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Thread: the search for a tube preamp

  1. #1
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    the search for a tube preamp

    Well, I've got a set of 4311 b's, a Crown PS200 on the way (thanks Triumph Don), now I'm looking for a tube preamp.

    Preferably something from the same era or close to it, must have a phono stage, preferably with tone controls. Was thinking AR SP3 might fit the bill.

    But I really have no idea and am open to suggestions. It could also be something modern, there seems to be a dizzying array of stuff out there. I'd also prefer something north american, to go with the other north american stuff in the chain. But that's not a deal breaker and price is a consideration too. Don't really want anything that outperforms the other gear in the chain.

    Ok, once again, thanks for all suggestions that may be forthcoming!

    Cheers,

    Bernie

  2. #2
    Senior Member jerry_rig's Avatar
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    The SP-3 is very nice. I've been thinking about parting with my SP-8. Many consider it a classic as well.
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  3. #3
    RIP 2013 Rolf's Avatar
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    Tubes need to be adjusted all the time. Why not go for a transistor pre? They can do a better job that a tube. Remember Mono?
    It's really all about music.
    Rolf

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    Thanks for the ideas and suggestions, keep them coming! There is a dizzying number of options out there. I realize I'm late to this party, gave up on a Marantz 7 and it seems even the SP3 is a rare and relatively expensive bird nowadays.

    Just for a frame of reference, the last time I went out to get some good audio equipment it was 1980 and I bought a Quad 303 and a pair of Rogers LS35A's which I still have. But I've always also loved the big JBL sound and that's what I'm going for now....

    I also know that a solid state pre is the logical choice, but being a tube guitar amp guy I've always been interested in tube stuff and it seems that a tube pre would get me at least halfway there. I've been entertaining an array of vintage tube guitar guitar amps for 40 years now and I think I can handle dealing with a pre but I'd really rather not get into buying, retubing and tweaking a couple of monobloc 4x EL34 amps...

    Also, since this is a project that has no logical basis, I want to keep everything north american if I can. So, I'm now thinking along the the lines of a Dynaco PAS ....would that be a good match for the JBL's and Crown PS200? Seems affordable and tweakable....I can do some moderate tweaking.... what do you all think?

    Thanks, cheers and goodnight!

    Bernie

  5. #5
    Senior Member Cooljjay's Avatar
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    Its hard to find a good tube preamp. I've not had much luck finding many different choices. It seems by far the most popular are the PAS units, I have like 5 of them. I am currently using a eico HF-85 pre, it does sound nice but the dual volume pot is a PITA. It sounds nice but getting the channels equal with the dual volume is a pain. At higher volumes it is fine but at lower its horrible. I am going to switch over to a Lafayette KT600. These are suppose to be excellent pre amps from what I have read. They were designed by stewart hegeman and are side to be on the same levels of the citation and marantz 7. One problem you face with vintage tube pre amps is that they won't accept any of the newer high end AV cables. I want to use a pair of monster cables between the amps and pre, I had to eliminate the mic input in order to make enough room to add new connectors. Also they will always need to be rebuilt, the tubes are usually always good but capacitors and selenium rectifiers are always bad after sitting for 20+ years.

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    Solid State Preamp + Tube Effects

    If You want tube sound: why not place an effect box in the tape loop?

    SPL Channel One
    SPL Tube Vitalizer

    It has the advantage that You can remove the boxes from the signal path.

    ruediger

  7. #7
    Senior Member martin_wu99's Avatar
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    Just to try VTL and Manley tube,they are studio gear
    46 lover

  8. #8
    Dang. Amateur speakerdave's Avatar
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    I don't have a sense of what your budget might be except noting the components already chosen. Frankly I don't think it makes a great deal of difference what preamp you use, except that I think tubes are a good idea because they will soften high frequencies a little. The Dynaco PAS 2 and 3 preamps are OK; I've used them in past decades. I think you want a PAS 3X with a solid state amp. As with some other preamps that have been mentioned, they are all quite old, not having been made since the mid-seventies and most of them that are around are older than that. The problem I see with them is that they are often bid up so high, because they are the subject of many mod scenarios, that other choices become reasonable, like the earlier Conrad Johnson PV series, like the PV-2, which I have used and liked.

    I agree with an earlier poster that the Audio Research SP8, my current preamp, is a fine preamp, but perhaps more than you are planning on spending.

    For solid state I would suggest Marantz (3300) or GAS Thalia; the latter I've used and liked. A lot of that old equipment is not plug and play anymore, and should be checked out by a competent (and sympathetic) technician.

  9. #9
    RIP 2013 Rolf's Avatar
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    Maybe this is a "step aside". But: why is there so many that refuses to accept that the world goes on? All the talk about Tubes no days is making me crazy. So does Vinyl vs CD/DVD.

    I remember when the discussion was about Mono vs Stereo. Many claimed that Mono was much better than stereo.

    Isn't listening to music about getting "Closer To The Truth"? I know it is impossible to get the "truth" in my (our) home. But it is a fact that Tubes have much distortion that a good Solid State Amp. Regarding Speakers, not much have changed. These still have to push and pull air. Of course things have been better here to.

    So why?
    It's really all about music.
    Rolf

  10. #10
    Heather [Senorita member] hjames's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolf View Post
    Maybe this is a "step aside". But: why is there so many that refuses to accept that the world goes on? All the talk about Tubes no days is making me crazy. So does Vinyl vs CD/DVD.

    I remember when the discussion was about Mono vs Stereo. Many claimed that Mono was much better than stereo.

    Isn't listening to music about getting "Closer To The Truth"? I know it is impossible to get the "truth" in my (our) home. But it is a fact that Tubes have much distortion that a good Solid State Amp. Regarding Speakers, not much have changed. These still have to push and pull air. Of course things have been better here to.

    So why?
    So if you don't like the tube sound - let those that do enjoy their discussions!
    Why are you jumping in with the same tired comments every time someone says "Tubes".

    I think high price speakers wires are a scam, and I have an engineering background, but if you like using fancy wire, go ahead, buy it and enjoy it. Please note I don't attack you every time you bring up high priced wire. And I won't debate it now!

    Its just an audio preference - there is no single right choice ...
    2ch - Oppo DV981, JoLida 502, JBL L200+, KEF 105.4
    HT7- Oppo BDP-93, B&K amps, Vandy 2Ce, 2Ci, VCC1, DCM TF600 & 4641

  11. #11
    Senior Member Eaulive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolf View Post
    So why?
    http://www.yorkville.com/default.asp?p1=6&p2=17&p_id=72

    Scroll down to "Audiophile signal processing" (both of them)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolf View Post
    Maybe this is a "step aside". But: why is there so many that refuses to accept that the world goes on? All the talk about Tubes no days is making me crazy. So does Vinyl vs CD/DVD.

    I remember when the discussion was about Mono vs Stereo. Many claimed that Mono was much better than stereo.

    Isn't listening to music about getting "Closer To The Truth"? I know it is impossible to get the "truth" in my (our) home. But it is a fact that Tubes have much distortion that a good Solid State Amp. Regarding Speakers, not much have changed. These still have to push and pull air. Of course things have been better here to.

    So why?
    Harmonic distortion is not a major issue most of the time, and particularly not within preamps. And if you've heard CD vs. Vinyl on a credible system, there's no comparison. Vinyl has a much better top end- and the bandwidth to match (some LPs go up to 50k).

    One dimensional "progress" numbers like THD are pretty useless in the real world, they're not well correlated to our hearing mechanism. Some more in-depth specifications hit nearer the mark, but this stuff isn't often contained in the "Specs" blurb. Anyone relying on these needs to be hit over the head with an early 80s SS amp- the distortion wars produced some pretty terrible sounding amps.

  13. #13
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolf View Post
    Maybe this is a "step aside". But: why is there so many that refuses to accept that the world goes on? All the talk about Tubes no days is making me crazy. So does Vinyl vs CD/DVD.
    Simplistically your argument makes a lot of sense, and there are no doubt many examples that could be made that would validate your point, that said, I think a good analogy can be made using photography as an example. Compare an antique wooden 8 by 10 field camera with a top quality lens and a Hasselblad 2.25" camera with either a film or digital back... the antique camera will produce images of greater fidelity even though it may be 50 or more years old and the Hasselblad, which is truly excellent and brand new will not have the same resolution.

    The really good analog gear from the past, both tube and solid state can be superior to the most up to date digital or mass produced solid state analog gear.

    I certainly am not saying that tubes or vinyl are inherently better, in fact tube gear and vinyl playback must be really pretty high quality to surpass decent solid state gear and pretty average CD players, but in my opinion the very best of those "antique" technologies is better than most of the modern versions.


    Widget

  14. #14
    Senior Member Cooljjay's Avatar
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    I just like tube system and older speakers. Has nothing to do with sonic, fidelity, quality etc. I just like it. Its easy to repair, its gorgeous to look at glowing tubes, matches my decor, and was all hand made in the USA. Another thing I enjoy about tube sound, is its a lot mellower then solid state. I don't like bass, I don't need a 400watt system. SS is like being punched in the face with bass, tubed gear is very mellow and the music is very warm. A lot of the music I listen to was recorded with tube gear and was never released on CD. Its like 78rpm records, I love the sound of them but I play them on a crank up phonograph. They sound horrible on a modern record player. Every body has their preference, my god do you know how many people out there think Bose speakers are quality? I constantly pick up great sounding vintage speakers because they are to big and they just upgraded to a bose system or surround sound. And as far as Vinyl they are hotter then they ever were in my mind. I use to be the only one digging through the record bins...now there are sooo many people that I don't even bother.

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    Thanks for all the comments, it is all fascinating. I can see some parallels to the world of vintage tube guitar amps, with which I am more familiar.

    To address some questions, and to refine the search somewhat: this entire adventure is not too serious in nature. That is, I am after a "vintage" listening experience with this 70's 80's 90's? mixed bag of American speakers and solid state power amp and hopefully a tube pre.

    I do want to listen to vinyl, so the preamp must have that capability. Having said that, my vinyl collection is 30-40 years old, has been listened to a lot and is not necessarily in the best shape. Neither are my ears....many hours of playing electric guitars in bands playing louder than we should have. The turntable I will be using is not superb in any way, nor am I planning on using any exotic cartridge...a plain vanilla MM(?) like the 20 some year old Grado3 in my Denon turntable would be fine....assuming the Grado3 is a MM cartridge, I can't even say I know or would recognize the difference between MM and MC. Cost is certainly an issue, which is why I'm wandering down from Marantz 7c territory.

    I hope this helps clarify what I'm looking for....a pleasant listening experience rather than a lustful chase after every nuance...

    I don't see the point in having any one component's capabilities exceed any of the others. So far I can see a Dynaco PAS 3 as a good candidate. Somebody suggested the X model would be better for a SS power amp, why would that be?

    I like the idea of tone controls, but it seems the PAS mods eliminate them?

    My question now is: considering the above, is the PAS a good choice? Is one model better than another? Is a modified PAS a better choice (would I hear the difference with my 4311's and Crown PS200?), or would I be ok with stock for what I'm after?

    I hope this clarifies what direction I'm heading in.

    Thanks again for all the help and comments both past,present and future!

    Bernie

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