Tube Preamp --> Solid State Amp

I had an interesting conversation with my audio dealer today.  I was demoing the Focal Supra 3s and he shared his opinion/preference that he likes to choose a quality TUBE preamp (ex: McInstosh D1100) paired with a SOLID STATE amp (ex: Michi X5 integrated, McIntosh MC312 power amp etc).   Not sure if there are any schools of thought promoting or perhaps indifferent to this approach but wanted to get some thoughts?

Specifically for me, I just bought a Michi X5 (integrated amp) and am picking up some Focal Sopra 3s.  I have toyed with the idea of dropping in a tube preamp to soften/warm up the sound prior to the X5 giving it that 600w of punch @ 4Ohms but don't want to throw money away.  

I will say this, when I demoed the Focal Supra 3s, I did so on McIntosh tube preamp and McIntosh  SS Amp, and then switched immediately via a button on the McIntosh premap but using the McIntosh 275 TUBE amp.  The 275 added so much softness and warmth that the Focals almost felt muted.  It was about the best A/B comparison I've ever done. 

I know this has a lot to do with speaker pairing but was just curious anyone's thoughts on tube vs SS for separates? 


I’m using a McIntosh C2700 tube preamp with a MC462 solid-state power amp. A little bit of tube warmth from the pre without the hassle and cost of having to deal with power tubes. But like one of the previous posters said, I do feel it’s a little soft on the high end at times. But I could probably remedy that by doing some tube rolling. I’m still running the stock Mac tubes.

I was using Primaluna EVO 400 preamp with Pass XA30.5, to drive Focal 1028be and to "tame" that spicy beryllium top. Was quite happy with the combination. Before Pass I had Hypex NC500 based power amp, which was also good, dynamic, but maybe a bit too dry. 

Biggest problems i found were: preamp with low enough output impendence, gain will be too high (I have to use Rothwell XLR attenuators), matching speakers to pre/power combination. What worked well with Focals, maybe its not the best with some other brand (evaluating Q Acoustics Concept 500 and Scansonic mb2.5b now). 
So, in short, can result with really good sound but requires much more effort (read: money to buy/sell different amps/preamps:)

@charles7 As a fellow Aria owner (936), your end-game config caught my eye. I believe your FW-7 is a 25 watt SS amp, give or take. I’ve always been concerned about pairing my 936’s with an amp that can handle their minimum 2.7 ohm impedance…and I love tubes. I’m powering them with a PrimaLuna Dialogue HP Integrated with 8 KT150’s for output tubes (about 93 wpc) which drives them effortlessly. In fact, I’ve never heard better (in my home). 

It seems perhaps I’m overly concerned or that the Arias (at 92 db sensitivity) do not present the challenge I thought they did. Thoughts?

I have a McIntosh c2300 mated with an MC500, my digital is via a d150 thru the c2300. I couldn’t be more happier. It’s the best of both worlds, smooth midrange from the tubes and the slam of bass when needed from the ss amp. I have very efficient Tannoy Churchill’s so that’s part of the equation.  I highly recommend going this route. Good luck. Oh use good tubes. I use medical grade Amprex. 

Most integrated amps will let you use the preamp feature as a separate, but not the amplifier feature. For instance, my Hegel integrated always has the preamp in the circuit, even with the HT bypass on.

All the best.