Tube vs Solid State Amps
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Jack C

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UE,
 
That's not a fair assessment you've made there. The discussion here is around electronics as a whole, not individual parts. Faulting an IC for being sensitive to ESD is like faulting vacuum tubes for being easy to break when bumped together.
 
Out of the three issues you mentioend, ESD and heat are the most common and these are so easily mitigated in modern electronics that they are rarely a concern. Modern solid state electronics are designed to deal with ESD and a heat environment that fits within a practical range. A piece of gear that is prone to damage from ESD and heat from normal use is simply poorly designed - not a fault of the solid state technology. For applications where radiation is an issue, there are solid state parts designed specifically for such applications.
 
Your Kon-Tiki example does not prove what you are using it to prove - it's an anecdote that doesn't indicate a general trend. A few months ago I poured a cup of coffee into my notebook while it was turned on. I completely disassembled the computer, washed all the parts in hot water, blew most of the water off with compressed air, and baked the electronics it in a convection oven at 150 degrees for 2 hours. The computer then booted up just fine and I've been using it ever since. What does that prove? That I am lucky? I am sure that's the initial urge here.
 
Your personal experience is also anecdotal. While there are tube gear that has held up well for decades, there are also solid state electronics gear that has held up well for decades. 
 
In some ways, tube-vs-solid-state is not really a fair comparison anymore. Some of the reliability limitations of solid state gear comes from complexity rather than the use of solid state components. Tube amps are by nature very simple, whereas solid state amps are typically built with many additional features - even relatively simple monoblocks are built with additional features such as balanced inputs, advanced fault detection and protection, and remote power/standby controls. A purely vacuum tube based amp with the complexity of a modern monoblock amplifier would be exceedingly complex to build. There are of course modern vacuum tube amps that offer similar features but these additional features are implemented with solid state circuitry - so would that be the worst of both worlds in your eyes?
 
Chips are not impossible to find after a few years, they are hard for consumers to find, because they are not desgined to be consumer replaceable. For the most part, modern electronics are designed in modules. When something on a module goes bad, the entire module is replaced rather than a part, because this often costs less and places less of a demand on the skill of the technician working on the repair.
 
Jack
 
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Frank I

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Quote:
Well there is also this http://home.comcast.net/~jafix/Mig_salley.html. Russian new how to make endurable aircrafts.  And there is still tube gear running in Fallout. Computer game for you illiterates.
 
However if we talk about service without maintenance solid states outclasses tube amps I would recon. I have yet to have a solid state amp go bad on me. As for my tube amp well it was delivered with a faulty tube that worked initially but went bad. Got spare tubes to go with it thankfully. No fancy tubes but they cost over 30$ a piece which is quite insane!
 
If your solid state die in 20 years you have saved up for a new one seeing what you saved on tubes,
 
 


I have used tube amps for 15 years and had no breakdowns with the Cat Sl1 MK11 preamp and the CJ Premier 11A was flawless for the 12 years I owned it. If you buy from reputable tube dealers your tubes should not fail and if they do they fail usually within the 90 day guarantee I get from my dealers. I only got one dud in the 15 years because i buy from the same  reputable dealers as always. When I had the Little Dot Mk11 I used it 1 yr straight over 10  hrs daily and tubes were still fine. I think IMO tubes amps are more musical and have better transparency with no SS glare or edge.
 
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rgs9200m

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The magic of tubes to my ears that all the detail, frequency extension, speed and impact of music is preserved with less annoying hardness, shrillness, scratchiness, or ringing that mars inferior systems
that have not been muffled by over equalization to hide these things.
 
In short, I hear truth without pain. So with tubes, lots of times you can have your cake and eat it too.
 
This is possible more or less with solid state, but at much higher prices (like Pass or Dartzeel amps in the speaker world).
Fine tube sound can be fairly inexpensive.
 
(I have a B52 amp.)
 
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post-7102466
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voodoohao

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Interesting to know such information about the solid state amps...
 
But what I'm curious about is does the rolling of tubes really have that much difference in the sound? Assuming there are two different amps, a Darkvoice 337 and a Little Dot MKIII, both which uses exactly the same tubes, what then will the difference in sound be? I'm thinking the darkvoice would have a better sound than the little dot due to the price difference, which is like three times the little dot's price. Also if comparing tube amps within the same family, let's say a Darkvoice 336se and a Darkvoice 337, if the Darkvoice 336 has very good tubes while the Darkvoice 337 has stock tubes, would the sound signature produced by the 336 be better than the 337? 
 
 
So what I'm trying to understand is that does the sound signature of tube amps come from purely the tubes, which is what I'm inferring from the many threads in this forum dedicated to tubes, seems to me that tube rolling really makes a significant impact on the sound.
 
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InnerSpace

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Quote:
 
So what I'm trying to understand is that does the sound signature of tube amps come from purely the tubes, which is what I'm inferring from the many threads in this forum dedicated to tubes, seems to me that tube rolling really makes a significant impact on the sound.

Assuming a decent circuit well executed with decent parts, a tube amp's sound depends on two things: tube quality and transformer quality.  We focus on tubes because we can swap them in and out easily and (relatively) cheaply, but generally we're stuck with the stock transformers.  Well-regarded tube amps usually have costly custom windings, often with custom wire, over well-judged cores, which creates a high baseline of transparency, bandwidth, and dynamic range.  That's always relatively expensive (but conversely a high price tag doesn't guarantee great transformers.)  So ... if you start with a decent circuit well executed with decent parts and good transformers, then the native sound signature can be fine-tuned by tube rolling, usually with significant impact, often with sky's-the-limit potential.  With poorer transformers, tube rolling will still have major impact, but the ultimate potential will be limited.
 
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Skylab

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One interesting point to note - while I'm sure there are exceptions occasionally, for the most part, people who try tube amps tend to stay with tube amps from that point on.  Read into that what you will

 
 
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Jack C

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Quote:
Interesting to know such information about the solid state amps...
 
But what I'm curious about is does the rolling of tubes really have that much difference in the sound? Assuming there are two different amps, a Darkvoice 337 and a Little Dot MKIII, both which uses exactly the same tubes, what then will the difference in sound be? I'm thinking the darkvoice would have a better sound than the little dot due to the price difference, which is like three times the little dot's price. Also if comparing tube amps within the same family, let's say a Darkvoice 336se and a Darkvoice 337, if the Darkvoice 336 has very good tubes while the Darkvoice 337 has stock tubes, would the sound signature produced by the 336 be better than the 337? 
 
 
So what I'm trying to understand is that does the sound signature of tube amps come from purely the tubes, which is what I'm inferring from the many threads in this forum dedicated to tubes, seems to me that tube rolling really makes a significant impact on the sound.

The "sound" of tube amps come from four primary aspects:
 
1. The tubes themselves
2. The circuit design (topology, whatever you want to call it)
3. Components used
4. Bias settings
 
To make the situation more complex, these four aspects are all inter-dependent on each other so that any changes in one alters the effect of decisions made in the others. Any changes in the above mix will have a noticeable effect on the overall sound. This is why people sometimes refer to tube amp building/tweaking as an art, because it's a complex juggle.
 
Of the four aspects, tubes and bias are the easiest for end users to change. Some also choose to swap out components, and the most daring of which alter the design.
 
Rolling tubes is a nice place to start experimenting.
 
Jack
 
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post-7102795
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TheAudioDude

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Quote:
One interesting point to note - while I'm sure there are exceptions occasionally, for the most part, people who try tube amps tend to stay with tube amps from that point on.  Read into that what you will

 


So true.  The WA22 is my first tube amp and I've often contemplated adding a solid-state amp to the mix, but I can't seem to justify the need for one.  It would be an understatement to say I'm quite happy with the sound.

 
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Uncle Erik

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Jack, I don't entirely disagree, and yes, my experience is anecdotal.  I haven't quantified anything, but in talking to other restorers and hobbyists, I find them to have almost entirely the same experience as I do.  You pointed out that tube gear was unreliable, but there's tremendous evidence that is not the case.  It might not be quantified into a scientific paper, but you'll hear the same from people who have worked on thousands and thousands of sets. 
 
I know that most solid state gear is designed to have easily-replaceable modules.  But try finding a module or the chips for something built in, say, 1987.  Difficult, if not impossible.  But a tubed guitar amp from 1987 will have every part available.
 
I tend to hang onto gear for the long term, so I don't want something impossible to repair.  I've been careful to select gear that is repairable and should have parts available 40-50 years out.
 
I consider all of my solid state gear to be disposable.  It might last for a couple of decades, but it'll eventually die and become unrepairable.
 
Also, I think I take a different view of electronics than you.  I'm not interested in a bunch of features and complexity.  I want something that works and doesn't have anything more than is necessary.  I also have a problem with planned obsolescence and things that are not designed to be repaired.  What I really enjoy about tube gear is that it can be kept going for decades and still be useful.  Sort of the way an old house or car can be kept going and still be useful.
 
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post-7103481
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ford2

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 The main problem with tube amps seems to be the ever increasing price of tubes especially in the KT88 and 300B varieties,and I should imagine that this trend will continue as more and more people feel that to be a true audiophile you have to have a room full of glowing tubes.
 
 Tubes have a Wow factor(the more the better) that SS gear will never attain.
 
 If the sound you desire is "musical" then go with the tubes but if you want the detail and slam then go SS.
 
 
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Uncle Erik

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ford2, that's a valid point. But you don't have to buy the rare glass to run something. I only buy gear that has tubes in current production. Some are quite good and are reasonably priced. I picked up a pair of Sovtek 2A3s for about $80 and I'm happy with the sound. Dropping $80-$100 every few years isn't big deal. But I'm not going to spend a huge amount of money on something that eventually burns out. Same reason I run a DL103 on the turntable. Pretty good quality and no big deal when it wears out.
 
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ywcs4530

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Wow
What a educative topic!
I am an beginner but would like to add a word.
If you got kids at your flat, make sure you put your tube amp safe. =)
 
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baka1969

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Quote:Originally Posted by Skylab 

"One interesting point to note - while I'm sure there are exceptions occasionally, for the most part, people who try tube amps tend to stay with tube amps from that point on.  Read into that what you will"


When I was young my father called me a contrarian. It was said in the pejorative. I have spent my entire life as one I suppose. Made a living at it and still do. So I say this and take it as you will :)... I have tried to like tubes and just can't get into them. I'm just a SS guy. LoL
 
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post-7104689
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navii

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add me to those people :wink:
 
Quote:
One interesting point to note - while I'm sure there are exceptions occasionally, for the most part, people who try tube amps tend to stay with tube amps from that point on.  Read into that what you will

 


 
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voodoohao

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I'm probably gonna purchase a used tube amp within the next few weeks, seems like there's a lot of supporters on headfi for tube amps so I guess I can't really go wrong :)   Anyway just to ask, how would one know if it's time to replace a particular tube for the amp? Would there be indicators aesthetically, such as the tubes becoming black or something similar? 
 
One question about solid state amplifiers though, from what I've read on the forums a lot of solid state amps try to present a more neutral sound, without any colouration or artificial warmth. The more expensive the amp generally the more accurate sounding (aka neutral) songs would be - correct me if I'm wrong here I'm kinda making an assumption - but wouldn't there be a point where too much neutrality would actually make the sound seem 'lifeless', in a sense? What is it about very high end solid state amps that attracts people ? Not sure if I'm putting it correctly as I don't have much experience in amps of any kind...
 
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