If you are on a beer budget and long for the sound that a really good tube preamp can give you-look no further than the Counterpoint SA-3.1. The SA-3.1 was in the middle of the line-up between the SA-7.1 and the mighty SA-5.1. The SA-3.1 is a full-function preamp with the great sounding Counterpoint phono section which uses a pair of 6DJ8 tubes (or any of their better sounding cousins like the 6922, 7308, EC88, ECC, E188CC, etc.) and one 6DJ8 in the line stage. It has an outboard power supply and the rectification is SS vice vacuum tube like its bigger brother.
The SA-3.1 is a very sweet and refined sounding preamp with a great phono section. Since most people have no idea how good this preamp is, you can sometimes see them selling on Audiogon for as little as $350.00. They are very undervalued. Even at double that price, you really couldn’t go wrong. I would recommend this preamp to anyone who is short on funds, but wants some high-end tube magic in their system. I personally wouldn’t recommend sending one back to Michael Elliott for any upgrades as the upgrades get pricey very quickly and you may as well save your cash until you get your hands on an SA-5.1 which is in a different league.