Tube preamp options

My system from the preamp on consists of a rouge rp-7, rogue m180 monoblocks, and vandersteen quatro wood speakers. My main source is a brinkmann Bardo through a Rogers PA-2 phono pre. It all sounds great. But there's that itch, you know? I get tremendous soundstage but not that much depth. Clarity is great, mids are nice, bass is excellent. But it doesn't quite have that in the room sound that I'm looking for. The RP7 sounded too solid state and analytical for me out of the box with the stock JJ tubes so I've done extensive rolling. Been through all sorts of NOS tubes and landed on amperex as they seem to have the best balance of warmth and clarity. My thought is, maybe I can find a pre that has those attributes out of the gate without all the rolling. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of being able to tailor the sound with trying different tubes but I feel like maybe there's a brand out there who's house sound I like better. I haven't listened to anything more yet but brands that are on the list to check out are Backert labs, maybe a used ARC Ref 6, VTL, VAC. There are a million little boutique brands tho and I'm asking what people have heard in the 10k price range, new or used, that might be a good fit for me and why. 



@avanti1960 thanks for your thoughts. Your experience with the RP-7 is interesting and vastly different from mine. As I mentioned, I've done extensive tube rolling in the pre and have also done so in my amps. I have a an NOS Telefunken in the 12ax7 position and rca cleartops in the 12au7 slots. Additionally, since my speakers have a built in sub and didn't need all the power from the KT120s and after speaking with Mark at Rogue, I switched to JJ KT88s. I really like the slightly warmer sound they provided without losing clarity. 

Im sure I can track down a pair of amperex 12ax7 from Jesse but am a bit surprised you think that's where the money might be.

Thanks everyone for all the feedback! It's giving me a lot to think about! Keep it coming! 

There is a reason ARC is known for pre-amps and has been since the 1970's.  At least try one out.  If you don't like it, try something else.


As is often the case, this has drifted away from the original question. TUBE PREAMPLIFIERS, I believe was the query.

While it is nice to see everyone here can afford $20K SS preamps, I have gone a different way.

I'm using a Primaluna Dialogue Premium preamplifier with NOS 12AU7 tubes (two original Mullards and 4 RCA Cleartops). This is currently connected to an NAD M23 SS amplifier, although I have tried this combo with 3 other SS amplifiers, including a PassLabs.

The tube pre with SS amp has been a wonderful success. The sound quality is quite impressive, with the very clean, smooth tube sound pushing the tight, punchy SS amplifier.

And this entire pairing can be had for much less than $10K. Plus, I get to tube roll the preamp to tweak the sound for various speakers I have.


Audio-gd Vacuum HE1 XLR Tube Preamplifier Review -           I bought this 10 tube preamp on the recommendation of the knowledgeable Walter Leiberman......This baby is a Monster to say the least. Being compared to preamps 10 x and more in cost. Read the above review. I think this is the best value in Hi Fi today. All for 4K.....Talk about punching above it's price point. It even has it's own Regenerative Power Supply that takes house current and changes it , then sends that new better current to the preamp...( similar to the PS Audio Power Plant.)