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What's more important, Amp or Pre-amp in a 2 channel tube system


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I understand about symmetry and am not really worrying about that in this discussion

 

In terms of investing in the best pieces you can afford which will offer up the best bang for the buck. a great Pre-amp ? or a great amp ? I have seen where some call a Pre-amp the HUB of a system,  which should by all accounts be the best you can buy. Personally I have bought WAY more in amps than I have Pre-amps.

 

I am considering a New Pre-amp that is WAY more than I have owned in the past. I am overall happy with my current sound, "BUT" I feel there are better pre-amp tubes than my current 12au7 based pre. (Theres nothing wrong with a 12au7, I have historically preferred something along the lines of a 6sn7) 

 

If you were building a new system with Tubes, would you put more emphasis on the Pre-amp or the Amp ? (This is strictly a 2 channel system.)

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My thought, which with 99 cents will get you coffee at McDonalds, is that within the parameters of your question - you are not worried about symmetry -  it does not matter. Buy the best and quietest of everything you can find. But computer geeks will remind you "garbage in, garbage out" implying your pre, where the initial gain is wrought, is where to focus your money. And your pre is where you switch your inputs so it has a variety of electrical issues to deal with. The more expensive, generally, the more sophisticated the approach to resolving those issues.

 

Removing that parameter, my answer is it depends on the speaker. I have some relatively expensive components I will not use with each other because they don't match well. For my LaScala IIs, your tagline is the answer: "toss that pre." My best sound is from the variable outputs of my CD player, tubed or other wise, plugged into an amp. If I tie my tubed CD into my tubed DAC into my tubed pre and tubed amp, it is unlistenable on the LaScalas. On the other hand, placing my Harbeths at the end of that chain is quite pleasant. When I was selling audio equipment in my prior life, I told my customers to focus on the speakers and work backwards. I still think that holds true.

 

My 99 cents worth (pandemic inflation).

 

Mike

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My take on it is this. If you choose wisely, an amp with high input sensitivity and input impedance, then the preamplifier is not nearly as important. This is assuming you have a robust source with plenty of output. In this situation, a passive device like a TVC or LDR will usually outshine all but the best active preamps out there, and do it for small $$$.

 

On the flip side, if your choice is a high powered SS amp that takes 2v or more to drive to clipping, the preamp now takes on a role of greater importance. But I'm not ever going to own such an amp. And fans of high sensitivity speakers like Klipsch should have no need for one either.

 

Shakey

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Found some interesting thoughts here:

 

https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/more-important-pre-amp-or-power-amp.157783/

 

On the Passive Idea, I have owned and used several including the Truth, Khozomo, Placette & others. They can be very good but to the last I have found them to sound flat with no DRIVE..........Others of course may feel differently. They all allowed plenty of gain for normal listening, they simply could not draw me into the music. I have been on the HIGH Efficiency speaker train for almost 20 years now even my 3/4 WPC set can play loud enough in most cases

 

I find an active pre just add that jump factor, drive I really REALLY wanted to love Passive, Just never could 

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I have had resistor based passive preamps and never really cared for them. But three passives have really sounded excellent to my ears.

 

A TVC using copper Stevens & Billington transformers

The Sonic Euphoria AVC (autoformer based)

Tortuga Audio LDR

 

I've owned preamps up to 8K that couldn't touch these if the stars were aligned.

 

Shakey

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41 minutes ago, Shakeydeal said:

I have had resistor based passive preamps and never really cared for them. But three passives have really sounded excellent to my ears.

 

A TVC using copper Stevens & Billington transformers

The Sonic Euphoria AVC (autoformer based)

Tortuga Audio LDR

 

I've owned preamps up to 8K that couldn't touch these if the stars were aligned.

 

Shakey

"If the stars were aligned" I like that 😃

 

I used the S & B Transformers for SUT before and I know they are superior products................I have read many glowing responses on the Tortuga as well

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I view it as a balance.  What is your order of importantce other than speakers as overkill there is perfectly sane. I think 1-3 should be of the highest quality you can manage or at least that is what I do.  I love rolling amplifiers but have found preamp and sources reveal more changes to me.. At least lately.. Could change mind tomorrow.

1. Preamp incl phono

2. Dac

3. Sources

4. Amps

 

My next diy project will be a 112a preamp with slagle avc for volume controls. Never liked the resistive path...

 

 

 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, seti said:

I view it as a balance.  What is your order of importantce other than speakers as overkill there is perfectly sane. I think 1-3 should be of the highest quality you can manage or at least that is what I do.  I love rolling amplifiers but have found preamp and sources reveal more changes to me.. At least lately.. Could change mind tomorrow.

1. Preamp incl phono

2. Dac

3. Sources

4. Amps

 

My next diy project will be a 112a preamp with slagle avc for volume controls. Never liked the resistive path...

 

 

 

 

 

This is close to my order of importance. I have my best DAC's to date in house. Source is all digital off PC using J-River as software, Amps are SET 71a and Vincent st70, I also have a gain clone chip amp and an Italian made Aloia SS amp with an inductive power supply. My current pre is very good has a good reputation the Triode Lab AuPre Grande. Speakers are all OB high Eff. 

 

I just know through experience I have always preferred pre-amps using the 6sn7 output........................If I am able to afford a new pre in the near future, I want it to be end game.............................My amps, Dacs, and speakers are more or less there......................The pre-amp is the only item I "SETTLED" for at the time. that said again it is a very good pre.

 

I do have a PC upgrade on the way and am planning to go Linux running J-River.  I want to get away from windows 10, there constant updating and audio issues leave a lot to be desired

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5 hours ago, michaelwardjoines said:

My best sound is from the variable outputs of my CD player, tubed or other wise, plugged into an amp

 

I discovered that too, when I mis-wired things and ended up in that lane.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out why my volume control (on the preamp) didn't change the level.....  oops.

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My experience has been that the preamp is the more important and all things being equal, has more of an impact on the total sound than the amplifier as long as the amplifier can drive the speakers properly. I also prefer an active preamp over a passive unit. The passive preamps I have heard always sounded a bit lifeless and lacked impact. 

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I don’t think highly of the importance of Amps, personally, provided they produce enough current.  My main rig is a pair of linkwitz Orion’s (about $3k worth of parts) and I’m powering it w a whole house sonamp thing I got at a pawn shop for less than $200. Preamp on the other hand has been more important for me.  I’ve gone through about one a year for the last 8 years and had the occasion to hear quite a few more.  I’ve never heard an amp and thought ‘holy crap that makes all the difference’.  I have heard a Nelson Pass preamp and said that (also an Apt Holman at a very different price point)

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7 hours ago, joessportster said:

This is close to my order of importance. I have my best DAC's to date in house. Source is all digital off PC using J-River as software, Amps are SET 71a and Vincent st70, I also have a gain clone chip amp and an Italian made Aloia SS amp with an inductive power supply. My current pre is very good has a good reputation the Triode Lab AuPre Grande. Speakers are all OB high Eff. 

 

I just know through experience I have always preferred pre-amps using the 6sn7 output........................If I am able to afford a new pre in the near future, I want it to be end game.............................My amps, Dacs, and speakers are more or less there......................The pre-amp is the only item I "SETTLED" for at the time. that said again it is a very good pre.

 

I do have a PC upgrade on the way and am planning to go Linux running J-River.  I want to get away from windows 10, there constant updating and audio issues leave a lot to be desired

 

 

Sounds like fun.. It is hard to beat a 6SN7 for good reason an amazing tube. I also have a great stash of 6J5s which are exactly half of a 6SN7. I've thought of doing a 6J5 pre as well... A flea watt push pull 6SN7 would be fun as well maybe 4 per channel.

 

I put PC with DACs fortunately I am able to run a Mac Mini through my EAD Dac. It works better than expected. Tidal has also been a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm not sure I can say which is more important. I know I've had a lot more preamps than amps. I've had several solid state, tube and passives. To me they seem to make more of a difference. One thing I know fore sure, is that after all the swapping I'm quite sure I'll always have a 6SN7 preamp, unless I sell everything, buy an RV and listen only to the system in that. Who am I fooling, I'll find a way to stuff a 6SN7 in there some way. Close second is a good passive...but I agree they always seem to leave me lacking in the long run. I'm very happy wit the passive for about 6 months then I feel like it is too refined, too sterile. Something is missing. No matter the topology, quiet is job #1. 

 

A few years back I decided to simplify and sold most amps and all but one preamp. The one amp (actually amps mono blocks) I regret getting rid of were wright 3.5 2A3 but IIRC they also had a 6SN7 in them, coincidence?  I know you got them Joe and passed them on. Maybe you have a better ear than I or are better at dissecting the minute differences. I think some how the the 6SN7 is a needed bit of seasoning in the recipe.

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The technical coordination among each other and the matching of the components is important in my experience. Likewise, the choice of power amplifier in relation to the speaker.

Every time I tried something passive or for example connected a CD player directly to my MC275 Mk4, where I have controls on the RCA input, it sounded high resolution but without life, meat, timing, dynamics and drive. Likewise with power amps with high input sensitivity such as Leak Stereo 20 and an additional passive controller like a pot with a voltage divider. Unfortunately I have no experience with passive coils pre amps. I gladly do without allegedly higher resolution and love the "sound" of my C22 CE/ MC275 combination. The pre amp makes that the music has soul and the pre amp leads through the structure of the music piece.
On the question of which device should be a tube if you plan new, I would say the pre amp. But I do not like these minimalist design that do without a cathode follower. An exception is my EAR864 pre amp. It does the impedance conversion that a cathode follower normally does via an output transformer which also works ok. A pre amp should be active. My MC adaption to MM input is passive via coils.

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11 hours ago, rplace said:

I'm not sure I can say which is more important. I know I've had a lot more preamps than amps. I've had several solid state, tube and passives. To me they seem to make more of a difference. One thing I know fore sure, is that after all the swapping I'm quite sure I'll always have a 6SN7 preamp, unless I sell everything, buy an RV and listen only to the system in that. Who am I fooling, I'll find a way to stuff a 6SN7 in there some way. Close second is a good passive...but I agree they always seem to leave me lacking in the long run. I'm very happy wit the passive for about 6 months then I feel like it is too refined, too sterile. Something is missing. No matter the topology, quiet is job #1. 

 

A few years back I decided to simplify and sold most amps and all but one preamp. The one amp (actually amps mono blocks) I regret getting rid of were wright 3.5 2A3 but IIRC they also had a 6SN7 in them, coincidence?  I know you got them Joe and passed them on. Maybe you have a better ear than I or are better at dissecting the minute differences. I think some how the the 6SN7 is a needed bit of seasoning in the recipe.

Nice to see you Rich, Hope all is well in Street.  lost touch after our brief discussion of Oris 150's  (I am pretty seriously on the fence about ordering a pair of horns)

Take care..........................Oh and your ears are better than mine, I just seem to prefer the 6sn7 in a pre.

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If the recording sucks then sound sucks

If the TT or DAC sucks then .....

If recording is good and decoder good, but pre amp bad, then the sound sucks

If the first three are good, then it's the amp's turn

and finally there are the speakers.

 

The "tube sound" is from the pre amp, not the amp

ergo a tube pre and SS Class A are a good combo IMHO

This lets you tube and brand roll for amusement

 

For most apps 16ga lamp cord is just fine ....

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2 hours ago, Bubo said:

If the recording sucks then sound sucks

If the TT or DAC sucks then .....

If recording is good and decoder good, but pre amp bad, then the sound sucks

If the first three are good, then it's the amp's turn

and finally there are the speakers.

 

The "tube sound" is from the pre amp, not the amp

ergo a tube pre and SS Class A are a good combo IMHO

This lets you tube and brand roll for amusement

 

For most apps 16ga lamp cord is just fine ....

You had me right up to  "For most apps 16ga lamp cord is just fine" Now you know damn well cables make a difference 😁

 

I honestly think cables can be used for a final level of tuning, I have heard some that do alter the sound........................My system has never been to that FINAL level though 😒

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