Too many tubes?

Can their be too many tubes in an audio chain? Can there be too much SQ warmth?

Tube DAC into tube Pre-amp into tube Amp

I say no, but I haven’t a lot of experience with tubed DACs. Tubes do not always mean “warmth” in my experience.


“Tubes sound warm” is dogma to most audiophiles.

More like dog poo to me.

Many fine examples of neutral tube gear. My linestage for example would never be described as warm

I also run a tube dac which can be massaged either way with tube choices




And like all other dogma is often wrong.


Never owned a tube dac but being a tube lover and based on my experience with the Direcstream mkI I was a staunch supporter of the use of a good tube preamp in the chain. My repeated listening experience with this pre vs direct DS → ARC poweramp always led to the same conclusion; the use of the Ref6 SE definitely offers lots (!) more magic and control.

Recently I was fortunate enough to buy a Vivaldi Apex dac at a very attractive price. All sounded superb and given my experience with the directstream I was convinced it would not change my preference in using the Ref6. However after a few weeks enjoying my new toy I took the plunge and went direct Vivaldi → ARC Ref160S.

I was shocked about the result. More balanced sound, more air and holographic, tighter and better defined bass…without doubt a big step forward across the entire spectrum.

The Ref6 SE is a great preamp and I’m sure the tubes are not to blame. Yet with this system I got the impression the Ref6 may deliver enough bloom to the lower register making transparency in the mids and highs suffer.

Anyway, for me this is an extra gift as my Ref6 SE is now for sale (Netherlands, €10.000 for those interested;-)

Modern tube design doesn’t conform to the old syrupy, overly warm stereotype at all. I have tubes throughout my signal path (DAC excluded). Nowadays there is no too many tubes dogma.


I have only had experience with my tube amp for a few days and warm isn’t a word i would choose to describe mine. More fleshed out and more grit and texture is what I hear. I also notice it is unforgiving of poor recordings. I listen to my library in random mode and “oh hell no” and a quick skip to next happens. That never happened much with the Rega solid state amp it replaced.


Yes a tube based system can be a wonderful thing, as can a solid state system. IME the key is component synergy, matching speakers that provide your preferred illusion with simpatico components. Patience in that regard is well rewarded.