Pre amps cost vs. value ... what I discovered last month.

Greetings all.

I’m a mastering engineer. . We use Acoustic Zen balanced cabling, highly modified Cary 211 FE tube amps, Bricasti M1 SE DAs and Joachim Gerhard’s Allegra speakers. TORUS balanced power comes 220 from the street. The room is excellent, and you would love to hear it.

For 15 years the pre amp/router was a Crane Song Avocet. I paid around $1800 for it.

Recently decided to try a couple of audiophile products in the pre amp stage and was shocked and saddened how bad they were. Yes, the studio designed Avocet has a relay click for each 1db step, and yes it has a rack mounted 2U body with a corded remote, but it’s clear folks are really getting taken to the cleaners on pre amps. The older and highly regarded Boulder 1010 (used price $5500), was just terrible, truly terrible. The new and fully broken in BAT vk-43SE (demo price $7500) was much better, but still had a cloudy tone as compared to the class A Avocet. Not sure if that’s the cap or the transformer, but it made everything less clear and more generic, more distant from the music.

That’s all. Happy listening.
+1 for Brian,your comments have that ring of truth to them.I agree,there is a multitude of ridiculously over priced pre amps that simply do not make it happen.
  A close friend of mine who is an electronic a musician and producer with a pretty intense studio set up tends to scoff at high-end audio components when compared to professional audio components.  And he and I always debate the relative listening habits and needs of each group of components. 

 It reminds me of the crown discussion last month on this for him. And it makes me wonder if there are any professional components that could serve double duty, so to speak, in a high end consumer audio chain. 
I would want to know if the Boulder is performing to spec before I agree with your cost vs value assessment.
Yeah, I have no doubt you heard what you heard, but it's kinda strange that the Boulder sounded that flat out bad.  Does make me wonder if it had an issue of some type.  

Well to be fair sounding "bad" to me is "interesting" to others. The older Boulder sounds like one would expect from the design. I was just hoping they had pulled a magic trick. The center image power was non existent, the shape of the freq bal was way off, the tone overall was synthetic. Great people and a great company but a sound I was told would make me cringe, and I should have listened. The BAT was very nice, very nice. It was simply a bit veiled as compared the older Avocet, either from the cap or more likely from the transformer. Plenty of low end, a touch more than I was used to but not a problem either way. The gain up/down was rock solid, the image L/R at gains was solid. The volume from 60-100 Viktor told me was the sweet spot and he was of course correct. It’s a very nice unit. A bit veiled in the realism category is all.   And I’m just saying the price, whoa. A new one is $10k. It’s a low volume market, yet so is pro audio gear and a new Avocet is like 3000?