This is an easy question to answer: in the preamp. Then the amp, but first the preamp. I think a tube preamp with a SS preamp is wonderful, but since I have both a Don Sachs' tube preamp and tube amp, during the hot summers in the Central Valley of CA I give Don's amp a rest so using my SS amps this time of year soften my cooling bills. Once the weather moderates, the tube amp is back in the rack.
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there is the rare exception to that…. but it takes a slew of innovation to achieve it from a die hard tube zealot Richard Vandersteen; M7 high pass amplifier: Built in hanging truss HRS isolation, tube front end with liquid cooling into radiators with analog controlled pump No digital chip in the amp , analog controls for DC, low voltage, temp, pump speed, etc, single ended output, balanced input, no emitter resistors , 11 separate power supplies, cyclotron like output stages, 128 v DBS for both speaker wire and IC, the list goes on….
IF in Seattle, stop by for a listen….
My system is all tube. The Musical Paradise DAC has a chip of course, but the output goes directly to a tube output stage, then my preamp and my kt88 amp, both tube of course because that is what I build. I certainly have no desire to listen to anything else. The key is to pick a tube friendly speaker. I have a pair of Cornwall IV, which I rebuilt the crossovers on with better parts, and also Clayton Shaw’s Spatial X5. Both are wonderful speakers and very tube friendly.
If you pick speakers that require high power SS amps... then that is what you are stuck with. Just my 2 cents
Partly due to my age, I design and build almost exclusively with tubes (some hybrids with SS in a supporting role), and in my view they are by far the easiest way to get ready good sound. But in the end it’s all in the implementation.
I just don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to get get top notch sound out of pure SS. But there are are many very good designers out there who really have a handle on the subtleties of SOT SS design…
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