Preamp for a GaN-FET amp...

Hello everyone... I'm thinking of replacing my Belles Aria Integrated for a GaN-Fet amp. I would have preferred to purchase an integrated GaN-Fet, but they are either too expensive or of questionable quality. I therefore resign myself to opting for an amp/preamp combo. My question is the following :

Which preamp do you recommend for a GaN-Fet amp?

I haven't made my choice yet, but the only GaN-Fet amp within my reach is the Starkrimson (used). Please note that if I opt for GaN-Fet, it is to avoid tubes, so I would prefer a preamp WITHOUT tube (and not a class A).

My speakers are Altec 620A (100 db efficiency) and I mainly listen to digital sources through a Metrum DAC. I also sometimes listen to records on my Garrard 401... That's basically why I need a preamp.

Note: the Belles Aria Integrated is a superb machine with astonishing sound, but I'm looking for an amp whose midrange is as good as a tube. The Altec don't do any favors and they are a little harsh in the midrange, especially at high volume. For those who would like to understand what I am trying to express by "as good as a tube", I suggest you listen to this interview with Ralph Karsten who explains the limits of transistors much better than me.

Thank you ! ūüėé


It would seem that while tubes have the preferred distortion ratios, their total distortion is higher than all solid state preamps.  So, what is it that is creating this preference and is this something that solid state preamps can "copy"?

@snapsc I think this is the same issue that has kept tubes alive in the power amplifier arena for so long. By comparison, the solid state preamps I've heard sound less lively and thinner than most tube preamps I've heard. I think this relates to distortion but I've done no measurements one way or the other to confirm this. However, tube preamps tend to be much lower distortion than tube power amplifiers. Solid state preamps tend to be even lower distortion; the 'measurement guys' will have you believe that distortion is so low as to be inaudible.

Tests we've done suggest otherwise until the distortion is below the total range of human hearing, which is about 120dB (so less than -120dB). That is my surmise; a lot more research has to be done in this area and I don't see anyone actually stepping up; the measurement guys say this was all solved 40 years ago yet clearly, it wasn't.

The result of that is tube preamps from 40 or more years ago still sound musical if properly refurbished but solid state preamps from that long ago don't get taken seriously. So I this is the best answer I can give, which is not at all definitive; belief and knowledge being two different things.


Ralph...I think you make a great point that there are still aspects of the electronics/hearing/brain interpretation barrier that we don't completely understand.

I suspect that it is the liveliness/thinness/detail conundrum that has people trying a lot of gear before they find that which suits their own personal tastes the best.

Again, thanks for your comments.

I have a Holo Audio Serene KTE preamp paired with class D, GanFet, AGD Audion Mkiii mono blocks.  This is the best combination I have heard in my system!  I understand it’s all about system synergy, so it takes time to get it right.  I listen to 90% traditional jazz and the creepy crawling details, treble, midbass and bass I hear with this combination, and no brightness is very impressive.  This is the first time I’ve owned a complete solid state setup that didn’t sound bright in the treble on many songs that I use for auditioning gear. The AGD amps have a lot to do with the smoothness of the treble.  

I am extremely satisfied with my system now, but thinking futuristically  I am entertaining the idea of pairing my Primaluna EVO 400 pre with a GanFet. It is currently tethered to an EVO 400 power amp with stellar results but, but, but... has any one tried this particular pre to GanFet combo yet?

The Primaluna pre is tethered to a Holo May Level 3 Kitsune dac which is tethered to a Jay's CDT3 Mk3 CD transport. The pre has balanced monobloc connections as well.

after reading a lot on the subject, I have come to certain conclusions:

- some amps using Pascal modules are considered among the best; in other words, it’s not just a matter of Gan-Fet technology, even if it seems to be the most promising one;

- since I bought my Belles Aria Integrated to avoid tubes, it would be illogical to go for a class D amp and add a tube preamp;

- some manufacturers seem to use Gan-Fet for marketing purposes rather than for its technical possibilities;

- there seems to be a reliability issue with the Starkrimson mono;

- if it’s possible to plug a DAC directly into a class D amp, why not add a passive preamp in order to have more than one source?

In other words, I haven’t made up my mind. I’m hesitating between buying an amp and a passive preamp or waiting for the arrival of a class D integrated that meets my expectations...