Suggest you go preamp first not power amp....you may stop there....
Dean, welcome to the world of tubes. of course not all tube amps are equal. You gotta do your research, other than asking questions here.
I bought my JOR with no advice from anyone here. i made my own decision based on hours of research.
i hope you do the same.
I'm looking at a tube amp used here on audiogon. Can't tell you which, as I'm waiting on funds, and you grab it. Its less than 2K is all i can say. If my deal falls through I'll PM you about it. Don't worry there are plenty of other fine tube amps up on audiogon every week. Just keep your eyes open, for good bargains.
I used to be in the camp recommending a tubed preamp first before changing to a tubed amplifier, but I've recently changed my opinion, based on some experimentation done recently in my system with amplifiers, and based also on a comment made by Paul Seydor in his review of McIntosh MC402 solid state and MC2102 tubed amplifiers in the April/May 2004 issue of "The Absolute Sound", in which he states that a system's sonic character is determined far more my amps than preamps. I'm beginning to believe he is correct.
You need to decide what kind of tube sound you want first. Some tube gear is very rich with harmonic distortion, some is very clean. Some roll of the frequency extremes, other are strong at the extremes, some accent different parts of the audio spectrum, some is very resolving, some coats the music in a thick syrup. The idea that there isa tube sound is (IMHO)one of the greatest myths in audio. Iheard my first tube amplifiers years ago, thought "So that's the tube sound, huh? I hate it". I now own 2 tube amps, and like them very much; it was a question of finding ones that sounded the way I liked.
Your interest and curiosity in trying tubes is a natural progression as it is for most audiophiles. On the positive side, tubes will definately allow you to hear even further into the musical landscape, fleshing out more details. But as one reviewer wrote they are funky devices that start wearing themselves out as soon as they are powered up. Being a bit compulsive, I was always concerned what they were doing in my system and are they ok. Also since I like my system powered up most of the time, even for background music, solid state for me was always no brainer. I started off replacing my ss preamp with a tube preamp, looking for a design that used less tubes rather than more, tube phobia? It sounded very good, enough to then try a tube power amp. The combination was exciting & involving. I then started missing the lower noise floor & dynamics that ss can bring to the table for all types of music. Thus the reason I now reside with solid state. Maybe I have gone full circle? Just an alternative opinion.
I know alot of audiophiles like the hands on approach for tube rolling and the ability to change/improve the sound. Why is it that alot of tube gear have more cabinet screws to remove than solid state knowing that easy access to those tubes would be more desirable. How many of you lost screws to tube rolling, where are they going? Finally I have read in the threads where a defective tube can take out resistors or other critical components creating a high repair bill. In worst case scenario one member reported his ARC tube amp caught fire although I have yet to experience any of these problems myself.
I pretty much agree with Honest1...tube amps sound even more different than solid state amps. You need a plan and lots of research because your not going to get a chance to listen to very many unless you live in a very large city.
I have used a tubed preamp for a while but only added tubed monos last Christmas.
I already had the speakers I wanted so I only needed to find a tube amp that would mate well with my speakers and preamp, and of course provide the type of sonic signature I was after for my system as a whole.
This led me to pass on some very fine tube amps that may have been a "top choice" in another system...but I thought "not" in this system.
A little research and some idea of what your after could save some extra shipping.
I strongly recommend the ROGUE products. Their Stereo 90 amp is a modern classic and retails for only $2200, the Metis pre-amp is a grand and was just called the 'budget component of their year' in a rave review in TAS.
This is not classic 'tubey' gear, soft, with no frequency extremes. This has the incredible 'realness' and amazing midrange you get from tubes, but a more modern sound. Think ARC, but not so analytical. And way more reliable. My Rogue pre and power amp are dead quiet, I mean SILENT. Very nice gear.
You need to determine if your speakers suit a tube amp.In my experience most mainstream speakers don't.
The real magic of tube amps is generally only revealed with simple efficient speakers.
This is more involved than just efficiency too.Complex crossovers rob tube amps of much of their potential.As I understand it this is due to tube amps having low damping factors.
I tend to agree with Larryken in that you should look into a tube preamp first.
This is not to say that I don't love tube power amps,but finding optimal speakers for them can be an issue.And if you are happy with your speakers why change?