I have found for a little cash you could pick up a used Classe DR-9 or DR-8 amps or another of this era and have almost the best of both worlds. Many of the newer breeds of SS amps are really not that much better, and they cost way to much for the amount of parts they contain.
Audio Research 100.2 No longer in production, but actually does the "tube thing" better than some tube amps! Not muddy and bloated, but grain-free with full harmonics and soul of the music shining through. Can be had used for $1600 - $1900. Do a search. You won't regret it. Mine is NOT for sale!
There are some SS or hybrid amps that sounds similar to the tube amps, cost not object, and power equal or more than 100W. Thanks Emigene (Threads)
Just how do tube amps sound like? Can their sound be generalized into one category? IMO, it's not possible.
If you want both accuracy and musicality, then research the following amps: Mark Levinson no.33H monos, Blue Circle BC206, Pass Labs X series of monoblocks, Pass Labs X.5 series of amps, Krell FPB, Krell Evolution. Classe Omega series.
It's all a matter of taste. An amplifier needs to blend in sonically with the rest of your system though. That's a challenge.
a sge gentlemen named victor khomenko from BAT informed me after he introduced Bat's first solid state amp that in spite of his best efforts, he could not create a tube amp which was indistinguishable from the sound of his tube designs.
after careful listening the presence of a solid state amp is evident.
it is interesting to try to find a solid state amp which has the "warmth" of a tube amp, if one ceepts the premise that tube and solid state designs sound different.
i have personally listened to numerous soild state designs. none of them resemble the sound of a vintage tube amp.
if one is referring to amps in production in 2006, i am not aware of any amplifiers--tube or solid state, with power rating excceding 75 watts which sound warm.
The Karan has been compared to the Darteel at a fraction of the cost ( HI FI+ review)and has a huge damping factor.This damping factor allows the amp too control the speaker with an iron fist.The KAS 180 has 180 watts and is dual mono design.These amps have a first class build quality that pictures fail to convey ( they are built like a proverbial brick house.Take care Dennis
I have two Essence amps, which to me, sound more like tube amps than any other solid state amps I have heard. They have an immediacy, midrange clarity, and soundstage dimensionality of better tube amps, but not syrupy, slow, and warm like early tube amps. Of course they have a lot more speed and detail, better bass and dynamic range. The only thing I have never heard a SS amp do as well as tubed amps is in dimensionality of instruments and voices.
Gamut Mk.3. ss amps rival some very good tube amps. They are particularly highly regarded in Europe. I believe their secret is using single large mosfet switching output devices which gives them single voicing much like a SET tube amp. I haved used a Gamut Mk.3. for 2 1/2 years with a deHavilland Mercury set tube preamp with very accurate, natural, musical results. Several excellent reviews are out there.
While I am still wet behind the ears when it comes to this new passion of mine I feel like I should chime in here. I just bought a PS Audio GCA 250 solid state amp with level 2 and level 3+ mods and I think it's about as close as you can come to tubes with SS, but more importantly why not use both? I have a tube phono stage from YS Audio (Audio Excellence Concerto PLUS) and a Woo Audio II tube pre. I love the warm, rich texture from tubes but wanted the heart of the system to have the reliability AND the dynamic bass response of solid state and I must say... it sounds pretty damn tubular!
Also look at the Pass/First Watt Aleph J if you have high efficiency speakers. A good friend has one and it is incredible. Good luck.
Try listening to a Rowland model 8 with the choke supply if you can. IMHO it is the closest to tubes without the worry of where in the life of the tube you are and no concern with heat warming up your room in the summer.( Or winter here in S.Calif...:0)
The Lavardin IT or IS reference, or as Cenline says, Karan. They are respectively the only 2 SS designs 2 UK Tube amp distributors I know of, will stock. The only brand with the clarity and speed of good modern tube designs. I use the Lavardin and would love to swap it for a karan K180, if I could only find one 2nd hand. I don't think the Karan is better, just a few more Watts for my new speakers.
I have stated several times that the cary 500s sound very similar to the cary slam 100s that I replaced them with. I have had them for almost a year now and are very happy with them. Full rich sound and no tubes to worry about.
Unsound...for you..Carver amps. I have a M1.0t from 1986..this is my daily amp. This is a very tube-like amp: musical, warm, easy to listen to. It has rolled off highs and mushy bass...just like a tube amp. I prefer this sound to Bryston, Krell, Linn. Carver designed this amp to sound like a C-J Premier 5? tube amp. Stay away from the M1.5t..sounds dry and brittle. The M4.0t was designed to sound like Carver's Silver Seven tube amp, not as tuby as the M1.0t in my opinion however. I would stay away from Sunfire amps by Carver..they have a bloated vocal range..especially female vocals. I think his hearing is going south these days. No disrespect to bob carver though..he is a genius.
Christobyl, thanks for chimming in. The Carver is the only ss amp I know of that was specifically designed to mimick a tube amp. Not just any tube amp, but, a highly respected one that was considered by many to be a classic representative of what tube amps were (are?) all about. Interestingly enough, conrad-johnson's own ss amps seem to have a lot of the virtues of tube amps as well. I thought there was at least one Sunfire amp that was supposed to be configurable to sound either like ss or tubes.
The sunfire amps I have worked with all have dual outputs, one for voltage (tubelike) and one for current (transistor like). I really don't have that much listening time under my belt on these sunfires..I do know the c-j stuff is better sounding, and at the shop I used to work at we sold many more c-j's than sunfires. I feel (along with the customers) that sunfire's are overpriced and they are too focused on selling watts. I agree with you that c-j solidstate amps are designed to sound as tube-like as possible. I recall reading their history awhile back..they claimed they didn't want to produce a solidstate amp in the 70's/80's because they sounded horrible compared to their tube designs. I believe they started with the Sonographe designs..around '90. I have heard these and they sound great. My personal favorite is the c-j mf2500a ..I intend to buy one as soon as I can afford one. Also..any MOSFET amp will produce the same even-order distortion that tube amps produce..as opposed to the odd-order distortion produced by bi-polar transistors which sounds bad. I recall c-j/carver also use low feedback designs to sound more tuby. Long live musicality!
Christobyl, while I agree with you on most things, I beg to differ with regards to the wholesale condemnation of bi-polar equiped amps. While it's true mosfet amps generally tend to sound more like tubes, that doesn't necessarily mean that, that's correct or that all bi-polar equiped amps "sound bad". As matter of fact the c-j 2500a you speak so well of has bi-polar output transistors.