I tried solid state again several years ago, but missed the tubes and stayed with them. Ultimately, it's personal taste. There are diehards (and forum threads!) with opposing opinions.
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I tried an Audio Research LS-25. The noise and lack of control in in the bottom 2 octaves was to much for me. Got a used McCormack MLD. Kris at SMC did his Platinum+ upgrade on it. I know this hard to except but even the midrange is better than the Audio Research LS-25. I am very happy with it.. My phono stage is an Audio Research PH-3SE which is a hybrid. So I still have tubes in the system. The PH-3SE is very quiet and very good in the bass. It has the reference mod in it from Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound.
I have owned mostly solid state gear. I had a Counterpoint preamp, and loved it (tubes) but it failed too many times So i tossed it. (sorry that idid that though)
Then i found a good deal on an Audio Research Sp-10 (one of those 'holy grail' of tubed preamps. It was 'OK' but noisy. I got an Audio Research Sp-15 which is all solid state except for the Phono section (three tubes). The Sp-15 blew the Sp-10 totally out of contention. Sold the Sp-10 straight off.
Still have the Sp-15,(and use it just as a second phono section sometimes) but wanted an Audio Research REF 3, so after fooling around and hearing a Bryston BP-26 I bought the Bryston. The used Audio Research REF 3 might have been better, but the fact of no tubes in the Bryston and that thus i could leave it on 24/7 forever, made it a no brainer for me. (after auditioning it)
So I also happen to own a VAC Standard tube preamp. It is no great shakes, but i do use it as a tube buffer for my digital output.
So, all in all I like tube sound, I do not like the hassle of tubes. But I like clarity and purity more than tube sound. The Bryston BP-26 solid state does that for me.
(I had noticed a reviewer I respected owned a BP-26 in his own system, and that made me look at it, glad i did, and the BP 1.5 phono, separate phono section is also a gem.)
So I am not a fan of the big bloated warm 'tube' sound. What i did like was the HF smoothness and beauty.
Having found that in a solid state product. i am happy.
I sold my uber expensive all tube system, and bought a beat up pair of Epos M22's and an old Exposure XV integrated. There are tubes in the Jolida CD player...
I love this little system. I was beginning to think I couldn't listen to SS at all. All the expensive stuff at the shows had me fatigued within ten minutes; but this ancient of days gem has me blown away on a daily basis.
...And I have money. I'd forgotten how fun that was.
Gotta admit, I want to be a tube person. It seems like it should be more soulful, genuine, you know . . . stuff that should be important. Ive owned two tubed preamps, a tubed CD player, and a tubed DAC. All pretty highly regarded (well, not all...). I keep trying, keep coming back, keep hoping.
But, I gotta be honest with myself, Im just not a tube person. Maybe my migrations havent been fair to the glass-driven end of things as Ive usually moved to more expensive SS gear (ie, AH!Tjoeb CDP to Meridian 508.24 no comparison; VTL 2.5 to Rogue 99 Magnum to Plinius and then to Roland no comparison; MHDT Havana to Ayre QB-9 holy all-knowing crap, no comparison) but in each progression from tubed to SS gear, in my system at any rate, the SS gear has just been much better. So theres that. I like chocolate and bourbon, also. Everyone should, ask me, but they dont. Its a taste thing.
But finally, what really was the death-knell of tubes for me is that I always found myself second-guessing them. Theres entirely too much anxiety and stress in my professional and daily life already, and the last thing I want during the sadly rare moments I get to unwind in front to the music bits is some damnable voice in the back dark corner of my mind musing, gosh, does that tube sound a bit off? Or maybe the left channel is getting a little tired? Having lived through tubes going south slowly and quietly, not so slowly or quietly, and having had tubed gear blow fuses and dim the lights in my house, Im just over the petulant little bitches. Too fidgety.
Again, however, normally Id love the project of fussing over tubes, nurturing and experimenting and all that rigmarole. But I am so much happier with rock-solid, reliable, no-fuss SS gear. Every time I make another foray into tubed gear, Im reminded of that old saying: best part of banging your head against the wall, feels great when you stop. What can I say, just not a tube person, me. I want to be, but Im not.
Have had various SS and tube pre's over the years, all to some degree satisfying. Once I bought my Wyetech Opal, a tubed pre, I have never even considered another pre, let alone a SS pre. I suspect much of the frustration with tube components is with the amps much more than the pre's. I think the ideal combo is a SS amp and tube pre.
One simple man's opinion after some 40 years of this mania.
Its a mix period, both can fail to find the optimal natural sound. I think the current 20 year period most have felt that Tube pre + SS Amp is the best overall compromise. I can agree to a point. But I have heard some SS Preamp's sound a lot more Tube than even Tubes! By the way some Tube preamps just have way to high output impedance and put on a low input impedance SS amp like a 10k ohm will many times sound very thin or not hit that bottom octave very well just as a tip.
Engineering of the circuit design, and matching it to the synergy, and characteristic's of the system are key. Its a whole, no one component will stand on its own including cables, or speakers so you need to narrow down the field quite a bit to get that end result, which is why Audiogon stays in business obviously as people trade out weekly on gear trying to get that "Magic" number or result!
It can get pricey, once you spend it all and come back to simplicity again many times sounds even better, but you will all spend more than you like, and maybe come full circle back to a realistic system and fundamentally well designed system.
It has less to do with power classes, A- A-B, Tube, SS whatever, even digital vs. Analog. And some recordings will just not perform in some amplification schemes the way you would like it too.
My suggestion don't have bias toward any direct topology the music needs to play correctly that's the only measurement that will ultimately satisfy whether you end up SS or Tube.
From expierence the closer the tubes are to the source the better. I also switched tubes in the phono stage and in the cd player. Phono stock tubes are 6922 switched to ECC-88 The cd player stock 12AX7 switched to ECC-83. Both with positive results especially the phono stage. I bought the tubes from TC Tubes. They also matched them which I think also helps the performance.
I think a lot of it depends on your speakers and what type of amp sounds best with them. Mine like lots of power. A year or so ago, I had a tubed CD player, tubed preamp and hybrid (tube input stage) amps. Very dense, rich sound, wonderful midrange, slightly rolled off but grainless top end and full, fat bass. I have gone to (almost) all SS gear, but had to get pretty good high power Class A amps and a pretty good preamp to make it sound good to me. I am currently doing an extended comparison between the tubed CD player and a SS player that also plays hi-rez dvd's. So far both players sound very good, but have slightly different strengths - a tough choice. In answer to your question, yes I like solid state better for my lifestyle. I am considering class A/B amps solely so I can leave them on for longer periods of time when I am not playing music. Since the tubed CD player only has two tubes, I do not worry about it so much, plus it has a switch that only turns off the tubes but not the electronics. As long as you are not trying to find solid state gear that "sounds like tubed gear," but rather can be happy with SS gear that simply makes good sounding music, then you may be fine, because such gear exists.
First I want to say I understand tube ownership and benefits, and appreciate all of those who own tubes. Given that, I own Klipsch Lascalas (in my main listening system) and am very happy with solid state behind them. Completely black background. Quiet, quiet, quiet. Equipment on 24/7 so available to listen to at a blink of an eye (or ear). Complete assurance of reliability and consistency, at least in my experience. No microphonics to deal with, no tube changing to deal with. Of course I am not speaking of a department store rack system. But after many years of trials and tribulations, I will stay the ss game.
Mr. D, interesting, I own Klipsch Cornwalls and Fortes, and I wouldn't consider running them on SS. So they are going up for sale right along with the tube gear. Different strokes.
Freediver, I'm selling the tube rig because I like the lightness and litheness of SS, at least for a while, and then I find it hits me over the head a bit too much and the pendulum swings back. Summer is a great time to own SS. I am really downsizing. Selling five turntables, three tube amps, two tube preamps and two tube phono stages as well as the speakers. I will get a simple SS integrated, Primare I20, Arcam A85, something along those lines, matching CD player, Rega P25 turntable, speakers TBD. It should be great fun for the summer. No tweaking. In the fall, who knows? The gravitational pull of glowing glass will probably have me in it's orbit again.
Thanks Viridian.My problem is that as a retired soldier my pension is stretched to the max & I have to buy for the long term,which is why I drive everyone crazy with question after question regarding which path to take.Plus it doesn't help that my grail speakers are Dynaudio's which I will admit sounded FANTASTIC driven by the 40 Tube Watts from the Yaqin I just flipped(due to it's developing some problems after I dropped it on it's head).I guess when all is said & done I'm gonna stick with the glass,for me it just makes since in the long run...Take care...
I really don't care one way or the other. I run solid state monoblocs because I cannot afford the same amount of power in tube amps. I run a tube preamp because I like the way the preamp sounds. If I found a ss preamp in the same price range that sounded better, I'd buy it. My tube preamp has been pretty maintenance free and no real hassles.
Viridian, I have owned Cornwalls and Fortes (as well as Heresys)and imo they do not compare to Lascalas, no offense meant. All lacked that "magic". Pretty dramatic to make a total system change. How often do you do this ? I recommend you get a pair of used Lascalas and keep your tubes, if you like Klipsch. The larger mid horn and woofer horn of the Lascalas make them a much more "coherent" speaker than the others. With the ownership of Cornwalls and Fortes, I am assuming the room will give you enough space for them. Jesusa0, I sent you an email......
Mr. D, I have a good friend that has a couple of pairs of LaScalas, and I agree with you completely that the midrange on them is superior to the Cornwalls. Unfortuately - and this is just a subjective preference - when I went shopping for speakers, I could not live with bass that only extends to 50 cycles and I won't use a subwoofer, so really the K-horns or the Cornwalls were the only choices. I don't have available corners in my listening room, so I compromised on the Cornwalls, thinking that down the line I would make them into CornScalas. That day will not be coming however as I transition back to SS for the summer and find some other speakers. We all have different priorities; that's why so many different products are made.
There are other variables to consider. Some speakers just tend to work better with ss amps. There are ss pre that offer room correction, I'm not aware of any tube pres that offer that. Some ss amps have impedance's that rule out many tube pres. Some amps are very sensitive, which when combined with the high out put of many tube pres will reduce the effective range of volume control. There are other reasons as well. The point is that there are too many things to consider, therefore one can't make such absolute judgements.
When I said what I did about tubes I meant both tube preamp and amp. And if some speakers don't sound particularly good with the best tube electronics then either something is wrong with the bloody speakers or they were specifically designed for SS, for whatever reason. That would distort the perception of the big picture but not change the picture itself. In time this picture may become different but not yet. The same with the source - it's still the tape that rules.
Viridian, I understand everything and appreciate it. I do use a pair of subs. Everything is a compromise somehow. I believe it was Bill Lowe of Audioquest who said it first ; "To do less harm". It is wonderful to have such a vast amount of equipment available to us. Thanks for the correspondence ! It has been my pleasure. Mr D.
I've had my share of both and have to say both have there virtue's , but with the sound quality of some of the new solid state gear now available and without the hassle of tubes that is often the way to go . But In the end , when i'm auditioning equipment it will be the sound that will make the decision for me , not the technology .
I can not say that I have extensive experience with either. ( parasound, classe, arcam for ss. VTL and CJ for tubes) To my ears I always prefer the sound of tubes. This was evident at a dealer demo as well. A high priced McIntosh SS vs a cary SLI80. The SLI80 blew away the Mc. Don't even get me started about the Nagra 300B integrated with Verity Amadis (Holy sound stage batman!)
I've gone from SS to tubes to SS to tubes. I think I'm going to stay with the tubes for a while. Current system is CJ amp and pre with Thiel 2.3's
and the debate goes on!
I had the oppertunity to go from tube to ss amp and pre. When I hooked up the ss there was just no comparison. Tubes rule. ML vs Cary was the test. My friend and I swapped out amp and preamp and he wanted to keep my tube equipment after hearing it. I'm not knocking ss, it can sound great, I just prefer tubes, even though it is more work.
In this hobby for over 25 years now and have gone from:
1. all SS electronics
2. to various SS amp/tube preamp setups
3. to various tube amp/tube preamp setups
4. tube int amp
5. back to various SS integrated amps
6. to a gainclone/SS preamp
and now currently have a tube amp and SS preamp. And I've concluded:
I like tubes the best. Whenever I have a SS setup, I'm never content and want to change but whenever I have a tube setup, I'm always a lot more content and keep the tube setup for a lot longer. I've had a few different tube setups that lasted over 5 years without a change, while a SS setup never seems to last more than a year at most until I'm ready for something different....So tubes definitely rule, at least for me and single ended over PP too...
But its all about system synergy....not many people have commented on the specifics of what speakers are being used with what gear and that could lean one in favor of SS or tube gear depending on the associated equipment.
I started using tube equipment in the late 60's and with a brief foray into
solid state in the early 70's, have stuck with tubes since around 1973.
I think it really depends on the application.
Right now, I am using pretty high-end tube equipment for phono stage, a
hybrid line stage (solid state audio path/tube power supply) and SET amps-
but these are for horns.
I posted a 'downscaling' without 'downscaling' thread recently with similar
questions in mind, particularly over space, since I'm not sure, even if I keep
a largish system, that I will be able to set it up for a year or so after I move
(heading to Austin from NYC area).
Having said all of that, and having no axe to grind, I know some of the
newer McIntosh stuff(both tube and solid state) is highly regarded, is very
reliable, I don't think it requires the degree of craziness that some tube
equipment demands and you can get it on the used market, knowing you
could resell it easily. There are alot of pricey solid state pieces on the
market too, Darzeel, the ASR Emitter stuff, etc. which are considered top
drawer by people with good ears and deep pockets. (Used the ASR stuff is
not too crazy expensive, not cheap, but you can eliminate the line stage
since in a sense it is like a huge integrated amp and has a battery option
which is way cool)
I bought as a gift for a good friend, a very good solid state basic amp, used
(I think it came from Audio Classics? the McIntosh reseller- and it sounded
very good on his Martin Logans. I can check the model, it cost around 2
grand used. And I know this guy is not somebody who is going to tweak or
fidget, he just wants to turn it on and hear music).
Not shilling for McIntosh by any means (although I did wind up replacing
alot of my home theatre equipment with their stuff (solid state) and it has
Other than that, I am totally into the most whacked out tube stuff you can
And, I think you want to pay attention to what will work well in the entire
chain, both on the speaker end and on your source(s).
I've said it before: Tubes are more fun. There, I said it again. Anybody currently using SS amps for anything other than live sound reinforcement is anti-fun. I'm sorry, but it's true, and there's nothing wrong with that so don't feel bad as there are a lot of people in the "anti-fun" boat. Big boat.
When I look at my compliment of fairly expensive tubes and consider the expense of having to replace them someday - hopefully well into the future - I truly envy those who prefer SS (Mezmo, are you nuts: "I want to be a tube person). Maybe I just havent heard the right system but when I listen to SS, I find that Im more impressed by the stereo; and with tubes, Im more impressed with the music. I hope that I find something to change that before re-tubing.
"I've said it before: Tubes are more fun. There, I said it again. Anybody currently using SS amps for anything other than live sound reinforcement is anti-fun. I'm sorry, but it's true, and there's nothing wrong with that so don't feel bad as there are a lot of people in the "anti-fun" boat. Big boat."
Tube guys r 'into' gear, solid state guys r into music. There, I said it....:-)
Been there, done it. Listen to more tunes w/solid state. That said, luv a
nice hybrid integrated.....the music never stops. Don't feel bad as there r
lot of audio fools in the 'anti music' boat. It's a small little dinghy though
cause most learn what's 'more than enough' & learn to curb their 'euphonic'
Regismc- not to get into a war, but i think that your comment is unfair. I'll
grant you tubes are a pain, but there is a real sense of music in the right
tube set up, and not all tube equipment is euphonic. As I mentioned earlier
in this thread, although I have been using tube equipment since the early
70's I also have solid state stuff - my main system line stage is actually a ss
audio path with tube power supply- and there is joy to be had in both. So
much is system dependent, and the overall musical result hinges so much
on the careful selection of the components to work as a system, gross
generalizations (all tubes are overly romantic) is not a realistic assessment,
let alone that all users of tubes are into futzing, not music. And, while I am
the first to admit that I am a gearhead, what goes into my main system is in
the service of music- to create an illusion that touches you on a visceral
level. You are more than welcome to visit me in the New York area if you
would like to hear what I'm talking about. And to the extent you were simply
trying to balance out Wolf Garcia's comment to the opposite extreme, he is
in the same 'boat.' :)
Actually in my case the reverse was true. In my earlier all solid state setup, I had many CDs that I found unlistenable. It was usually more contemporary music that had bad compression or badly mastered. I tried finding better quality pressings/remasters but not everything was available. But once I tried an Ayon CD2S tube CDP, they all became listenable again. And without an overly warm and syrupy sound too. Still with great dynamics and pace but somehow just more listenable.
A friend of mine recently swapped out his CJ GAT preamp and Jadis JA120 special edition for a Karan built preamp and stereo power amp (tweaked by ASI) but I didn't feel he lost out a lot in the swap. I suspect with his fundamentals in place (dedicated power lines, Sound Application SA-X conditioner and ASI power cords), the overall tonality and sound quality was very similar.
Doggie- so much current pop is recorded or mastered so badly- I
hate the autotune on the vocals and the compression to get that pumped
up sound just robs the music of any real dynamics. Somebody here turned
me onto Black Dub. On vinyl it's pretty good, like Black Keys, but not as
monotonous and definitely better sounding than their latest- El Camino.
Unfortunately, both copies were warped! (I'm a vinyl only guy, so if you
want to talk about masochism, ...).
No worries Bill. ;-). It's a case of 'horses 4 courses'. There's more than
one way to skin the 'audio Kat', & I simply referenced my own personal
experience. Audio contains all sorts of 'rabbitt holes' one can disappear
into, 4 any length of time. It's half the fun & certainly a portion of the
education. I don't believe one type of equipment, solid state or tubes,
can claim exclusive ownership of audio 'fun'. I do, in my own home,
listen to more music thru my integrated amps, solid state, tubed, & hybrid,
than when I owned an expensive solid state stack or tubed monos & pre.
It has ALL been fun. Often expensive. Surprisingly educational. As I like
to tell my wife, "guys need hobbies, it keeps us off the streets".