Let's forget about being politically correct

I thought this would catch the attention of some of you. I have for the past 10 years used a SS amp and tube preamp. This was the prevailing wisdom with alot of audiophiles in the 90's and even today. I am look for a change in my amp/preamp, who out there is using a tube amp with a ss pre? How does it sound? What combinations have you tried?
My Father was running a tubed preamp with an SS power amp as was suggested to him by a few folks. I had always thought that his system sounded like hell i.e. the lower mids were always muddy sounding, bass was bloated and ill-defined, treble was sibilant and hard sounding, etc... He somehow thought that this sounded good. I kept telling him how bad it sounded but he just laughed and thought i was crazy. Quite honestly, i had always blamed his speakers for the "muck" that i heard but i was about to be proven wrong.

A while back, his tubed preamp went down i let him borrow one of my spare SS preamps while i fixed his. Viola, the sonic problems that i had noted were solved and the system sounded 10X more transparent with the SS preamp in the system. I don't know if the sonic problems were created by an impedance mismatch between preamp and amp or if the tubes were funky ( he had tried a couple different types of tubes ), but whatever it was, it didn't matter any more. My Dad was so hung up on what the reviewers and salesmen had said that he was convinced that he "HAD" to have tubes somewhere in the system. After that experience, he no longer lays claims to tubes sounding "better" than SS. In fact, my Mother referred to the tube preamp as "a piece of junk" after hearing the differences between it and the SS piece.

The moral of this story is to use what you like and what gives you the performance / features that you seek. I'm sure that you can find something that will work excellently for you. I would not worry about the method ( tubes or SS ) to achieve those goals, but simply that the components get you to where you want to go. Sean
We build an expensive SS preamp and most of the customers use tube amps with it from Atma-Sphere, VTL, CJ, BAT, ARC or Wolcott....Probably missed somebody....It was rough to get a SS preamp to capture what tubes do best and it was rougher to get a SS amp to sound like tubes....Unless you have bundles to spend on a SS preamp you are better off with tubes....
I agree with you, Bob! Give me tubes or give me silence! OK, maybe a bit too strong? Honestly, listen to Rcrump on this issue. He knows what he's talking about when it comes to what constitutes a great pre-amp. Good luck.
Just for the record, the CTC Blowtorch pre-amp which Mr. Crump manufactures is absolutely stunning. Shattered all my preconceived notions (as did those damn JC-1's). Well, at least I can peddle the JC-1's (from Parasound) - the Blowtorch remains my bitter competition.

Tippin' my virtual hat to you, Mr. Crump...

I added a Tact RCS 2.0 to my stystem (tube pre and amp). Then I removed the preamp to try the simpler is better approach. This configuration didn't last through the first song. I put the preamp back in and it's been there ever since. YMMV
I feel sonically and electrically that a proper SS preamp and a good tube amp (ARC,Wolcott,SF,McIntosh) with the correct power and cables makes the most sense. I defy anyone to listen to my system and tell me it is not musically natural and quiet as the grave with no false air read noise. Just choose your flavor with input tubes. The opposite amplifies the tube "rush" (some of A.Porter's exemplars,the Atmasphere, and BAT and others) maybe an exception but they will still add noise as they age and that noise will be amplified all the way down the line....IMHO&E
i have used tube amps with SS preamps in the past. IMO, if you are going to use SS in the system it should be the preamp. i had great results with a Spectral preamp with tube amps.
I hate to agree with anything from Mr.Jcbtubes but he is right on with his comments that came from Rcrump. I think we should give Jcbtubes silence instead of tubes. But that would be so cruel since he has no clue how silence is achieved. How is that not being politically correct?
Engineer Bill Thalmann of Music Technology and formally Conrad Johnson uses a solid state preamp with a tube amp.

At the just concluded Montreal Audio Show, Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle was showing off a prototype solid state preamp he may put on the market next year, with one of his hybrid tube amps.
The solid state amp issue really is best debated with the
speakers to be driven in mind. I have the Dunlavy SC-Vs that
love and require a high current design amp to get the maximum potential for bass. In fact, I use two SS amps vertically biamped which really makes for an amazing bottom end to the system. Along with this, I use a Tube preamp which seems to balance the system nicely.
My feeling it all depends on the entire system. Starting with the speakers. Some speakers are not going to be driven well with many tube amps. Some speakers are so sensitive they really do not reaquire serious solid state power. It all depends... so many factors...

I personally think this debate is a little silly. There are so many factors involved that having a set ideology (i.e. only limiting yourself to a tube preamp or tube amp) is in itself limiting. A person should not get wrapped up in the technology, so much as getting the best sound they can from their speakers (tubes or otherwise).

I have a pure SS system now. I have had tubes before. I have had a comination before. This hobby is all about synergy, and not about ideology.

cj PF-1 and cj MV-75a1....sounds good to me. Things were too mushy with a tube preamp in my price range way back when. I also use a Bryston 3B-ST.
Crazy4blues, Crosby, Stills and Nash can. At least I think that was the group. Who knows, I only play music when deciding which component to buy.
I also agree that against the conventional wisdom, I prefer the ss preamp with tube power amp(s). That is, if the all tube system doesn't sound better to you.
I have had good results using hybrid pre-amp into a solid state amp. I have heard ss pre's into tube amps and to my ears I could hear analytical signature of ss pre. The amplifier IME will pass along what is upstream weather it is tube or ss. So I will stay with tubes at the soucre. The hybrid pre I like is the ARC LS-25 MK1. Fet pre-gain stage for low noise and drive. Secondary tube gain stage-with tube output. This has been the solution for me.
Here is Bel Canto equipment review that discusses this very topic with interesting insights.

Good link Rgodin. Interesting part in the article:
". . .the entire circuitry of the PRe1 (plus the complexity of the second Acoustic Zen Silver Reference interconnect with its two RCA jacks) amounted to no more sonic influence than one high-quality attenuator on its own. This would remain an odd and incomplete statement about the PRe1's ghost-like sonic non-existence if I didn't add what else it afforded: very suave remote control over 0.5dB volume increments; channel balance, input selection, mute and input-specific gain settings; automatic default to each input's last volume setting."
So what Srajan seems to be saying is just use a passive pre unless you want balance, mute etc.
Problems with this are:
1)impedance matching of source to amp.
2)what if tube amp can't drive speakers? This case is commonly when people go to tube pre.
I'm having very good results using a Placette Active Linestage with a pair of hot-rodded Atma-Sphere MA-1 Mk II.2's. As advertised, the Placette is extremely transparent, allowing the wonder of the Atma's to be fully appreciated. I truly believe that if you're going to mix SS with tubes, the preamp should be the SS partner. Tube amps (particularly OTL's) are just very difficult to beat--in fact I'm not sure they can be. As always, however, your final results will be SYSTEM dependent.
Sean and especially Tok20000 are right on! Danner, less than one song? Considering the options that are available with the TacT, its hard to take your opinion seriously.
Silence can be heard, intuitively, existentially - and that is what tube pre's excell at as opposed to SS pre's. Yes, get an old tube amp with old tubes, or not synergized, or put with a person who defines the existential nature of space (read: air) as noise and a void as natural, and, sure, you won't like a tube pre (and that's apart from the harmonic denuding issues...).

While I respect twl's opinion - I really do - and while I am cognizant of how nice it feels to say with egalitarian zeal that all is radically equal (not directed at twl), it ain't the truth.

Listen to Rcrump; he knows of what he speaks...
Yes, one can hear "silence". However, one can't have "greater silence" or "blacker backgrounds" if the gear is not fast enough to fully respond to transient changes as needed. As such, i've found that very fast SS gear can be just as "silent" or "black" ( and even sometimes more-so ) than a tubed unit.

Moncrieff covered this subject and showed actual scope photo's in a very old IAR when discussing this subject. He did this using CD players as a point of reference, primarily to show that not all CD players sounded the same. He went on to explain why one sounded more dynamic ( the scope shows that it produced higher peak amplitudes, producing a wider variation in signal intensity ), had a blacker background / better inter-transient silence ( the scope showed that it had faster rise & fall times, which in turn would translate to an increased perception of whether signal was or wasn't being reproduced ) and was cleaner and more focused ( due to the improved transient response and lack of ringing ).

For the record, the cd player that was "better" than the other was an early CAL unit that ran tubes in the DAC. While one might surmise that it was the tubed circuitry that resulted in the better performance, one should also keep in mind that the measured performance of such a unit could change drastically over time and that there would be a higher level of maintenance involved with such a unit. As such, one could end up with noticeably poorer performance of such a unit IF one used lower grade tubes to begin with and / or did not stay up on maintenance of the tubed circuitry.

With the above in mind, if one can find an SS device that suits all of their needs, they are in for relatively consistent performance over a long period of time with minimal amounts of maintenance involved. If one prefers to use tubed components, which obviously some very knowledgeable and well respected individuals do, one should also count on increased maintenance and the sometimes sizeable costs involved when replacing rare NOS tubes.

This is NOT meant to slag tubes or tube users. It is only meant as a "reality check" for those that are not familiar with the various aspects of owning and operating such gear. I do recommend investigating and comparing tubed and SS gear as each has their own attractions and drawbacks. Which one you like better is obviously a personal choice and matter of preference. Sean
I often wonder why many think that tube gear means a high amount of maintenance, reliabilty problems, and poor bass response. Good tube equipment can be as reliable as good SS. The idea of changing tubes every 3 to 5 years may cause some to shy away from tubes amps. What amp would do more damage, take longer to be repaired between SS and tubes should one break?. In ten years what amp will be more likley to be obsolete. I can think of several tube amps that can suit all my needs. I may have heard a couple SS amps I think I could live with and be very happy. When comparing the better SS and tube gear I find the SS colorations more obvious and less real in coming closer to the sound of music. I admit that there can be problems with tube gear but nothing that a tube can't fix most times.
When I owned Berning, Cary, Viva, to name a few, never did I have any problems. Keeping the subject title in mind, music with less colorations IMO, will come from tube amps. Dry, flat, sometimes boring in it's lack of energy or life is what I hear much more often from SS.
Brulee: To respond to you directly, i think of tube gear as having higher maintenance due to the fact that tubes degrade at a FAR faster rate than SS devices do. As such, the decline in performance that one encounters takes place on a daily basis and is so gradual that one may not notice it until maintenance / tube swapping is done. This is especially true of power amps, where the loads, amounts of heat and power demands placed upon the output devices are far greater than in most other tube based devices.

As to having problems with non-linear frequency response, tonal colourations, poor bass performance, treble roll-off, etc... that will depend on the speakers being used with the amp. It will also depend on the load that the upstream device ( tube based source and / or preamp ) sees as it is terminated into the next piece of equipment in line. If you doubt this or would like some "scientific proof" to support what may be considered "inexperienced rambling", please visit the website that follows. Thomas J. Norton of Stereophile documents the differences in linearity / loading characteristics* between two SS power amps and two tube pieces. It is quite evident that either tube amp shows greater deviation from neutrality than either of the SS based amps.**

If one would do some further checking on the subject, they might find that the results that the Sonic Frontiers unit displays is not that different from quite a few other tube driven amps on many "well respected" speakers. Most tube amps are NOT very linear UNLESS one has a high impedance load that remains stable and shows little sign of reactance. The greater the impedance variance and the higher the levels of reactance, the more likely that one is to have a roller coaster for frequency response with a tube amp. As such, matching tube based amps to speakers becomes far more critical than it is with most reasonably well designed SS amps.

As far as performance / reliability of line level devices that are tube based, i have little problem with them. My own personal experience though is that they work best with other tube based products. Otherwise, one can run into problems with improper loading conditions / less than optimum signal transfer characteristics. As has been noted by more than a few contributors to these forums, their personal experiences show that running tube based preamps into SS based amps has resulted in less than optimum performance. As such, the general consensus that if one feels the need to "mix and match" by using a tubed preamp and SS power amp ( as was commonly accepted in the past as being the "best" path to "hybrid heaven" ), even those results may end up being less than stellar.

Like i said, i'm NOT knocking tubes. They do some things quite well and can be quite reliable ( except for tube consumption ). I'm only trying to make those that are thinking about venturing into those waters more aware of what they "may" end up dealing with.

Anybody that tells you that obtaining optimum performance ( within the confines of that system ) out of a tube based system is as easy as to do as it is with an SS based system is either inexperienced or lying. The very fact that one has multitudes of various tubes with varying degrees of electrical compatibility / fluctuating sonic characteristics from tube to tube, not to mention obtaining well matched versions of the same type of tube to maintain equal gain, noise and frequency response characteristics, is WAY more involved than simply selecting a "good" SS based system and powering it up. Since one does not have to go through ANY of that with an SS piece, the observation that tubes are "higher maintenance" would appear to come as common sense to me. Sean

* One should take into consideration these tests were conducted with only 10 milliwatts of power being produced by the amp. As power is increased, non-linear frequency response is very likely to become exagerated due to increased levels of reactance / reflected EMF from the speaker itself. As such, things only get worse under real world conditions.

** As an interesting side-note, one may take notice that even the SS amps showed high frequency roll-off into the Vandie's, which are known for sounding somewhat "soft" on top. This could explain why some people find them to sound "veiled" or "lacking air".
My mistake, Albert: insert "TOK2000" for "twl". I thought that sounded awfully odd for twl, and besides when did he go all SS with his Loewthers?! Oh well, thanks for keeping up on things, though, Albert, back there and I didn't know it...

Sean, I don't understand what you are saying. Transients, or sound projections, emerge out of silence as their ground, ie a wavefront emerges out of a ground absent a wavefront (a dimensional ground), so how can gear that is "faster on transients" increase the experience of the silence from which it emerges. You seem to equate dimensional vessel (space) with that which emerges from it. As a side note, this confusion is indicative of people who value source projection over space. When you do this, you end up biasing towards accentuization of the source projection (usually desiring the initial transient to be, er, faster, as in, contain more relative energy relative to core harmonic and decay parts of the projection). This bias towards accentuating the source and particularly its transient "fast-ness" then leads one - without even knowing it - to equate the accentuizing of initial sorce energy (transient) with spacial dimension. Although space and source are, obviously, integrally related, they are not the same. Moreover, the experience of space i9s not made by actively analyzing the energy degree in a source projection, but through receptively intuiting the "natural-ness" of space, a listening that is percieved prior to analyzation (because space/dimension is percieved deep in the mind, something Kant told us many moons ago...).

In short, you are accentuating the transient energy in order to produce a relative contrast with the "background" space, as if source quality is DETERMITIVE of spacial quality and is accomplished by this methodology. This is not correct: space is a separate quality to be accentuated in a stereo rendition. Your bias towards SS "transient speed" leads to beleive, symptomatically, that spatial quality is dependent of it. SS afficionados seek to accentuate source energy and decrease "noise" and say this produces the simlucrum of dimension, when all they are doing is reducing distortive artifacts (a good thing) that leaves a void space (which, er, doesn't exist in our dimensional reality...ie a vacuum still is dimensional) and then equating that void to dimension. But really what they want, and why they cascade into such a mistaken position, is to accentuate the source. It is an attachment to source as object, in its operation relegating dimension into a void and asserting that dimension is dependant on source energy accentuization. Its an attachment to objects.

As for Montcrieff's attempts to empirically capture dimension through material technology, well, he would be the first and, accordingly, the next Nobel recipient if he had...

Sean, I know that you don't mean to slag a choice by anyone, and further believe that people should try things out bewteen technologies - a logical suggestion that, assumably, we all do here - but that doesn't mean that all is equal. Wanting everyone to have the opportunity to talk is not the same thing as all talk is equal in relative truth.
Sean, I offer the following as a question to accompany your postion, which I've already opined to agree with. As most solid state gear increases power output as impedance levels decrease, then ergo the oposite is true, and most solid state gear would decrease power output as impedance levels increase. That said, wouldn't that mean that solid state gear has it's own challanges when confronted with varying impedances loads, e.g., amplitutde abberations?
Thank you Sean for taking the time responding to my post. I know you are not calling me a liar or inexperienced as you have always shown class and one who very much likes to help others with obtaining better sound. I disagree with much you have said and don't really care what Norton, Moncrief, or anyone else has to say on this subject. I also could care less about all the tech talk. This is very valuable information for many and i can see that you always put much effort in your posts. It just seems we disagree more times than not. Your statement made in your sixth paragraph is a perfect example. IMO, I think your statement is a bit arrogant and tells me who the inexperienced one is. Notice i did not call you a liar. I do agree that common sense is needed in amp and speaker selection. I think one reason we seldom agree is you are very technical minded and I was born without a technical brain cell to be found. For this reason i must rely on what i hear. Tubes have always obtained optimum performance but I will not call anyone a liar or inexperienced if they do not agree with me. That would certainly take a lot of nerve on my part and i am anything but politically correct. Thanks again for you post. As always it is easy to see the effort and care that is given to your posts. It is also obvious that you are a very intelligent man. But i wouldn't trade my audio knowledege for yours even knowing what a brilliant mind you have been blessed with. Snowballs my dear friend Sean, not stones.
I wonder if some people here ever leave their room or see the light of day. And if they do leave the fireside of their computer screen do they generate an original thought of their own that was not miscolored and regurgitated from some has been hand me down pay for a good review magazine. Tom
Asa: Quite honestly, i have a very hard time understanding the majority of things that you write. For some reason, reading / understanding some of your posts is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics to me. As such, i'll do my best to try and answer your questions / respond to your statements.

My point was that a unit that can respond as fast as need be to signal change will be as dynamic or silent as the signal demands and do so in the proper time frame. Equipment that is too slow to respond accordingly will lack dynamics and intrude upon the silence between notes that the recording may call for. Due to being sluggish, notes may not climb as fast as necessary and due to slower fall times, may ring on when there should be nothing being reproduced. Hence, one component or system can have higher peaks and greater silence between notes than another and that is "silence" ( aka "blackness of background" ) that one can hear. Much of what i'm describing in terms of "sluggish equipment" is related to S.I.D. or "Slewing Induced Distortion".

As far as "space", i was primarily talking about "timing" between notes or musical passages, not the "space" in terms of dimensionality that one experiences in a soundstage with imaging, etc... Transient response and the dimensionality of soundstage are very different things in my book. I will agree that, as a general rule, tube based products are "typically" far more "airy" and "spacious" in terms of soundstage or separation / placement of instruments than the majority of SS gear that is available.

Unsound: I do agree that transistors are at a loss when it comes to driving high impedance loads or loads that fluctuate much above 15 - 20 ohms or so. Quite honestly, this is one of the main reasons that i don't like vented speakers. The mass majority of vented speakers have very high impedance peaks at resonance ( a high Qms ) and that is why the bass that is produced by these designs tend to lack distinction and control. This is directly related to the fact that SS amps CAN'T drive / load into a woofer that lacks critical damping and offers a nominal impedance of 50 - 100 ohms* at its' peak output. This is the same thing as trying to use a tube amp with multiple large woofers that are quite low in impedance. They simply aren't a good match.

While i don't know if you read one of the previous posts that i made when discussing SS and Tube gear, i had stated that the amplifier with the highest voltage potential would work best. That is, so long as the device was capable of keeping up with the current being demanded from it. As such, tubes are more likely to do "better" than SS gear so long as the terminating load ( speaker and speaker cables ) remains both high in impedance and low in reactance. Given that there aren't many speakers available that meet either of those criteria, let alone both at the same time, i would typically opt for a high bias wide-bandwidth SS design that ran high rail voltages and was as close to a voltage source that i could get.

Brulee: I think that we have a bit of miscommunications taking place here, most of it being my fault. The first part of my post was directed as a response to your statements whereas the latter part was meant as a general comment i.e. not aimed at anyone in specific. As such, i should have taken more care to divide / separate the two parts so as to avoid this type of confusion.

To be specific, here is what i was getting at:

1) Tubes deteriorate faster than SS devices, hence more maintenance is required.

2) Once maintenance is required, a great amount of variables come into play. A few variables that come to mind are deciding on what brand of tubes to use, what production era of those tubes that one wants and finding a good source for these tubes.

3) Once one can find a source for the specific tubes that one wants, one must make sure that the tubes that one purchases are suitable for the specific purpose intended. As such, the tubes should be matched in terms of gain, noise, etc... Not only must these tubes be matched to each other within the same bank, identical sets should be used in order to maintain channel to channel similarities.

4) Regardless of all of the above, tube gear is less reliable. If you doubt this, turn your tube system on and let it run ( or even idle ) 24/7. Due to the reliability factor / safety hazards, this is not a suggestion but something proposed just to make one think about this.

5) Tube gear requires greater care in selecting mating components. While i am speaking primarily in regards to impedances, especially the amp / speaker interface, gain & drive characteristics also come to mind. How many people have complained about having a system that "roared" with only a 1/4 turn of the volume control ???

6) There is more involved in voicing a system with tubes. Since one can alter the voice of each component, let alone more than one section of each component in specific designs, it can be tougher to figure out exactly what tubes are contributing what characteristics to the total presentation.

7) Tubes are far more susceptable to acoustic feedback / microphonics, making them harder to work with. This is especially true if one prefers listening to large scale recordings at concert level.

I was not saying that tubes are not capable of good performance or that SS was "completely and ultimately superior" to tubes. I think that both types of product have their advantages / disadvantages. What i was saying is that the "hassle" of doing ANY of the above is very drastically reduced when using SS. Almost all of the above mentioned points are already addressed and are of a pre-determined nature on an SS product when you purchase it, hence the typical recommendation of "try before you buy". You can't really alter the sound of an SS product without getting pretty involved. While some may see the above "features" of tube swapping / selection as making them more versatile in terms of "fine tuning" a system to one's likings, some folks may consider this to be a hassle and something that they don't want to deal with. Hell, finding suitable cables can be tough enough let alone throwing tube variables into the equation.

While still responding directly to Brulee, i'd also like to point out that you've mentioned several brand names of products that you've owned over the years. My thoughts on this are that it is quite possible that you did not keep / own any of these tube based products long enough to experience the increased levels of maintenance that accompanies tube gear as it ages. While i do not know if this is the case or not, it is something that entered my thoughts. Many of the support components of tube based gear, primarily oil caps and electrolytics that are in close proximity to power tubes, tend to change value as they age. This is typically not as much of a problem with SS designs as most of the heat is radiated outside of the chassis via heatsinks rather than inside the chassis via the output devices. To top it off, the levels of radiant heat from a tube device typically surpass that of an SS device by a wide margin. That is, given the same level of power output.

As to my "general comments" aimed towards the public, please re-read this section:

"Anybody that tells you that obtaining optimum performance ( within the confines of that system ) out of a tube based system is as easy as to do as it is with an SS based system is either inexperienced or lying."

I was talking about the "ease" of getting things to work well together i.e. optimum performance within the confines of that system. This refers to the fact that SS gear is typically more universal in compatability with each other and that one does not have to worry about selecting the make / model / vintage of active semiconductors being used in an SS based system as compared to what one must do when using tubes. More work with a greater amount of planning / preparation / selection that is required with a tube system is not "easier" in my book. Someone that tells you that doing more work / planning is easier than doing less work / planning is either inexperienced or lying. I don't know how else to put it.

"The very fact that one has multitudes of various tubes with varying degrees of electrical compatibility / fluctuating sonic characteristics from tube to tube, not to mention obtaining well matched versions of the same type of tube to maintain equal gain, noise and frequency response characteristics, is WAY more involved than simply selecting a "good" SS based system and powering it up."

This passage basically summed up what i just tried to clarify above. SS components will typically "work" when hooked together with little to no attention to detail ( in terms of impedance matching ) or need for maintenance on the active gain devices.

"Since one does not have to go through ANY of that with an SS piece, the observation that tubes are "higher maintenance" would appear to come as common sense to me."

This drove home the fact that, short of blowing a fuse, there is very little maintenance involved with an SS system once it is fully set up. The same can not be said of a tube based system.

As responding to Brulee's last post, I've never asked anyone to agree with me. Honestly, the title of this thread couldn't be more appropriate i.e. i've NEVER worried about being politically correct or being "socially acceptable". Having said that, i have always tried to share an honest opinion based on my personal experiences or those of others that i know and trust that have shared their experiences with me. Sometimes i end up combining my past experiences with information provided by a media source and pass on my thoughts about said product / subject. When doing so, i quite often point to reference sources that others can look up / verify / research for themselves that may support my point of view. I do this so that others may better understand where i'm coming from.

Having said that, I don't think that you ( Brulee ) and i ( Sean ) are all that different. You like what you like and i like what i like. We both share the same "passions" ( reproduction of music in an enjoyable manner ) and go about that process in the manner and methods that we think best. As such, i've always said that "personal preference" is the bottom line in assembling a system and i think that you've basically stated the same thing here. We obviously have different preferences and therefore go about doing things in a different manner with different methods. As such, we are basically different sides of the same coin. To a "coin collector" aka "audiophile", the difference between "sides of the coin" or "manners / methods of musical reproduction" are very different and easily recognizable. To anyone else outside of our little circle of "audio enthusiasts", our love of music / audio reproduction would only allow them to see us as a single coin, albeit one that was out of circulation within the mainstream of flow. As such, let's celebrate the diversity within our ranks rather than make enemies.

Having said that, I apologize for anything that i may have said / done to upset you ( or anybody else ) in the past. There are better things in life to do than to make enemies / upset fellow audio enthusiasts / human beings in general. I need to work on my "people skills" and this has been a great reminder to me about this. Sean

* The mass majority of vented speaker designs have an impedance within this range at the point of resonance. Resonance is the point where a driver achieves the greatest amount of output with the least amount of power input. As such, the amplifier has the least amount of control over the driver at this point, so it must literally try to overcome the point of resonance by sheer muscle in order to keep it under control. If we had an amp that was rated at 100 wpc @ 8 ohms and the speaker measured 64 ohms at the point of resonance, that would mean that the amp could only deliver appr 12.5 watts of power into the speaker near the point of resonance. As such, the "beefy" 100 wpc amp that you thought was easily able to control the speaker is now a "pip-squeak" that can only deliver 12.5% of its' rated power due to the terminal load impedance that it sees. All of this is taking place right at the point where the speaker is trying to run away on its' own. Not very good news, is it ???

As a side note, most well designed sealed speakers have an impedance peak that remains below 30 ohms with better designs staying down below 20 ohms. Obviously, power output is reduced at 20 ohms as compared to 8 ohms with an SS design, but it is still far better and able to offer much better control or "muscle" the cone than it can at the 50+ ohms that is so common amongst vented designs.
Audiotweak: Some people actually know how to type and can do so relatively quickly, so it just looks like they spend a lot of time composing posts : ) Sean

PS... I would respond more directly to your comments, especially since this thread disregards being politically correct, but i'm trying to work on my "people skills" : )
Sean, I could have re tubed my amps in the time it took you to write that post :^).

What is important to me is the sound, regardless of maintenance. Having spent more than thirteen years in retail audio followed by a stint as factory rep., I have heard countless transistors amps. For your reference system you like transistors, I do not.
Thank you for your response Sean. Yes, I know you are a music lover; this is not totally academic, but somewhat, in that greater sense.

Interestingly, although you say that you had a hard time with my words, your recognition that tube components clearly excell vis-a-vis SS on spatial characteristics, and that the dimensional simulcrum of the space around and infusing sources, even "fast transients", is not the same thing as the tranient itself, shows that you understood sufficiently. [However, your statement "too slow transient will intrude upon the silence" stills shows that you assume a determitive effect of transient upon silence, assuming that sound determines the quality of silence, as if contrast is required. Question: does silence exist without sound? Of course. Then, if so, then which is actually primary?]

My initial point was that this spatial, existential quality of a stereo is intrinsic towards deeper listening, and that SS's seemingly inherent (up til now...) inability to properly render this simulcrum renders it, in turn, less capable of catalyzing such deeper listening per se. Let me explain with just one example.

One of the fundamental "qualities" of existence, and sounds propogated within existence, is the experience of infinity. Even in the sciences this fact is disclosed by Zeno's paradox: you can always divide 1 into its half, infinitely; the ground of all numbers, and, hence, all mathematics, is infinity. But, because our thinking is dualistic (it must have CONTRAST in order to operate - see the connection to what you said above?) it can not grasp the infinite by cognitive means; it inherently reduces the infinite into the finite for purposes of comparison. (Those who assume that only thinking gives you truth, or truth about sound and silence, then conclude that contrast is needed between sound and silence and, from there, that sound determines the quality of silence). But, we DO experience reality when we are not thinking, such as when we deeply fall into the music. This prior-to-thinking mind - which is silent also, and not coincidentally - experiences deeper nuanced "qualities" of reality, one of them being the experience of the infinite nature of reality, or its lack.

Now, on stereo, SS lacks the simulcrum of projecting an infinite nature to space, or even with the "fast transients" within/amongst space as they dissipate. Sound, as it propogates, infinitely dissipates - in distance (depth) and in decay (energy dissipation back into the ground of silence). So too with space itself: it infinitely extends on all sides. Tube technology is FAR GREATER, DETERMITIVELY GREATER at reproducing this effect at infinite dissipation in sound AND extension in space, but particularly with space itself when sound is absent. SS, on the other hand, does not SUFFICIENTLY offer a simulcrum of these critical aspects of OUR reality: decay is truncated in default to transient energy (your desire above) AND spacial dimension, what limited perception of its exists around sound sources, regresses into depth and then falls off into a void space (which, as I stated previosly, is existentially incongruent because it doesn't exist, ie "blackness" of void is not space, but nothingness, hence the label of "black" conoting non-existence - which doesn't, er, exist...).

With such rendition, what you create is existential incongruency: between void and dimension and finite and infinite (what Harry Pearson keeps running around about in his "continuousness" talks but can never quite get to - maybe someone can direct him here to help him out...). The deep part of the listening mind that is listening-but-not-thinking-in-corresponding-silence picks up on these incongruencies IMMEDIATELY and that perception PREVENTS the mind from proceeding into deeper levels of listening. In other words, the deep part of the mind INFLEXIVELY, not actively with the thinking part of the mind, reacts to the absense of the infinite and this recoil pulls one from deep levels.

There are several other ways in which SS also does not address fundamental, critical aspects of reality - space within the sound itself (dryness of transients such on breath), intra-harmonic complexity within deep fabric of sound (the core harmonic that proceeds after the transient wave front) and how sound waves intra-act with each other as they meet in space, etc. In toto, SS's ommission of these FUNDAMENTAL aspects of the reality - that we all share - are fatal in any comparison to tubes at the pinnacle of performance, and even for many levels of system performace below that.

While one may attempt to focus on "fast transients" as a means of improving the sound's melodic "timing" (yes, it is important, but speed is not the only thing, you know, on that issue...?), thereby delegating the above existential qualities in default to an assumption that doing so will "improve" the lack of those spatial qualities, is, well, misguided - inherently so, existentially so, even logically so.

I will address your fast-ness issue on its own later, but suffice it to say that the silence bewteen the notes is also, er, space - no matter how much you have shortened it by "fast" sound.
Albert: My comments did not apply to those that are highly experienced with tube gear. Those that are "bottleheads" would not be swayed by what i posted, nor is it my intent to try to "sway" anybody. Obviously, i wouldn't be telling them anything that they didn't already know nor was i trying to belittle or attack the air, spaciousness, depth, liquidity, natural harmonic structure, warmth, body, etc... that tubes "typically" bring with them to a system. It was aimed towards those that have never worked with tubes and / or had the experience of finding out what happens when a tube shorts out, opens up internally, becomes microphonic, becomes gaseous, tube sockets become oxidized, what to do when you have 3 good tubes left out of a matched quartet, etc... and need to be made aware that such things do occur.

Hopefully, one can tell the difference in my posts between sharing technical information / real world experiences and out-right "slagging".

Outside of all of that, i hope that you realize that i consider you to be one of the greatest assets to this forum and have nothing but respect for your opinions and experience, both as an audiophile and as a gentleman. I have no doubt in my mind that your selection of equipment and system as a whole are phenomenally good. The fact that it is tube based is neither here nor there to me, as you are the one that has to live with the results of those decisions. As such, i'm sure that you find the benefits to far outweigh any drawbacks involved.

Asa: I think that we are on the same page / share some similiar thoughts but some of our ideas simply aren't being communicated to each other efficiently. I'm sure that we could easily resolve our lack of communications if we were enjoying a cocktail or two while fine music played in the background : )

Other than that, i hope everyone enjoys the system that they have and continues to learn / experiment with new and interesting ideas pertaining to the reproduction of music. Whether you are a "bottlehead" or SS fan, prefer digital or analogue or are somewhere in between all of the above, i'm glad that we can openly discuss different ideas / personal opinions / experiences. Best wishes to all and good listening... Sean
sean i agree with you 100%.your mistake was taking on the bottle heads, avery vocal group in audio. what you took soooo long to say was tube based systems require a lot of maintenance. the length of your posts prompted albertporters response. we all know albertporter has a big time kickass system, that lucky dog, and doesn't mind the maintenance and cost for the great sound he gets, but albertporter has speaker cable that cost more than some folk's systems. i have always felt that tube lovers have a hobby within a hobby, but if it brings them closer to the music, god bless. sean as to not understanding asa ,i guess thats two of us. asa ,you be talkin some bad stuff with that "zeno's paradox" thang. just love the music no matter how it's delivered.
Asa, your 4-11 post should be required reading as it defines what is sought by those that are serious about being transported to the recording venue.....This is the tough part and where most systems and components fail be they tube or solid state....Easier and much cheaper to get there with tubes....
To really obtain the "tube glow" people speak of...one really needs classic tube power...such as Conrad Johnson,etc...a tube pre just doesnt add enough "color" in my estimation (if that is what one desires)...also...as far as the "black background" arguement...on paper...since SS has lower distortion figures...they would have the edge...but again...can anyone really hear THD differences...doubtful...however...part of the "rounded" sound of tubes is due to their "soft" distortion...which is why the clip in such a smooth manner...
Thanks, Bob, that was nice of you to say.

Yes, Sean, not far away at all. Wish I could take you up on that cocktail.

Yes, phase corrrect, but what is drawn to paper - cognitive analyzation - can not encompass the experience of dimension. There is not piece of technology that can do that, at least so far. I agree that it is very worthwhile to use tools and conduct empiric experiments to help us see more - to point towards the truth of what is experienced trans-cognitively - but the pointing is not the experience itself, merely an approximation. If you think that the pointing is the experience - in your attachment to scientific means, called scientific materialism, or scientism, in various guises - then you will only see the pointing, only the THD on the paper, and only get the approximation, but many times believe, mistakenly, that it is the whole experience; empirically speaking, it is a performative error in methodology that limits the results of the injunctive itself. Which, interestingly, is "bad" science itself...

I look at the science, but usually in an integrated fashion, ie not just looking at one measure, and factor that in to my experience, but the "paper" is never determitive.
You folks might want to take a look at this thread over at AA. I guess i'm not the only one "stirring the pot" on this specific subject. Sean
Asa: You are correct in ascertaining that"science" cannot get us any closer to the music. Measurements like THD only display the electronic charactristics of a piece of electronic equipment, and not necessarily any musical charactistics. There is no correlation between
musicality and specs. Listening to music is an existential experience, in its purest form, like love. How can you descibe the word "love" unless you have been "in love"? No matter how many ways you try to describe "love" (and many poets have tried), unless you have experienced "love", you only have circumscribed the experience. Audio and music are the same.`Unless you have this experience with music, this oneness, and ,btw, who is to judge this oneness except yourself, then`no matter what system you have whether tubes or solid state`does not matter. There is no "correct" experience, only the experience that you have perceived existentially.
Asa, you did it again. RE: your 04-14-03 post, well said, I completely agree. Just after I resolved that you and I would have to agree to disagree, you offer two posts that suggest that we agree on more and disagree on less.
Unsound, yes, actually we agree on this - I have always known this. But also, I always liked your scappy spirit. As I said, it was fun too.

Many of our ideas, however - that we get from the societal matrix of assumptions, in our time it happens to be scientific materialism - many times get in our way. We are all here talking because of what Shubertmaniac says so eloquently (and, relative to me, concisely!!). So, do you think it is a karmic coincidence that we all meet at this nexus called Audiogon? What are we sharing? And, see this: I am not pointing towards anything that we all don't already know; we are all seeking this beauty in music - the musical event between our mind and the sound, the event where mind and music merge. This is why my positions are so "strong"; they are not necesssarily strong in content, although that may be true sometimes, depending on the context, but are strong in pointing to something we already know. We all sit down with music to experience its meaning. And, if later, while you start thinking again with societies' assumptions, and these assumptions tell you that there is no meaning beyond what you can divine with objective measuring, then OK. But that mind still has to confront the truth of his/her whole experience when listening to the music; the scientific materialist must eventually admit that he experiences "something" even when he is not thinking through the prism of his assumptions. And, in fact, he must admit that his/her deepest experiences of music, verging on the ineffable, are not within his assumption's grasp of explanation at all (which frightens him/her, hence the emotion you sometimes see as the scientific arguments are deconstructed).

So, I start off these discussions with a big advantage: I know that they know, beyond their attachment to the security of their matrix of ideas, that they already know what I am saying, because they have already performed the experiment of listening to music-beauty themselves, on themselves. This is the irrational part of the arguments from those who then claim that such experiences are irrational, ie anything outside of an objective scientific expanation of reality is some sort of mystical regression (Stone the Witch!!). They conduct an experiemnt on their own mind of listening and then, most un-scientifically, then engage others denying the results of that experiment. They engage others not to change the others minds, but to hold unto their own matrix of ideas, which makes them feel safe (hence, the rigid shouting down you sometimes see). Science does this also, and not coincidentally: denying the mind that created science in the first place! It is also not a coincidence that the same people who themselves experience the beauty in music, and yet still deny that experience later in default to the presumed security of their inconsistent matrix of ideas, are the same minds who are attached to scientific assumptions and feel that the manipulation of matter (tools; technology; THD) is the only way to truth, or the only way to find the truth of/in Music.

Interesting, eh?
Asa: Science does have meaning. Science is not only a manipulation of matter but of ideas, too. You stated
Zeno's paradox. The great physicists Newton and Liebnitz solved this apparent dilemma by discovering the ingenious "limit". Without the limit we would not have to the ability to manipulate and solve differential or integral calculus problems. Without differential equations we would not have ac circuits, and without ac circuits we would not have audio. And without audio we would not have the matrix of audio/music/oneness. So science does have its place in the realm of ideas. Man's ability to reason deductively or inductively has allowed us to manipulate and understand the material universe so that we can ponder our oneness with the uniqueness of self and the cosmos around us.
Shubert, you are swinging to the other end, without need I don't think; I didn't say that science had no value, much less no meaning; in fact, I believe I said the opposite (please see above again).

On the assumption that you are playing a devil's advocate role, let me address what you ask.

First, the "What Is," aka Reality, is quite accommodating in its suseptibility to cognitive approximations, science being one of them. Now, if you want to set up an assumption so that your assumption will work, that's OK (as in a differential finite assumption so your math will work), but I don't know how ingenious (read: novel) that is; all mathematics is based upon axioms. And, yes, I'm glad it works; I like my stereo, this chair, my car.

Yes, science is ideas - I think that is implicit in what I said, my reference to tools/technology being the product of empiric methodology (although Homo Habilis struck a rock and used it to kill, so technology is not limited exclusively to what science has wrought in that regard. A quickening as of late, let's say).

Can you walk out your front door and point to "science"? No, because it is not a thing, but an abstraction that refers to a set of assumptions about reality. I have gone into this before, so I'll be brief, but the cognitive orientaion of the "scientific" mind is orientated towards matter, or form, hence the "materialism" in scientific materialism. Modern science, as it has evolved as a discipline, however, is quite tied the exercise of the result of that power of the mind focused on matter, namely, an increased power to manipulate matter, which forms we call tools. So, no, science is not the tools it produces from an exercise upon matter of its assumptions, but the assumptions themselves, ie its thought-rules.

Last, while, yes, science can be used to see Oneness as reflected in the interconnectedness of the material plane, if you believe that it is only experienced that way, then you are limiting yourself by that assumption - which is, I beleive, what I said above, not that science per se has no meaning. It has relative meaning in the context of experiencing as a whole, and not determintive, and has greater applications, obviously, upon the material plane (cascading axioms or not).

If you choose to see holism from the sum of its reductionism, then that is a good pointing too, but modern science as a discipline remains highly enjoined to the product of its thought-rules: technology, or matter manipulated into forms of itself for purposes of utility, namely ours. Add to that the Capitalist assumption of infinite greed and the accumulation of product, mix it up with the scientific materialist/tecnologic tie-in and you've got...well, what we've got. And, alas, what we don't have...
I am going to lift my imposed self ban on posting at Audiogon to respond to this thread.

Saying that in general tube preamps are better than SS preamps to me really has no meaning. My example of this would be when I got my Ayre K-3x w/phono stage preamp. Before, I was using a Sonic Frontiers 3SE preamp (the best tube preamp SF ever made) and a seperate pur tube phono stage (made by Cursio Electronics out of San Jose, CA). The SF3SE had upgraded Brimar tubes in it, and I liked the piece very much.

However, I brought the Ayre K-3x into my system, and all I can say is WOW! The K-3x with phono was a significangly better linestage in my system than the SF3SE. It was also a much better phono stage than my pure tube phono preamp. What does this tell me??? This tells me it is meaningless to make the generalization that tubes are better than SS for preamps. One must listen for themselves and make that decision on a case by case basis.

Getting into abstract philosophy of science and music rhetoric is an interesting endeavor. And I can tell Asa has studied a lot of philosophy primarilly because one of my majors is in philosophy. But where the rubber meets the metal, one must make a determination for themselves.

Before I made this preamp move to the K-3x, I had friends and 'experts' tell me there was no way is hell that the K-3x could outperform the SF3SE. They also said that the K-3x phono would in no way out perform a pure tube phono stage... Go figure...

Funny thing is that if someone with a good ear were blind folded and listened to my system, they would probably think it had at least 1 tube component. My system does sound more like tubes than SS. I have friends who are tube freaks (and hate SS) that love the sound of my system.

So much of listening to music is subjective. We all hear a little differently. Some of us cannot hear altogether. We all have mostly different systems more or less. We all have different rooms. And recordings... People tend to forget that the music they hear from a system first goes from the artist into a mic through wires into a mixer device of sorts into some sort of medium writer then onto some sort of medium which is then transposed/copied onto another medium which we play in our systems. If you really want to get technical, our music systems will never be able to actually portray music because science tells us that due to the vast difference in nature between music projected from an instrument and music projected from a speaker. There is a great article that was in Stereophile on this subject:


I try to always write from experience and not from the theoretical. I strongly feel that following generalizations in audio like gosphel is not a good thing. It is like reading the specifications of a manual and thinking you know how a piece sounds. I personally have no idea how any piece would sound in my system until I put it in my system.

This is the difference between experience and the theoretical. One can theorize about anything, but in the end, one is not going to really learn anything until a person has experience. Philosophy and rhetoric (and advise) only get us so far. One can read books all day about music and listening to music. But this does not give us any experience with music. You have to do the listening if you want to experience music. We have to try out different things in our respective systems if we are going to learn about them and how components/cables/cords can influence the end sound of our systems.

And in a way, Audiophiles are scientist. Through a lot of trial and error we build our systems to sound better and better (hopefully). This last judgement may be somewhat subjective, but science is a lot ways IS SUBJECTIVE. Especially when related to the human body. I like pointing out that Nutritionalists love to debate about what is a good diet for us (see Mr. Atkins). The operation of the human body is still a mystery to science in a lot of ways, and only likely stories have described certain things. Scientific explanations themselves are likely stories that are surpassed by more likely stories when more accurate data has been obtained. Audiophiles are scientists of sorts... scientists that are have a very small test group making the experiments and judgements. It may not be like black and white number theory, but it is better than putting change in a spring wound meter and assuming that you are going to get your full 30 min for putting in two quarters. (On a side note, it took some 10 year old kid to do an experiment for a science fair on the old spring wound parking meters to see if actually one got the amount of time they had paid for. The meters he experimented on deviated so much (from exact time) it caused such a scare in the city (I think some folks sued class action), that all meters were replaced with digital ones. This pretty much set a trend for the entire US. No 'adult' or 'expert' initiated the childs experiments although as adults we are the ones that pay seriously for parking.) Go figure...


Asa: Yes I was playing a fool's role. I did not say you are
indifferent to "science". I am saying that "science", in a positive way, is just one way to view the world. Its world view is different in content then say a worldview of a
shaman in some far away place in a far away time. But the
fundalmental purpose of each nonetheless is the same. To grasp the "Other".

"Science" is a two edge sword because it tries to demystify the "Unknowing" by objectifying the "other". Yet at the same time by just his "objectification" of the "other" , "science" has created a system in which the "other" is no longer of relevance, only Man himself has meaning. Or so he thinks. Yet Man still seeks the "other", but only through the opaque pane of rationalism called "science" ie. the materialism created through his , as you call it "the manipulation into forms". To put it crassly, the more you want, the more you are in search of the "other". And Materialism is never going to get you there.
Shubert: I'm not sure if you heard, but today it was announced that, perhaps, a Russian mathematician had proved Poincare's Theorem. To do this he employed a mathematical device to "round" geometric space. In other words, in order to prove the postulate, an approximation device was used (actually, that device was already found earlier, but there were still some large "bumps" left on the solid; the newest device is an extension of that one, which removes the remaining large bumps; an approximation device used on an approximation). They say it will resolve many vexing Newtonian spatial problems in higher math, so that's a good thing - especially because the guy, if his peer group agrees that he's right, about two years from now, he'll get $2 million from the Clay Foundation, and undoubtedly the Field's Medal on top of that. BIG discovery - but, its still an approximation...

On the "Other" part: yes, science grasps what it can of the other. The problem is when one confuses the material with sentience, or being. Yes, science is anthropocentric - human centered - yet, not only in its reduction of human mind into a thing, but also non-human mind into meaninglessness, which is actually what I study. This, IMHO, is the biggest problem we, as a species, presently face. Its not about cognition, but about transcending an attachment to the power of cognition over the objectified "Other", in matter, in human mind as categorized as matter, and, in non-human being as categorized as a product-thing, as matter; and, its about a concurrent opening of empathic identification with being where "other" evaporates...

TOK, hello. You make some very good points, especially about the fact that the proof is in the subjective pudding. In other words, how can you describe the color purple to a blind man? The premise is that only experience is the final arbiter, for yourself. With that said, carrying that position to the extreme and saying that dialogue becomes radically relative because only listening will tell you the truth is, well, epistimologically unsound - to use some "philosophy" - because that position relativises all knowledge that is conveyed. In other words, although I say that words or math is an approximation, saying that does not reduce all such knowledge to a relativistic morasse (as Shubertmaniac was worried about above, and Immanuel Kant before him). And, I might add, by relativising all knowledege as equal, you negate dialogue, even the opinion, interestingly, that you just gave. As you might know, philosophically speaking, that is called a performative error, meaning that you give an opinion that all opinion is equal, so how can that opinion itself be truer?

So, I assume you must not believe that completely because you do offer your opinion as a basis for your belief: that based upon a comparison between one tube preamp and one SS pre you, impliedly, assert your position. However, a proper empiric experiment, at least one that is brought to a peer group, needs a higher sample rate in order to be valid.

But I can take your opinion without the empiric validity because, well, I have a personal context: I've read your posts and have the feel that you love music and have some pretty good ears (the Ayre IS a nice piece). Well, then, in that context, all I can say is that I'm glad that you have found happiness with the Ayre and its certainly not about dueling preamps here. What I would ask is that you keep your mind open to expanding your sample, say, to a AudioNote Kondo, or a Supratek, or a Joule (although that wouldn't be my personal recommendation in your situation), or a Callisto. Frankly, Brimars or no Brimars, I think you might hear something over time with the Supratek, or if you pulled it out. Again, glad that you are happy. Thank you for braving the breach with your thoughts.
Shubertmaniac, well said. I think it is important to try to maintain an appropriate balance between the scientific, the anectodal, and that emotional response with which we clumsily and perhaps inadequately try to ART(?)iculate, both expressively and receptively.
Asa, my mind is open. I would wholly agree that the Supratek is a killer preamp. A local friend of mine got one recently (one of my tube friends). I love the piece, and it works well in his system. One day he will bring it down to my system. And, I may even get one eventually. The Supratek is better than his other preamp which is a tube one and was made for him specially by a tube equipment designer (I cringe to think how much money he has in his old preamp).

I personally think that preamps are some of the hardest pieces for companies to do well. So many of them are not good at all... My opinion is that the preamp tends to be the component that puts the biggest sonic fingerprint on the end sound of the music. However, I also think that one badly matched AC cord in a system can totally screw up the sound as well...

I have had other tube preamps before, but I used the SF3SE and Ayre K-3x as comperable high dollar examples. I do know there are not too many preamps I would be happy with, and very few would make my short audition (should I have to come up with one: Hovland HP100, Ayre K-1x, Supratek preamps, and Niagra PL-L.

I even am very fond of tube amps. I have a friend who has the Tenors in an absolutely reference system, and the Tenors + the rest of his system totally blows me away. I once almost bought a pair of the Wolcotts, but when I brought them home their were technical problems (turned out something came unsodered). Anyway I returned them. They would have probably sounded pretty darn good heh heh. My only problem with tube amps is the cost of maintaining the tubes. The more power they can put out, usually the more tubes they have, and the more it costs to retube them. My 2 channel system is used for both HT and 2 channel so my two channel amp is left on 24/7 and gets a good workout. I would go through amp tubes fast.