Mid-fi tube vs high-end SS

Hello everyone. I am new here but not new to audio. I’ve been meaning to buy a high-end permanent SS amp for 2 years now. But not sure how much improvement I can get.


A little about what I have. I use a high-quality tube amp I bought for around $1,500. 55 watts per channel Class A. With upgraded tubes it’s a little over $2,000. The amp I have is the Musical Paradise mp-501 I’ll link below. Using upgraded Kt-170 tubes along with some nos 5693 red tubes and 717-a tubes.


My audio knowledge and listen ability has improved substantially these past few years thanks partly to this tube amp. Sorry for the long-winded intro. My actual question is, how much improvement should I expect going from this tube amp to something high-end SS like the Gato 150 and the incredible DVA M225? Very little reviews on the Gatos, I’m hoping I could get some help here, even anything about the Gato 150 from users would be helpful. Ty




Hello Sam, I became curious also with listening to other products and designs. My first hifi amplifier was a Class A solid state design which was extremely good. But reading hifi magazines got interested in tube amplifiers, I wanted to try one. Since, I’ve owned many SS and tube amplifiers throughout the years. So I understand your curiosity and can honestly say that for me, the only thing that would satisfy my curiosity was to travel down the path I did by hearing many them in my home. Some people prefer SS and others prefer tubes. I’ve discovered that I am mostly a tube person but I could be very happy with an all SS system as well. I recently went to my friends home who also is a tube guy to hear a setup he put together. It consists of $40,000 Dac & CD combo, $8,000 monitors, interconnect $3,500 per 3 meters and a class D amplifier $1,200. The sound was fantastic. Even though the rest of this setup is very expensive, I was quite amazed how good the sound was with a little inexpensive amplifier.  Solid State amps have their strengths and tube amps have theirs. It all comes down to which sounds best to you in your system. So even though I prefer tube amps, I still own some very good SS pieces. 

Wow - great thread where the OP has gotten a lot of advice, guidance and opinions.  I’ve been down the road of trying to figure out if I prefer Tube or SS for amps and Pre’s.  

I don’t proclaim to be an expert but have been lucky enough to have plenty of gear and the ability to a/b on my own listening area.  My experience has taught me it’s all about synergy through the chain, room acoustics play a big role (took me quite a while to come to terms with this one) and the most important part of the equation, only persons opinion that matters is yours - if you love it - ignore the noise from others.  

Based on your set up, I’d start by assessing if you love your speakers.  If you do, exploring SS amps makes sense.  Some speaker require a control, efficiency, agility of an amp to be at there best.  From what have read about your speakers, they seem to fall into that category, they can be easy to drive per se but likely would really shine when driven by SS.  What you say you love about the speakers and the characteristics you want to enhance, that would point you to Tubes.  Picking the right SS Amp is key.  Krell, Coda, Pass all have some of the Tube like magic, warmth you find in Tubes but the benefits of SS power / control.  Class A leans into that harder but some A/B designs deliver a tube like experience.  

The best combo I have found is a Tube Pre paired with SS amp known for being able to drive almost any speaker while capturing some of that tube magic, a SS amp will likely never fully capture that magic however.  I don’t have any experience with Schiit gear but if you snagged a Freya + and one of their stereo or mono SS amps, should provide the right synergy between Pre and Amp.  Might get you where you want to go.  

I’ve had Parasound, Marantz, Anthem, Prima Luna, Krell, Coda all in my system.  I’ve preferred all tubes with certain speakers and SS with others.  Speakers I’ve had various Focal’s, an Omega Speaker and landed on the Alta Audio Alec’s.  All shined with a Tube Pre and SS Amp. 

My favorite SS Amps where the Krell’s followed closely by Coda.  I would guess if I moved up to the Coda 16 Amp it would have likely exceeded my love for Krell.  Currently I’ve got a Zesto Leto pre feeding a Krell Duo XD - combo would be well above your budget so not suggesting this path, wanted to give a sense of my personal tastes when it comes to house sound signature.  

Good Luck!  

@mm1tt77 Currently I’ve got a Zesto Leto pre feeding a Krell Duo XD - combo would be well above your budget so not suggesting this path, wanted to give a sense of my personal tastes when it comes to house sound signature.

Exactly, this is the gap not usually covered when dealing with the desire of the OP all that well. While many of us can recommend a really good SS amp option, often times well outside of the budget of the requester. And, not wanting to spend $10-15k on a worthy SS class-A or amp myself. For literally HALF the money $, some good mono tube amps out there, with true three dimensional sound, scape, tone, totally engaging sound with mainstream tubes offered today.

The OP mentioned the AVA DVA M225s, Schiit Tyr, looking at the $3k range is a small pool of amps to jump up and down about. I’m intentionally excluding the Benchmark having been there with their quiet-spec gear, and feel it takes a little more $ to buy something truly engaging as a keeper musical amp(s). With the right tube preamp, maybe the Tyr mono amps, might generate some interest, but I’d still likely take a good used Coda if I had to go back to SS. If the OP could bring the budget up a little, there are amps out there to make those BMR speakers sing more. Recap, the OP stated the BMR speakers sounded "neutral". To me that statement can also mean "lacking body" to some. Get the right amp and they won't be overly neutral or lacking body.  Those are nice speakers when paired with the right amp(s).   There are better amps to be had out there for a modest increase in budget. I consider amps core to my system. OP, good-used might be another option too.  

I like your amp, would not consider it mid-fi, a very nice mid-powered tube amp, which I suspect sounds very nice. A bit more power than my Cayin A88T using KT88s 45wpc.

now, your BEAUTIFUL speakers, sensitivity 86 db is NOT easy to drive from a watts/sensitivity perspective, I think the designer is meaning, it's mostly constant 6 ohm impedance curve is not hard to drive.

Probably so, but I would want more power reserves for any speaker with low 86 db sensitivity, for instantaneous peaks, or bi-amp them.

IOW, unlike some KEFs, etc which are difficult to drive, with very low dips of impedance, yours's are consistently near 6 ohm, easy only by comparison to difficult speakers to drive..

So, I would consider the speaker, not the amp.

1st, I would try stuffing up the port. 

It is a transmission design, seems a nasty thing to go against it's method of achievement, however, perhaps it's bass ability is masking it's mids.

a. partially with soft diffuse material, across the face of the port

b. fully with some dense foam

Perhaps with some bass cut, the mids will be very nice.

2. move on to other speakers, higher sensitivity, and one not trying for too much bass which I think can be a mistake people make when reading numbers.