Neutral Sounding Tube Amps - what gives?

If I'm in the market for a tube power amp or preamp, it's because I enjoy the sheer musicality of tubes, the romance they bring, the warmth, the inner-glow, the bloom, the whatever the heck you want to call it.

So why, when I'm reading current reviews and forum comments on the latest tube gear, has it suddenly become a good thing to encounter modern tube gear that sounds 'neutral,' 'transparent,' 'uncolored,' etc.? These were not the attributes that drew me to use 'valves' in the '80s (A classic Leak Stereo 20 driving Quad ESL57s), and it's not what I want from my tube gear today.  

Who changed the rules? Did anyone else get the memo?

With the above in mind, what do you consider to be the best tube preamp offering a 'classic' tube sound, but built in the last decade, say in the $10K new range? I'm not shopping, I'm just curious to see if I'm missing something.


I agree with you completely.  I prefer a warmer sound which and the musicality which is why I am drawn to SETs.  

I am HIGHLY biased (I import the line) but my favorite preamp I have heard under $10K with traditional tube sound is the Art Audio Conductor.  I list it at $8500 though if I went through retail it would be quite a bit more.  

Here is a review of the Conductor along with an interview with Tom.

My primary points of comparison were an Ayre unit and the PS Audio BHK in side-by-side testing but it was much better than those.  
Your missing a lot.
There are a ton of good sounding Valve amps out there. Set, Push Pull, selectable, and VALVE swappable. You can get all over the map with a single stereo valve unit, or mono blocks for 5K or under. I been having a great time with a few different models, Cary V12R, all tricked for my ears, and tricked out pair of 6 packs.
Macs, MC225,240,275,60s, I roll them in and out of setups all the time.

They all have their place. 12 to over 100 watts per rail, is plenty for me. I use to have a pair @ 360 per rail, TOO hot, too much, I quit using valve amps for bass duty, too. It cleaned up, a lot of issues and removed a LOT of the summer room heat. Over 114 last week. 121 in the Valley. HOT!!! It's still class D time for 3 more weeks or so..
I really dislike vent noise to stay cool enough to listen to the stereo..

@ebm .
You're. Sorry for being pedantic.

-Though if you mean SS can offer Tubes 'sound', then I agree.