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brucemarmoldThe traditional "lush" tube preamps are considered to be Cary and Conrad Johnson, but as a general rule ones designed around the 6SN7 tube will also fall in the range. With readily available NOS tubes still available on both ends of the sonic spectrum you can adjust them in one direction or the other. Others to consider would be the Don Sachs and the Modwright LS-100. Excellent choices though not on the "lush" end would be the Linear Tube Audio, Backert Labs or even some of Rogues own. In general if you are looking for classic "tube" sound stay away from preamps based on the 6H30 tubes.
In your opening post you stated "Just assume I'll find a good pair of speakers to match, so I don't want to get into that right now.. "Your searches have also found the Cary SLP-05 preamp, which you say you really like the looks of. I've also heard you say more than once you want lush sound from the preamp. If so, get the Cary SLP-98 preamp. I had one and it is on the lush side. The SLP-05 is a superb preamp, but it sounds much more clear and revealing, not lush. Mate that with whatever Cary tube amp takes the rest of your budget, new or used.My two other paring choices: Both units from Linear Tube Audio (my current electronics) or the units from Don Sachs, also really well done and widely praised. I have Don's phono stage, and it is wonderful. Again, if you want lush, Cary gear is classic and fits that profile.
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