Best Full-Function Preamplifier

Consulting the collective wisdom on the best preamp with built in phonostage (MM/MC). DAC not required but OK if it has one. Below $20K retail. Must be a no compromise solution--outstanding linestage and a flexible, great sounding phonostage that would not make you wish you had separates. Thoughts?


You say "full function" but does that include a tape monitor? That is going to narrow your choices considerably. Even if you don't have a tape deck a tape loop is very useful if you have any sort of processor or might in the future.

The other thing is how important your vinyl rig is to you. If you have a nice turntable and cartridge and you've got a $20K budget it would make sense to get a separate phono stage and spend a little less on the preamp. There are incredible bargains on used Pass preamps and there are lots of used high quality phono stages as well. You could have a killer rig if you could stomach separates.

 I'm a vintage guy, the result of my Uncle's involvement, I guess. I happen to like my ancient SAE 2100L (I have the add on EQ and Parametric boxes all standing by and ready to go back in the game). I had everything recapped, cleaned, and tested about 10 yrs ago by retired SAE Tech. Now it's time to go record shopping.

I know,, as usual, of absolutely no help at all  🙄

used darTZeel NHB-18NS Mk1. includes a very fine phono stage. battery powered.

volume attenuation with optical couplers. Swiss built like a tank.

i owned the Mk1 version from 2006--2015, it’s awesome.

i believe the Mk1 can still be upgraded to the Mk2, but i could be wrong.

Dear @dodgealum : Essential 3180 that’s a true challenge for over 120K separates units like FM Acoustics or CH and better than Boulder or Dartzeel and the like. It's an active high gain balanced dual mono non-feedback fully discrete overall design with 2 totally  separates phono stages : MM/MC and second to none line stage.


@lewm that I think you know as a very well regarded Agoner owns the Essential 3160 and I hope he could chime here about and the interesting main issue behind the 3180 is that is a full-function design with the stages facilities you are looking for that comes with external power supply.

You can contact


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,