Tube or SS DAC/Player with Tube Preamp?

Do you recommend that I use a Tube DAC (whether stand-alone or as part of a player) with my tube pre-amp (Sonic Frontiers Line2), or SS? My amp is a Bryston 4BST, speakers are JM Reynaud Offrande. Budget for CDplayer or Transport/DAC/cable is $2k, new or used
Tubes can have VERY different sounds to them. As such, they do offer slightly greater versatility in terms of being able to alter tonal / spatial characteristics much easier than you can with SS gear. Then again, if your not into "tweaking" i.e. tube swapping to "fine tune" the characteristics of the system, you might end up with TOO much of a "good thing" with a tube front end and a tube preamp. Of course, this is all a matter of personal taste as some folks would say that you need to get rid of ALL of your SS gear in order for things to sound "good". Sean
I'm on my third set of NOS tubes for my DAC, and the sound is dramatically different with each set. In many ways, this might be the best feature of a tube DAC, but it does mean that you commit to spending a bit of time (and money) fiddling with it. Still, with the right tubes in the right equipment, the sound can be magical.

I have tubes all around in my system and I think that Sean might be right in saying that it may be too much of a good thing. My current quest is to find a somewhat tighter sound than I have now, and I do think that someplace down the road there may be room for a SS amp or DAC. But...with a few more tubes on the way, and a couple more cable designs to try out, it may be a while before I'm finished playing.

I enjoy tubes in my pre-amp and mono-blocks (Atma-sphere). However, I am using an Accuphase DP-75 CD player and am struck with the musicality of this SS unit! I think that at times, we're all hung-up on what is trendy rather than HOW IT SOUND IN MY SYSTEM! Will a $2000 tube amp sound "better" than a $10,000 SS amp? Probably not! Will a tube amp having a mediocre design with standard grade electronic parts sound better than an exceptionally designed SS amp with premium grade electronic parts? Same answer! Don't forget, tube amps can be impossible to match with many speakers, and S.E.T.'s usually are not known for great bass control. Let your EARS (and your wallet) be your judge!
YOu currently have a very neutral tube preamp in the SF2, so I wouldn't be too weary of using a tube dac section. That stated, swapping out tubes in your preamp may be more forward in getting the sound characteristics you like.

As for a DAC or CD combo? $2,000, no problem, do you mind having money left over?

My experience with tube dacs has been positive. I have a CAL Audio Aria in a bedroom system which is tubed and I have demod the Cal 24/96 Alpha dac and a friends Sonic Frontiers CD1 (for sale now) all very nice pieces, but I'd rather point you to a real gem that's solid state

THe EVS Millenium II Dac at $1050 has the most neutral sound and incredible detail. Ric at is a real pleasure to deal with and offers a 30 day money back guarantee. His DAC upsamples and has a hearty power supply. He sells at wholesale prices and really has a passion for developing high end audio at reasonable prices. I'm still burning mine in, so I'll hold back on my comments, but have been very impressed so far. Check out the reviews at or do a search here or at audioasylum

Transport? A Cal Audio Labs Delta is an excellent choice and can be had used for around $400

there's still plenty of money left over for the connecting cables and some new cds
I prefer to limit the number of places where my sound can be colored as much as tube rolling can do. Hence, with the tube pre (a fine choice there, by the way) you've got the key place to control your sound with tubes. I disagree with those who intimate that ss cannot deliver good sound - it can and does (I always thought highly of Bryston, by way of example). But it does reduce your sound tweaking options, a fact some find useful and others find restrictive.

So I can't give you a direct answer to your question, because I don't know what you want to do - is it part of the fun for you to fool around with your sound by tube rolling and cable swapping, or are you trying to obtain a specific sound from your system? For the former, go tube DAC or player, for the latter, go with the best SS you can find. By the way, what are you using for a CD source currently? Maybe you could up the budget on the DAC if you kept your current source (if it has reasonable digital out)?

Since technically SS output is matched with any input impedance I would go for SS. It is not guaranteed that it'll sound better than tube since we all have different ears. On my opinion most of the tube designs have colouration of sound rather than details. Some people like it some people don't.
End your search for a DAC by purchasing the Kora Hermes at 1500 on Audiogon - it use to sell for 3795 in 1998 and has since been upgraded to 24/192. It is a great sounding and looking piece that happens to have tubes. Whether it sounds great with my ECM 1 because of that is beyond me. I use it with a tube amp on the top (McIntosh 2102) and a solid state amp the 352 for lower end. I recently tried a Perpetual tech P-1A digital correction between the ECM and Kora and it really naturalized the digital sound even beyond my hopes for regular CD playback. It sells for 500-1000 on audiogon. These two even make my lesser transport (Pioneer 65) sound great too. Good luck!