I have used both and I really think it depends on the individual units rather than just Tube vs SS. Just adding a tube is no guarantee of better sound, you have to add the right tube for your system. Tube pre amps do not all sound alike; neither do all SS ones. Pick a pre you like whether it is tube or SS.
Such a simple question: but: depends.
With no indication of the equipment you have, nor how much you think of spending. Or which SS preamp you already have, or what preamps you are interested in. And what you expect from the change.
Do you want a little warmth in the midrange?
Willing to give up a trace of slam in the bass?
Do you want convenience? Or want to try out tube swapping. Do you want a product you never have to do anything to, ever, or are you willing to have to buy new tubes sometimes?
No one but YOU can decide if you want to try a tube preamp. If you want a 'tubey' sound, then some preamps are more tube sounding. Other tube preamps cannot be told from a high quality solid state preamp.
Anyway. You would need a price range. From a Chinese made $250 to an Audio Research Anniversary model at $25,000. is a big gap.
PS: I wanted a used Audio Research REF 3 preamp, but bought a new Bryston BP-26 solid state preamp instead. Tubed preamps can be great. I have owned a few. Solid state one can be great too. It is all what YOU want from you equipment. No-one else's opinion (Of what your stuff should sound like) matters.
Elizabeth makes good points. I had tube pre's for 20 years. Last year I went SS. Different? Yes. Better/ worse? Yes. There are things I loved about tubes,and things I feel the SS is better at. If you buy a quality piece of either you should be happy either way. Try to get one of each into YOUR system and see what YOU prefer...
A tube amp will make more of a difference in better sound.
Find a dealer that will provide loaner's and try them in your system. It is the only way to really tell, all else is speculation.
Good advice above. I agree with all but Polk432. Yes, a tube amp could make more of a difference, but no knowing the rest of the gear, etc., it's possible that a tube amp could make more of a difference in worse sound.
It sure can go either way(good or bad). If you really want to try one, see if you could find a loaner. If not, see what models your considering can be bought and sold without to much of a loss dollar wise.
Not all tube amps make the grade. Placing a tube amp into your systems doesn't constitute the holy grail. I say depending on your gear and room acoustics it could swing either way.
So, all the high end dealers and advisors who are giving me suggestion aren't telling the true. They give me a solid answer that tubes will improve SS at the same level. I mean apple to apple. The speakers I have for the hybrid system are B&W DM 602 S2, cd player is a Cambridge Audio, and the power amp is a B&K reference. I am not taliking about an ultra high end system because I can not afford it. It is an entry level system but I want to be close to a high end sound.
Dvjorge, I myself not a dealer, cannot say what you will like. Everyone who posted here most likely has a completely different system and taste for their equipment. If I mix tube and SS, I mostly prefer SS preamp, and tube power amps. I have on occasion done the opposite over the years also. I can say that in general a lower priced tube preamp may have rolled off highs, and be less transparent. I imagine there are new ones out there for less money nowadays that may not fit this description. There are a lot of people on this forum that love the tube preamp, and solid state power amp combination. All said, we can't say you'll like a certain food, or type of car either. Elizabeth asked you what your looking for sonically, and you haven't even responded to that. I stated it could go either way. I don't think anyone hear is trying to mislead you. In the end, you will be the only one that will know if you like the combination. Adding a tube preamp isn't a guarantee for anything, in any system.
You have to listen to the system and choose the one you like the most.
I thanks all you for the answers. I realize I was wrong or bad adviced. It was told to me that tube gears sound better than the SS, and combining them ( SS power /Tube pream ) give the best possible sound for the money. I am looking for better and clear highs (more real)better definition of each instruments and a more melodic sound than the SS I have is delivering. The true is I have listened several Hi End systems using Mark Levinson, Krell, Classe and other high quality SS that don't sound as good as a Cayin tube intregated or Rogue Audio gear. I am not the only one who has noticed that. I don't know where is the secret but some entry level tube gears can match ultra high end SS gears. At least, this is what I have seen lately.
It's still hard to say that combo will work. Those amps you heard, if they were "tubed power-amps", I don't think a combo SS/tube would do the same. Maybe a just a little taste of it, but not much.
Mark Levinson and Krell are not necessarily the best examples of high quality solid state amps.
A tube amp will make more of a difference in better sound.
My experiences after owning 3 ARC tube amps, 1 hybrid Counterpoint, Wolcott and now the CAT, is that the tube preamp brings far more benefit to the decays, ambience and harmonics. The key is to find a preamp that does this. And sadly only a small percentage of tube preamps can nail this. I have dismissed more tube preamps than any other component in the chain because this link is so critical to the 3D performance. And far too many botch this up! No solid state preamp will ever come close to the best performing tube preamps in this regard.
The true is I have listened several Hi End systems using Mark Levinson, Krell, Classe and other high quality SS that don't sound as good as a Cayin tube intregated or Rogue Audio gear. I am not the only one who has noticed that. I don't know where is the secret but some entry level tube gears can match ultra high end SS gears.
My experiences echo this statement for the last 25 years. Krell, Levinson, Classe systems don't come close to nailing the strengths of even a middle priced tube-based system with the "right" components.
Wow Fox, balls of steel you have.
I am with you on your take here.
Yes, that is what I say. I have been in front of several SS ultra Hi-End systems that cost a lot of $$$$$ which can not reach the sound level of some entry level tube gears. I listened a Rogue audio tube integrated with an Arcam CD player, the speakers were Epos bookshelves with Straight Wire cables, the sound was to die for, and everything was less than $ 3000.
You are all awesome guys ! This is an school. Thanks,
The tube evangelists hyperbolic fervor that finds it necessary to damn ss gets downright silly sometimes.
Well, Dvjorge, it seems you like what you hear in a tube setup.
So my guess is you enjoy the warmth and smooth upper frequencies a tube setup provides.
A Conrad Johnson tube preamp is what you want. IMO. Or a BAT would be a second choice, but i would look for a Conrad Johnson preamp if i were you.
why not get the tube intergrated amp that you liked so much?
You and I have some similarities here, so fwiw:
I too had B&K amps, first a B&K ST140 and later an EX442 Sonata (200 wpc dual mono) and many yrs ago, I too was told that a tube preamp was the way to go. I bought into the idea because it made sense and never looked back. Now, I am completely a tube person.
From time to time I go back to SS gear but never for any amount of time because I really like the warmth and realism that only tubes can bring.
I've also heard megabuck gear from ML, Krell, etc (6 figure systems) and to me much less expensive tube int amps sounded better...
The B&K gear was traditionally always very warm and tubey sounding (I went head to head with my EX442 and a pr of tube monoblocks and almost couldn't tell the difference!) so adding a tube front end onto the B&K stuff is a great combo. I owned a Music Reference RM5mkII for 5 yrs with my B&K ST140/EX442 and surprisingly a lowly Dyna PAS2 sounded much more euphonic when I used it for a short time. I would think a cj preamp would also make a great combo with your B&K amp...
But as Baranyi mentioned above, why not just go to a tube int. amp right now. I think once you get a tube preamp with the B&K, you'll like it so much, you'll eventually wind up getting rid of the B&K for a tube amp or tube integrated...
Just to share my experience. I originally use a Denon receiver, not happy with the sound. Then I follow the recommendation to go with pre-post route. I first try used Adcom and Rotel preamp, it is greatly improved over receiver, but still not satisfied. Then i switch to Audible Illusions L1 tube pre, much much better.
I cannot confirm if it is because of the tube, or with the design. After all, the AI is a more expensive unit than Adcom and Rotel. But I am happy with the tube pre + SS power amp combination. And I am not implying tube pre + SS power is better than all tube configuration, it's just I have kids, and the tube power amp is not safe with kids around.
I concur. I always mix a tubed pre w/ a SS power amp!