Tube in Preamp or Power amp?

I have been thinking to move from a solid state int. amp to the tube world. If I were to go separate and if one has to be SS, would it be better to have tube in the preamp or in the power amp? or would it make any difference since I'm mixing tube with ss?
This topic comes up from time to time, so checking the archives may turn up opinions that will not come up in this discussion. Most go with tube preamps. I went the other route and went with a tube power amp. However you introduce tubes, once you do so, you will notice how the 'texture' of the sound changes. The sound will seem just a tad softer, just a tad less focused, which tube folks find very pleasing. The edges are not as sharp. It is not terribly unlike hearing a good recording on both vinyl and CD ... both have their merits, but they do sound a tad bit different.

If your speakers require a lot of power or you listen at loud levels, you may have to go with a solid state amp. Tube power isn't cheap. I already had a Musical Fidelity CD/ Preamp that I was very happy with. The MF 300 power amp was just a tad too present in its sound, so by adding the Prima Luna PL5 the sound softened just a bit which was much preferable to my ears.

Sorry to focus my comments on the 'tube' sound, but it is important to know what to expect. You could also go with a tube integrated amp ... Prima Luna makes some great ones.

So much of this depends on the rest of your system, especially speakers.
Tube amp will have more of a tube sound. The best is to get both. If you can't afford seperates, get a tube integrated amp like a CarySLI 80. Best of luck.
I have always used a good tube preamp coupled to a solid state amp. IMHO, you get the best of both worlds.
Whichever way you choose to go, matching impedance level between preamp and amp is critical. There are many discussions in the archives.
"I have been thinking to move from a solid state int. amp to the tube world. If I were to go separate and if one has to be SS, would it be better to have tube in the preamp or in the power amp? or would it make any difference since I'm mixing tube with ss?"

That question can't be answered. For example, if you listen to 10 tube preamps, they will all sound different. Same thing with SS preamps, tube power amps, SS amps, etc...

The best way to go about your upgrade is to listen to as many different products you can, and pick the ones that sound the best.
Yes, an impossible question to ask without knowing what your speakers are. And an idea of your budget would help too. Tube watts are not cheap, a real concern with a hard to drive speaker.

But yes, it seems that consensus is that a tube amp tends to get you a greater amount of the tube sound.

And Zd542 is correct that many tube amps and preamps may sound very different from one another. However, there are some descriptors that you can look for in reviews that might help. Mainly, be on the look out for references to a "classic" vs "modern" tube sound. "Classic" sound may be more tubey, but often there are trade-offs with speed, and extensions at the ends of the frequency extremes (good transformers are key for a tube amp, for frequency extension among other reasons). "Modern" sound is usually describing a faster sound, often with less roll off at extreme frequencies. But you also get less tube bloom.

Most important if at all possible is to audition. In your own system preferably.
Wenn you want speed, drive, dynamics ,wide and deep stage and also a musical sound I would go for SS poweramp and tube preamp. I listened to many tube amps in my life. Wenn you owned and listen to brands like Pass Labs you understand the drive and speed it gives over tubes. But I understand why people love the tube sound. I think you can use a tube preamp without missing the power, drive and speed of SS togheter with a SS poweramp.
Bo is a misguided psuedo expert with limited experience and unsupported silly biases. Modern tube power amps are usually just as snappy as SS with NO loss of treble or "softening" of tone. This is a myth just as much as saying all SS amps are "sterile", and "drive and speed" are terms that are simply useless to describe sound. Most well designed tube amps kick butt, are very musical (accurate, wide frequency), and often simply sound better than comparable output SS amps...ask a musician.
Wolf just speak for yourself please. We compare all the time many different amps. You do it just for a hobby. Where are we talking about. |You are just a amature. Nothing more, nothing less. My own technician builds tube amps with the best parts there are regardeless price. So we can compare. You just talk about what is in your head. When you go on like this I will call you an amature all the time. You ask for it, because you started to provoke!!
Wolf makes an astute point, you really can't generalize and fall back on
clich├ęs. Speed(timing, pace, transients?) and drive ability are by no means
exclusive to transistor
amplifiers. Tube power amps can provide these qualities(and many others
as well) very successfully.
The "key" consideration is what speaker is being used
(unavoidable factor). Some speakers do require SS amps to get the best
match but there are speakers that sound better with tube amplifiers. I've
heard examples of both scenarios. I wouldn't call Wolf an amateur because
he doesn't agree with you on this topic. You can't form any conclusion
about an amplifier without considering the speaker, the converse is also
Wolf has been involved with music professionally since the 60s. Assuming it took him until the mid-80s for the fog in his head acquired in the 60s to clear and accordingly we should discount the first twenty years of his experience, he's still been at this a lot longer than never-ending infomercial guy from Holland.
For over 2 year I did run a shop were we sold a lot of tube amps. I like it a lot. I have enough clients with very expensive tube amps. It is my personal opinion ( regardless the sensitivity of a loudspeaker) that it is easier to get more control, speed and drive with SS amps. I personally would use it with a tube pre amp. Because you still can get the extra musical sound you want. And yes there are speakers wich are esasy to drive who can play well controlled with tubes alone. But I talk here in general. I am not talking about the situations of the exceptions. The qustion of the topic is Tube in pre amp or Poweramp? I would choose for Tube in Pre amp. That's all!!

I really think you need to post a dealer disclaimer at the bottom of your posts. This is an important point of information.

And I agree with Wolf and Charles (both long respected contributors here). Again, the classic vs modern tube sound distinction is useful here. And any overly broad generalization should be taken with a grain of salt.

In addition to this modern vs classic sound, for amps we have a number of designs that each have their own characteristics: SET, push-pull, OTL. And then there are characteristics of certain tube types, and then there are different designs and manufacturers of a given tube type.
We are not taking about exceptions? Are we? I prefer class A far over class B or even class D. I hear the advantages of the Pass Labs amps with class A over the Tube amps in many situations. It is the difference of speed in a guitar or the drive in the lowest freq ( more different layers to be heard). I love the tube sound a lot. But you are Always looking for the best sound without limitations. Which are there to be heard at the speakers. When I use my own music I can often let people hear the limitaions of the use of just tubes in there system. With class A SS amps you have more options and freedom for many different speakers than only using tube for power amps. Solaris4ever askes our opinion about what to choose? So I just give my advise with my knowledge. And I explain why I prefer it. Wenn you prefer tube poweramps, fine with me. I do not agree. But I respect your opinion. So please respect mine as well!! And I think we should ask him which speakers he uses?
Wenn he is using the Amati, I would not recommand for tubes. This speakers I heard many times go wrong. Often with tubes or even SS without power and control.
Well a tube preamp is going to need tubes. CHEAP tubes every say five years.. Maybe ony once every ten years..
Tube rolling is a breeze on a tube preamp. My VAC Standard preamp has been running on 24/7 365 for 3 1/2 years and the used tubes that were in it are STILL perfectly fine.

A tube amp.. Is going to need tubes every two years and those tube will cost a bundle of cash. Tube rolling on a tube amp is going to cost you an arm and a leg.
Tube amps get HOT. (My VAC Standard tube preamp in a sealed case.. the case barely gets warm, with 4 tubes in there)

Then safety. A tube preamp is NEVER going to blow up and start a fire.
A tube amp may decide to blow up and start a fire.
Going to the bathroom and coming back to your amp on fire is a scary thing. You can never leave a tube amp unattended when it is on. (heaven forbid you leave the house while it is on) Then biasing. A tube amp will need to have this done on a regular basis.

naturally these are exaggerated, so all those screaming THEY do not think so can line up at the back door.
But generally these comments are true.

So for ease of use and problems a tube preamp is near 100% equal to the ease of use of a solid state preamp. A tube amp is a whole different ballpark

Note NONE of this has to do with sound. Just mechanics of ownership.
Owning a tube preamp is easy and no problem. I own two.
Owning a tube amp is a PITA IMO.
"Going to the bathroom and coming back to your amp on fire...."
Women spend way to much time in the bathroom:) (Just kidding)
Just starting out with tubed components the preamp is easier to deal with.They do have a highish output impedance so make sure your amp's input impedance is a higher value than the pre's output.IMO tubed components allow the music to become more natural and alive.Good luck in your search!

I doubt you will get a definitive answer to your question, but you do need to maintain system synergy.

For a tube amp, the speaker's impedance curve should not have substantial dips below the nominal impedance.

For a tube preamp, proper impedance matching to the SS amp must be observed.

If you are going to try a tube component, just make sure it will work properly with the rest of your system.
They do have a highish output impedance so make sure your amp's input impedance is a higher value than the pre's output.
Just being higher is too vague, as it should be at least 10 times higher at all frequencies.
+1 Jtcf and Tls49
What speakers would you be driving?
Depends on your system (speakers) and the type of sound you desire. But, I can tell you that there are some pretty darn good tube and solid state pre-amps out there, so simply stating that a tube pre-amp is best is, well, not quite accurate. same for saying that a solid state amp is best coupled to a tube pre-amp. Borrow a few tube and solid state pre-amps and amps that you would be interested in, connect them to your system in your home and listen for yourself. My system currently has a tubed pre-amp, Audio Research REF 3 (would like a REF 5SE, but that isn't happening any time soon), coupled to two Mark Levinson 23.5 amps, driving Martin Logan Monolith III speakers with a Krell KSB balanced electronic crossover configured for my speakers and I am very happy. I have heard the new Audio Research REF 250 tube amps and if I could afford them I would get them immediately. They are on a very short list of the very best amps I have heard. Tube or solid state. And the REF 5 SE is one of the best pre-amps I have heard. So, depending on the sound of the setup, I could go either way. In my system, with the REF 3 driving the crossover and then subsequently driving the two 23.5 amps, this is as close as I'm getting to "there" without spending a ton more money, and contrary to what some may say, the 23.5s are still one of the best amps out there.

Elizabeth is incorrect about the dangers of modern tube amps although exaggerating to make some point isn't all that rare around here, but does damage credibility. Although exceptions exist, I've been using tube amps since 1966 with no fires or explosions, and she leaves her gear on all the time which is not only shamefully wasteful, it actually does increase the dange of fire in case of failure in her rig. And Bo...regarding my being an amateur, although I am not a gear salesman, I've been a successful professional musician and respected professional sound technician for over forty years, I currently work with some of the best musicians in the world, and I still don't think my opinion regarding hifi is any more valuable than anyone elses...I merely refuse to accept your incessant misinformation as fact.
It's ok that every person gives his own view. The question has not been answered. So before we can say anything you need to know which speakers he uses? Sound always will be a personal thing. It is Always about comparing to hear what you prefer most. First you need to compare different amps with your speaker to see what you like most. Same about how much money you want to spend on both power and pre amp. Sometimes the amount will give a better result with SS over tubes with the speakers he uses. Because sometimes you need more money to get good resuls with more powerful tube amps to drive the speakers you are using. Start asking questions to Solaris4ever before you give all this different opinions.
one consideration is this... pre-amp tubes rarely blow and last a long time. That said, power amp tubes blow often and do not last as long. I used to do tube power and tube pre-amp but got sick of buying KT-88's all the time. So... tube pre and SS power amp for me.
First I will say that I like tubes and think they are way cool and can sound really good.

Then I will say my approach, FBOFW, is keep tubes to a minimum because there is additional work involved to care for tube gear properly and there are many ways to get good sound without them as well.

If one will be using tubes, two ways to keep them to a minimum accordingly:

1) use in pre-amp only
2) use in amp and use fairly hi efficiency and tube friendly (higher impedance, not 4 ohm) speakers to keep # of tubes, size cost and complexity to a minimum.

Tubes wear over time and are more noise prone than SS. They also will tend to go bad completely more often.

There is something to be said for keeping things simple and relatively maintenance free. I shoot for that but I still run 6 tubes in my arc pre-amp in my main rig. It sounds really good, but my preference would be for the same quality sound with no tubes to have to deal with. Its probably possible, but so far I have been able to live with just occasional tube related noise and issues without too much pain.

OR if you are one who just loves tubes and the more the merrier no mater what, just have at it! But expect more time and issues dealing with noise and other problems when tubes are not performing up to par compared to the alternative. Tubes tend to get HOT, so chance of fire has to be higher in general I would think, though chances of happening with gear in good working order that is properly cared for is probably not too great. Its a real issue though and worth some consideration. YMMV.
P59teitel, which Holland?
Bo is onto something. If you are going to keep the speakers you have now, then you would be best served by going w the amp that matches best w your speakers. Lower sensitivity and/or low or significantly varying impedance would argue for a solid state amp and therefore maybe tube pre-ss power. OTOH is your speakers are higher impedance/flat impedance curve w moderate to high sensitivity, then they would match v well w a tube power amp. What speakers do you have/plan on getting?
Unsound, the "infomercial" description should make it clear I don't mean you. :)
Wolfie.. Your ax grinding is only exceeded by your obviousness.
Gee anybody think he does not like me?

Glad Wolfie is concerned about the dangers to my safety and all.
Lizzie...whining about criticism instead of responding is a little weird, but if you need to insure you're liked, get a dog. Obviousness? Do you prefer the obtuse? I can do obtuse, but it's pointless...wait...that was an obtuse point that could be interpreted as obviousness if the pointlessness was tranparantly and easily percieved...damn...where's my ax grinder...the fog of the 60s...

Bo, remind me, what is in your current system?

I seem to remember an Onkyo Pre/Pro using its Audussey digital equalization, Monitor Audio speakers and sub, solid state amplification, and a digital source?
It looks like if this tread has become a chat session. Are you F...kidding me? The tread is for Solaris, not for our nonsense. The spource is a Olive the way....
Solaris, back to your question, there are hybrid integrated amps with tube line stage and solid state amplification should you prefer to keep an integrated. I had a Vincent at one time. I am currently using a Jolida Fusion pre with a BEl 1001MK5 SS amp and like this combination. Mapman has valid points regarding pre vs. amp tube use.
Netherlands!! Born in the dutch moutains!!
To Solaris4ever

I really think it depends on your speakers. My uncle who has electrostatic speakers in a larger room has an Audio Research tube preamp paired with a pair of Threshold monoblocks. For me in a smaller room with various KEF speakers that are a bit easier to drive I've been able to use an Accuphase C200 preamp with Response Audio Bella Extreme monoblocks or a Kavent S-33 preamp with a Jolida JD-502P amp. Tube amps do cost more maintenance wise. Getting the proper power tubes and spares can take a toll on your wallet. Then when you get into tube rolling watch out.
As Jack Benny would say, "Well."

Did Solaris4ever have a geography question regarding the Netherlands?

Recent news, Gibson recently purchased 51% of Integra/Onkyo USA making them the second largest share holder of Onkyo Japan. This following a marked decline in their product quality.
I've been to the Netherlands three times and noticed that most everybody from there spoke English very well, and I assume they can write it well also. I say we donate to the "Dutch Mountains Literacy Fund," as well as the "Onkyo Fund for Restoring Audio Credibility and Knowledge" or OFFRACK.
In answer to the OP ... yes! Tubes in both pre and power!
I've said it before, tubes are more fun. I said it again.
If you like to "play" with your gear, no doubt tubes are a lot more fun. Tube rolling is not hard and can be worthwhile, but not cheap.

OR if you just want to spend time listening rather than playing, probably best to minimize exposure to tubes.
I owned amp with tubes and I sold them as well. And I like them too. But Pass Labs made me think differently about amps. Most SS I did not find good enough. I wanted the sound of tubes but not there limitations. They need time to get the optimum sound. Yess it cost money to change them after a few years. And I wanted the speed, drive and control of SS. The class A sound of Pass Labs is very involving. The speed and control gives you things you can difficult get with tubes. When I put the amp on it plays directly at a stunning level. I like things to be fast, I don't like waiting. Normally when I would not have the Onkyo with Audyssey Pro I would have choosen for a tube pre amp. But how I use the Onkyo I never will get the musical sound without any acoustic problem. It gives me also all the layer in the low freq. Without it it is a lot more difficult to get. On the other hand I have more resolution in the highest freq. With other pre amps I do not have the option to create more resolution without changing cables or modifications. I even can adapt the stage wide and depth. There is no preamp which can give me this freedom at this moment. With Audyssey Pro I get the sound realism which highend pre amps can create.
"The whole world is a Tuxedo and I'm a pair of tube socks" - ME
(some material borrowed from George Gobel)
Gotta say, in this day and age, probably a lot more up side for reasonable cost spending time playing/tuning with a tool like Audyssey than playing with tubes. If only Audyssey had that cool retro looking tube glow! YEah I know, apples and oranges, but times and technology changes. Usually best to ride the latest and greatest wave for most up-side. At least that is how I tend to think. Digital processing, done well and made easy, has huge potential upside in playback much as is already the case with most recordings these days. But only if done well.
Wenn Bo don't know, knowbody nose.
What Bo doesn't know is that he doesn't no.

With props to my friend wolf-e.
The time spent of messing around with tubes is miniscule relative to that spent listening to music, but if you enjoy the sound of tube amps it's an enjoyable and engaging part of the hifi experience. Also, I like the natural sound of recording dynamics in my listening room without somebody else's idea of what it "should" sound like, so I don't get suggestions of "a huge potential upside" of signal processing of low frequencies. It's an artifice for the aurally challanged and is simply somebody trying to sell me something I, and most others, don't need. There will be no digital nanny moving into my house.
I think the below which I found in an amazon review on a tube integrated sold there says it all:

"After going through quite a few solid state and a few tube amps, I can't help but think of the wife mistress analogy.
Solid state amp is like a wife who is faithful, reliable, low maintenance, complex, intelligent, multi tasking but cold in bed.
Tube amp on the other hand is like a mistress who is not very reliable, high maintenance, too much fuss, simple but hot in bed."

SAy no more....

...I'll take the "hybrid". :^)
I use and measure at a totally different way than they use it. I think and work from a highend perspective. This means instruments and voices need to have the right proportion and the right sound. It is a very big accidence that it came to my path. I was surprissed that a brand like Onkyp can give a deep and wide stage. Because all there competitors are 2-dimensional. I tested them in the past for this. I was also surprised that with a Audyssey pro measurement I could get the sound realims of highend pre amps. When I bought a Onkyo receiver in 2010, I just bought it for a second set for fun and surround. In the last 11 year before this I had many highend sets just for stereo. I did many tests with Audyssey. When I measured at there way. The results were ok. So I changed the hights and the places. After some time I reallised that I can get a superior level in sound realims, drive, focus, depth and wide out of it. The acoustic part is only 1/3 of the whole Audyssey system. The other parts give me the freedom to get more dynamics and resolution. What I did at the show ( where I was the absolute sound) was letting people hear the difference between the acoustic part on and off. But also the other systems which give me more dynamics and resolution. Also these I can set on and off. So every person could hear what all the different parts did. I like things to be clear. When I visit clients I can blow every preamp till 10.000 euro away. This is what I do all the time in the last year. We compare clients there old pre amp with mine with Audyssey pro. I never had a tool which was this superior to any other preamp even at high prices. We will make an advertisement and we invite every person with his own pre amp and power amp to compare. Because I love comparison in audio the most. Listening to your music without acoustic limitations sets you free of all the acoustic problems. And it will let you hear more information and with much more precision. But also in the lowest freq. you will hear more different layers. I've spoken with a few brands which I use at shows to give a demo in the US as well. This is the only way that I can show my words are as I wrote them. I will inform every one here at Audiogon when I get this chanche.