Valve phono or valve linestage?


Which do you consider more influential in the creation of the purist 'valve' pluses such as....transparency, harmonic richness, three dimensional realism and soundstage?
I lived with a top valve preamp (which included a phono section) for 25 years.
The last 5 years I've had a top SS preamp (including phono section) but have recently re-installed the 'old' valve preamp and can hear the differences.
What I don't know is......which stage is providing the greatest contribution?
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128halcro
The ideal is tubes all the way through (phono, line, power). Having said that, using tubes as close to the source as possible will provide the greatest "tube-like" experience; I use a tube phono pre in an otherwise all solid state system and feel that this is the next best thing if only one of three stages can be tubed. Another option is to use a combined phono pre and line stage like a Manley Steelhead and have two of three stages tubed.
which stage is providing the greatest contribution?

Both of them :) However, if you loose detail and musicality upstream, there is nothing you can do to recover it downstream. OTOH if your line stage is not up the task, no amount of a detailed and musical signal will help. You gotta go all-tube.
With those Halcro amps, tubes tubes tubes. It's about balance. You want to put some air around the Halcro detail. I listened to Halcro amps at a friends over a long weekend with some Eggelston speakers and the spaciousness was really impressive with a tube pre and phono stage. I think we listened to a CJ Art pre and Asthetix phono. It really painted the walls of the recording space.
tube linestage is great. i don't like any tube phonos except AudioResearch hybrids ph3, ph3-se (jfet and tubes). tube phonos are noisy.
Tube phono makes the biggest difference in my gear.
Tube phono is the most important. A linestage is just a source switch with a volume control.
Dear Halcro: IMHO I think that depends on which kind of colorations you want to have ( and distortions too. ) along your music sound home system reproduction priorities.

+++++ " purist 'valve' pluses such as....transparency, harmonic richness, three dimensional realism and soundstage .... " ++++++

IMHO all those " pluses " are only colorations on the tube units that degraded the original recorded signal.

IMHO after all music has at least two characteristics: neutrality and natural accuracy.

Like you I was owner for seveal years of tube electronics till I learned.
Today the Atmasphere phonolinepreamp is perhaps the best experience I have with tubes but even this one degraded the recorded signal in higher way that a good SS design.

In a home audio system IMHO the foundation of the reproduced music reside and belongs to the bass frequency range a frequency range where no one tube unit I heard can do justice to the music or to a well designed SS unit.
I can go on with other frequency ranges as the high frequency one where even there the tube units fall short.
Do you want to talk about midrange frequency range because is worst?

If I have to decide between a stand alone phono stage and stand alone line stage IMHO and with out any single doubt I will go fro the line stage.

Tubes were not designed for phono stages, a phono stage is the IMHO the hardest challemge in audio electronics ( I mean a well designed one. ), a phono stage ask for several characteristics to fulfil any cartridge needs: very low noise, very low distortions, wide frequency response, accurate inverse RIAA eq., very high active gain, no more than 2-3 gain stages ( some one named the Asthetix where the top of the line ( all tube ) has around 6-7 stages and even that not only was colored/distorted but noisy. ), that can handle cartridge level output from at least 0.1mv, etc, etc.
All those characteristics is a challenge for a SS unit but for a tube unit is " imposible " to fulfil/match.

Now if you want to " really painted the walls of the recording space through tubes " then you can do it but that has almost no true relationship with the recorded music sound.

My priorities are almost totally different from yours: I'm always for well designed electronics that permit the original recording to be reproduced adding the less along loosing the less. All this has nothing to do on what I like or not. First target: neutral/natural accuracy ( not cold or analytical or warm or lush or just " colored ". ). I don't like " audio clown " items.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.
It's really hard to answer your question. If there is a difference, it might be related to either (sub-)component or both together.

In making the call as to which component should be tubes, it would seem logical to test a number of different combinations. Component matching could make a considerable difference in performance of individual components. Some tube equipment requires a high input impedance of downstream components so it can drive them properly. Sometimes a slight brightness of one component works will with a darker sounding second component. Some phono stages just work better with some cartridges than others. Some tube preamps may have trouble driving particular solid state amps but work well with most tube amps.

It may take a while, but the only real way to know for sure is to listen to various combinations in your own system with YOUR source(s), YOUR amps and YOUR speakers.

I agree that once musical detail is lost, there is no way to recover it.
Like Atmasphere, I say "BOTH" should be tubes. Plenty of quiet tube phono stages exist, and the harmonic development improvement is too important to leave behind.
Dear Raul,
Thanks for your input.
I know how you feel about 'tubes'......but I simply do not agree with you based on listening in my own system?
Yes....I agree that there is a slight diminution in bass depth and control compared to the very best SS....but with the Kebschull it's not enough to concern me.
I have listened to many SS preamps in my system including Electrocompaniet, Gryphon, Naim, Plinius and have heard the top MBL and Soulution gear.
The Halcro DM10 preamp comes the closest to matching the 'magic' of the Kebschull valves and does the least 'damage' of any SS I've listened to?
It does however......not quite capture the transparent holography of the tubes?
It certainly has other advantages over tubes which I have to weigh up?
But soundwise....IMHO....tubes rule.
It may take a while, but the only real way to know for sure is to listen to various combinations in your own system with YOUR source(s), YOUR amps and YOUR speakers.
Couldn't agree more Bp......but seeing most tube units I'm interested in are USA made....and usually 'Made to Order'.....and have no representation in Australia......I defy you to find Atmasphere, Vac or Aesthetix preamps to 'trial' at home?
That may be. I know Keith Herron, Herron Audio, has at least one dealer in Australia. He makes a top drawer tube phono stage that seems to integrate pretty well with either solid state or tube pre-amps. Likewise, he makes an excellent tube pre-amp. They are enormously good together especially with his [solid state] amps.

Maybe you could find his dealer and ask for a home audition.

Disclosure: All of my electronics (including my CD player) are built by Herron Audio. I am a VERY SATISFIED Herron Audio user and customer. I have not heard better.
I am a VERY SATISFIED Herron Audio user and customer
I appreciate that.
My requirements however call for balanced RCA inputs for phono as well as balanced connections between phono/pre and amps.
Very few manufacturers of tube gear provide XLR inputs for phono......but almost all of them at least provide for balanced outputs.
Herron provides neither.
Halcro - we have the same issue here in NZ. The last Aesthetix I saw here was sitting in at a workshop awaiting repair, for which Aesthetix wouldn't provide any circuit diagrams even to the official distributor here. So my advice is if you are spending a reasonable sum of money then talk directly to the manufacturer re servicing. If you cant audition why not buy a less expensive or older generation model second hand, run it off a step down transformer and then, if you like the result, then order a new one with correct voltage etc. The Atmasphere has the advantage of a fully balanced design that would interface well with the Halcro power amps.
Some folk here may be sceptical but my modded Marantz 7 has simply blown away my Jadis, Manley and Klyne System 7 preamps in speed and musical timing, so i'm very wary as you are of laying out huge money on a prayer.
You also need to decide if you want a full function preamp including phono or separates. Do you want MC stage stage, and if so, all tube or transformer or fet based.
Personal favourites that I've heard extensively here are the Air Tight ATC2 linestage preamp/ATM3 mono power amps and the EAR 549 200w mono power amps.
Dear Halcro: +++++ " Halcro DM10 preamp comes the closest to matching the 'magic' of the Kebschull valves " ++++

maybe both are " wrong " even if fulfil your priorities.

Anyway, I think you need to contact directly to Ralph from Atmasphere.

regards and enjoy the music,
R.
Interesting conundrum. If I recall correctly Harry Pearson from TAS during the "golden age" of audio had a preference for SS phono stages because of the revealing speed and detail.
09-14-12: Halcro
Couldn't agree more Bp......but seeing most tube units I'm interested in are USA made....and usually 'Made to Order'.....and have no representation in Australia......I defy you to find Atmasphere, Vac or Aesthetix preamps to 'trial' at home?

One you didn't mention is the Macintosh C2300.
An all in one tube phono/pre with balanced in/out....and just about every other conceivable feature.
HP (of TAS) was a big fan of the C2300's sound - review here. Great build quality and resale value....and its available in Australia.
I use a 22 tubed phono unit (dead quite!!!) and an SMC VRE1b solid state pre and have been the happiest with the sound in over 35 years!

(Dealer disclaimer)
When I swapped a CJ Premier 10 for my CJ PFR, I was surprise how much more I enjoy listening to records. Yes, the sound is different with CDs and LPs, but there was a qualitative different most apparent in even old rock LPs. I wonder why.

I like both preamps, but it's the result with LPs that convinced me to part with my PFR (so I can upgrade my 40 year old Thorens TD 150 for a VPI Traveler, perhaps). I guess I move slowly.