way some passive preamps are designed. 

Some have resistors, some are transformer based.. What are the pros/cons?

More specifically, I'm looking at Music First Classic/Baby Reference V2 vs Hattor the Big or a Tortuga.

I'm looking for an upgrade from Audio Research LS16, considering looking for ARC Ref3 or a nice passive. My amp is ARC Ref150 (which is a lovely thing and I feel like the LS16 is holding it back) and phono pre is RCM sensor2 mk2 - so there's enough gain from the phono, the power amp has 300k ohms input, my DAC can output 1-3V rms, I use interconnects up to 1m so a passive could be an option. 

Thank you. 

Greetings from Prague with the first snow



Thanks for all the recommendations and sharing your experience. 

Slightly added warmth/richness would be a lot more welcomed than any loss of dynamics. 

Simply put, I'm wondering if it's worth it puchasing something like Music First Audio Classic V2 or if the technology advanced so much I'd be better off with something else (I'm only assuming that because there's apparently a big difference between V1 and V2 while the first version isn't that much older).

Townshend Allegri Reference looks absolutely amazing but it's also rare on a used market and very expensive. Maybe it's just wrong intuition but Music First Audio would be probably the best choice in terms of performance and resale value. 

My speakers are 92,5dB, power amp's input sensitivity is 300k ohms and both DAC and phono preamp have pretty strong output capabilities. Especially with the phono (RCM sensor2) I'm suffering with too much gain from the ARC LS16 preamp. Setting lower gain on the phono stage results in muddy sound when set too low. Also, I live in the city center and the mains isn't the cleanest. So I assume my system would welcome a passive preamp with open arms :)


I gave up after ten years use a wonderful sounding dual mono valve preamp in favour of the complete quiet and transparency of detail of an Audion Select TVC line level pre amplifier (copper transformer windings w/ silver internal hook up wires) —sound is colourful, vibrant and dynamic - not in an additive way, just that it’s not greying or shrinking the sound as you would find with most alternative means of adjusting volume. Speakers are 104db horns.

OP, the 300K is the input impedance. The input sensitivity of the amp is 2V for rated output, and the V gain is 24db, a little less than the norm of 26-28 db. Just a friendly fyi. My best, and ENJOY ! MrD.

@mrdecibel Thanks! I was under the impression that the input inpedance is the main factor to determine how friendly a power amp can be to a passive preamplifier. And also the output of a phono stage or a DAC..

Lord to visit Prague again…. pack my REF5se in a flight case and be right there…

Astute read that you don’t want to give up the dynamics… In my experiments… a buffer almost always needed …. hopefully you can find a way to trial a few of tgese devices while retaining the excellent store of value your  ARC preamp represents….

Best to you….