Okay so the Dared DV-6C is not a pure tube amp, but a hybrid multichannel amp with Class A tube pre-amp stage and Class D digital amp output. It replaced my Pioneer Elite SC-05.
If there's anything to complain about the amp is the cheap spring clip terminals. Banana plugs, spades, and 12+ ga wires won't fit. I had to remove 1/3 of the strands in my 12 ga bare wires just so they'd fit in the hole. That probably effectively turned them into 16 ga. wires. I don't know if shaving off wire strands affects the sound negatively, but if it does I couldn't hear it.
I also had problems getting the sub to play nice with the Dared initially. I read that if you had your source decode the sound via multichannel analog, the sub level is cut by 10 dB. This is usually boosted by the receiver during playback, but since there's no receiver in the signal path the user would have to boost the LFE signal by 10 dB manually. So I dialed up the sub 10 dB to anticipate this signal attenuation. When the ring drops at the beginning of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING I thought my couch was about to explode. It took 2 hours of see-sawing between Avia and the bluray player's internal test tone to get the sound balanced out. I had to keep dropping down the sub level until -10 dB (!) to get the bass to sound just right. I guess the LFE level from the player is already accurate out of the box. I think it's a bit too low now but it's good enough for now and I'm just exhausted from all the set up. I'll play with the bass level some more this weekend.
So a lot of the set up problems had to do with getting the wires to fit inside the amp terminal and calibrating the sound level between the sub and the bluray player.
Now that that's out of the way, I am left with one source (Pioneer BDP-51FD) and one amp in my HT. The bluray player is doing all the decoding of all audio codecs.
What I lose from taking the receiver out of my rig (accurate room correction, simplicity of use and set up, seeing "DTS-HD Mstr" light up when I watch bluray), I gain in a more natural and realistic sound with bigger soundstage and sense of envelopment. There's more ambient sound and low level detail that makes the soundstage deeper and the overall sound more immersive. Now I know what people mean when words like "3-D soundstage," "presence," "sweet tube sound" get thrown around.
Now as you all know, the SC-05 is no slouch. In my rig it replaced 80 lbs and 115 lbs 200 wpc amps with no loss of dynamics or sound quality. But at 35 wpc/8 ohm, this little amp is just as dynamic and does things with the sound that the ICE amp couldn't. I'm thoroughly impressed and happy.
This time last year I'd laugh at you if you told me that I'd be using tubes in my HT, but now I'm already looking at various NOS tubes to upgrade the sound even though the stock 12AX7 Shuguangs aren't even broken in yet :D What stopped me dead in my track is the price of those NOS tubes, which leads me to my question. Are there any current production tubes that could come close to the sound quality of NOS? I'm looking at Mullards, but wouldn't mind trying other tubes that have the same warm sound signature and fidelity.