Peter said: As for the KX-R, I can’t say enough good things. I believe it to be the most complete product Ayre has ever made -- a defining achievement for a company known for its string of audio achievements. The KX-R is an ideal reference tool for my life as a reviewer, and an ideal instrument for my audiophile passions.
The gist: One of the best preamps in the world, period.
Price: $6250 as reviewed; base price $4500
John said: If you can get past the BC310FY’s looks, you’ll be rewarded with sound that is always musical and enjoyable.
The gist: Not a nuclear power plant, but a really good preamp.
Prices: Bryston BP26 DA ($2695) with built-in DAC (add $1295), MPS2 power supply (add $1500), and BR-2 remote control (add $350)
Howard said: The Bryston BP26 DA preamplifier and matching MPS2 power supply together comprise a flexible, feature-laden, great-sounding preamplifier that will likely make most owners extremely happy. They have a 20-year warranty, they look great, and, like all Bryston products, are built to survive nuclear Armageddon.
The gist: Predictable solid performer.
Price: $5295 (linestage only); $6995 (with phono stage)
Garrett said: The EAR 868 is yet another superb piece of engineering from Tim de Paravicini, and deserves serious consideration by anyone looking for a full-function preamp of stunning good looks that produces a big sound and an unforgettably rich tone with all kinds of music.
The gist: At the price, might as well get the phono stage.
John said: If you’re looking to move up to separates from a receiver or an integrated amplifier, the Operetta RC2000P is definitely a component you should hear. Add in its ability to be run fully balanced, and you have the makings of a top-flight music system. Unprepossessing? Yes. Musical? Most definitely.
The gist: Entry-level preamp with some upscale features.
Garrett said: . . . the VAC Renaissance Mk.3 boasts the most impressive combination of serious sound, first-class build, great looks, compatibility with a range of amps, and overall flexibility in its numerous features of any model I’ve yet had in my system.
The gist: A great combination of qualities that should suit almost any music-loving audiophile.
Price: $9900 (line stage), $11,900 (with phono stage)
Garrett said: In the past few years I’ve auditioned a number of different preamps, some for review, some not. A few could be critiqued as being too incisive, too polite, too limited in features, not compatible with a wide enough range of amplifiers. Another few could be considered "serious" in terms of their sound. But of all these preamps, the VAC Renaissance Mk.3 boasts the most impressive combination of serious sound, first-class build, great looks, compatibility with a range of amps, and overall flexibility in its numerous features of any model I’ve yet had in my system.
The gist: Garrett's choice in an expensive tube preamp.