SS vs Tube: What do you hear?

Peter Aczel, editor of The Audio Critic, says "Whatever vacuum tubes can do in a piece of audio equipment, solid-state devices can do better, at lower cost, with greater reliability" (issue 26, p5). What do you hear which causes you to select tubes over ss, or vice versa?
Space. Three dimensionality. I prefer them in the preamp stage. I like Classe and Krell SS poweramps.
Tubes bring a sweet liquidity to the presentation that solid state just can't match. I agree with I love a tube front end with solid state amplification. I really like Classe and Rowland amps. I think The Audio Critic does his best to stir controversy as he sees conspiracies everywhere and of all the audio publications I read, I take his with a lot of salt followed with a margarita or two!
ditto for me. Like the tube pre-amp/solid state amp approach. instruments and voices seem to gain a "body". Not that solid state sounds bad, just different. I think solid state may measure better in some areas than tube such as distortion measurments, and with solid state there is no tube to replace periodically..but good tube units measure adequately, and tubes can last a long time. The sound is different slightly and you owe it to yourself to see if it makes any difference to =YOU=
SS goes boom boom boom real loud with lots of watts. The clean, clear, smooth sound of a tube amp is far superior to the irritating harshness of SS. SS gets very raspy quickly while the sound of tubes continues to sound good after listening for any extended period. You can change (roll) tubes for different sounds. You can't change a transistor.
i think the tube pre/solid-state amp is the way-to-go, if yure on a reasonable budget. you *do* have to spend big-bucks on a tube amp that will not sacrifice what solid-state amps do well, but this is not true of tubed preamps, imho. my electrocompaniet amps will stick w/my melos tubed preamp until ed mcmahon shows up w/my big check so i can go out and get those monster tube amps - after donating a sizeable portion to charity, of course... ;~)
I find that tube amps sound more natural... Strings ripple like the instrument is in your room, voices are clear & detailed. My VTL Amp also pumps out lots of clean detailed & controlled bass. I find that the smoother high end of tubes less fatiquing to listen to. Caution some tube gear is very detailed & can show flaws elsewhere in the system. My Luxman SS pre(c-1010) Sounded great with the matching Poweramp (M-2000). But the pre did not cut it with the VTL ... The Luxman all tube Cl-35 MK-III is magical . Look for vintage gear... The Scott 299 series intergrated amps are Awesome ! with phone & Headphone sections that put many current pieses to shame !
Solid state preamps can sound great objectively, but tend to have a mechanical presentation, whereas the best tube pre-amps reproduce the organic quality of real instruments and voices. But I differ with many above and prefer a tube power amp over a solid state amp any day. I don't see them in the same ball-park unless you have a pig of a speaker to drive and a small budget. I have tried a large number of solid state power amps and the only sweetness they ever achieve sounds utterly artificial to my ears. Give me the real honey, not saccherine.
I matched the ARC LS10 flagship ss preamp (discontinued) with a Musi Reference RM200 (push pull) tube amp. Am very satisfied with the detailed sound but not overly luscious & expansive soundstage. amp & pre are balanced & to my ears provides a good mix between ss & tube. Also the Strightwire Crescendo interconnects & blacsilc spkr cables as well as ESP power cables made a remarkable improvement. And lastly the choice of tubes taylors the system very well-Mine being the JJKT88 since the gold lion/Genalac are just to expensive for me to justify-so far.
Depends alot on the synergy of all components. When I changed speakers to Dunlavy V's I had to get rid of the tube Amps. They just couldn't control these speakers. I like loud jazz fusion so the ss is the better mate. Both types of amps have their importance
Don't listen to the so called audio critic or any other magazines for comments in solid state being far more superior than vacuum tube equipments. The so-called audio critic is as best a low-end hi-fi magazine run by people who are more interested in making money than trying to satisfy your real audio needs or telling the truths. Low end hi-fi equipments are full of solid state products and all their advertisiers are mostly solid state equipments manufacturers. Can the audio critic bad mouthing about any solid state equipments? I don't think so. If they tell the truths about solid state, they will go under the next second!!! Clearly a confict of interest here. Poor thing!!! In hi-end hi-fi or even ultra-fi, who cares about cost!!! And for the issue of reliability, one of the tube mono-block amp. that I currently using is like 44years old and still going strong. As for myself, everythings in my system are using tubes except my Mark Levinson LNC-2 electronic x-over. A piece of advice is only read the best audio magazines that you can get. Don't touch any of those low-fi magazines since they are run by people who just don't have the experiences and qualification to publish a quality hi-end hi-fi magazine. Finally, trust your own ear and heart and you will finally find the truth.
For SS, I hear Hi-Fi. For Tube, I hear MUSIC.
There's not much I can add to the opinions re: the inherent "rightness" (rightiousness!) of tubes. I can voice my opinion that the Audio Critic is a hack publication with no credibility whatsoever. Just sit down and listen. The differences are quite clear. After that, it comes down to what your huckleberry is -- for me it's tubes, and not just in the pre-amp.
I am using a cj premiere 17 preamp (tube) with mf2500 amp (ss). I traded my premier 11a amp (tube) for the mf2500 (ss) for convienence. Sorry I did, even though the mf2500 has more base I lost detail in the mids and highs. I want my tubes back!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am not sure why we always get so flustered when someone says something that goes against our own philosophies. If Aczel prefers solid state, great. Unfortunately for him, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. That means I can prefer tubes. Him be damned. I know what I hear. They just plain sound more REAL to me. Yes, that is the only word I need to use. REAL. And I am real comfortable with the people on my side. Both, the people on this site, and even designers who make solid state equipment. Yes, solid state designers. If tubes are not superior, then why do then always try(or even HOPE) to categorize the sound of their amps as "tubelike"??? I have now read in the course of two months, two great amp designers(Steve McCormack and Sid Smith) say that tubes sound better. And both have made great solid state amps(Smith being more well known for his tube designs). And even if I was the type who needed people on my side for me to feel secure in my position(which I am most certainly not), I'll take McCormack and Smith over Aczel any day of the week.
Good work Jim, I'm totally with you on this one.
Tubes V. SS is like color V. black and white photos. But the above comment about proper matching of components is important. Black and white photos can be very impressive, and SS can sound quite good with the right associated componenets.
I appreciate all of your responses. This afternoon I spent 2.5 hours in Audio Vision in SF, where the owner Antonio did a great job of demoing his equipment at my request. I listened to five different setups. The Audion Silver Integrated tube amp with Arcam CD player, and Reynoud Trente speakers gave me my first in store reaction of 'I want to walk out of here with this stuff'. My observation about the difference between ss & tube in this environment was that the ss had a depth of sound stage of about 1 foot, and the tube soundstage had a depth of about 4 feet. My perception of the music was more like it was coming from a stage, not off a wall. (Best description I can do). Anyway, the tubes had me involved in an excited way which was clearly different from the ss system.
Peter Aczel is definately deaf, and that is all I need to say on this subject!
Trelja, I think the reference to tube type sound in a solid state amp is a reference to the solid state amp having some 2nd order distortion similar to a tube amp. This 2nd order distortion is what gives the tube amp it's inherent sweetness or as you put it "real" sound. I can't wait until the day that a solid state amp can have the same transfer function (sound the same) as a tube amp. For me it is a matter of laziness as I am getting tired of retubing and rebiasing at a fairly high cost. I am considering switching to solid state again but I am not getting rid of my ARC Classic 60, just in case. Ciao
GMKOWAL: I own both Spectral and ARC (I chose those two because of sound quality and the company's reputation for service), most of the time I run the Spectral, extremely neutral and extemely hi-rez. The ARC is warmer sounding, but not as neutral and not as hi-rez. The soundstage is slightly larger for the ARC, but imaging is slightly more diffuse for the ARC than the Spectral. I am an old codger and also getting more lazy as time goes on, so biasing/replacing tubes is getting to be a pain. If anybody is looking to replace their tubes for ss take a look at Spectral.
I remember my first tubed pre(cary slp70). Since then I have gone back and forth, tubed pre-ss amp,all ss, and then I took the plunge and now have all tubed gear. For me this is where I will stay. There is nothing like it.Try the Anthem gear if you want to see what tubes will do on a budget.
Shubertmaniac, love your handle. Thanks for the reccomendation! I will add them to my list of must listen to amps for consideration.
I really like the SF Line 2 pre-amp (tubed) with my big McCormack DNA-2DX (SS) amp. It impresses me as the best of both worlds (OK, an excellent compromise). While it may be true that SS manufacturers try to emulate the "tube" sound, I believe this is only true in the mids and highs. OTOH, tube amp manufactures would love to achieve the taut, quick bass control That even inexpensive solid state amps do pretty effortlessly. For example, the SS McCormack DNA.5 ($ has excellent bass control, whereas the same power Tubed SF Power 2 amp ($5000. new) has at best "acceptable" bass IMO. I only note this because pace, rhythm, and timing (PRT) are very important to me, and solid state amps do this much better because of their much better bass control IMHO. It may be that the very powerful, and very expensive tube amps have the kind of bass control that I want, but I seriously doubt that I could afford to buy or re-tube them. Trelja and I have been through this discussion before, and I think we respect each others position. My intent is not to "fan the flames". Cheers. Craig to add that yes, tubes really do produce a midrange magic that is seductive.
I am in complete agreement with everything you have said in your last two posts Garfish. SS is normally better to most people for bass. Tubes for the rest. Like you stated, ss amps try to sound "tubelike" for mids/highs, and tubes would love to sound(usually) like ss like in the bass. The only tubes that can do that are prohibitively expensive both in initial purchase, maintenance, and retube(Jadis/VTL/etc.) - besides taking up too much space. Perhaps Sedond has things right. SS for his subs, and tubes driving the rest of the music. I think it all comes down to personal taste. For me, the overall picture is better with tubes. For you, solid state. Vanilla and chocolate. Simply which tradeoffs we choose to make. I do like the fact that you get a lot of the magic into your system with the tube preamp. A good compromise in the eyes of most. Nice to see two people who can disagree(but less than one would think), without being disagreeable.
I recently made a change that applies to this thread. I have not owned a SS amp in over 8 years. During that time I have played with several of the best known tube amps and have come across several great ones.I consider myself in the tube camp so to speak for the above mentioned reasons. Recently I purchased a bedroom system C/O Res audio CD50, proac 1SC. After a trial with some lower priced and powered tube amps that worked well (no surprise) I bit on an opportunity to try an Aleph 3, A SS amp you are all familiar with that has received more press in the last 4 years than any I can remember since being in this hobby. During the past 8 years I haven't even heard a SS in a quality system as I don't have any friends in the hobby and don't visit dealers. You could say my ears are virgin to good recent SS designs. I can't get over how different(not really better or worse) the Aleph3 sounds than anything I have had in the last 8 years (granted in a "new" system for me) Better low end extension, more speed, superclean with a surprising and refreshing lack of glare in the lower treble, rock solid image placement. Smaller stage size, lack of texture to the midrange that adds some sterility to the sound, somewhat compressed dynamics even compared to say an AMP 1 (sometimes makes you feel as if its holding back so as not to emit a single bad sound) Overall it is what I thought it would be in a strange way. It has its strengths and its weaknesses, and is really the best SS I have heard and has provided some great sound so far.
hi trelja,

while i *wish* i had tubes driving everything but the subs, fact is i have a pair of electrocompaniet amps driving my meret re monitors. but, yer assessment of what i think is pretty on-target! ;~)

i think these are the best compromise amps until i can afford some *megabucks* tube amps. i think for under ~$4k retail, solid-state is better, at least for me. above that, however, then i think you can find tube amplification that sacrifices little-enuff of what s/s does well, so that a tube amp is overall, more musical.

electrocompaniet amps have all the solid-state wirtues, while not having their flaws, if still not approaching the *virtues* of tubes. combined w/a nice tubed preamp, these amps work well enuff for me, until i can try some of the spendy tube stuff. i think having an excellent tubed preamp, which is less expensive to purchase & feed than an excellent tube amp, is the key to enjoying solid-state amps.

of course, i think there *are* excellent affordable set tube amps - but then, i couldn't afford the avantgarde duo's, or the jadis eurythmie's i'd want 'em to drive! ;~)

ciao for now, doug

I've had SS preamps and SS amp combinations, different tube preamps with great SS amps and then I bought a VAC Renaissance 70/70 amp to mate with my VAC preamp. That was the best up to that point but there is no argument for the bass delivered by solid state. I think I have come up with what is about as good as it gets by having tube preamp, tube amp for midrange and up by adding Genesis Model V speakers into the system to handle all the low bass you could ever ask for. The tubes get to work their magic and the servo amp gets the bass as good as I've heard bass. I love this set up and have had it for almost 3 years with not feelings of upgrading. I now mess with power cords and power conditioning instead to get the last little incremental improvements I can.