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I own a counterpoint SA-1000 hybrid preamp. I know that hybrid means the use of tubes and transistors but how does this effect the sound? Is this type of circuit better than all tube or all SS? The designer must have found some benefit to this design. Thanks for all replies....
And the Amps work a little different. My NPS-400 has Tube input and SS output.
Counterpoint gear is very good.
They are just another design. There is no direct correlation between being a hybrid and their sound and quality. There are many hybrid designs too.Its just different from all tube or all transistor, not better or worse. Better or worse comes from actual circuit design and parts quality the same way all four cylinder engines are not the same as or better than a six cylinder or vice versa. Think of a several $100K plus F1 four cylinder vs a hum drum 80's Chevy V-6.
"If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking till you do suck seed" - Curly Howard 1936
I have heard no ss preamp sound as round, 3-d, "natural" as a good tube preamp. I have heard too few hybrids to know if those differences can be reduced to zero, but I suppose that that would depend on where in a circuit the transistors are deployed. Mind, the few hybrids I've heard (back when) did not persuade me. Note, though, that the foregoing is merely my personal sense of my personal experience -- I make no scientific claims.
Testing one right now (KR-P135) that sounds very nice indeed. Transistors and tubes have different characteristics but can be made to work well together in the hands of a good designer.
Excpet for an in built phono and convenient source switching options.
Why.. would anyone even consider.. yet another Contraption.. in the source path ?
Want Excellent? Look in here and consider a transformer volume control as passive Pre
.. : http://www.intactaudio.com/atten.html
AND if you have goofy impedence issues degrading your passive attempts? Buy a Pass Labs B1 buffer (50$)
Seriously unlikely spending a wheelbarrow of $$ will gain much beyond Bragging rights.
But then that's most of the motivation .. Ain't It :-)
there are many reasons to use an active and full featured preamp, too many to mention. I wouldn't want an Intact passive cuz I want a remote. I use a Placette. Multiple inputs, tape monitors, phono and so on are other reasons besides gain and impedance matching.
"If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking till you do suck seed" - Curly Howard 1936
.....but I would say to also look at an LDR. Better performance than even TVCs.
Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you.
- Winston Churchill
I bookmarked that and some day I plan on building it.
To answer the question no it's not a better design. As has been said there are plenty of designs that in all likelihood will each have their respective advantages and disadvantages and the more money you throw at each of them the smaller the disadvantages become and the greater the advantage.
So in theory a tube amp may have more noise but it may provide more ambiance than a SS preamp - if you throw more money (better parts quality) at it then the noise in the tube amp reduces greatly while perhaps the SS pre will sound fuller and less like an x-ray of the event.
Just a few days ago I compared two identically designed tube amplifiers at around $8,500 and $20,000US for several hours. The only difference between them was the latter had pricier parts inside. The first amp was terrific. The second preamp was really surprising to me in the way it seemed add "the breath of life" to the music. The first was outstanding high fidelity preamplifcation - the latter was "whole" and just special that I will probably buy. It's just a matter of whether I want to pony up the extra $5,000 for the on board phono stage or buy one separately.
The question isn't - is SS better than Hybrid or tube or hybrid better or tube better. It's when you sit in the chair - does it all melt away and you sit in the chair enchanted and beguiled by what you're hearing. If it does this it has succeeded.
Another poster made the perfect point as to a preamp not being noticed but being noticed when it's not there.
I would add one suggestion as a bit of an alternate that is the Music First Audio Baby Reference which is a transformer passive preamp. Jack Roberts on our staff hailed it as the best preamp he has ever heard by any one at any price. And I believe an ex Stereophile reviewer also claims it as the best preamp he has ever heard. The advantage of this thing is that it doesn't require a power cord and if you move a lot like me - it will work anywhere in the world - no voltage to have to consider - and no noise in theory too. The only complaints I've heard is that unlike the best active preamps it doesn't have the weight or big dynamics but alternatively some find it cleaner and more neautral. Maybe a bit more truth and a little less beauty - depends on what you like. I hope to hear one at the California Audio Show in July.
I am in the market for two very good preamps and the Baby Reference is really intriguing to me. Can't wait to hear it.
for over twenty years. From my perspective, they provide the most cost effective combination of high gain and low noise while using triodes in the circuit. I use a mid output MC cartridge and like the ability to drive it with a standard two stage design while still being dead quiet.
At the top end of the line, however, Audio Research employs heroic designs that address the noise issue, but end up with massive dual mono power supplies and output stages. My single box SP20 uses four 6H30s while the REF10 / REF Phono 3 combo uses fourteen (in the signal path alone) in a four chassis package.
Aside from the tubed phono section, my Sp-15 is solid state (with a separate power supply boxed same as SP-10 and SP-11)
If I was in the market for a new preamp. The Audio Research Sp-20 would be the top of the list item.
The SP15 was tops in its day.
I'm very pleased with the SP20. It was optimized for use with balanced connections which is how I with an ARC DAC and VTL power amps.
If I were to choose to obsess over one thing about my ARC pre, it would be the single triode tube in the phono section that stays lit up and aging no matter the input source I am using. Be it the tuner, CD, or tapes, the phono tube is always hotted up. And these days, the tuner is my most frequent input.
I would think that it could be possible to have a switch to control this action, though I haven't ever see a preamp have it.
The other thing I have gotten over, is ARCs recent and current pricing structure. ARC is no longer "in the picture" at all in my world. I'll be happy with what I have until I croak.
That is a good idea. If someone did that, would probably make sense to provide a phono standby switch. In addition to the tube warming up to start conducting, I have noticed with tube equipment, 20 minutes or so the sound continues to improve.
there are two 6H30s in the phono section of the SP20, but hasn't that always been the case with single box, full function preamps?
I'm pretty sure a 1981 all tube SP6C that predated the SP9 MKIII kept the three phono stage tubes on regardless of the input selector position. No biggie.
As already mentioned, a good design using tubes, transistors or both is fine.
My own personal opinion, and we ALL know how much this is worth, is that a preamps function is to be invisible. A preamp should mainly buffer. Since newer sources seem to already put out 2 plus volts. And if need be amplify and then select a source.
But basically you should NOT be hearing a good preamp. However you should know when you don't have it hooked up. I'm using a CJ Classic 2Se. I like it A LOT!!!. One day I tried hooking up a few other preamps I had kicking around. Holy cow, once you use, and I wouldn't say listen to because again you shouldn't be hearing a good preamp, you really can't go back to a coloring preamp.
So basically good is good no matter what the design philosophy.
The benefits were (to Counterpoint anyway) that it was a cheap design to produce. Using FET's was less costly to produce than all tube models. Mike Elliott's all-tube designs are a whole other story.
The Counterpoint 3.1 preamp was a really nice sounding preamp. Once upgraded, the level of this preamp went up a few notches. I wish I still had that preamp.
I still have a Counterpoint SA-1000 that is fully tricked out. That preamp is right there with the 3.1 preamp.
I hear the Counterpoint 5.1 preamp is the best that Mike Elliott ever made. I had two Counterpoint SA-3000 preamps and sold after a few months, I just couldn't get into their sound. Totally different from the SA-1000 and SA-3.1 preamps. Even the SA-5000 preamp wasn't all that sound wise.
What I really like from Counterpoint was their built in phono stages. Some of the best I have ever heard.
Yep. I spent 20 odd years with an SA3k that I upgraded more than once before I finially gave up on it. His SA11, SA9 designs along with his Aria WV's are his best works, but I also have a real appreciation for the 5.1. Simple, tubed and affordable. One of the all time greats.
....subsequently made the hybrid designs and then, when he started Aria Audio, went back to pure tube designs. So the hybrid designs are not a reflection of some overall philosophy, but his thoughts at a given point in time. And that time was long ago.
There are many fine solid-state designs, hybrid designs and pure tube designs. So more than one way to skin a cat. IMHO the way that the power supplies are implemented probably has a greater contribution to the resulting sound than the audio circuit topology, just my two cents.
This article touches on the design advantages an older ARC hybrid preamplifier:
Tubes are awesome voltage amplifiers. Transistors are awesome current amplifiers. When you have a hybrid, they will usually be using the transistors to create a low impedance drive circuit.
In the end, the topology does not matter if the amp does not sound good. The SA-1000 was known as a good sounding preamp, not a "warm tubey preamp".
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