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Bachelor Thesis - Breaking the Myth of the Audiophile: Valves vs. Transistors

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by deafmutelame, Apr 24, 2018.
  1. deafmutelame

    "In conclusion, the results of this project support the idea that so many audiophiles assert:

    tube based analog amplification technology is superior to transistor based digital sound reproduction.

    Even though analog technology is older, easier to break, and more expensive it excels where digital fails.
    This stark difference is due to the physic al nature of a tube and diode compared to a semi conductor transistor.
    Tubes overload with voltage in a way that is pleasing to the human ear. Transistors on the other hand amplify a signal similarly but the output sound quality is noisier and choppy due to the wave being distorted in a detrimental way that sounds unatural."

    Steven C. Campbell 5490829, Eastern Kentucky University

    Any thoughts or links to resources that conclude the opposite?
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  2. bigshot
    Tubes overloading and distorting sound better than solid state. Solid state generally sounds better than tubes as long as it isn't overdriven. So what you are saying is true, but only if you are pumping too hot of a signal through it. This is true of digital recording vs analogue too. If you keep the level in check, solid state and digital recording is easier, cleaner and better than tubes and analogue. It isn't all that difficult to keep things away from the red line.

    It's possible to design a tube amp to be audibly transparent when not being overdriven and sound just as good as a solid state one, but it would be more difficult and would most likely have less power.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  3. castleofargh Contributor
    the paper basically argues that tubes are better because they sound nicer when pushed into distortion. which is certainly relevant for a guitar amp and the distortion effects we want to create, but what does that have to do with audio playback? unless we're using our gears wrongly, we audiophiles are not supposed to push our amp into clipping.

    from a fidelity point of view, transistors are superior to tubes. not all audiophiles care about fidelity and many think that euphony is fidelity so they may prefer tube amps. also some tube amps do have high enough fidelity to sound pretty darn transparent. so it's the audiophile's choice. personally paying more for a system that degrades pretty fast over time and still tend to measure below transistor amps, that doesn't attract me. but that's me, a cheap guy living in a place where it's more often too hot than too cold. ^_^
  4. Speedskater
    While tube circuits can be designed with interesting euphonic colorations, accurate circuits can be designed with any technology. It can be argued that extremely low distortion circuits can be designed with semi-conductor technology at reasonable costs and probably not possible with tubes at any price.
  5. ev13wt
    Goes to show that BA these days is worthless.
    He got his BA with that, eh?

    Well then.

    "this is due to the fact that valves create a continuous representation of data, whereas digital amplifiers take natural data and warp it into a discontinuous expression. Digital technology breaks up the sound in a way that can often be picked up by the ear as broken or choppy"

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
    colonelkernel8 and Markfm like this.
  6. sonitus mirus
    Sounds like BS, not BA work. :ksc75smile:
  7. bigshot
    They should teach logic in schools again.
  8. bfreedma
    Perhaps the EKU Physics and Astronomy program offers a minor in Marketing?
    colonelkernel8 likes this.
  9. deafmutelame


    Why Tubes Sound Better


    For monitoring accuracy, of course use solid state, but when you want it to sound great for enjoyment, it's tubes all the way.

    Use solid state monitor amplifiers when you're producing music so you can hear exactly what you're laying down, but when you want to kick back and have it sound as good as possible when you're all done, tubes are it.

    When a transistor amplifier alters the sound, it almost always makes it worse. When a tube amplifier modifies the sound, it usually makes the music sound better.

    Crummier tube amplifiers will have more of the distortions that make tube amplifiers sound like tube amplifiers. If you really want to hear the "tube sound," get a TubeCube 7 (3 WPC, $180) and you'll hear how smooth, liquid and warm tubes really sound — but it only puts out enough power for desktop or background use.

    Source: https://kenrockwell.com/audio/why-tubes-sound-better.htm


    Timber, timber, timber!!
  10. bigshot
    I use solid state to provide an accurate baseline, then I add euphonic coloration using DSPs. With a DSP I can alter every aspect of sound and control it precisely. I don't have to mix and match tubes hoping to randomly come up with a combination that sounds the way I want it to sound. I don't think there is anything wrong with colored sound. I just would like to have control over the coloration.

    colonelkernel8, Markfm and ev13wt like this.
  11. deafmutelame
    Totally makes sense (to me at least). May I ask you, what do you use as a DSP?
  12. bigshot
    I've got a bunch of them built into my Yamaha AVR that I use with my 5.1 system. There is a thread here that lists a bunch of 2 channel signal processing plugins for computers and mobile players. It's got some great info about tube emulation.
  13. deafmutelame
    Thanks bigshot, I presume it's this one:

    Can tube sound be replicated via plugins?
  14. bigshot
    Markfm likes this.
  15. deafmutelame

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