Can you have too many tubes?

Hi...I have a TAD-150 signature tube preamp driving a Rogue Audio 90 tube amp. My front end is a Michell Gyro SE II with a Clearaudio Viruoso MM cartride. Would I be moving up if I added a dedicated phono stage? And if so, should it be tube or SS? Any recommendations are appreciated.
Kdbrink, there's no such thing as too many tubes, only getting a good balance/synergy for a musically natural and neutral system.

I don't know the TAD-150 preamp, so I don't know what degree of opportunity you might have for improvement through adding a dedicated phono stage. Clearly, there are some excellent dedicated phono stages available that could improve most systems (e.g., Aesthetix Io Signature, Aesthetix Rhea, Manley Steelhead, etc.). The expenditure you're willing to make will be a big factor here. Hopefully someone familiar with your current preamp will chime in.
My stereo requires 110 tubes and when my new open reel tape machine arrives, it will be 124 tubes :^).

As Rushton says, it's balance and musicality that matter. Don't worry about how many tubes, just how it sounds.
Albertporter, where did you get your system...Circuit City :-) Seriously, that must be audio heaven on earth! I heard those Dalis at the CES...I would put them in the coveted "state of the art" category...with tubes. I was mesmerized. Heard them the next year, with SS...ugh! I couldn't believe that it was the same speaker.

BTW, could you please list the number of tubes per piece of gear? Just curious....thanks!
I actually think that you can have too many tubes. My amp, preamp, and phono stage are all tubes. When I upgragded my digital set-up I looked hard at a tube CDP, but ended up going with a solid state transport and DAC. Now I am also looking into a new phono stage and will be auditionaing 3 in home (Whest .20, Hagerman Trumpet, and Decware SP-1.5). Two are tubed and one is solid state. I'm actually anxious to hear how the solid state one performs (the Whest).

I am big believer in the tube sound, but sometimes a solid state design can be a great addition to the mix. The DAC I have was designed by an engineer whose other products are tube. He just thought tubes were not a good match with his DAC design and I would have to agree based on how it sounds. As for moving up to a dedicated phono stage, that would depend on how happy you were with the TAD phono stage. I see where today there is a MC option, but it appears you have the MM only. If you intend to move up to MC, which I prefer, then you'll need to add a phono stage. If your intent is to stay with MM and you're happy with what the TAD provides, there is little sense in adding another component ot the mix.

You don't mention budget which might influence my advice to you. A phono stage can ceratinly improve and upgrade your sound, but could cost you more, possibly much more than what you have invested in your preamp. Going back to the tubes, there is such a thing as too warm a sound, which an all tube system may give you. Again this is just my opinion and you may experience something different. I would at least do some in home testing on phono stages if that is possible. That is the only way to be sure if it upgrades your system and if tube or solid state is the way to go.
Albert,though I do love the sound of a well thought out tube based system(no denying the stunning timbres),and would not,myself,rule out adding more tube equipment in the future,I find it a tough road,ergonomically,during summer.Even with A/C,in my dedicated room,if I had more tubes,the A/C units would run quite a bit more than now.Costly,with today's energy prices.My NY/NJ based tube loving pals have almost completely stopped listening in summer,and that was one reason I went to my Rowland amp,as opposed to the big mono block tubies,I had previously owned.The sound is, actually, amazingly tube like(though that is,to me,a dumb generalization,as the sound is either "right" or not "right")!

I'm not trying to be dismissive of tubes,or a fine set-up,as you seem to have.I would appreciate any feedback you may be able to give me,as to how you deal with the heat issue,during the hotter time of the year.Unless sitting in a colorful "Speedo" is the only alternative,I may very well be adding more tube based equipment down the road.Even with the sudden "discovery" by JV,and HP(next issue of TAS)that "suddenly"(MBL amps,and the new "solid state" HP favorite,to be revealed soon)there are alternative choices,I find a well matched tube system to simply put,"have magic"!But I still would rather find a midway point,which I think I now have,that allows for the "sound" and not wearing my bathing suit during the Holiday Season.Man,this hobby can be frustrating.

Best regards!!

PS How's the tube crossover doing?
I was 100% tubes, up in the 30's.
I just could not keep up with the paranoia of problem tubes.
You certainly need a tester, or access to one if you go with many tubes...Or live near Alberporter..which I actually think I do.

I am now down to an Art Audio Jota SET amp, 6 tubes, and Tom Evans pre and phono pre gear. The Evans is dead quiet and the Art Audio is liquid.

I feel in balance.
For the time being.
....that must be audio heaven on earth! I heard those Dalis at the CES...I would put them in the coveted "state of the art" category...with tubes. I was mesmerized. Heard them the next year, with SS...ugh! I couldn't believe that it was the same speaker.

BTW, could you please list the number of tubes per piece of gear? Just curious....thanks!

Aestheitx Io (main) (6) 12AX7, (2) 6922, (2) 5692 =10 tubes
Aesthetix Callisto (4) 6922, (2) 5692 = 6 tubes
Dual power supplies for each, (6) 12AX7, (2) EL34 (each) =32 tubes

Custom crossover for Dali (4) 12SX7, (2) 12J5, (2) 6HM6= 8 tubes
Outboard power supply for Dali crossover (1) 6X5 = 1 tubes

Air Tight (6) EL34, (1) 12AX7, (1) 12AU7 (X 2 mono's) = 16 tubes
VTL 750 (12) 6550, (1) 12AT7, (2) 6350 (X 2 mono's) = 30 tubes

Scott Nixon DAC (1) 6922 = 1 tube

Ampex 351 (14) =14 tubes

Only 118 tubes Fatparrot......Squawk !
Albert, in the dark your equipment rack must look like a beautifull Christmas tree. Bless you, Christmas all year round, complete with singing angels.
Can you have too many tubes? No. More tubes is more better.
Ralph, seeing as how you have joined into the fray... I love my new Atma-Sphere MA-1 Silver Editions but I got to say, it's a good thing I live in Michigan where we have two seasons, winter and August! Thanks for the great tunes. This summer my living room (ref:14x26x8) is running a little warm. And no, one can't have too many tubes. Enjoy!
~~~~Too Tubey or Not Too Tubey? Is That The Question?

Jest The Facts (Me Thinks)
By need more tubes...lots more.

Maybe you could rig all your light sockets in your listening room to use 300B' might make for some good mood lighting if nothing else.

I'm only teasing cause I've always admired your system...but really...WOW...that's a whole lotta glass!

Now...tell many extra tubes do you have boxed up around the house for the tube rolling would you even begin rolling so many tubes?

I know that I probably have no business even asking this as it is in a different league than I am in...and most of the threads that you contribute to are also in that league so I just read but not ask or post usually...but when I read something about 100+ tubes in a system it makes my mind spin...the $$$'s have nothing to do with it...just the patience to be able to come up with your preferred "mix" blows my mind.

Someday I may have the chance to hear a system of your caliber...but I'm afraid that I would be spoiled to the point that I would never be satisfied again and then end up selling all my stuff and buying an ipod.
Ellery911, now your compliments are embarrassing me :^).

I use all those tubes because the designer of each of those pieces of gear thought that was the quantity needed. I do have a lot of spare tubes in my inventory, maybe two hundred ?

Some are really great like Amperex 7308 CEP, which I never seem to get around to using because I love Telefunkens so much. I just purchased 18 Mullard XF2 EL34 from a contact and working on 15 more from a contact in West Germany.

I'm as hopelessly in love with tubes as I am with software. My listening room is full of LP's and my photo studio has boxes and boxes of tubes.

It is fun trying to explain to art directors and clients what "tubes" are.

"Do they still make those ???" is the usual question.

At that point I'm afraid to mention I still listen to LP's :^).
Albertporter, I now feel emasculated, as I can only "get it up" to 35 tubes in my system :-)
You're going after 33 Mullard EL-34's?!!! Did I mention that I am your long lost brother, cousin, nephew, uncle [pick one]?

Funny, I have shown some tubes [6AS7 power triodes from my Atma-spheres...Hi Ralph!] to younger people, and they have never seen a tube nor do they know anything about tubes!

I'm glad that you're a true audiophile and music lover. There are some dilettantes that might also have a "state of the art" system, more for show and "braggin' rights", rather than for the true emotional ecstasy that such a system can deliver.

And thanks for providing the excellent photo coverage from many audio shows. Much appreciated by this overweight hook-bill!
Only 200??? I bet if you added up all the ones in the studio........and that big trunk that you have.......

(Albert has a trunk of output tubes, sorted as to how each sounds, and can be swapped out depending on source material.) would add up to more than 200.

You're going after 33 Mullard EL-34's?!!! Did I mention that I am your long lost brother, cousin, nephew, uncle [pick one]?

Truth is, I am still planning a test with 2 pair of Air Tight ATM-3 mono's (instead of 1 pair of ATM-3's plus 1 pair of VTL 750's).

The pair I have now are tubed up with Tele drivers and Mullard XF2's EL34's. Another pair of Air Tights will REQUIRE 12 more Mullards minimum, assuming no careful matching or spares.

Add the fact that each of my four Aesthetix outboard power supplies require two more Mullards each (8 total) and you can see why 33 tubes are not too many.

Actually like AR_t should add up to more than 200.

At least in my dreams :^).
Albertporter, my comment about the 33 Mullards was in no way meant as any kind of criticism. I was impressed with someone who would spend the time effort, and MONEY to go with the best...33 times, no less. I'm sure that you will!
Albert, I think that you need to adopt me so that I can gain access to some of those resources that you use to buy your 110 tubes!!! :-)
I have 18 tubes right now & am considering adding another 20 (power amp).
How many tubes you have in boxes doesn't count. If it did, I got y'all beat. But does a vacuum tube LP cutter system count??
Hey Ralph, how many tubes in a pair of MA-3s? :-)
Atmasphere(Ralph),your statement alluding to never having too many tubes,in a system,is,respectfully,absurd!Though I love a fine tube based set-up,there are trade-offs.Some of which are maintaining a vast quantity of tubes,as well as heat output,in a given space.No,I'm not disrespecting the use of tubes(or the better solid state products),but there simply must be a point of moderation,in total amount used,which is attainable.

The friends that I have,that are "true" tube lovers,STILL keep a watchful eye out to lower the quantity,in their system,when they can.One can still get a fabulous sounding set-up,with careful attention to detail,while being careful(and thoughtful)in where,and how we add tubes to a system.I've seen(heard) it work.

Any experienced audiophile knows that,in order to really appreciate our beloved "music",we must be able to listen in relative comfort,and anyone denying the attention we have to pay,to "heat related" issues,especially with tubes, is deluding the facts.Even with quiet central A/C,as I have,I do not appreciate having to overuse my A/C units in hot weather,and have been successful in reducing tube volume,while maintaining a respectable sound.I'm sure I'm not alone,in this.

I mean NO disrespect,and am aware of the fact that you may have been jesting,and are a respected mfgr;but you don't have to have a mega quantity of tubes to be SOTA.I'm convinced that I have heard wonderful,and satisfying systems that were tube based,as well as wonderful systems that were solid state based.Best wishes!
Hey Ralph, how many tubes in a pair of MA-3s?
Too many for any sane person :-) But an audiophile's dream...they're "Iowa Class" battleship amps, fer sure!

Check 'em out Iowa Class Amps
Can I count the tubes that are sitting around in equipment I am not using? It so, its 60, if not its 30.
Sirspeedy, and I respectfully disagree with you.

Whatever amount of tubes needed to do the job is how many is required. I do have solid state TV and surround amps, but there is not another piece that I can displace a tube with a solid state device.

Now admittedly, when my system begins to look like this:

Super Bad !tube system

Only THEN be time to consider changing things :^).
Mr. Porter
LOL!!! you crack me up! :-D


paul :-)

BTW - Your system is amazing.
Albertporter, unless I am mistaken, your link is only a PARTIAL picture of the ENIAC computer completed in the autumn of 1945, and used by the Aberdeen Proving Grounds to compute ballistic trajectory tables.
By today's standards for electronic computers the ENIAC was a grotesque monster. Its thirty separate units, plus power supply and forced-air cooling, weighed over thirty tons. Its 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors consumed almost 200 kilowatts of electrical power.
Another website states
ENIAC, with its 17,468 vacuum tubes, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, and 6,000 manual switches, was a monument of engineering -- and an energy hog. The city of Philadelphia reportedly experienced brown-outs when ENIAC drew power at its home at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

For more info see ENIAC 1 or ENIAC 2. This second link also has some interesting photos.
"Too many" can apply to transistors as well as tubes. I think the issue is the number of gain stages in the signal path, and this is quite different from the eternal argument about tubes vs transistors. With either technology I think that most agree that the less there is in the signal path, the better.

Back in the days when I used tubes there were two tubes (four stages)in the preamp (12AX7 for Phono gain and RIAA, and 12AU7 for line gain/buffer output). The power amp had one 12AU7 for gain, 1/2 another 12AU7 (?) for driver/inverter, and the two output tubes. This provided all the gain necessary, and the preamp even had tone controls. What is the purpose of having more tubes, other than to heat your house?
Albert,loved the site,you showed.Wasn't that the inside of the space ship,in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"?Great stuff!!

BTW--I'm sure you are not shooting film,with the advances in digital photography.Though I'd love a Leica Rangefinder of old,a balance of newer technology,with the old is not such a bad thing.I,personally,am not getting rid of my expensive film camera,any time soon,but I swoon over the newer digital stuff.Only in photography,BTW,not musical realism.Then it's still LP's all the way,though a good CDP keeps me in touch,with new stuff.I love MUSIC first!

As per the TUBE ONLY issue,I don't think the "Better" solid state MFGRS would have thrown in with the "least satisfying" more modern designs if there was not some potential there.Believe me,when I state that I have NO preference to any "TYPE",being tube or solid state.Just the outcome,in a given system.I've "open mindedly" heard wonderful sound from both types,and am sure your set-up is fabulous.Why wouldn't it be,with your passion!!Best regards!
Sirspeedy, I have great respect for Classe, Jeff Rowland, Gryphon and several other high end transistor amps.

Had I chosen Maggie 20.1 instead of the Dali Megaline, I might be running Classe Omega mono blocks instead of my current VTL 750's. In fact, I had several long discussions with the Classe factory as the Omega' were leading the pack as my choices as power for the 20.1.

I use what works. I always prefer tubes when possible, but there can be situations where transistors are a necessity (like inside that space ship:^).
Albert, If you must have tubes with everything, this is something for you:
Albert,I think the civilization that built "THAT" spaceship would have chosen the tube route,since the void in space is rather chilly.In a situation like that "One can never have too many tubes"!Best regards.
Never. Can you have the wrong tubed equipment? Sure. The wrong synergy? Sure. But too many tubes? Nope.