Hybrid tube/ss phono pre amps. Are they better than just Tube or SS alone?

So I have been reading up about Phono Preamps. There are so many to choose from in the $2500 and under price range new or used.

I’m leaning towards the Hybrid Tube/SS kind because loads of reviews and people are saying you can get the best of both worlds. Is this hype or real?

Allnic H1201 and Manley Chinook (both used) seem to be the favorites at the high end of my price range. Who are the others… hopefuly not too far off in performance but less expensive?

Looking for one that is very flexable and works well with the greatest range of TT’s, carts, and arms. And does a good overall job with the highs, lows, midrange, and soundstage.

The HK990’s phono input does a decent job but imho it seems weak in the midrange. I believe the consensus is that external phono preamps create better sound.

Someone has suggested I save up and get a higher end intergraded with a phono input but I like the flexibility a seperate one will give me when I decide to upgrade from the HK990.

Here is my current system. All of it will eventually be upgraded. I’m going to do one upgrade on all these components and that will be the end of my journey down the rabbit hole of this hobby… at least for a long time.

Harmon Karmon HK990
VPI Scout turntable with a JMW-9 memorial arm and an Ortofon 2m bronze cartridge (mm)
Revels F52’s
SVS PB-NSD subwoofer.

So there you have it…. what do you think?



I have an all tube phono stage built into my Shindo preamp. I see no really advantage to a hybrid unless you need a ton of gain. I used to also own an all tube cary phono pre. It was great sounding. By the way both of these all tube phono stages are dead quite.
I'm not answering your question directly, but I will say there are many really good tube and solid state phone amps available.
I've owned several different Phono Preamps over the years. I currently use the Allnic H 1201 (that I purchased new from Albert Porter here on Audiogon). I very much like the Allnic H 1201 and I think it can handle whatever your needs are.

IMO you are better off with a tube preamp. While tubes do have slightly more noise than transistors, the really big difference between them in preamps is that tubes are better at low level detail. This is something that cannot be replaced downstream no matter how good your amp and speakers are!
Meambler, I'm curious as to what hybrid tube/ss phono stage you are leaning towards.

I don't know of many hybrid phono stages, maybe Herron with a FET input stage on it's MC inputs.

Or are you talking about tube phono stages that do not use tube regulation in the power supply as a hybrid design (SS power supply/ tube output stage)?
In which case most tube phono stages would fall into this category.
jmcgrogan2 … I pulled this explanation from an article in Canadian WiFi magazine.

"Tube or Tubeless
Much like with most other audio components, when considering a phono stage the quandary of whether to-tube or not-to-tube comes into the mix. Three different types of phono stages exist: solid-state, valve or hybrid. The bulk of phono stage products, especially those in the more affordable range are of solid-state / transistor designs but there continues to be a number of valve / tube-based products, as well as those which are of a hybrid design – utilizing a combination of solid-state and tube. In these hybrid designs, the tubes are typically used as an output buffer to condition and soften the output signal before it is sent to a connected preamplifier. All three designs have their supporters and which is best depends on a number of variables, including the cartridge, turntable, connected electronics and speakers as well as personal preferences."
Since I am eventually going to upgrade my whole system I would want a Phono stage that will work with the widest variety of components.

As I understand it… Tubes sound more atmospheric and do a better job on highs and midranges while the SS does a better job with the bass and low end and overall precision of sound (tightness?). The Phono input on my HK990 does a good job with the lows and bass but seems lacking in the midrange.  

When it comes to phono, the traditional myth about solid state doing bass better does not hold.
…"the really big difference between them in preamps is that tubes are better at low level detail."

atmasphere… Does that mean when the volume level is lower coming through the speakers? 

Interesting little article Meambler. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but maybe it’s just me. I have heard of electronics using tubes in a buffer stage, as opposed to the gain stage, but that is normally in CD Players and DACs as far as I know.

I’m not sure that I know of a phono stage that only uses tubes in a buffer stage. Can anyone else help me out here?

atmasphere… Does that mean when the volume level is lower coming through the speakers?
No. what we are talking about with low level detail is the lesser sounds in the recording- hall ambiance, little details like people shifting in their chairs, subtle tonal cues, etc. This is something that exists independent of the volume control setting (which is how I am interpreting  "the volume level is lower coming through the speakers"

Well everyone I went with a Herron VTPH-1 mm. Found one at an incredible price .

Thanks for all the help!

Congrats! You can't go wrong with a Herron!