Get a tube preamp. Forget the power amp and speakers for now. Tube circuitry is well suited for low level signals. Power amplification with tubes is an uphill battle vs SS. Not saying it can't be done but it is difficult and therefore expensive.
A tube pre-amp into a ss power amp is the easiest thing to do.
Mine is based on the 12au7 (a triode tube) and it is the one component in my system I wouldn't give up. Make it simple; no tone controls, no balance control, etc.
For a really good "first step" into the tube world, JUMP on one of the Cayin TA-30's that are currently for sale her on the 'goN!! I have owned numerous SS and tube amps over the years, and I consider the Cayin TA-30 Integrated amp to be my all-time greatest recommendation for "bang-for-the-buck"!!
Paul at BizzyBee Audio has several for sale @$499 for brand new units that have slight damage to the outer shipping container. They are in perfect new condition w/full factory warranty, but are heavily discounted for the "slight" box damage.
This is a nice unit as it is very flexible and sounds very good. It produces 30-35 w/ch. in P-P mode or, you can remove one of the output tubes from each channel to run in SE mode at 2-4 w/ch. BTW, it sounds very good in P-P mode and EXCELLENT in SE.
Additionally, for a reasonable fee, Paul will add an external bias modification and a "focus" modification. I would seriously consider these mods to make the amp more pactical to use.
OK, now you have plenty of money left over for speakers. You could likely get by with any speaker over about 88-89 db eff in P-P mode, but for SE, you may want to try a higher eff. design. There are lots of really good speakers available in your price range. Personally, I have the Reference 3A MM Decapos and love them. You can buy them used for $1200 or so. I also have a pair of JPO Memorial/Diatone single driver speakers that work really well with the Cayin in SE mode.
BTW, I have zero relationship with Paul or BizzyBee. I'm just a tremendoulsy satisfied customer! The Cayin TA-30 works well for me, in my system. I've owned several other "budget" tube integrated amps and I think the Cayin TA-30 is easily the best value and the best sounding!
Enjoy the hunt!!!
What gear do you have now? The first couple of suggestions are great but it depends on what you have now. How efficient are your speakers? The more efficient, the more choices you will have.
I don't recommend starting with an integrated because upgrading gets into selling and starting over.
Tubed preamp matched with SS power amp is the best way to start with tubes IMHO.There's quite a few tube preamps out there for around $500.00 or less.Cary,Audio Note,Jolida,Golden tube,Conrad Johnson all can be had used in this price range. New ..I can't think of better bang for the buck than the Dared SL-2000a.Whisper quiet in my system ...the tubes aren't taxed to heavy either.Uses a tube as a rectifier instead of a SS rectifier.Has a smooth and natural sound plus it comes with a little radio frequency remote.Not bad for $300.00 bucks.
Good Luck with the search...I think it's the funniest part!
Forget the 'tube pre, SS power' combo and hybrid integrateds. The individuals who believe that is 'tube' sound, are deluding themselves. No SS power amp comes to sounding like a tube amp
A number of manufacturers like ASL and Jolida manufacture affordable integrateds that can sound quite decent when matched to suitable speakers. Try get something that is switch able between triode and ultraliniar (or pentode) and switchable between 4 and 8 ohm speakers. I dont know if the less expensive amps have adjustable feedback, but the more adjustments the amp has the more you can fine-tune it to your tastes.
Look for speakers that have a relatively flat impedance curve. Most new tube amps can drive 4 ohm speakers no problem, but seem to have a hard time when the impedance varies a lot through the frequency range. Don't get speakers that drop below 4 ohms. Also you should get speaker with at least an 88 db efficiency as that will allow you to use an amp with as little as 20-25wpc, which will save you money.
Good luck and remember, tubes rule
Definitely agree with the recommendations for matching a tube preamp with an SS amp as an entry into the world of tubes. That's why the contenders in my current three preamp shoot out only have tubes.
Reubent...About that "slightly damaged" stock... Back in the days when "Fair Trade" pricing was legal (the manufacturer could set the price, and no discounts) KLH operated that way. I went to buy a KLH 5 for center channel, and was offered "damaged" goods at a really good price. I insisted on opening the carton to inspect the damage, but could find none. Neither could the dealer. Finally he got tied of the game and explained what was going on. When sales were slow, and inventory got large, someone at KLH would just go out into the warehouse with a black marker, and designate a few dozen speakers as "damaged". These could then be sold at deep discount, while still keeping up the pretence that the price was fixed.
WWWOW - thanks for the tons of advice. Now I am confused hahaha... but keep them comming.
As of now I have B&W 803's, HTM2 and 600s for my HT driven by Rotel 1090 amp and 1055 as receiver pre/amp.
The system that I am asking your help for is an entirely new system that i wish could be tube based. However, can I just switch the 1055 to a tube preamp whenever I want to listen to stereo and use the 1090 to drive it? How does the 803 do with that set-up? Or am i better off with a 2nd set.
I disagree with the tube pre recommendation. I tried a Sonic Frontiers Line 1 into a Classe 15 for about a year. This replaced my Classe 5 pre for a while. Although this combo sounded nice, it didn't sound as good as my Classe 5 driving a 40watt tube amp into the same speakers. Not to mislead you though, the Classe 15 does offer more slam, but the midrange of the tube was to die for.
Good luck, I too am moving on to a tube based system.
Yes, you can run your 2-ch sources into the pre, and run the receiver L/R preouts into it also. If the pre doesn't have an HT bypass/unity gain function simply calibrate the HT with the pre's volume control at a known position, and return it to that position whenever watching HT.
ANy speaker suggerions? sub $1000 bookeshelf that are good for tubes?
Cayin TA-30...just bought one and love it. Had it less than a week and like it more every time I turn it on. I bought it with all the upgrades available (since it was so inexpensive to begin with) and if I had to pay more, I would still consider it a bargain. Added some halo tube dampers and it got better still...great value / sound / would be easy to sell if you didn't like it...although I can't imagine anyone with ears who wouldn't
Pauly has it right. The tube pre and ss amp is BS. There is nothing like an all tube system in my opinion. Of course your speakers have to be oriented towards tubes, but when they are, heaven! I have owned or auditioned some of the best ss amps and just dont get it I guess. People love to knock tubes, but those in the know use nothing else. Its all about the sound the gestalt of music, if you will, that matters. Measurements are meaningless. Only how it sounds to you matters.