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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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. 

There is a lot of suggestions that the best value is to be had when a Kit Design is adopted.

The idea of this should not be off putting, I have nearly all my audio devices produced by Electronics Engineers.

If a Engineers Service is to be used, the cost per hour in the UK, is usually between £30-40.

A Pre Amp Build will come in at approx' 3-4 Hours + Testing Time.

When this method is adopted the end user can decide on any Boutique Components wanted to be used and the design for the Casing they want.

My most recent build, that is 75% complete, is to have a Panzerholz Casing produced, which is intended to be the better of material options to attain the best from the sonic. This is done commercially by a limited amount of Companies and comes on Products that command a substantial asking price.

If a commercial route is taken and a Brand is selected, the cost of the aesthetics used for Casing, can alone surpass the costings for the products components, and the casing cost will most certainly surpass the overall costs for a Third Party Service Built Kit Design.  

I wouldn’t say ’it’s easy’ to get a great preamp under a grand, however, I’ve had that challenge before and it can be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of very very good stuff, especially vintage stuff, that you can really enjoy chasing down. Make sure to get good, competitive pricing on whatever you choose so that if it doesn’t work out you can at least get your money back- or most of it, moving it along so the next guy who needs $1,000 preamp.

And if I could add, when you're dealing with that kind of budget, I myself would keep it solid state because it'll be a lot easier to get something that works right out of the box now and going forward without having to dik around with tubes, which are lovely, but it's all a crapshoot without really good tubes.

Ps, I wasn't going to suggest one particular preamp because there are a lot of good ones in the world of vintage gear. That said, for a little more than the grand, I recommend a Krell KRC 3 which can probably be had for $1,200 at this point in time. For 1,200, you'll be living with a fine preamp that sounds better than some $5,000/$6,000 preamps I've had- and it has a remote.