My previous preamp was a Bryston .5B solid state preamp. Bryston builds equipment to LAST. Their standard warranty is for 20 years and is transferrable. So if you buy a 19 year old Bryston amp and it needs work, they'll fix it for free, no questions asked. Wow...
Besides the pramp, my system consists of the following gear:
Ubuntu Linux laptop w/Banshee music server
Tascam CD-200 (digital feed to the Peachtree)
Linn LP-12 turntable
Rega RB300 tonearm
Rega Elys cartridge
Linkwith Orion tri-amped Loudspeaker System
B&K AV1260, 60 wpc MOSFET amp, using 8 channels of 12
I've listened to the Bryston compared to other solid state preamps and find the only real differences I ever heard were in the low end. The Bryston is a solid performer and has given me good service for many years. I've listened to some other tube gear - Mac C22, CJ PV2 and a Shure M-65 phono preamp. The Mac C22 was the best of the bunch and had that nice sweet sound you expect from tube gear. It was quite different from the Bryston. There was a real difference in the timbre of voices and horns. Very pleasing. Kind of like comparing vinyl to digital.
Listening to the SP13 was very different from what I remember from the Mac C22. The SP13 actually has a better defined low end than the solid state Bryston. That wasn't what I expected.
The Linkwitz Orions image as well as any loudspeaker I've ever heard, at any price. But the SP13 took imaging to a whole new level for me. I've never heard imaging this well defined, front to back. Wonderful.
But the thing that really surprised me was how voices just seem to come alive. In fact, everything just comes alive. The Bryston is a good piece of gear and was considered a good performer in its day. It certainly stacks up well against any other solid state preamp I've heard. But the SP13 has done things I never knew were possible.
The thing which surprised me the most was that the improvement of the line stage was even more dramatic than the phono stage. My digital sources are vastly improved.
From what I remember about the Mac C22, it had that traditional tube sweetness, which honestly was a little fuzzy. There's no fuzziness with the SP13, but there is certainly LIFE. Amazing. Frankly words fail me.
I have to confess to a lot of trepedation in dropping $1500 on a preamp without having a chance to hear it first. Fortunately this has been everything I had hoped for and more.
For those of you who are DIY guys, have heard of the Linkwitz Orions and would like to hear them, there's a whole list of Orion owners who have offered people to come take a listen.
The full Linkwitz system will run you about $5k (including the cost of amplification) or so depending on how much you build yourself. You can get them already built, but at considerably more expense. Linkwitz also has a MUCH less expensive system called the LXmini, which will run you about $1100 or so (including amplification). I'd stack the Linkwitz systems up against ANY loudspeaker at ANY price. Wilson Audio, whoever. Even the little LXmini, within it's limitations, is at the ultimate Hi-End to my ears.