Transistor Preamp that sounds like a Tube Preamp?

You probably think I'm crazy, but with all the improvements in solid state, are there any transistor preamps that have the following characteristics I hear in tubes?

1. Fully fleshed out instrumental timbre and overtones?

1. Full, alive midrange with bloom, body and dimension?

2. The airy space and separation between instruments?

3. That realness and aliveness of tubes?

4. At a retail of around $6,000 or less?

I'm sure I'll be getting some clashing opinions on this....
1&1: easy, just attenuate over 8kHz
2: easy with SS -- but difficult to achieve with above & below. You just need high frequency extension
3: Dunno probably 1&1 above.
4: A US made product. The Euro has reached $1,55.

Seriously, while you'll get all the usual "my pre is like that" type of response, no SS pre emulates tubes at that price level. One I know of that comes somewhat close is a Symphonic Line -- but it's more expensive. Another is the older big Rowland.

Really, why not just buy a tube: they're usually cheaper for what you get in terms of sound. Good SS pre's are miserably expensive.
And to add to Gregm's post, with a tube preamp you can tailor the sound considerably by swapping tubes, so if you change speakers, amps, cables, etc. you can often adjust the tone back to where you like it by throwing in a different tube.
I know my Supratek sounds a LOT different with ElectroHarmonix tubes than with NOS RCA Grey Glass. You just don't have that flexibility with most SS preamps.
you can go back in time all the way to a marantz 7t and find tubelike sound....there are hundreds of great neutral pre amps.
C-J PF-R. I still have mine after about 15 years (used in my BR sytem)and it is the best of tubes and SS qualities. If you see one used, grab it.

Best buy is a PS Audio GCP 200/GCPS. It's differentially balanced, uses gain cells for volume control and has full function remote.

SS does require experimenting with iso devices, power cords, interconnects and speaker cables to get a tube-like warmth, but it's very doable. ANd once you are there
i don't know why, but ps audio's jealously protected gain cell technology has given me most, if not all, of those characteristics. i have an all ps audio system and it gives me all of the tube characteristics i crave. must be heard to believe.
Look up my post on the TRL ST225 Int amp.

Sell your amps,pre, extra power cords and IC. Buy this for $5000 and enjoy the best music you have ever heard out of an audio system.

No joke, many of us have replaced $16,000 - $100,000 set-ups
with this amazing int amp. I replaced a $16,000 set-up...

Audio Horizons preamp tube - fully loaded
Canary CA339 300B monoblock amps

My system improved greatly. Yes, greatly with the TRL.

Saxo asked:
"You probably think I'm crazy, but with all the improvements in solid state, are there any transistor preamps that have the following characteristics I hear in tubes?

1. Fully fleshed out instrumental timbre and overtones?

1. Full, alive midrange with bloom, body and dimension?

2. The airy space and separation between instruments?

3. That realness and aliveness of tubes?

4. At a retail of around $6,000 or less?"

Here's the criteria which the Jeff Rowland Design Group's Capri pre-amp meets:

1. Fully fleshed out instrumental timbre and overtones?

2. Full, alive midrange with bloom, body and dimension, if it's in the recording?

3. The airy space and separation between instruments?

4. That realness and aliveness of music?

5. At a retail of around $6,000 or less?
Eric Pritchard has studied this. He has some opinions on the way they sound. It may not be the ground truth but he has tried to emulate the tubes sound in overload with SS. He builds guitar and microphone amps.

In the music industry the main issue with SS is how they overload badly - try telling a musician and a band that yesterdays sessions are all useless becuase some SS mikes were overloading (not great for repeat business!!). I don't agree with everything he says but I share his believe that overload behaviour is the major difference. (Most people do not realize how easy it is to drive even a very powerful amp into overload without necessrily souding loud...speaker that are difficult loads are often to blame)
If you don't need gain, I think a Placette Active (buffer)would accomplish what you are looking for without tubes.
Have you looked at McIntosh? Their new C-2300 is a tube unit that now has both MC and MM phono stages. I recently replaced my C-2200 with the C-2300 and love the openess and transparency of the C-2300. It retails for $6k. McIntosh is often described as making tube electronics that sound like well done solid state and solid state electronics that sound like well done tubes. If you still want solid state, look at the McIntosh C-45 or C-46. You can read a comparison of Mac's tube vs. solid state gear in either Absolute Sound or Stereophile archives. McIntosh is often looked down upon by many, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my Mac systems over the years. Plus, it's still made in the USA.
I would recommend the H-Cat P-12R X7 which meets your requirements but doesn't sound like tubes either.
Thanks, guys. My problems with tube preamps:

The tubes get noisy.

Even matched sets of same tubes can sound different.

Yes, you can vary the sound with different tubes, but you are trading different colorations along with the improvements.

More hum and ground problems than with SS by far.

All tube preamps I've tried are not very accurate devices. They sound musical, but they have gross variations from neutrality and add substantial colorations. Some of these may account for the air, echo, ringing etc., but some are just plain inaccuracies that are not always good, such as glaze, texture, exaggeration.

I found this even worse in tube amps. I've since moved on to MOSFET amp, which doesn't sound like a tube amp, but still has many of the characteristics and is much clearer, less hashy, and far less maintenance issues.

I'll look into the Rowland Capri.
I'll also read the Pritchard article.
Be sure to see Guido's updated review of the Capri and comparison to the ARC Ref 3 at Guido's Capri Review
I second the Capri, the sound is lush, liquid, fatigue free and very very musical. Very organic and it does not have the typical soild state etching. but i think you have to pair it with a slightly neutral to warm amp.
Saxo, your comment
More hum and ground problems than with SS by far.

is really not right. Hum and grounding issues have nothing to do with the preamp being tube or solid state. It has to do with other design elements, such as power supply design and how well the designer understood internal grounding technique.

It is a fact that not all tube preamps suffer the colorations you describe also. In fact my experience is the opposite- that transistor preamp are far more colored (read: bright, analytical, stilted, etc.; clearly a different type of coloration than the types that tubes **can** exhibit). From your description, I have to guess that you have been listening to older/budget tube preamps??

I concede that tube preamps do need more service, like checking the tubes every 6 months/1 year. But a good tube preamp will also give you more music and that makes the price of admission cheap by comparison.
Well, many of us think that good tube pre-amps are not superior to good SS pre-amps. I think SS gets a bad rap because bad SS tends to sound worse than bad tube equipment and at the lower end of the price scale both are pretty limited.

Why would you want or waist your time trying to find a solid state pre that sounds like tube? a tube preamp...but a quality one and forget about it...
Missioncoonery, I might ask why buy a preamp that sounds like either a tube or ss preamp. Until 5 years ago, I hated all ss preamps as well as passive preamps, with but one exception. Then I got my first H-Cat linestage. Now I have neither.
Answer ten years ago: No.

Answer five years ago: No.

Answer today: No.
Dumb posting.
Some of us will tell you that the audio nirvana you seek in points 1-4 will more successfully be found in your choice of source and speakers. Meantime, of course you can find an excellent solid state preamp: check out the Morrison Audio E.L.A.D.

A wonderful preamp available at a fraction of $6000.

Morrison Audio E.L.A.D
Why, Tbag, what do you mean?
Still waiting...

Anonymity is the Hobgobblin of small minds.
Ass, I am sure no one, myself included, who knows what the hell you are talking about.

Inarticulateness in communicating is a measure of education.
I appreciate people's opinions. But I find comments offensive that imply how ignorant I must be if I expect any SS preamp to sound similar to a tube preamp.

There will always be tube fanatics and transistor fanatics who will always hate the other technology. The general consensus in the audio community however is that tube and transistor design has and continues to narrow the gap in sound characteristics. I was hoping there were other audiophiles who have listened to a number of both designs and could contribute opinion from that perspective.
Saxo, I thought I did.
Saxo, were you able to listen to a Rowland Capri?

Dave, I am sure that you are a nice guy and everything. However
I can not help but notice that your beloved Capri fits almost all requairements for the ultimate preamp = SS or Tube, sweet or clean sterile and in the same time it is very neutral and transparent. Is there anything that I have missed?

A used Ayre K1-xe...matches your criteria to the T. To my mind, if you like a tube preamp, it is unlikely that the Capri will satisfy. In my opinion (check reviews), the Ayre might be a better fit.
victor khomenko, the designer of bat electronics told me that there is a difference between the sound of solid state and tubes. thus it may be counter productive to searchy for a "tube-like" sounding solid state preamp.

it is perhaps wise to audition solid state preamps until you find one that you like.
You're right Mariusz, the Capri has it all. (I never said it's "sterile"). However, sweet, clean, transparent and neutral are all very good descriptors, IMHO.

Is there something inconsistant with that assertion and me being a "nice guy and everything?"

None, after this answer I can say you that the Connoisseur and the Soulution preamplifiers sound is excellent, and very liquid, ther remember you the tube sound, but áre not tube sound
Buy a Coda or Innersound and save a few thousand
Sounds like you should just bite the bullet and get a tube pre. All the difficulties you cited are actually fun to play around with, and when you hit it...well, you know!
Tbg, when you refer to me as "Ass" instead of Asa, is that a typo, or did you mean it to be added to calling me "stupid" and uneducated also?

In addition to a law degree, I have two masters from the London School of Economics, but I don't think formal education has anything to do with cognitive agility, perhaps the opposite. I also wrote for the absolute sound, and for ultimate audio magazines, concerning how consciousness percieves musical meaning, in addition to equipment reviews, so, given this context, I think I'm relatively educated enough in audio to engage you in at least a discussion.

Yes, my "no, no no" was provacative, but no more than that, and certainly did not need for you to call me stupid and then uneducated. So, why did I put bread on the water and say I was waiting? Because I took the time to look at a few of the other threads you have been on and noticed a distinct penchant and pattern on your behalf for engaging others with, how did you ypurself charaterize it in your very long H-Cat defense thread, "vitiolic"?

Therefore, doing a probability analysis, I do not think your similar attitude towards me, or anyone insinuating that the H-Cat SS rendition should not be everyone's cat's meow, is an anomaly.

When someone goes around, throwing around, personal insults on a thread, it is usually because they can hide behind the anonymous nature of the medium. In other words, the anonymity of the medium catalyzes borderline narcissistic remnants in their egoic structure, allowing them to express themselves in a way that the given person would never do if the in-person opinion of peers acted as a conformity brake to their behavior. I hope that you can understand that better now.

I don't like people going around calling other people names. I was a prosecutor for ten years and my experience has been is that when people do that they are usually bluffing, and are just bullies. To help you with this, here is what I'd like you to do: send me an email and I will send you back my personal phone number and you can then call me and we can have a talk. That should solve the anonymity thing, I would think.

So, your original response should have been either (1) requesting a clarification of no, no, no, or (2) indicating that, in the H-Cat, that SS's historical harmonic thinness et al, had been solved and that my opinion had been rendered moot and obsolete, backed by a cogent argument, or (3) perhaps a funny, yes! yes! yes! followed by a nice conversation between you and me where we treat each other with respect and then agree to disagree, assumably.

So, again, since you did not do that, I will respond as if you did. What I find lacking in SS designs - pre's or amps - is a failure to completely render the spatial envelope in which players exist from and, more importantly, from which they project from; sound projects from a source in a symmetrical, fluid manner, existentially speaking, and my experience has been that SS can not capture this relationship of source projection and the integral surrounding space to the degree that the best tube designs can, and that this has been a constant in the past until the present. Are SS designs getting better in this regard? Yes, but something even deeper, in my experience, still eludes them to a greater degree; namely, the ability to lend the impression, project the simulcrum, of a dimensional ground to the musical projection, i.e. that the space is not simply a spatial vessel for the sound projection, but that the dimensional ground which is space itself interpenetrates the sound source so that gound and source are not percieved in the deepest parts of the mind as separate. Yes, that existential reference is more bread on the water, and if anyone seems interested, I'll continue.

Now, tbg, how about that phone call?
Asa, me thinks you protest to much. It is you who posted a singularly non-communicative post and followed that with deliberately misspelling my moniker to Tbag and the hobgoblin comment. When you learn to communicate more clearly and less offensively, you can take exception to others' responses.

I merely suggested that IMHO the H-Cat achieves what heretofore I had not heard in a SS linestage.

You will receive no telephone call from me, especially as I have just learned that you can construct a logical argument from your personal experiences.
My God, "Tbag," deliberate? Never even entered my mind. What's a "tbag" supposed to mean? It wasn't purposeful, but, amusingly, I find it symptomatic that you would think so.

"Merely suggested"? For those of you who want to gauge the authenticity of that remark, I steer you to the H-Cat thread that Tbg has engaged in extensively since 2001, when the H-Cat, and all its subsequent iterations, was/is better than everything else then too. Tbg, do you think there might be a reason that that discussion turned "vitriolic," and so soon? Do you think that, perhaps, it has anything to do with you; as in, in the first thing you say, calling people "stupid"?

On you now taking refuge in the subjective, "IMHO" - which you have not on the H-Cat thread - yes, I'm sure the H-Cat does things that you have not heard before. I am glad to finally hear that delimiter (which we all share), and particularly in your tone.

Best SS linestage? That's a different argument. Maybe, could be.

No phone call? Well...

I apologise to Saxo, and everyone else, for temporarily hijacking this thread. I watched the H-Cat thread now and then, and others, and didn't say anything. It sticks in my craw to see smart guys with expensive equipment, and who should know better, fail to remember a few things - like manners. I like the provocative and the rambunctious as much as anyone, that's fine, its a thread for cryin' out loud, but I think we all know the line, or should. God knows I've said things on threads I regretted, so I look forwards to talking to tbag in the future here on audiogon, where I hope that I, and others, can have a mutually beneficial conversation with him. I mean that. Carry on.
Second "tbag" slip up...
God knows I've said things on threads I regretted, so I look forwards to talking to tbag in the future...
Asa (Threads | Answers)
When I saw Tbg referred to as "Tbag", I immediately thought it was a short hand reference to t-bagging, or tea bagging.

Was I the only one?

Honestly, it's an awfully long reach on the keyboard from the "t", "b" and "g" to the "a".
Tvad, really. Two fingers here. I think its inane to do that kind of stuff. Actually, I don't know what t-bagging is. You're right, though, I should have read it through to get that out of there.
I never knew what t-bagging was either until I saw a reference to it on "The Daily Show". It's not only a smart and clever show, but it helps me keep up with the lingo...
Asa, please tell us what "Answer ten years ago: No. Answer five years ago: No. Answer today: No." means. I had no idea. I now see that you are dredging up another thread in which the discussion has gotten much more constructive. Why would you find it constructive to bring it up here?

It is you, sir, who shows no manners, as others seem to have also noted. It is symptomatic of your obliviousness to what you say that you think you are entitled to an apology.

I am sorry that I can afford equipment which you cannot and that it sticks in your craw, but the H-Cat certainly doesn't fall in that category. Please don't ever listen to an H-Cat since you show a bias that might result in you having heart failure.
Yes, that existential reference is more bread on the water, and if anyone seems interested, I'll continue.

Yes Asa, I am interested and please elaborate. Are you still using a Supratek, or have you went with Shindo or similar??
Asa, where do you think passives (resistor or transformer)lie in the SS/Tube linestage devide?
Tbg, you sound like my 18 yr old when he wants something and can't get it! I'm not looking for an apology from you. Why would I ask for something that I don't care about and you certainly would never offer? That would just be drama - but you know about that, right.... BTW, I don't think Tvad is questioning my manners. You might want to check with him first before you start enlisting allies. Anyone want to jump in the deep end with tbg? And, who said I can't afford what you've got? And who cares! Jeezz...

F1a, let me think about it, and when I have a bit more time. On Supratek, I sold mine. It was an early version and it was getting long in the tooth. I was really sorry to hear about Mick. I did that review really early when he just started distributing in the States and he was always a straight up guy. I'm mulling over Shindo on a pre. Not sure if I should go Masseto or just right to Giscours. Then, again, the Doshi Alaap MkII looks intriguing. I almost did a deal with Nick Doshi on a Lectron JH50 years back and he was a class act too, which is important to me. Then again, that Raven looks mighty sweet too. Ah, the obsession rears its ugly head! In transition, right now I'm listeing to my old Joule LA200, which I will never sell for sentimental reasons and because its a nice back up, but with a MkV phono stage that Jud just put out. As I noted in my review of the Joule line stage about eight thousand years ago, it has its limitations, but this phono stage is intoxicating, and I just bought a nice record collection and I am kind of having a hard time coming up for air - which is a good thing!

Hello Publul57. I hesitate to talk about passives because people are so divided on them. I have always maintained that in the best, well-balanced sytems, the preamp is the fulcrum of the whole. Everything is important at that level, but the pre seems especially so. In beginning systems, build out from speakers, but later, I have done best setting the speaker choice (because its so personal), then getting a pre, then filling in the gaps, carefully. There's more than one way, of course, to skin a cat (see how I resisted that!) so everyone has a different way. That has just worked for me. With a passive, it seems like you drop it in last, as if to balance out a lack of transparency. I remember when Steve Stone at Stereophile many years ago pushed passives. I would venture that it didn't go over for a reason. On the other hand, some guys out there love the AA Capitole direct into amps, and they seem to have good ears. Maybe the passive thing has gotten better since I listened. My experience has been that they lack a certain foundation to the music. Not a thinness per se, although that can happen, but a lack of, how do I put this, harmonic density. I'm open on the issue, but that's what I thought the last time I headed into those waters. I've also got a Air Tight 10W SET amp with an attenuator, and I've always preferred it with a pre - for whatever that is worth. And, you know, with the Shindo Augieres out there, I'd be hard pressed to advise anything else at that place. On the divide, given my experience, I would look at SS actives before I'd go passive, but that's just me. On resistor/transformer, I really don't have enough experience there to say. Sorry. BTW, what do you think about passives these days? I would be interested.
Asa, you continue to ignore the malice in your initial post and those following and frankly I regret having ever asked what you meant in your post, as it obviously was irrelevant.

Saxo, I still would recommend that you give the H-Cat a listen if you have one nearby. I am sorry that I didn't just ignore Asa's initial post.
Would you two guys just stop fighting? (Asa, Tbg). It's really not worth having this non-stop pissing match. You're both intelligent, you both have strong opinions that clash, so just leave it be....

Tbg, no, I don't have access to an H-Cat that I know of. I will check their dealer list. I actually never heard of it before.

Asa, I can understand your description of what SS does not accomplish, and it has been my past experience as well.

Dcstep, I haven't yet gotten to hear the Capri, but will try to.

Pinkus, thank you for the Ayre suggestion.

My goal with this thread was to see if SS technology has advanced to the point that it was able to overcome these limitations. Perhaps it hasn't and never will. Obviously, there are those who think it has, or perhaps they don't hear what we are hearing.

I again appreciate everyone's time and effort in trying to help. I guess the only solution is to get pieces in my system to draw my own conclusions.

keep up the banter. it sounds like two lawyers in court and is very entertaining, very funny.
My goal with this thread was to see if SS technology has advanced to the point that it was able to overcome these limitations.
Well, circuit design hasn't really advanced much... and that more or less cooks the issue. We do have good quality materials though, very expensive however, and rarely used in hifi equip. Lastly, strong points for a "very good" ss would be transparency & bandwidth & some homogeneity in signal amplification; not quite your stated cup of tea but your description does not really fit SS you know!
Sooooo & however & IMO &etc etc, you might try an ancient MLevinson pre (the ML series) or a Cello "palette" or an '90s accuphase, or an old series ('80s-;90s) Goldmund. Not easy to find, I know, but better performers than many of the new stuff @ your price point.
You also give the ones mentioned above a try: Ayre is easier to find than an old Goldmund, but a super performing Ayre is more expensive (new) than a used Goldmund, of course! Regards
Saxo and Mrtennis, I guess I have to endure a lawyer's closing. I regret leaving his initial, non-communicative post from just passing into oblivion.