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. 



@sbank I believe you stated that the Backert Labs preamplifiers are not fully balanced, this is not true, they are fully balanced where there is an XLR connection, both output and input. The Rhythm has two XLR fully balanced inputs while the Rhumba and Rhumba Extreme only have one fully balanced input. All units have one fully balanced XLR output.

Concerning the OPs question on creating depth I believe one should begin by looking at the room acoutstic / layout and the positioning of the speakers. 30 inches out into the room might not be far enough, particularly if measured from the front of the speaker and if the components are set between the speakers. It is not apparent to me from the post how the room is laid out nor the speaker positioning within the room. Furniture can easily get in the way of creating the perfect sound stage.

I have two Backert preamplifiers, Rhythm and Rhumba Extreme and they both help create  a wonderful sound stage which includes wonderful depth, however my speakers are 54 inches, measured to the front baffle to the room's front wall. My rack, which is between, is extremely low. The top of the preamplifier is no more than 26 inches above the floor measured to its top. I also have no furniture other than a sofa with a small coffee table in front of the sofa so the speakers really float freely in the room.

Prior to moving onto new preamplifiers in hopes of developing more depth with in your sound stage I would play with the room and speaker position. Certainly the first thing I would do is pull the speakers further into the room and make sure nothing will interfere with the sound as it leaves the speakers and heads toward your listening position, nothing around them to block the creation of the sound stage. Sound absorbing panels placed at the first reflection points and if your room is on the smaller size some bass traps will greatly enhance your sound stage.

Another area to explore is speakers. Certain speaker designs are much easier to create pin point instrument placement within a sound stage. You should be able to create the illusion of musicians being placed beyond the front wall, which is what I believe you are after.

Good luck.


I had an ARC 5se, paired with an ARC Ref 75se driving Kharma CRM 3.2fe speakers.  Its power supply blew up, and I had other repair problems with it.  And it sounded so bright, especially with classical music.  I replaced it with an RP-7.  Love the sound--warm, lush, dynamic.  The combo's timbre is so right.  And the RP-7 works right.

Make an all Brinkmann System. I have this setup in my showroom. It's spellbinding...

@axo0oxa I didn't say the Backert preamps don't have XLR inputs or outputs. I said that the circuit isn't fully balanced. That's not the same thing. Lots of manufacturers add xlrs for convenience and compatability, but fully balanced circuitry adds plenty to the cost and requires changes to the design. The Backert Labs preamps are great products, I am not knocking them at all. But for buyers who value true balanced, it's a distinction worth noting. Cheers,


There was a seller who had the last generation of Don Sachs preamp on the other classified site. It was a good price so I pulled the trigger. Seller has the newer one also and said the sound wasn't markedly different so I figured this is a small investment and we'll see if I like it. If I do I'll likely have him build me a new one and sell the old one. Too many great comments to not try it out.