I have never considered myself an audiophile; perhaps a weekend warrior with a passion for technology at best. But, I heard a sound so sweet yesterday that has made me reevaluate my priorities.

The sound came from a pair of Quad ESL speakers hooked up to a conrad-johnson Premier 17LS tube pre-amp and a Quad CD player, but it was none of these that made the sound so rich, so full, so deep. It was the amp. A tube amp nevertheless.

As a techno junky, I have always been skeptical of tubes. After all, the technology has been around since my dad was a kid. So, dare I say naively, I confined my search for an amp to solely solid state. Who can blame me? The specs are better, the sound quality can be wonderful, and the prices are a bargain (relatively speaking).

It was yesterday that I took a trip to the local high-end audio store to continue my hunt for that illusive solid state amp that would knock my socks off. I auditioned the conrad-johnson MF2500, C-J's 2x240watt SS amp. The sound was smooth and non-fatiguing, but lacked in certain ranges. At least some instruments seemed more subdued than others. As an experiment, the sales-assistant disconnected the pre-amp and speakers from the amp and plugged them into the C-J Premier 140, a tube amp with 140watts into two channels. The sound: sweeter than anything I have ever heard.

Tchaikovsky was powerful, the instruments had noticeably more texture, and the soundstage was vivid and detailed. Jazz was rich, smooth, and lively. I can honestly say that I have never heard a better sounding amp and my skepticism of tubes has diminished. I know there's somewhat of a cultish following for tubes (and a group of skeptics to match), and I certainly don't mean to get anyone riled up. Just recounting my experience and awe.

Well, now that my lovely story has been told, there is another issue that is pressing my mind. My original intention was, and still is, to build a home theater. I would use the system solely for music, however, the rest of my family will be using it for a 5.1 HT. The c-j Premier 140 sure as hell ain't cheap, so to build a 5.1 system around 3 of them would be prohibitively expensive for me, and probably somewhat impractical. So finally, would it be a sin to mix that wonderful c-j 2 channel amp with a multi-channel amp from, say, Rotel? Mixing SS with tube, not to mention brands? The question is not whether it would work or not, because I'm sure it would. The question is if the tonal, timbre, etc. qualities would noticeably differ. Is it even worth it?