For the sound, or?????

About three years ago or so, we auditioned a tube amp with a pedigree name driving a set of speakers exactly like the ones my friend owned. It was certainly nothing to write home about. Actually, it was more than a bit mushy in the top end.
After we listened to it for an hour and a half, trying I/C's and speaker placement, they had to bring it to another room for a demo.
We still wanted to try a few I/C's so while we waited for the amp to be available again, I demo'd a few D/A's they had in stock just for kicks.
I hooked up the only other amp available at the time, an old scratched up 80 watt transistor name-brand amp the shop used for testing in the back room.
The speakers immediately came to life! Detail, control, subtle layering...POOF! It was all there.

We were shocked to say the least.

The amp we had been auditioning was in the 3-5K range and the old amp that had lived on the solder bench for more than ten years sells for around $120 on ebay in good shape, let alone a beat up example like this one.

A chat with both techs verified there had been no mods to the old Amplifier.
A listen by three different salesman and the techs from the back had heads shaking and smiles all around.

(He went home with the pricey tube amp.)

When I asked him why, he said he could not bring himself to own all that nice esoteric gear and have it powered by a name-brand 30 year old amp that he would have had to hide.

While I am far less interested in looks than most, I simply cannot imagine someone spending more to get the face-plates will complement each other. (Especially when the price difference was this outrageous)

More recently, I checked out a set of single driver home-made speakers. While we were playing with placement and measuring reflections, we ended up substituting the tube amp for a 35 year old 22 watt mid fi receiver.
The difference was instantly obvious and for the LOT better.

When I left, the tube amp was back in place.

Reason? "Because my SET friends would not believe it or take me seriously with that old Kenwood receiver powering my speakers.

I cannot help but wonder how many people have spent money for less sound and a prettier/more exclusive face plate.

How many of you have actually done something like this...or been there when it is happening right in front of you?
I once had a very old (converted by Wil Vincent) Baldwin amp driving my Klipschorns that I have to say sounded amazing. But I couldn't bring myself to admit it was going to sit there with the rest of my gear. Boy do I miss that piece!
When I auditioned my Tonian Labs TL-D1s, Tony Minasian demo'd them with a 25 year old Audiolab 8000A and they sounded wonderful. He said as long as the source and speakers were of high quality, the amp needn't be.

That Audiolab was no slouch in its day and this is not to say that all older stuff will sound great but some do. Despite Marantzs rep, one of their older receivers sounded okay in my system but I'd not call it high end.

All the best,
It's all about the sound for me.
I like eye candy, but I listen in the dark most of the time and the ear candy wins every time.
The way something looks is of no importance to me. I don't care if someone ran a grinder over the faceplate. I'm also not worried about the color of the piece. It can be silver, black, gold or purple and lime green. I only care about how it sounds. Price, and all things being equal, of course I have a preference. Who doesn't. But looks, or name brand, never sway my decision. That being said, I probably wouldn't bother even listening to an amp that cost a couple hundred bucks. I should maybe reconsider that opinion.
The audio version of the "urban legend".
07-25-12: Elizabeth
The audio version of the "urban legend".

I friend of mine was so stupid that he put his expensive tube amp in the microwave to dry it off. Has anyone else done this?
is there a hidden message about tubes vs solid state or an observation about peoples' preference for the new vs the old ?
Well, in this case I really do believe you can have your 'cake and eat it too'. Through the several decades that I've enjoyed this hobby I've tried to put together systems that not only sound good but also make an interesting visual statement as well. Most of the gear has been acquired from sites such as AudioGon and E-Bay. I think the latest system is a case in point where Rowland componets have been mixed with EAD componets. Both companies use the silver diamond cut look on their faceplates and present an interesting synthesis of 'sight and sound'. The same type of approach has been used with items from several other brands. I've also very much appreciated my wife's support in all this and have tried to make the audio part of our home a pleasing part of the overall interior design. She has always been very positive about things, but I have often wondered if these efforts were enough or if I'm just blessed with a very accomodating lady. I any event, being an audio enthusiast for me has many dimensions, all of which provides endless challenges and rewards.
Gumby - Please identify the two tube amps that were outperformed.
Put a tube amp in the microwave??? why was it wet in the first place? and ???!#$$? really?

But to the point. It comes down to what you appreciate in terms of why you are in this hobby in the first place. Some people want the most expensive and really don't listen to music. it is about status. Some really know and appreciate music and just want the most real reproduction of electronic signal to sound. Some have the WAF going and it better not be ugly. Which is why we have cabinets. But who am I to question why people do this? I can only be concerned about me. I have friends and acquaintences that think I'm nuts because of listening to music instead of background music and also because of the equipment I have. So, to each their own I guess.

it seems counter intuitive that a solid state amp would be preferable to a more expensively priced tube amp. then again. this hobby is subjective--one man's rapture is another man's rupture.

i have never had the experience of a decent tube amp being bested by a solid state amp. then again, i am partial to tubes.
It's simply a case of synergy. It's rare to find something that old and inexpensive that sounds better than the new, but it does happen. Now if you had tried the older unit in a half dozen systems with the same results that would be something.
Mrtennis said " i have never had the experience of a decent tube amp being bested by a solid state amp " I think he should get out more.
Lost count of the salesmen chasing me to the door as I was walking out after a audition of overpriced, over-hyped crap.
Jult52, sorry I missed your question. I cannot ID the gear.
Learned long ago unless it belongs to me...mums the word.
It was only my opinion and while it impressed us, who is to say that after a week with it he would have been satisfied.

Since I created this thread, the idea has solidified in my head (amazing, since it is 80% rocks) about people worrying about what looks good as much or more than what sounds good.

Some of the DAC's out there are prime examples. In blind tests, folks seem to go for the less pricey models. At least that has been my experience lately.
Some will jump to the conclusion that all expensive stuff is not as good, or the same as the cheap stuff. I think that the reasons one might prefer a cheap SS amp to an expensive tube amp is that the listener values the particular traits that the cheap SS offers - volume, bass, etc. If one is listening to techno-pop, the cheap amp may well be the better choice. But, if one is listening to acoustic instruments at levels within the tube amp's capability and one values the texture of the instruments and the space between and around the notes, the tube amp may be the better choice. Neither opinion is wrong, except the one that buys the expensive amp after preferring the cheaper one sonically.
Chayro, I think the magic here is the synergy.

There is no question that if you shop patiently, you can make your money improve your sound.

However, there are bargains to be had in used gear as well if patience is applied.

Too bad people seem to buy audio as much with their eyes and prestige("mine cost more than yours") instead of solely with their ears.

Van Alstine, Audionics and other products like them could be passed over in preference of the "steam punk super duper Dr Whovian wonder looker" component.

I think that is messed up.
For sure, there are many people out there that have no idea of what they're listening to and buy products based on reviews and perceived "status" or whatever. But there are also many people who can actually hear the difference. Some people forget that.
This is an interesting thread. I'm in the market for a solid state integrated. I auditioned the Ayre AX5 hoping I'd love it but it just doesn't work for me. A week later I auditioned the Hegel H200. Less than half the price of the Ayre and uglier than Sin but wow was the H200 music to my ears. So now I'm thinking ill buy the Hegel H300 because it's based on their top of the line H30 (I believe). Come to find out the H300 only comes in black. I spoke to my wife about this and her reply was "oh, who cares? You need to get over your ACD". That pretty much sums it up. I'm going to probably buy the H300. In my eyes it looks like a $400 amp, has a remote that basically sucks big time, has no standby mode and only comes in black. This is difficult for me but I know I'm gonna love it. When I heard the H200 it was my "that's it" moment. If I like the H300 even more, it's a sale (albeit an ugly one).
DonJr, How many other offerings have you auditioned?

For 5k+ there are so many choices...
Not a lot honestly. I still need to check out some others. Can you make some recommendations in the 5k range that might work well with Harbeth C7ES3's? I'm looking for a fair amount of power. I'm using a Rogue Cronus Magnum right now and it's awesome. I want to run solid state with a wide deep sound stage in the warmer months. Although the owner of Harbeth says any amp over 25 watts he's full of it unless you listen at very low levels. I listen to everything but country music. Mostly Jazz in several forms like Miles, Cassandra Wilson, Steely Dan, Anoushka Shankar etc. Some rock such as Jack White, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young etc. I'll also get down to a Mozart piano concerto.
Donjr - I think the Bada hybrid they're selling over at Pacific Valve is an excellent amp and it's about $1200. The tubes are in the preamp section and run cool. I bought one of these while I was waiting for a $4K amp to arrive and honestly, I thought the Bada was more to my liking. (I don't use the term "better"). It's one of the true bargains out there, IMO. 95 wpc, so you can push the volume up if you need to. 30 days money back, so you can't get hurt. No connection to the seller, of course. BTW, I recommended one of these to Fritz from Fritzspeakers and he thought it was a great amp. If that means anything to you. I think he has a good ear for sound.
I was one of Pacific Valve's first customers having purchased a Bada PH12 Hybrid SET headphone amp. This little jewel was recently pressed back into service, driven by a modded Oppo 103.
Thanks Chayro. I'll look into the Bada. That 30 day money back guarantee is the icing on the cake. Wish we could do that with every amp.

Gumby. I auditioned the Luxman l505u as well. Very nice but didn't have the authority of the Hegel H200.
I've not heard the Bada but was interested in it as well. They are one of the good makes out of China and it's their second version, made to Pacific Valves specs and said to be a much better version.

If you haven't gotten it yet, you might also check out the Sphinx integrated from Rogue Audio. It too has a tube preamp section mated to some Hypex modules for the amp and it's an integrated version of their Medusa and Hydra amps which have gotten great reviews. It's just under $1300 ($100 more w/remote) and puts out 100 watts/channel.

I haven't heard it but it may suit your needs.

All the best,
Don, I am not sure if this would be something you would try, but an online friend rid himself of tubes after he auditioned a (I think) 6500 Musical Fidelity.
His thing is the way it can be a 500wpc integrated, yet has the "delicacy at low levels like my flea power tube gear."
I guess the next one down, at 200wpc, fits right in your price range and sounds very much the same...but with less power.
I am told when there is no signal, nothing comes out. This may sound elementary, but he is the third person who has commented this way about these amps. Black hole silence between passages and warp speed transients. (Not my words...but when three people say the same thing...)
Might be worth a listen. It is not something I often hear about solid state at low volume levels.
I wish I could hear a few of the offerings mentioned in this thread.
I still have the Classic 6.1 from Pacific Valve sitting on a shelf somewhere. Not a bad unit at all but not quite as good as my Burson PI-160. In the right system (speakers with a dome, or textile tweeter) it would sound quite nice. HiFI tuning fuses went a long way towards taming the highs and allowing it to breathe and open up.

I've been thinking if recapping it would make it any better as I hate to part with it: it does a lot of things right.

All the best,
I was reading up on the Rogue Sphinx and noticed the Pharaoh integrated which they're calling their flagship integrated. I've never heard a class D but I think they have the right idea with tubes in the pre amp section. 175 watts/8 ohms.
Don't forget for some the 200 may not have quite the resolution,but
Has a much richer balance, similar to a good vacuum tube setup,
The 300 a little more inner detail and dynamics ,and a bit more power
But much more neutral in character.
If anybody oughta know about buying thimgs for show it would be you because, like you always said "...I AM show business!"