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Headphone Amplifier which is better sound Solid State or Valve

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Greetings valued Audiophiles

I am still confused about Solid and Valve headphone amplifers I currently have a Grado sr80i, and HD 650. I am planning later on to upgrade to A Grado gs100i or HD 800. And what would bring out the best sound from these headphones A SOLID OR VALVE. Some advantages and disadvantages of each would be good thanks.

 

 

post #2 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by pranjith1993 View Post
Greetings valued Audiophiles

I am still confused about Solid and Valve headphone amplifers I currently have a Grado sr80i, and HD 650. I am planning later on to upgrade to A Grado gs100i or HD 800. And what would bring out the best sound from these headphones A SOLID OR VALVE. Some advantages and disadvantages of each would be good thanks.

Do you mean Solid State amplifier verses Tube amplifier?

Solid state is usually more reliable and lower cost.

Tubes add "warmth" and "soul" to audio, something to do with a second harmonic which the ear likes.

also Tubes change the sound when you put a lot of juice into them (for some reason this makes me think of Jimi Hendrix).

You can also change the sound by swapping tube(s), it only takes 10 second.
 

 

 

post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Do you mean Solid State amplifier verses Tube amplifier?
Solid state is usually more reliable and lower cost.
Tubes add "warmth" and "soul" to audio, something to do with a second harmonic which the ear likes.
also Tubes change the sound when you put a lot of juice into them (for some reason this makes me think of Jimi Hendrix).
You can also change the sound by swapping tube(s), it only takes 10 second.
I dunno about 10 seconds, but changing 4 tubes on my Little Dot MK IV took about 2 minutes.
post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobsama View Post
I dunno about 10 seconds, but changing 4 tubes on my Little Dot MK IV took about 2 minutes.

Well, time is relative.
 

 

 

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

sorry tube amplifer

post #6 of 24

Both implementations are good.  A smart man once said that a great amplifier is only built to remove itself from the chain.  A great amp will just reproduce the music, you won't be listening to the amplifier.  They are both trying to achieve the same goal in theory.  With my current knowledge although I'm not extremely intelligent or informed, I prefer tubes because of their simple implementation, and the fact that different tubes can optimize an amp for different phones is definitely a plus.  Mostly I just enjoy the simple design and the look of tubes in general.  The fewer electronics a signal passes through, the better.  That's why I feel tubes are superior.  I realize there is more to it, but I thought I'd keep it simple.  Solid state can do some very nice things as many people have found :)

 

Usually people prefer one or the other, and I'm pretty sure it depends on individual taste.

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by pranjith1993 View Post

Greetings valued Audiophiles

I am still confused about Solid and Valve headphone amplifers I currently have a Grado sr80i, and HD 650. I am planning later on to upgrade to A Grado gs100i or HD 800. And what would bring out the best sound from these headphones A SOLID OR VALVE. Some advantages and disadvantages of each would be good thanks.

 

 


Generally speaking - very generally - it sounds like you may want a valve headphone amplifier.  Both the Grado's and especially the HD800 are known for having some sharp highs.  There are reasons valve amplifiers "tame" the highs on such headphones, but the reasons are numerous and some explanations are controversial.

 

post #8 of 24

Controversial is one way of putting it.

I would advise a cheap SS amplifier and an equaliser in the face of strident highs: a lot less hassle IMHO. Tube amps are pretty though.

post #9 of 24



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomb View Post


Generally speaking - very generally - it sounds like you may want a valve headphone amplifier.  Both the Grado's and especially the HD800 are known for having some sharp highs.  There are reasons valve amplifiers "tame" the highs on such headphones, but the reasons are numerous and some explanations are controversial.

 



I will say I have found this to be true in my case.  Now granted, the only amp I used before my Woo was the SS amp built into my Xonar STX sound card, so take my comments into account with that info.......but....I like a bright high end anyway, so the HD800's never sounded overly extended to me anyway, but through the Woo tube amp, the highs are, more "polished" I guess you would say? And although I really liked the HD800's from the moment I listened to them, the introduction of my tube amp really warmed them up, especially the low end-there is just more presence to the bass now than before.  While still being a VERY accurate headphone, IMO, through the tube amp, my HD800's edged a little closer to the naturally warm sound my LCD-2.2's have always had.

 

post #10 of 24

I will second that. A good tube amp will be more mellow and "musical" than that of a SS amp. I find them far easier to listen to for long periods of time.

post #11 of 24

My take on this has always been it's cheaper to get a good tube amp than an equally good sounding solid-state. The majority of solid-states are built around op-amps and after a point even the amp in the $100~ish Zero will match any of it's counterpart op-amp cousins in sound when op-amps are matched. I've heard a couple of good solid-states; PS Audio GCHA and Lehmann Black Cube Linear stand out as coming close to my favorite tube amps. However the hungrier the headphone the greater an OTL tube amp will excel. There is also a tonal difference that can't seem to be matched by solid-states, such as I would consider a solid-state very digital sounding and a tube amp more analog.

 

Furthermore you can drastically change the sound of a tube amp through rolling tubes; this is another expense but in a way it's like a different amp with every combo. Switching tubes however takes a while as you have to let the tubes cool before switching them out and then give the new tubes a good 10 minutes to warm up.

post #12 of 24

This is a very common but quite loaded question, given the mythology surrounding the subject.

 

Ultimately, categorization of amps into "solid state" and "valve" or maybe a third "hybrid" category may not be that helpful in describing the sound, since the performance characteristics will really depend on the design and construction of particular amplifiers, no matter what kind of parts they use.  In practice, a lot of tube amps are designed in a certain way and may share some characteristics, so there are some trends, if not much more than that. In general, if you want a cleaner, less modified sound into most headphones at a lower price, solid state options have significant advantages.  If you want to try something else, then all bets are off.

 

One of the best posts I've seen about this issue is this:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/599128/tube-vs-solid-state#post_8195864

 

For a better answer, you may need to define "bring out the best sound" more carefully.


Edited by mikeaj - 3/5/12 at 2:57pm
post #13 of 24

I have both types of amps and I have a preference for my tube amp (but there's really excellent Solid state amps). To my ears, a tube amp sounds warmer, fuller, "smoother" and well... better in general. And they are unique and beautiful too... There's nothing like glowing tubes in the dark giving you a musical experience ;)

 

Solid State amps will last longer in general (no tubes to change), requires less maintenance, etc.

 

What I like a lot too about tube amps is the possibility to roll tubes to obtain different sound signatures. I installed a pair of new tubes this morning in my WA6, and I hear things I never heard before... the sound has a new dimension.  It's an exciting experience!


Edited by Myxomatosis - 3/5/12 at 9:34pm
post #14 of 24

I love tube amps and/but the biggest strength and greatest weakness is that they work best with an output transformer. An output transformers biggest weakness is low end roll off and only the very best transformers do this correctly. If price is no big deal then tubes every minute of the hour. Just pick one with killer iron.

post #15 of 24

In my experience, a solid state amp sounds bit more transparent, clear and neutral like. A valve (tube) amplifier adds warmth to the sound as well as more depth to bass making it punchy, to some people, they like regular solid states more then valve tube amplifier because it can (depends on the tube, whether its hybrid or not) can sometimes add a whole resolution of warmth to the sound produced. Also valve tube amplifier tend to cost more, don't last as long as solid state and often can sometimes be relatively expensive.

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