Upgrading preamp. Best for under $1K

I am planning on upgrading my preamp and was wondering what would be the best preamp for under $1K. Currently have the Rotel RC-995 with a B&K ST2140 amp and Vandersteen 2ci speakers. I like to stay with SS unless their is tube pre in that price range.

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Wow, have not seen Transcendental mentioned for years! He had a sweet Jordan module design. 

You did not say how many inputs, RCA or XLR, if you need MM or MC, tone, remote etc. 

Anyway, if I go with the Chord DAC,  I'll need another preamp. Have my eye on the Schiit Kara and the Topping A90 discrete. The Ladder and Gustard both look good, but no remote. Reviews of the newest Emotiva seem reasonable.   Preamps are not very hard and should not cost a fortune, but of course, the ego-driven audiofool market says we need $80.000 preamps encased in billet aluminum which is course does nothing to shield hum.  

I had a Nakamichi PA-5 years ago and loved it. It has a smooth and sweet sound.   The old Apt Holman was well regarded, but left me cold.  Back when I had a B&K ST-140, ( modified)  I used the original Hafler kit. Clean for it's time but crap switches of course.  If all you need is a buffer and volume control, the JDS Atom+ is an amazing little box for the super high price of $109.  My Schiit Asgard is OK, but the JDS is cleaner. Atom amp and Atom DAC are on my desk  feeding my Rekkr on my desk and is very nice. 

So, it depends on what features you need and if you want it to be clean or provide some sort of preferred distortion.  The Schiit Frea gives you both options.  The B&K already gives you a little smoothness in the mids, so a squeaky clean CH-FI might do you fine.  Amazon return policy makes it easy.  Schiit also has a return policy.  I just ordered a Vidar that I expect to more neutral than my own MOSFET amp, so undecided if I want the perfect clean of the Topping or a little more tuned-by-ear as Schiit does.  I have short cables so RCAs are fine for me. 

1K a downgrade?   Well, it depends if you are looking purely for performance, or want to buy prestige.  For pure sonic purity, my JDS Atom+ will blow that Rotel away.  2 inputs, plastic case, no ego value.  Three orders of magnitude cleaner than the amp. ( And I do like those amps).  It just won't impress your friends sitting on a big rack between the speakers.    Your choice.  

im familiar with tube gear, and there are plenty of tube preamps for a grand, especially on USAM, and its a quick look thru what they got. theres some good new stuff, too. here are some suggestions:


its 1200 new but under a grand used of course

used VTA SP-14

quicksilver line stage...im not too familiar with it but its pretty damn popular



Line 2CRM Line Preamplifier


tomcat audio 


VTA sp-13


"I really thought that for under $1k today you can only downgrade no matter what you trying to upgrade!" 


@czarivey at a grand, for quiality hifi preamps, theres a lot of options. if you can solder, u got a lot more. if u add used. u have an immense amount of work ahead of you narrowing down your choices. 


It’s my level of irony to the general quality of items being made today :)

Just replaced my near-new 6mo old dishwasher with one found at curbside with trivial rotary switches approximately 20+ years old. The replaced one has just been warranty repaired and put aside for sale so it will be soon OPJ -- other people’s junk -- not mine!

I guarantee that in about 6 months the owners of the new units will dream about  good old days when they had good working dishwasher I found at their curbside.

got my idea -- I’ve just replaced near $1k unit by the free one from curbside -- what an upgrade!!

I’d give the Parasound New Class 200 Pre a try (not the integrated option).

It has tones of flexibility and sounds real good,,, and is within your stated price or less if used (alot of mentioned options are beyond your stated price). 

PS: and the remote is arguably the best, well thought out, full function remote any manufacturer makes.