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Are Tube Amps better than Solid State Amps?

post #1 of 95
Thread Starter 

I've never used a tube amp before. I was thinking of trying out the Hifiman Ef-5, and if that doesn't workout ill just stick with the my JDS Labs O2 :)

post #2 of 95

I think there is more than a little risk of this becoming a rather heated valve v solid state thing :)

 

In US you call valve amplifiers "tube" amplifiers.

 

I don't think there is a simple answer to the question. I can say that imho the best amplifiers I've heard have all been solid state. There are however excellent valve amplifiers I know. I think the negative things about solid state amplifiers are perhaps easier to resolve than the negative things about valve amplifiers.

 

 

 

 

 

post #3 of 95

People like tube amps for their warm, smooth sound.  Coming from the very neutral and analytical O2, a good tube amp will probably give you a very new sound that your not used too. On a technical note...

Tubes:

-provides better voltage (better for high impedance headphones)

Solids:

-better at providing current (better with low impedance headphones)

 

It basically comes down to what headphones you are planning to use imo, or if your craving the traditional tube sound.


Edited by MadMolly - 1/12/13 at 7:51pm
post #4 of 95

I depends upon how a tube amp is built. It can be warm sounding, cold or very neutral. I have built tube equipment and always went for and achieved, neutral. I do not like warm tube sound. It glosses over music and takes away the life of the sound, IMO.

post #5 of 95
Quote:
Originally Posted by MadMolly View Post

People like tube amps for their warm, smooth sound.

 

That "warm smooth sound" is even order harmonic distortion which many valve amps unfortunately suffer from.

 

The problem with that "warm smooth sound" is that if the amplifier produces it then you cannot get rid of it, so everything you listen to will have that applied to it.

 

What about music that is not intended to be either warm or smooth?

 

Personally I think that if an amplifier is producing a lot of harmonic distortion then you will tire of it after a while. You might start wondering what the musicians actually intended the music to sound like :)

 

In the late 80s and early 90s I had valve amplification for my main Hi Fi system. One day I was listening to some music on a friend's system and I realised my CDs and LPs sounded far better on his system than mine. His system cost 1/4 of the price of mine. He had a solid state amplifier and I was, in fact, pretty certain that this was where the area of improvement was. So I bought the same solid state amp and replaced my valve amplification with it. How much better my LPs and CDs sounded, and the solid state amp cost 1/4 of the valve amps.

 

I had got into valve amps then a lot and I had found all that valve swapping ("tube rolling" in US) and suchlike to be interesting. However the reality was the valve amplification I had was producing a great deal of even order harmonic distortion (the "warm smooth sound") and I had become sick of it without realising it until I played my records on a friend's system without that.

 

So, while I will say that there are very good valve amps (with low harmonic distortion), I think that if you get one that is producing that "warm smooth sound" you should beware that you might get sick of it after a while.

 

These days I like Hi Fi to simply reproduce what is in the recording. I think that the music making should be the job of the musicians. The Hi Fi should be as transparent and neutral as possible.

post #6 of 95

I believe the solid state design is more versatile and most solid state amps can be used with any headphones. Some OTL tube amps have high output impedance which don't play well with IEMs and low impedance cans.

post #7 of 95

One way of looking at this question is to rephrase it:

 

"Are Amps With Swappable Parts Better Than Amps in an Impenetrable Box?"

 

I have spent time with a Singlepower Tube Amp (@blessingx's) in my own home fed by my Benchmark DAC that softened and sweetened the HD600 but didn't seem to fully extend. (Still nice.)

 

I have also spent time with a Woo 6SE Tube Amp (@shipsupt's) in my own home fed by my Benchmark DAC that HARDLY altered the HD600 or my Grados even with different tube combos. (Would be HARD pressed to A/B blind out of a line-up.)  So close to the DAC1 headphone-out, why bother? (My opinion only. redface.gif)

 

Have also spent time with the 300-ohm HD600 out of a McIntosh 2105 amp and still want this combo for myself...why???

 

(The Benchmark makes it easier for me to tell how much a tube or SS amp is doing to the DAC-section analog line-out because the DAC1 is supposed to have a "neutral, solid state" headphone-out amp with a well-known/measured, neutral/bright signature.)

 

Recently swapped out capacitors in my Super 7 tube amp and it DID make a difference in a VERY significant way (to me).  As much as changing tube combos.  

 

So...part-swapping and messing around with different parts is for some people and not for others?

 

But, aren't swapping out headphones and amps and sources and music/recordings/mastering editions different ways of swapping out "parts" too?  bigsmile_face.gif

 

 

This is why the original question gets a little sticky:

 

Are there differences in Output Transformers (if the tube amp uses them)?

 

Are there differences in Capacitors (if the Tube Amp or Solid State Amp uses them)?

 

Are there differences in Tubes?  (If you buy a Sylvania light bulb made in 1950 and one made today do they look different when plugged in? Or two of the "same" 1950's light bulbs purchased from different Ebay sellers?)

 

Are there differences between Solid State Amps that use MOSFETS or JFETS vs. those that don't?

 

Are there differences in amp circuits using feedback or not?

 

Are there differences in Solid State amps that use "discrete parts" vs. opamps?

 

Are there differences in methodology when limiting DC from the amp outputs?

 

Are there differences in Power Supplies to the amp sections?

 

What if I have a hybrid of Tube Gain and SS Output?  Do I have advantages of both types of amplifiers?

 

What if I have a Grado RS-1 (low Ohm) vs. a Sennheiser HD650 (high Ohm)?

 

Is a high-impedance output better than a low-impedance output?  What if I have treble-happy, 300-ohm HD800?

 

What if my DAC outputs 2V vs. a DAC that outputs 6V to the amp?

 

What if I have hearing loss due to age (normally affecting high frequencies such as 14kHz-20kHz)?

 

What if I hate room reflections -with speakers and my space- that muddy the sound and the struggle to hear detail so I have been checking out headphones?

 

What if I hate treble peaks and resonances in my phones that feel like daggers in my ears and make me keep my music down to the point that I can't feel/hear enough bass?

 

What if I have had a lot of caffeine and can handle loads of treble when I get off work vs. coming home exhausted and needing to relax?

 

What if I listen to harsh/brittle recordings?

 

What if MY PHONES are NOT FLAT + HAVE RESONANCES in certain areas and also react in different ways to all of the different amp choices/parts above?

 

What if my preferences for bass, mids, or treble change?

 

What if my music/recording preferences change?

 

What if I learn to hear more stuff because I can't stop reading Head-Fi and paying attention to stuff?  (Dammit. wink.gif)

 

 

Okay- there is no way that you can fit that in the thread title, I agree.

 

But I might have liked someone to post the above questions in this kind of thread 3 years ago because now I think that <all> of these questions need to be answered by an amp designer (and sometimes a modder or DIY'er or amp/headphone buyer).

 

Yes, some changes will get you "warmer" and some will get you "colder".    "MARCO"..........."POLO"!!!!!    wink_face.gif

 

 

Who was it that said, "if it measures the same but SOUNDS DIFFERENT- you must be measuring the wrong things"?  

 

I think our "similar-but-different" ears interacting with our "similar-but-different" brains and "definitely different" preferences/lifestage can make this a journey of trial-and-error and "fun in the hunt".

 

beerchug.gif


Edited by CEE TEE - 1/13/13 at 2:53am
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post #8 of 95

According to the luxman official twitter, in 2032, there will be only tube amps and digital amps (solid state amps may disappear).

https://twitter.com/luxman_japan/status/289541808453730304

post #9 of 95

Somebody let me know if none of this PS Audio stuff makes sense (I don't have the PS Audio PWD Mk2 DAC "in-house" yet).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diseree View Post

According to the luxman official twitter, in 2032, there will be only tube amps and digital amps (solid state amps may disappear).

https://twitter.com/luxman_japan/status/289541808453730304

 

http://www.psaudio.com/paulsposts/2012/12/13/digital-amplifiers/

http://www.psaudio.com/paulsposts/2012/12/18/fry-eggs/

http://www.psaudio.com/paulsposts/2012/12/19/strokes/

http://www.psaudio.com/paulsposts/2012/12/22/analog-coding/

http://www.psaudio.com/paulsposts/2012/12/23/9181/

Reply
post #10 of 95
Quote:
Originally Posted by Diseree View Post

According to the luxman official twitter, in 2032, there will be only tube amps and digital amps (solid state amps may disappear).

https://twitter.com/luxman_japan/status/289541808453730304

 

Well, that twit is saying "there is even a speculation that maybe it will become only tube amps and class-D amps after 20 years" and that seems to be a conversation with a tube lover...


Edited by kn19h7 - 1/13/13 at 3:37am
post #11 of 95
Thread Starter 

 i love the dynamic sound of the hifiman he-400, it sounds so engaging and fuller sounding to my ears. After i got my He-500, it felt kinda boring on my JDs labs o2. The He-500 are one of my favorite headphones, but i want that similar dynamic sound like the HE-400. Hopefully the Ef-5, or emotiva mini a-100 will give me it. But i thought a Tube Amp would really make my ortho's come alive. ALIVE!!!! ITS ALIVE!!!

post #12 of 95
Thread Starter 

I also read some where that alot of people who play electric guitars prefer a tube amp than a solid state amp anyone has a take on this?

post #13 of 95
Do you play an electric guitar?
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post #14 of 95

"Hopefully the Ef-5, or emotiva mini a-100 will give me it"

 

The he-6 with the Emo-mini ,might???...be, an even better solution

post #15 of 95
Quote:
Originally Posted by Poetic View Post

I also read some where that alot of people who play electric guitars prefer a tube amp than a solid state amp anyone has a take on this?

 

Many guitarists like to overdrive the amps to get a specific distorted sound. Tube guitar amps are easier to overdrive and sound better when they are over driven than SS guitar amps.

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