I use my BHA1 as a preamp and am very happy with it in that regard. It is fast, detailed but not too bright, clear, quiet, has great bass and the soundstage is deep with good separation of instruments, vocals, ect. When I first got it I was less enthusiastic with its character but I was also comparing it to a tube preamp (which I still use and enjoy in another system). I never heard the other Bryston preamps so I can't compare. If you're set on a Bryston amp, buy it and try the BHA as a preamp. If you like it, great, if not you sound like you are willing to try different preamps anyway. One other big consideration is the limited number and variety of inputs on the BHA compared to a conventional preamp; will it give you the flexibility you need. Enjoy the search!