Integrateds: Warm sounding SS vs Hybrid

I have recently had Bryston B60 and Unison Unico amps. They each had their strengths. Overall I liked the Unico better, its more forward, fuller sound and a wider soundstage, due to its tube preamp. However, I wasn't enamored with the tube hiss I was getting, I realize that there might have been a problem with the amp, but I have read about others having this problem. With no music playing, or very quiet passages in classical music, the hiss could be heard from the listening position6-8 feet away.

I have read reviews of some SS amps where their sound is described as "tube-like".

My questions are:

1) Has anyone who had owned tubed gear heard a SS integrated that sounds like tubes?

2) Was my experience with Unison tube hiss likely due to faulty gear/tubes, etc?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
I've had a couple tube integrated amps over the years, a Consonance M100 plus and Jolida 1501, and my Onkyo A-9555, eventhough it is completely solid-state, has a nice tube-like warmth to it once it has completely broken in. You might give it a listen.
I haven't had a tube integrated but have had a solid state/tube hybrid integrated. (LSA Signature). I would say you might want to try the Plinius 9200 which I also owned and has a tubelike quality.
I'd give the Unico another shot - The sample I've heard did not exhibit any tube noise at all. That could have been a sign that the tubes were in need of replacement, or that something else was going wrong. I thought it was an excellent choice for an integrated at a moderate price.

It's not an integrated, but a very nice SS alternative that has the midrange 'warmth' of tubes are the Pass Aleph 3 and 30 (very similar). You would need a preamp or some kind of attenuator or passive volume control though. Also I believe these are both Class A amps that are best left on 24/7 for optimum sound and do put off a bit of heat.

I liked the Portal Audio Panache integrated, but would not call its sound "tube like". Still a very nice SS integrated for not alot of money.

The Audio Refinement Complete is often described in reviews as sounding tube-like. There is one for sale on Audiogon at this moment.
Hi sandman012,

1) Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2 -

My favorite amp in the last 5 to 10 years

2) Try swapping the tubes

Good luck,

I completely agree with Elevick. If you want tube like sound in SS your best bet is pure class A components.
Second the Portal Panache , and also Plinius - have the 800 not 9200 but still very good.

Very good tube integrated (to my ears) at reasonable prices Soundquest SQ88 and Consonnance Cyber 100 Signature , especially with reasonably priced NOS tubes

"1) Has anyone who had owned tubed gear heard a SS integrated that sounds like tubes?"

Yes, the Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2 or 70.2 are the closest to tubes that your going to get from a solid-state piece. Another warm/tubey sounding solid-state piece is the First Watt F-3, but only puts out 10-15 watts.

"2) Was my experience with Unison tube hiss likely due to faulty gear/tubes, etc?"

It could have been the gain structure of the piece. A high gain structure can sometimes give you a hiss. What is the gain specs of the integrated in question? Does it have 25db to 35 db of gain?
I just added a McIntosh c2300 tube preamp to my Mc 402 ss power amp. The power amp was already smooth but the tube pre gives it that tube sound. Just really nice if you want the tube sound without the maintenance that comes with a tube power amp. I've read where people say the amp is where you get the sound but my experience and ears say otherwise.
Thanks for all the suggestions.

I should mention that I would prefer the integrated to have a remote, for volume at least. So the Jungson and the Plinius seem to be best suggestions thus far.

I am reitcent to go all tubes at this point, thus the hybrid seems a good way to go; but there just aren't many hybrid units.

From preliminary resonses, it seems that the Unico should have had that loud a hiss and its tubes or something else was faulty.
How about a BAT VK-300x SE integrated? Hybrid design and remote control, check one out if you can. If the BAT is too pricey, try a Marantz PM11-S1. Not a hybrid, but a good sounding integrated with a remote for less $$$.

Happy hunting,

i'll echo jwarmbrand and brawny's suggestions - Red Wine Audio Signature 30.2, and it comes with a remote. you don't even need a hybrid as it already sounds like a fine tube amp but with the bass weight and articulation of the best solid state gear. If you want mix in tubes, add the RWA Isabella preamp, and the built-in dac option is amazing as well! You'll be totally off the grid on battery power, but it might be outside your budget. In that case, a 30.2 integrated will do the trick. with a 30 day trial period you cant go wrong!


looking at the REd WIne Sig 30.2 .... only one source input? So I couldnt use with both my CD and phono?
Sandman012, you can order the Red Wine Sig 30.2 as an integrated amp, with a volume control, and two inputs on the rear apron. Check the website for pics.

Now, that being said, this thread is starting to scare me. I'm having flashbacks to about three years ago when the D&K integrated mummies were running amok. I don't have any issues with folks enjoying their music, but look into some of the RWA zealots posting history. Natewalker_2006 has responded to 11 threads, and pushed the RWA 30.2 in every single one of them. Jwarmbrand has started one thread and replied to 10 threads, again, every thread was about RWA.

I won't lump Brawny in with the other two, because he seems to be more well rounded, only 2 of his 14 threads mention RWA, and in this one, he also mentioned First Watt's integrated.

Again, I think it's great if you love your audio system. However, what we found out about 3 years ago with the D&K fiasco was that there are also 'shills' that use these message boards to push their products. So be careful how much weight you place on some folks recommendations. Take a look at their history, and see how varied their experience is.

Thanks, John, for your thoughts. I am in a position where its just not feasible for me to make the hour and a half drive back and forth to audition peices, not to mention the better value one gets used on Audiogon.

So I have to rely on word-of-mouth. I just sold my whole system, as while I liked it well enough, I knew it wasn't exactly what I wanted.

I like the idea of the RWA, but new, it is a bit out the price range I was looking toward.
hi john, yes you can classify me as a rwa zealot and i have been mainly posting about the joy they bring to my listening experience every day. ok, this might make me a 'mummy' or 'shill' or what you want to call me, but i have never owned equipment this good for the money and i finally don't think about upgrading my electronics and dont have to worry about the quality of my power coming to my house, power cords, conditioners, and all that stuff - especially in the summer when our power quality suffers with all the air conditioners on the grid. i like vinnie's approach and excellent customer service and i will continue to let others know about my experience and i dont get paid for it . this stuff is giving me a lot of pleasure so it is a pleasure to speak highly of it. RWA offers a 30-day on all their products, so let the end user decide if it is right for them. it may or may not be. this is what i did and i hope others take a look at it too if it is in their budget and if it meets their needs and requirements.

The Unison Unico and Pathos are great hybrid integrateds. The SS integrateds that I like is the Audio Analoge.
Hey John,

A fellow skeptic I see. After reading your response my first thought was that you were a shill for some company competing with Red Wine Audio (RWA). Why else would you be trying discredit or silence the RWA crowd? How's that for a conspiracy theory :) I agree with you that there a lot of shills out there trying to capitalize on the latest high-end audio fad. It's unfortunate. I no longer own my RWA 30.2, but I do believe that RWA offers a unique product line at reasonable prices. If you feel the need to provide a public service warning to Audiogon members about potential shills, then by all means, knock yourself out. However, I doubt that there are many Audiogon members blindly making expensive high-end purchases based upon recommendations by some unknown individual on the internet. I could be wrong though. Take care!
what is meant by "tube-like" ?

my experience with solid state amps and conversations with a designer who offers solid state and tube amplifiers indicates that tube and solid state components are voiced differently. thus , without a denotation of "tube-like", i would say that solid state amps are not tube like, especially when driving planar dipole speakers.
Nate (Natewalker_2006), my apologies if you are truely a sheep in sheep's clothing. Like I said, I am happy when folks find great sound, especially for a good price.
It would really help your case if you would go into more threads/details about your musical tastes, and equipment/cabling experiences.

How does RWA sound compared to ARC/BAT/CJ/VAC/Krell/ML/Threshold/Pass/Classe/Rowland/Coda/Cary/ etc. Yes, I've heard all of the above companies and more, and know what their 'house sound' is.
I haven't heard RWA, what can I compare it to?
Those that only ever mention one brand, and one brand only are those that are taken (rightly or wrongly) for shills.

Brawrny, yes one does learn to be skeptical after many years, whether it is warranted or not.....yes, that is sad.

>>Those that only ever mention one brand, and one brand only are those that are taken (rightly or wrongly) for shills.<<

Good point John.

One need only to read the Rowland threads as good examples.

That's some serious cheerleading.
i have heard the rwa amp and preamp, but not in my own system. while i prefer my friend's berning tf 12 pre and sigfried amp, the ss stuff is not objectionable.
what were your thoughts about Vinnie's new preamp (Isabella)
and amp? And do you remember the speakers that were used with that gear?

I should be getting some new speakers soon (they might not be your cup of tea though). When they come in, I thought you might be interested in hearing them as a part of audio experience.

I will be in touch

hi mrjstark:

at ces i did hear an entire system in vinnie's room.
i assume you mean red wine audio. if not, pardon my ignorance.

i was not impressed. there are very few solid state components that impress me. there are some exceptions, for example, some audio research gear with magnepan speakers.

moreover, i tend to favor panel speakers, so i am the wrong person to ask about these matters.

i returned the gilmore audio raptors, but still have the opera audio class a amp. my electric bill was a bit hear during the last two months, when my central air was operating with the class a amp.

i shall be purchasing a pair of quad 57s from quads unlimited. i should have them by the end of september.
i'm looking forward to visiting you when you are ready and i will be glad to return the favor aftter i get the quads and/or after i get an amr 77 (hopefully) cd player.
Sounds good. I always wanted to hear audiophile minded setup rather then dealer's with limited imagination.

I am guessing that you haven't heard the new Isabella/dac/headphone amp. Knowing your taste, I think that you would have liked it.......I do.

As to your impression of RWA room at CES, I assume it was in the Rethm Audio room. It was a very simple setup:
* Rethm Saadhana speakers (single driver [Lowther] design with self powered bass module.)
* Consonance reference 2.2 MK II cdp (if I'm not mistaken)
* and RWA Sig.30.2 integrated amp (battery powered. 30wpc).

It is probably not for everyone. IMO it was very good.......far better then some megabucks crap.
Keep in mind that total cost of that setup was about 15K.
I have seen speaker cables costing more......go figure.

Vinnie's amp is not that bad either.....It all depends on what you're going to pair it with. However, it's resolution, dynamics, bass can't equal my own modded Cybers (I own both).

I have heard AMR CD 77 player and IMHO it is one of the best player out there, regardless of price. I am sure that you are going to love it .

Does anyone have any opinions on the sonic differences between a Bel Canto evo2i Integreated and the Marantz Pm-11s1 or Plinius 9100?

The bel canto seems to have a "unique" sound from online reviews I've read.

The other 2 are leading candidates for warm sounding SS.

Hi - I have had some Integrateds (tubed, hybrid and SS) - if you are looking for a warm sound amp you should check the Primaluna (budget), or the Sugden class A line.

For hybrids Pathos and Acoustic Plan (which I own now) are really fantastic options.

Good luck
Magnum Dynalab MD 208 Receiver, with a great FM tuner as a bonus, or the MD 308 without the tuner.
The accuphase integrateds sounds pretty close to tubes with dynamics and details off a solid state counterpart
one will never achieve the classic tube sound, e.g., the conrad johnson mv 45, mv 75 or mv 125, with a solid state device.

if one takes as representative the modern tube sound, which resembles solid state, it may be much easier.
I partially agree with you. However, classic tube sound isn't always perfect either. Old Dynacos & Macs lack some of the dynamics of newer gear????
I'm a big fan of class A rated amps to get 90% of the tube warmth with 0% of the hassles.
Yes, I have all of the above running in my systems: 50's Telefunken, 70's Grommes Pentode, 80's Yamaha M series class A, 90's Dynaco by Panor SET, 90's PSE, newer Mac, heavily modded Music Hall.
They all have their good and bad points....overall, I can't decide!
There are two integrateds that come to my mind where I just forgot thinking about their design fundamentals (SS or Tube) - those are Gryphon an Acoustic Plan.

I was more listening to music than the amp itself.
Well, I'm going to take a chance on the Unison Unico again. I'll assume that there was something wrong with the last one. Without haveing a hifi shop near to audition pieces, I'm going to stick with what I know for now. At some point in the future when I have the time and money, I'll pick up one of the SS integrateds mentioned here and do a direct comparison myself. (Thinking Primare, Plinius, Jungson)

I just can't get that luscious sound from the Unico out of my mind, and I like the hybrid approach of getting some of that tube magic without the maintenance, etc. I'm sure its not the last word in detail and upper/lower extension, but it definitely made nice sounding music. Unfortunately (or fortunately given my proclivity for indecision) there aren't many hybrids that retail for $2k and under.

Now I have to figure out speakers for them. I had Totem Arros and liked the sound (especially their imaging capabilities), but I need a little more oomph, as I do listen to rock and orchetral music. My friend's Epos M5's (with modest Creek integreated) moved more air than the Arros!!

So I am thinking of going for a bookshelf/monitor with good bass extension (as good as bookshelves get at least), and adding a subwoofer at some point if needed.

Any suggestions for the Unico for ~$1k used?
I had a pair of Totem Mani-2s and Tabu as well - both delivered good bass response but at the expense of sounding a little meshy - I drove both of them with a Gryphon Tabu and later with a Rowland 2.

Good luck