Solid state to tube

I have been a solid state guy since my start in this hobby. Over the years I have built a few systems and have used mainly older YBA seperates pre and power for my front end.

I also have a pair of musetex MT101 mono blocks from Meitner audio which I use as well.

My speakers are reference 3a lintegre

I am thinking of moving to a all tube system 

. However I have little experience

I have looked at Quick Silver and a small boutique builder called Will Vincent. Have not heard anything yet. I thought I might inquire here first for any suggestions from tube savvy members


Start with tube pre and SS amp. It will give you an idea of what the tube sound is about without the maintenance and hassle of power tubes. You can go forward from there

I had a Quicksilver tube headphone amp, and a fine amp it was; I replaced it with an Eddie Current that cost 3x as much. Highly recommended, and I'm sure his speaker amps are excellent too; check out a few forums about them.

Quicksilver and Will Vincent are both class acts.  I have dealt with both Mike and Will personally and find them to be respectable, upstanding guys.  Great value for quality equipment.

Get a big kick out these comments “ without the maintenance and hassle of the power tubes”.

What maintenance? Occasional biasing….

We’ll if that is a hassle then get a hybrid  integrated like Pathos, Rogue, Unison Research. 

To me the only negative I experienced with tubed power amps was manually biasing. Lots of manufacturers now offer auto biasing and bad tube warning lights. I never had my room heat up noticeably because I had tubed gear. 


My SS to tube transition started 30 years ago.  Once I got a taste for that incredible transparency I’ve never gone back. Tube rolling adds another whole element to the equation. 

Both Quicksilver and Will Vincent are known for good sounding tube gear. I’d add the VTA gear from Tubes4Hifi to the list....really excellent stuff that’s fairly affordable.

Enjoy your journey!

What model are your 3A's (isn't Lintegre a YBA model)?

Also, how large is the listening room?

Wondering if lower powered DH/SET, SET, Parallel SE, OTA or PP amps are an option.



@ecpninja I've read some folks claim to have used your 8ohm speakers with some lower powered tube amps, however as mentioned by @dekay the room size and what volume levels / dynamic preferences you like to listen for can help narrow it down some. Both builders are fine. If do go all-tube and with a separate tube preamp, you can rotate your trusty ss amp back in once in a while.

Listening preferences and volume levels matter too, to help pick a nice fitting tube setup for your particular speakers. Also ask yourself if you plan to keep your speakers long-term. Tube amps can get some folks looking at new speakers all over again too once they hear it, heads up. 

I have a SET 45 amp built by Will Vincent in Idaho. He does excellent work! He offers custom builds of the Dynaco ST70 and the Baldwin 6L6 amps at good prices. 

If you can afford it the Dave Berning ZOTL amp is an easy SOTA recommendation.

I made the transition in steps… with a tubed preamp about 20 years ago, then shortly after a tubed phono stage… finally to a tube amp a few years ago. I hung back because of the supposed problems with tubes in amps. After some 4,000 hours with tube amps… the “problems” are grossly exaggerated. If I could go back, I would have made the transition much quicker. 

All my gear is tubed now. I would not consider going back.

I have a pair of reference 3a L integrale they are a 2 way floor standard I think they are 91db . I was going to use the tube mono blocks or st 70 clone with them

I also have a pair of Salk Sound SSM6 stand mounts but they are 86 db sensitivity so I probably will let those go my room size is 18 wide x 20 long with 7 foot ceiling thanks for all the responses. I think I may try a Will Vincent design. I talked with him he sounds like an old school guy with much passion and knowledge and his build quality looks great

My tube experience is mostly with vintage components - Marantz, Fisher, HH Scott, Mac. While I own substantially more SS pieces, I can’t get over how time and again my favorite combinations are tubes with horns. It’s true. Whether tube receiver or separates, the sound is amazing. How can a 60+ year old tube amp sound better than modern top of the line gear? I don’t know the answer, but it often does to my ears. I have a SET on order to see if they live up to the hype. 


All my gear is tubed now. I would not consider going back

Good comments and I can relate with your amplifier transition/progression. I went from a Symphonic Line solid state amplifier to a couple of push-pull tube amplifiers. The el34 amp was utterly reliable. The KT 88/6550 was also, (with the occasional KT 88 failure). 6550 were even less prone to a failure.

Most reliable with zero problems has been my 300b SET of 13 > years. Probably due to the very simple circuit and high built quality. Only 3 tubes per mono block (Rectifier/driver/output). Literally maintenance free with beautiful sound. Tube amplifiers are durable and can be quite trouble free.


@charles1dad "Probably due to the very simple circuit and high built quality"


With less in the signal path, sometimes simple sounds better too 👍


The biggest, and I think consistent difference between good quality solid state and tube amplification is in slam. To me, after decades with high current solid state amplification, appreciated slam… which tends to be much greater in solid state. The midrange tends to be a tad leaner and the bass transients really fast… this gives the characteristic slap of fast bass. But, I have never heard this in live performance… amplified or acoustical. High quality tubed amplification tends to have a more fully fleshed out midrange and upper bass and the bass is finely nuanced… but the transient rise is slower… which is actually what I hear in live venues.

I get why one would like either… but the moment I heard the later (tubed)… the former was out the door for me. Did I loose something? Yes… but for me, what I gained was many times greater than what I lost.


I tried tubes and went back to SS

The OP could end up doing the same thing, who knows?

Each and everyone of us will have our own specific experiences. For me it was pretty simple, tubes were more natural sounding and authentic to my ears.

For some listeners they won’t be. I applaud the OP for giving tubes a try. We’ll see what happens. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


I have tube and solid state amps and a tube preamp. My amps are quicksilver and they're wonderful.

I really enjoy the full tube sound, but the Pass XA25 coupled with my 6sn7 preamp is pretty magical. I don't find tubes to be a big hassle.

To me, after decades with high current solid state amplification, appreciated slam… which tends to be much greater in solid state. The midrange tends to be a tad leaner and the bass transients really fast… this gives the characteristic slap of fast bass. But, I have never heard this in live performance… amplified or acoustical. High quality tubed amplification tends to have a more fully fleshed out midrange and upper bass and the bass is finely nuanced… but the transient rise is slower… which is actually what I hear in live venues.

We either drink the same water or hang out at the same live un-amplified music venues.😊. This has been my observation for many years listening to acoustic double bass and cello. All acoustic instruments in actuality when heard in a natural environment.


Difficult to go past ARC if it's in your budget. Otherwise Belles, Dehavilland, Cary or Aesthetix come in cheaper. I have an Aesthetix Calypso pre into an EAR 534 amp a combination which works well with my ML electrostatics. The sound is tube but not as rolled off as say early Conrad Johnson gear.

I concurr SS has more slam. And it is a better fit to the kind of music I have always loved best. Started with hardrock, prog, then even some metal prog and now diving fully into electronic music, specially french. Not dance music, home listening electronic music, sounds so impressive it makes it hard to go back in times. And I am 68 but always been on the fringe in rock music. I barely ever listen to my couple hundred classical records anymore. However, the major draw back in tubes for me, it is yet one more way to tinker with the sound. And I already have so many ways to do that, cables, speaker placement, isolation, diffusers, absorbers, etc... it is fun to play with all that but it can become too time consuming taking you away from the main goal, listening to music. Plus tubes degrade in sound overtime so it even confuses things more. Keeping it simple is a luxury in audio and I try to lean that way. But my house of stereo system was in no way shape or form an easy undertaking.  Just reaping the fruits of it now and tubes set me back in that respect. To each his own.


if you look at my virtual system page, I have a few pictures of local musicians I enjoy. The sound of the bassists pictured do sound pretty much as you described.👍

Happy live listening.


About maintenance, it depends. I have a 25 year old Audio Research VT100 that still has its original tubes, and they’re doing great. Did have to replace the fan, however, at 24 years.

I agree that putting a tube preamp in your existing system would be a good way to start. Hard to know what did what if you change too many things at once. (Voice of experience here!)

Good luck and have fun!

SS slam. LOL give me refined articulate sound, depth of field, soundstage and detailed midrange.

If I want slam I will go hang out in a club in Deep Ellum. 

Me too, I listen with Audio research VT100 almost everyday and the sound is just different from REF 75SE. TUBE 150 get the different  sound and I prefer the old sound from old machine.



What kind of budget are you thinking about? A hybrid integrated with a tube in the front end or a tube preamp and a solid state amp is a good place to start.

Will vincent has a pair of 80 watt tube monoblocks $3500 thats,about my top end limit.


I bought one of these a few years ago and it’s been a pleasure to use. Not a rebuild, but a brand new replica using the Latino VTA driver board.  Built by Chris Keller, a very fine gent, in NC. On the other popular resale platform…
FOR SALE: Dynaco ST-70 - New - Custom Build - Beautiful!

There is also this: FOR SALE: New build: Dynaco Pass 3 (M) preamp (reduced price)

These will get you into tube sound without the inflated pricing, but with the quality of sound.

can somebody tell me the absolute worst kind of music/sound recording to play through tubes?

It's my opinion that small signal music seems better handled through tubes though there may be some tube noise in very small signals like LO moving coil cartridges amplification. 

It seems to be more of a toss up as the signal strength increases through amps.  Then it's how good the designer is and how their equipment is voiced.  My preference is for a particular type of solid state amp design.  But my preamp is all tube and phono stage is hybrid.    

Quicksilver is great equipment.    I just pulled a pair of Mid Monos out of service and they were one of the best amps I've ever owned.   Seriously good stuff for the money. 

Cannot say enough good things about Quicksilver. I own Mono120s using KT120s and drive them with either his Line Preamp (6922 version) or my AI M3B, and this is an end game set up for me, period. The power, dynamics, and naturalness of instrumental timbres (woodwinds, cello, French horn, lute, piano, etc) are just "right" sounding.

Suggest you also try an ARC pre-amp if you can.  They have been "known" for building quality pre-amps since the early 1970's.  I recently bought a used SP-6A for about $800.00  It is miraculous, and I was using LUX tube pre-amps before that, which were not really "bad."

Just a suggestion.  I am sure you will be pleased with whatever you finally buy.  Be sure to try it IN YOUR ROOM before you buy if you can.


Another kudo to Quicksilver. I’ve been using all QS gear for the past 20 years. The stuff is built to last and I have never had a burp from any piece that I own. If you check the site you will see that most of the amps are now discontinued. Mike is still making the Mid Mono. If 40 watts is sufficient I can’t see you going wrong with those!



I agree with the posters here who say audition a tube system. I use a tubed preamp in my main system. My other vintage systems are mostly tubes which I enjoy. It’s a big jump to all tubes so take it carefully. Consider that tubes wear out and they are expensive, there is heat involved, there can be biasing problems, and the occasional melt down ( ie. Red platting, which I had on one of my vintage amps). Music can have less bass impact as ss systems. You my not care or notice but that’s why you should audition. Aside from all of this, they sound wonderful, but consider in my opinion I don’t think I’d want my main system to be an all tube system. That’s why I use a tubed pre. Hope this helps. pre with SS amp is your best sound IMHO.....Audio- gd tube pre with PT GaN 400 has my Pendragons swinging wildly. Love the combo.

Again this comes down to the manufacturer.  Now all products provide the same sound quality.  You need to determine first the sound you are looking for.  There are many different tubes that all have different sound and there are different amp designs such as Class A, etc.  Your budget also have something to do with it.  

 As far as comparing SS to tubes, you will get similar answers on the differences here, but in reality, a good tube amp design will be equal to SS in terms of dynamics and slam.  Tubes in general can offer a longer decay of notes and more of a 3D soundstage that SS cannot provide.

You need to do your research and listen to different tube equipment and learn why they sound different.  There are plenty of custom designers around if you want to go that route also.

As far as reliability, sure there is heat but that is where the design comes into play.  Point-to-point wired?  Bias adjustments?  Tubes wear out sure - so do capacitors and resistors.  I do not agree with less bass impact comments.  It comes down to the tubes and the design.  SS has limitations that IMO compromise sound quality.  

Happy Listening.

I have been enjoying tubed integrated amplifiers and separates from Octave, Ayon, Audio Hungary, for many years now. I also have had in my stables SS integrated amplifiers and separates from Simaudio, McIntosh, Ayer, Bel Canto, Norma, and others over the years.

I have enjoyed each for their specific attributes, slam is not one of them (think the term in audio speak is a joke). I have only ever felt deprived of midrange using SS.  I like to accentuate the positives and I feel that depending on all the other components in the chain one needs to be careful in their foray into the tubed world. 

I would consider doing what I did transitioning from SS to tubes and others have recommended here, hybrid integrated or a tube pre with ss amplifier.

Just keep an open mind and you may need to try a few combinations of components before you find the synergy your are seeking.

Tubes vs SS, Ford vs Chevy...who cares it is what makes you happy! 

@emrofsemanon - probably not.

I'd think you'd be the only one who could decide that as everybody else will have varying opinions which may or may not line up with your response. There are no 'absolutes'. 

Find someplace where you can listen to tube gear and bring along some music of various genres, and it should be a fun experiment....

The Backert line of preamps are all absolute gems. They use two 12AU7 tubes which are auto biased . Tube rolling is easy and the results of rolling  with this preamp are palpable. Decware, despite the wait makes wonderful low power tube amps. Wyetech Labs is in the process of selling their remaining stock of ferociously incredible SET mono blocks due to the death of founder Roger Hebert. These are all tube based products very deserving of investigation.

+1 on the Quicksilvers.

I have the mid mono monoblocks. They are wonderful and have no problem driving my 90db efficient KLH 5s to fairly high listening levels. They also worked very well with some Snell Towers I had before.

I find they have plenty of slam and in fact were better in this regard and have better bass than a Belles 150a power amp and a Luxman integrated that I previously owned...both with over 100W per channel solid state. It provides wonderful bank for the buck.

Also easy to try different tubes. Want KT88s.... want a lusher presentation,,,,run EL34s which is what they are voiced for. Also they are very well built and have been utterly reliable over the 5 years I have owned them which is more than I can say for some Cary and Audio Research gear I had.... albeit a long time ago. Some of the most musical amps I have owned in over 50 years in the hobby. They are keepers. BTW I also run a tube preamp, Conrad Johnson.

Have the speakers ever been recapped? If not, start there. 20 year old caps are well past their sell by date. Replace ALL with polypropylene or PTFE.

Going to a dealer is a waste of time as they do not have your speakers, cables, room or the rest of the system. You might hear differences, but they will likely not travel home.

If the speakers are ported, some tube amps may not mate well due to the impedance curve.


I’d add the VTA gear from Tubes4Hifi to the list....really excellent stuff that’s fairly affordable.

It's not really excellent stuff. See VTA M-125. People have all kinds of problems with them and have written after ZERO support from Tubes4FiHi. If you complain on their forum, they axe your account. A lot of their advice is just plain wrong!