Toobs + SS = x

In another thread on 07-25-01 Redkiwi said:

"I simply do not concur with the popular wisdom of warming things up with a tube preamp - look elsewhere and remove the problem - adding countervailing distortions is just wrong, wrong, wrong (in my humble opinion of course - I can see the negative votes now).."

More discourse on this comment, please!
Oops. Now what have I done? I like valve power amps because every solid state amp I have heard suffers from being either lifeless or some nasties in the upper mids. I have also heard some lovely tube preamps, yet prefer the Placette Pre to all of them. And so I find myself liking a ss pre and a valve power.

I am not saying the reverse is wrong - but I am saying that I reckon a certain popular wisdom is wrong. That is, get a big hunk of iron (alluminium) ss amp with low damping factor, and cure any cold/lifelessness with a warm tube preamp. Of course my experiences are limited - as is true for all of us.

I guess the experiences I have had lead me to the conclusion that an unmusical/hard/cold/grainy (choose one or more) ss amp, added to a warm mushy tube preamp does not so much add up to a neutral sound as give you the sonic equivalent of sweet and sour. Of course some people may like sweet and sour, but when it comes to audio I don't.

Furthermore there is a certain life to a great tube power amp (over a great ss power amp). If that life is absent in the power amp, preamps cannot cure it.
Hi Redkiwi, It’s been a while since we emailed last! Based upon what you say I agree 100% although I use both a SS system and an all tube system. The Placette unit you describe (according to other audiophile friends) say it’s a sweet SS preamp that sounds as good or better than a tube preamp. Therefor you add a tube amp and in my mind it’s simular to using a SS amp with a tube preamp only Vice versa. What you say about a SS amp being hard/cold/grainy can be so. I believe it’s what you hear and like that counts!
As I read it, Red's point is summarised in the phrase "...adding countervailing distortions (to "correct" sonic insufficiencies) is wrong...". i.e., "don't use one component to cover up another's shortcomings".

Pre(s)were the context of the thread -- but, as I saw it, the comment held for other system components as well.

Re, tubes+ss: 1) I have found tube-phonos' load matching happily with the signal. To my ears, the result is "musicality", lack of harshness, and fluidity rarely found in any but the best (& expensive) ss phonos...

2) I've been happy with this "intermarriage" going both ways: ss pre->tube power and vice-versa, the former performing better than the latter. However, this superiority probably had more to do with the equipment involved (DNM6->ear519) & matching, than with the combination concept per se.

But, I agree: a shame to insert a tube pre in order to tame, say, harshness in the ss power -- if the overall sonic result is not superior but, rather, "muted".

I've had pretty good results with a tube pre and quality ss amps. I like the tube interface to the source components, then amplification with a well-designed ss amp. Part of the equation is your speakers, seems my ML Quests like SS power, perhaps it's the power reserves that feed varying loads presented by the speaker? My Oracle turntable and ML's are the only two components in my chain that will not be changed, everything else is a variable. I used a ARC preamp with a Classe amp, and now use BATVK30 pre with BATVK500 amp. It's entirely possible there's a better match out there, but to my ear the sound is very laid back and warm as is. Every set up will vary but I feel strongly you need tubes somewhere in the chain, and preamp tubes are considerably cheaper than power output tubes when it's time to throw some new glass in.
ux4, ewe say, regarding using toobs to warm tings up: "...look elsewhere & remove the problem..." well, i guess yure rite - we can ditch all our digital hardware & software! ;~) while toobs were always popular w/a small percentage of audiophiles prior to 1984, i believe the reason they are so popular today in the audiophile community, is due to the digital playback technology. it's yust plain cold, hard, flat, shall i say *distorted*? while i agree in principal that one shouldn't "add countervailing distortions", what's wrong w/using a toob preamp if it makes everyting sound better? my toobed pre's thd runs ~0.07%, btw... and, *all* the sources - tuna & fono, not yust cd - also sound better.

my prior preamp - a linn kairn - had great dynamics, frequency extension, accuracy, timbre, soundstage width & height. but, little soundstage depth - kinda flat. my present preamp gives up *nothing* to the linn's strengths - it's even more dynamic. but, now i have a depth to the soundstage that yust wasn't there before. countervailing distortion? dunno, but it's more like music...

ymmv, doug s.

I did not intend it that way, but I am currently using Symphonic Line P-20 (ss) pre with Aronov LS-9100 Monos(Tube). It`s the combination I would not imagine before I heard it. I am perfectly happy with the sound. SS pre with tube amp works. Just the pre has to be as musical as all Symphinoc Line products are.
I uhgree wit Dug : )

I attacked the "digital problem" by simply using tubes where it mattered most: at the front end in the DAC. Problem solved. Sean
Ux4: I feel that your statement is too general to be at all factual. This entire hobby is based on system matching and there are endless combinations that do and don't work. The sound of most any component is dictated by how it synergizes with the other components (including cabling) in a system. A more progressive approach would be to attempt to discover these "magical" combinations within your own system and not to rule out an entire "class" of products, with which to experiment, in the process, as this will only limit and stifle you in the long run. I myself have discovered some great products (and matches) by trying to keep an open mind (not always an easy thing to do, I will admit).
ux4, sorry, i missed the fact that ewe were quoting redkiwi... oops. ;~) redkiwi, i guess yure rite - if yure using an unmusical/hard/cold/grainy (choose one or more) ss pre-amp, ewe can certainly warm it up by adding a mushy toob amp... :>)

please allow me to cut-n-paste from a toob/solidstate-amp/pre thread that generalizes my feelings towards this:

"i presently am happy w/a toobed pre & s/s amps. i can't afford a toobed amp that gives no quarter to solid-state amps where solid-state excels. much as i like the air that toobs impart into a soundstage, it takes big bucks to get a toob amp w/the frequency extension, accuracy & drive that s/s amps have, & that, i can't do w/o."

"likewise, i can't afford a solid-state preamp that gives no quarter to toob pre's, where *they* excel. plenty of toobed pre's that excel in areas where solid-state pre's excel - dynamics, frequency extension, accuracy - but few solid-state pre's that can give the air to a soundstage like a toobed pre, and it'll cost lotsa $$$... "

bottom line for me, is i'd have toob amps if i had an unlimited budget. i might or might not have a solid-state preamp, but only the megabucks s/s contenders would work for me... it's *easy* to find a good toobed preamp that is every bit as accurate, detailed & dynamic as their s/s brethren, w/o being mushy.

doug s.

Each comment is enlightening! Thanks ALL! I may even attempt a less than enlightening comment later this evening.

Redkiwi, I appreciate your not chastising me for quoting you out of context. Your follow-up was just the type response that I hoped for as I attempt to fine tune my system.
That's OK Ux4, and any comments made here will always be out of context - as Dekay indicates, what works in one context can never be assumed to be a universal rule. But if you take that view too far, we would be afraid to post any opinions at all here.

I am not against tube pres at all - just the notion of using a warm mushy one to "improve" things. This is all predicated on the fact that I have always found that ss power amps are a huge impediment to musical enjoyment. And I do not find that tube pres make them OK.

In fact if I used vinyl, I would be using a tube preamp now. (Sadly new vinyl supplies in NZ are almost impossible to get, meaning the way I like to keep sampling new music means vinyl is a dead option for me).
jeez, redkiwi - no winyl? how awful, seriously...

i get quite a musical sound from my electrocompaniet amps, but that doesn't mean i don't dream of a pair of big melos stereo tube amps! ;~)

regards, doug s.

I don't get it. When you think you got a good ss pre-amp, you argue "the sound is not cool, high is not edgy..." (isn't it like tube people say?). You put it in and then think you got problem fixed. How do you know your ss-pre is not "colored"? Maybe that particular good ss-pre you mention is the only "colored" ss same as tube, and you just love it. What's wrong with other people doing it by tube-pre?
Or you put on "colored" power amp to fix it?

Just kidding, we should fix the bottle-neck component.
Just wonder if ss-pre + tube power is just one of good combinations you happen to encounter.
And it is not necessarily a "golden rule".
good combos can come from all s/s, all toob, or a mix. peraonally, i lean towards a mix or all-toob. only one golden rule: the one w/the gold makes the rules! ;~)

doug s.

I have tube CD Njoe Tjoeb, Bryston 9bTHX, martin Logan Aeris I mains with cinema center, and Just picked up McIntosh MX 132. What a match made in heaven. So musical you wouldn't believe it. Other systems may be more detail, but with more edge.

Tubes and SS do work wonders for slam and finesse.