taking the plunge into tubes

I currently have an all-solid-state system, but would like to experiment with tube sound. Trying to decide between spending money on a tube preamp versus buying a tubed outboard DAC. We're looking for a more engaging, lusher sound that tubes are supposed to be noted for. We recently purchased a new Aragon 8008BB power amp, so replacing it with a tube power amp is out of the question -- for now :-). Here's the current system: Nakamichi MB-10 CD player; McCormack TLC-1 line stage preamp, Aragon 8008BB amp, PSB Stratus Gold-i speakers; Monster Interlink 400 interconnects, Goertz MI2 speaker cables. I'm thinking of something like the CAL Alpha tubed DAC with 24/96 D/A upgrade, or something like the Sonic Frontiers Line-1 tube preamp. Another alternative is the Ah! Tjoeb '99 tubed CD player. Any thoughts on direction to go? Thanks. Steve
Hi Steve...If you're really looking for a mellow 'tubelike' sound, you won't obtain much of that character from a SF Line 1 preamp. If you retube with a set of NOS tubes from Upscale Audio, you may get a little closer but SF builds more for detail and neutrality than tubed euphoria. Your idea of the Alpha could have some merit if your not looking to spend alot of money yet. I have an Alpha in the bedroom and have retubed with Mullard 12AX7's/4004. The Alpha has a somewhat mellow character anyway but when using it with Mullards I get a warmer, rich presentation with a room full of sound. If you are willing to spend a bit more, try the Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 CD player and retube with only Amperex 7308's with gold pins. That is what's in my current system and it sounds wonderful. (used to be Stereophile Class A rated). Also, connect the player with a good powercord. You'll be amazed at the difference in bass, detail, resolution, etc.Good luck and enjoy. Tubed gear sounds really great!
Hi Steve, Jaguar (above) is right on in his description of the SF Line 1 and 2 pre-amps. I own both-- they sound a lot alike; detailed, smooth, and very neutral as opposed to the "classic" tube sound of rich, warm, and romantic. The older SFL-1, with a NOS Mullard tube does have a rich warm character and can be had for $600. to $700. over the i-net. I used one for several years, and it is an excellent pre-amp. As the SFL-1 has only one tube, you could also experiment with other tubes inexpensively. The Line 1/2s can be warmed up with NOS tubes, but with 6 tubes in each, it's typically around $200. for a quality set. Contact Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio in LA, CA. for expert tube advice.
I use to have an Aragon amp and preamp in my system. It was so bright I sold the preamp and added a tube (VTL 2.5 linestage) This helped, but in my system it was still to bright. I sold the Aragon amp and bought an Audio Research tube amp. It completly changed the sound of my system. I'm all tube now and have both upgraded the preamp and amp. If you go the tube route and deceide to change tubes, go to rec.audio.tubes and you can find what you are looking for and much cheaper than Upscale Audio. Good luck.
Try a conrad johnson PV10A pre amp,you can find used ones in the 600-$700. range. Great sound,low maint. and solidly built. I also have PSB Golds and McCormack DNA1 amp with this pre amp
Consider replacing the weakest component in your system. Form your description, it is power cords. Rooms have a dramatic effect on sound. You can get a sound pressure meter from radio Shack and a test CD of tones that go from 1,000 cycles up to 20K cycles/second; plot frequency VRS amplitude of signal -- work on smoothing out the amplitude by moving speakers, listening position; you can use artifical 6 foot trees to break up signals instead of expensive audio phile stuff that does the same. Hope these suggestions help Bob