"Fixed" bias versus "auto-biasing"

Is there a difference? If so, what is it? Finally, is "auto-biasing" necessarily a good thing? If so, in what ways?

Silly questions, I suppose, but I'll happily read any and all responses.
Auto biasing is more convenient than manual biasing. That's a good thing. Is there a sound difference? Each person will tell you something else. If you are going to put the amp inside a rack, you may want to put more emphasis on autobiasing but if the amp(s) is(are) open, it doesn't matter.
My experience with a BAT (auto) and both Manley(manual) and Atma-Sphere(manual, but better executed) affirmed my opinion that manually biasing an amp can be a pain in the ass but really doesn't make a difference. One byproduct of owning a Auto biasing amp was that I never wondered if the amp would sound better if I rebiased it. I trusted that it was always at its premium setting.
My current amp is the Atma-Sphere which is biased with a different method than most amps. Still manual but IMO more efficient.
Others with more time and tube knowledge than myself will surely flame me and tell you how wrong I am, but you asked for many responses.
Bias is the voltage applied to the tubes grid. Manufactures design the circuit for the tube to have certian voltage applied that results in optimum life, sound, and safe operation of the amp.

Basically the difference is that with fixed bias, you adjust the bias externally using a mulitmeter( or the amp has meter or led lights) and either an adjustment knob on the amp, or screwdriver slotted to fit an adjustment hole either inside on a board, or outside the amp to adjust the current mA reading that is recommended by the amp manufacturer, so that the tubes run at a desired bias point for long life and good sound.(deep breath ;) Fixed bias is only "fixed" until after YOU adjust it to the right setting or your prefered setting as some do..( bias for more power/ shorter tube life...or less power and longer life. Both are not good as they have thier obvious problems, and sonics tradoffs. Go with the maufactures recommendation here.

With auto bias, the amp has a built in circuit( feedback comparator or servo mech.) so that when the tubes are in place and the amp is on..it will automatically set the mA current level of the tube circuit, compensating for tube differences and thus run them at the recommended point.

The advantage of the auto is that it makes the replacement of tubes very easy to just slip in and go. The disadvantage is that extra circuitry can fail and cause damage to the amp when it does. The servo can also require its own adjustment so that it does its job and brings the tubes in line accurately. Most auto bais is quite reliable however. There is another type of biasing, I think its called cathode self bias...its basically works like a fixed bias, in that you still adjust manually, but from what I know of them, you cant adjust the bias skewed for higher power, like true fixed bias.

This is what I remember just off the top of my noggin'.hope this help you.

Thanks to both Kehut and Banksfriend for your responses. I appreciate the input. Can either or both of you tell me briefly about tube replacement when the amp is auto-biasing. That is, I assume that a single tube could be replaced if necessary rather than having to replace a pair or a set of four? With an auto-bias amp, is it even necessary to purchase "matched" tubes should one tube only go bad? What kind of tube-life should someone expect, generally, or is tube degradation something I'd recognize without much trouble?
Arkprof, what amps are you considering that brings up this question? Many tubes are both long lived and inexpensive enough that this issue should not be a determining factor -unless your talking about matched B300s etc.-?
That is one of the other advantages of auto bias..you can replace one tube when it goes and not a whole matched set of 4. It becomes less critical to have your tubes matched..but I would still recommend matching so that the bias circuit doesnt have to compensate too much.

Most amps are now fixed bias with auto biasing less popular today. Mike Saunders at Quicksilver is a proponent of auto and uses this type in many of his amps without problems.Ive used several of his nice amps.

I echo Banksfriend's question of what amp(s) are you looking into?

With auto bias, the tubes will be continually biased as you go..sonic degradation will occur towards the end of the tube life and then the tube will be so weak, that the auto bias circuit will not be able to bias it anymore and it will sound that way! or just give up the ghost.

You will have to adjust the bias on a fixed amp on occasion, usually a check every 3-6 months is good and adjust as necessary.Some tube types like the 300B require check fairly often...others like the EL84/6BQ5 much less often
Again, this kind of info has meaning for me. Over the past 7 years I've gone from two different Classé amps to two different Pass amps to, this past year, a Pathos Classic One/Shanling SACD (tubed output) combination. I want to slip into tubed amps/preamps, so I'm starting with an Almarro A205A, but I'm currently using a small Sophia Baby amp until the Almarro gets here. Cain&Cain speakers (95 dB). I realize that quality will be defined to some great degree by dollars invested, but the Sophia makes it clear to me that I'm going to enjoy tubed gear and I have greater expectations from the Almarro. Neither amp is expensive, of course, but I'm thinking I'll find what works for me without having to fork out too many dollars (PrimaLuna seems to get lots of good press, though Almarro does, also). I don't really want to spend more than $2k nor have something that could warm my entire house.

All of my questions simply reflect some underlying doubts or concerns about tubed amps ... I guess I've always sensed that they might just be one ongoing headache ... tubes burning out, noisy interference, way too hot, too fragile, etc. I think I was greatly misinformed.