A tube preamp with SS amp will cost you a lot less in tubes. Tube amps burn through tubes much faster than tube preamps.
Several years ago I was in the same position. I wanted to try tubes but I was not sure which arrangement worked best. After a little thought I bought a Counterpoint Tube pre-amp and ran it with a couple of different SS amps. It gave the sound described by Banksfriend. The smooth tube sound without the lack of bass some people talk about.
I enjoyed this setup for about five years before giving up on tubes but I would not try to discourage you from trying the same thing. It might be the perfect sound for your ears.
I just got tired of the tube maintenence.
Good luck and have fun!
Hi Musiqlovr, IMO, a tube amp with SS pre would be my choice. some SS amps do not always work well with with tube preamps. You will have more magic of what tubes offer with the tube amp than the tube preamp. The Cary V-12 and the Music Reference RM-200 are very reliable. Very different in sound but you should have no problems with tubes. Both have proved to be hassle free. The same thing can be said of many other tube amps. Should problems happen with SS you may find it more trouble and expensive than with a tube amp. Hope what ever you choose will give you much enjoyment.
With lot's of homework and perhaps some trial and error, you may not have to worry too much whether it's tubed or solid state.
Hopefully the goal is that the resulting sonics will sound like neither.
Some tube equipment can sound like solid state and vice versa.
But tubed equipment generally requires more involvement and more maintenance than solid state equipment.
I've gone from ss pre / ss amp to tube pre / ss amp to tube pre / tube amp to finally ss pre / tube amp. I am most happy with the ss pre / tube amp combination. Good tube amps and a very clear, detailed ss preamp fit my personality best. Of course, it all depends on the exact equipment and your listening tastes.
Personally, I did not like a tube pre with SS amp, hated it actually. I highly suggest picking up the Musical Fidelity A3.2 preamp, you'll love it. The Musical Fidelity A3 amp may not have enough power for your speakers (it didn't with mine, also 87dB sensitivity, but I play very loud, dynamic and bass heavy music), unless you can run with 2 of them, in which case I suggest you pick up the amps as well and prepare to be impressed. I would also highly suggest the Odyssey Stratos amp as well, 2ch or monoblocks.
IMHO, the tube preamp with the SS power amp worked very well in my system. I needed the current of the SS amp to drive my B&W speakers. I own both the BAT VK-30SE tube preamp and the Pass Labs X-1 SS preamp into a Pass X-250 SS power amp. Each preamp does it own thing (and amp also), the BAT has a darker sound as reviewers have described and the Pass has a more upfront sound but slightly less warm than the BAT. Both matched up well (I also did my research on the matching before buying the stuff and did extensive in home auditions).
I am not a very big fan of the lower priced MF power amps, nice sounding but not enough details for me. The per was nice in its price range but it did not wow me either. If you like the MF stuff buy the Nu-Vista integrated combo. Not my cup of tea.