A lot may depend on your speakers... High-efficiency speakers which present a stable high impedance load will allow decent tube amplification bang for buck (a search of the archives will find a world of suggestions). Lower efficiency speakers which present a more variable impedance load will almost surely get more bang for buck out of SS amplification.
In systems where neither budget nor speaker sensitivity are an issue, I have generally preferred tube amp with SS CD player combinations.
With less efficient speakers, I think you might try either hybrid amplification or mosfet amplification matched with a tube preamp. Depending on how you match things, you might be able to use a SS CD player.
tube amp + tube cdp, works for me at least.
T-Home has a point but start with premis that speakerrs are sensitive enough for your tubes or tube amp is powerfull enouhg enough to handle sppeakers.Have spoken with a buddy about this at length and he is of oppinon that digital should be clean and tube character should come in pre or amp.We both don't understand that certain catalogue companies have sold more Muisc Fidelity tube buffer to ad "tube sound" to mainly CD players before goiing to pre or integrated.It is not poart od design and means most of you old discs are to sshrill or aomnething in your system needs changing.But bottom line is how much do you want of tube sound (essentailly "good" higher order distortion as opposed to lower order distortion which is harsh and unpleasant)
Listen to gear at shops read reviews get budget in order etc and eiced how much tube you want.Tubes may be best at midrange (I use a tube intergrated with a pair of german semi horns).But you could 1) ad tube sound with CD player modded with tubes and probaly get least "warmth" 2) ad tube pre and get a combination many like because tubes change voltage well and add chromatics that tube s do but get highs with no roll off and good bass control 3) make tubes final stage with power amp or integrated where it will ad biggest signature to sound (both tube pre and amp or SS pre and tube amp).This will give greatest sound of yubes and maybe what your after.I have ha all combos and they all have pluses and minuses.Another curent especially for thos on a a budget is to get a hybrid integrated where input is tubes amd ouput is solid state from Unison or (visually) beautiful Pathos hybrid.Some have bought inexpensive Jolida $600 100 wat and been underhwelmed.but rember while NOS (new old stock from 50's-60's) is very expensive input tubes are cheaper and last longer.You can have fune in a pre or hybrid swapping oput tunes and get instead of 3000 hours of output tubes 5,000 or more (up to 10,000) of inpuit tubes and have fun "rube rolling" choosing european or USA tubes which can really change a set up's sound.My freind and i think that you should render unto Ceasar what you should and digital should at it's output be as clean as possible so we both think tube belong else where fgarther down the lione.How muich is your choice but a tube amp with give you the most tube sound.Not all hybrid integrateds sound tubey like the BAT (not cheap but great if you can use 150 watts and want clean sound).Or get pre or hey leave it out entirely if say all you play is digital and get one with a good op amp for volume and run into a high value tube amp like Rogue,VTL,Conrad Johnson (very warm at expense of being more nopisy than others , or budget champ Quicksilver VR4,or SOME of the Chinese amps (some suck)(BTW eve with as bit of hassle swapping wiores I have thought about putting as much as I can into CD .SACD and phono section and amp with myspeakers and just switch wires when going from CD to LP.No line stage that rember can only ad artifacts nmight take away,.One nagative of this is pore's can add dynamic drive that your source components dont have by them selves so it's a toss up but if I did it I'd probaly get a Sonic Frontiers tube pre or or pree (maybe SS maybe not again depending if amp is tube and how it sounds.
Or again get good tube integrated and you'll get tube sound aplenty.I like clarity but with my set up and speakers I give up some accuracy for the sound of my integrateds EL 34's (EL34 is midrange chanp,KT88 more money but beter bass and slam,6550 a good economy tube.I have had and sold more hifi gear than I can rember but the one piece I miss more thananay other is the Mesa Baron amp.Mesa is a guitar company and made one tube mp and one lower priced intergrated.Since they were used to basses and guitars they came stock with 6L6 tubes a popular musician tube.But for $500 you could get it modded to run the tubes I just mentioned.They were $K and $500 new with "tri-tube " mod and now can be found for $1500 to $2K.Even if it sat in my closet until I had a st up that couse it again wish I had gotten tri tube mod and kepot incloset.Probaly will buy another one sometime in my career.The companies that can ad tubes to your CD player to it's deluxe mod get a better CD player (whole 'nother post depending on your Cd and total budget) and have same company or other modifier work on your othter components like tube amp or tube integrated.
Thanks for opinions guys.
My friend actually has opposite opinion regarding digital vs. amp. His view is to have neutral/clean amplification as much as possible with quality SS amp and let the "front end" color the sound. This way, he says, if you wanna change the "sound", just change the "front end" by changing tubes in CDP or to another CDP. So his setup is a Bryston amp with tube CDP.
You guys both make good points, I've got power hungry Totems so I'm probably leaning towards tube hybrid amp & tube CDP...cause I really miss the EL34's midrange my Jolida had.
Having said that, is there such thing as tube hybrid EL34 based amps?...or something equivalent?
Your friend assumes that solid state gear is "neutral" and "clean" while tube gear is somehow less pure. I think a lot of us would disagree. All gear has its characteristic sound, and it is hard to generalize about which is more neutral. That which offends one the least, would be judged neutral or clean. For me, that would be SOME tube gear.
I have not had vast experience with CDP/DACs that hang a tube cathode follower after a conventional solid state output from the DAC to give the player a "tube sound." The ones from Cary that I heard sound much better to me from the solid state output.
I have heard DACs with tube outputs that were much more thoroughly engineered as a tube unit, and do not employ tubes as a marketing ploy. Some, like the Audionote DACs sound very good. But, I've heard a number of very good, albeit quite different sounding, pure solid state machines. My own player, a Naim CDS-3, is in a mostly tube-based system.
In short, one cannot generalize about these things. My guess would be that you would be better off getting tube amplification and a CDP with a solid state output instead of one that tacks a tube stage on as a gimmick.
if you stick to current production equipment and consider tube amps, other than triode amps, it probably makes little difference whether you use tubes or solid state. well deisgned tube and solid state amps, tend to sound alike these days.
regarding cd players, again with reference to current production cd players, i have found that most are not particularly tube sensitive and that there may not be much of an advantage having a tube analog stage, when you have 24/192 chips and up sampling.
the exception to the above applies to older gear, say 80's and early 90's cd players, and tube amps from the same period. the difference between tube and ss gear was more apparent at that time.
My vote is a good SS amp and tube CD player, which is what I currently have and enjoy immensely. All the solid state amplification benefits, with the warmth and presence of tubes - it doesn't get much better and is not as speaker dependent as the opposite choice might be. To me - most flexibility and best sound is the above.
Would you mind diagramming your opinion, please? I got lost somewhere in there and can't find my way out. : )
Bonger, Chazzbo started with the premise that the speakers were sensitive enough for tube amplification and gave a variety of recommendations. I neglected to read your other posts before writing my response to note that you have Totems. None of the Totems are very sensitive. I agree with Larryi on both points (SS vs tube amps, and on the value of tube output CDPs).
Based on your speakers (I assume still Totem Arros), and reading between the lines in terms of sound preference, things I have heard with similar spec-ed speakers (which is a precarious perch from which to recommend something), and making the assumption you might be willing to purchase used, I think there is good bang for buck, and pretty good quality overall, from the Counterpoint hybrid amps (you might try an SA-20). Good tube preamps are available for not much money, and for kicks, you could even try a Bottlehead Foreplay pre-amp (check audioasylum.com for a link).
If really dying to try high-powered tubes, I think the VTL IT-85 (integrated) and ST-85 (amp only) are great, and give the same kind of quality as their higher-powered amps at a more affordable price (used), and they tend to go quite low in terms of minimum impedance.
Full disclosure: I own VTL MB-450s, love them dearly, and have always wanted a pair of Counterpoint Natural Progression Monos for a second system. I have thought doing so but have not built a Foreplay preamp. I have no connection of any kind with any advertiser on Audiogon.
you're right, all tube and SS these days are alike. i spent some time with new generation of complete tube gear, mostly tube integrated, and was very dissapointed. i don't want tube gear to sound like SS but that's exactly what i get at the end. for me, there is no reason for such concept, but people should be very carefull. since they're not bad amps, modern tubes equipment are voiced like SS, and it could be prety confusing, seeing tubes and get something else.
myself, i bought EL84 integrated, working in triode mode, which is DIY project based on the best tube tradition ( whatever that means), and it was like WOW, totally different story! now i'm listening SS CD player, but it has to be changed and i watched carefully this thread, because i don't know is there any need to get CD with tube output or stick with SS CD player. is there such thing as "too many tubes" in this case?
"my friend say to have clean/neutral amp up front...."
To my ears a top quality tube amp delivers the purest, most musical sound. I've yet to hear any ss amp that beat a tube...well I take that back, I have heard a few tube that did sound smokey/foggy/very low dynamics, Conrad, Rouge, even acoustic research my little Jadis beat out by a wide margin....I'd rather have a big Krell.
But I'd rather have my JOR vs any Krell.
Its all about quality. Sometimes you pay for what you get, other times you overpay....
Heres what Ive done; Purchased Plinius pure class A SA 102s in fully ballanced dual mono with theyre M8 preamplifier and added a Kora Hermes 24/192 Triode dac with 1964/ 1974 ECC88/2492 Mullards pearl cryovalves matched pairs with nonexistant microphonics. Also have Magnum Dynalab 102 triode tuner and utilise Transparents Ultra interconnects for coppers warmth from my DAC rcas and xlrs from my Magnum Dynalab tuner and Siltech SQ28 xlr from my M8 preamp to 102s to accentuate my top end. I then have Mirage OM6s which have a very detailed top end and seductive midrange with full range authority--- my sound is really engaging for hours at a time.So I agree with bongers friend and the nice thing about my steup if I ever decide to change my speakers to Soundlabs or Magneplaners or-whatever, I dont have to concern myself with power issues as Plinius is stable into virtually any load while one would be hard pressed to say the sonic signature of my front end is anything less than tubelike in the midrange with terrific dynamics and bass control.Thats my recipe and Im sure many of you have your own secret sauce.Thats just the two front channels in my hometheatre and I use Plinius electronics throughout with Bag End 18 Infrasubs flanking my mains in stereo, its really what one wants in sound reproduction and how they prefer to implement it! Regards ///TimW...