newbie question on TUBE gears.


so far I've been using only SS gears, and thinking about a tube gear for the next upgrade..

I have a few question...

1. Is it ok to mix and match SS preamp and tube poweramp?
(thinking about Audio Research LS-12 which is SS preamp and maybe a tube poweramp for the next round of upgrades)

2. How often do you need to replace the tubes?

3. How easy/hard to get extra tubes and the cost?
(do you usually get it from a dealer? or directly order from manufacturer? avaible to order online?)

4. How easy/hard to replace the tubes? Is it easy enough to DIY or do you need to take it to dealers?

Any other questions I'm missing?

Thanks.
eandylee
Yes it is OK to mix SS pre-amp and tubed amp. Not usual but certainly OK and as far a matching it can be much easier.

You replace tubes based on usage. Normally power tubes last from anywhere between 1500 and 3000 hours (depending on amp design) and small tubes last much longer depending a lot on tube quality. Anywhere from 5000 hours and up.

Tube are generally easy to find, especially new production tubes. NOS is harder and more expensive. Try to find an amp (for your first amp) which can use popular new production tubes such as EL34s, 6L6's, 6550's, and KT88's. Power tubes cost between $60 to $160 a quad depending on type. Small tubes cost anywhere from $10 to $20 each depending on type and quality. You buy them from on line tube dealers with a proven track record for reliability. Easy to do.

Small tubes are easy to replace. You simply pull them out and plug in new ones. Power tubes can be easy and the same as small tubes if you amp is of the auto biasing variety. If not, you have to have a volt meter and learn how to use it and adjust the bias yourself. Not a big deal, especially if your amp has a bias pot for each tube.
You certainly do not have to take your amp into a dealer for tube replacement, provided you buy one that has a reputation for being easy for a beginner to handle. Some amps, especially older ARC amps for example can be a real PITA even for folks who know what they are doing so be wary of the amps requirements.

FWIW, and I know you didn't ask, but ARC is not really known for making the best SS pre-amps, and if you're are really going to get the benefit of a tubed system by putting tubes at the amp end you want to be sure you get the most transparent and tonally neutral pre-amp you can afford. Cheap out on this and you won't really hear a great benefit from using contemporary tube amps.

Take your time, do a LOT of research, and ask a LOT of questions before you jump in.
You need to tell us what speakers will be used. I personally love tube amps and have owned various ones for 23 years. However, I also like tube pre-amps and the well designed ones are virtually maintenance free. Maybe replace the small tubes every 3-5 years depending on how much you leave them fired up.

There are damn good SS amps such as Plinius, Ayre, etc. However, if your speakers are amenable, I'd look into tube amps and not worry about upkeep, etc. I have an EAR 890 which is about 2.5 years old and I'm using the same power (big) tubes. Importer has told me they still have another year of two left. Years ago I fretted and worried about sutff like leaving the amp on, how many times I turned it on and off, etc. I now just use it when I want (it makes beautiful music) and realize the KT90 is a very easily available tube.

Also, you might let us know what kind of music you like and how loud you listen (along with IDing the speakers being used).

By the way, I agree with everything Newbee said.
Looks like your system is more of a dedicated theater to me. I would suggest upgrading your processor to a 568. You could also gain some improvment with some accoustic panels behind your front 3 speakers. Integrating tubes into your system is not going to be easy. You could try a tube Pre/Proccessor from Cary Audio. Another option would be to buy a 2-channel tube amp and see how you like it against your Bryston amps.
One more idea for just 2-channel would be to buy a tube CD or tube dac. This might be the best idea as you can get a little tube magic for CD and keep what you have for home theater.
I think a SS preamp with a tubed amp is a good idea.

If owning SS gear is idiot proof, then owning tubed gear is downright
simple. Just get an amp that is self biasing, and also one with a tube
sentry circuit, if possible. The tube sentry circuit shuts down the amp
before any damage can be done if a tube goes bad. These are fairly
common features these days.

Good replacement tubes for power amps need not be expensive
depending on the type of tube. Mini tubes for preamps are substantially
more expensive for the good stuff, IMO. There are always exceptions,
and I'm sure others will respond with mind blowingly expensive power
tubes, but you don't need the expensive power tubes to get outstanding
results.

Have fun. No worries.
1. Is it ok to mix and match SS preamp and tube poweramp?

ABSOLUTELY. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. MANUFACTURERS EVEN MAKE WHAT THEY CALL HYBRID INTEGRATEDS. MUSICAL FIDELITY EVEN SELLS WHAT'S CALLED A TUBE BUFFER THAT PEOPLE CAN INSERT INTO THEIR SS SYSTEM.

2. How often do you need to replace the tubes?

YOU NEED TO REPLACE A TUBE WHEN IT FAILS PREMATURELY, DIES BECAUSE ITS DONE OR BECAUSE YOU WANT TO "ROLL" THEM.

A TUBE FAILING PREMATURELY IS RARE. I KNOW IT HAPPENS BUT IT'S NEVER HAPPENED TO ME AND I DON'T KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS HAD THIS HAPPEN. MOST TUBES WILL LAST THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF HOURS. YOU WILL MOST LIKELY EITHER ROLL THE TUBES OUT OR SELL YOUR EQUIPMENT BEFORE YOU HAVE TO CHANGE A TUBE THAT HAS RUN ITS COURSE. TUBE ROLLING IS PART OF THE ALLURE OF OWNING TUBE EQUIPMENT. YOU WILL PROBABLY WANT TO EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT TYPES (KT88 VS. 6550) AND/OR BRANDS.

3. How easy/hard to get extra tubes and the cost?

ANYONE CAN FIND ANY POPULAR TUBE TYPE ANYTIME. THE "HARD" PART IS EDUCATING YOURSELF ABOUT TUBE REPUTATIONS AND THEN DECIDING ON WHAT TO GET. OF COURSE, YOU'LL PROBABLY END UP TRYING DIFFERNT TYPES UNTIL YOU FIND THE ONES YOU LIKE. THERE ARE NOS TUBES THAT TEND TO BE RARE (THEY'RE NOT MAKING ANYMORE NOS TUBES!!) AND NEW TUBES THAT ARE ABUNDANT AND COST LESS. JUST LIKE ANYTHING, THERE'S A WIDE RANGE OF VARIETY AND PRICE

4. How easy/hard to replace the tubes? Is it easy enough to DIY or do you need to take it to dealers?

IF YOU CAN SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB YOU CAN REPLACE A TUBE

TRY TO GET SOMETHING THAT HAS AUTOBIAS IN THE DESIGN
Thanks guys...

I was thinking about upgrading to Meridian 568 but decided to go separate path. Right not thinking about SS preamp with HT by path, Classe CP-50/60 or Audio Research. And thining about a tube power amp to match it. My current speaker is a pair of JM Lab Electra 926.
The 568 has a better pre-amp section in it over the 561. The 565 is also better but you don't get the PC set-up.

A pre-amp with HT pass through is not a bad idea. I think Meridian processors turn everything into digital and back to analog if you use the analog outputs. This may defeat some benefits of using a tube CD or dac on the input side.