What tube pre are you currently using? I think we need a frame of reference of what sound you're familiar with which you seek to change up. Also I hope you aren't being serious when you say that a tube going bad could be a reason for buying a new piece of gear????
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Agree it would be most helpful to know what improvements you’d like to have by changing preamps besides lower maintenance. As for going to solid state, especially coming off a tubed pre, you should wait until you have a higher budget and can move to a more refined-sounding SS preamp. At your current price range you’re likely to get a more thin-, sterile-type sound that may not be to your liking. A couple brands that come to mind that might provide a more palatable transition to solid state would be Ayre and Pass Labs. Hope this helps.
The P5 is not nearly the preamp the P7 or later pre’s were. If you are going that route I’d strongly encourage you to step up. The P7 is a much better stere pre with the addition of multi-channel inputs. In my mind, the P5 is a Zpre in a bigger case.
Look online at pictures of the insides and you’ll see what I mean.
After swapping out the tubes, I'm now having issues whenever I bump the preamp or change inputs, I hear a crackle, which leads me to believe it's a bigger problem. To those of you that said moving from a tube to solid state, I understand what you're saying and do agree, I think it was a bit of a knee jerk reaction & maybe some upgrade-itis.
Risking scorn for blatant redundancy, I can highly recommend a Schiit Freya + for its tubishness and flexibility...and astonishing world beating sound and value...but mostly sound. I’ve owned the early version for a couple of years and with NOS tubes of which I now have a pile, it’s as good as anything made by anybody, and often better with more inputs and output options than most.
Microphonic tubes usually make more of a ringing sound than a crackle, at least in my experience. Is the noise in both channels, or just one? If just one, have you tried switching the tubes to see if the noise switches to the other channel. It might be as simple as re-seating the tubes, a noisy tube(s), or it could be something wrong with the amp itself. If you do a google search for "tube preamp crackling" you'll find some articles with troubleshooting tips.
I also have VTL 2.5 preamp and find it difficult to replace below a certain price point. As others suggested, if you are going for SS preamp, then better be prepared to spend more to get better sound compared to the VTL 2.5. What tubes are you using? Hera are a few suggestions that might help you to get more out of your VTL 2.51. Try Amperex Bugle Boy 12AT7 and 12AU7 (Holland). You get deep and tight bass, do wonders to the voices, and extended highs2. Alternatively, RCA 12AU7A ECC82 clear Top "D" Getter also give excellent results.
3. If you haven't done already, may be it is time to cleanup the contact points of the tree knobs used for source selection, balance and volume control. With age, they begin to make poor contacts and will require some cleaning. Use DeoxIT D5 or similar product. Please do not use WD-40. This will also improve your sound.
Hope this helps to keep VTL 2.5 until you find a suitable replacement.
Your unit may be worth the price of an overhaul, perhaps some contact cleaner on the controls before you give up on it or send it in.
let’s talk features.
Modern features, an integrated amp, skipping preamp for most inputs, with Remote Volume? Remote Balance?
Tube Integrated? If so, go for external bias adjustment, I wish mine had that.
TWO PHONO INPUTS!
I just went to a two tonearm setup. One arm STEREO cartridge, setup refined and ready. One arm MONO cartridge setup refined and ready (for mono jazz lps).
A preamp with 2 phono inputs (1 for each arm) makes the use of this setup easy, cost and space efficient.
Despite my doubts as to how much better, after research I went for it and immediately found a MONO cartridge is far superior on some mono lps, better on most, I haven’t had it long enough to say better on all, but I suspect true.
btw, I went the opposite way, sold my McIntosh SS Preamp C28 and got a McIntosh Old Dog Tube Tuner/ Preamp mx110z. I love it, including it’s terrific FM Tuner.
One nice feature is the McIntosh units have trim controls for individual inputs, so different output cartridges can be volume equalled, no master volume adjustment needed when switching arms.
These old dogs don’t have Moving Coils inputs, neither do I.
it is included in this trip down McIntosh lane
the article has a significant typo. It says 27 tubes, it ONLY has 17. That's funny, quite a few, compared to tube preamp without a tuner.
regretting going SS?
my former TT had an internal switchable Phono Preamp, a dinky printed circuit, laughable right? Who would use it if you have a McIntosh Preamp with Phono EQ?
With the SS C28, I actually preferred the TT built in phono eq to the McIntosh.
Now, mx110z tube preamp, the Tube Phono EQ is wonderful!!!
I agree, caution moving away from Tubes.
I upgraded my P3 to P 5, and while the P 5 was much better, I would consider it decent, but your system demands better
If your amp has differential balanced XLRs start moving in that direction
You might get really lucky and find a Audio Alchemy DDP-1 + PS 5, but generally they're ~ $1500. Excellent reviews
Go for the Mcintosh D-100. I had a VTL 2.5 for a few years. I spent a bunch of $$$ on tubes to make it sound like a tube pre and it always sound like a SS pre to me. Great product, just not for me. If I had your amps I'd really think about Mcintosh. A well respected company that's been in business longer than most of us have been alive and that speaks volumes.
I had a VTL TL-2.5 for over 20 years.
It’s a great, very capable preamp.
Hard to beat in that price range.
I upgraded to the VTL TL-5.5 (series 1), rolled tubes & went to reference quality cables.
If you are using the right tubes, other equipment, and reference quality cables, it is shocking what these VTL pure tube preamps are capable of.
IMO, the more expensive SS equipment I’ve listened to sounds very detailed & great, but analytical & is missing the natural timbres & decay that make the music authentic.
Hello, if you can find one at a good price and would like a SS preamp I would look into a Marsh Sound Design P2000. MSD SS always had a warm sound to me. The schiit Frey’s is really good to with upgraded tubes. Look on YouTube to see what upgraded tubes worked for people. I would try and get your preamp running if you can. You can either hold onto it to have a change in your sound or sell it to put the money towards a really good SS preamp like some of the people mentioned in this post.
After swapping out the tubes, I'm now having issues whenever I bump the preamp or change inputs, I hear a crackle, which leads me to believe it's a bigger problem.Sounds like the tube swap didn't go well. By tapping on the tubes you can often find the culprit with the symptoms you describe. Doesn't sound like any other fault than you stuck a defective tube in the unit to replace a defective tube.
My thinking is your budget doesn't match your system. You have a Mac amplifier for example; pairing it with a $1500 preamp will mean the preamp is the bottleneck!