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Thread: Preamp ~$1-2k

  1. #1

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    Default Preamp ~$1-2k

    Well this is purely hypothetical, as I don't have this kind of coin to spend on a preamp right now. I'm hoping to save up the money over the next year or so, and I'd like to get the research done ahead of time, so that by the time I have the cash I can jump on a good deal when I see it.

    My only requirements are that it be tubed and have a remote for volume and hopefully input selection.


    Here's my (very) shortlist so far:

    - Audio Research LS-15

    - Belles 20A or 21A


    Thoughts? Comparisons?

    Other suggestions are welcomed and encouraged.
    Last edited by falconcry72; 08-29-2011 at 10:30 PM.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  2. #2

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    BAT VK20
    BAT VK3i
    Audio Research
    Conrad Johnson
    Carey
    Manley
    2 Channel-
    Soundlab M3PX
    BAT VK-31
    Wyred SX1000 monos
    Esoteric DV50
    Dynavector p75 modded phono stage
    Rega P25 modded-Denon 103R Cart
    Squeezebox Touch
    Modded Music Hall DAC Burson op amps
    Richard Grey 600S
    MIT Shotgun IC's and SC

  3. #3

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    I almost bought a Bells 21A. Good pre especially with the Auricap upgrade, and it's easy to do. I ended up getting a BAT VK3i though as it had the tubes I wanted to use in it and sounds very nice. It is in your price range (used) as well.

    Greg
    Taken from a recent Audioholics reply regarding "Club Polk" and Polk speakers:

    "I'm yet to hear a Polk speaker that merits more than a sentence and 60 seconds discussion."

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    It ain't tubed, but my Wyred 4 Sound pre has made everything better. Go for balanced IC's if you can spare the coin.

    Wes
    Link: http://polkarmy.com/forums

    Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" HDTV | Polk Audio SDA-SRS's (w/RDO's & Vampire Posts) + SVS PC+ 25-31 | AudioQuest Granite (mids) + BWA Silver (highs) | Cary Audio CAD-200 | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Wyred 4 Sound STP/SE Pre | Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR's | Cambridge Audio azur 840C--Wadia 170i + iPod jammed w/ lossless audio--Oppo 970 | Pure|AV PF31d

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-SIG View Post
    ...Go for balanced IC's if you can spare the coin.

    Wes
    I just recently went balanced in my system, and it was a definite improvement.

    I went from MIT AVT-1 single-ended IC's (MSRP ~$400) to Signal Cable Analog 2 balanced IC's (MSRP ~$120), and I am very happy about the change.

    I would like to continue to run balanced, but I'm not wed to it. If I can get a good deal on a quality unbalanced piece, (ie. the Belles 350a), then so be it.
    Last edited by falconcry72; 08-30-2011 at 12:49 AM.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  6. #6

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    The bat is balanced lol. I've heard the unit and really like it. It tends to still have a ss sound to it even though its tubed. Very enjoyable and well built. They have great customer service if something goes wrong even on used gear.
    2 Channel-
    Soundlab M3PX
    BAT VK-31
    Wyred SX1000 monos
    Esoteric DV50
    Dynavector p75 modded phono stage
    Rega P25 modded-Denon 103R Cart
    Squeezebox Touch
    Modded Music Hall DAC Burson op amps
    Richard Grey 600S
    MIT Shotgun IC's and SC

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    I'm pretty impressed with my Conrad Johnson, so +1 to that suggestion.
    Are you part of the dirty digital peasants or a member of the great Analog Master Race?

    SDA Recommended Playlist https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/...FZCRkdxYXVNanc

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    Manley Jumbo Shrimp used.

    http://www.manley.com/mspr.php
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D

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    I'd look for a Melos SHA-1. Find one. Buy it. Ronco it.

    Others I've had/have that I'd recommend:

    Carver C-19
    Manley Shrimp.

    CJ would depend on which model....I've heard some definate winners some good but not great.

    Dodd Battery if you can find it....

    I wouldn't let balanced be a deal breaker...unless you are dealing with unusually long runs of IC's.

    BDT
    Last edited by TroyD; 08-31-2011 at 02:25 PM.
    I plan for the future. - F1Nut

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    Lots of great suggestions-- the Melos is a killer pre--I killed mine unfortunately--
    JC approves....he told me so. (F-1 nut)

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    The Jumbo Shrimp has been the one I've been eye-balling for a potential tube pre.

    Transport: Oppo BDP-103/USB HDD (flac)
    DAC/Preamp: Benchmark DAC/PRE
    Power Amp: Parasound HCA-1500A
    Speakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 Monitor
    Cables: Kimber Hero/8TC; DH Labs D-75

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    Rogue 66 Magnum or std can be bought used very reasonable and will get you amazingly close to the other pre's in your price range. The AR SP16L is also very good and in your price range.
    DKG999
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    HT System: LSi9, LSiCx2, LSiFX, LSi7, SVS 20-39 PC+, B&K 507.s2 AVR, B&K Ref 125.2, Tripplite LCR-2400, Cambridge 650BD, Signal Cable PC/SC, BJC IC, Samsung 55" LED

    Music System: Magnepan 1.6QR, SVS SB12+, ARC pre, Parasound HCA1500 vertically bi-amped, Jolida CDP, Pro-Ject RM5.1SE TT, Pro-Ject TubeBox SE phono pre, SBT, PS Audio DLIII DAC

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    Lots of Carver stuff and a pair of LSi9's

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    Huge fan of Conrad Johnson. Great stuff to be had by them.

    Plus they just look awesome..
    Quote Originally Posted by Timothy Smith View Post
    WOW!

    That's like working your way through Katie Perry in order to get to Rosie O'Donnell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    ...The AR SP16L is also very good and in your price range.
    How does the SP-16L stack up against the LS-15?

    I'm sure they sound different. The LS-15 uses (4) 6922's in the audio circuit, but a sloid state power supply, while the SP-16L uses (3) 12AX7's for the audio and gain stages.

    Any thoughts on the two?

    I was also looking at the LS-1, LS-2, and LS-3B (solid state),as well as the LS-7 or 8, because they can be had cheaper, but the LS-15 and SP-16L look to be worth the extra coin.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  16. #16

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    I've not had a chance to compare the LS-15 and the SP-16L, however there are some differences between those two tube types that would have to impact the sound. I know the 12ax7 tube gets somewhat disparaged as a pre-amp tube, but I have to say that I preferred the 12ax7 tubes in my phono pre compared to a phono pre with the 6922 tubes in it.
    DKG999
    -----------------------------------------
    HT System: LSi9, LSiCx2, LSiFX, LSi7, SVS 20-39 PC+, B&K 507.s2 AVR, B&K Ref 125.2, Tripplite LCR-2400, Cambridge 650BD, Signal Cable PC/SC, BJC IC, Samsung 55" LED

    Music System: Magnepan 1.6QR, SVS SB12+, ARC pre, Parasound HCA1500 vertically bi-amped, Jolida CDP, Pro-Ject RM5.1SE TT, Pro-Ject TubeBox SE phono pre, SBT, PS Audio DLIII DAC

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    The right vintage 12AX7's or even 5751's can sound marvelous.

    As always, YMMV

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    I've not had a chance to compare the LS-15 and the SP-16L, however there are some differences between those two tube types that would have to impact the sound. I know the 12ax7 tube gets somewhat disparaged as a pre-amp tube, but I have to say that I preferred the 12ax7 tubes in my phono pre compared to a phono pre with the 6922 tubes in it.
    It would be nice to be able to get my ears on both, but that's going to be virtually impossible aside from buying both.

    Also, the LS-15 has balanced inputs and outputs. Not a deal-sealer by any means, but a sonic consideration, nonetheless.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  19. #19

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    Modwright - tubes, remote and HT Bypass.
    Let me tell you something about life, around every corner monsters await. I know, I am one.

    If I owned hell and this place, I would rent this place out and live in hell.

    Mains: Anthony Gallo Reference 3.1
    Preamp: Modwright SWL9.0SE
    Amps: Butler TBD2250, PS Audio Trio
    PrePro: Cary Cinema 6, Outlaw 990
    DAC: Benchmark DAC1
    Universal Player: Denon 2900
    Cables: StraightWire Encore II, Kimber Hero, Audioquest Type 4, CV-8, Columbia DBS
    Power Conditioner: Belkin PF60

  20. #20

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    Alright guys, thanks to all for the thoughtful suggestions. I love learning about new gear, and it seems at this price point there is A LOT of competition, which is good thing.

    I think have decided to go ARC. Not because I believe that an ARC piece will sound better than any of the others mentioned hear, but because ARC is so well known and well written about, that by getting to know an ARC product I will be able to judge other products better in comparison reviews etc. I want to own an ARC preamp at some point in my journey, so it might as well be sooner rather than later.

    I've got it narrowed down to the same two mentioned above for this price range:

    LS-15 and SP-16L

    Can anybody compare the two?
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  21. #21

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    I would love to get my ears on a Joules Electra LA-150 only because Jesse has one and highly recommends it. They can be had in that price range used.
    Speakers: SDA-1C (most all the goodies)
    Preamp: Joule Electra LA-150 MKII SE
    Amp: Wright WPA 50-50 EAT KT88s
    Analog: Marantz TT-15S1 MBS Glider SL| Wright WPP100C Amperex BB 6er5 and 7316 & WPM-100 SUT
    Digital: Mac mini 2.3GHz dual-core i5 8g RAM 1.5 TB HDD Music Server Amarra (memory play) - USB - W4S DAC 2
    Cables: Mits S3 IC and Spk cables| PS Audio PCs

    Ofc: Wright WLA12 preamp: Anthem Amp 1: Pio Elite DV-79AVI: Airport Express: CAL Sigma II DAC: PA LS90 sonicaps and mills

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    Quote Originally Posted by falconcry72 View Post
    Alright guys, thanks to all for the thoughtful suggestions. I love learning about new gear, and it seems at this price point there is A LOT of competition, which is good thing.

    Something to think about at this point is used or new. I suggest used. You can pick one up, try it and sell it for the same amount. This allows you to keep going until you find that perfect sound. The other option is new, obviously. Once you purchase it don't expect to get more than 60% of its value when you sell it. If it was the right choice then great. Some who insist on new equipment do the used thing and once they find the winner they sell it and buy a new one. Truthfully it doesn't really matter after it sits in your rack for a week.
    Vinyl, the final frontier...

    Avantgarde horns, 300b tubes, thats the kinda crap I want... :D

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    +1 ^^^^^^^^^^
    Speakers: SDA-1C (most all the goodies)
    Preamp: Joule Electra LA-150 MKII SE
    Amp: Wright WPA 50-50 EAT KT88s
    Analog: Marantz TT-15S1 MBS Glider SL| Wright WPP100C Amperex BB 6er5 and 7316 & WPM-100 SUT
    Digital: Mac mini 2.3GHz dual-core i5 8g RAM 1.5 TB HDD Music Server Amarra (memory play) - USB - W4S DAC 2
    Cables: Mits S3 IC and Spk cables| PS Audio PCs

    Ofc: Wright WLA12 preamp: Anthem Amp 1: Pio Elite DV-79AVI: Airport Express: CAL Sigma II DAC: PA LS90 sonicaps and mills

  24. #24

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    The models I'm looking at are OOP, so new is out of the question.

    In my entire 2-channel system, which consists of about 13 pieces, the only ones I bought new were the V-Link and Signal Cable IC's.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  25. #25

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    So about the ARC LS line:

    It looks like the LS-15 and 16 used (4) 6922's, then for the 16 mkii they switched to (2) 6H30's. The 17 also uses (2) 6H30's.

    Is there a big difference in sound quality between these two different tubes and designs?

    Is it worth the extra cheddar for a 16ii or 17 vs. a 15?


    A pair of Magnepan 3.6's just landed in my lap, so I feel the need now more than ever to upgrade my preamp; ironically, I now have less cash than ever to spend on one.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  26. #26

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    I cannot compare the LS15 to a SP16II per say, but I can compare the LS25 to a 26 and the difference was stunning. Frankly, When I had the 25 in house, I was never really "satisfied" and kept going back to my old VTL 2.5. I could never really put my finger on why 25 didn't cut it except to say that the VTL just sounded better. Better midrange and sparkle, a bit flubbier on the low end perhaps. The LS25 was just dry and lifeless. No dimensionality. The soundstage was wide but shallow.
    Lately I have had a LS26 in the rack and it is everything the 25 was not and more. The internals are very different. The sound is very smooth, silky and warm and tight. The soundstage is 3 dimensional and lifelike. The LS26 definitely peeled back another layer of the shroud. I have yet to miss the 2.5 in the mix.

    I don't know if that helps you any but there you go. I will say that for my personal taste, the VTL 2.5 is hard to beat fro twice the coin. It can be had for around 750 - 900 and would be a huge step up from your Parasound.

    /.02
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    Polk LS 90's - Front
    Polk CS350 LS - Center
    Polk Monitor 50's - Rear
    JBL Northridge E150P - Sub

    2 Channel:
    Oppo BDP-83 SE
    Muscial Fidelity M1 DAC
    VTL 2.5
    McIntosh 2205 (refurbed)
    Polk LS90's (spiked & tweeked)
    Cardas IC's
    Cardas Bi-Wire

  27. #27

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    6H30's tend to have a more solid state presentation rather than the typical tube presentation. They are little less 3D (euphoric) and more linear than say a 6922 or 12AX7, etc. If your other gear is already leaning on more of an SS presentation the 6H30's won't help you get a more tubey presentation.

    Of course I have never heard that particular pre-amp, just going on examples of BAT gear thay use the 6H30 and what other things I've read about its use.

    YMMV

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  28. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    6H30's tend to have a more solid state presentation rather than the typical tube presentation. They are little less 3D (euphoric) and more linear than say a 6922 or 12AX7, etc. If your other gear is already leaning on more of an SS presentation the 6H30's won't help you get a more tubey presentation.

    Of course I have never heard that particular pre-amp, just going on examples of BAT gear thay use the 6H30 and what other things I've read about its use.

    YMMV

    H9
    hmm. From your insight into the tube differences, and a few reviews I found elsewhere, it seems like the LS-15 will be tubier, warmer, and more liquid, while the LS-17 will be clearer and more transparent.

    I want tuby. I want warmth. I want liquidity. My 3.6's demand it, especially in my too-small, too-bright room. My amp is not particularly warm sounding either.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  29. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by TroyD View Post
    Dodd Battery if you can find it....
    There's one on the 'gon for 1600. Comes with a stupid generic remote instead of the awesome wood remote that it should have.

    What else can you tell me about it?
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  30. #30

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    So I've got it narrowed to the ARC LS-15 (or 16 mk1) or SP-16.

    Again, the main difference appears to lie in the tubes:

    LS-15: (4) 6922's in the audio circuit, solid state power supply.

    SP-16: (3) 12Ax7's used for both the audio circuit and gain. If I got the non-"L" version, there would be an additional (3) 12Ax7's for the phono section.


    Having a phono section is not going to sway me one way or the other, so it's really about these preamps as linestages.

    I'm assuming that the SP-16 will sound tubier, based on it having tube-based gain, but I have no idea if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

    I have no experience with these or any other tubes.

    Any help here is appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Ben
    Last edited by falconcry72; 09-16-2011 at 01:32 PM.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

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