Search the archives. This has been asked many times....
Tube pre's image better because of the dimension and presence they can offer that solid state has not been able to duplicate except for a handfull like Lamm (yes it is solid state-there is no tubes in the linestage) and Ayre k1x. These two image as well if not better than any tube preamp made at any price. But in general tubes do image better than solid state.
Imaging is a direct result of low-level detail recovery and proper phase reproduction. Low level detail is a thing that tubes do better because of their better linearity at the low levels in the area where things like ambience and the like reside. One of the direct results of this superior linearity is that tube circuits generally do not have to run as much negative feedback, and also have less stages and devices in the circuit. Negative feedack is easily demonstrated to reduce soundstage depth and width, and generally less stages of gain will result in less places for the signal to get screwed up.
Phase relationships tend to be similar in all preamps so long as bandwidth is a common denominator; good tube designs are capable of the same bandwidth as transistor designs so this is probably not the defining variable.
I compared the McIntosh C2200 tube-preamp, which by all accounts is a very fine preamp, to McIntosh's C42 and C200 preamp. The C200 was in all regards better than the tube-C2200, including dynamics, imaging and bass control. I do not think it makes sense any longer to say that this or that kind of amp by definition is or does sth better. It depends on the design, and in fact there probably never were so many excellent SS preamps and amps you could take for tube-preamps - and never so many tube amps that offer dynamic sound, as well
Atmasphere...Lower feedback in tube amps is usually because the darn thing becomes an oscilator if you increase it any more! (That's my experience). Also, are you forgetting the heavy feedback around the output transformer represented by the taps that are connected to output tube grids. (Of course this doesn't apply to triodes).
Tubes do not image "better" than SS only differently. Tubes often expand the soundstage because of microphonics but lack focus and coherency for the same reason. They, like ill-placed subwoofers are sometimes nothing more than subtle "reverb" units. SS on the other hand seems to convey the inadequacies of recorded sound all too vigorously, but often with seductive immediacy. Looks like a match made in Heaven, don't you think?
my understanding is this:
tubes 'distort' differently than SS (and EVERYTHING distorts. it is just, how, and to what extent, how/if you can perceive it, etc) - something to the effect of the distortion being in phase w/ the output?
therefore, when it comes to sound stage / detail (which is typically, at least in my mind / ears, derived from the highs/mids) if you are distorting in a more 'pleasing' manor, you will 'hear' better imaging.
I don't think the question in the original post makes any sense. The best imaging preamp I have ever heard far and away is the H-Cat which is ss. The second best is the tubed Exemplar Audio. H-Cat does not talk about phase but rather doppler shift. Exemplar talks about the noise level of the ac power supply. The Exemplar does not sound like any other tube preamp I have ever heard and indeed does not sound like tubes at all until you compare it with the H-Cat.
The question doesn't make any sense? Funny, I've read a lot about how tubed pre's have more lifelike imaging than ss. If fact, it's almost cliche. Next someone will say that tubes produce tighter bass than ss. And yes, there are certainly exceptions to every rule. And yes, there's more variability is speakers than other component's. Thanks to those of your who took your cranky med's before logging on.
My 30 years of experience as an audiophile leads me to conclude that imaging, like any other sonic attribute, is a product of many circuit design decisions, not just whether tubes or transistors are used. I've heard tube electronics yield the razor sharp images often attributed to transistors, and transistor electronics display the softly rounded images that tubes are famous for. This is especially true of the most current designs. I think we could easily dispense with such generalizations, but I doubt that this will happen anytime soon.