Haven't found any decent writeups on tube amps here. Do people not like these much? What do you all recommend?
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Regarding amplification in general theres almost a 2-party political system thats been in place since the founding fathers battled for freedom in the head-fi nation. One side is "Wire with gain" on the other there's "Color and flavor". Each party will vehemently defend themselves against attack from the other... or so it seems, and the designers and manufacturers are the ones catering to these general preferences. So which party are you in? Or are you like me... somewhere in between? There are benefits no doubt to all 3 sides of the fence.
I like tube amps for the color and flavor. I LIKE their type of harmonic distortion, it makes music FUN. Whatever fun, energy and excitement the musicians put on tape... I find it to be amplified by tubes and the distortions they introduce to the mix.
There are however times when that gets in the way, and I just want a wire with gain... I want to hear what the musicians put on tape without obstruction. I want to hear what my headphone presents in the cleanest way possible. For that I strongly prefer a solid state circuit.
Enter the Tube / hybrid circuit. Best of both worlds...IMHO. Tube distortion with solid state current buffers feeding the tubes. In hybrid circuits the balance between the 2 parties can vary greatly... and the designer can VERY effectively achieve a GREAT sounding, happy medium between the 2 distinct types of sound. I absolutely love my millet hybrid... an awesome amp for the $$$. What I love most about it though is that I can "safely + easily" tweek the bias voltage to introduce nearly as much harmonic distortion as I please. With tubes running at higher voltages ~13.5 it comes very close to a warm sounding solid state. At lower plate voltages~10.5-11V, where I frequently prefer.. its VERY tubey sounding, near-matching my all-tube OTL amp.
Things start to cloud though as you scale up in $$$$. There are SUPER accurate, non-coloring tube amps that rival anything in the solid state realm, and conversely there are solid state amps that are nearly as colored and flavored as tube amps... as the designer picks components to flavor the solid state sound.
So... its a BIG world out there, LOTS of great designs and great sounding circuits. The journey STARTS with YOUR EARS... get out and demo, listen try and form an opinion based on what you want to hear from your rig.
I don't like to generalize, because for every "rule" there are exceptions and that is no different here. BUT, generally OTL amps like high impedance loads, and lower impedance cans generally perform better with solid state, hybrids or non-OTL circuits.
Whats your price range?
What headphones do you already have that you plan on keeping?