Help learn diff.between SS and Tube

I am auditioning an Anthem Amp 2 (a Hybrid amp) and it will be a change from my SS Marantz MA 500s in a bi-amp config. I have not had the Anthem more than a few hours (the amp is broke in) and I think right off the bat the Anthem seems to have less bass than my SS. The bass seems to be there, my room shakes, but its not as something, I can't put my finger on it, less "punchy?" Can someone pleez tell me the differences typical of tube and ss amps. Thanks. m-
Less bass is not necessarily a bad thing. Lesser quality bass is. Most tube designs do not have the bass impact of similarly priced SS amps. Heft/weight/slam are a few terms used to describe bass impact while definition/articulation and tuneful might be used to describe quality. Even fervent monitor disciples like bass, but what draws so many to the monitor is the waist-up (midrange to treble) purity and coherence. Quality bass and deep bass in one package is very expensive. If you can't afford the package then honestly decide which you prefer and aim for that mark. Also try fidgeting with speaker placement again; their sound has changed due to the amp replacement and so, perhaps, should their position.
Your tube amp should be more holigraphic in it's imaging than the SS amp also. I totally agree w/Tomthompson less over exagerated bass is more realistic. You're just used to the SS amp and it's bass boost. This sells amps to the masses. Not all SS amps are this way,but you will have to spend big money to get accurate bass in either SS or tube. When I say big money, I mean more than the two amps you are auditioning.
Thank you guys, I have done some placement, and repositiong of acoustic panels, as well as re-tweeked my Lexicon, and I found the sweeet spot, and I think also got used to the "tubey" bass. It does not have the impact as you say, but I think the quality difference is more smooth in the Anthem. The highs and mids are just incredible. Thank you for helping with your suggestions, they really paid off!!! Can't wait to try different tubes just to see....
philefreak: thank you for at least acknowledging that mid-fi tube amps provide "inaccuarte" bass. i'm confident that you also realize that high-end ss amps are as "holographic," if not more so, as like-priced tube amps. plus, the ss amps are quieter, less expensive to operate and don't require constant tweeking. as to mdomnick's post: no, you ain't gonna get a whole lot of bass punch outta the anthem; this doesn't mean that the anthem's "more accurate" than a similarly priced ss amp, just that its distortion curve is different.
How to tell ? Well in general, if sounds good it's a tube amp, otherwise it's probably a solid state amp. Just kidding ( a little ) . Tube amps have a certain liveness to the sound, a little more 'thereness', like the performer is in your room. To hear it, listen to an electric guitar solo, a solo with a wood instrument (like a cello), and a vocal. Next listen to a ss amp in the same system. The notes with the tube amp will have a certain 'ring' to them. Imagine the sound of a wood guitar being played before and after a coat of paint is applied to it. It rings less after the paint is applied. My amps are actually solid state.
Cornfed- I think we all know that you prefer your ss to tubes, but I'd like to know what "high-end" tube amps that you've lived with - not necesarily expensive, but high-end in terms of sound quality. This is not meant as a put down, just that I'd like to know your references for your position. I've been in audio for nearly twenty years and have owned too many ss and tube amps to list. There are plenty of poor to average sounding tube equipment out there. However, to my ears, ss (even very expensive) just doesn't cut it longterm. Yes, ss is (usually) less "interactive" in terms of tweeking, but sonically I find it less emotionally involving and far less holographic as well. My experiences with Krell, Classe, Symphonic Line, Spectral, Goldmund and Gryphon have all been enjoyable, but I always end up with tubes. Again, I'm not discounting your sonic preference, just wondering about your past tube experiences.
I have yet to hear a good ss amp be as holographic as a good tube amp. A conventional tube amp is not as holographic as SET amps. SS lacks life and energy compared to SET amps. Listen to Jota, Viva, Wyetech to name a few. SS bores me silly in comparison. I don't know if it is in the small dynamic contrast or what but ss always leaves me thinking of something else other than the music.
I'm certainly not going to dispute what you hear cornfedboy since you have a 70k system and obviously have been at this for a while. I also don't pretend that I have heard all the best there is. Living in Central Florida, there aren't too many high end dealers other than the Miami area but I do have a question for you. What expensive ss amp is as holographic as a comparable tube counterpart? Also what ss amp do you use in your system? And if they also offer the "palpable presence" in the midrange of their tube counterpart I would be interested in owning it. It is not the glow of the tube I am enamored with it is the music tubes produce.
I wouldn't necessarily attribute the Anthem's lack of the slam factor to it's being a tube design. Actually, the tubes are only used for the input section. The rest of the amp is a ss as it gets. I would say that it is more likely that you are hearing the particular voicing characteristics that were designed into the amp. There are quite a number of tube amps with very strong slam factors... the Wolcotts, Sonic Frontiers Power 3's and even the Mesa Baron. There are lots of good sounding ss amps that have less than center-of-the-earth bass... the McCormack DNA1 comes to mind. For me, the sound of tube amps that I've liked is so much more... well, like real music. I also get a much stronger sense of "hearing the room" than I get with comparable ss equipment. Maintanance and "tweeking" isn't as big a deal as I initially thought it would be either.
I wold be interested in knowing what you use for tube amps. I have a pair of Classe Audio CA-400"s and I have never heard a tube amp that came close. I found tubes mushy and sluggish. Maybe there not a good match for my speakers. Sonus Faber Extremas. I am not trying to start a heated argument about it. I am curious and open to what you have to say.
let me try to respond to the queries my post has generated. first, i have nothing against tube electronics or those that prefer them. i have owned tube pres and/or amps from cj and arc. i've also listened extensively to other tube amps, pre's and frontends in iterations of my own systems and those of my friends in the audio community. these products have included, by way of example, those from nagra, vtl, cary, manley, atmasphere, audio note, airtight, aesthetix, jadis and bat, among others. i have not found any tube amps with reputations for reliability and quality control that will drive without breakup the last three sets of speakers i have owned to the levels i prefer. all of these speakers were made by avalon acoustics : eclipse's, ascent's and currently eidolons. i also auditioned the aethetix phono with my ascents and was dissapointed with the results. (i do plan to try it again with the eidolons, which are somewhat more efficient than the ascents.) recently, i have listened to the newest avalon speakers, symbols, driven by a 35w/side airtight; they sounded marvelous. anyway, the amp i've used for several years, with numerous upgrades, is a jeff rowland, now designated as an 8ti. i do greatly prefer this range of jrdg amps to the newest one. the model 8 is wonderfully musical and completely non-fatiguing. some critical listeners, tho probably not many of you guys, describe it as "tube-like, with balls." with the eidolons and my accuphase dc 330 pre/dac, the jrdg throws a hugely deep and wide soundstage, with lots of air and definition. it helps provide, in sum, what i regard as a holographic image. the other 2 brands of amps i've tried that have this same quality are made by accuphase and boulder. in particular, i like a pair of accuphase a-50's bridged and the boulder 2060. both of these choices are much more dear than the most recent jrdg 8, the 8tihc. they do, however, provide a spectacular soundstage against a deep black, silent background. and, yes, the presentation is palpable to the goosebump stage and beyond, even more so than with my jrdg. i know some of you don't beleive what i'm saying but, hey, that's ok. i just hope you have a chance to listen to at least some of what i've described. FWIW, i hope to "complete" my system next year by adding a separate phono pre; that is likely to be tubed, either an aesthetix or nagra. cheers to all!
I have had SS for 20 years and have gone to tubes in the last 1+.Yes i gave up some of the bottom ens with the Tube but i got so much more music.I feel much more relaxed and can sit and listen for much longer periods of time.I find SS has the Digital sound and tubes are more like Viynl.I have listened to my tube gear more in the last year thani did to my SS set in the last 5.The Anthem is a solid State amp with a tube preamp built in.In the same price range all tube gear I have heard is a better choice Than the Anthem.
Well I take that back cornfedboy. There is no way I can afford a 50k amp from Boulder. I'm sure the accuphase is in the same ballpark. In any event I don't really require that type of power with the Merlins. By all accounts they are better suited for tubes because of their damping though the Millenium series can be wired to go either way. Thanks for your input. It seems you haven't left too many stones unturned in your journey.
I have owned many solid state amps and have heard most of the others named here. I have yet to find a SS amp that can match the sound of "live" music as well as a tube amp. If you can be satisfied with solid state, go for it. But if you are striving for "real" sound my suggestion is tubes.
Hi Perfectimage. You have a point about speaker matching. I had been running VAC PA 160's with my Martin Logan CLS's and switched to a Mesa Baron. Neither can be described as mushy. The VAC's had better detail, but the Baron has big balls and great flexibility. Since upgrading to E34L tubes the Baron is closer to the VAC's in terms of detail. As you probably know, CLS's are no picnic to drive due to current/voltage demands and very wide impedance swings. My speakers never seemed to open up with a variety of ss amps -- dryer and somewhat analytical compared to the tube amps I tried. Higher powered tube amps drive them with ease and also have a natural, open musical character to them. The Baron was not the most powerful (or most expensive) amp that I auditioned -- I'm not never running it in full pentode still have power to spare. Hell, it's not even breathing hard and I had higher powered ss amps fall apart trying to deal with my speakers' impedance swings. The Wolcotts and Power 3's have the same kind of non-mushy, authoritive presence. I think it comes down to the individual character of each amp and the rest of your system. All that I've mentioned (VAC's excluded) are what I would call big-balls tube amps. Yeah, a 15w single ended OTL will have a different sound. But there are tube products out there that can be balls to the wall when you need it. It's funny... I hear certain ss amps described as being tube-like and certain tube amps as being solid-state like in bass control. Go figure. For my tastes and my speakers, tubes are getting me closer to the music. Happy Holidays.
hi all,

i wonder what synergy there is between tube preamp/solid-state amp, & ss preamp/tube amp? i know many folks get good results w/tubed pre's & ss amps - myself included. i've also heard a couple folks have good results doing it the other way around. i looked into the mesa baron, cuz there was a good deal on one on the 'net recently, but mesa's www specifically recommends *against* using their baron amp w/a tubed preamp. interesting...


Hi Doug. Mesa actually recommends using either a passive or medium gain tube linestage (see "comments" in associated equipment section). Also confirmed this in conversations with designer and tech people there. Not sure about where on their site that there is other contradictory info, though. The concern with high gain preamps is based on the Baron's own high gain characteristics. This was a real concern for me since I'm using an Audible Illusions Mod3 (NOS Seimens 6DJ8's) which has exceptionally high gain. Fortunately, I have absolutely none of the noise or tube ringing that are of concern here. Maybe it would be different with the Sovtek's -- the Seimens are pretty special tubes. I'm still looking for another preamp, however... the lack of volume adjustability (also balance with the Mod3) is a bit of a pain with the new amp. Thinking about a Joule LAT 100 MkIII. In the past I've matched tube pre's with ss power amps and was pleased with the results. You can do quite a bit with tube rolling using this combination and go a little bit crazy with NOS tubes without breaking the bank.
Cornfed- Thanks for the info on your system and audio experiences with ss. I certainly have a greater understanding and appreciation of your point of reference. Though our equipment preferences differ, we do share the same passion. That's what makes this hobby- or addiction?- so interesting.
Pardon my topic drift and let me ask the tube enthusiasts a question: I love the purity, clarity and focus of my Pass X-150. If I wanted to try a tube amp in my system (driving Spendor SP1/2) and did not want to stray far from these characteristics that I love, what would you recommend I give a listen to?
I have a pass amp and the vt100. You can tell it is slower and less clear than the pass labs. It does liven the music up more though. You will never find the sheer clarity and speed of the alephs. The vt100 is one of the more accurate tube amps out there. An even more accurate, neutral amp is supposed to be the SF Power series. I haven't heard them.

try a tubred preamp w/the pas amp. check out the output impedence of the pre to make sure it's at least 1/10th of the amps' input impedence or smaller. i'd suggest the cary slp98, which i found wery nice, or the melos ma-333/music director, which is nicer still.

regards, doug