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I am trying to gain an understanding of pros/cons of tube, versus solid state, what make the stuff high end versus mid/low end. What are the measurable performance parameters?

Here is a pretty good discussion of this subject. A little technical in some areas, but readable. I'd say that most of what people like about tube amps has to do with four things:

1) the glow (i.e., the novelty and camaraderie of ownership)

2) typically high slew rate

3) the introduction of "their own sound"

4) typically lower amounts of higher-order harmonics than SS amplifiers due to absence of feedback in their design

Bad things about tube amps:

a) they heat the room (as do all other Class "A" amplifiers)

b ) the tubes must be replaced on something like a yearly cycle (which varies by how much you listen to your system - but I really don't like this part).

c) they take a very long time to fully warm up.

d) they introduce "their own sound"

e) continuously drifting tube performance for each tube

f) lots of harmonic distortion that turns into modulation distortion, thus making multi-instrumental recordings sound opaque when the volume is turned up

g) high output impedance, which interacts non-linearly with your loudspeakers, including low and high frequency roll-off

Back to your first question at the start of this thread: I think that these articles are very good

.

Chris

Edited by Chris A
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I am trying to gain an understanding of pros/cons of tube, versus solid state, what make the stuff high end versus mid/low end. What are the measureable performance parameters?

Here is a pretty good discussion of this subject. A little technical in some areas, but readable. I'd say that most of what people like about tube amps has to do with three things:

1) the glow (i.e., the novelty and camaraderie of ownership)

2) high slew rate (e.g., SET amplifiers)

3) they introduce "their own sound"

Bad things about tube amps:

a) they heat the room (...as do all other Class "A" amplifers...).

B) the tubes must be replaced on something like a yearly cycle (this varies by how much you listen to your system - but I really don't like that part).

c) they take a very long time to fully warm up.

d) they introduce "their own sound"

Back to your first question at the start of this thread: I think that these articles are very good.

Chris

I am trying to gain an understanding of pros/cons of tube, versus solid state, what make the stuff high end versus mid/low end. What are the measureable performance parameters?

Here is a pretty good discussion of this subject. A little technical in some areas, but readable. I'd say that most of what people like about tube amps has to do with three things:

1) the glow (i.e., the novelty and camaraderie of ownership)

2) high slew rate (e.g., SET amplifiers)

3) they introduce "their own sound"

Bad things about tube amps:

a) they heat the room (...as do all other Class "A" amplifers...).

B) the tubes must be replaced on something like a yearly cycle (this varies by how much you listen to your system - but I really don't like that part).

c) they take a very long time to fully warm up.

d) they introduce "their own sound"

Back to your first question at the start of this thread: I think that these articles are very good.

Chris

Regarding the comment above about tubes needing replacement on a roughly yearly cycle, I totally disagree! In a properly designed amp, which runs the tubes within safe operating parameters, and which receives proper ventilation, operating life often exceeds 10,000 hours which equates to more than a year if the amp if left on 24/7!!! Given a more typical use cycle of maybe an hour or two/day, the tubes may never need replacement.

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Regarding the comment above about tubes needing replacement on a roughly yearly cycle, I totally disagree!

It's always wise to put something in your posts that people can disagree with...[;)]

Chris

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I will be the proud owner of '84 Klipschorns this month. I primarily play 24/96 vinyl rips (DVDA) using a Panasonic RP91. Some folks state tubes are the way to audio enlightenment

The following is mostly opinion:

When I acquired Khorns (which have almost the same midrange and tweeter drivers/horns as the rest of the Klipsch Heritage line), I noticed that they tended to set my wife's hearing on edge. I experimented with amps, EQ and acoustic panels for a short while, and came to the conclusion that the Khorn was unforgiving of room acoustics, and perhaps to a lesser degree its driving electronics. However, instead of investing in tubes, etc., I invested in Jubilees (see profile), and the problems just disappeared

(edit--18 Oct. 2011: Well, not quite - I placed a fair amount of Auralex acoustic absorption tiles at the front of my room to achieve the imaging that I was looking for, and this continued my quest for superior imaging performance without "graininess". I'm also about to receive a First Watt F3 amplifier (JFET class "A" single-ended design) for amplifying the top-end of the Jubs' and change the TAD TD-4002s sound a bit--hopefully for the better, without the downside of tubes) . My wife came back into the room to listen to music and watch movies once again.

I have a theory that some Heritage owners buy tube gear to compensate for this effect. I look at this situation sort of like buying one piece of non-linear gear (tube amps/preamps) to compensate for another piece of non-linear gear (full-range corner-horn-loaded speakers in acoustically bright rooms). You may have other opinions - and that's fine. The high efficiency of the Heritage speakers allows for the use of low-power tube gear. One doesn't need hundreds of Watts of amplifier power - just a few Watts at most.

I've never looked back on my decision to invest in Jubs: better than expensive autos or pricey vacations, the total enjoyment that I've gotten out of them has been one of the best decisions that I've ever made. And I still own the Khorns--upstairs in a smaller HT.

Chris

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Does anyone know a good building a tube amp reference book?

I think the book(s) by Douglas Self are pretty good, but require some understanding of the basics of electronics. Here is his web site that addresses some of the "subjectivism" above.

Chris

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With objectivism, there isn't much to the hobby.

This is pretty black-and-white... I believe that there are shades of gray here. Some people like 1960s-era British sports cars; me--a Honda S2000. I don't like working on things that don't stay fixed for long. Maybe it's because I know that things can be designed to not break (...the engineer in me speaks now...): I just don't put up with short MTBFs for stuff that I own, I own enough stuff that already needs maintenance that I don't want to take the time to fix--because it dilutes the time spent listening to my system. When I put the horn-loaded subs into my system last fall, it took me several weeks before I even shortened up the wires to fit properly. Looks mean very little to me - it's the way it sounds that matters most.

However, I believe that the only thing that causes people to want to change things is dissatisfaction, and what I hear sometimes is very difficult to put a finger on. I like to listen carefully over long periods of time, and this usually leads to tinkering. I am still dissatisfied with things on my system, just in different ways than a few months ago...

Chris

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