WRT the OP, the fact that tube amps impart character to the sound means there is distortion. Distortion isn't inherently undesirable (and in some cases, such as the "buttery" tube sound, or guitar effects, is very desirable), but anything other than flat reproduction is, in fact, distortion.
That said, something I was blown away by was how the quality (?) of the phono preamp apparently impacts the sound of vinyl records.
I built a kit preamp with the view to connect my Connoisseur turntable to my home theatre amp (an upper-mid range Sony 7.1 system), and was disappointed by the resulting sound. It didn't matter whether I was listening to my older pressings with decent dynamic range, or the newer remasters with all their compression applied, the sound was lifeless and almost muffled. I have a Luxman L-3 integrated amp with a proper phono input, and with the same source and speakers, the sound is more like what I'd expect. For shits and giggles, I connected the Tape Monitor output from the Luxman to a line-in on the Sony, and was surprised that my records still sounded great.
I don't know whether this is simply a quality or design issue with the kit, or if the Luxman was applying the so-called RIAA EQ curve at the preamp stage, but the difference was night and day.
VogonsDrivers.com | Link | News Thread
[retro swim] | Link | Release Thread
Regular silliness on Twitch!! http://www.twitch.tv/RetroSwim (8PM Mon, Wed, Sat AEST)