Any point in adding tube preamp to SS integrated?

I have a Classe CAP 101 integrated amp which has no amp in inputs. Would it make any sense to add a tube preamp via the tape in input? the amp drives B&W floorstanding speakers (CDM9NT)and sounds pretty good, but I'd like a little tube magic. This is a second system for me, and I'm used to tubes in my main system. Also, if anyone has speaker wire recommendation for this set up, plse advise; currently using Kimber 4TC and was thinking of trying Speltz anti-cables.....thx in advance for any assistance....
A tube DAC or tube phono pre would get you that tube "magic".

I like 4tc's. The only reason I see to get rid of them is to change personality, ie nordost flatline is no better but may have better high freq. resolution???
IMHO, you won't hear much 'tube magic', whatever that is, by adding a tube pre-amp ahead of the CAP101. What it will do, and it may be a good thing, is allow you to assert some influence on the tonal balance by using different tubes in the pre-amp and tune it to your sonic preference. I assume (but do not know) that the CAP's line stage is passive. If that is so the pre-amp might add a bit of drive/energy to the sound as well. You can use the tape in, or for that matter, any of its inputs (other than a phono phono input if it has one).
I have a CAP 101; the line stage is active and op amp based. The best answer, provided you do not want a tube CD player or phono preamp as suggested by Elvic, is to get a Musical Fidelity X-10D tube buffer and put it in the tape loop. You can then switch it in and out just by pusing the tape monitor button on the remote. It should cost you under $150.00 and will not have the excessive gain that would be afforded by adding a preamp, as it is a unity gain device.
I would be very hesitant adding the gain that a preamp might add. If you can find the input max voltage and the voltage out of the tube pre I bet it will be far in excess of the capacity if you have an amp out or a pre in option which some older integrateds do (e.g. most Sansuis c.1980). It's clearly easy to do but unlikely in the Classe.
Beside that a tube buffer is a buffer . I understand that it's main function is to give the signal source a friendly impedance not a autoformer but a lower impedance than for example the typical input inpedance a CD player meets going into the preamp. There is no tube halography doing this but your CD player will sound as good as it can depending on the what the power suplly to the buffer allows.

If you have heard tubes at their best you know they are incomparable IMHO and further you know what it is you like about it.
The only way! I am convinced is to fish or cut bait- and do it - use tubes all the way.That is if you really want to hear what the tube aficionado finds so appealing then start where most err by avoiding the use a tube power amp first.
Yes it is the most critrical element in obtaining tube magic. Honest the old theory that a tube somewhere in the chain will make the system sound like a tube system is completely,and utterly false.I generally say IMHO but after years of doing everything but using a tube power amp. I finally found nirvana doing just that.
Trelja a member here and old friend told me he had known this for a long time. I was floored because he saw me waste all this time and money trying to get it.
You'll save time and stop wondering what all this tube mania is about. Try it or just borrow a tube power amp you will see.
BTW I tried all tube preamps with SS power amps and that helped but didn't really yield the tube's importance to the sonic. From day one (of this hi end business)I had a tube CD player nope not that either.One caveat if you get lousy tube amp you only get the magic "forme fruste".
I found that both tube preamp and separate tube monoblocks worked out best. I have had Nirvana with scarcely a change in over 3 years.
Good luck on your journey and don't blow the Classe or your speakers to bits
Thank you all for your help. Mechans, it sounds like you have struggled with this and I appreciate you letting me know that there is no free lunch, in that if you like the tube sound, you can't get it just by adding one tube component in the chain. I have actually put a tube buffer after a DAC in this system and it helped, but did not produce tube nirvana, which is in keeping with your experience.
Good comments by the others, with which I am in general agreement.

But fwiw I'll mention that for various reasons, on several occasions with several different pieces of equipment, I have used a preamplifier connected into a line-level input of an integrated amplifier, and I have also used two preamplifiers connected in series, ahead of a power amplifier. In no case did I have a problem with overload or excess gain.

Typically I found that setting the volume control on the integrated amplifier, or the second preamp in the chain, to around 11 or 12 o'clock would result in the volume control on the first preamp being used in a reasonable part of its range.

The specs on the CAP101 don't indicate input overload voltage, and its overall (line stage + power stage) gain of 60.5 db (at maximum volume control setting) is probably a bit higher than average, but I still think you would be ok doing that.

Also, like some of the others my experience has been that a tube power amp is the most significant factor in achieving the benefits of "tube sound," but in fairness there are a significant number of others who have expressed the opposite viewpoint in previous threads here, claiming that using a tube preamp with a solid state power amp better preserves tube-like character than the opposite combination.

-- Al
2nd to Viridian.
IMHO, Re the probability of the addition of a pre-amp adding extra gain and creating a gain overload, consider that the VC on the CAP would attenuate the gain from the tube pre-amp just as it would any other source - the worst thing that would likely happen would be you would lose a lot of the flexibility of the VC on the CAP.

A potential mismatch could occur if the tube pre-amp has a high output impedence as many do, but considering what you are doing it might well be benign. I wouldn't let the gain issue stop me for a moment.

However, as I indicated earlier, I don't think you will get real 'tube magic' anymore with this addition than you did with your buffer (a conclusion you may already have reached). But you bend the tone provided that the pre-amp you use benefits from using tubes which have greatly varying sound (like 12AX7's) and are cheap. I mention this only because I find a lot of folks think 'tube magic' has something to do with mid-range or lower mid-range warmth, high frequency 'sparkle' and a lot of other tonal issues, as opposed to spatial, liquidity, and proper decay issues which is where I think tubes can excel and SS often falls short.


I think that there is a misconception regarding what I referred to as "excessive gain". I do not think that overloading the input stage of the preamp is of particular issue, though it is possible. I think the problem is that the volume control can easily end up being operated in the least linear part of it's range. There is certainly a sonic cost to this, as well as the ergonomic inconvenience. But Al has had good luck with adding a preamp, so it seems worth a try.

I also agree with Newb that nothing short of buying tube gear will get you all of the way there.

Though I can't agree with Mechans that it is because the X-10D is designed as a buffer as being the reason it would have less tube magic than a tube pre. After all, the only reason to use an active preamp in most modern systems is either as a buffer, as many systems have more than enough gain architecture to use passive preamps, or to add various colorations be they tube or solid-state. As far as the circuit of the buffer goes, it will be the same as the final stage of the preamp, cathode follower or not, so sonically it would still add some tube sound without having extra switching and gain stages in the signal path.
The Classe' integrated is a fine piece of gear.... however if you want tube majic... sell the Classe' and get a true tube integrated like Manley... uses EL84 output tube and can be oerated in triode mode as well a ultralinier. Lots of tube majic there at a very reasonable price. There other good choices too. I would spend some time learning about tubes and the way they sound before making a choice.

Good Luck
In my experience it will take a little of the digital edge off things but it is far from giving you "tube magic". For that you really need at minimum a tube amp and preferably an all tube system. A SET system is even better.
Thank you Al. You have given me something to think about. Perhaps I will still try a tuber preamp with the CAP 101 integrated some day for fun.