Tube preamp with Adcom amp

I have been wanting to use a tube preamp in my system but never had the chance to try one. I recently purchase an Adcom GFA-5500 with a Rotel RC-995 and to be honest, is sound good but I want to try something different. I am using the Vandersteen 2ci as my speakers. Due to my style of music, I have always been a SS guy. What would recommend for a tube preamp that will work with the 5500?

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Pretty much anything… Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Aesthetix, Rogue, Belles, VTL, Herron, Quicksilver… You should also ask over at the Vandersteen owners forum….

What is your budget ?

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At $2k i would be looking at Audio Research SP-17 if you need MM or HOMC and if not the  LS version. I have heard both in many systems and own a LS…

But the shopping list i gave stands.

I would check

search: tube preamp

sort: first seen, new first

price: 500 min, 2,500 maximum (always see what is just above your budget)

next: features: remote control; balance; mono mode; tape loop for ____? tape or processor, they allow optional use of an equalizer if your space would benefit from it; out of the circuit, or tape monitor to hear the difference.

phono: MM stage? I would use a separate phono stage with optional loading for mc; you can always use a SUT into Preamp’s MM Phono stage (IF you like it). Inclusion, un-used, might help eventual resale.


when you find something you are close to buying: do a separate google search, often items for sale do not get on hifishark. Happened many times for me and my friends

No remote control for Vintage Tube Preamp?

I love my McIntosh Vintage Tube Preamp mx110z, however, I want remote control.

I use this Remote Line Controller, made by Chase


I have given a few to friends, a few have bought their own, I have 3 myself.

Friends visit, I play with it in, and with it out of syste. No one has ever heard any difference, thus you get all the features with no detriment.

Shop/Garage system: I use it for system power on, and it’s features via my Yamaha 1020’s adapter loop. In/out, zero difference. Primarily remote volume control while working, mute for phone call, talk to the wifey, ....

Main system: same thing, On/Off to my Furman power filter, then all components powered from Furman’s capacitors with 45 amp reserve. Remote volume, balance. It has 4 line in, I use the McIntosh for source selection, just the Chase in/out a tape loop/monitor.

Once you have remote balance in a system with great imaging, you realize how many tracks benefit from a slight balance tweak. not just centering vocalist, but all instruments distinction is improved.

It also has built-in automatic/progressive Fletcher Munson ’loudness’ (progressive low volume bass boost). I don’t listen low volume, but if you do, a nice feature missing from modern equipment.

note: MUST have remote control for the Chase Unit: no controls on the unit.

Thanks for all the recommendations. As for remote, that would be a plus but don't really need one.

I think adding a tube pre is a great idea, but it really depends on what sound characteristics you’re looking for as they run the gamut from neutral to warm and everything in between.  Any further thoughts/goals would be most helpful.

I have just bought a 1 year old UK designed icon Audio LA4 Mk 111 pre for just over US$1000, mainly out of curiosity given AbSounds very positive review. I changed the EH 6SN7 tubes with Shuguang Black Treasures and am amazed at the performance. It is the quietest tube pre I have ever heard and it outperformed my 5 times more expensive well reviewed pre in all ways  - black background, musicality, soundstage etc. I won't name the pre as I will be wanting to sell it but the icon is a bargain even buying new.

Find a good condition Counterpoint SA-5.1 preamp.  One of the best overall sounding preamps and they can be upgraded to reference level. Plus is has an OK built in phono stage if you care to venture into TT territory.

If you are on a budget and decent quality the Schiit Freya + with tubes $1199

and decent relay controlled volume ,not cheap Alps volume pot that looks 

like a round silver can just metal sprayed on plastic wipers.

I’m also a big Audible Illusions fan. There’s a few M3 versions at your price point up for sale on Audiomart. I know they’re having an issue w preamp tubes in stock from an email I received a few weeks ago. But, other than that great preamp and real good phono stage.

Don’t forget about impedance matching when getting a tube pre for a solid state amp. Most preamps will be ok just saying…double check. 

Audio Research LS-25…if you can find it, get it. 

Also Rogue RP1 and RP5 are good options. 

The Music Room ( currently has 4 tube preamps for sale that are within your price range:

1) Audible Illusions = $1392

2/3) Conrad Johnson = $1299 & $1899

4) Modwright = $1551

The Music Room has a "buy it - try it" policy on used gear. If I was in your shoes, the Modwright would be my first choice (FWIW).


Again, thanks for all the recommendations. I am leaning towards the CJ but I have not decided yet. My ideal is to get a warmer sound without losing articulate tight bass.

If looking specifically at the cj ET3 or the PV12L on TMR, I’d bet the PV12 is closer to the classic cj tube sound than the more recent ET3 with remote. That cj sound signature has changed over time.

My experience with the Adcom GFA5500 was with a CJ Premier 2 and Audio Research LS-2 B Both sounded great. My Speakers were Dahlquist DQ 20.

Very Close to the Vandersteen's

+1 toro3 regarding the PV12L.I owned a PV10L and it was the classic sweet CJ sound.I don't recall that it effected the bass one way the another.I actually did use it one weekend with an Adcom amp.I was thinking it would better my little 60 watt amp I had at the time, but they sounded identical to me,so I kept what I had then.


Another +vote for Conrad Johnson.  Season's Greetings!


Happy Listening!


Thanks for all the recommendations. As for remote, that would be a plus but don't really need one.

Don't have a remote for my tube preamp either, but I do have one for my CD and DAC that comes in handy.  Vinyl is still it should be, LOL. 😉

Try the Audio Hungary or the cheaper Fezz Audio pre amps I have both of there INT. amps and there great for the $$

I would try the Cary SLP98.  It is a 6SN7 based preamp with a seperate power supply.  I've used this preamp in my system for several years and thoroughly enjoy it.  It has a nice tubey sound with a great midrange.  These can be had used for around $2000 on the used market.   JEK


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If you want a tubey sound, Conrad is a good way to go. Maybe others. Audio Research is more solid state sounding generally except maybe their earlier examples.


I wouldn't use the Chase remote controller because it affects the sound so adversely especially the phono. We used to sell them to non audiophiles that cared little about sound.




I've been using a BAT VK-3IX for several years with many different SS amps, from class A to class D, with great success.  I'm always amazed that BAT is rarely suggested in these types of posts....

Just be careful of impedance matching as others have said.  Some tube preamps have an output impedance that can rise to over 1kohm.

I started my mid-fi journey with NAD, then Adcom.  my hi-fi started when I added a CJ PV12-L for a preamp with the Adcom 5400.  I have never heard depth in soundstage like that first listen.  Always targeted the L-R soundstage but the CJ was 3D.
I regret giving it up, but it got noisy and balance was off. in hindsight, probably should have replaced all the tubes and would still have it feeding into a Rotel 1080- similar to the adcom, but slightly more coherent.

Following this thread because trying to decide if I can go back.  New speakers are ML ESL-X, the motion XT60 did better with the Rogue Chronus integrated, but the ESL might prefer with  the 200w Rotel.  the Chronus has preamp outs, so going to try it out.

I have decided to go with CJ. There are two CJ preamp near me that I am interested in but cant decide. The two preamp are a PV7 or PV10AL. Both seem to be in great condition. What would be the difference? Thanks

Early Audio Research (SP6 series, SP8) are famous for their classic sound and their superb phono sections.  Conrad Johnsons from this same period were more "tubey" sounding which comes through well on the solid state amps.  But plan to buy in-line gain-reducers for these preamps, as they pretty much all had high output voltages compared to more recent transistor gear.  Thus you may overload the amp, or at the very least will have the volume control turned down so low that it is barely usuable.


I recommend an EAR 912 (or lesser versions 868 with or without phono pre-amp). If you play LPs, the 912 is great!  It has dual LP inputs, mono switch, muting, 4 impedance and 3 gain settings,  Change the fuse to an Acme treated for $22, a pair of NOS Amperex and Mullards for the line stage and away you go to great sound.  It is paired with SS amps all the time.