Once again...looking for a "tube like" SS preamp


I am looking for a solid state preamp that has the fatigue free sonic signature of a tube preamp. For reasons that will completely bore everyone out there, my setup makes it difficult to get a tube preamp like the Aesthetix or VTL which I absolutely love.

Source is a Bryston BDA-1 DAC. Amplification is Jeff Rowland 501 mono blocks. Speakers are Tannoy Kensingtons. I am considering between the Bryston BP26 (matches the source) and Jeff Rowland Capri (matches the source). I would love to hear from people who have had experience with either of these two models on how the sound compares with tube gear. Also, should I be considering any other models in the $5k +/- range that would fit best what I am looking for?

The Classe DR-5,6 might be up your ally with tube like sound and great SS reliability...and way under your price.
Good luck Lp newbie, I've never heard any ss pre that can do what you are looking for. You will get everything top to bottom so far as clarity and dynamics but you will never find the characteristics that tubes get and ss doesn't, presence and tonal density. At least I have never heard a ss pre come close. Why not a tube preamp, it can't be so difficult can it?
easy plinius M-8 and theirs amp are as close to tupes as I
have heard
No SS is like tubes. Sorry. I'm not knocking SS but not praising it either.
Give the Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE linestage a try. Read the review on 6moons.com.
Pass XP 10 or 20
luxman maybe?
I'm with Schipo, Old Classe stuff... Still not like tubes, but it does head that way.
I think it is a mistake to look for tube attributes in solid state gear.

Look for excellent solid state and enjoy it for what it is.
Class A rated gear is the best you will get. Threshold, Pass Labs, Aragon or even old Sumo or Yamaha M series.
Didn't think about it until I read Elevick, I've had 3 Sumo's through the years, they were all warm & faily detailed. Electra or Athena
Why don't you bore us with why you cannot use a tube preamp?
How about Accuphase ? How about McIntosh ? Another good one would be TRL (Transistor Research Labs).
I have tried Plinius preamps and they dont sound like tubes at all. Their amps do have a sound closer to tubes though.
Best SS I've encountered for tube-like sound is Conrad Johnson. Any of their SS preamps will have the SS version of the "CJ" sound. I've owned two different models, and both were good performers.
Conrad Johnson, and Audio Research SS, sound like SS; and not particularly good SS.
I feel it necessary to qualify my last post. I auditioned SS pre's by CJ and ARC. While I'm a big fan of their tube gear, the SS was "clinical". I think I'm allergic to SS preamps, and maybe I should not have posted.
Try a Dynaco pas 2,3, or 3x. They are cheap and have great tube sound. If u dont like it u can always sell it. Mcintosh solid state equipment sounds tubey also. It is about the closest I have found to tube sound. Of course Mcintosh tube equipment is no slouch either, that is why it commands such a high price on the used market.
Pass Labs Aleph P, not tubes, but sounds smooth and airy.
I just remembered this and am attaching some cut outs of a review: Spread Sprectrum Technologies... Ambrosia....

Metaphorically speaking, a preamplifier is the spark plug of an audio system. It has the potential to jump-start the audio signal and set the stage for the power amp. But because it sits at the head of the amplification chain it can also imprint its personality on each and every input signal. Virtually every preamp I have reviewed over the past 25 years has been vacuum tube based. At the risk of sounding like a tube supremacist, I would like to point out that there is a reason for why tubes have ruled preamp land. Tubes have always had the gift of microdynamics, harmonic textures and spatiality. They have been able - far more convincingly than transistors — of dishing out the music's emotional content and drama as well as fleshing out believable instrumental timbres and soundstage dimensions. Transistors have had bass, detail resolution, and low noise to brag about, but in my book ‘enjoying the music' counts for far more than accurate sterility. The notion that tube magic is partially due to euphonic colorations of the signal does not bother me at all. Because above all else, I value the ability to connect with the music's message. J. Gordon Holt's ‘Goose Bump' test is still as valid today as it was 50 years ago. By the way, his favorite preamp was the Marantz 7, which went on to become a classic. It was only in the past couple of years that my respect for solid-state preamplification took a leap forward. It started with the GamuT D3, and now the Ambrosia.

the Ambrosia is a sensation at any price point. Here is a full function preamplifier complete with MM and MC phono capability that for me bridges the sonic gap between solid-state and tube designs. If you already own a tube or hybrid amp, the Ambrosia should prove most complementary. With a tubed CD player, such as the PrimaLuna ProLogue Eight at the head of the chain, the Ambrosia-Son partnership partnered makes for a synergistic amplification chain competitive with the best money can buy.
Dick Olsher Enjoy the Music
I had a Sonic Frontier SE line 2 which I replaced with a Bat VK 40 just as good in every respect except it had no tube noise a low levels like the Sonic Frontiers sometimes had , plus no tubes to replace.

Do a google research I know Stereophole reviewed the Bat VK 40 and compared it to a tube pre and the reviewer felt in a blind test he would pick the Bat as the tubed unit.
The reason the Dynaco has a tube like sound is that they are tube preamps. IMHO the Bryston would be about as untubelike as you could get. The Audia Flight pre would be a much better choice.
The Posters above are correct NO SS pre will emulate what tubes do.

Yep had Bryston/Rowland and Tannoys

The only units I've owned that come real close to the Vave Pre, were nothing current sorry but

available S/H.

The Stan KLYNE-- actually I think still available new?--if so a no brainer for the $$'s.

The Original Otala Preampliwire from Electrocompaniet

Good listening,

Have a look at the Tom Evans Vibe - from what I recall this is a very organic sounding solid state preamp. Reviewed in Absolute Sounds Mag a few years ago.
A bit alternative but how about you try a M/Fidelity X10-v3
between your Bryston dac and your existing pre ( provided you have one at this time )
I agree with Philjolet who said above,
Look for excellent solid state and enjoy it for what it is.
.....and Dover nailed it with the Tom Evans recommendation. I own the TEAD Vibe (Lithos 7) with Pulse II and it betters every single SS preamp I have heard by a long shot, and most (if not all) of the tubed units I have owned/heard too.
One of my systems has an RGR preamp that I find is quite tube like......
tough to do unles you are willing to do some work to a ss pre or have someone do it for you. First thing you need is a monster transformer, almost all use 15-30 watters, need 500 watts. numerous other upgrades are needed regardless of unit price.
Lp newbie, I would not be the least bit bored by any or all of the reasons your setup makes it difficult to have a tube pre.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have yet to hear a solid state pre that sounds like tubes. I have tested the Jeff Rowland Capri in my solid state system and I was also going down a similar path as you are now. It is a great pre - I heard things in recordings in the context of my system I had not heard before as it is very transparent and highly resolving but ultimately was too fatiguing for me, although to a lesser degree than other SS pre's. The Ayre K5xe MP was in my system smoother and had more body than the Capri but that isn't tube like either. None of them have the harmonic richness of dimensionality that tubes can give.
None of them have the harmonic richness of dimensionality that tubes can give.
Mikey, have you heard a TEAD Vibe7 with Pulse II? I am not going to argue that it is the same as a tubed preamp, but it certainly has the harmonic richness and dimensionality you indicate are lacking in the SS preamps you have heard, and it certainly sounds different than all the other SS preamps I have owned or heard.

After years of trying many different tubed and SS preamps, the Vibe/Pulse is the one preamp I can live with and have no regrets. Thats why I think the OP should give it a try if he really wants a SS preamp. The absence of balanced outputs should also not be a concern as I use mine into Jensen transformers for the rca/XLR conversion then into balanced amps with no sonic penalty whatsoever that I can hear.

The last time I counted, there were "eleventy eleven dozen" SS pre's that sounded "tubelike". Are there any SS pre's left that sound SS. The logic of buying a SS pre that sounds "tubelike" eludes me. I'm sure there are many who can enlighten me in regard to this matter.
"The last time I counted, there were "eleventy eleven dozen" SS pre's that sounded "tubelike". Are there any SS pre's left that sound SS. The logic of buying a SS pre that sounds "tubelike" eludes me. I'm sure there are many who can enlighten me in regard to this matter."

Orpheus10 I'm sure your question is rhetorical but please let me make a stab at the REAL question and concern :)

"I want a ss preamp that has the harmonic richness, 3d palpability, believability factor, being drawn into the performance just like I hear with tubes but I don't want tubes, I want the plug and play convenience of ss. I DON'T want to deal with the hassle of tubes including wondering when the tubes are not operating at specifications, when to change, what tubes to use, my perception that they are just too much maintenance. Now please tell me what ss preamp to buy"

It is my experience that the best tube preamps can do EVERYTHING a great ss preamp can do, but the best ss preamp can't do what ALL tube preamps can even at the budget end of the spectrum, let you know that tubes are in the circuit for better or worse. The electrical characteristics of the two devices are different. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If you don't want to hassle with tubes, get a ss preamp. If you love the sound that tubes present, get a tube preamp. I don't see any middle ground on this issue. There are some very nice ss preamps out there, make your choice and live with it but never the two shall be the same. If you want to lessen your exposure to tubes but want "tube sound" better to go tube preamp and ss amp.
Orpheus10 has a point. As a group we cannot agree on what is tube like sound, hence we get a huge range of choices for solid state that sound like tubes. There's inexpensive tubes, vintage tubes, modern tubes and modern/expensive tube sounds. They all sound different. The OP doesn't tell us why he can't use a tube pre and is considering going with a Bryston as a substitute. Go figure!

In all honesty Tubegroover, I have owned and still own 3 tube pre's. The first was a PV-10 in the mid 80's. My next pre was an Audible Illusions in 92. We moved in 99 and I failed to take the tubes out of the pre's; that's a "no no", movers and tubes do not mix, the tubes had to be replaced.

A few years ago I bought a PV-12 on the Gon with NOS tubes already in it, and I love it. All of my pre's have NOS tubes and they sound fine. The last time I bought tubes was over 10 years ago, all NOS from Brent Jesse.

When I got into the "high end", there were quite a few emporiums and you could audition most of the equipment you read about in "Stereophile". I spent so much time in those places, that when I got home late one evening, my wife asked me "What's her name?". There is never a good answer to that question. While the places I went to had Adcom, Rotel and a few other SS names, their most expensive and best was tube CJ and ARC. When your ears witness what happens when you replace CJ or ARC with Adcom or Rotel, they will never forget the effervescent sound of tubes. I have never had any of the hassles you mentioned with tubes. Have you experienced this or is it a perception?

As a music lover, life is too short to deprive yourself of a music lovers greatest pleasure, "an eargasm!" There are SS lovers who get "eargasms", but it's because they like a different type of sound and music, that's why we have the both of them.


Thank you very much for your responses. Orpheus10 - since you insisted on being bored, this is what I am trying to do. I currently have an Aesthetix Calypso Signature preamp with NOS Mullards. While I absolutely love the sound, I am looking for something that is relative hassle free in terms of warm up time, tube matching etc. My idea is to ADD a SS preamp in the system and run the tube preamp through it in a bypass mode. That way, I can use the SS for casual listening and switch to tubes only when playing records. Now, I know that running the tube preamp this way will result in a bit of a sonic degradation. I am willing to live with the compromise and did not want well meaning a'goners to sidetrack the thread from my main question.

Now, in hindsight, I asked a pretty dumb question. No SS can sound like tubes and no tubes can sound like SS. In addition, "tube like" means different things to different folks. After all, not all tube preamps sound the same either. Onhway61 - your point on the bryston is well taken. I had the chance to listen to it briefly yesterday and while we may disagree on what makes a tube sound - it is pretty clear that the bryston is quite far from it.

So, let me ask my question differently. What SS premp under $5k would you recommend for faitgue free musical sound? In your experience, would either the Capri or the Bryston BP26 fit this criteria?

Many thanks.
I have owned two that fit your needs very nicely.

- Tom Evans Vibe with Pulse power supply is fantastic and exactly what you are looking for.
- Bel Canto Pre 3 can be had for only $1000 used and is also very, very good and fits your needs. It surpasses the Rowland Capri in every possible way also.
Oh ah, nevermind newbie!:)

and Orpheus, have you checked out your tubes lately? You might be missing something that you don't even realize. With all that tube gear, if you don't have one, invest a couple hundred in a tester. No I haven't had any problems with tubes and I guess I assumed to much with LP newbie's response. I was painting an often repeated objection to tubes in this forum over the years, this one is a first for me.! Good luck newbie with your search.

Believe it or not Tubegroover, my ears are better than any tube tester. I once bought some bargain tubes from Brent Jesse that he told me were as good as the real deal. After listening, I sent them back for the real deal replacement. Since they cost half as much as "the real deal" I had no gripe.

"I don't need no stinkin tube tester".
I hear you Orpheus but I want to be sure I'm getting what I'm paying for. You can easily purchase tubes that sound great but may not measure up, its happened to me numerous times over the years unless you purchase from trusted dealers. Even one "repudable" well known dealer I purchased from sold me 4 small "NOS" dual triodes that went south in less than 2 years, all of them, we're not talking a hot circuit here either. I have numerous brands of this type in my catche with nary a problem and some still in the amp testing very strong after 6 years continuous use. Unfortunately this dealer came highly recommended so I didn't test prior to installation. I've never made that mistake again. Yes your ears can tell you plenty but a tester can tell you if you're getting what you're paying for so far as electrical parameters. Optimal performance requires testing periodically, trust me on this, you sometimes don't realize what you're missing until it becomes quite obvious, your hearing becomes acclimated.
It's quite true that we become acclimated as a result of the slow decline in performance. A tube tester sounds like a good investment, I might get one.
I would second the previous suggestion regarding Pass. Also, I've heard Spectral preamps driving non-Spectral amps and it sounded very good. To meet your price target you will likely have to find the pramps here on Audiogon.