Low level res more inherent in tubes?

A post re: what sound level do you listen at got me thinking. I noticed a high percentage responding they listen in the 80-85 db range. I checked my system and room with a variety of music and rarely found a need to go beyond 70db to achieve a satisfying sound, unless a few adult beverages were consumed, then it went a bit higher.

This is with a current integrated tube setup- I thought back to some previous SS amps and remembered a tendency (or a need) to play the music louder, sometimes much louder to achieve a certain satisfaction of sound. To me, the current amp is better at conveying details at lower sound levels.

So, I guess the bottom line is- Is there such a thing as good low level res or microdynamics from SS power? How far up the SS amp food chain do you need to go to get it?

Or is it just more inherent in tube amplification?

Or- would it have more to do with the tube pre-amp within the system?

I think it has alot to do with the speaker system that is matched with the amp.
The Pass Labs Aleph amps, especially the monos, have excellent low-level resolution. In fact, so do the X-series amps. But you won't get "tube magic"--see my post below.

I'd love to hear a bit more on this.

I am under the impression the Dynaudio I am using tends to be 'power hungry'. This I used to agree with because I would have to crank the sunsaguns up to get decent sound. 'High current' everybody says-'that's what you need'. So I grab an amp that doubles down with high power and 120 amps peak. This amp has great control, Looking beyond that tho, this amp just had to be played loud. Low volume rather stunk, and I would guess it not to matter which speaker it was hooked up to.

Installing this wimpy tube thing showed the speakers could indeed sing with low wattage. High current? really doubtful, I bet the amp struggles to pump 35 watts into a 4 ohm load.

Sorry guys, I guess I am just struggling to understand what all of you seem to already know- system and room synergy along with your own musical taste play a huge role in preference. The thing that confuses the hell out of me is how to combine certain attributes without giving up others desired within the system.


If I recall correctly, your integrated amp. does not have a tubed pre-amp section, it is a passive pre-amp containing only the volume control and input switching. All of the tubes are in the amplifier section to the best of my knowledge.

Check with Paul for details, but I'm fairly certain about this. Matter-o-fact, I think Paul told me to turn the volume up to 100% if I have a pre-amp or other means of volume control. The 100% volume level would basically take the volume control out the circuit.

Anyway, nothing at all to do with the main point of your post, but you mentioned tubed pre-amp and I thought I would chime in......



Could someone chime in with a few definitions/examples/differences between these:

Low-Level definition
Inner detail
macro dynamics
micro dynamics

Just curious as I want to write a review of my new Channel Islands VMB-1 amps and I want to know how to articulate what I am hearing. These amps have an incredible ability to let me follow bass lines that were smeared via other amps and I can easily follow some background vocals and conversations in some recordings where I was previously unable to do so.

Thanks and Enjoy,

Rwbadley, FWIW my experience with Dynaudio's is that typical of a lot of dynamic speakers they really don't open up at low volume settings with any amps - including high power tube amps. At medium to high volume they are excellent to supurb depending on the model. This has been brought home to me recently by the acquisition of some new speakers usings Seas drivers - they open up much more at low volumes, that is I have full soundstage imaging and bass at much lower levels of volume. Quads do the same thing at low levels, as do other some speakers. TWL is correct in pointing at the speakers but I'm not sure how much the amp makes a difference unless it is a tonal one, i.e. more bass output at low levels will make for a much more natural sounding tone (but will become opressive at higher volumes).
Rwbadly, since you are using the same speakers with a different amp, you may have noticed considerable changes in various things.

The thing I mentioned about speakers related to using a more efficient speaker, so that the system can dig more out of the lower SPL because of the lower threshold that it takes to move the drivers in a higher efficiency speaker.

Using the same speakers with a new power amp, would not really affect that speaker efficiency issue. However, the new amp could just provide more detail. I don't know which amp you had, or have now, which you are comparing vs each other. We really would need to have more information to determine anything more than just speculation.

Many people do report that lower power tube amps do sound much more powerful(watt for watt) than SS amps do. I've read many reports from users that a good 50 watt tube amp sounds as powerful as a 200 watt SS amp. Perhaps this is what you are hearing.

Also, if your tube amp is "warmer" in the bottom end than your old SS amp was, the lower listening levels may favor the warmer sounding amp, due to the Fletcher-Munson effect of the ears being less sensitive at the frequency extremes at low listening SPL(as Newbee alluded to). This could account for low frequency details being more audible at low SPL with the new amp.

There really is not enough info to make an informed statement about what you are experiencing, except for wild guesses.

Maybe your new amp is just plain better than your old one.

A list of components and listening room description might be helpful. Including the old SS amp(s) that you are comparing to the new tube amp.

Making generalized comments without knowing the particulars involved is very difficult, and probably would lead to an incorrect conclusion.
TWL, FWIW I just acquired a new integrated tube unit w/35WPC that I think was made by Fletcher-Munson for low level listening. :-) Its a "powerhouse" at low volumes and thats all I use it for - casual, low volume, listening.
Cool, Newbee!
Thanks all for your kind words-

I've been involved as a beer judge for twenty years and know the associated lingo.

I would love to find an audiophile glossary that could enhance my ability to convey what I am hearing- rather than using the beer judging words such as 'Skunky, Phenolic, Diacetyl, or my favorite - Baby's Butt' ;-)

Anybody know where to find such a glossary?
Missing some of the newer lexicon, but still extensive, is the glossery J. Gordon Holt assembled:

For a hardcopy reference, Robert Harley's "Complete Guide to High End Audio" has an extensive audio glossery:
See http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50 and links therein, e.g. http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index1.html.