Tube Preamps that work well with SS amps?

I'm looking for a tube preamp after years of strictly SS. My amps will remain SS. Which tube preamp(s) in your experience mated well with a SS amp? I'm trying to avoid the odd phenomenon where tube preamp + SS amp = slow, soggy sound in spite of benign impedance characteristics


What's wrong with your other thread asking basically the same thing a day ago?

What’s wrong with your other thread asking basically the same thing a day ago?




Use the force, Luke.

and this comes from a member that starts new threads all the time 😀




you have started these posts and have mentioned that you use class A and A/B amps but not one time have you said what amps they are?   don’t you think it would be helpful to mention what amps you use as i am sure a member(s) could them chime in with tube preamps that have used that were good or bad with the amps you have.     


I use an MSB S-200 SS power amp and a Herron Audio VTSP-360 tube preamp. They go very nicely together because both are very neutral and uncolored. The tube preamp neither looks nor sounds like a piece of tube gear, and the power amp will amplify whatever is sent to it without coloring it, drying it, moistening it, or anything else. The speakers or headphones supply whatever coloration I might want. 

OK, I want to hear about those specific instances of tube preamp + SS amp = soggy sound?

"I want to hear about those specific instances of tube preamp + SS amp = soggy sound"

Yes, of course. If you put the tube amp on the bottom, under the mayonnaise, the sound will be very soggy. If you put the SS amp on the bottom, it is hardly soggy at all. 😉


Hi Greg, I'm currently running a Backert Labs Rhumba Extreme preamp with Pass Labs XA 30.8 amp. These are pushing a pair of Audio Note AN-K's. I also have a Sonnet Morpheus DAC in the signal path when using my streamer and CD transport. I've had this set up together for about 3 months now and am very satisfied. 

It’s the other way around. You want a SS amp with higher input impedance to work with a tube-preamp. 100kohm is a good input impedance to look for but as low as 40-60 kohm may be fine. My combo is Audio Research sp16 pre to bel canto ref 1000m monoblocks. See system pics.

It has always been my opinion that mating a tube preamp with a solid state amp of the same company typically provides the best synergy.  I have experienced this with both Audio Research and McIntosh n the past.

mapman +1,

although was going to say Audio Research SP-3 through 16. I have had great results with all of them.  While I wish I still had the SP-3a, I still and use a SP-9 MKll.

All the best.


I would have started a new thread too without using "The Force" (...LOL).

Anyway I was an Transistor Guy, then tried All Tubes but to my ears. Tube input/GaN FET output has been my best combo. PS Audio DirectStream DAC Sr. feeding a BAT VK50-SE driving an Orchard Audio Ultra Amplifier. Maybe not to everyone's liking. But I'm done searching. 

Speakers are next.......No Vinyl....No Problems

I’m using a JJ 243 tube pre amp with a Pass Labs XA30.8 and like it very much.

I have EAR 868 with Threshold SA1 monoblocks powering Focal 1038 and the end result is quite good for my ear. 

I have an ARC Ref 5SE as pre and two MBL Noble N15 as monoblocks. The amps are class D and was pleasantly surprised with the combo once I installed new tubes in the pre amp and silver plated interconnects to get the right (to my ears) balance of detail and warmth 

the PS Audio - BHK Signature Preamplifier is a very good pre by the way.
It uses valves in the input stage I believe?

McIntosh C220 into an Arion Audio S500.  Even with a 15 foot run of IC between them, I get great, non-soggy sound. But it's not earbleed bright, either, thank goodness.

Cary Audio SLP 05 driving a Pass Labs XA25.  Perfect match and wonderful sound.  

@rixthetrick . I would have bought the BHK used but it’s lack of lack Balanced outputs (only one pair) was a showstopper. An excellent Preamp but the BAT 22 years ago (and now of course) gives you 2 sets of variable fully balanced XLR outputs and a pair of fixed XLR outs. I needed this setup because one variable pair feeds my Orchard Ultra Amp. The other variable pair feeds my Stereo Subs via a pair of 1000W ICE Amps. The fixed outputs feed my STAX hybrid Amplifier for my Koss E-Stats.

I've used a Don Sach Model 2 preamp with an old 

Carver TFM-35. Sounded really great. 

Never heard a tubed preamp / ss amp that sounded soggy. I ran a Audio Research Ref 5SE with a Pass x350 for many years. No song, sounded good, But of course replacing the Pass x350 with an ARC Ref 160s tubed  amp put the whole system on a much higher plane… no song here either.

I Have used ss pre and power for years and years and....recently decided to give tubes a try.

Was using a krell pre and krell 2250 power amp plenty of current to drive my tannoy D700s

So got the chance of an Audio Research Ref3 pre (new tubes) and all I can say is should have done it years and years and get the drift.

The Krell combo was dynamic and detailed but the Ref3 has transformed my whole listening experience to another level; more live sounding, engaging, without loosing any dynamics or detail....wonderful !!  

Let's frame this question another way.  Other than when there is an impedance mismatch between them, are there any other circumstances under which a tube preamp + SS amp combo will not work well?

McIntosh MC500 and C2300 tube preamp. Also an Mx110z and MC30s both of which are tubes. A tube amp and preamp doesn’t necessarily produce the results you’re are referring. 

An Audible Illusions 3A worked very well with my Adcom 555 and Meitner STR-101.

Other than when there is an impedance mismatch between them, are there any other circumstances under which a tube preamp + SS amp combo will not work well?

@twoleftears  The main issue is probably how well the preamp does in the bass. This is an impedance issue, but its the impedance of the preamp at 20Hz, not 1KHz, where output impedance is usually measured. With most tube preamps the output impedance rises as the frequency goes down; at 20Hz it can easily be several times higher than its 1KHz value.

This is part of why solid state preamps might play deeper bass- they may have a direct-coupled output. You can have a direct-coupled output with tubes too; there are only two preamps I know of, the Atma-Sphere preamps which have a balanced output, and the Messenger which has a single-ended output.

I have been using a Sonic Frontiers Line 2 with both Bryston 4BST and a BAT VK655SE.  No issues either way.  Both sound wonderful, but different.  The BAT lacks the imaging and impact of the Bryston.  Yes i was Very Surprised especially about the dynamics.  The BAT is mellower and maintains it's composure at very high dB's.  I am driving Maggie 3.7i in a large room with high ceilings.   

+1 Schitt Freya+. Nicely designed and built, not crazy expensive, selectable tube or passive mode (tube circuit disabled when not selected) and sounds stunning through a Krell KAV-250A into a pair of Polk SDA SRS gen1. Just my opinion.

I’ve changed amplifiers, solid state as well as tube over the years and what has lasted in my system is the Cary Audio SLP-05 with the Ultimate Upgrade and Cardis Wiring. Hands down, the best I’ve owned and believe me I’ve owned some serious hi end SS & Tube Preamps. Check the reviews. Oh and if you want one of the baddest headphone amplifier from a preamp, look no further. Incredible with my Audeze LCD-4’s.

@twoleftears, Tube pres are more likely to have a higher output voltage that could be going into typically more sensitive ss amps; reducing the effective range of the volume control. Tube pres are less likely to have the balanced outputs that are more commonly found on ss amps than on tube amps. Tube pres are less likely to have DC coupled outputs which could protect ss amps from tube pre capacitor failure problems. 
 The above mentioned Atmasphere and Sonic Frontiers are somewhat uniquely qualified for use with ss amps in that they are low output impedance, DC coupled and fully balanced.


7,070 posts

You may want to read the reviews I forwarded I. My comments. This is not the problem with Cary Audio and Auduo Research. I’m sure that there are other that don’t suffer these issues as well. Owning the preamps gives you the opportunity to prove otherwise. 

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Don Sach Model 2 preamp, unless you want to spend a lot more on your preamp. 

Just curious on this one. I run a Terry DeWick upgraded  McIntosh  MC250 which I like alot powering Ohm Walsh 200S3s with an Acurus RL11 of 12 as pre. I have felt the ss pre could be a weakness and had it upgraded but still wondered if a tube preamp would take it to another level? This makes me wonder more. Anyone?

A 2nd on the EAR 868. Designed to work into a 600-ohm load, dual single-ended and balanced (via designer Tim de Paravicini's renown transformers) outputs.

@joekapahulu Acurus was a great value version of Aragon, but cut some corners to keep the prices modest. There's a good chance that a better preamp would be a huge upgrade, whether it be SS or tube. For example, many top models have separate power supplies connected by an umbilical. 

You could research what other owners of MC250 have found synergy using...guessing their replies will be heavily numbered towards Mc obviously. 

This is far from the first time similar questions have been asked. You have a lot to gain searching archives for those threads and then ctrl-F "MC250". Cheers,


314 posts

Funny, the OP never replied back here since the first post.

And he probably won’t.

To the person who responded immediately above, sure I will respond if necessary. I’m just patiently reading. I’m just gathering information here. I didn’t mean to post two versions of the same topic, by the way. This was meant to address something that was said in the other topic, i.e., tube preamps that somehow DON’T work well with SS amps in spite of benign impedance matching. Who knows, maybe it’s an input sensitivity and/or gain issue in those instances.

Friends and I who are long term Supratek preamp users have found they work well with most SS power amps including Krell,Threshold,Accuphase,Rotel Michi,Dartzeel,Audio Flight,Nakamichi,Musical Fidelity,Naim and Pass Labs.