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.

Ag insider logo xs@2xhighend64

+++ for the Akitika 102.  Running it with Elekit TU8600S 300b based SET amp - gorgeous sound.

Have you considered going the minimalistic route (aka a passive preamp)?

Here’s a review of one that meets your budget: The Truth Review

@ highend 64 the following quoted info is from a thread I posted on not too far back.

I have seen you have not rejected the idea of a DIY Build and after reading your description for your preferred balance of across the frequencies and produced  sonic, if I have got the interpretation correct.

As a result of having become quite familiar with this design in use, and partnered with both Tube and SS Power Amp's. I strongly suggest the Pass KB1 Pre - Amp will be quite fitting for your needs. 

Note: The KB1 has a 'version of a Tetrode Tube' which is a Korg Nutube, this part is a modern approach to a Thermionic Tube usage for a pre-amp.

Note: The KB1 is not producing a sonic with a hint of Richness it is Transparent and very revealing of the wholeness of the embedded data within a recording.


"There was a want to bring in a New Pre Amp, where money was not too much of a constraint for a purchase option on a New Pre Amp' for the owner of the exchanged model EAR Power Amp.

The monies available for the Pre Amp' was working towards £7K, which shares a similarity to your own situation.

A host of Pre Amp's were available for Home Demo's of which one was the EAR 868. Out of the Commercial Pre's being demo'd the EAR was the one that impressed the most.

Note: The 868 is not a Lush or Rich Toned Pre Amp, it has clarity and detail retrieval with unnoticeable smearing affecting the micro details.

Here is a curve ball, there was also at the Pre Amp Demo's, a PASS KB1 Pre Amp present, and it delivered in a manner that was not easy to overlook.

It was also commanding a cost that was very very attractive, and suggested methods to upgrade were also made known and the cost that would be needed to include these.

The EAR owner has chosen the Pass KB1 as their Pre Amp and a few other Valve Power Amp owners within the Group are also using the Pass KB1.

At present I am having a Balanced Design of the Pre Amp' produced to couple to my monoblock Power Amp's. 

A Pass KB1 can be acquired for a very respectable outlay. If it does not deliver to your preference, it will sell on and a valuable experience will have been encountered."


As an Update, there are KB1's now in use with a few changes to the basic build, where Volume Controls and a few Cap's have been exchanged.

These versions with well known, but carefully thought out tweaks to the Circuit are standout over the earlier guises experienced. The Tweaks come in at no more that £150 if a certain value of VC is selected as the exchange part.

Your very best value is a VTA SP-13.  It has the same circuit as the SP-14, but is about half the price of the SP-14.  The SP-14 is the same thing as a Don Sachs preamp (list price at $2500), but in a plain utilitarian enclosure.  The SP-13 is $595 in kit form and $760 assembled and tested.  Get the kit.  You'll get enormous satisfaction, learn a great deal and be much more involved in your system in doing so.  Best value in audio.


I am partial to tubes in the preamp by a large margin.

A used Audible Illusions or Melos would be very good if you can find one.

I have also bought 12 clone board sets from Aliexpress as well as helped modify several complete tube preamps from AliExpress for local audiophiles in the Las Vegas Audiophile society of which I am the admin.
 I can say with certainty that this one ARC clone is REALLY good as well as the EAR .https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256801635725386.html?spm=a2g0o.cart.0.0.4b2856bacbP0UP&mp=1&gatewayAdapt=glo2usa



I would not hesitate to buy from either seller as well. The VTA SP-13 mentioned above is locally made here in Las Vegas as well but is not as good of a value and is a but "Tubey" to me but some like to add that flavor.

The Musical paradise is the best bet if you want to tweak and play with tube and coupling caps and is a good into to basic DIY mods.

If you get into DIY then the playing field opens up a lot.