Side by side comparision here on Very large schweikert monitors. Rogue 120 monos Kicked the $%^& out of a plinius sa250IV. Whats the best Dielectric Silicon or Air?? You be the judge.
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I agree - mostly I think it's that tubes have become more able to deal with low sensitivity speakers because many of the better tube designers are incorporating their own transformer designs/windings, and using certain materials which were not as readily available in the past. Global market place, blah blah. Also I think factory conversion in eastern Europe has produced some great new tubes like Mullard and Amperex repros, and especially the new JJ Teslas. Much better than any NOS's I have tried which all tend to be microphonic, tired, fiddly or just plain crappy sounding. I also think people have had more time to think about new designs - look at the Manley Stingray, which is probably my pick for most elegant tube design of all time. The complaints I would lodge against SS are at the lower end of the market. However, I do find that the lack of air and harmonic distortion is still sort of a problem, and inherent in the SS designs. The difference between using amps vs. voltage to power a speaker (solid state v. tube), are real, and basically insurmountable. The zen-ish designs like Pass really don't do it for me, and although I like the sound of Levinson or Orpheus, I can also tell that they aren't communicating quite the way I would want. It is nice to have that quiet dark sound and the enigmatic cool box though. Bass and treble can definitely be extended by using some solid state. But it can wear on your brain aka gives me a headache, without tubes. Still, for people afraid of changing lightbulbs, I guess it's a good option... No, seriously though, my favorite SS designs are the 1970's Japanese designs like Kenwood and Yamaha and the old Sony's, which I happily use in my system, they work great and tubes give them some life. Best of both worlds and cheaper than anything you see at a show. Plus, the problem with shows is the rooms suck, so it's hard to tell what things really sound like. The room *is* the thing - a little insulation will change your system more drastically than a new source or a $1000. pair of cables. I always laugh at the guys on here with $100,000. worth of equipment in a room that's got a wood roof sloping down on half the listening area and pillars inbetween the speakers and the couch and to top it off is backed with a brick fireplace. Like, seriously, what were they thinking? Is that really going to sound better than a pair of Paradigms and an integrated Arcam with a decent source in a well-deadened room? No...
The narrowing of sonic differences could also apply to many tube preamps...not a bad thing IMO. I own a tube preamp (Audioprism Mantissa) and tube monos (Rogue Audio)...both have some SS qualities, ie...extended freq response.
I chose these products because of these qualities...not in spite of. Why?, well because I own an extended freq response system...classic tube sound is not a good fit for this system IMO.
That said, I've also owned my old Krell Ksa-250 SS amp for many years...a fairly lush sounding amp. The Rogue tube amps replaced a Krell Kav-500...not a lush sounding Krell by any means of the word...although it did sound very good to my ear, and with the speaker system it was used with.
So...If all SS amps don't sound the same, why should all tube amps?
As is said they have been converging.Reviews of say Plinius have reviewers (and owners swear there is s hidden tube somewhere).Tube amps have been known for mids and weioth tight circut and tube choice z(EL34's may not have bass or slam of KT88 but are a midrange fave) but as has been mentioned tubes were known tuo have weak bass and rolled off highs.Not so much any more.Solid State try's to get as much wrmth in their designs.So wha what's to complain about.Solid Satte still is no maitenance but many tube folks are willing to bias once a month and change outpuits every 2-3K and drivers and where from %k to 10K (stretching it) where they can also use NOS and now some "super tubes have beter perfromance and much longer life.What's not to like?My question is why have n'tr more manufacturers tried to do what Counterpoint did.Not that I fully understand it but tubes are beter at converting voltage (beter harmonics i.e. wramth or low order distortion we call call "warmth" while higher order distortion is unpleasant and"distortion".Solid state seems to be beter atb delivering output devices especially in area of bass control.Harmon Kradon was ahead of it's time putting a tube into one of their 200 watt muscle amps but nobody dseemed to follow up (except Counterpoint where Mr.,Elliot former head of of company under new banner charges and arm and a leg to update (in many cases by pass) his tuff in upgrades.There have been some stabs in untergrated market from Unison and Pathos qand evben Jolida giving non power house intergrateds but it's a shame more companies haven't produced seperates with hybriud for best of both worlds in one.But maybe market does not percive a need given what you discern as both coming together in terms of sound.Plus theres the stand by of a glass pre and solid state power amp but feeling that we could do better as did counterpoint in producing hybrid tech for each and given solid state performance and reliability plus aloow tube rollers to have their fun.
Has anyone read the article in one of the hi-fi mags this month that asks: can audio ever really sound "real"? I haven't yet. It seems that the answer is probably that it can sound "true", but based on the fact that it is standing in for another component made differently and physically different, probably no, it can't sound "real" in the same way. This is why I usually aim for a "trueness" in my system.
05-14-06: BartokfanThe results of that comparison will no doubt depend on the music being auditioned and the associated gear. And, if someone were to post a comment that was less than favorable about the Cayin, would you willingly.accept the opinion as another valid viewpoint?
My observation by reading these threads is that few proponents of specific gear are ever open to opposing opinion, and it keeps people from reporting anything that might ruffle feathers. You may not fall into this category.
If you want real - not that you can have it - you need dynamics. That leads in one direction. Foe speakers and amps.
Some go in another, with the fast effortless acceleration of electrostatics.
As for amps, I found the ARC VT100MKII sounded very good and kept me happy for years, but I got so much more out of the NuForce 9.02s in terms of lack of bloom (which I would call compression, not bloom, even at reasonable levels) and corresponding dynamic swing, that I went with the NuForces.
But the "High Fidelity" logic above is tainted. All cars that go 150MPH are not the same. Same with "High Fidelity."
Here is a good read. I pulled it from a thread running on AA. Near the end of the article note what is said about bench test measurements of amplifiers.
Well first of all, there are different types of solid state amps, and different types of tube amps.
Areas where different topologies produce different results mostly have to do with their distortion characteristics.
For instance, tube amps soft-clip, which is much less objectionable to the ear that the hard clipping typical of solid state. I think this is the science behind the oft-quote observation that one tube watt = two solid state watts.
Class A/B amplifiers distort in the crossover region (the amp's crossover, not the speaker's), and that's a distortion that (with most A/B amps) happens at very low power levels so it happens all the time but is most noticeable at low listening levels. Class A and Class D amplifiers do not have this distortion. [I suspect that some of the low-level articulation advantages attributed to high efficiency speakers is due to their typically being driven by Class A amplifiers which have no crossover distortion].
Now as an aside, note that there is often a negative correlation between low THD numbers and subjectively "clean" sound. In other words, we tend to prefer amps with higher rated THD! The reason is, usually those low THD numbers are arrived at through the use of negative feedback, which in effect trades off high percentages of low-order harmonic distortion for low percentages of high-order harmonic distortion. The ear finds the latter more objectionable than the former. Studies have shown 30% second harmonic distortion to be inaudible with music program material.
One disadvantage a push-pull tube amp has is its output transformer. As the signal changes polarity the field in the output transformer is inverted, and it takes some energy to do this. That energy comes from the output signal. I don't know how audibly significant this is. Single-ended and OTL tube amps do not suffer from this effect, known as hysteresis.
Zero negative feedback Class A amplifiers tend to sound the best because they have the most psychoacoustics-friendly distortion characteristics, assuming they are powerful enough to not be driven into clipping. Such amplifers can be tube or solid state. The day may come when high quality Class D amplifiers are counted in the same category, as they are inherently free from crossover distortion.
All that being said, the audible differences between amplifiers are at least an order of magnitude less than the audible differences between loudspeakers.
i think the differences between vintage tube amps and especially the cj mv 125 and current tube amps , excluding set amps, is greater than the difference between current tube amps and solid state amps.
i think what has happened over the last 25 years is the discontuance of an identifiable tueb sound. yes you may call it coloration. in its place, is a presentation closer to accuracy--perhaps still some audible coloration.
i have heard some current cj, audio research, wolcott, granite audio, consonance etc., current tube amps and walked away thinking... "it almost sounds like solid state. why ? "
isn't there some advantage for having designs which sound significantly different from each other so that the consumer has a real choice. the overall variation in sound today within tube designs, within ss designs and between tube and ss designs, again, excluding triode and low powered set amps
is not as great as it was 20 years ago.
I just cannot go along with this notion that I hear repeated all the time, "The best tube and solid state amplifiers seem to be converging in sound."
Personally, I've more or less yet to hear a solid state amplifier that can make me happy. They just do not instill the flesh and blood into the music that a good tube amplifier can. The higher end solid state amplifiers' offer "more" in most cases - more power, more low frequencies, more high frequencies, more clarity, etc., but still seem to miss the mark for me.
For what it's worth, I'm not enamored of the direction that the high, high end tube amplifiers are going, either. From what I see, the trend is towards bells and whistles like flourescent screens and overly complex biasing and checkout routines. I have no interest whatsoever in the direction ARC and VTL are trying to push the market.
Give me a great sounding, simply designed tube amplifier, and I'll be happy. I'll make sure I have a decent multimeter and screwdriver on hand, and at somewhat of a regular interval, bias it myself. It takes a bit of work, but it's a very, very small price to pay. I haven't heard anything come along that sounds better yet. Not that I'm not willing to listen to what anyone can put forth, if there were solid state amplifiers that suited me, I'd be running one.
I think you nailed it perfectly describing what tubes can do better than solid state. I do enjoy systems based on solid state amps, but NONE can, so far, deliver what a good tube amp can deliver.
Unfortunately, there are a lot more BAD tube amps than good tube amps. I don't know why people buy those huge, high-powered tube amps that attempt to deliver the kind of power that can more easily be delivered by solid state when they give up all of that "breath of life" that tubes deliver (note: I am not referring to OTLs).
I think that the "convergence" a lot of people talk about has to do with the taming of the obvious negative qualities of solid state sound (brittleness, edginess, etc), but, to me, what is left is sound that is flat and lifeless compared to low-powered triodes.
I have had SS and now I have tubes. I recently obtained a pair of Quicksilver V4's and in my system and they combine the best of both. At 120w they have power but also the tube characteristics that I like. I can't wait till they break in fully.
BTW one of the things my wife laughs about most is the need to break in a multi-thousand dollar before it sounds it's best. Oh and she does admit after listening that she likes the Quickies more than my SS amp or the other tube amps that I auditioned.
I wish a convergence revolution would happen among speaker manufacturers the way it has with tubes and SS - where quality would go up, and value would go up *not* in direct relation to price. Not that there aren't bad $10,000 speakers. There are. I know it's harder to design them, but why, WHY, must they all pretty much suck? Amps have come so far, and the output devices lag so far behind.
Biomimetic, I can't speak to loudspeaker design at a specific price point, but maybe I can point out one reason why a loudspeaker's job in general is quite a challenge.
Everything in the analog signal path before the loudspeaker deals with three domains: Frequency, amplitude, and timing (or phase).
In addition to variations in these three domains, the acoustic signal generated by the loudspeaker has directional characteristics in three-dimensional space. So the challenge loudspeakers face is at least an order of magnitude greater that that faced by components operating purely in the electrical domain, and indeed we find that a loudspeaker's deviation from "flat" pretty much anywhere in that three dimensional space (including on-axis) is at least an order of mangitude greater than an electronic component's deviation from "flat".
Easy, Old school tubes themselves were different, most of the new 5 dollar tubes today sound far more solid state to me, and these are mostly used in new designs, very few amp manufactures today go with NOS tubes(Cost, availability, reliability etc).. Some updated new solid state super tolerance parts in the tube amps are possibly part of it with extreme tight power supplies and all that, but most of the newer stuff I think can be made to sound tubish with old type Mullard tubes or whatever so this is hard to prove or say.
Actually, I think the old tubes sound old and crappy and most likely the "golden glow" people remember is bad reproduction - I have had very bad experiences with NOS even JAN - I won't buy them anymore; microphonic, poor lifespan, inconsistent output. Everything I hate about tubes. The reproductions are much better. And the new Czech tubes like JJ Teslas and Golden Lions are really the real deal - as good as the Mullard EL34's. Not the same sound but as good. I don't want something lush that hides things and then makes fizzy sounds after an hour and tapping sounds as I walk around when I get out of my seat to figure out what the hell is going on. Of course I also don't care for 300B's so much... High tolerances are for the best I think, computer-controlled robotics doing transformer windings, along with rare metal alloys that weren't available before, really have made both SS and tubes function at a higher level. I know many hi-end manufacturers now use silver wire, rhodium, cryo, or whatever to improve the throughpath and power supply.
As far as speakers go, I know: make one aspect of output better means the others get worse. It's just part of the math. But what I'd really like to know is why when a company like Zu or Joseph or Green Mountain comes up with a novel way of making a speaker people can't wait to tear them down.
My experience with tube power amps is somewhat limited (having more experience with tube preamps) but none-the-less my take is & agree with Mrtennis that some of the newer tube designs do sound more like very good solid state with a higher noise floor, but some exceptions exist. I believe that the warmth encountered on the old tube designs is no more than some type of distortion. Given that, what benefits could one possibly realize from a quality tube design? I think the answer is & will always be they just simply allow the listener to hear deeper into the musical landscape, fleshing out more details. Plus you have the ability to change the sound by tube rolling. When you compare tube to midfi solid state there always seemed to be improvements in soundstaging & transparency, not to mention less grain. But regrdless how good some tube gear is, it's weakest link, aside from how it is engineered/designed, will always be the tube types used.
Any time you have a vacuum, you have a weak link. I think tubes are inherently better to listen to, and replacing every few years and a slightly higher noise floor is a small price to pay for dynamic realism. Considering how noisey the world is these days anyway, it's kind of an academic problem unless you live in the middle of nowehere, and still the hiss is, on my system, unnoticeable except at *very* high volume and with no music playing. So I take the bad with the good.
On my system there is a more then slight diffrence on how tube amps handle"air in the highs" the soild state just dont get it right. Solid state amps Ive used, threshold 550E, several Large krells (10K plus) Plinius SA250IV, Audio resaerch D350, aragon,ect.
Tube amps are Rogue 120,120M,150, Zeus, hurricanes,Cary V12, Vtl 300,450. ect.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about solid state is the Problems in the highend.
I know what you mean about high end... it took me a while to see how tubes also, to my mind, handle the low end better. The hard clipping of solid state can really take you out of the music, the movie, whatever. Soft clipping, and a certain "trueness" in the staging of the bass, aka holography in creating a tone to the room the music is in, I think it has to do with sympathetic chord reproduction, is what I appreciate as much now.
"I suspect that some of the low-level articulation advantages attributed to high efficiency speakers is due to their typically being driven by Class A amplifiers which have no crossover distortion]."
The sensitivity/efficiency measurement of speakers is an expression of output sound level for a given input voltage. I am betting that the reason high efficiency speakers "articulate" better at lower levels is that the volume is actually louder at the same dial setting that you used for the less efficent speaker. Unless you have guaranteed that the sound pressure in the room is exactly the same for both tests, it's hard for me to swallow that crossover distortion in a modern class AB amp is to blame.
"Single-ended and OTL tube amps do not suffer from this effect, known as hysteresis."
All magnets suffer hysteresis losses. This includes transformers. OTL amplifiers parallel a bunch of tubes to get the output impedance low enough that a transformer is not required, but every single ended tube power amp I have ever seen has one.
And you determined these amps that you were listening to were clipping how, exactly? I constantly hear this stuff on these groups, hard vs soft clipping, even vs odd harmonics, class A vs class AB, tubes are valves and transisters are switches, etc.
You want to know why tube amps sound different than SS amps? All you have to do is look at the frequency response graphs published in every Stereophile review and look at the trace using the simulated speaker load. The amplifier's output impedance is basically in series with the speaker load. A tube amp's impedance is so high that it creates a divider network consisting of itself and the speaker load.
Tubes - Big humps at 65-70 HZ and 1.5 KHZ, big dips in the mid bass and treble, dropping sharply after 10 KHZ.
SS - Flat.
What you point out also explains the fascination with cables more often found with tubed gear...of course with a high output impedance even the speaker cables begin to play a role in modifying the sound coloration...
SS amps tend to be flatter in their frequency response when coupled with a speaker - no question about this - SS gear wins hands down!
For those who prefer tube coloration there are other options such as an EQ, however, a tube will also clip nicely producing pleasant harmonics which is another feature that tubers love and which only a tube EQ could deliver. (no real SS alternative for creating that tube sound...at least not widely available yet)
One of the world's top mastering engineers uses a set of tube gear designed by his brother to add a bit of warmth or tube sound to lean mixes....this engineer has a veritable list of who's who that use him. So I am not knocking tubes in anyway, besides for those who play electric guitar....tubes are absolutely essential for the type of distortion they create.
I must disagree with you on one point...Your posts suggest that tubophiles are looking for some kind of flat frequency response and must resort to endlessly changing cables 'til we achieve that goal.
I would suggest that flat frequency response is not the ultimate objective, if an objective at all, of most tubophiles. If we dislike like the tonal response of our tube stuff we just change a few tubes at minimal expense. Personally I don't care if its flat so long as it sounds 'natural'.
But you SS guys, what are you to do if for some reason you don't like the tone of your undistorted, flat frequency response SS stuff (I'm assuming that all SS stuff doesn't sound the same - but I don't know why it wouldn't)? Buy tone bending cable? Buy an equalizer? Buy a new component altogether? Buy new speakers? Sounds rather expensive to me and difficult to achieve without investing considerable money?
Anyway, I'm having a slow day and just thought I'd add my 2 cents worth. :-)
I think the solid state detractors are painting with a brush that's a little too wide. Just my opinion.That's a fair statement. I'm always open to discovering SS amps that do not sound two dimensional or sterile.
Thus far, I have tried: McCormack DNA-2 Platinum Revision A+, Bryston 4B SST, 14B SST, Odyssey Audio Stratos Extreme, CI Audio D100 and D200, NuForce Ref 8 (I know, not SS but still 2 dimensional and sterile, IMO).
I haven't auditioned any of the large cased SS amps, i.e. Pass Labs because I don't have the space.
Audiofeil, You could be right. I gave up on SS years ago - I was running one of Threshold's SA amps and some ARC D115II's. Tonally they wre similar and fairly plesant however give the ARC a 30 minute warm up and the famous 'tube liquidity' kicked in. So much for the Threshold. I've only owned a few decent SS amps since and haven't found any reason to keep them except as a 'summer' amps when, as today, the temp is over 110 degrees! When someone can point the way for me to a SS amp that has that mid-range liquidity and high frequency air that I find in my tube amps I'll sure give them a try.
As an aside, I note that most SS adherents seem to have not been tube owners first, but that most tube owners were previously SS owners. Also, I've not noted a lot of SS advocates reporting that they were previously tube users who grew unsatisfied with the sound. Are these observations just the result of my own prejudices (I only retain what reinforces my opinion) or do they have some foundation?
Newbee, I started out as a tuber in 1965, went solid state in the 70's and 80's, and today use both. I know it's trite but there are both great and poor tube products. Same for solid state. The keys to ear pleasing sonics although simplistic, IMO are design and quality parts. I'm not an engineer by education; my thoughts are based largely on experience and a little intuition. I could be wrong.
Not to muddy the waters but the other components in the system will dictate or at least influence our choice of tubes or ss. Ask an Apogee owner to use tubes or an Avantgarde owner to use ss. They'll probably laugh in your face. Actually I owned Apogee Duettas and Ohm F years ago in a galaxy far far away. Neither of those speakers would work well then or now with tubes. Well with most tube amps anyway.
In closing I'm thankful we have so many dedicated and interested manufacturers (here and abroad) for us to have the number of choices available today. Having both topologies can only make our hobby better.
I'm driving my Apogee Duetta Signatures with Rogue Audio tube monos. A good number of the newer tube designs can drive some of the Apogees and Maggies without problems (better power supply) than the older "classic" gear.
I was using a Krell Ksa-250 for a long while (I still have the Krell)...moved it to the hometheater.
Both are (were) used with a tube preamp when in use with my Duetta's. While the Rogue amps won't play at the "extream" SPL's I can get from the huge Krell...they will play "very loud"...moot point for me.
Talk about painting opinion with broad strokes of the brush. I see this all the time regarding tube amps. The critical factor with tube amps is the speaker/amp combination. If this match has not been carefully chosen then sonics will suffer considerably. For example, an SET amp and horns can sound marvelous with very small amounts of distortion(103 dB sensitive speakers require only milliwatts to produce loud music--the distortion curve is very low at this level) and a properly designed transformer(expensive) will not appreciably alter frequency response at the extremes. Tube amps require judicious choices of partnering speakers which is quite different from SS amps which are basically plug and play with just about any speakers. I started out with SS and moved on to tube amps. I did this for a good reason--not just following the herd. Tubes allow you to see into the performance and connect with the music in a way that most SS amps cannot. I'm not talking about a romantic midrange(added harmonic distortion) or a shelved down upper frequencies which may make digital sound more palatable. There is a 3D quality to tubes that SS just doesn't address in most cases. That's why I "converted" and will remain so. As to adding tubes to "sweeten" or warm up the sound I have not found this to be the case with the tube amps I prefer. I did not prefer any of the tubed DAC's I auditioned before settling on a SS CD player. My preference is for tubes to be at the amp/speaker interface where I believe tubes to be the most critical for musical realism.
I didn't mean that tubers were trying to fix or flatten tube sounds by changing cables etc... all I meant was that tubes tend to accentuate these changes whilst SS gear often makes these kind of changes almost inaudible.
Therefore people with tubes tend to have a different view of cables and interconnects than people who use SS amps.
Neither is better, to each his own...but it does explain how two people can have almost opposing opinions about certain cables and speakers.
As I mentioned, one of the world's top mastering engineers uses tubes...many studios also use tubes on microphones as they soft clip rather than hard clip... tubes are also a must for electric guitars...tubes are extremely important in audio applications, their coloration is both pleasant and more effective than SS amps in certain applications. IMHO, it is only in overall accuracy, especially at higher power levels and with a wider variety of loads, that SS amps have an edge.
I agree with you, whilst SS amps do differ, on the whole, with SS gear you tend to get what you get; speakers and room characteristics tend become the dominant variables in an all SS setup.
1st I want to make it perfectly clear that I take NO position on what others like or use for their entertainment. I'm just having some fun, and in that vein....
Perhaps us tubophiles find SS stuff boring if for no other reason that we can't tinker with it much. With tubes we get to tinker with everything! Getting bored with the sound buy some new drivers, exhaust that possibility - get some new power tubes, exhaust that possibility vary the bias on the power tubes, exhaust that possibilty change out caps, exhaust that possibility - oh well you get the idea! Now add to that the mid-range liquidity and upper frequency air, 3 dimensionality if you please, that I can't seem to find in SS, how can you go wrong. Hell I've even got some amps with a two ohm tap just in case I get some speakers that are hard to drive, bass and impedence wise. All I give up is a bit of slam in the bass, just a bit mind you.
All that said, on balance, I tend to agree with you.
One of the wonderful things about SS, assuming you have reached your sonic goals, is you don't have much angst about tube wear, finding suitble replacements for failures, tube amp damage caused by major shorts in power tubes, ad infinitum! Worryworts need not apply! Just those exact concerns kept me away from tubes for a long time!
In fact there are some occasions when I wish there weren't so many varibles with tubes, especially amps, which also require special attention to proper speaker matching in the first place, as mentioned above by Jayarr. Very important issue!
This is a fun hobby...........:-)
Jayarr, well said & how true in regards to tubes offering a 3 dimensional soundstage. Average solid state can be 2D and some of the better at best can offer 2.5D. Although I prefer solid state amplification coupled with a tube preamp, I have settled on a ss preamp. Just recently purchased a tube preamp that has no less than seven tubes and will be used as an alternative to my ss preamp. No law that I know says you can't own both.
I didn't mean that tubers were trying to fix or flatten tube sounds by changing cables etc... all I meant was that tubes tend to accentuate these changes whilst SS gear often makes these kind of changes almost inaudible.>>>>
I spent a lot more time and money changing out ics and speaker cables with SS equipment. Never satisfied with the sound I was hearing. Since I moved to tubes, preamp and power amp, I don't even think about changing cables. As for rolling tubes to change the sound, yes, I have in the preamp, (Sonic Frontiers Line One). Not because I did not like what I was hearing, but more of what I might hear from my system with other tubes.