Good set up, but a tube amp makes more of a difference. Don't get rid of your CJ. Maybe borrow a tube amp and really see (hear) if you like the difference. Remember, you like what you have now...and gas prices are going up. Best of luck
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I am of the opinion that All tube all the way is the absolute best if soundstage and the 3D tube magic is what matters most. However unlike most others, my second choice is SS preamp for signal purity and bass extension then a Tube Power amp for the aforementioned tube effect. People never believe me but you really don't get much of the tube's magical sound using an SS power amp. It tends to flatten it. For those that think their tube pre sounds good with an SS power amp, just try a tube power amp and you will be amazed.
I am a solid state person and I use B&W 830(d)s with Parasound JC1s. These are somewhat power hungry speakers and I cannot imagine these being driven with a 25 Watt tube power amp, at least not to realistic transient levels. For low level listening, maybe.
Of course, you can get much higher power tube amplification, but it's pricey.
I don't see an issue with using tube front ends with solid state power. For some, it may be the best cost effective combination that takes advantage of the strengths of both technologies.
While as a general rule I would advocate for the ss preamp/tube power amp combination, in this case I think you may be asking the wrong question. The overriding question that should be asked, IMO, is what kind of power amplification, and what particular power amplifiers, would be the best match for the particular speaker.
I couldn't find impedance curves for the Nautilus 802. But if they are anything like the curves of the 802D or the Nautilus 801, the sound that is produced will vary dramatically depending on the output impedance and the drive capability of the particular power amplifier. With those impedance curves, among other differences tube amplifiers will give greater emphasis to the upper mid-range and lower treble, while solid state amplifiers will give greater emphasis to the mid-bass region. In addition, many amplifiers, especially some tube amplifiers, will have difficulty driving the speaker adequately in the deep bass region, due to the combination of low impedance and highly capacitive phase angles that is reached at some frequencies in that region.
So my feeling is that the initial question that should be asked and researched is what power amplifiers have users of the particular speaker found to be best.
I'm solidly on the solid state pre to tube amp bandwagon. In fact, I said it on another thread just moments ago. I'm not a solid state person as much as a "water based meat pile" (I think that's the proper scientific description). My stereo rig audio formula is this: Clean and pure (pre/sources) to greasy (tube amp) to accurate (speakers).
I'm surprised to see so many people advocating a solid-state preamp with a tube amp - they are correct.
But as has been hinted at, few tube amps are able to adequately drive typical modern loudspeakers, which feature low impedances in the bass - only really expensive tube amps have the power supplies and output transformers required to get the job done.
As for solid-state preamps, the problem with the vast majority of them is that they sound "electronic". However, the really expensive ones have all of the best qualities of tube preamps - natural sound and timbres, excellent layering of space - but are far quieter, which is crucial at the preamplification stage, and can drive long runs of cables, which most tube preamps cannot.
The bottom line is that a solid-state preamp with a tube power amp is a superb way to go, but only if you have the means to play at a very high level - stated another way, a tube preamp with a solid-state amp is the way to go in my opinion, all things being equal, unless you have a lot of money to spend. A lot of people would like to think otherwise, but average solid-state preamps and average tube amps have fundamental problems that seriously compromise performance, and this is why the tube preamp + solid-state amp combination is popular.
My personal preference, after years of enjoying a large selection of tube and ss components, is a tube pre and a solid state amp. I tend to spend the most money on my preamp and have found that top end tube pre's have been extraordinarily quiet while yeilding all the sonic virtues that I love about tubes. With solid state amps, I get the wonderful grip on the bass that I like, and dollar for dollar, feel there is a better return when you need a high power amp.
Also, the replacement tube cost on a high power pair of tube mono's is significant, compared to retubing a pre.
Last comment.... having heard and owned many of the B&W's, I think solid state amps match very will with them (I particularly like Classe and Levinson).
Well, it appears as if I'm in the minority, but I have found that a tube pre-amp and solid state amp sound wonderful. But, (huge but), this, in my opinion would totally depend on your price point. Like cars, upper mid fi to lower high end components (tube or solid state) are in my opinion not much different sound wise. But, when you go up in the high end chain, I can't really say whether one or the other is better, but there are sonic differences. there are pros and cons for both mid to upper high end tube and solid state. I'm not in the group that thinks that tube is better than solid state or visa versa. I hear equipment all the time, and to me, I would take quality tube or quality solid state equipment. either one. you have to listen often to different equipment in your home, on your system (one piece at a time). Don't change anything else, not cables, etc. just listen. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. i.e. equipment within the same price points. otherwise it really isn't a fair comparison.
I don`t see where anyone has said tube pre with SS amp can`t sound wonderful.The point being expressed(at least to me) was that tube amplifiers are more likely to provide what was called the"tube effect"(system influence) more dominatly than a tube preamp more often than not. There are numerous ways to constructing a satisfying audio system without question.
I think Raquel nailed it. I have long had a tube pre with a SS amp exactly because I can't afford a very good tube power amp. I can, however afford a good SS amp. I paid a bit under $1500 for a new, one-off Odyssey Stratos HT3 with cap upgrade. For my speakers, which, like your B&Ws, need fairly beefy amplification, $1500 for a tube power amp would have gotten me nowhere.
Other factors to consider:
Heat. A tube pre won't generate a significant amount of heat, but a tube power amp usually does. If you don't like the idea of sitting in sweat while you listen in the warmer months, a cooler-running SS amp is preferable.
Reliability. All tubes can fail, but tube life in most preamps exceeds tube life in most power amps, and biasing is usually not an issue, so a SS amp requires less care and feeding. I once had my dad's old Bogen tube integrated catch fire. Yes, I am scared of a tube power amp.
Impedance matching. My previous pre was C-J PV-11. A great preamp, for sure, but until I upgraded to a McIntosh (a brand known for tube preamps that play well with SS power amps), I didn't realize that I was missing about an octave of bass on the bottom. With the right power amp (SS or tube) I am sure the C-J could reproduce that octave, but with the Stratos, it went missing. I almost fell out of my chair when I hooked up the McIntosh and played some music with deep bass in it.
I have no idea what the impedance matching issue is for SS preamps with tube power amps.
I don't ever recall hearing the B&Ws with tube power amps, either at dealers or at shows, FWIW. B&W owns Classe, and I have heard Classe SS amps (and preamps) make nice sounds with B&W speakers. That doesn't mean tubes won't work, just that the folks at B&W might not be thinking along those lines when they voice and design their products.
Lastly, consider a hybrid power amp, like models from Aesthetix, Vincent or Butler. You get the benefits of a tubed input stage without the challenges of a tubed output stage.
Speaker matching is definitely a priority and I agree with Raquel and Almarg's points. My uncle who has a very large 2 channel room with Magenplanar speakers is using a tube pre from Audio Research and Threshold SA/1 monoblocks. The sound from his system was divine. In a nearfield set-up I had really sweet sounding music from a SS Accuphase C-200 preamp and a Baldwin 6L6 tube amp. The speakers were KEF 103/3s at the time.
I'm going to try and see if the Accuphase will match up well with a Jolida 502P tube amp. I'm wondering if anyone else has tried matching an Accuphase preamp to a tube amp.
I'd like to try a tube preamp with an SS amp but I really like the SS preamps I have now.
I think I would go nuts with an all separates tube system. Tubes to roll in your sources, tubes to be rolled in your preamp, various tubes to be rolled in your amp. To many combinations to worry about and/or keep track of. Argh!!
Lots of advice offered both good and bad. You might look to see how many own N802's. I did, and they all own something else. So, there's a lot of conjecture going on.
The idea of Classe being a dream match is just that, a dream. I had Classe amps and I had decent sound. Ultimately too lean through the midbass and lower midrange and a propensity for midrange glare. The W4S amp trumps them in every category.
The VAC tube amp is not bad at all on the N802, better then the Classe but not as good as the W4S.
Let me make it clear, I'm not saying the W4S is the best SS amp, it is the best match I've heard on the N802 coupled with a tube preamp. My W4S amp does have the WBT output terminals and I use a power cord that cost as much as the amp so that may skew the results of someone else using a different configuration. The results speak/sound for themselves.
04-17-12: BondmanpUsually none. Solid state preamps will usually have relatively low output impedance, and tube power amps will usually have relatively high input impedance, which is an ideal combination. The higher output impedance of many (but not all) tube preamps, and the rise in that output impedance that will often occur at deep bass frequencies as a result of the output coupling capacitor they commonly use, combined with the relatively low input impedance of many solid state power amps, will cause the deep bass rolloff you experienced, and/or other frequency response anomalies.
Let me refine my response. Like all of the rest of you I don't think that every tube amp, can drive difficult speaker loads. There are frequently powerful tube amps that will work, but perhaps not optimally with all speakers. If you have a reasonable speaker, that permits tube power amp use, then I strongly advocate their use. The sound is quite special IMO and is not dramatically altered in quality by an SS pre.
Another vote for tube pre/SS amp combo unless you go all tubes with a tube amp and tube preamp...
I happily lived with a B&K ST140 amp and Music Reference RM5 mkII preamp with ProAc Studio 1's for many years. I then got a McIntosh MC225 tube amp to replace the B&K and liked it even more...I then tried a PS Audio 4.6 with the Mac tube amp and really didn't like it at all.