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I'm seeking input from individuals out there who have a home theatre and audio systems that combines - a high-end processor, tube pre-amplification for 2 channel material, and high-end solid-state power amp.


I currently have my heart (ear actually) set on the Meridian 861 (processor), Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS (2Ch. pre-amp), and the Mark Levinson 400 Series for multi-channel Power amplification.


For 2 channel material, I want to be able to listen to the smooth silky tube sounds, and yet enjoy 5.1 material using the same front/left/right, and potentially a single volume control.


Does this sound impossible? Am I better off having two seperate systems? What sort of by-pass systems could I possibly use that'll make this work?
 

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I use a Dynaco PAS-4 stereo tube amp into the direct inputs of my Outlaw 1050 6.1 Receiver with very good results. I use the Perpetual Technologies' P1A Digital Correction Engine and P3A DAC to upgrade my CDs to 24/96. Speakers are upgraded Klipschorns and LaScalas.
 

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Put the tube preamp between the processor and the LR power amp channels. Hook the outputs of your 2-channel sources and the LR outputs of the processor to the preamp. Remember where you have the volume control of the preamp set when you calibrate the processor volume levels and return it to that position for multichannel listening.
 

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I was in your position couple of years ago trying to incorporate a higher end 2 channel music system into my HT and ended up having two separate systems (in the same room) for varieties of reasons.


My HT though has been on idle since ~two years ago as I've concentrated on tweaking the stereo system is still centering around a 1st generation Onkyo flagship receiver (939) as I do have the Theta CasaBlanca (still waiting to upgrade to the CB2) currently serving stereo duty. I am using Sonic Frontier's Line 3 preamp driving a pair of Bryston 7B's in my stereo system and recently started utilizing the Line 3's 'processor' loop for the Theta's connection to my turntable with good result (somehow I like my LP's sound better through the SS Theta than the tube Line 3).


As someone originally from HK, I can understand the space issue you have to deal with when setting up your HT. In fact I had just opened up another room for a second stereo system revolving around a pair of planar speakers (Magnepan) & a more tube sounding preamp (Rogue).


Here is my list of not quite updated equipment ( http://www.hometheaterforum.com/bbs/...ent/28867.html ). Please feel free to comment/criticize as well as ask questions.


PF
 

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First of all it defeats the purpose to run a tube pre into a SS amp. If you like the sound of tubes (which is not silky smooth--common misconception--at it's best it's highly detailed, analytical, palpable, dynamic and more revealing of source material) you need tube amplification, not just preamplification. All it does to match a tube pre with a solid state amp is to create impedance mismatch problems and defeat the purpose of using tubes by sending the signal to SS gear. Secondly, since 99.9% of music is traditional stereo (as opposed to multichannel) it only makes sense to build a tube-based two channel system as the heart of your HT.


My approach is to use a high quality integrated tube amp that has an HT knob for bypassing the internal preamp. For multichannel applications I run a passive 5 channel preamp into the tube amp and an audio refinement/YBA 3 channela mp (which sounds tubey enough to create the illusion of seemless surround). All the processing is handled by the front end. I use the system 90% for two-channel.
 

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Gremal,


Usually I agree with your posts, but I strongly disagress. Most people start off with tubed pres feeding ss amps, and it is definitely preferred over ss pres feeding tubed amps. A few reasons include, they are much easier to use/care for than tube amps, the ss amp often provides better, tighter bass, the tubed pre still can "color" (i hate that word, but can't think of another at the moment) the sound, and the speakers one uses may not be easy to drive with tubes (obviously there are tube amps that can drive anything, but can be pricy). Also, SS amps can be left on all the time, and don't take 20 minutes to warm up even if turned off.


I would also like to learn more about impedance matching and its audible results. Perhaps you can expound? Reason being, that myself and many Odyssey Stratos owners use tubed pres with great success, and I haven't heard of impedance mismatch (Odyssey is 10kv i believe) problems ever, despite the fact that almost all tubed pres I believe are much higher.
 

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I recently had the same idea for my HT/Music room. I decided to purchase a second hand Sonic Frontiers Line 1 SE from a online seller. The main reason that I decided on Sonic Frontiers was

I feel like their units will incorporate nicely into a HT environment.

All of their units come with a full function remote and digital pass-through for digital material. So theoretically I should be able to switch between digital and analog/tube without even getting up from my chair. Sonic Frontiers has a good reputation for making a quality product and also has good service if needed. Some people have commented that their preamps dont sound "tubey"

enough and I'm sure that they would be different sounding from the CJ preamp. This will be my first tube component so I am unsure of the changes that it will provide to my system. The pre will be going into a Rotel RB-1090 and then to my Maggie 3.6's. I should be getting the Sonic Frontiers unit on Wed and I'll let you know how it sounds!
 

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MG, I have the Line 3 in my main music system and love it's neutrality. Yes, the SF's 'processor' loop is making things a lot easier esp those trying to do both music & HT with one system. Are you using the Maggies in your HT? I recently bought a used Rogue preamp and is using it on my 3.6's (in a separate music system) with good result and is now working on getting different tubes for the Rogue.


PF
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Gremal
First of all it defeats the purpose to run a tube pre into a SS amp. If you like the sound of tubes (which is not silky smooth--common misconception--at it's best it's highly detailed, analytical, palpable, dynamic and more revealing of source material) you need tube amplification, not just preamplification. All it does to match a tube pre with a solid state amp is to create impedance mismatch problems and defeat the purpose of using tubes by sending the signal to SS gear.
Gremal, I don't know where you got this misconception, but its one of the most flat out wrong things I've seen posted on this forum. Many, many, people, high-end dealers, and high-end reviewers use tubed preamps with solid state power amps with excellent results. You do get the 'tube' sound attributes that you mentioned, which I incidentally agree with, with such a marriage, but you have to do it with the right ss amp. I have evaluated more preamps than any other component, many solid state, tubed, and hybrid units, and there is no question that my tubed Audio Research preamp gives me a glorious open sound that is way more dynamic and lively then even more expensive ss preamps. I built my system around my turntable and preamp, so when I purchased a power amp I must have evaluated 4 or 5 models before settling on the Proceed that I now have. I'm not saying that a tube/tube system will sound the same as a tube/ss system, but you can definitely reap the benefits of 'tube' sound with a tube/ss system.



anupmc,

You must keep in mind that if you feed the tubed preamp into a HT processor (except for very few models) the analog signal gets digitized and then DA'ed at the output. So for the most part I don't thing that you'll get much benefit, if any at all from using the tubed gear with that approach. That is one of the reasons why I have separate HT and two channel rooms. If you put the tubed preamp between the processor and power amp, like catapult suggests, then your multi-channel stuff still goes through the tubed preamp and your 2-channel stuff still has to go through an extra component. I don't think there is any way to do this that doesn't compromise the sound of the preamp in some way.


John Moschella
 

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I agree with John,

Tube preamp + SS Amp is the preferred combo for high current speakers such as Maggies or Martin Logans. There are not many tube amplifiers that can drive these speakers with the power that they need to really come alive. The Rotel RB-1090 that I am currently using is rated at 700WPC into the Maggie's 4Ohms.

To get similar power from tubes one would need at least two tube amps and most likely four tube amps and I am unwilling to spend that kind of money.

I'll be sending the Analog signal from my Sony DVP9000ES directly to the Sonic Frontiers Preamp, then to the Rotel and finally to the Maggie 3.6's. The digital processor will be completely bypassed. This should provide the shortest signal path with the exception of connecting the Sony straight into the Rotel.

For HT the Sonic Frontiers digital pass through will let the digital signal come through without any modification.

I'll post again after Turkey Day with my impressions!
 

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John wrote:
Quote:
If you put the tubed preamp between the processor and power amp, like catapult suggests, then your multi-channel stuff still goes through the tubed preamp
Right. Some might like that and some might not as their mains would still get the tube treatment.
Quote:
and your 2-channel stuff still has to go through an extra component. I don't think there is any way to do this that doesn't compromise the sound of the preamp in some way.
It's easy. Plug your 2-channel sources (CD, phono, etc.) directly into the tube preamp. Plug the DVD into the processor. Listening to 2-channel, you could leave the processor turned off. Listening to a DVD, you would select the "processor" input on the tube preamp, set it to the predetermined volume level and then control everything from the processor.
 

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Why don't you have your cake and eat it too? BAT is coming to market in March with a pre/pro that will have a tube stage for all channels so you don't have to settle for just 2 channels. Price will be 12k to 15k depending on options. BAT pre-amps are always at the top of the heap. You can expect this pre/pro to be one of the best if not the best sounding one to ever be made.
 

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Quote:
[/b]

It's easy. Plug your 2-channel sources (CD, phono, etc.) directly into the tube preamp. Plug the DVD into the processor. Listening to 2-channel, you could leave the processor turned off. Listening to a DVD, you would select the "processor" input on the tube preamp, set it to the predetermined volume level and then control everything from the processor. [/b]
Catapult, you are correct (of course) that the the 2-channel sources will be uncomprimised with this arrangement. However, you have comprimised your surround sound because your R/L channels will not be spectrally matched to the center and surrounds. I will certainly agree that a spectral match to the surrounds is not that important, but to get the correct imaging for movies the center really should be spectrally matched to the L/R speakers. Don't you agree?


Bulldogger, its about time some company did this. I would have expected CAL to have done it considering they have a history of this with their 2-channel digital processors and CD players.


John Moschella
 

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Quote:
I will certainly agree that a spectral match to the surrounds is not that important, but to get the correct imaging for movies the center really should be spectrally matched to the L/R speakers. Don't you agree?
Yep, I agree 100%. However, few people use identical speakers for the front 3 because a full-size center would block the screen. And, even if you can fit an identical center, positioning and boundary effects will probably make it sound different. If I were into the "tube sound" (I'm not anymore but it's irrelevant for this discussion) I'd want the tube sound in the mains for all my listening. Then, I'd eq. the center to try to get a timbre match to the mains. Eq'ing the center (and the sub) isn't a bad idea for any system, solid state or tube. Buy a good 2-channel equalizer and use one channel for the sub and the other for the center. Rather than trying to get the center "flat," try to get it similar to the mains. There is inexpensive measurement software available that will be a big help in setting up the system.
 

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I feed the ourput of my Dynaco Pas-4 tube preamp into the direct inputs of my Outlaw 1050 HT receiver thus bypssing the internal processor. Works very well.
 

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Hi All,


I was considering the same thing. Right now I have an EAD Theatermaster Signature preamp/processor with the EAD Powermaster 2000 and I use the Sony Scd-777es player as the transport and a Pioneer Elite Dv-09 as the dvd player.


I was considering a Bat Vk-3i or Vk-5i tubed preamp for the front left and right channel. And therefore I can take advantage of the Sacd's from my Sony 777es.


Does anyone know if the Bat preamps have a Theater passthrough so I can use the EAD Theatermaster to control volume when I watch movies?


What do you all think of the Bat Preamps?


Thanks, Brian
 

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Brian,


The newer revs of the BATs should have a unity gain input.


If you want to you can give them a ring (the number is on their web site), http://www.balanced.com


Bulldogger,


I'll double check with the folks at BAT, the last I heard on the VK-AV10, they couldn't do all channels with tubes, as it was too hot!


Regards,
 

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Thanks John. Oh well, guess it was too good to be true, all tubes? Any word on the VTL 6 channel tube pre-amp? Or is it just tubes on the front two channels as well?
 

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Just received delivery of 5 channels of tube/SS hybrid amplification from Llano Design. My immediate impression of the 2 channel amp is that it is a significant, even surprising upgrade from the Bryston amp it replaces. I use a Proceed AVP front with tube amplification at all five channels now -- this is my solution to getting tubes into an integrated HT/music picture. I missed my old Melos tube preamp, but wanted the convenience and simplicity of having a single preamp. Additionally, since the AVP is my DAC as well, I would have to put the additional two channel tube preamp between the AVP and amps to get benefit from anything other than vinyl. I'm bummed that the AVP doesn't have a 6 channel pass thru -- I'd love to do multichannel SACD with my tube amps.


I know that ADA made a tube preamp/processor in the 30K neighborhood at one time.
 
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