Jump to content

To both the Tube and SS crowds...

Manuel Delaflor

Recommended Posts

Here we go again - SS verses tubes! FWIW my take is really quite simple. Subject to:

1. The music you listen to.

2. The speakers you run.

3. The listening environment.

4. Your personal preference.

5. The source type.

6. Probably many other factors I cant think of right now.

You will discover that either SS or Tubes suit your desires.

I have heard similar systems that blew me away using SS amplification (for example a pair of Final 0.3's driven by I think Audio Note monoblocks and an Audio note pre-amp) and systems that sounded comparitively poor (Final 0.3's with an Electrocompaniet integrated amp).

I can cite similar for Tubes.

My read. There is no overall winner and space in the market for both approaches. In my listening room, with my music and my speakers I prefer the tubes I have over the SS amps I have tried. I would further be most surprised if I could match my tube sound with SS amplification for anything like the price I paid.

I could, of course, be wrong - in the area of audio I have changed track so often it is bewildering!


My System: http://aca.gr/pop_maxg.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

maxg writes: "I have heard similar systems that blew me away using SS amplification (for example a pair of Final 0.3's driven by I think Audio Note monoblocks and an Audio note pre-amp)

Hey Max, as far as I know, Audio Note does not make a single solid state amp. Indeed, they actually concentrate almost totally on Single-Ended tube amplification, although they do get into parallel SET. The are most famous for the $69,000 Ongaku single ended amplifier wired completely in silver including transformers. The do have PP designs but have achieved most of their fame from SE.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets post this again-


When double-blind listening experiments are performed, any perceived differences between well-designed tube equipmentequipment that measures well in testand modern transistor amplifiers can be shown to be unverifiable, if an experiment is run with enough trials to be statistically valid.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The next paragraph of the same article:

***Still, as Charlie Kittleson explains, "To many music lovers, tube amps add more realism, excitement, and dimension to prerecorded sound. Solid-state amps can sound two-dimensional and are typically harsh and less musical." According to tube loyalists, Kittleson says, "tubes color the sound warm; solid-state colors it cold and brittle. People buy these huge 500-watt solid-state amps, and they wind up pacing around their apartments or their New York townhouses, feeling something is missing in the music. Then they go over to somebody's house and listen to a little tube amp, and they're sold. And it's not just because tubes glow in the dark or look cool, although that's part of it too."***

This message has been edited by paulparrot on 09-09-2002 at 06:03 AM

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I am sure you are right - its just not what my ears tell me.

Therefore there are 2 possible conclusions:

1. Believers in one or other of the 2 technologies are deluding themselves,


2. There is something inherently wrong in the test procedure.

I remember an advertisement for Maxell tapes claiming that in dbt's no listener could distinguish between their tapes and CD. Maybe its true - maybe it is the test procedure.

I am not claiming there is something wrong with the procedure, just that there might be. A few issues that spring to mind that may or may not have been catered for in the procedure are:

1. Audio memory. Mine is fairly bad. I find that I can retain a sound for less than a minute in my head and so comparisons that make longer pauses do not work for me.

2. Familiarity with the music / systems under test. I am much better at spotting (apparent) differences in my own system and listening to my music than I am with other people's systems listening to their music. For example I have 2 copies of DSOTM on vinyl, one produced in France and one in Greece. I prefer the Greek version and have on 2 ocasions sat down and thought "Oh crap - I put the French one on by mistake" and strangely I was right each time. Of course I have no idea if I missed the same issue at other times.

3. Time. Sometimes I make a change that does not immediately strike me as an improvement or particuarly even a change. When this happens I tend to leave the change in place and see how things develop. This happened most recently with my phono stage (which I mentioned in another post). At the time of replacement I thought there might be a change but a subtle one, and was not sure I prefered it. Now, having given the thing some time on my system (a week) with regular playing I can say that, for me, it has made a positive improvement.

Of course all of my "evidence" is very anecdotal and would not stand up to even the most gentle scientific investigation but I will stand by one of my statements, namely:

I have not yet found an SS amp at or near the price of my tubes that matches the sound. For reference my previous SS amp was a very respectable Accuphase E211 integrated amp (at twice the price of the tubes). Not only did it not sound good to my ears it seemed to be unable to drive the Heresy's anything like as well as the tubes bottoming out at 63 Hz as opposed to 47 Hz for the tubes at my listening position.

I can see no reason in the specs why this should be so - it just was.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My personal feeling is that, while SS amps of quality certainly exist and might even work well with horns, VT amps will generally cost less and perform better for our big ol horns.

As to double blind (with apologies to MH), I've come to believe them to be of little value. I started down that trail reading some years ago of a DB test that took place during the acoustic era. Your basic real/recorded violinist behind curtains with listeners out front. You guessed it-couldn't tell which was which. That makes it a least APPEAR that DB results are largely based on prior conditioning. This was confirmed for me through a decade of decreasing listening during my all CD era. Being sold on "perfect sound forever," I was conditioned to believe that the LP was obsolete and inferior, and the the CD was state of the art and superior and that all CD players were essentially the same. What I did not realize is that a 150.00 CD player and a 150.00 TT are NOT equal.

I believe that those out there who can accurately detect minute system differences have learned to do so after decades of training themselves to that end. That's a good thing...we need "wine tasters." But most of us do not need to become that acute, and our wallets and wives are very happy with that.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

obviously there is a wide range of opinion on the subject with perhaps some nuts on the fringes, perhaps me...I, for one, find some tube amps quite allureing in my current setup though I recently had a friend bring by a 2A3 based amplifier to audition in my system and did not really like the sound, kinda limp in the bass for my tastes with a slightly muffled top end as well...ANYWAY, I have the ole EL34 PP amps and love them! I also liked the sound of my McIntosh SS amp with my setup but it was entirely too powerful for the task. I am sure there are amps of both ilks that sound great in certain systems, it seems to me the trick is to find the mix that works for each and every one of us individually. The Stereo Review crowd says all SS amps sound the same so forget auditioning, which seems nuts to me, since I can hear differences between SS (like my daughters old panasonic receiver, it sounds unlistenable when hooked up in my system). I also hear differences in interconnects and speaker cables, some people tell me I am nuts to claim to hear anything different about the cables, but these same people often also claim to hear differences in SS versus tube amps or between amps of the "same sex", so we have the "Great Debate". Starts to sound like a religous potpurri...Love long and prosper! Enjoy the music! Get yer ya yas out! Tony

This message has been edited by sunnysal on 09-09-2002 at 12:06 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What 2A3 amp was this and what preamp was driving it? All 2A3 SET amps are not created equal, just as all PP tube amps are not created equal as well. The highest quality SET amps optimized in the right system (and this system integration is much more important given the nature of the circuit and the interaction with the speakers and upstream components), are anything but rolled off sounding. But depending on parts, caps, transformers, and the circuit, many difference can exist. I find SET amps to be extremely sensitive to parts matching/quality as there are so few parts within. But the Moondogs, for intance, have a very controlled and taught bottom end with excellent extension, and very natural extension at that. The Wright Sound 3.5 have a slightly less powerful bottom, but a very nice midrange. The two examples have differnet output iron with the MagneQuest DS-025 outputs adding a lot more heft compared to the MQ TFA-204 outs. Still, I would say the Wrights have perhaps a more beguiling midrange than even the Moondogs. Although I think the Moondogs sound better ultimatelyk with a slightly more neutral sound, not to mention with excellent low end and clarity, a clarity that is one up from the Wrights in some aspects. Throw in a pair of Bottlehead Paramours and you have a whole nother sonic picture.

It's the midrange that really holds a lot of the key to musical reproduction in my opinion. And the midrange of SET amplifiers is second to NONE no matter what the topology, tube or solid state. This is just from my experience; I love many PP amps as well although it's hard to go back in your main system once you have heard this at its finest.



Phono Linn Sondek LP-12 Valhalla / Linn Basic Plus / Sumiko Blue Point

CD Player Rega Planet

Preamp Cary Audio SLP-70 w/Phono Modified

Amplifier Welborne Labs 2A3 Moondog Monoblocks

Cable DIYCable Superlative / Twisted Cross Connect

Speaker 1977 Klipsch Cornwall I w/Alnico & Type B Crossover

Links system one online / alternate components / Asylum Listing f>s>

This message has been edited by mobile homeless on 09-09-2002 at 12:16 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I have no doubt you are right, that SET at its finest gives an experience that might be seconded by none. But since these WERE Bottlehead products and the preamp was my same rebuilt Marantz 7T (I wanted to minimize changes in the system to maximize the focus on the amps only) I ha modest expectations and I am sure I was not giving it the best chance, all that could be done was swap amps. But, as I said, I wanted to see, in my system, what a SET amp sounded like. These didn't "make the cut", that doesn't mean I have written of SET amps nor that I doubt the veracity of the SET crowd here BUT with my existing ancillary equipment, in my room, with my music I liked my PP amps (and even my McIntosh integrated) better in that comparison. I guess my point was that many roads lead to audio nirvana and that rarely do two people's taste match on this issue. I guess I have come to feel that audio component selection and preference is more a matter of taste than science. That science can help describe or model but never completely capture the listening experience, so why rely on science to solve the problem? I let me ears do the walking and I am enjoying very satisfying listening these days. Could my system be "better"? without a doubt...will I continue to buy new components trying incrementally to improve my listening experience? without a doubt. SS, SET or PP, turntable, CD or SACD, frequency extension 20 to 20...I guess these have become secondary issues for me, relegated to the level of mild interest from real passion due to my satisfaction with my music as played in my system. Life is good, is it not?...regards, Tony

This message has been edited by sunnysal on 09-09-2002 at 02:46 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites


In my opinion, a lot of still unkown subjective and objective factors are involved in the listening process. I tend to be an "objectivist" but can't deny that there are not a reliable way to measure any set of characteristics to do a map about such terms as "accuracy", "detail" or "lifelike sound".

One should listen before having an opinion. If somebody says all amplifiers sounds equal, and all he has done is read internet posts, something is very wrong.

Specifically speaking about tube amplifiers, one should go and listen some gear, preferably really hi end equipment, and only then decide if they like SS better than Tubes.

But I think this will be difficult... cwm35.gif

This message has been edited by Manuel on 09-10-2002 at 10:08 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...