Tubed Pre question?

Which configuration gives better ALL around good/great sound for a lot of types of music?

Tubed Pre-Amp paired with solid state? or maybe Tubed Pre-Amp with a tube amp, or a Tube Pre-Amp paired with a hybrid amp (tube input, SS output)...

(Yes.. I already own a tubed pre..)

Which combo regardless of different brands sounds juuust right in your opinion?

I am sure I'll get all types of responses. BUt that's what I want. I'm 38 years old and I listen to mostly live music of the likes of the Grateful Dead(Live Recordings/Soundboards/Studio Albums) Allman Brothers, jam bands..etc.. but I also like The Blues, old time rock-n-roll, hard rock is cool w/me..(older AC/DC, Guns-n-Roses..many others) I like Jazz too..(Sonny Rollins is excellent imo.), original punk, good 1980's/90's pop tunes etc.. BUT I am also open to new GOOD music that may some along in any genre..

Again.. which configuration would sound juuust right in your opinion?

I have settled on a tubed pre-amp (Modwright) and Class D amp (Bel Canto). The tubed pre-amp gives a "body and soul" to the music and the Class D gives great dynamics, full frequency extremes and is extremely quiet. The greatest factor, however, is most likely the speakers you will be using. There is no answer in all situations and you speakers will have certain requirements such as efficiency, cone vs electrostat, size of room, and so forth. I was speaking to Dan Wright the other day and although he could build tubed amps easily, instead he choose a solid state amp with a tubed pre. Good luck in your quest. And remember to have fun! Enjoy!
tube watts are more expensive than SS, and if you want great bass - without using a sub - you'll need lots, so budget is a major factor. if you have a large budget, get speakers that go low and a high-powered tube amp. if your budget is smaller, I'd go for a lower powered tube amp, good imaging speakers, and a powered sub - just make sure it's a 'musical', not 'one-note' sub.
Beginning with all solid state separates, I moved to a tubed preamp with SS power amp. Afterwards, I purchased a tubed power amp and prefer the overall sound of tubed preamp with tubed power amp. As mentioned in previous two posts. there are no fast answers and a lot of considerations with all equipment when it comes to matching and synergy issues and, most of all, a sound that you find pleasing to your ears!
I've used several different combos:SS/SS,Tube/SS,Tube/hybrid,SS/Hydrid,SS/tube and tube pre/tube amp.My opinion is that the all-tube set-up gives me what I am looking for.Mating the tube amp/speaker should be given much care.If you get that combo wrong,you're in for trouble and won't be happy.YMMV.
From the music you list I say tubed pre & SS amp for fast powerful bass. Musicslug has the money thing spot on!!
I agree with Tpsonic, all tube is the way to go, assuming your speakers are up to the task. I've used many different combo's in the last 30 years or so, I would say that for the most part I went tube preamp/ SS amp. However, after diving into the tube preamp/ tube amp camp a couple of years ago, I can't see myself going backwards.

Of course, I also prefer vinyl to I may be the crazy one.

I'm in Tgrisham's camp for the most practical solution for most people..

There is no right answer but I think tube pre and good SS amp can deliver all the goods in more applications more cost effectively and more reliably over time than can all tubes.

All tubes will cost more and have more limited application depending on speakers and will also probably require more maintenance over time than many might be comfortable with.

A few carefully placed tubes is a cheaper and easier way to go.

Not to say that some of the best sounding systems out there may well be all tube systems.
It depends on your speakers as well... With my Dynaudio Special 25's I prefer a McIntosh SS (MC402) amp with my AI mod3b, for the speed and impact. With my Green Mountain Eurpoa Max I prefer an all tube setup. ANd from what I found some tube preamps (i.e. Conrad Johnson) sound best in an all tube rig.

BTW MY musical taste is similar to yours... keep on truck'n

One point that has not been mentioned, but which you may want to consider, is SS amp design. Some designs produce brittle or hard highs, while others have a smoother roll-off and fatter midrange. In the case of McCormack's DNA-1 amp design, harmonic and subharmonic distortion mirror in many respects that found in tube amps. As observed by John Atkinson in Stereophile's review of the DNA-1:
While the DNA-1 does have some upper partials present, these are not isolated but are accompanied by the lower partials in an almost regular descending series. This is typical of tube amplifier performance, tending to sound smooth and "fat" rather than grainy.

Also, J.Peter Moncrieff in IAR-80 stated much the same about the McCormack's DNA-500 design:
Some other solid state amps evince a diamond hard, clinically sterile sound, which calls attention to itself as seemingly clean and pure. But this hard, sterile sound can actually be a symptom of expansive odd order distortion, a common problem with some solid state circuits (in contrast, some other solid state circuits and most tube circuits tend to have compressive odd order distortion which sounds different, usually soft and grundgy). The DNA-500 sounds like clean real music, and you can't ask for more than that. There's no hint of the hard sterility that plagues many other solid state amps.

I have a tubed pre and an upgraded DNA-1 Deluxe so that I can take advantage of the strengths of tubes and SS.
01-27-09: Mapman
There is no right answer but I think tube pre and good SS amp can deliver all the goods in more applications more cost effectively and more reliably over time than can all tubes.

All tubes will cost more and have more limited application depending on speakers and will also probably require more maintenance over time than many might be comfortable with.

A few carefully placed tubes is a cheaper and easier way to go.

Not to say that some of the best sounding systems out there may well be all tube systems.

While I cannot disagree with Mapman, as far as reliability goes, SS is the king, if that is your primary concern. For more years than I care to remember, I went with the tube preamp/ SS amp camp, and while it was very nice, I now realize that NO SS amp, no matter how 'tube-like' the claims, can stand up to a tube amp. In fact, if I could go back in time, I'd say the tube amp gives you more of the 'tube flavor' than the tube preamp, and recommend a SS preamp/tube amp over a tube preamp/SS amp.

I've been using tube preamps for many years, and I have had a couple of tubes go bad. I have only been using tube preamps/tube amps for a couple of years now, and I have not had a bad tube yet......knock wood, though I have modified the sound as much, if not more so than cables by switching tubes (more so in the preamp, but also definitely in the amp).

Yes, I fully agree that SS is more reliable for preamps, amps, CDP's and DAC's, however, the musicality of tubes is sooooo much better, IMHO. Add the fun of tube rolling (you cannot change the way a SS preamp/amp, etc sounds) and I cannot see myself going back to SS unless I become broke and/or deaf.

I should also state though, that I do seem to prefer SS phono preamps over tube phono stages. I do believe that the best I have heard is a SS phono preamp/tube preamp/ tube amp. Also, if you have very difficult to drive speakers, you may be better with a SS amp.

FWIW, I'd change speakers.

I have the Joule Electra Marianne Electra Memorial Edition (tube) and the Spectron Mono-blocks (class-D) with Bybee purifiers and I'm in musical heaven with this combo.


It's a playground. I'm a tube guy, but right now I've got my speakers bi-amped with a 600wpc solid state amps on the bass speaker drivers and 100wpc tube amps on the tweeter/mid drivers. Gives me everything I want, bass drive/slam + purity of tone and harmonic "rightness" I associated with tubes. Oh, and my preamp is a hybrid.

YMMV. My advice would be to find the amps that work best with your speakers (assuming you're committed to the speakers). If you can find the ideal synergy, it matters a lot less whether its tube or silicon. Check owners who are happy with your speakers, and see what they're using.

With the right synergies tubes are unnecessary, and they certainly do extract penalties for reliability, heat, inefficient power use, and even a potential safety liability if you have young children wandering around. I don't think there' a magic bullet. My own experience is that I've liked the sound better most often with tubes, but I've heard some damn nice speaker/amp pairings that are NOT tube amps.

As for whether tubes work better in pre or amp, I like to have them somewhere in the signal chain. But again, design trumps materials. Listen and let your ears be your guide. And always remember: Free advice is worth what you pay for it!

I am old enough to have started with tube amps and despite occasionally trying one in later years have never regretted switching to SS. The choice between them is entirely personal one. When I built a Heathkit amp in 1963 my first thought was that I was hearing the notes as separate entities for the first time. I recently read a review which noted something of the same effect. In a comparison of a passive preamp verses a tube one the reviewer noted that at first he thought the tube was fuller on the bass end, when he listened closer he found that this was due to the tube" filling up the space between notes". I think that this is the source of the " organic" sound that appeals to many. They are just different and any attempt to prove one better is time wasted. I stated my preference but would not say it is right for everyone else. You have tubes in the area where they do best, the output stage is the weakness of tubes, as even tube designers like C-J would agree. But just buy the one you like and forget it.
I am also a tube pre (Audio Mirror Pp1) and class D (custom UCD700HG monos).
My first real serious tube setup was a pair of Mac 240s, Marantz 7c and a Pair of Chartwell LS3/5as.
Have had a few SS pieces like the McCormack TLC 1 but have always veered backed to tubes.
Now I have the Modwright 9.0se, Mac 275 and Reference 3a Grande Veenas.
Not heaven but close enough.
I find it interesting that John says that no "SS amp can stand up to a tube amp".

I have found and own an SS amp that overshadows every great tube amp I have owned and some great ones at that. Thor, CJ, Wavac, Canary and others. One of these tube amps retailed for $14,000 set!!!

So I know of at least one SS amp that has turned this tube man to SS amps. Sorry John :-)

It did take me 20 years and I still mate it with a tube preamp.
for my money go all tubes

I think if you go tube pre and ss amp you get a little of both and a never quite achieve the magic either can bring

I see mixing the two a lose/lose situation - I have tried it but missed the tube liquidity and glow you get in an all tube set up and if you match the proper speakers to your amp the bass and dynamic range will be fine

Hope we've all helped answer your question.

The answer is apparently all and none of the above.
Given your tastes in music, I'd say SS amp + tube pre.

I had such a setup, and went all tubes thereafter.

I do prefer all tubes, but with some music having the authority of SS driving and controling the speakers is a very good thing.

The right tube setup throughout will still be a worthwhile investment.

I'm decidedly undecided.

So I have both. tube monos and an SS amp to go with my tube pre.

That was the best decision I could come up with... and I would still prefer a better SS amp, but can't fade one right now... and won't sell my monos to get one...

it's good to have both. it keeps the upgrade bugs away too... as sometimes that's just change for chages sake anyways.
Tubed everything -- linestage, phonostage, SET monoblocks, CDP (Raysonic 128). Works for me.
Go all tubes, and don't look back. Mono blocks a must. Look at the VAS gear. Great sound, service and value.
Grannyring - what ss amp are you using?
TRL Samson mono block amps. Have a review of them under my username. Love tubes , but with these amps I don't miss them!

I still have tubes in my preamp however :-)
"The answer is apparently all and none of the above."

Yes indeed!

In case anyone was wondering.. right now I have what's called a "SBT" tubed pre amp paired with a (out of production) BC 24 hybrid stereo amp. Both hand made by Blue Circle Audio. Speakers are a very nice vintage pair of Cizek Model 1s. I'm using these speakers for now until I really have a chance to audition some different brands I’ve had my eye on. Problem is there's no dealers around me who sell these brands! Although these old Cizek beauties hold their own imo. For the price I paid for them.. they were a steal. Cd is Onkyo & turntable is from Rega.

I posted this question because I'm leaning towards getting a SS amp, but it looks like I'll just keep what I have, save some more and try to audition as much as possible. All tubes may be the answer as well, but all in good time!

thanks again!

"No dealers around?

do the A'gone "buy & try shuffle". Likely if things are done thoughtfully, you are out just shipping costs or less, and the main worry will then be the carrier.
01-27-09: Grannyring
I find it interesting that John says that no "SS amp can stand up to a tube amp".

Well, I must admit Bill that I have never heard the TRL Samson monoblocks, so maybe you have discovered the elusive beast. Congrats and enjoy.

Thanks John.

I least they are so for me. Still must have tubes in my system somewhere other then the amps!

What amps are you using now John?
"TRL Samson mono block amps"

Has the word "tube" in the manufacturer's name even though a SS amp.

Does that count?

yes it does it seems