Over the last few years, and after talking to a bunch of audio engineer / designer types, I've generally come around to a more numbers-oriented, blind-testing based, objective view that was espoused by the Audio Critic (and now by people like NwAvGuy). There are plenty of threads here (and all over the web) about the 10 biggest lies in audio, but I want to ask a question about Lie #2 -- the vacuum tube lie. Aczel claims that tubes are a scam, and can only sound better than solid state if (a) it's a figment of our imagination (i.e. placebo) or (b) it's a deliberate pleasing coloration that solid-state designers could easily match if they wanted to design a product that is unfaithful to the music.
Is that generally thought to be correct? I've had a bunch of solid-state and tube amps through my system, and the tube amps have generally sounded better to me. I am a big fan of the Benchmark built-in amp (in fact, I've kept the Benchmark after comparing it to the Phoenix, Phonitor, GCHA, Heed, Auditor, GS-1, and probably many more solid-state amps), but honestly, the Zana Deux and the MPX-3 that I've had for a long time before selling them were much better sounding amps. I guess I can't say for sure that it wasn't placebo, but my HD800 was almost unlistenable on the Benchmark, whereas it sounded amazing with the Zana. And if that's indeed coloration that I'm hearing, and that coloration does make the tube amps sound artificially more pleasing, why aren't more solid-state manufacturers replicating that sound?
I guess I had two rookie questions: (1) is the Audio Critic correct that tubes are an obsolete technology and that anything tubes can do solid state can do better; and (2) what tube amp manufacturers, or which specific amps, do you think are "tubes done right" from a scientific perspective, or does such a thing not exist?
Edited by seacard - 2/23/12 at 6:00pm