One more time, a move away from tubes

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by TommyTunes, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member Thread Starter

    A couple of months ago I replaced my Conrad Johnson ET5 preamp with the new Pass Labs XP22 in my second system SME20>Lyra Atlas>Vendetta Research 2T>Pass XP22>X250.5>Magnepan 3.7>Rel. It was as revelation. The system became far more detailed and open sounding. It feels like there is nothing between you and the music. Everyone who has heard it has been awed by the transformation. We all agree that the main system (see profile) has taken a back seat to it.
    In an effort to right some wrongs, I decided to replace my ARC GS150 in the main system with Pass Labs XA100.8 mono blocks. I have made the move to non tubes several times before but always miss the depth and soundstaging that tubes provide. However hearing the spreed and resolution that I’m getting in the second system I have to give it another try.
    Changing to Wilson Alexia 2’s from 1’s I think that the extra control that the Pass amps provide with tighten up the low end of the speakers also.
    Can’t wait to hear the results but it’ll be another 3 weeks till delivery.
    Ctiger2, Bananas&blow and Art K like this.
  2. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    I've switched to a passive preamp a few times over the years. I always initially liked it better for all of the reasons which you have described above. But I always eventually comes back to tubes because I enjoy the way that the music sounds through tubes better than through SS.
  3. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    SF Bay Area, USA
    That's nice for you, but my move to Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono -> Premier 17LS2 preamp (Teflon caps) -> Premier 11A amp (EL34 with Teflon caps) has been kind of a revelation for me :)
    macster, bluemooze and sushimaster like this.
  4. sushimaster

    sushimaster Forum Resident

    I would play this LP on your system because of Nelson Pass Threshold Model 4000 was used for the monitoring. I have the SACD of this, about giving your system a workout.

  5. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    I'm not going to make a blanket statement like "tubes are only good when its low power driving high efficiency", but I think if I were running an amp with 8 KT-150's I think I'd just go ahead and move to SS as well.
    Seafinch, Synthfreek, Ezd and 10 others like this.
  6. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan

    You might rethink this if you heard the Ref160s at Axpona. :) But the tube replacement cost is certainly an issue at that level.
  7. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member Thread Starter

    Thanks I’ll try and find the CD
  8. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Mid Atlantic
    Well , Pass Labs is not your Daddy's SS. I had a Pass Labs phono stage and Aleph amp at one time and thought they were very good. I later moved to a modified EAR 834 phono with volume control run directly to a JBL UREI 6260 with my Magnepan system. Avoiding a preamp made the modified EAR sound far better than running through one. These are minor variations and just depend on the room and the music you play. I am not surprised that the system would sound more open swapping out a CJ preamp (other than the ART) for the Pass. Enjoy.
  9. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member Thread Starter

    I’ve had the Pass XA100.8’s in the system for a week now and it’s just what the Alexia 2’s needed. While the original Alexia’s worked extremely well with ghe ARC GS150 the 2’s needed more power and control.
    Oddly, the layering of the soundstage is greatly enhanced with the Pass which is usually an area that tubes excel at.
    Although I thought that the heat from the class A amps would warm up the room more, it doesn’t through off any more heat that the tube amp. Bass is now tighter and more defined.
    Just received two pair of Cardas Clear Beyond power cords which I’ll install on the amps later today.
    timind and ThorensSme like this.
  10. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Christiansburg, VA
    I agree with this. I think the real advantage of tubes (for power amps) are single ended designs, that is where you really get sound stage depth. At least that has been my experience. The down side is that you are limited in power.
    timind likes this.
  11. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire

    If I found SS gear that was better than my tube gear I would go with it- no problem.
    timind likes this.
  12. I own two Ford's and two Chevy's ---- no I really do.

    After 35 years since owning any tube gear, I recently bought a tube component (phono). I am having a blast learning about tube types, spent last night rolling in a bunch of 12au7's (thank you Robert) into my Adagio. I am now wondering "OK, what would an all tube path sound like... :)" (I know, I should be saying uh-oh...)

    But I also like my SS gear. There are +'s and -'s to everything.

    I don't have to disparage one to own the other --- you really can have both. Even if I bought an all tube sound path from my TT to try, there are still advantages to SS. I would still have SS in my wife's / son's HT, in my shop....
    timind likes this.
  13. Carey Hobbs

    Carey Hobbs Active Member

    For simplicity I switched to a Pass INT60. I kept my tubed monos and pre, though; they are just too good.
  14. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    I like tubed preamps and SS amps. The best of both worlds.
    macster likes this.
  15. David Fischer

    David Fischer Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    What has been the long term assessment of the Pass Labs XA100.8? How much heat are they throwing off, and do they get really hot to touch? I'm deliberating between Tubes and Pass Labs SS amps. Have always been a tube guy, but thinking the extra power and partnering with a Tube Preamp might be the best way to go moving forward.
  16. Roger Beltmann

    Roger Beltmann Well-Known Member

    helenville, wi.
    I use tubes for the D'Appolito, SS for the woofers (bi-amped). The tubes really do sound better for the mids and upper frequencies. Higher power for the woofers is cheaper using SS and no downside. You can get a lot more headroom from a tube amp if it's only working above 180 hz. Forty watts rms per channel goes a long way when you don't have to reproduce bass.
  17. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    It's all trade-offs, isn't it? Those huge tube amps scare me! :)
    I've had tubes forever but have heard some fabulous solid state systems with big power. I think it all comes down to system matching, doesn't it? BTW, that Vendetta isn't exactly common-- pretty cool. Good luck with your changes--
  18. tomd

    tomd Senior Member

    I love my tube preamp and tube SET integrated on my highs/mids with my class AB power amp For bass.I would only go back to SS if I could upgrade to a very smooth ($$$) SS integrated like the Devialet (or maybe a class A) like Sugden.
  19. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member Thread Starter

    Very happy with the move from ARC, in fact after hearing the results my two best friends also purchased Pass XA amps. They don’t run any hotter than the GS150, in fact they throw off less heat.
    I also temporarily moved my Pass XP-22 from my second system into the main system replacing the ARC Ref 6. I didn’t realize how tubey and veiled the ARC preamp was until I put the pass pre into the system.
    Pass unlike most ss gear never ever sounds ss. Once they release the replacement for the XP-30 later this year, I will be all Pass.
    Clay B and David Fischer like this.
  20. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member Thread Starter

    The real problem with tube gear today is the quality or lack of it, in modern tubes. Manufacturers have to keep pushing their equipment to overcome the limitations of modern tubes. This leads to more problems with the equipment over time.
    I’m semi retired so I play my system much more. Just the cost of replacement sets of tubes for the GS-150 became very expensive.
    Rolltide likes this.
  21. Andy Saunders

    Andy Saunders Forum Resident

    @Rolltide 8 x KT150- that is not going to be cheap...… enjoy the Pass Labs and the Wonga saved.:righton:
  22. MattHooper

    MattHooper Active Member

    Like others, whenever I have tried SS amplification in place of my tube gear, I am always greatly impressed by some of the changes. "wow!" But inevitably I just end back with my tube stuff because when the intellectual "wow" fades I'm left noticing I don't actually *like* the sound as much, musically. The first impression I have when replacing my tubes with solid state is a removal of some coloration or a sense of greater precision/neutrality. But after a while of listening to the system I realize that no system is perfectly neutral, even when you may have a pretty neutral amp in the chain. In other words, the sound will still have a certain recognizable and predictable character once you are familiar with the system. At some point, the surprises fade away. So then it becomes "which sonic character do I actually like? Which one seems to allow me personally to fall in love with the music?" For me the answer has always been going back to my tube gear.

    It's the same whenever I've tried passive pre-amps/volume controls, or running my DACs straight in to my amps. I always get that "wow, listen to how utterly transparent that sounds! Why aren't I going with this all the time?" But then I notice that it just sounds different than what I actually like, and that it's missing the body and texture I normally enjoy with my tubed pre-amp. So...back to active preamp I go. When I upgrade to my current Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS 2 pre-amp, I found I got very close to the feeling of transparency I get running signals direct to the amps, but I also get a good helping of the tube virtues I enjoy. It's the closest to the best of both worlds that I personally have been able to get.
    G B Kuipers and Hendertuckie like this.
  23. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    It sure does.

    I came to the conclusion that my (restored) 14wpc Fisher X-100 couldn't adequately drive the Spendor SP3/1R2's I purchased last autumn. Bass sounded flabby and indistinct, and there was a certain lack of cohesion overall.

    I reluctantly put the Fisher in the closet and swapped in a Rega Brio-R, and the combination sounds wonderful.
  24. Hendertuckie

    Hendertuckie Forum Resident

    Henderson, Nevada
    Wow Matt you've nailed my feelings on the topic. I've tried a few times to go back to SS gear but always, after few weeks and in one case months go back to tubes. Early last year I added a Mcintosh C2500 Full Function Pre-Amp and I want for nothing.
  25. Standingstones

    Standingstones Forum Resident

    South Central PA
    I moved from a tube amp to solid state a couple of years ago. I have spine issues and pulling the amp out to bias power tubes was getting to be a hassle. Otherwise, I have always love the allure of tubes.

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