I spent the last couple months researching preamplifiers to death. I talked to everyone from known audio reviewers, to distributors, to owners of prominent brick and mortar audio stores, to primary audio forum experts, to friends I had made in the industry and also some well heeled audiophiles I had access to that have bought, demoed and sold as many as twenty or more preamps each.
In the end, I had a list of what, ideally, I would look for, on sale used (to allow some affordability). The other night, one in the most desirable grouping appeared, and in mint condition, original owner, all packaging, accessories etc. available, and with a new set of NOS tubes. The price was also more than fair. I quickly purchased the unit, and am having to bide my time until the owner gets back from his extended New Year's trip to his cabin in the mountains on January 6th. He will ship the next day, Monday, the 7th.
This is a very rarely found preamp, that also "completely coincidentally" will match beautifully with my amplifier,. The preamp in question? The Conrad Johnson ACT2. This is referred to as, essentially, a one chassis version of the fabled, ultra limited, and ungodly expensive, ART2 preamp. I was very fortunate to have this fall into my lap, and, based on the Conrad Johnson expertise I had available to me, including an incredibly knowledgeable former CJ distributor, and people within CJ itself, it should not only be a superb preamp, but a great match with my Golden Gate. It's also, in my opinion, a stunningly attractive piece of gear, so bonus there. I can't wait until I receive the delivery and cant connect things up.
Review link included: https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/305cj/index.html