Major Questions Concerning Tube Amps..??

I have read quite a bite about tube amps, positive as well as negative. Here are my questions. I have heard that the distortion level with tube amps are high, is this true.?? Tube amps are usually rated very low in terms of wattage, does this mean they provide more current that solid state amps and if so wouldn't that shorten the life of the tubes. If I replaced the amp that I have for my mains with a tube amp, will this drastically affect the sound of my HT being that the rears and surrounds are powered by a solid state amp.??


Yes, occasionally, distortion is higher with tube amps, but the character of the distortion is more pleasant.
I know it sounds hokey, but you won't worry about the "specs" once you've heard a good tube amp.

Tube amps come in all wattages, however, 50w of tube amp power "seems" like 100w or more of SS power.
I don't know the science behind this, I'm sure it's here if you search.

Current can vary among tube amps, some do run through tubes faster than others, some may be biased by the listened with tube life vs. sound in mind.

If you listen to music more than HT, I would definately recommend at least 2 channels of tube power. 3 (Left Front, Center, Right Front) channels would be great.

It is my understanding that most info still comes from the center speaker and teh front 2. All of the speakers won't sound the same with tube and SS mixed, but even with identical speakers and identical amps, the positioning of teh speakers will result in a difference in sound. Bottom line- you're curious, and that's good. Once you listen to a good tube amp, You won't go back to SS!

I'd suggest an amp that uses 6550, or kt88 tubes, as opposed to el34. El34 tubes have a richer midrange, but a hardcore solid state guy would immediately miss the bass that most el34 based amps lack.

Anyway, good luck!!!
Most of what Gthirteen says is right on the money.
However, I think you'd be fine with leaving center channel ss and just going tubes for front l+r. Most center channel sound is spoken dialogue, vs. music and sound effects out of the mains. I've read plenty of folks here using that combo w/o problems.
Your concern about current/tube life is not really the right way to think about it. Yes, some designs will have longer tube life than others, but it's a function of the entire circuit design and parts choice, not just a function of a current spec that you should base your decision on.
Trust your ears, and don't worry so much about the power ratings. If you tell folks what speakers you are driving, many will be able to offer their experiences driving them with both ss & tubes, and help you figure out what tube amps to consider. Then go listen to as many as you can, with some music that you know well. Cheers,

The wattage is the product of the voltage and the current -
so if the amp, for a given voltage is delivering less wattage,
it is delivering less current - not more.

The above posters are correct that although the tube amp puts
out more distortion - it is a more "pleasing" distortion.

Tube amps put out mainly "even-order" distortion products -
while solid state amps put out mainly "odd-order" distortion
products. Our hearing is more "bothered" by the odd-order
distortion than an equivalent amount of even-order distortion.

Unless you're an electical engineer, and really understand
the specs and all their implications - ignore the specs and
trust your ears.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Thanks for the info. By the way my speakers are Vienna Acoustics Beethoven's (mains), VA Maestro (center), 4 VA Waltz's (rears and surrounds). I listen to more 2 channel music than I watch movies (usually only with the family), this is why I'm trying to figure out if there is room for improvements (tube) in the amplification section of my system. I would appreciate recommendations for good tube amplification. I have looked at Cary, Rogue and VTL, but I have never listened to any of them, thats my next field trip. So please feel free to add to the list.

Never take advice from fanatics or Dr.s who would presume to tell you that you wouldn't understand something that's very easy to understand. Spec's as text do not matter but Stereophiles graphs mean a great deal and can tell you 90% of what yopu need to know about that amplifier. Especially when they can't test it near it rated power between the lines to get the truth.

This question cannot be answered without knowing what speakers you are using. Tube magic is not available to all people! some speakers just will not work well with tubes. Most of the speakers I like are in this category. So what speaker do you have? is a huge missing component to anyone answering these questions for you.

Personal Anecdote.

In my world where the drivers in my speakers are highly damped, have moderate sensitiviy and very flat phase responses. Most tube amplifiers are at best tolerable. They are usually flawed and ill equipped to to do the job I require. For example, Wolcott Monoblocks vs. Warner Imaging Monos on Kharma Exquisite midi's... Tubes distortion is obvious in the boom in the bass and glare in the upper mids. About the only thing that could be enticing to a listener is the overblown diffused soundstage the tubes give you.

This is just one of many examples I can give, tubes in a multi channel application are a proverbial root canal causing more probelems that they solve and will do nothing to enhance your two channel performance. Most good multi channel preamps give you the flexibility to change the sound so dramatically you can make your system sound like its on tubes. The average audiophlie will moe likely hang his speaker wire on wood bridges to make the system better before they will grasp that multi channel which REQUIRES you buy competent speakers and have an excellent processor eqippped with the propper setup parameters and understand some basic acoustics to dial in your speakers so they work as one.

Subjectivity in sound is a much narrower window in multi-channel and you can't make equipment work that doesn't. Its a binary world (1) it works (0) it doesn't. So you can see how that might make analog types feel trapped. Because you can't cover up ineffective equipment with tweaks and other band aids, like tube amp tone controls.

If you don't have a Meridian surround processor, then use your tube amp money to get one and make your two channel days a distant memory. I haven't heard a 2 channel system in the last 3 years that is better than my or many of the Meridian or TAG McLaren multichannel systems I have setup.

I realize that 99% of the people here have had the opposite experience, but Bose does sell 70% of the speakers in the US. So the majority isn't always right.

I will say this, I have not yet walked into someone's house where I could not improve their multi-channel sound significantly (I work in the industry and this list includes some very noteworthy people) just by adjusting the setup on the equipment they had. Most people are at best getting 50%-60% of the performance out of their MC systems. Keep in mind too, some speaker co's still can't make a center channel and most audio stores won't sell you three of a kind for the front speakers etc. Lots of wrong approaches to the whole multi-channel thing. No wonder people fall back into old bad habits.

Have a good one.

If you have more question or need technical backup let me know.

I don't mean to be presumptive, that DMH wouldn't understand
specs. However, from reading many questions on many forums -
including this one - I can see that there is a lot of confusion
with regard to specs.

As you probably know, since you are in the industry - published
specs can be confusing since there are likely omissions in the
specs - for a power rating - what was the load? - or what was
the allowed level of distortion?

The graphs in Stereophile contain a lot of information -
but a lot of non-technical people don't have experience
interpreting graphs.

Therefore, I believe the safest advice for the non-technically
inclined is to ignore the specs; and trust their ears.

So many times I've seen people attempt to "drink by the label"
and they can't "read the label".

I guess the safest advice is for the prospective buyer to
ask themselves if they really understand what the spec
means. If they feel confortable with their knowledge -
then they can use the spec to help formulate their buying

However, if they feel that their knowledge is on the subject
is fuzzy - then they should ignore the spec - or at least
obtain some clarification before using the info.

For example, years ago a friend wanted to buy a tape recorder
He thought that the slower the tape speed, the better -
because the machine would have a more difficult time at
the higher speed because the tape was flying by so fast!!!

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Yep morbius,

I knew what you're saying and I used you as the nearest available( I apologize for that; no harm meant) example that with ability to share information so easily I wonder why no one ever asks to have that information deciphered by someone like yourself with the appropriate background.

The exchange of opinions is nice, but when people are spending their money why are the facts presented by the magazines ever discussed with the same enthusiasm as the myths perpetuated by them?.

That's another topic for another thread; thanks for your thoughtful response and funny anecdote Dr. Have a good one.
Your speakers will not benefit from tube amplifiers, infact you couldn't have owned a speaker that could be worse with tube amplification. Certainly try tube amplifers on your speakers for your own experience but you'll find that your speakers will be murky and boomy.
Certainly not the effect you'd look to spend a few $K on.

Using algorithms like Trifield. What is your current processor? My post was about taking perfectly normal 2 channel cd's and playing them back on your 7.1 system. Its better than two channel! When its setup correctly and its not hokey, its very convincing! Like having huge dipoles without all the draw backs.

You are on the cusp of having an awesome system but you need to get a top flight surround processor to pull the whole system together. Not ruin the careful purchase of similar speakers and their layout through the room by messing up the synergy with antique amplifiers. Move forward not backwards. Resist temptation to line up and make the same mistakes other people have made. Common thinking will get you a common system, so hopefully you'll try a top flight processor (preferably Meridian) as part of your educational tour.

What surround processor are you using? I would put money down that I could make a $5,000 processor and $2000 multi channel amplifier sound better than any tube amplifier you could install in your system at any price playing redbook cd's! Too bad I can't do that for you...:(
Mr. Edwards.
It good to listen to someone that is straight and not full of @#$%. I appreciate every thing you have said and the contributions of the other members. I currently have a Fosgate FAP T1 Processor. I can't afford a Meridian or a TAG. I'm pretty happy with the Fosgate and my speakers adn really my whole setup (except for my sub.I'm working on that). I may stick to what I started to do in the beginning, buying a pair of "mono's" (SS) and calling it a day. I'm still going to audition some tube amps just so I can share the experience everyone is so passionate (positvie/negative) about. Once again thanks for all the anwers.
Hey the Fosgate is a strong processor! Its good enough by a good margin to do what i'm talking about.

If you'd like, in ten minutes I could tell you some tricks where you can get Prologic II to rival or better your current stereo playback from you system. These tricks will also help all of your surround modes.

The Vienna Acoustic center is excellent so you should get great results.

email me if you're interested Velocity_dls AT
D_Edwards, why don't you share your tricks with the rest of us ?

Cause then I wouldn't have an edge over my competition. If my competition wants and education it will have to cost them (like it is right now). Don't you think that is fair?

I'll help out an individual, especially when he's being led the wrong way but If you want I could setup a class on how to do these things.

I wrote an artical on Soundstage on how to setup a prologic system for music and no one cared, not one email....then when I explained why the sparkly tape tweak to CD's worked or didn't... well everybody was interested then! Go figure?

You can email me if you like. I'll need to know what your system consists of...thanks, have a good one.
Sbank... If you play music with more than 2 channels, the center front channel is by far the most important. It is where the soloist is located. An inferior speaker/amp is OK only if you only look at movies.