I posted on your power conditioner Q.
Yes a tube preamp can warm up a ss amp. If you want a lot of the tube warmth, Conrad Johnson is great (though CJ is singlle ended only). If you really want a not-too-tubey sound using tubes, later models Audio Research (ARC) is the ticket most are Balanced output) . Both are great companies with good service. BAT is another good brand of tube stuff.
Most other tube preamps are smaller companies (some folks like that, I do not)
ARC does not sacrific clarity for tubeyness. (I am big on clarity, and like the Bryston BP-26 for that reason)
The Bryston has a lowish input impedance on its XLR inputs, 20K Ohm per phase (it's common to give the sum of the phases in spec sheets), making it a poor match for some tube pre-amps with high output impedances.
The single-ended input of the Bryston is 50K Ohm, which will work with more pre-amps, but I'd still avoid very high source impedances (say 1000 Ohm and above).
If you want more flexibility, I'd look for an amp with a higher input impedance like 100K Ohm.
Thanks for both comments. Very helpful. The Audio Research ls5 mkii has Input impedance of 200K ohms balanced and Output impedance 400 ohms balanced Main (2), 20K ohms minimum load and 2000pF maximum capacitance. From what I think you're saying that ARC could work, right? Laurence
If bryton has low impedances the Manley shrimp is a good preamp for it because it has only 50 ohm output impedance.Good luck
I've used my BAT preamp with the 7BSST amps and had no problems. Bass was strong and deep.
Not all tube preamps will impart much if any warmth, it will depend on the preamp, the tube type and the general design and implementation.
A poster above suggested ARC, which I think are great and make some of the best preamps one can buy. However, that being said, the more current models that use the 6H30 super tubes are really anything but tubey sounding (in my opinion this is partially due to this specific tube). This is not a bad thing perse, but it should be noted that they will impart hardly any to no tubeyness in my experience (I own one FYI).
Another factor to consider is DC offset from the tubed preamp to the amp. At some point in either the amp or preamp this needs to be addressed.
CJ is more tubey, as will be some BATs (but not so much with the 6H30 tubes), Cary's are tubier as well.
My preference is the Aesthetix Calypso (owned it twice) and I still think it is one of the best tube preamps money can buy. It responds extremely well to tube rolling, which in essence gives you many different preamps - change the tubes and notably change the sound. It does not offset DC to the amp (per my conversation with Jim White).
I would put the Calypso on any list in considering tubed preamps (add 500-750 dollars for different tubes to play with). If this preamp is in your budget, I can recommend it very highly.
The Bryston, while being a good amp has a tendency to be a bit sterile in my opinion. Great company though. I would consider expanding my amp considerations. Doing so may yield more of what you are seeking via the tubed preamp approach in general, IMO.
"my BAT preamp with the 7BSST amps and had no problems". The 3iX has a pretty high output impedance compared to the other pre-amps in their line. http://www.balanced.com/products/line/specs.C.shtml
However, I'd be willing to bet that you are getting some low frequency rolloff if you are using the balanced input of the Bryston. You will hear low bass because it's a gradual rolloff. It's something you might not notice until you try an amp with a higher input impedance.
"From what I think you're saying that ARC could work, right?"
Yeah, I saw that on ARC's site. But that's the minimum, not necessarily the optimum load.
Not necessarily but....
As noted previously, once you get the impedance ratios in compliance between the pre and amp, exchanging tubes, rolling them, will allow you to affect the sound without degrading the signal.
How much warmth you infuse into the music is almost entirely up to you. The brand of tube line stage is as well another factor.
Older CJs, as I understand it, produce a more mellow, romantic sound. Albeit, these are all subjective accounts being listed here. For my money, Id offer that the BAT VK5i I once owned when outfitted with the right tubes could be as warm and rich as any Id heard save for SET outfits. Fully balanced, and a killer line stage, but used eight signal tubes and two output tubes. So a mite spensive to fully retube frequently with NOS tubes..
As good as is the build quality and ease of operation, and its exceptionally low output impedance, and now its inordinately low cost to buy, Id look into buying a Thor line stage, or line stage w/phono. Formerly a $10K preamp, and one of the top preamps made in the world, you can get one lately for next to nothing. The MK II or serial number above 1000 would be my suggestion.
Bare bones, purist approach. SE. 4 inputs, 2 outputs. Separate power supply. Esthetically, a real eye catcher. Sound? Quick. Fast. Dynamic. Sweet. Organic. Realistic. No matter what amp follows it downstream, it will sound better. I guarantee it. 4 tubes. 2x12ATs; 2x12AXs. 400 ohm output impd.
Ive heard no late model tube preamps, Cary, CJ, or BAT, which sound euphonic. Overtly warm or romantic. Due only to the tube compliment inside of them, you have the opportunity to slide the warm meter in that direction. Were you to start dabbling with NOS tubes.
Another note to think about is the power consumption or needs of the speakers, and their impedance curves so you may more properly fit an amp to them, as this segment of the line is IMHO more critical than is that between the pre and amp (s).
I think your idea of tube + SS for panels is a very good one
and pretty popular too. Cruise the virtual systems for more pointers and ask more questions on amps for them.
Ckoffend or others, thanks for all the help. What do you think is a warmer sounding amp that will give me enough power (at least 400 watts/channel into 4 ohms)? Also, any thoughts on the Audio Research LS5 MKII Tube Preamp?
Well, VK from BAT just pointed out that I'm all wet in another forum.
However I did my measurements before, I obviously did them incorrectly.
Feeding the balanced input of my Bryston 3B-SST from my BAT 3iX, I just measure the output from the speaker terminals with a voltmeter (HP 400E), and it stays within .25 dB down to about 50 Hz, and is down about 2 dB at 20 Hz. Not optimal, but probably not that audible a rolloff.
My apologies to everyone for the confusion.
Now that I hopefully have my head out of my ass, the answer to the original question is: yes. A neutral SS amp will let the warmth of tubes come through, particularly if you choose some good NOS tubes.
Ldworet, I think it would totally depend on the preamp. Some tube preamps don't sound particularly tube like. That being said, I would look for a tube preamp that sounds warm and tube like. Can you borrow a few and see which one works best in your system? I have a YBA 2HCDT and an old Audio Research SP-3C and it definitely takes on the character of the preamp. Also your interconnects can make a difference with the sound of your system. Do you have an idea about which tube preamp interests you? G
Ldworet - in reply to your follow up regarding amps:
Others may be better able to respond to this than I. I personally don't seek warmth in my amps. I am more prone to neutral to detailed than neutral to warm (so that should be considered along with my recommendations).
That being said, looking for a "warmer" SS amp with pretty higher power, I would consider investigating the following:
McIntosh large SS amps ($$$), these are a smoother amp than I like, but I think you really are seeking smooth and not just warmth (which may be confusing to some).
The BAT 250 and higher with BatPak could be another choice, they are supposed to sound warmer (or more tubelike) that say a Krell (as an example). You can get these used at pretty reasonable prices (from what I have seen).
Pass labs newest amps, like the 160 monos (but I think these are a lot of money at the moment). But these amps are designed to operate at higher power in Class A and Nelson Pass likes that smooth (almost tube-like sound as evidenced in his Aleph series, etc. . .).
Since I don't have much useful experience with your speakers, I would suggest what others are running with them. I think their assistance should be better than mine.
I think you are better off looking for a neutral or not "cold" power amp than one that is warm. Continue the approach of pursuing the tubed pre for the warmth you are seeking. I think going with a "warm" amp and a "warm" tubed preamp may be asking for or delivering too much warmth.
Personally, I would not suggest getting into a tubed amp if you don't already have some experience with tubes. I would suggest starting with the tubed preamp and SS amp as you suggest. If after taking this approach and falling in love with the tubed preamp, you want to move to a tubed amp (knowing a bit more about tubes), then that may be a reasonable approach.
FYI - if you decide to go with a tubed preamp, tubed amp and those speakers you should know that you will have a higher maintenance system if you plan to keep it long term. This is not bad, but you should be aware of it. In that situation, every major component you own will require maintenance, just like a car. I am talking about power amp tubes (most frequent), preamp tubes (at least every 2-3 years, and that's if you don't tube roll regularly) and even the speakers in about 10 years will need replacement parts (Mag owners should chime in here as my timeframe is just an estimate. I owned Logans and figured those panels needed to be replaced more frequently than every 10 years).
Personally I would probably stay away from a Bryston with Maggie's. Sure they have the power and the current to drive them, but they won;t have the bloom or beauty that make Maggie's special. You're already thinking this way by asking the question about a tube preamp, so I think you know what I mean.
I would look for an amp that has a bit less clinical sound to it. Perhaps a McCormack DNA500 or something similar.
Are the 3.6s too hard to drive for a tube amp like the Rogue M-150 monoblocks? I prefer the Rogues to the BAT VK-250 recommended by another poster, and the Rouges are cheaper.
I tried this with a BAT preamp and a B&K power amp. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized you shouldn't need tubes in the preamp at all. The line level signals coming into the preamp need only be switched and attenuated. And you don't need tubes to do either of those things.
Anyway, I don't think the combination I had worked out very well and wound up replacing it with an Audio Research VSi60, which is the opposite configuration: tube power, solid state preamp.
I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. (Or even if I'm not.) But I would like to hear why tubes are a good idea in a preamp. It makes no sense to me. I'm not saying tube preamps sound bad, but that I see no reason they would be a good choice. I'm sure there are some that sound good, or, rather, don't meddle with the sound at all. But theoretically at least, there's no point.
In response to Ptmconsultings'comment I couldn't disagree more.Bryston amps and Magnepans have a natural synergy and a history of being paired by their respective manufacturers at audio shows and by dealers that feature both products.
Inclusion of a top tier pre amp in a Bryston/Magnepan combination will be the icing on your cake.
I think that is a popular config because the preamp tubes don't need biasing and the tubes last longer. I like leaving as much stuff on all the time (except in summer w/thunderstorms) so I would be more inclined to want to turn off a tube power amp, which should be turned off first anyway.
If I had a tube preamp I would turn off the power amp first, the tube preamp second. Not as practical if you want to have a transistor power amp on all the time.