VTL TL7.5 series lll VS VAC Master Line Stage VS AR Ref 6 VS Nagra Classic Preamp

I'm putting up a new thread about some of the best tube preamps out there.
My future system will consist to begin with of a stereo amp or monoblocks, a preamp, a DAC and a separate streamer, later on will come phono stage + turntable.
This system will be driving a pair of Thiel CS 3.7s and a pair of CS 7.2s.
If i don't go the hybrids route with either Ypsilon or Aesthetix i will probably choose d'Agostino amps.
Therefore since i'm using Thiel speakers i would like to have some tubes somewhere in the chain.
With ss amp i would use a tube preamp.
Which of these preamps do you thing will give best results with very good ss amps like the D'agostinos ?
You can suggest other tube preamps if you have other ideas in the same league as these.


some like PrimaLuna

but most any re-amp should be able to drive most any amp - the issues - if any - relate to the amp and speakers (esp. electrostatics)

I think control functionality is important in a pre-amp...
It would boil down to the ARC and the VTL.  Depending on system synergy, choose the best.  I typically prefer VTL over ARC.

Have fun choosing!!
I have an all ARC system. That is my personal favorite with Wilson speakers. I have also had the ARC Ref 40 in house with the D’Agostino Momentum stereo amp which sounded fabulous. I believe ARC pres and Dag amps are a very popular combination. Check out the virtual systems of Dag owners here and you will see that when they want tubes in the mix, it’s usually ARC.
However, I have heard all of these brands and each sounds great but each has a different "house sound". It will all come down to personal preference. I believe all would sound great with Thiels which are also very revealing but musical. I suggest that you ask people with Thiel speakers or dealers who sell Thiel. Lastly, some manufacturers will give you some guidance if you press them. Or at least they may tell you the leading brands that their customers often purchase. My guess is that ARC and VTL lead the pack in sales but that doesn’t mean they will be best for you. They are radically different sounding although neither is "colored". They simply project sound in a different way.
Do you guys think the VTL TL7.5 be a good match with d'Agostino amps and Thiel speakers ?
Did any of you compare VAC and VTL preamps ?
At the budget you have you might take a look at a used Dartzeel pre. Check out M Fremers ARC Ref 6 review in Stereophile. He compares it to the Dart pre.. You won't need tubes with the Dart in the system. FWIW

If you have any interest in the Dartzeel I'd contact Jonathan Tinn at Blue Light Audio about availability of used units. He's the U.S. distributor and a super guy. I wish this preamp was in my budget. 

Build quality of the VAC is superior to the others in terms of materials used and point to point wiring.  You also have inputs and outputs that can be configured either balanced or single ended.

I'm a VAC preamp owner for thirteen years and I have no thoughts of replacing it.

Guys i appreciate your inputs.
rhljazz how would you describe the house sound of the VAC ?
Is it more laid back, refined and warmer than the VTL ?

4425 thanks for you suggestion, i am actually considering the Dartzeel NHB-18NS but i was told that the XLR outputs are not at the same level as the single ended ones.
Since D'agostino amps only have balanced inputs that's something to take in consideration.
If i go to the Munich show this year i will ask Hervé Delétraz about that.
The good thing about the Dart is that you have the phono stage option and not worry about tube maintenance.
email Herve about the balanced question. he's a great guy and will respond quickly.,I think the overall quality of the unit and sonic superiority will supersede a minor loss with balanced cables if in fact it exists. i just don't think ARC's empty box can compete with hand built Swiss engineering from a genius like Herve. He's not going to MK 1/2/3 you either. on a side note I expect the Nagra would be awesome too. Read the stereophile ARC review comparing the two. You'll want the Dart. Plays at a higher level. FWIW
BTW I have the Agostino amp and simply love it. I use a Krell 2 box Phantom preamp and am blown away daily.

I have a VTL TL6.5 and like it very much - in regards to system synergy, the hybrid design of the VTL makes it compatible with pretty much any amps out there (due to low impedance of the FET drivers).

I've even driven amps with 50ohm input impedance with the VTL's - I don't think you want to try that with a pure tube design.

Can't comment on the VAC as I haven't tried that preamp but in terms of build quality - while I agree the VACs use nicer materials, the VTL's are as bulletproof as they come and have a lot of self-monitoring and fault isolation circuitry that I haven't see in a lot of other gear.

That said, I think once you are at this level, any of these will work for you and it's a matter of sonic preference and system synergy.
A good match would be the Wyetech Labs Ruby STD tube preamp for speed and dynamics to match those ss amps

4425 i got a mail response from Hervé, it seems that he doesn't really like people using his NHB-18NS with other brand amps...
If i choose his NHB-18 NS he recommends purchasing the corresponding NHB-108 stereo amp.
He says this amp can drive pretty difficult loads like the Thiel CS 7.2s.
What do you guys think ?
I'm surprised he was not positive about using different different amps. I don't agree but I'm not him. I expect ARC would say the same thing but ARC preamps are used with many different brands of amps. No different for the Dart. 
As great as the NHB -108 is I'd want more power for your speakers such as the Agostino Classic Stereo or a used Momentum Stereo unit. They are awesome. As always just my opinion. 


what other gear, including cabling, is in your system?
I know that you are enjoying the Krell Phantom- I have read very positive reviews about it!

Happy Listening!
"i am actually considering the Dartzeel NHB-18NS but i was told that the XLR outputs are not at the same level as the single ended ones."

John Atkinson, test of above preamp published in Stereophile:

"Turning to the NHB-18NS’s line-stage performance, I looked first at the balanced input. Measured at the balanced outputs with the input set to "Pro," this gave a maximum gain of 9.3dB. Switching in the –6dB input pad gave 4.85dB. Absolute polarity was preserved, indicating that the XLRs are wired with pin 2 hot. The input impedance was an extremely low 640 ohms, while the output impedance was a high 2500 ohms at low and midrange frequencies, rising to 3080 ohms at 20kHz. The input impedance is too low for many source components to give their best performance, the output impedance a little high for some power amplifiers.
The balanced input’s frequency response didn’t vary with different settings of the volume control, but it did peak by 0.75–1.25dB at 42kHz before precipitously rolling off (fig.3, top pair of traces). The audioband response was flat with the input switch set to "Pro," but with the input set to "–6dB," a –0.75dB trough appeared in the treble (fig.3, lower pair of traces). A glance under the preamp’s cover told me that the balanced input and output appear to be realized with transformers, which are presumably the cause of the response anomalies. Even so, I don’t feel the DarTZeel’s balanced inputs and outputs to be of much practical use, the unbalanced jacks being better behaved."

Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/dartzeel-nhb-18ns-preamplifier-measurements#d1Fd12jf0zGKjyAS.99

This confirms what you heard as well as this preamp’s incompatibility with other brands of amps (and sources) using XLR inputs/outputs as stated by the manufacturer.

I would look elsewhere, thieliste.

jafant my system that I'm very fortunate to have is a Naim server to Bricasti dac, Krell Phantom pre, Momentum s250, Salon 2's, latest Audience Ar6 and Frey2 cables. Power cords are a wild mix of non Nordost. 

Any updates on opinions on the tube preamps at this point?


VAC master (linestage)

to be used with pass amps

Post removed 


I’ve been using a VAC Master with a Pass Labs X250.8 amp into Magnepans and now YG Acoustics Carmel 2 speakers with great results.  The Master and its use of 6922 tubes allows you to tube roll and find the sound that you like.  I’m partial to Telefunkens.  In a few weeks, I’ll receive my Coda No 16 amp, and I’m sure 100 watts of class A power will be even more revealing and impactful without giving up the richness and smoothness of the Pass.  

Following that my YGs will undergo upgrading to the 3rd generation.  They surprised everyone at the Munich Audio show, and my dealer was also blindsided.  Good thing YG has upgrade pathways for their speakers.  Will this ever end?

I have been using a VTL 7.5 iii for almost 7 years, which I purchased used one year old. No hiccups at all.  I use 12AU7 7316 Amperex NOS tubes (try finding any) in this hybrid 2 piece unit. I have had preamps from C-J, Hovland, Wyetech Opal (5 stars) but the VTL far surpasses any of the foregoing. It is just pristine, no coloration, all the music comes straight through. Not too forward, not too reticent, not to syrupy, not too hyper-fast. Just right. It is not going anywhere.  Neal

@kmmd I'll be curious to hear about your impression adding the Coda versus the Pass amp. Because both the 250.8 and Coda 16 are on my shortlists for amp upgrades.

I have the VTL 6.5 III for the tubes and the high number of inputs including two tape monitors.  The stock tubes were SHOUTY.  I have not tried the Amperex, but NOS or lightly used and matched Mullards are quite nice.

Y'all be safe,



My Coda 16 was delivered 5 hours ago, and I’ve been listening to it for the past 3 hours or so. Simply said, get the Coda. What everyone says about it here on the Audiogon forums or What’s Best is true. It is one stunning amp in every way.

Happy listening! I know I am.

@kmmd That amp is on my very short list, there's one listed that's tempting me greatly. Keep me posted if you wouldn't mind!


Today is my second day with this amp. I have to work later today but got up early to listen to the amp in my system.

The Coda is an unbelievable amp. I have it plugged into my Shunyata Everest conditioner, and I’ve had zero noise ever since I’ve owned the Everest. The Coda is extremely revealing, dynamic and transparent with excellent extension. It results in clarity and detail of everything. Transients are quick. Midbass is sharp, punchy and makes you feel it. (Sorry Maggie owners, you will never know what this is). It has authoritative control of bass, and my REL subs are deep and impactful. Everything sounds more organic and definitive. I wonder what the damping factor is of the Coda 16.

I listened to tracks by Lauren Daigle. Her song You Say revealed stage depth with echoes of her voice. Look Up Child revealed the thumpy in-your-chest midbass. Rihanna’s Lift Me Up is breathtaking. Her voice goes from a large center focus, up to the ceiling and off to the sides way past the speakers. Eva Cassidy’s album Nightbird gives you goosebumps. The dispersion is immense and limitless. Voices in all songs just project and disperse. The sound is deep, high and wide resulting in an immense soundstage. There are no speakers lol.  How is this possible from my YG Acoustics Carmel 2’s which are only about 40 inches tall?


Please don’t get me wrong, the Pass Labs X250.8 is a special amp too. It is warmer and will work well with many systems. The Coda 16, with its Class A efficiency up to 100w x 2, is in a different league. The Coda runs warm and not hot too. I’m happy to own both of them and will never let either one of them go.

@kmmd Have you ever heard Parasound by chance? If you had to grade out of ten, ten being warmest, how much warmer is Pass vs Coda 16? I'm a big fan of transparency but also balancing out the forward nature of my Focals. Also been curious to try brand synergy given my pre is a Pass XP22 which I love.


Thank you for chiming in, by the way.


I have not heard Parasound amps, but they have a very good reputation.

Honestly I can’t grade how much warmer the Pass Labs is, as I don’t have a reference as to what a 5 or 10 is. Also in keeping with the OP’s theme, I’d like to keep this to the preamps mentioned and what amps may work well. Also bear in mind that I can do one thing with my VAC Master preamp and that is to tube roll. I can roll in my Mullard 6922s, and I have a warm system.


I see that you have a Pass Labs preamp. Maybe you can match it with their amp. I’d reach out to Mark at Reno Hifi and ask him. Great guy, very knowledgeable and he knows the Pass lineup well. I purchased my X250.8 from him. He does have an in home audition program too. Perhaps you may want to change your preamp or speakers as options.  You may also want to start a new thread with your questions with respect to your system.


@kmmd Fair point, by no means did I mean to hijack the OP's thread. Just very rare to find someone with experience on two amps I'm close to considering. So i appreciate all the feedback truly, happy to PM and not clutter further.

Another vote for VTL over ARC. I've listened to pretty much all the brands and I've never been impressed by any ARC system to be honest. The VTL 7.5 III on the other hand is very very special. It is holographic and bodied without being overly bloomy, slow, nor colored. It's also dynamic and extended without sounding edgy nor dry

Dag amps would work well, but depends on how much meat on the bones you want. Ideally for any tube preamp pairing, the synergy should be with an amp that specializes in speed, articulation, and absolute control like Boulder. But if you want the combo to be warm and bloomy, Dag will do well.