How do you add color?

For those of you who are adherents of straight wire, ruler flat frequency response, accurate and neutral sound, artists’ true intentions, etc. ... please stop reading now. You’ve been warned. If you continue to read, you might get heartburn and since I’m a nice guy, I don’t want to do that to you.

Now, for those who are not opposed to adding a bit of color and flavor to tune/tweak the sound to their liking, what is your preferred method of madness? Speakers, amps, preamps, DACs, cables? I know many who like the combination of solid state amps with tube preamps. Lately, a lot of upmarket DACs are using tubes (Lampizator) or R2R to add a sort of tube-like flavoring. Let’s say you’re happy with your solid state amp but want to add a bit of tube magic to the chain, would you get there by way of tube preamps or tube DACs? Or both -- which might be too much of a good thing perhaps?


I had a tube DAC but comments here helped me understand that tubes in the input chain might be removing too much information. So, now, they're out.

Adjustments come, in descending order of impact, from 

(a) tube preamp input tube and 

(b) DAC.

Some adjustments also come from

(c)alternating between SS and tube amps and

(d) adjusting room treatments.

I have not found cables to move the needles significantly for my setup. The other variables have a much larger impact.

The artist adds color.  so to get more color I listen to a lot of new music looking for gems.

I prefer texture for instruments and flesh tone for vocalists. IMO color implies over saturation of tone/timbre. The best way to achieve this is with source components Phono Preamp/Cartridge or Dac. 

For the room, diffusion.  Adds color and imaging to an over treated room.

Otherwise, my preference has always been the preamp with either something sweet and liquid sounding like a Luxman, or downright overly colorful like a Conrad Johnson.  Ayre may also qualify here.

The issue with tube amps has always been, in my mind, that it's a see saw balancing act between the tube amp and the speaker impedance curves.  I'd rather get a stiff solid state amp that is speaker neutral (by comparison to tubes) and use my preamp for color.

I hate when a system adds a color. It permeates all music played through that system. My goal has been to remove all color so as to achieve tonal neutrality and transparency to what is on the recording.