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Newbie question: Difference between Tube and Op-amps ?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Which one is for what purpose ? I remember from somewhere that the normal amps are more neutral ...can someone explain it ? Thanks
post #2 of 7
Tubes are a practically "ancient" technology that pre-dates solid state integrated circuits or op-amps (but that in no way implies they are inferior because they are older). Tubes are literally little glass domed objects that plug into the circuits of tube gear. There are a million different kinds, shapes and sizes of tubes. Tubes ultimately wear out and have to be replaced. This can get expensive if you want the good old tubes which are disappearing rapidly.

Op-amps are tiny little solid-state wafer-like devices with prongs that attach to the circuit board. Until recently, most op-amps sucked, the chief benefit being their relative cheapness, and compact size, but they've come a long way since and can sound dazzling in the right circuit.

You cannot substitute one for another-- an amp is either designed for tubes, or for op-amps.

It's impossible to make generalizations about tubes vs. solid state. Each amp, each circuit will sound different, whether it has tubes or op-amps being just one factor in determining the sound.

That said, tube-o-philes generally like tubes for their delicious euphonic sound, it's very musical and seductively intimate, but in some cases perhaps not strictly "neutral". OTOH, I don't think it can be successfully argued that solid state devices are inherently "more neutral"; they can also have a signature sound of their own, which can be more speedy, more impactful, edgy, and possibly more detailed.

Again, these are very broad generalizations that shouldn't really even be made.

Maybe others can elaborate. Gotta go. Bye.

post #3 of 7
Once you go tubes, there's simply NO going back to solid state
post #4 of 7
How are op-amps used in solid state amps?

I am an electronics newbie.
post #5 of 7
Originally posted by Musicfan123
How are op-amps used in solid state amps?

I am an electronics newbie.
Op-amps are simply used to amplify -- they're mini amplifiers on a chip that require certain support circuitry to work properly. 'Discreet' solid state amps don't use op amps, but instead use larger, full size transistors, resistors and etc. to do the amplifying (and plus the support circuitry for a discreet amp section as well).

The main benefit to a discreet design over an op-amp based design is that you can plan the circuit more carefully and possibly build a better one -- an op-amp is like a "module," a complete amplifier in itself that has certain unchangeable characteristics, and you have to design the rest of the circuit around it. A discreet design can be a lot more carefully done, because the building blocks (individual transistors, etc) are of a smaller size -- basically you need a whole bunch of stuff to do what that one small op-amp did, but you can do it your way instead of the way the op-amp does it.

Dunno if that's what you wanted to know or not...
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies they explain alot
post #7 of 7
A perfect amplifier will amplify all input equally, and thus some of the best amplifiers sound a bit disappointing -- they don't improve the sound at all -- merely make it louder.

Some people prefer amplifier that subtly distort the input. Tube amplifiers are famous for giving a "warmer" sound -- that is, boosting different frequencies at different rates. It is very easy to emulate this with a straight solid state amplifier, and there are instances of people building amplifiers that add "color" -- namely distort in the way that tube based amplifiers distort.

One thing to note about tube based amplifiers is that vacuum tubes are highly susceptible to changes based on their temperature. This means they need to "warm up". This was the case with most audio equipment in the 40s and 50s and even 60s -- you needed to keep the unit powered on for an hour before it reached a stable configuration. It is also true that all electrical components (even resistors) change characteristics with temperature -- but in reasonably designed solid state electronics, the change is usually very small.

Some people like the "look" of tube based equipment as well, and then their is the pleasure of owning something that is a bit anachronistic or against the grain of what most people own. Many modern hi-fi designs that use tubes highlight them for this purpose (consider for example, some of the Shandling CD players.)

Finally, vacuum tubes burn out from time to time (although most modern vacuum tubes have exceptional lifetimes) whereas solid state electronic components often fail much less often. I remember in the 60s in stores there would be "tube testing station" people could use to test whether their tubes had failed or not.
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