I was at work for my last posts, being paid to not look at audio reviews and not read OCN so I wasn't really clear with some of my info.
"Stereo analog out" from your sound card is no better than taking a digital audio signal to an external DAC where it is then processed into an analog signal and presented to your pre-amp and power amp sections. In fact, is completely inferior when compared to an external DAC. There is nothing that will counter this argument. When you say that you wanted was analog, I don't think you're going into the direction that you really believe you are. A tube amp being fed an analog signal from your sound card is really not an "analog" system. It is a digital system that is processed by your sound card and fed to an external amp. The external amp is not a bad thing, but relying on a sound card to process the digital audio to analog is a really poor choice.
Something like the TEAC AH-01 is going to do the same thing that your sound card is doing. Albeit at a much better quality. The sound card and the TEAC AH-01 have a DAC chip inside of them. The DAC chip is fed a digital signal from the digital music files that are on your computer. It then converts that signal to an analog signal and feeds it to a pre-amp section and finally a power amp section. It does this all in the same device. There is an analog signal being handled and transported, but none of it is done within your computer. A PCI slot on a computer, and an ATX power supply in general are incredibly noisy when their electrical signals are scrutinized. These add unwanted noise and distortion to the analog audio signal as it is processed and fed to the other amps.
My argument is that with the TEAC AH-01 you will get a better quality audio signal than what your internal soundcard is going to provide because it is simply a better technology and better piece of equipment. It also provides you a compact unit which is nice to have in a small bedroom system. It also provides clean and reliable power from the same unit. To REALLY scrutinize things you can argue that having your DAC, preamp, and power amp sections all in the same box are really going to hurt your audio quality and I agree that it will. But what you gain from that is a small and simple package which I think holds great value for this application. Feeding a really cheap tube amp with a poorly converted analog signal from a sound card is only asking for a poor resulting sound quality. A tube amp might sound like a cool thing and I can assure you it is. But a bad tube amp is not a good thing at all! And for under $2000 you cannot really find a good tube amp that is worth buying when you consider the alternatives that are available in solid state.
The amp I posted (I think you are referring to the Rogue Cornus Magnum?) is made in the USA by hand and is an all tube pre-amp and power amp. It also has a tube phono stage. These things all contribute to its high cost and resale value. They also are the single biggest factor contributing to its excellent sound. This amp has an awesome phono stage which is typically not included on amplifiers that fall into this class. It ads incredible value to this amp.
The TEAC AG-H600NT is a good unit that will also give you a phono stage so you can use a turntable for analog records. It has a pretty decent one for its price range as well. I think this would be a great value for your application. I don't think the AH-01 has a phonostage so this might be a better option. The TEAC CR-H500NT
is a cheaper alternative that still has a phono stage and a CD player. I think this would be a great option as well. For both of these products you will have to use your sound card as the analog source, which it seems you really want to do. So I think these would be really nice for what you want to do.
Also note the TEAC AH-01 has a subwoofer out pre-amp! I think this is pretty cool.Edited by Greg121986 - 1/31/12 at 3:39pm