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Actually, this is the setup being used by Tom Evans Audio Design in their ultra-fi gear. They argue that ss is most critical at the preamp level, since tube noise overwhelms the tiny signals there. The preamp just won HiFi+ product of the year; the amp is not yet released but has been mentioned very favorably in that magazine. You can read their arguments at http://www.thebesthifiintheworld.com.
I have used every combination. I still have my original APT Holman solid state pre and Hafler 500's that I bought new. I bought used a CJ tube amp and then a used CJ tube pre. In my system there is no question that the best combination is using both a tube preamp and amp. I don't know about the synergy available from some of the newer solid state in combo's, but from my perspective tubes are where it's at.
Using a solid state will not alter the sound of your tube amp - in fact its easier to match a ss pre to a tube amp than the reverse. Both add in similar ways to the sonics. Personally I would never go back to a ss state amp - I just love the sound of tubes in the pre-amp stage - and as a part time hobbist I enjoy expirimenting with alternate tubes to change the sound a bit from time to time. That sure beats having to buy a new ss pre amp when i want change.
Having spent 30 years as an audiophile and having owned tons of gear, I can attest to the fact that often our current system tends to dictate our response..i.e..we don't want to be honest with ourselves in absolute terms! In other words, we delude ourselves that what we currently have is the best combo! As for myself, the latest transformation of my system has been done upon reflection of the vast number of combinations of gear that have gone through my house. What I did cost me dearly, not just in terms of cost, but in terms of my audio ego! I traded in a pair of Dunlavy SC-5 speakers for Watt/Puppy 6's plus 11,000. I then had to have Transparent cable to lash it all up...$18,000!! They were good speakers, but the thrill was gone from the music. I traded them back after 9months for a pair of B&w 801 nautilus speakers...they were less than exciting as well. In the end I traded them back in for my original Dunlavy's. Of course the Transparent cable mucked up the sound with my old speakers back in the system so I traded for Harmonic Technologies Magic Cables all around. In the end, all is extremely satisfying. So, with this lesson and many others under my belt, I say to you that putting a solid state pre-amp in front of a tube amp is not going to yield the most musical of results. It may sound nice...but not full, dynamic and solid the way live music sounds! I have owned all kinds of tube amps and pre-amps as well as ss amps and pre-amps (I like to mix and match), but no system has sounded better than the ones with a great Tube pre-amp and world class ss amp! SS pre's squash the life out of the signal...the tube amp adds back some body and action, but to a brutilized signal. A tube pre-amp adds life and tonal color as well as dynamics that a great ss amp will pass on without the smoke between notes!
I prefer using tubes for phonostages, linestages and the main amplifier. I might consider using a solid state amp if I were in need of much more power (I generally do not like high-powered tube gear), but, I am less inclined to use a solid state preamp in front of a tube amp. Still, I have heard pretty good results when I did use solid state in front of a tube amp, and I don't subscribe to the notion that there is some kind of tube "magic" or "essence" that is completely lost in so doing. Although it is on long-term loan, I own, and have used with success, a Levinson No. 32 preamp that fed very low-powered tube amps (Audio Note Kageki).
While any combination of tube and solid state gear can be made to work, I have found that it is actually harder to use tube feeding solid state rather than the other way around. There can be an incompatibility with tube feeding solid state that cannot be accounted for by just the issue of high output impedance of the tube linestage. For some reason, even when the impedances are supposedly compatible and interconnect length is kept suitably short, this combination can sound overly warm, sluggish and too loose in the lower frequency range. This is not always the case, but, it does happen enough that one cannot assume compatibility just by looking at specifications.
When I use Klyne pre-amp (SS) with Lectron JH 50 (tube amp), music sounds awesome. It sounds somewhat different when I use NAT Plasma (tube pre-amp) with Conrad Johnson
MF-2550 (SS) amp, but I would not say either combination sounds more satisfying than the other. The speakers are ProAc Response 3.8.
As you've no doubt discerned from the above posts, it's all relative.
I've been in this hobby for over 45 years. My $0.02 is that it is easier to build good sounding solid state components AT A CHEAPER PRICE POINT (e.g. sub $1,000) than it is tubed.
Which explains the popularity of Schitt products. They deliver tremendous value at their price point.
I used to have Martin Logan Spires (recently replaced with Coherent Audio GR 12's, which are 96dB). I have both solid state and tube monoblocks. They are fed with a Don Sachs 6NS7 tube preamp.
My s/s monoblocks put out 900W into 4Ω. My tube monoblocks output 75W.
The tube amps lack the punch of the solid state but sound more musical on instrumental recordings. Tube rolling becomes more complicated/exciting when combining both tubed pre and amps in your system.
If your speakers like big power (like Martin Logan's), then a solid state amp is a 'better bang for your buck' than tubes.
Been thinking about this a lot myself... have a simple Sonic Frontiers, SFL-1 (Electro Harmonix tube) with a Cary "Rocket 88R" (Gold Lion and Raytheon tubes). Speakers in and out although right now a pair of very efficient Equation "7". It all plays incredibly. System synergy being the primary quality although the Equations are special. I have a chance to try out some interesting pieces. 1st, sub out the SFL-1 for a Luxman (Lab Series) 5C50 preamp. See how that plays and then pull the Cary for a Class A Sugden, Bijou Ampmaster. Going to play around a bit and see where, if any, the improvement lies. Nice to have access to such fine components