Have you moved from tubed amplification to solid state amplification... Why?


I'd like feedback from those who have moved from primarily using Tubed pre and power amplification to Solid State pre and power amplification in their systems. 

Feel free to share what you found relevant to your experience. The questions below are only meant as a starting point, and reflect what I'm curious about.

- What was the initial motivation or driver that made you consider the move?

- Once you made your choice, what were your specific reasons for doing so?

- How happy and satisfied have you been with this move? Any regrets? 

- Lessons learned? Advice to share?

Thank you.


NOTE: Please, this is not about which is Better. Let's not make it about that. I like both solutions and the varied options for each. Thanks!!!

NOTE: I searched the Forums through 2013 for relevant threads...If you know of one or more that relates to my questions, please add the link. Thank you.
david_ten
Post removed 
I'll offer my input though we already spoke about it.  I went to solid state for a few years and enjoyed it.  I didn't 'miss' tubes, but I did find myself constantly wanting to improve the system.  When I got a push-pull amplifier, I still stuck mainly with solid state as I noticed improvements, but it wasn't worth the move for me.  When I got back to single-ended designs, I fell in love again and realized what I was missing.

You can be happy with solid state, but I'd advise staying away from tubes.  An acquaintance of mine has a similar saying: The best way to enjoy digital is to never listen to analog.
Switched to SS because 1. I'm a worrier. Got tired of wondering if it's time to change the tubes before they explode or some other catastrophe. 2. Tubes, IMO, tend to homogenize whatever you play through them. SS is better at textures and dynamics. 3. The expense every two years.
My preamp does have tubes. I may try some of the newer SS preamp designs in the future (Pass, BAT, etc.).
I swore I would never own tubes because of the "hassle and expense."  Well, I graduated from Adcom GFA555 II's to a Conrad Johnson MF2550 SE, which sounded great (along with my CJ ET5 preamp).  Then I took a chance on a used pair of CJ monoblocks and they just sound better.  Somewhere between nominally better and noticeably better.  More fluid, and more musical, although the CJ Solid state amp sounded pretty good in its own right, and had marginally better damping for the bass.  I kept the solid state for my b system, but for the a system, it's CJ tube monoblocks and the now discontinued ET5 preamp.   I have toasted a couple of KT120 tubes, but they are only $50 each from upscale, and I have put in a nice Telefunken 6922 in the ET5 from Brent Jessie in Illinois.  They are all approaching a year old and they still sound great and I play music 2 hours a night about 3 nights per week.  So, I am really no longer concerned about the cost of tube replacement, but I do stock several pairs of KT120's and some 6922 tubes.

Advice/lessons learned?  If you want great sound you have to have a great source.  So, I needed to upgrade my Rega Rp6 with MM Exact 2 cartridge to the RP10 with the Apheta II mc cartridge to bring that out. 

Now, I am really pleased with the sound; symphony, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton Live, Mozart Piano Concerto's-- all good.  If I was to go back to solid state, I would buy Pass Labs gear-- a combination of used on audiogon and new from Mark at Reno HiFi.

I am not related to any of these vendors; they are just folks who have really treated me well over time.

Cheers
Question: What are you using? Please elaborate.  I have both tubes; a Conrad Johnson Classic 120SE and Conrad Johnson MF2500A (SS) and Conrad Johnson Premier 350SA; and Conrad Johnson ET-7 (Hybrid,Tube). Why both, because I can't get away from how amazing tubes sound and the CJ (SS) amps I have sound extremely good and even tube'ish.  I got away from tubes due to maintenance, but in the end, the sound of tubes call me back. End of Story. It's no more work if you just learn to deal with each. You must experience it for yourself to decide. We here can not help you but good luck. Tubes from a great company like Conrad Johnson are "FANTASTIC", and tubes from a not so great company "SUCK". Even early AR tubes are so hard to deal with I'd pay a dentist to drill my teeth (biasing sucks on early stuff, no offense to those who like the early stuff or have it; personally like AR's sound as well but not as much as CJ. 
I’ve got an all tube system and an all ss system. My tube system is all of the vintage kind ( altec model 19s, Sansui 1000a, Grant fidelity tube dac 11, pioneer pl-630 turntable).  My ss system is diapason adamante 3’s with a pass int 60. 
Both are awesome but very different sounding. The ss is much more 3D and transparent while the tube is more dynamic and lush. The tubes require attention but not as much as you think. You will notice a difference when they need replacement. Its hard to say which I prefer. I enjoy the difference every time I switch rooms. Keeps my adhd in line. 
I run Quad ESL's. They need protection from high voltage spikes. The protection circuits sound like hell (it's relative).

What to do? The obvious thing is to optimize and upgrade the Quads' circuitry, run low voltage SS amps, and remove the protection circuits. That is, engineer the system as a whole. So I read a lot and sought expert advice. Thus DIY. The results are full complementary push-pull SS amps that run on +/- 25 V rails.

The phono/pre proceeds from different requirements. Most importantly, no (as in zero) ripple voltage, hence batteries. SS is easily done this way, tubes not so much.  And Analogue Devices was still selling its legendary PNP / NPN aerospace matched dual transistors (MATxy). Hence a full complementary push-pull circuit.

Another advantage of SS is that it can remain powered up indefinitely, improving for several days after a shutdown. Dead stable, dead quiet, exquisite refinement, superb dynamics, no maintenance. And no remote possibility of frying the Quads.

It may be that there are some amps which sound better than mine, there may be preamps that sound better than mine, but I'll bet there are damn few systems that sound better than mine. And I couldn't do that with tubes.

After I replaced my power tubes a few times, several hundred dollars each time, I realized I was only listening when I had a couple hours or more to listen.  If I only had a half hour, I just wouldn’t warm up the tube rig.  Now that my amp is solid state, I don’t hesitate to turn it on and listen, even if I just have few minutes.  I listen a lot more now.  My wife was a little intimidated by the big tube rig and its mysteries.  She finds the SS simpler and more approachable, so she listens more, too.  Other factors that led to the change were the substantial heat and power consumption of the tube rig.  The SS is much more efficient, using less power at idle and in use, and it is barely warm to the touch.  Bulk and weight of the tube amp, with large heat sinks was a factor as well.  Finally, I audioned a number of SS amps and found there are very nice sounding amps being made. I really enjoyed my time with tubes, but I’m not looking back.  All my guitar amps are tubed, though, and will remain so.

Some speakers are optimized for, or are more appropriate for use with, either a tube amp or a ss one. terry9’s Quads were used by Roger Modjeski in the development of his Music Reference RM-10 tube amp, and the pairing is to die for. That amp is, however, completely inappropriate for use with any of the Magneplanar speakers.

If one wants to avoid tubes, the smaller Pass and First Watt amps work very well with the Quads. So with that speaker, you can go either way, at a relatively affordable price. On the other hand, to power Maggies with tubes, a lot more dough needs to be spent to equal the capabilities of ss.

Not sure what Quads are referred to, but I have always been perfectly happy with mine (first ESL57s, now 2805s) driven by first a Q303 and now a Q606-2 solid state amplifier. I have also had the privilege of being given a private comparative demonstration by Quad's Peter Walker himself, at the time when people started to argue that his earlier valve amplifier sounded better than his later solid state designs, and in particular better than the Q405 current dumper. He thought all this was absolute nonsense, and commissioned an independent research project by James Moir: http://www.keith-snook.info/wireless-world-magazine/Wireless-World-1978/Valves%20versus%20Transistor...
As I said, he gave me a private demonstration with a blind setup with his three designs, playing master tapes on a professional recorder. The comparison was level matched and blind. I thought I could just about hear slight differences, but afterwards Peter smiled: my identifications had not been better than random. All three amplifiers had simply been straight wires with gain; the only relevant difference had been that each successive generation had been more powerful than the previous one. I had learned a useful lesson.
Pairs of Quad 2905’s, Willem.
Great speakers. I could not have them because their top part would be in front of a huge panorama window. It would have spoilt the view, and exposed them to sunlight (so I went the subwoofer route). I have never heard any problem with the protection circuitry. I use a refurbished 2x140 watt Quad 606-2. The room is large, so Rob Flain at Quad suggested their QMP monoblocks.
Quite agree, Willem, views are harder to come by than speakers. The protection circuit only becomes oppressive after you try disconnecting it, and then there is no going back.
I'm a little confused.  terry9 concludes that SS, if carefully chosen, works best for him.  But then bdp24 steps in to suggest the RM-10 (tubes) with terry's Quads match is "to die for".

I expect terry identified his own choice, so bdp24 were you merely stating your own preference?
I am thinking of the system as a whole. SS allows me to optimize overall, after major surgery to the Quads.

Prior to my experiments, I used Atma-Spheres, which were excellent for off-the-shelf amps. I recommend them to anyone not considering the DIY route.

I went the opposite direction, I started off with Solid state and went to tubes. I am a Magnepan owner (20.7's) and had a pair of ARC monoblock amps that was rated 600wpc in 4ohms. It goes without saying from a power perspective they did the trick, however it lacked the musicality and subtle detail I got when I switched to tubes. It’s all system dependent, listening levels, and preference. I will most likely have to replace my tubes in another 4 years as the manufacturer of my gear is known for not running their tubes hard and with the auto bias feature it’s a non factor for me. At that rate I’m good with getting a new amp every 4 - 5 years, that’s based on changing out tubes. (not buying a whole new amp) LOL!

Cheers

There is no formula for good sound, but what works for me is a hybrid system - SS power amp and tubed pre-amp.  That gives me the power, speed & control of SS along with the musical tonality of tubes.  Using high quality components, this is much more like 'getting it all' than a compromise.  

The Quads to which I was referring are the originals ("57’s"). Modjeski says he used that speaker for evaluating his design choices in the development of his RM-10 amp (35w/ch in it’s Class A/B version, 25w in the Class A version). The Quad 63 and it’s descendants are a very different story.

Modjeski offers not only push/pull Class A/B amps, but also low-powered single-ended amps, and an OTL (as well as an ESL speaker with a dedicated direct-drive---no output transformer---tube power amp). The Quad 57/OTL amp is a classic combination (especially the Futterman OTL’s), but Roger makes the case that an OTL amp is in fact a poor choice for use with that Quad. His reasoning was explained in the now-dormant Audio Circle Music Reference Forum.

When I had much less efficient speakers I switched to a hybird to have enough power.  Tube front end

Van Alstine and Moscode

went to 97 db efficient dome speakers and back to conventional tubes

bliss again
David,
For me it’s been quite a journey of owning all kinds of top gear,either tubes or ss,over the 40 yrs that I’ve been in this hobby.
Without mentioning any brand names,I will give you a quick small as possible summary of my journey to what I have today,that beats and or rivals any other piece of gear that I’ve owned.

I started with a set of tubed separates and used them for a few months but my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to try something different,so I got a SS pre to try with the tube amp,everyone said at the time that’s the wrong direction to go,but it worked very well for me.Fast forward a few yrs and Nelsons first Threshold amps were the buzz and after saving up for a set I got a 400a and the as the yrs went by I continued right up the Threshold ladder.Now in the meantime of my journey I would buy and try some kind of tube based gear,depending on the speakers I had at the time,generally would get some kind of set Tube amp,and pre.

So then I would have a totally different flavor to change my system as I wanted to.Now Pass Labs and others were gaining momentum and popularity in the mainstream,so Offcourse I followed right along to the first watt days,still owning tube gear of some kind also.

Now I classify myself as a music lover first and audiophile second,but I also enjoy listening and learning about the gear,I’ve been a Avionics technician at a major airline for 30 yrs now,so I gained a little knowledge about electronics in general.
I know I said in the beginning that I wouldn’t mention any brand names,but it’s rather difficult to not.

Along this journey,I’ve always seeked a certain sonic presentation that really has stayed the same for my ears all of these years.

1.Correct tone and timbre that’s pleasing to me.
2.Enough detail and resolution that convey the bloom and tiny nuances of the music.
3.Properly layered soundstage that’s precise but also holographic as well.
4.Image size that’s realistic to scale.

With all of that said,I decided to try one of these popular modern one box wonders and hear for myself what all the fuss was about.
All I can say is that I’m completely satisfied with it and need or want anything else,but I absolutely have no regrets trying all the other gear either.

The subject of Physcoacoustics is something that I have personally studied and find quite interesting and It most definitely can affect our sonic choices in gear,and I do believe everyone should be awhere.

There’s a nicely written paper from several yrs ago,written by Nelson Pass that explains harmonic distortions,and what is pleasing to some people may not be pleasing to others.

http://www.firstwatt.com/pdf/art_dist_fdbk.pdf

My advice to anyone pondering the OP’s questions is basically you just need to try some different gear in your own system and see what works the best for you.
There’s a huge big world of gear available nowadays.

In summary,I don’t miss tubes or class a SS one bit,but absolutely no regrets either.It’s all about the journey and seeking musical bliss.


Enjoy the music,
Kenny.


Fascinating reading...from every poster! Thank you.

It's terrific (and I really appreciate this) that all of you who have posted are focusing on your journeys rather than the components. 

I recently came to that proverbial fork in the road and decided on Solid State over Tubes. For me, it's been truly illuminating figuring this out.
So what was the deciding factor David?  Did you stick with the T+A?
David,
I glad that you have made a decision,It most certainly can be difficult at times.Just proves to me again,there’s just no absolutes in this hobby.

I would also like to know your thoughts on your decision.

Enjoy that music,
Kenny.
Lived with tube, hybrid and amps for extended periods, always with tubed preamps. The best of each type (CAT JL1 LE , Wall Audio PSET, Music Reference RM200, Blue Circle BC204, Pass XA30.8 ) were all very satisfying when matched with good sources and compatible loudspeakers. I’ve just about finished downsizing my system for simplicity, to fit a smaller living space and to better suit a change to predominantly background music listening. As much about minimizing the number/size of components. My music has now been ripped/stored on SSD (sonicTransporter i7) and lps/cds sold. I wanted a single component for streaming (which I’m new to, but it’s been really nice to listen to “radio” again), volume control and amplification between my sTi7 and my loudspeakers, which pretty much limits me to solid state. I settled on a Naim Uniti Nova which is class AB solid state and am the most pleased I’ve ever been with my system. I’m sure similarly great sounding, small footprint systems can be had with tubed gear.
Skip, yes it is the T+A. The week long audition of the Ypsilon was extremely helpful. It wasn’t an easy decision. I just put the order in.

As to your question: "what was the deciding factor" ...there wasn’t one.

It came down to a number of things as the differences between all of the superb gear including your Mastersound components, wasn’t so clear cut, nor night & day. In addition to making a choice based on preferences, system synergy and what I liked most, the following factors also played a role: overall utility, functionality, future ’same-line’ components, flexibility with driving a wide range of speakers, dealer/company support, etc. etc. were all important.

I may write-up the general findings in my blog over the next couple of weeks. If I do, I will email you the link once it’s done.
T+A integrated is a great choice. Congratulations!
I moved from tubed amps several years ago. I got sick and tired from heat generation, biasing, wearing white gloves, tube dampeners, cleaning pins and sockets, tube rolling, obsessing over tube selection, etc. I do have one integrated: Carey SLI-80 dedicated to my Large Harbeth Anniversery Editions (with stock room heaters/glow worms)
Yes  because it sounded better.
I didn't move from Tubed but I did settle, as others, on a hybrid.  Tubed pre and class D amp.  Happy for now