Tubes, no doubt about it.
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If you had to start from scratch the potential would be vast. I've always come back to tubes myself, but sure have enjoyed SS along the way. As others have already pointed out, you can get great sound either way if you do it right. For now I'm sticking with tubes, but am always open to hearing something different.
Since I first tried a tube preamp, I'd always been "afraid" to try a tube amp because of heat and problems I read about with tube amps.
A few weeks ago I got a new tube amp and wish I'd done it earlier. I went with one (BAT), that I'm hoping is pretty much 'plug and play', as there is no biasing to do.
If anyone was like me, you owe it to yourself to try a tube amp. This is a whole new world and I guess time will tell if there are any maintenance issues.
I live in a hot summer climate and think I might switch things out to a SS integrated for those months.. but regarding your question, if starting from scratch, I'd go tubes.
I have owned tubed amplification and preamplification from VAC (Phi series
and Musicbloc series), Atma-Sphere, Lamm Industries (preamps only).
I have owned solid state amplification from Pass Labs, McCormack, Belles
Reference, Bryston and Odyssey.
I have owned hybrid amplification from Moscode.
The Pass Labs, Atma-Sphere, VAC Phi and Moscode amplification are all on
a pretty even plane regarding imaging, accuracy of timbre and every other
audiophile attribute provided they are driving properly matched loudspeakers.
One's choice between them is up to one's personal preferences.
The Belles, VAC MusicBloc series and McCormack are one-half level down,
and the Bryston and Odyssey are a full level down. IMO.
Having said that, if I were to start over, I'd choose high sensitivity, high
impedance/flat-impedance-curve loudspeakers, and I'd drive them with
tubes...probably an Atma-Sphere or Lamm product, but I would also consider
several other smaller tube amp manufacturers along with a Pass Labs XA-
30.5 solid state amp. 'Cause nothing does everything perfectly.
I will not be PC.
Tubes give better overall realistic sound. I feel that I have 'wasted' many years sticking with high power (400+ watts) SS amps, recently the highly regarded MBL 9008A's. Now the 60-90 Watt tube amps produces that sounds more powerful and fuller sounding than the 400 watt behemoths i used over the years
Of course, I have auditioned some exceptional tube sounding SS amps, but they are still not completely like tubes. Have not heard the DarT yet.
For me, it's tubes. Like Nillthepill, personally, I've never heard a system with a solid state amplifier that would cause me to throw the box away.
Of course, the statements about loudspeakers are most salient, but the speakers that I would put money down on (apart maybe trying the Apogees), would more or less invariably be tube friendly. Speakers, and the speaker - room interface always comes first, but as Manley says, "tubes rule."
Great tube amps can be very captivating...can SS be that way?? Yes but in a different way...greater transparency...but not as rich in harmonics and less ambient retreival...but the transparency and resolution are something I'm hooked on. Go listen and make a choice...I have both tubes and SS and enjoy both.
If speakers rule and amps serve, then tube amps just serve better.
Many different systems in different rooms at different price points all make me want to listen to more music. They all have tube amps in them.
Some ss amp systems let me hear lots of detail, but it's the rare system w/ ss amp that makes me want to stay and listen to more music. Cheers,