Is solid state on the brink of extinction?

I am curious how many out there, like me, that have come to the conclusion the age of solid state, and perhaps tube gear, is closing.

In freeing needed cash from my high end audio recently, I was forced to look for a less expensive alternative. To my surprise, the alternative turned out to be an unexpected bonus.

I have notoriously inefficient speakers. I was sure I would have to sell them once I sold off my large solid state blocks.

Going on a tip from another amp killer speaker owner, I bought an Acoustic Reality eAR 2 MKII Class D amp. This tiny amp caused a revolution in sound benefits over my ss mono blocks.

My speakers gained in speed, depth, control, detail, range, clarity, and dynamics.

It didn't stop there. I also sold my front end, and bought a very cheap programmable digital DVD. It also proved to be better that my old disc player. My playback gained in detail, separation, depth, bass control, bass extension, and treble extension. The mids are just plain natural. Reverberation decay occurs evenly and naturally.

Has anyone else had a similar experience of moving from solid state or tubes to digital? What do you see as the future for solid state component producers? What of tube amps?
Guess im behind times and am lacking the pulse of the digital revolution in audio standards.

What the hell is a digital amp?

Benefits? Drawbacks? Expencive? Cheap? Hot? Cold? BIg? Small? Power output? ????
It is impossible to comment since you only listed one piece (Acoustic Reality eAR 2 MKII Class D amp) in your post. Not knowing what you had, and what you now have, makes it impossible to assess whether you upgraded or not. Less expensive, current digital equipment can often out perform older more expensive pieces so perhaps you did.
My last solid state was the Pass X600, but my comment extends to every solid state I have ever witnessed. The digital player is the Liteon 2001.

My interest is in those who have switched THEIR solid state with THEIR digital.

I have honestly told you my reaction to the switch I made.
I've heard only one digital amp that truly impressed me in my house on borrowed Watt Puppy 5.1s. It was the Spectron Amp, and it was an excellent match with a Theta Gen Va dac.
What is impressive sound to me? Something that comes close to my current system: Sony SCD-777ES, Pass Aleph or X pre-amp, Pass Aleph 2s & Apogee Mini-Grands w/Aragon 4004MKII driving the subs. I haven't heard any speaker or amp that sounds better in my listening (living) room.
And I'm constantly searching.
Digital amps are like early redbook CDs to me, still in the teething stage....
Ah! Daniel, close to my heart. I am driving Apogee Scintillas with the eAR 2. I still have my Aleph P pre amp. My sweet Jolida 100 fitted with terrific tubes has lost out to the cheapy ($150) Liteon, already improved with three cd inserted patches.

It was the vaunted X600 that was replaced by the eAR.
I doubt it Muralman, at least not in my direct comparisons. I have done an AB with my current amp and the Spectron, it wasn't even close in any parameter in my system. In another system or with your Class D amp the outcome may have been different but that remains to be determined which I plan on doing soon. System matching, again is the most important element in each of us realizing the goal of the absolute sound or what we expect or hope our systems to do towards our enjoyment of music. I think what you found in your system were two products that improved your system. One thing in this hobby I have found to be true is that improvements often come from unexpected sources.
I agree with Tubegroover. I had the Spectron Musician II power amp and it was a very clear sounding amp. Clearer than my Pass Labs X-250 in my system but I did not really connect with the music. In fact my Kinergetics KBA-75 was more musical. The Pass had more texture to the notes and voices than the Digi amp just did not have. Again this was in my system at the time. Also at 500 woc it did not sound any louder than the Pass at 250 wpc. Does this mean the Spectron was bad, no way, maybe with a different source, preamp and speakers it would have made for a fantastic system. I have since upgraded speakers and source and the system synergy changed 100% so I am back at looking differnt componets to reach its full potential.

Happy Listening.
I havent heard the Acoustic Reality so I really cant comment, but I have heard Pass Labs, and ohhh what a fine sounding amp. You never know, eAR's may be a giant killers. Guys with smallish budgets, like me, hope for this kind of stuff.

Seriously though, a $129.00 Liteon DVD player was better than the JD-100? Whats next? A $179.00 Apex multi-format whoops the Meitner DAC Six? Well I'm game, those certainly fit my budget better, but I have to say, I seriously doubt it.

Happy Turkey Day all.
Im with Slappy. Can someone explain what are and how many manufacturers are producing Digital Amps ?
Muralman1, your Acoustic Reality amp is solid state! Solid state essentially means that the circuits utilize transistors rather than vacuum tubes. Truly digital amplifiers, not those with just a digitally regulated power supply, amplify the audio signal in the digital domain. They generally have complex semiconductor chips (containing lots of tiny transistors) that save space and are more energy efficient in comparison to using a circuit board with discrete electronic components amplfying in the analog domain.

To this point, I believe that the major benefits of digital amplifiers are for the manufacturers, not the audiophile. Digital amps make sense for computers and products that must be physically small. When used with more traditional audio components with analog outputs, their use requires unnecessary steps of digital to analog and analog to digital conversion.
Aren't we splitting hairs? There is a wide gulf in approach in power production between digital module powered amps and bipolar/mosfet type amps. They just aren't the same. Maybe I am using the wrong code word.

I know that TacT is truly digital to the final analogue conversion. Likewise, OTLs are true valve gear.

The small cool running digital modules are sweeping into the audio arena. There are new better (and worse) modules being introduced all the time.
Bigkidz and others, it pains me to diss my good old Pass buddies. I'm just a crass consumer after all..

Yes, synergy is important. I am not totally surprised the Spectron took a back seat to the Pass and others. There is room for improvement. The fact is that improvement is happening with great speed.

The eAR has an analogue power supply, while all the "digitals" I can think of are using a switched power supply. The ICE module was built to surpass earlier module designs. Acoustic Reality goes further and improves ICE. All I know for sure is the eAR sounds analogue to these ears.
I can't speak to the eAR 2, but my stock "digitally-enhanced/controlled" HCA-2 (with skookum power cord) is far more detailed, emotionally involving, natural-sounding, and MUSICAL than any conventional tubed or ss amp I've heard. (Well.. the Bryston 3B SST was fairly decent also!)

The HCA makes music - listening fatigue is non-existent. I'm staying up far too late into the night these days, cuz I can't shut the damn thing off. Those who claim these amps have no "soul" could not possibly have heard them critically in decent systems. I think the "old school" is biased against the term "digital" - perhaps a better term would be "the new analog".

Played Patricia Barber the other day and was amazed at the reproduction of bass lines: superb resolution and vibrancy, the oft-vaunted "truth of timbre" in spades.

If these amps can sound this truthful and involving this early in the game, just imagine the results when this technology matures...
My final comment is that the best is only relative to what we each have heard in a given system. Excitement over a new design/technology, could well be superceded by current technology. Muralman, <1 ohm Apogee Scintillas may be best matched with the digital amp in question and in your system. But what you have done here based on your speakers which admittedly are probably the MOST difficult in the history of this hobby to drive, have asked a question that maybe in your situation may be the best solution but certainly not in many others. The title of your thread seems more an excitement of finding something that works much better than your Pass amp in your system but might sound like sh** in another. I don't mean to come across as sounding crass but as I stated in my first post, synergy is MUCH more important in realizing what each of us is attempting to achieve in realizing long term listening pleasure from our individual systems.

I have heard a few digital amps, none have impressed me thus far. Detail, dynamics are only part of the equation, musical involvement LONG TERM, "I can't wait to hear my favorite music tonight" is. I am no pessimist, but more a realist. Maybe digital has its advantages in a given system but my guess is that on an absolute level, current technology (SS and tubes) at their best would be preferable in more systems. Of course digital may eventually turn out to be the turning point in getting us closer to reality but to date I doubt very much if it has "arrived", time will tell.
Slappy, I guess you're just pretending not knowing about digital amps.

Class "D" is pulse operated amplifier. Pulse generator with pulse freequency F is usually placed before the output stage that is nothing else as transistors connected as complementary pairs like in class "B" operation i.e. the amplifier is actually solid state. This dictates high efficiency of the output stage, less demand on quality of the output devices, less sophisticated power supplies(theoretically no clipping!)

The downsides are:
very high distortions at low volume levels; some of the models are highly affected with radio freequencies.
Marakanetz, I have heard those criticisms before concerning some digital modular designs. The field is in it's infancy, and will grow unevenly.

Tubegroover, I understand. My eAR has not been around much. On some Martin logans, it was matched against Sonic Fidelity. The eAR equaled the SF in musicality and involvement, but went further in uncovering the real thing, and expressing bass passages.

I think you might be on to something about my speaker's synergy with the eAR. The Scinnies are notorious amp benders. The eAR seems to ignore impedances. Although it was a revelation on my system, the SF/Martin Logan are quite enjoyable.

That same ML owner went tubes, after I demonstrated valves on his solid state system. I really thing tube components are going to survive.
I think when Muralman1 is referring to digital vs solid state, he’s referring to “digital switching” amps compared to linear SS amps. You’re correct to point out that not all “digital” amps can accept a digital input signal, and that switching amps can employ either an analog or digital modulation control method. However, the key thing that they all have in common is that in the power conversion stage, the output devices in a digital switching amplifier operates in either an “on” or “off” state, and it is thus “digital” by definition. It is this function that gives switching amps their superior efficiency compared to linear amps.

I’m glad to see that you’re enjoying the eAR amp, especially since I’m one of the guys that recommended that you try it. To answer your question, no I don’t think conventional linear SS amps will be doomed to extinction, at least not quite. Audiophiles are a diverse bunch of highly passionate and idiosyncratic people – and I say this in the best possible way since I’m included in this description :) - who know what they like, plus we tend to be fiercely individualistic in our tastes, and we do not necessarily follow the mainstream. For the same reason that tube gear continues to flourish in audiophile circles, SS will remain as long as there is a market for people with a taste for it. Having said that, I think it’s inevitable that digital amplifiers will do to linear amps what the transistor did to the vacuum tube. I say this because IMHO, the most impressive achievement of digital switching technology to date is that it has demonstrated how true high-end performance can be delivered, even at the technology’s infancy, at a heretofore unheard of price point. Furthermore, as you and I have discovered, when it is put into a no-compromise design, the outcome can be magical.

But back to my original point, it’s clear that once you’re able to put an amplifier on a chip, and thus replace hundreds of discrete components with a single inexpensive part, the market will inexorably move to adopt it, especially in the mainstream. However, in the high-end market things are different because here it is viable to survive with low volumes and high margins, for as long as there are still people that want to buy it.
I realy meant no criticizm of the gear rather than simply describing what class "D" means.
I have a sample of each type amp in my home;Digital (Spectron Musician II), SS linear Bryston 4BSST, and OTL tube (Atma-Sphere M60 Mk II). After spending weeks optimising the cable/speaker/room/sub for each amp here are the standings:
#1)Atma-Sphere M60. Utterly transparent and deep,informative soundstage. No effort,music just lives and breathes. Bass is organic and holistic. (For you new-agers out there. You know who you are). Does require the assistance of the Zero's on my system to match my 645's to the amp. Useful for winter heating.

#2 Bryston 4BSST. This amp is only slightly less musical and clear than the M60. Detail is great, dynamics are great, sounstaging is only slightly less, bass is also great....though it doesn't quite "breathe" the way the M60's can. Musical with great tonality. A very easy amp to live with.

#3 Spectron. Used to be #1 until I experimented on optimising for the other amps. Slightly more open on top than the Bryston and originally had a better soundstage. A bit dry in the lower midrange, lacks the tonality of the Bryston. Great bass. Great dynamics, just doesn't do the fade to silence decay thing nearly as well as the M60. That dryness just seems to take something out of the voice...but really only if you compare to the other two amps after being optimised. Still a great amp. Coupling with a Bryston preamp brings in more tonality on the low-mids and bass.
That is certainly a beautiful unit, chrome triangle made in Denmark, and the price is great if it performs for others as it did for you.

1)Did you purchase direct or go through dealer? How long to receive if direct?

2)Is it true that speaker cable connections occur under amp? Can you give more detail how this is done as no photos
show amp connection method at website.

BTW that matching preamp is very radical also.
Hi Megasam,

I bought mine in the states. It was new, and had been in the hands of a former dealer. From Denmark, I have no idea. The eAR is based on European currency, and as you know, currency fluctuates. I have little doubt the shipping would occur promptly. The packing of the amp is the best I have ever seen.

There are two models to choose from. For 8 ohm and some 4 0hm loads I would recommend the Enigma.

For my terribly inefficient speakers, I use the Pass Aleph P's variable gain feature to good results. Anything over 2 ohms, shouldn't be concerned with what pre amp they are using.
Muralman, with all due respect the theme of your post should have been: are the Scintillas on the brink of extinction? BTW, I've already heard several prominent amp makers suggest that every day for the eAR maker is turning out to be Ground Hog Day. No wonder you love them.
Khrys what is your problem? In another forum topic, I repeated one quote by a speaker maker that colorfully explains why Apogee stopped making Scintillas, but not the much larger Full Ranges, and you have had connuptions ever since.

The hand labor that went into the making of the Scintilla would drive it's cost upwards to 40k these days. The Scintilla was made as a statement, not a financial banquet.

You would obviously be surprised at the number of speaker builders that have used Apogees to voice their own famous speakers.

You also act like you have never heard a decent digital, nor an Apogee. If you had, you wouldn't be crashing this topic just to plagiarize my quote from another topic.
Muralman, surely you mean conniption? And if not, you should at least try to define extinction, especially for those of us not as blessed as you.
My Dear, you cannot plagiarize a quote that's already extinct.
Khyrs. Why don't you have your maid give you a warm glass of milk, and tuck you in. You must be running a fever.
Muralman1, please take this in the manner in which it is intended. I'm not trying to unduly attack the Apogees. I'm sure that you'll agree that they are a rather unique speaker. One that puts a unusual load on amps, requires more than typical care regarding placement, and to my ears and I'm led to believe others as well, presents a sonic signature of eleveated lower frequencies and depressed higher frequencies. Despite all this they certainly have their charms. The reason I mention all this, is because I'm curious if you had the opportunity to use the eAR amp on other speakers. Do you think the eAR is that most sought after neutral product or one that just seems to have a synergy with the Apogees?
Unsound, your adult approach to dialogue is refreshing.

There are many models of Apogees. I have happily run some on 100 watt tube amps. All are 4 ohm speakers, or greater, except the Scintilla. Why do I choose the Scintilla? Because it is the finest of all Apogees. I was well aware of it's amp requirements when I bought them.

I am glad that you have heard Apogees. Your characterization of suppressed higher frequencies puzzles me. I have read everything I can find on Apogees, and not once have I heard that criticism before. It certainly doesn't apply to my experience either.

I would think all dipoles require careful positioning. I know for certain, the Scintilla will lose it's highs if wrongly positioned. Maybe that was the case when you heard them.

I have heard just about every speaker out there, and I have yet to yearn for any. The highs in my system extend to out of hearing naturally, without a hint of beaming.

I am absolutely certain the eAR will fit into any system. Obviously it has the power needed for any load. It is beautifully built. Because of the lack of needing heavy heat sinks, or giant transformers, there are big cost savings.

The eAR doesn't sound anything like other digital amps I have heard, including TacT, and the EVO. It really sounds like the finest tubes, only clearer still, with a serious grip on the bass driver. The eAR's mid range dynamics are better than anything I have heard elsewhere. It is in a space of it's own.

So far, people who were ready to hand the cash in, and walk out the door with my X600 blocks, have scoffed at the idea they should listen to the eAR. I have to admit, it is a hard sell. I am not saying people will come around quickly.

I predict as more of us adopt digitals, the faster the movement will spread. Even now, digital amps are being designed for market by many amp manufacturers. I believe they will flood the market within a year.

A group of us (converts all) did take the eAR to a Martin Logan owner's place. In the past, we had listened to the Jolida 1000, Pass X150, Sonic Frontier, and a Llano 300 on the MLs. We all agreed, the eAR bested the lot of them on the Martin Logan.


Muralman, the sublety of the above posts is obviously lost on you so let me, the "feisty one", spell it out. You come across as a shill (look it up). You would have us believe that a discontinued speaker generously described as notorious now powered by a "revolutionary" amp only sold "factory-direct" defines the "state of the art". Who can replicate your experience? And why would we take your "word" when you so easily confuse dB with Hz in your posts? And your obsequious email to Acoustic Reality as "Vince" 11/03 undermines your veracity to the point that I must ask: What financial stake do you have in the North American distribution of Acoustic Reality products? Better yet, where can I find these gems at CES next month?
Muralman has been posting on these boards for quite a long time, and his posts usually revolve around the Apogee speakers. There is really nothing to suggest that Muralman is as shill; if he were one it would be for the defunct Apogee corporation. He has also praised Pass labs many times. The tone of his posts are also inconsistent with having been suborned.
I personally appreciate when a audiogon member chooses to share his experience with a "new" technology, (although this technology is not new). As in many other circumstances, the reader needs to temper his acceptance of proferred opinions with the knowledge that enthusiasm might be tainting the objectivity of the observations. Nevertheless, in regard to the subject at hand ,there is considerable interest in these digital amps, and some people have reacted very passionately to them, suggesting much more vehemently than muralman, that ,for example, the ps audio is better than almost any amp available. In the last several weeks there have been treads about the carver pro 1600 and some sort of giant killing panasonic receiver. My undestanding is that Rowland is also thinking of marketing an amp based on this technology. Thus, I think it is great that muralman has shared his experience. Of course there are shills on this board but they are usually easy to spot, (first time posters, those recommending expensive mods performed only by one company etc). I ,for one, would hope that everyone would be feel free to share there experiences without apprehension of being unfairly maligned
As I see it, Muralman has maintained a long-term relaionship with his Apogees. He now seems to have found an amp that mates perfectly with his long term partner and his enthusiasm knows no bounds. As fellow audiophiles we should be happy for Muralman.

Btw, the title of his post is kind of silly since these digital amps are solid state amps.
The "tube sound" and the "solid state sound" relate to the
distortion spectrum characteristic of these devices when used in a linear amplifier.

In a digital amplifier, the characteristics of the ouput devices, tubes or transistors, are irrelevant because they are full on or full off all of the time. The output devices could be relays if you could find ones that switch fast enough. Any sonic characteristic is the result of the algorithms used to control the output devices.
Gee, thanks guys. :-D
On tube sound. I am just trying to describe the eAR in terms we are familiar with. For me, tubes have always imparted the playback with a wholeness, and kindness, solid state only approaches. The Pass amps brought me close.

IMHO, the eAR (?digital enabled solid state?) bridges the accuracy and extension of great solid states with the wholeness, and kindness of tubes. On top of that, it thoroughly clarifies the players, to where everything is heard in proper proportion.

Jeff Rowland has already entered the digital module fray, I believe. As has been noted, PS Audio has rocked the boat hard with their cheap entry. The basic bud of Class D technology may have been around for a while. Now it is beginning to fully blossom.

Really, everyone, I am just giving you my personal experience. When I started this topic, I was hoping others with similar esperience would step forward - seems I have jumped the gun.
It has a write up on digital amps in the lastest newletter.

Muralman1...Ok I will step forward. As I have said in other threads, I have purchased Carver ZR1600 digital amps, and I find them to be superb (driving MG1.6 and subwoofers). This confirms opinions posted elsewhere by other reviewers. Also importantly, they are so low in price (considering their power, 600 watts 4 ohms) that anyone having an interest in expressing an opinion on digital amps has no excuse not to try one.
On Brystons website there's an article about this in the "what's new" section, in the latest newsletter. Ignore my previous post.

Thank you for the input Eldartford. I hadn't even heard of the Carver. These things are cheap. I have heard rumors there are a number of these new breeds ready to hit the streets, at ever cheaper prices.

Muralman, chastized as such by the choir, I accept the sincerity of your posts and offer my apologies for any doubt expressed indeftly. Rgcards says it best, indeed. BTW, have you sold your Pass Labs? I might be interested.
Muralman1..Go to for info. $800 and change. There are mods, mostly to simply bypass the Prosound features that audiophiles don't need.
Khrys, I can see how my evangelizing over one product can lead a reader into distrust. I actually enjoy a good argument.

You have me feeling nostalgic over my Great Aunt Key, and cousin Van Day Truex. Even the mansions of Shawnee Missions are gone to condos.

My Pass 600 amps are in merry England. Thanks for asking.

I will toast to your good health these Holidays with a glass of egg nog tonight.
Seems Acoutic Reality not afraid to put their products out for review.......6 Moons also has review coming on Pre2/Enigma power amp combo.

Great link explaining class D amplifiers. I think the Bryston web site said it best, that class D efficiency will see it replace analog solid state in almost all consumer (read circuit city) electronics, but that valve, analog solid state (class A, AB) and class D amps will coexist in high end since all are capable of high performance if well designed and implemented with quality components.

That sounds very reasonable to me. Notice that new technology only ever seems to obsolete old technology in the consumer arena, but never in specialist arenas. Did CD players obsolete vinyl ? Did transistors obsolete tubes ? Have exotic materials obsoleted doped paper drivers ? Not in high end.
Seantaylor99, electricity seems so have replaced winding megaphone-ographs. Somethings just take more time than others.
Unsound, electricity has not replaced winding megaphonographs at all. It simply has taken over the winding. For a romantic evening would you prefer GEs incandescents with a space heater or some candles and a crackling fire?
Khrys, electricity has replaced the winding and the megaphone. For a romantic evening, I'll take the candles and fire. If I had to choose one or the other on a day to day basis, I'll take the space heater and the incandescents.
Unsound, if electricity has replaced the megaphone, i.e., non-electronically amplified sound, then why do we still have concert halls? Must be that "day-to-day" basis thing I guess. You prove Seandtaylor99's point exactly: new technology generally becomes mainstream but seldom displaces its predecessor for the special occasion. Cinema did not kill theatre nor did television supplant movies. No home stereo can bare to compete with LA's new Disney Concert Hall. I will concede however that Class D digital amps could be the perfect complement to incandescent light bulbs and space heaters, though the fluorescent afficionados are already cying foul.
Won't get into the politics in this thread.However...I too believe the Scintilla is "without any doubt", the undisputed king of the apogee speaker line-up.Because of their load on a given amplifier,I sincerely doubt many people have ever really heard them at anywhere near their best.When they were first introduced,here in the Toronto area, they were always demo-d with the latest high powered Krell, Mark Levinson,or Classe A gear of the time.Good sound to be sure,but a long way from the live experience. I had the recent pleasure of listening to the Scintilla set up with FM acoustics gear[do not recall models] in an optimized room. They were mesmerizing to say the least...goose bumps galore!Even though I have been a planar speaker fan for more than 30 years, and a devoted "tubie".... the experience was a revelation to me.A new found appreciation for an old speaker.I cannot help but think that present owners of Scintillas must be very excited about the future of this new digital amplification medium we are only beginning to embark on and I am quite certain it will mature at a very brisk pace.We: as music lovers, must applaude these designers that embrace new technology,as they will surely improve upon it. All the best in your endevour. The world would be a very sad place without music. Enjoy. Cheers David
Ecclectique (fabulous moniker BTW) of course owners of low impedance speakers will find digital amplification synergistic, much as those with high impedance speakers embrace single ended triodes. To each their own, except for those of us who champion the sound of music in real time.
Thank you very much, Ecclectique. You are one of the only people I know that have heard the Scintilla properly powered. I absolutely thrill at the performance of mine powered by the eAR. On the down side, the 250 watts of my little amp doesn't have the unlimited current the FM Acoustics amps, and I keep the volume down to 90db, short of some live events. I have peeked at higher levels, but the eAR wasn't created to push <1 ohm. I went to the FM site, and came away with more questions than answers. Lacking large heat sinks, these have to be digital module amps, don't they?

Thanks for the tip.


"To each their own, except for those of us who champion the sound of music in real time."

Meaning there is always an advantage had by latter production speakers? You can go on believing that. There are very few Scintillas to go around anyway.