It really depends on the rest of your system, your room, and your preferences. I tried a FET Ten in my system for three days and I couldn't stand it, I had to get a tubed unit back in my system pronto. I found the Ten etched, grainy, and bright. The Field Effect Transistors were VERY evident. Bear in my mind I was using a Classe SS amp and electrostatic speakers in a reasonably live room, a quite revealing and unforgiving system. I suppose if I had spent some time and money treating (dampening) the room, changed my cables (again) and done some other things the Ten may have settled in eventually. Why bother. If I had $750 to spend I'd pick up a used Audio Research SP9, it'll get you most of the way there.
For $750 I'd be looking for an Audible Illusions Modulus 3. When it comes to preamps you will probably be much more happy with tubes than solid state (with the possible exception of some models that are way out of your price range). Another excellent choice for even less money would be a Sonic Frontiers SFL1, which is a hybrid and uses only one tube (but no phono stage like the AI if that is important to you). If you're hooked on solid state one of the older Classe preamps would be a much better choice.
I WOULD BUY AN AUDIO RESEARCH SP6B.I HAVE OWNED EVERY AUDIO RESEARCH SP6 MODEL AND ALSO A SP9MKIII WHICH WAS VERY GOOD.I HAVE AN AUDIBLE ILLUSIONS M3A WHICH IS ALSO OUTSTANDING.I AM CURRENTLY USING MY SP10 SINCE I PLAY 98%VINYL.GETTING BACK TO THE SP6 SERIES,I SOLD ALL THE OTHERS AND WILL NOT SELL MY SP6B.HAS A REAL GOOD PHONO STAGE AS WELL WITH 60DB OF GAIN.
I have to laugh after reading the two posts above. Keep in mind that i'm not laughing at either of the posters themselves but only about the comments and how it pertains to the product in question.
The reason for my laughter is that it reminded me of when Moncrieff of IAR reviewed the NS 10 from Threshold. I would have to re-post the first few paragraphs of the review to completely clarify where i'm coming from, but suffice it to say, he stated that many audiophiles are divided on that product. Tube-o-philes find it hard and steely sounding while SS fans found it amazingly clear. He said that comparing the Threshold to a tube preamp would be like comparing apples to oranges.
That same review also talks about folks prefering the euphonics and "right soundingness" of tubes over what was really the more accurate reproduction of the Threshold. The "funny" thing is that he ranked it right in the same group as the ARC SP6 and a Paragon 12A, both of which are "warm and tubey" sounding due to high frequency roll-off. He stated that the Threshold was simply the other side of the same coin and what side you chose to look at was up to you. In other words, both presentations could be quite excellent. How well you or anyone else liked them would remain up to the balance of your system and personal preferences.
Once again though, we come back to the "accuracy vs musicality" type of product with most of us looking for something combining both aspects of performance. Sean
Sean very good. It all comes down to Taste and how it
mates up with the rest of ones system. I like Cabernet
you might Like Merlot. Tubes might be my taste SS might
be yours. Its all a Trade off when it comes to High End
Audio. Why else would there be so much Used audio gear
for sale. Break open a Nice Murphy Goode Cab( great for
the Money) and listen to some good tunes. I thougt thats
what it was all about.
I never heard any SS pre-amp produces human-like vocal. They all sound mechanical, cool and inhuman and always remind me that I hearing Hi-Fi sound.
But for a tube pre-amp, the human voice sounds like more human, with life and warmth.
In this case, I think the tube pre-amp is more accurate than the SS pre-amp.
If the SS pre-amp is accurate, then the tube pre-amp is super accurate !!!!
Edle, that's the funny part and why we can't explain certain things. You can put in any combination of test tones and a well designed SS piece can typically duplicate it flawlessly. Doing the same thing with a piece of tube gear will typically produce lesser results in several areas.
On the other hand, SS can sound "harsh" whereas tubes can sound "sweeter". Is the SS gear "more accurate" because it exactly reproduces what is fed into it, blemishes and all, or is the tube gear "more accurate" because, even though it doesn't reproduce what is exactly fed into it and is much higher in distortion, it sounds "better" ???
Hence, the age-old battle of Tubes vs SS.... Sean
I think using a combination of test tones to test any audio equipments are wrong and irrelevent. Human voices or any other musical instruments produce sound that are more complex than the simple test tones.
I believe the ultimate testing of any audio equipments are by comparing the real thing(be it a human vocal or any musical instrument) to the reproduction. If it sounds real, then it is more accurate. Very simple....
Edle, if I am following you correctly, you are implying that tubes are poor at simple replication yet superior at complex replication. Perhaps tubes present a sound closer to what we desire but solid state presents a sound that is closer to the original recording.
Good points Unsound. I also tend to lean that way. It is not that tubes sound "better" due to being "more realistic under adverse conditions", i think that SS typically just shows us how bad MOST of our recording process really is or can be. Since most recording gear is SS though, one can run into a compounded problem if care is not taken in regards to the selection of both the recording and playback components. Kind of like a "double whammy" of reality which might not be pleasant at all. One can either use tubes to "gloss over" or "fill in" the mistakes ( i.e. errors of omission ) or listen to those mistakes with bleeding ears from most "sterile" yet "accurate" sounding SS gear.
In order to get SS to both sound good and measure good, you have to have gear that is VERY fast, wide bandwidth and uses very high quality parts. At least that is my take on the situation. Obviously, others may have different opinions and experiences.
As to using test tones, one can create tones that are as complex as musical patterns but are easily repeatable. Obviously, this is far more convenient in terms of product R & D ( research and development ) or independent testing than trying to rely on other means to obtain a calibrated point of reference.
Having said that, I do agree that while the standardized test tones used ( sine and square waves ) do have their values, they are over-rated and relied upon too heavily by many in this field. Moncrieff demonstrated that components that show similar results with standardized test tones can still sound different and test differently with complex ( i.e. musical ) waveforms.
In this respect, he was the first that i know of to be able to explain ( and literally show via test equipment ) why one digital playback system had better transient response, improved inter-transient silence ( blacker background ), less ringing, etc... over another piece of similar cost and design. Too bad we don't have more "reviewers / audio scientists" around like him. If we did, we might have a few more answers and a few less questions. Sean
Sean, I agree that having more "reviewers/audio scientists" would be most advantageous. While our ears are the measurement tool that demands the highest criterion priority.While our ears may be the most sensitive measuring device they may also be the least consistent and the most arbitrary. You keenly noted that too much emphesis is put on certain measurements rather than the whole gamut. Much like taking a slice of an equation. Recently I had a friend tell me he was putting up acustical tiling on his low ceiling because it attenuated sound at X number of decibles. When I asked him if this was consistent through out the audio frequency range, he was unsure. What may have appeared to be desireable may in fact have made things worse. When I irst became interested in "HI FI" I auditioned speakers with a preconcieved prejudice. After listening to various products I soon abandonded my preconceptions. I was consistently drawn to Time and Phase coherent designs even though I didn't know it at the time. Even though some the speakers had very different sonic signatures (think Thiel/Vandersteen). I asked the salesman how such different sounding speakers (in my ignorance I could not find a commonality) could sound right. He pointed out that the designers had a like mind as to design, testing and enginering. I mention this to point out that consistent thorough testing may lead the way to consistent quality products.
Right on Unsound. People are sucked in by the "surface features" and forget that beauty can be far more than "skin deep". Your analogy of acoustic tiles is a perfect example. While they do have their place, improper use or not factoring in all of the important attributes of such products can create an entirely different set of problems.
To take that a few steps further, one REALLY needs to look at the frequency response aka "absorption ratio curve" of things such as Pro-Foam, etc... before shelling out money for what is nothing more than some flimsy foam. Not only can they create tonal imbalance problems due to non-linear absorption throughout the audio range, they can be duplicated with better results for FAR less money. Sean
PS... Sorry to get off topic Pvigs, but i think that you will find that the Threshold would work best in a system that already leaned towards the "warm and smooth side" of neutral.