This is kind of a funny question. I generally worry about whether I have any transistors in my gear.
To answer your question, it depends on the gear. My feeling is that the fewest items needed in the signal path, that can get the job done well, is better than more items. Adding unnecessary items, whether they be tubes, or anything else, is not conducive to good sound.
If you are wondering if you should put tubes in your system to cover up the digital flaws, then maybe you should look at the source, and fix the problem where it begins.
As I understand, it is the inefficiency of tubes versus the efficiencies of transistors that give tubes that warm, human sound. Tubes add harmonics that transistors leave out. Am I right? Ok, if I am on the path. What happens when a component with tubes adds harmonic color, then passes it to another component that adds component color, then passes it on to another component that adds even more. Is it better to have only one add tube sound and all the rest of the components reproduce that efficiently? I hope I am making sense.
Well Matchstickman, If I count all the tubes in my system I come up with eighty four.
I cannot imagine substituting any for transistors. Fact is, my home theater began it's life as 100% solid state and evolved to all tube (at least everywhere possible).
Being that both Albert and myself are tube guys, you are going to get a "tube answer" from us.
I believe that "all tube" is the best way for sound quality in the majority of applications. You do not "ruin" any of the sound with tubes. A good tube amp or preamp will make the sound pass thru very clean. There is much less "grain" sound with a good tube amp. People with tube systems can hear if there is as few as one transistor in the signal path, because of the way it changes the sound. Once you start going into tubes, you will very quickly decide to eliminate all the transistors in the signal path.
Others will drastically disagree with me on this. I guess you just have to hear it to find out.
Some tubes may be in store for you...you aren't getting married! There are no truisms for any type of gear. A tube preamp or power amp CAN measure and sound very much like what we may consider a "solid state sound".
Then there are preamps and power amps that have that golden glow. Can you get to much "tube"?? I don't know about that...but no matter what you can get good or bad tonal balance. And it could be 100% solid state OR tube!
And it depends on what speakers you have as well as your room, then finally...your tastes.
Getting past that...there is certainly a connection with life via a tube system. And you can stick your toe in the water pretty easy via a hybrid product...or maybe just a tube CD or preamp.
It's funny...while I am typing this I am listening to an oldies radio station, and they are playing the theme song from James Bond "Goldfinger". Have not heard that one for a jillion years...but remember how I felt when I first saw the movie! When I hear my fave music on tube gear it's the same deal. How do you explain that feeling?
Matchstikman: Mankind has had and used tubes for about a hundred years now. On the other hand, Aliens have obviously used SS gear for a lot longer and have travelled a lot further than we ever have. After all, if it wasn't for Roswell and the technology that we "discovered" in their ships, we would still be 100% reliant on tubes. As such, who's technology are you going to trust ? Those that travel across the universe through space and time or those that want to use the limited technology that they have to blow themselves and their planet up ??? : ) Sean
Sean, I would love to get my hands on some of those obsolete "Alien" triodes! They just might have the mythical "Vapor Field" plates, and true "outer space" vacuum. Possibly even "Anti-Gravity Sonic Maximizers" that would transform my amp into a Single-Ended Godzilla from the 7th Parsec. That would really be cool. Why didn't they leave any of those old alien tubes laying around in their space lockers? :^)
Twl,check with upscaleaudio for those (OAT) tubes.
If you're trying to replicate the sound of an old console stereo, then tubes are necessary. As such I doubt you could have too many. I'd also recommend an underdamped ported speaker with a rolled off treble. The console sound can be very pleasant, but by modern standards it's not high fidelity.
Why not look for a Quad 33/303 combo. Quad 57 speakers. That's pleasant & hi-fi. The speakers are exquisite.
Tubes and transistors all have the same function in stereo, to amplify the signal. And just like everything on earth, nothing is ideal. If you look at any transistor curve (I-V), you will see the linear and saturation region. Unlike a CMOS in your computer where it only operates in high or low, transistor in stereo actually operates in all regions and often in the non-linear region. Tubes are the same but operates in different current range and on a different curve.
So is too much tube a bad thing? Can one say too many transistors is a bad thing? Neither is bad and neither is good, it's what you like that matters. Nothing is close to live performance, but I do find tubes to be closer than transistors and the more the closer.
As for transistors to get us up to the moon and fly across the ocean, tubes can do that as well. We can use tubes to build a space shuttle, it will be quite a bit bigger because each tube takes up so much more real estate where you can pack millions of transistors into one sqaure cm.
An engineer in AMD that looks at transistor everyday but goes home and listen to tubes.
It is entirely a matter of what YOU like. Tubes introduce euphonious distortion that many people like. It can be extremely seductive. Transistors do not. They produce a different sound. Not better or worse, save in the ear of the listener. Pick what appeals to you and ignore those who preach absolutes. There are no absolutes, including this one.