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Tube and SS amps.

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I searched through the science section, and was surprised to find very little on tube amps and SS amps. So my question to the most skeptical of you; is there a difference in sound between the two? And if so is it really a positive one?

After a bit of research, I have bought a pair of dt880s (600 Ohm), and was thinking about a Woo Audio 3+ to go with them. However I have only just come across the sound science section, and am back now backtracking quickly!

Many people claim that the dt880s go well with tubes and that the 600ohm version sounds better, but I'm now wondering if this has all stemmed from a single comment, or just some major placebo.

As each headphone has its own coloration, it makes sense that different colored amps can be beneficial to different headphones. But without being able to listen for myself to any equipment, I really need some good realistic advice on tubes and SS amps.

Thanks a lot!
post #2 of 47
FWIW, my Woo3 sounds pretty much the same as either of my two M^3 solid states, through my '03 880s or my 650s. My GS-1 is a little clearer in general and has more of a "holographic" sound (as in playing in a larger space) than either of the other 3. None of the amps mentioned sound dramatically different from each other, but there seems to be some subtle differences. Because of this I mostly prefer the GS-1/ Northwood combination with my '03 800s.

The source is probably more important than the amp and as a result I have been through a number of DACs, my current one being a Northwood 192 for my laptop rig and a Stello DA100 for my two Shuttle computers, because it has two optical inputs.

Another good thing, if you also want to listen to near field speakers as well as headphones, is a preamp out, which the Woo 3 and the GS-1 both have.

I move things around a lot, but right now, my Stello is connected optically to two Shutle computers and to both the Woo 3 and an M^3. The Woo3 is also connected to an Amp1 amplifier and Polk satellites, placed next to the main monitor, with the sub under the table everything is on. The Northwood is connected coaxially to a TV cable box and to the Laptop via a Blue Circle thingee and then to the GS-1 and another M^3.

Keep reading the Science Section, visit Hydrogen Audio and most of all go to a meet and hear things for yourself.

USG
post #3 of 47
My understanding is that there is a scientific basis for the proposition that tube amps could (depending on design) sound different because they introduce more distortion than SS designs. Whether that distortion is positive or negative is a subjective question. Objectively, more distortion = less fidelity. But the notion that the type of distortion produced by tubes is pleasant to the human ear seems have some validity.

See:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f11/eu...tortion-20139/

And I am reluctant to link to Stereophile, but this brief piece addresses the issue:

Stereophile: Euphonic Distortion: Naughty but Nice?

Perhaps the less technically challenged could chime in as to my characterization above.
post #4 of 47
there have been a few threads about tubes vs ss, but it would be good to agree on the minimum standards required for turning subjective evaluations into meaningful results

DBT testing with level matching shows some amps do have different sound - for reasons that can be measured and in principle equalized/compensated for or designed in(or out)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcx View Post
why does everyone jump to the ridiculous "straw man" extreme

DBT clearly shows that frequency/level response differences do cause audible differences - at level differences well below easy perception as volume or peaks/rolloffs per se

Other obviously audible differences are V,I clipping limits – a little time with truly dynamic music source at loud average levels will leave more headphone/amp combinations clipping more often than most people here seem to appreciate
and the Head-fi penchant for recommendations of “this really good amp” without regard to dynamic headphone’s huge impedance and sensitivity ranges - 16 - 600 Ohms, less than 90 to over 130 dB/mW

The only formulation of “all amplifiers sound the same” worth considering comes with at least these minimum caveats:

Adjusted to the same level/equalized where necessary to match frequency response into the specific load to within DBT established thresholds (~0.1 dB overall level match, relaxing at frequency extremes or for narrow frequency ranges of difference)

Neither amp driven to clipping

When these conditions are achieved then we can consider more subtle distortion issues – again a baseline is for distortion products to be low, of low order and to decrease with signal level – no underbiased Class B with crossover distortions allowed – very easy to avoid in headphone amps where Class A with high dynamic headroom only costs a few Watts

Amps with under sized DC blocking caps, output impedances differing by many % of the headphone’s nominal impedance, limited bandwidth signal path transformers all would be expected to sound different on the DBT frequency response match grounds alone – by hard core objectivist, “by the numbers” engineers – and they would consider such differences “uninteresting” and uninformative on the issue of whether certain devices or circuit approaches have different “sounds”


Quote:
Originally Posted by jcx View Post
there is some evidence that the main determinants of an amp's "sound" are the frequency response and output impedance - when not clipping

it is usually the case that ss amps are flatter in frequency response and have lower output Z than tube amps so it is relatively easy to modify ss amps in the direction of tube amps:

"the Carver Challenge"

diyAudio Forums - Blind Listening Tests & Amplifiers

which suggests nulling a higher power ss amp against your preferred tube amp at levels where the tube amp isn't clipping...
post #5 of 47
I have always been left dissappointed with high end audio. When I couldn't afford the expensive gear, I imagined how it would sound. I made some good money on the recovering finacial crisis in the stock market and had money plenty to investigate.

Never was I entirely satisfied with electronic reproduction of reality in anyway. One thing did give me a glimmer of stamina to stay in audio for a wee bit longer. I have found that valve amplification is indeed what some have noted. I feel that valve techniques can go further with closing the gap between reproduction and reality, more so than solidstate.

I am now believing that electrons travelling through the vacuum space of the tube is a closer represention to waves travelling through air. The medium in both instances is space, ie not solid or liquid. Elements traveling in space should have different distortion characteristics to solids.

These are my theories. Tubes all the way.
post #6 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by SP Wild View Post
I am now believing that electrons travelling through the vacuum space of the tube is a closer represention to waves travelling through air. The medium in both instances is space, ie not solid or liquid. Elements traveling in space should have different distortion characteristics to solids.
It's not such a romantic image when you look at the bigger picture.

After their exceedingly short joy ride through the vacuum, those poor little electrons end up getting their little skulls busted open slamming into the plate. Only after which they go on to produce the output signal.

So in reality, the sound of your tube amp is actually being produced by a bunch of brain damaged electrons.

se
post #7 of 47
LOL!
post #8 of 47
I was going to say that is not so much a theory as it is a poem, but I like Koyaan response better
post #9 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koyaan I. Sqatsi View Post
It's not such a romantic image when you look at the bigger picture.

After their exceedingly short joy ride through the vacuum, those poor little electrons end up getting their little skulls busted open slamming into the plate. Only after which they go on to produce the output signal.

So in reality, the sound of your tube amp is actually being produced by a bunch of brain damaged electrons.

se
Hi

Would it be alright if I asked you what you manufacture?

USG
post #10 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by upstateguy View Post
Would it be alright if I asked you what you manufacture?
Sure. Cables.

Why?

se
post #11 of 47
Unless we have credible double blind tests there can not be a difference.
Do not waste your money, buy the cheapest amp available, the one that comes in the ipod should be enough
post #12 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koyaan I. Sqatsi View Post
Sure. Cables.

Why?

se
I saw "manufacturer: Q" but I didn't know what it was.

This is really off topic but, what kind of cables and have you been making them long?

USG
post #13 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koyaan I. Sqatsi View Post
Sure. Cables.

Why?

se
LOL!

I like you KIS.
post #14 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by upstateguy View Post
I saw "manufacturer: Q" but I didn't know what it was.
Ah, ok. Your question ended with a smiley, and given my previous comment, I thought perhaps you were expecting me to say something like "solid state amps."

Quote:
This is really off topic but, what kind of cables and have you been making them long?
Interconnects and speaker cables, for about five years. Commercially that is.

se
post #15 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaken84 View Post
After a bit of research, I have bought a pair of dt880s (600 Ohm), and was thinking about a Woo Audio 3+ to go with them. However I have only just come across the sound science section, and am back now backtracking quickly!

Many people claim that the dt880s go well with tubes and that the 600ohm version sounds better, but I'm now wondering if this has all stemmed from a single comment, or just some major placebo.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that, in general, higher impedance phones, like the beyer 600ohm phones you mention, are driven better by amps that provide lots of *voltage* (i.e., tube amps), while lower impedance phones, like a 32ohm SR-60i for example, are driven better by amps that provide lots of *current* (i.e,. SS amps).

So there appears to be some science or physics behind it, and I doubt it's a "placebo." But there is also a lot of variation in amps, whether tube or SS, and also in user preferences, so in the end it comes down to what is best matched to something else and what sounds better to you.
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