The best preamp without a my experience

I have always had a thing for preamplifiers. I tried many of the best brands—just to name a few: Shindo (several), Spectral, Klyne Arts, deHavilland, Berning, Placette, Marantz. I thought I had gotten close to the top as far as preamplification goes...until I got lucky enough to find an EAR G88, which is what deParavicini himself defines his masterpiece. Well, I am dumbfounded. The music flows more naturally, more realistically than ever before. You feel like being in closer touch with the instruments or the voices. The sound is just real, and for the first time I felt like I heard a real bass in my system. It’s an old product. It was produced in the early nineties, and only in 25 exemplars. But if you’re lucky enough to find one...don’t let it go.
Tried them all? No Audio Research in your list. I have been down your path, including an EAR. For the last few years I have a VAS Citation I, which is a knock off of the HK design of the 70's, with updated components. If you are into vinyl, the VAS is the one to have, IMHO.
after having numerous preamplifier in my is all system dependant, but I belive that it is the perfect match in your system, so enjoy it!
I've been a member here for longer than I can remember, and it's never been my thing to post anything negative. I'm going to break that trend now. I ordered an EAR 911 NEW from a dealer several years ago. I waited 3-4 months, and it arrives at my house DOA. So they send it out to the Authorized EAR tech in California, and he couldn't fix it. Then they get it back to EAR, and I was told the phono section was wired out of phase. Just for the record, it was making NO sound at all. That diagnosis to me meant they built this preamp and never bothered to check and see if it was working at the factory. At that point, weeks continue to pass by, and I'm not receiving any updates. At this point I lost my patience, and worked something out with another dealer to take the 911 on trade. All that aside, I'm happy the EAR is working out well for you. I found the EAR to be excellent when I auditioned it prior to purchasing.
Stringreen, sure I haven't tried them all. Nobody has, I believe. I guess the sense of my post was that I tried lost of preamps, many of which have a reputation for being up there with the best...and what surprises me with the G88 iss how much better it is. I thought I got close to the best possible with my previous preamplifier, a Shindo Masseto, but the difference I can hear is not subtle. As I said, you feel closer to the performers, and that is ultimately all you can ask from a component. I should have said that I use it with a pair of EAR 509MKII, so yes system matching is certainly an element...still I think I never experienced such a difference from a single piece of equipment. And I used it with three different speakers: A pair of Verity Amadis, a pair of SF Minima, and a pair of stacked quads...same results, same sonic signature.

FJN04, sorry to hear about your horror stories with EAR gear. I owned several EAR pieces and never had a single issue. Hopefully your experience does not mean the company has gotten sloppy. For sure, the absence of customer support is strange for a company like that.