Looking for some amps to research, hoping for some advice on models to look at.
I currently have a Little Dot MKVI. This amp is functionally very much what I'm looking for, but I'm curious about what I could be hearing if I step it up in cost/quality. I do like the the LD, but compared to, say, an RSA B-52, it's obviously not in the same league. I tried the B-52 prototype at the NYC head-fi meet in 2007, and have simply never heard anything like it. If I had $5350 to spend on an amp, you wouldn't be reading this thread, I would buy the RSA Beast-52 in a heartbeat.
But alas, I just can't see spending that much right now. So what I'm looking for are amps somewhere in between the LD and the RSA.
Fully balanced, fully tubed, which functions as both a balanced headphone amp, as well as a pre-amplifier for my loudspeaker system. Multiple analog inputs with switching capability like the B-52 would be great, but not an absolute necessity because my DAC can do the switching.
A bit about the rest of my components, if that helps identify choices.
Although I haven't received it yet, my source will be a Bolder digital-modded Squeezebox Touch, playing primarily redbook ALAC and FLAC, but also 2496 FLAC. The Squeezebox feeds a Benchmark DAC1 Pre. The Benchmark is currently the balanced source for my LD MKVI, which is what I'm researching other options for. From the MKVI, I am feeding a Krell KAV-2250 amp (balanced), which then powers my Sonicap/Mills modded Polk SDA-1C's.
For headphones, I am using Senn 800's with a Double Helix Molecule (copper) 4-pin XLR balanced cable. I'd love the balanced headphone amp in question to have a 4-pin XLR so I don't need to modify the cable, but if necessary, of course, 2x3-pin is certainly an option.
I've got some fantastic tubes for the LD - Brimar CV1985 and Valvo 6SL7GT drivers, and a matched quad of Svetlana Winged "C" 6AS7 power tubes. That's over $500 in NOS tubes, so it would be a big plus for an amp to be able to use these.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.