IMO, having owned several examples of both tube and solid state line preamps, there is no definitive answer to your question because it varies from component to component.
Some of my tube line preamps have sounded very close to solid state (neutral and transparent), and others have been more colored (producing a sound many people attribute to tubes).
My experience in my system has been that tube amps have had a more pronounced effect on the system's sound characteristics than have preamps and sources.
Other contributors here believe just the opposite.
I agree with everything Tvad said, including his concluding statement indicating that there are lots of differing opinions as to tube preamp + solid state power amp vs. solid state preamp + tube power amp.
I'll add that I have never encountered, and I can't envision, any particular reason why there should be a correlation with voltage amplification, assuming everything is high quality (e.g., the phono stage has low noise levels). And keep in mind that it is the power amp which provides vastly greater amplification, if defined in terms of either current or power.
Interesting and thoughtful question, though.
makes sense. do you mind elaborating? In light of your explanation what then is the rational behind tube pre + Solid power?
Part of the rational is ease of implementation. A tube pre-amp does not need to be biased (there probably is an exception somewhere), the tubes usually last a lot longer and are less expensive (for current production), esp on a cost/hr basis. Tube power amps may require biasing (unless auto-bias), power tubes typically more frequent changing and generate more heat. There are exceptions to pretty much all of this, but in general a tube pre-amp is pretty much plug and play, as is a ss power amp.
I see. Thanks a million. Of course I will have to experiment by myself. The prospect of biasing seems rather painless, a dealer showed me how to do it on a rogue cronus and I have had a pro do an old guitar amp for me; also rather painless. I couldn't imagine that it may be more complicated to do on other designs. Though, I must admit, the idea of having to replace power tubes frequently over the life of the product (I listen a lot) and experiencing variable performance from these tubes is not too appealing. I suppose I would need to prove to myself that the juice is worth the squeeze. Thanks again for the input.
I ask you to listen to my advice and spare yourself endless tweakling and other manuervers to get tube magic.
1. The modern tube amp probably will not to sound like the vintage tube sound you may remember. The best are quick dynamic and stage like nothing else.
2. TVAD is quite right as is an old friend who is a very very knowledable respected Agon memberTRELJA. He told me that Kondso San was right nothing is unimportant but after years watching me pver 6 years make a number of dumb decisions finally said.
The ONLY way to get tube magic which I find is the layered halographic imagery The single most critical obvious sonic impact is to use a TUBE ONLY power amp with an emphatic period. My experience was an outright epiphany that has kept me very happy now for two + years.
3.I had been an all tube preamp as is the opinion of the great masses of those who don't know, they don't know, Tube preamps and SS power will not, and does not accomplish the beauty and unique qualities that tubes amps are capable of. That combo to repeat misses the critical and essential elements needed to get tube sonics.
I bought another tubed pre a simple 6SN7 pre, only $300 used just for use as a tool I thought would serve as a sound check to test my 6SN7s for noise. I was dumbfounded and delighted with it- utterly astonished and confused. I askd a couple of audio friends to listen Both said wow your speakers sound unbelievably good these days. Did I do something to them? No it's the amps.
One of them bought them after struggling with sinophobia.
They are Consonace 800 monoblocks. They run 2 6922 inputs I rolled to CV 2943s NOS Mullard Mil Spec, a 5687 driver rolled to tungsol the sock out put is 4 6CA7 EH tetrodes which sound great in this application. The give a way is the 75 wpc or 78 depending on the manual you get and a total upacked weight of 80lbs each = big trannies. They run two pairs of the output tubes in PP paralllel class A. They drive JM Focal 936 Electras with 2 X 8 inch woofers a piece no problem!
4.The tube any where in the chain is FALSE. You will not know unless you use a tube power amp.
5.Finally I would normally use IMHO. HoweverI am rarely as certain about anything as I am about this. I studiously avoid absolutes as a rule. I just could notstand the incorrect no matter how widely people want to believe it wrong answer. I didn't want you to think that a tube pre is the answer.
P.S. See the add some one posted a day or two ago for the better model 800s they have a switch to run pure triode. The price ridiculously low. I don't know him and have no conflict of interest to disclose.
The price he wants is so low, that I wish I could get another pair and run them as a vertical biamp but the top in triode..
I would agree with most of the gentlemen here and state that IMO the amplifier leaves the most sonic influence to the sound.
If you like tubes stay with a tube amp as in my experience there are no SS amps that sound like tube amps.
What then is the rational behind tube pre + Solid power
Apart from the fact that there are many who believe that that combination can provide the best sound (and I am NOT one of them, as I indicated), and apart from the practicality/ease of use factors alluded to above, I think that perhaps the most frequently applicable rationale would be that for some speakers a solid state power amp is simply the best match.
Solid state power amps typically have lower output impedances than tube power amps, which makes them more suited to speakers that have low impedances and/or impedances which vary widely as a function of frequency.
Also, speakers with low efficiency/sensitivity may require more power (and/or current) than is practical or cost effective to obtain from a tube amp.
As I say, though, I am not in that camp. I consider amplifier-friendly impedance characteristics, and moderate-to-high efficiency, to be important criteria in speaker selection, in large part because of the resulting flexibility in choice of amplifier.
Tvad, Mechans and Almarg have basically said it all and yes, it is the amp for reasons already given.
Detlof and Mechans, assuming you both use tube amps, what speakers are you using?
Personally, I don't like the sound of solid state amps or preamps. I think it's due to the prevalence of odd order harmonics. It's a matter of personal preference for sure.
If the signal from the preamp emphasizes the odd order overtones, then it stands to reason that the amp will amplify those overtones.
So, my answer is that tube preamp and amp are equally necessary.
Tvad, you assume rightly. VTL Siegfrieds if lots of power is needed, and the Atmas MA-2 Mk. III monos
if finesse with punch is called for. Speakers are the big Sound Labs.
Cheers and happy listening,
I like what Al, and Swamp
.. had to ssay. In so far as versatility, convenience, and matching of amps to speakers.
I would submit the degree of influence is about 50/50, be it tube pre or tube amp in conjunction with its alter power mate.
I have personally heard however some tube preamps which do deliver that solid harmonic richness to the mix purely SS power trains can lack. The tube amp as well plays as significant a role though in providing the retro tube sound..
So, at times I think the choice to tube pre & SS amp is to tweak things, more so than to add purely sonic gains.. Things such as brightness, thin mids, dryness, analytical sounding
A better intentional matching of a tube pre to an SS amp will indeed result in getting one closer to harmonic nirvana, but only going the whole route will insure that end.
Then too with the current state of tube amps, and preamps for that matter, the retro old school sound is only going to come from those topologies using single ended triodes. Its rrare in my opinion that PP tube amps can pull that sound off
fully. Push Pull will benefit some facets of the sound and give greater flexibility due to their usually higher power ratings alone, but I think exceptions aside, the SET sound is indeed the SET sound and past it, all else is compromise.
As long as compromise isnt out of the question, mixing tube and solid situations is a wide open affair.
I suppose it comes down to just how much of a particular sound or influenced sound, you really want.
The problem as I see it with this controversy is this
most audiophiles need two rigs. Not every stereo nut can afford to do severe justice to two rigs or do not have concomodate space for them
hence we compromise or simply remain frustrated, always seeking out another angle on how to achieve IT.
TWO SYSTEMS CAN BE DONE IN ONE ROOM THOUGH
using one pair of speakers
with some thoughtful matching, and swapping speaker cables! It just costs more is all.
and even then some smallish amount of concession is quite likely.
A conciliatory mind is better than one system which tries to serve two masters.
and far less expensive to own and operate.
"A conciliatory mind is better than one system which tries to serve two masters.
and far less expensive to own and operate."
Very good thought, I had to learn this the hard way many years ago.
I also tend to agree with what you right about SETs. But finally, because of speaker considerations I turned to OTLs and my ears are happier for that.
Super! Glad you found the 'fit' you were seeking.
As much as 'half measures' are just half measures, it's really what's upstairs that counts in the end. What can and does float our boat or butter our bread completely.
I hesitated to use the last word in the above sentence as it makes for a more critical turn, but there does or should, come a point where we can be satisfied. Failing to achieve such an end points more to us than to the gear we own.
I resist chasing my tail routinely. it's getting much easier to do. Very good to great is where I'll stop. Acquiring one of those, "Can't be beat" rigs is pure manifest ego personified. A 'Can't be Beat' rig, simply can't be found.... in this world... it can however be found in ones mind. I tend to call that location, 'serenity'.
If a certain thing is desired, seek out that particular thing. if only the influence of that thing is sought, be OK with only it's influence. Knowing what I want seems more my issue as my percieved wants always exceed my preponderous needs.
I really wanted the tube sound for years but felt I could instill such a sound with only SS items, or with but a portion of tubes in house. it was a very frustrating time. In truth, as I've posted and asked numerous times on this site, I've wanted the SET sound without the SET prerequisites... give me SET sound with power and speed!
Good luck with that one by the way.
I just made up my mind to acquire the tube influence wholely, and have a rig which was not quite so genre restrictive as SET outfits are. Combining a tube pre and tube monos have satisfied both my wants and needs.
I guess it is as simple as this one question: How much chocolate do you really want... and just which kind?