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 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.
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.
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