Tired of Problems with Tube Equipment

I switched over to tube audio equipment in some form some years back, and have certainly enjoyed music played back through them. I have had amps, preamps, and DACS at different times utilizing tubes. One unfortunate thing that's been common to all the tube equipment I've had are problems. It doesn't seem to matter whether the manufacturer is large or small, built in the USA or overseas, they all have had problems. Capacitors blowing out, bad solder joints, tubes only lasting a short time, loud pops that mysteriously go away on their own, etc. Although I have enjoyed the sound (and that beautiful glow!), I am starting to get tired of this and thinking of going back to solid state.

Have any of you also gone back (or thought about it) to solid state for this reason? What has your experience been with the reliability of tube equipment?
That is just plain silly. :):):)

With your luck I wouldn't come near any kind of audio components (and definitly •NOT• mine).
And it's easier to get a burger at the drive thru @ Mc Donalds than sitting down @ Red Robin. A boring Toyota Camry takes less maintenance than a drivers car like a 3 series BMW.

So my point is, some things in life are worth the hassle. BTW just because it's solid state does not make it reliable. Witness all the reports of capacitor failures on ML gear and others. Everything needs maintenace or breaks at some point in time. Get over it.

Would I switch from my all tube systems to solid state, no way.
I have owned a fair amount of tube equipment: preamps, amplifiers, and sources. None have had any problems other than normal tube issues.

Troubleshooting and finding quiet tubes can be a hassle, but it's worth the effort to many people.

The only amplifiers that I have owned that are worthy of replacing tube amps have Class A topology.

I have not owned a 100% solid state preamp that has been worthy of replacing a tube preamp, or in the case of what I presently own a solid state preamp with a tube power supply. However, my experience with solid state preamps has been limited and has not included any state-of-the-art units.

I will shortly be auditioning a SOTA solid state preamp, so we'll see...

Anyway, the answer to your question is that the tube equipment I have owned has been reliable: VAC, Lamm, Moscode, Atma-Sphere, Modwright.
Take a good look at Butler's tube/MOSFET hybrid amps - sweet tube sound coupled with the balls of the MOSFETs. And, because he is running the tubes at only 5% of their rated output, the tubes are supposed to last more than 20 years.


Rhljazz, I don't disagree that sometimes things work owning are worth the hassle, as I've done for quite a few years with the equipment I've had (and some cars too!). But (and using your car analogy), how would you feel if your BMW left you stranded far from home a couple of times a year (I actually own a BMW for 10 years and fortunately was only stranded once!)?

Mrjstark, yeah, you probably don't want to get too close to me! I actually had one piece of tube gear that NEVER had a problem in many years of use: the very inexpensive Antique Sound Labs AV-20 that I used in an office system.

Tvad, I have not owned any of the brands you've mentioned; I have owned about 6 or 7 different brands of tube equipment and they all had problems except for the one mentioned above. I have been thinking about class A solid state, although my green side also has me looking at some of the class D stuff (my current class A tube amps consume about 5 amps).
One of the wags that manufactures tube gear said that solid state is like a stuffed dog, no mainenance, no grief. But a tube amp is like a real, live, dog. Once in a while it poops or pisses on the rug, needs to be taken to the vet and has to be walked, fed and loved. There's room in this world for real and stuffed dogs. I'm stickin' with the real ones for now.
BMW cars are like tube gear.

Both can be high maintenance items, yet both can provide lots of enjoyment that makes their potentially inordinate maintenance issues/costs worthwhile.
If you like the sound of SS stuff, don't fret just buy it. If you don't particularily like the sound, but you think it will last forever without maintenance, and that is important to you, buy it. When it fails you can just believe it is some sort of abboration and you've been unlucky.

The thing I don't like about SS other than the typically dry sound (to my ears) is that the only thing you can do in creating system synergy is to keep buying new stuff 'til you get so frustrated, or broke, that you convince yourself that 'this is as good as ss gets' and compromise.

When I hear SS stuff that produces the same sound as tubes I be standing in a long line I think............I'm tired of all of the fussing too. :-)
A couple of years ago, I bought new (demo) speakers that I thought were tube friendly. This was based on several reviews I had read, and on comments from some audio friends.

Turned out the speakers were not tube friendly to the degree I wanted.

Still, I like the speakers, so I ended up buying Class A solid state amplification that matches well with the speakers.

Having said that, if I had to do it all over again, I'd buy tube friendly speakers (knowing much more now about this issue than I did two years ago), and I'd drive them with tube amps. I still might use a solid state preamp, though. Not certain...

This whole adventure is a learning experience, isn't it?
Well like many threads;this can have a life of its own.
So, I can just post my own thoughts for comparison. I have had at least 10 tube class a,a/b amps. Two of these being CJ brand, the 5's and 8's. My 5's blew about 25 fuses in 4 years (bias resistor fuses) The 8's not so many but similar problem. Sure; thee tubes were the main cause. I owned the Music ref2 the biasing pots went South,twice. A Jadis 7 mk4 also went So. to the tune of a near 1 thou,repair. Many other tube amps I only kept for 6/12 months w/ no repairs.
My overview would read like a resume for wives/girl friends;--some are worth it some not. I guess each of us has a different tolerance for such.
I now use the CJ 350,a SS design. This is the best amp I have owned and I only have to push the "on" button.
02-11-09: Rlwainwright
Take a good look at Butler's tube/MOSFET hybrid amps - sweet tube sound coupled with the balls of the MOSFETs. And, because he is running the tubes at only 5% of their rated output, the tubes are supposed to last more than 20 years.



I am not picking on you and understand everyone has their opinions. Do you own stock in Butler or a dealer because every thread you answer recommends Butler amps. I mean there are tons of nice dependable amps/preamps in this world other than Butler (shaking my head)...lol.
I don't think the use of BMW as an example in this instance is appropriate. I owned a 73' 2002tii for many, many years and it was far more reliable than my wife's Ford Escape. BMW's reputation for reliable continues to this day due to the track record of recent production models. Perhaps Ferrari, Lotus, Jaguar or Triumph would be better examples of cars that offer superior performance but have a history of reliability issues. To the issue raised by the post, it seems to me that many people (like myself) split the difference by going with a (generally) low maintenence/high reliability tube preamp coupled with a solid state power amp that avoids some to the potential pitfalls of tube amps.
Dodgealum, I have owned three BMWs:1997 Z3, 2000 540i, 2003 330i. All have had substantial and costly maintenance and/or repair issues beyond what I have experienced with other autos.

If you read Consumer Reports, you will also see that BMW autos have a higher incidence of repairs and maintenance than many other brands.

So, I hope you will understand that my analogy was based primarily on my own personal experience with late model BMW cars. I have no doubt there are many BMW owners like yourself who have had years and years of trouble free ownership.

As usual, making non-audio analogies in these threads generates opposing commentary that ultimately is of little value. I wish I hadn't brought it up, and I'm hoping this tangential discussion dies quickly.
Yep, I'm pretty much done with tubes. They are cool and sound good, but I know you can also get great sound with solid state, so that is where I'm staying for good. I've owned lots of tube stuff over the years and I have had WAY more trouble with it than solid state.

The thing I like the least about it is the fact you need to turn it off and on. I like my system on and ready to go at all times. With solid state you can do that and it gets me to listen to more music more often.
I have Berning, First Sound and Joule Electra tube gear and have had no problems whatsoever. I've had to replace four tubes in the last 18 months is the extent of it. They do require attention but the payoff is well worth it. My SS gear never involved me in the music the way the tube gear does. I must be overdue for some issues but I keep spare tubes on hand just in case. The turning off and on thing is a consideration since I do not like to power the tubes up for brief periods but I have SS gear in a different room for background listening.
I have owned only tube amps in the past 10+ years, from Quicksilver GLC, ARC VT-100, SF Power 2/3, BAT 150, BAT 75SE, and now BAT 150SE, I might have missed out one or two in between. near zero issue other than occasional tube bias, tube replacement, and fuse change.

I tried to like solid state and bought many to play with, none stayed longer than 3 months.

I told my wife to bury me with tubes when I expire...
May not be what you want to hear, but the Chinese elctronics- Primaluna is stable, self biasing, affordable plug and play. they also sound very good.
I had no problems with these.
It's hard to go from tubes to SS.
Good luck
I find it unfortunate that so many folks seem to have to badmouth whatever format they DON'T use to validate their own choice. It's like the equally unfortunate tendency to use phraseology like "amplifier X kills amplifier Y".

My own solution, I know, would not be practical for most. I'm a two-system fellow, the big upstairs rig solid state, the basement system vintage tube-based. I wouldn't trade either experience. As I tell my pals, my favorite system is the one I listened to last.
I have been using Quicksilver amps for about 5 years. Zero problems. My complaint with tube gear is that sound quality subtly declines as tubes age, and I'm often wondering if tubes are wearing out somewhere in the system. Time for a tube tester I guess. Not to mention the ongoing search for reasonably priced NOS so that I have the tubes I like 20 years from now.
There was a time not so long ago when optimal performance was the domain of tube equipment. That is simply NOT SO today. I was a tube guy for over 20 years and yes it sounded awesome. Now I'm a solid state guy using the latest technology which runs cool, doesn't take up much space and can stay on all the time, so I don't have to wait for the system to 'ramp-up' before sounding it's best. I would even go so far as saying that in some vital areas of bass control and dynamics, the best SS trumps the best of Tubes. I think a neat trick would be for some leading manufacturer of SS gear to cosmetically put some tubes on top of the enclosure just for 'looks'. I'll bet there would be some 'humble pie' served to some who would proclaim a 'new age' had come for Tube Equipment.
Wow; great responses! This may be somewhat off-topic from my original post (I AM allowed to hijack my own thread, eh?), but I'm wondering how close I can get with a good solid-state amp vs my class A SET tube amp I have now. I know there's been quite a few threads about this, but in my setup I use a Tact 2.2XP (room correction, EQ) which feeds a Lector 224 tube DAC, which then feeds the amps. So it's not a straight tube vs SS amp question, as I use the 2.2XP to EQ the signal (which can approximate some tube amps added midrange bump), and use tubes in the DAC.
Then DIY is for you!

You can build amps from proven designs with better parts and built than many commercial models at a percentage of what you might pay for a commercial one. Besides, when something happens to your amp, you will have at least a general idea why and how to troubleshoot it. So, try to learn as much and as fast as you can especially the elctronics side of amplifiers, then you are ready. Do not be afraid to try. Start small with kits but aim big every step of the way. Same thing applies for SS amps.

Where do you think most of the designer of the Audiophile amps started before they went commercial? Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, you might have your own offering to the commercial world too. "Smeyers Research Inc.", "Meyers Design Labs", "SM Audio", or "Myers Electric" sounds impressive no?



PS. I am speaking from my personal experience. The last "commercially built/assembled" gear I bought was a preamp about 4 years ago and counting.
How 'bout SnM R Us? Ha, just kidding! DIY sound great assuming one has time for a new hobby! I used to 'invent' electronic gizmos as a kid, even built a few speakers, but just don't have that kind of time at the moment...
Tvad, So what high end SS pre are you going to be trying?
Husk01, I'll perhaps share more on this topic later, but for now I'm not going to comment on the specifics.
I've had a lot of tube and solid state amplifiers in my systems, and have been fairly lucky on both counts. Still, the tube amplifiers, apart from loudspeakers, have proven to be the most reliable components I've encountered.
Five years, 3 tube amps, 2 tubed cdp's, one tube failure, no other problems.
In my limited experience reliability issues are more manufacturer-dependent than whether the equipment is SS or whether it uses tubes.
I had SS equipment, and had bad capacitors, faulty relay switches, bad output transistors, and I went to tubes, and have had a few bad tubes, but less problems than with SS, and I can listen to the tubes longer. There are no service-free roads in the audio journey. That is just the way it is in audio world.....Then a few years go by with few problems and you are glad you remained in there....
This thread is all about personal preference- and experience-there is no right or wrong --tube vs ss--I personally had a tube preamp that probably didn't mate well with my ss amps --had lots of problems and settled on a ss pre from the same co. as my amps-that I just love and have had for a number of years and am very happy with the sound--it is just not feasable for me to try multple amps and preamps---others have gone that route and found what they were looking for--have friends that love their tube gear and other with ss that are just as happy with theirs --so enjoy the journey
02-11-09: Ras422
This thread is all about personal preference

Actually, I believe this thread is about experiences with reliability of tube amps. The topic has nothing to do with personal preference regarding the sound of tube versus solid state.
I have owned too many tube and SS components to count. I must say I always go back to tubes, but, I have had WAY more issues with tubes than SS. To me tubes are the ultra hot girlfriend who is a pain in the ass, but God she looks/sounds great.
I can't say I've had a tremendous diversity or breadth of experience compared to what is available, but I have used tubed components for many years. I've been using various tube components, practically exclusively, for eight or nine years now. I've mixed in a few SS devices during that period as well, but they don't seem to last long with me (there's your personal preference), though I've certainly enjoyed them for various reasons. Unlike Smeyers I have not had many problems at all over the years with tube components. Most, not all, of the stuff I've used is point-to-point wired. I've not owned that many tube components that are primarily assembled using circuit boards. My experience echos Jrb25: I've owned five different pairs of Quicksilver amps (among a handful of others) and never had a single problem with any of them, including the Quicksilver SET amps I've had for about six years. I'm not counting arcing tubes, which have always been current production Russian tubes (this has happened three separate occasions with three entirely different amps), as none were the fault of the component. It could have something to do with the actual components you've chosen...perhaps? Smeyers - can you give us a rundown of some of the components you've had the problems you've described?
I have had problems with both tubes and SS but only a few times over 30+ years.

to some extent you need good common sense to use tube equipment. on occasion I will get a tube flash when I power up my amp and immediatly shut it down for about 10 minutes and then power back up and let it idle for at least 20 minutes and slowly turn it up, those tubes never give me a problem. I am sure if i had just played it the first time it would have flared worse and eventually taken out a cap or worse.

some people will ignore these signs and they are the ones who should own SS.
I'll weigh in here with my personal experience with tube equipment. I've owned an Audio Note M1 pre-amp and P2 SE amplifier since 1995. During that period I have never had a problem with the equipment in any aspect. Tubes eventually wear out, but that's to be expected with extensive use over the expected life of the tubes. That's my experience. Well designed tube equipment should perform as designed and as expected. Parts failures can happen as there is a finite life span for such parts as tubes and capacitors.
listen to oregon i own the sevens and a cat ultimate, sme10 and the new marantz sacd player, sonus faber cremonas pre.solid state is for home theater
Aw shucks. The only interesting people at a party are the ones who come over and just stare at all the pretty lights and the fantastic McIntosh blue faceplates.

It all sounds kinda good, too.
"Smeyers - can you give us a rundown of some of the components you've had the problems you've described?"

Please take the following for what its worth. I've enjoyed all the equipment mentioned despite the problems I've had.

BAT vk-5i preamp - one channel popping and cracking due to blown capacitors in one channel; repaired by BAT.

Wright Sound Mono 10 amp - not sure what the actual problem is since I have not sent this one back yet, but one channel is way down in level. Also had to replace stock cheap speaker connectors which broke quickly. One of the switches that control the input connection has worked itself loose.

Cary/AES Sixpac amp - Blown bias pot, Jensen Oil Cap, and several resistors (oil from blown cap got all over the inside of the amp). This was an expensive repair and the bias is now much more sensitive on the repaired amp as compared to the other. I've also had more than my share of blown power tubes on this amp.

Audio Mirror SET 45 amp - Blew many fuses until replaced with higher value than supplied slow blow (Ok'd by the company). One tube not biasing (bad solder joint; I resoldered connection). After owning a very short time, two of the tubes won't bias within spec, and now getting popping noise from one channel. I do by the way really like the sound of the amp.

Lector Digicode 224 DAC - this was a two month odyssey as initially there was no-one in the U.S. that knew anything about the unit and Lector had no U.S. distributer. One channel was down in level that turned out to be a burned out component.

In contrast, I've had an Adcom GFA-555 solid state amp that had been in service for 20 years (and I bought it used); the only problem was a power switch that was easily replaced.
Stew I couldn't agree with you more...
I started out with tubes, migrated to solid state, tried to go back to tubes, but couldn't stand them.
And I really tried to give it a fair shake too.

Class A or hybrid A/B mosfets are my favorites.
Tube PA's: unreliability, heat, microphonics, rushing noises, expense.
Although I do have a Golden Tube pre that's quite nice without the nuisance.
All depends upon the design I suppose?
if one prefers tube gear, but has had intermittant loss of use and outlays of cash due to breakdowns , and one does not prefer the sound of solid state, the solution is to buy a good inexpensive "personal" stereo.

i realize that this forum is oriented to consipicuous consumption and the purveyors of such, however, one can still have satisfying musical experiences on a budget of under $500.00 . the brookstone is a prime example.
I have owned tube equipment for about 12 years now and have had very few problems. None with tube preamps or DACs, but my music reference RM9 had to be repaired twice. I also had to replace the power switch on one manley labs monblock. Tube failure has been very infrequent and has never caused equipment failure when it happens. My Canary monos have been in my system for almost a year now with nary a hiccup. I think the sound of tubes far outweighs any negatives.

Hey Grant --maybe I misread the post but it seemed to me to be about everybodys experience with tube gear and reliability and mixed in with prsonal preference--Rich
Based on what history has shown us, I'd take a wager that a tube amplifier will have a far better chance of working and/or be salvageable 35 years from now than a solid state unit.
Yes, I've all those issues over the last 9 years with my tube gear. Their just high maintenance.

Last year I tried to replace my tube power amps with well respected Solid State mono blocks. I spent months with the SS amps but at the end of the day, it was back to the tubes.

Most of the problems I've had with tube equipment can be traced to tube failure. So finally bought a tube tester. Nothing fancy but it test weather a tube is good or bad.
I have decided to stay with tubes because tubes can always get fixed. SS, maybe, maybe not. Tubes are far more simple and with P-P wiring, even more easy to repair. Even output transistors wear out. Jallen
My first experience w/tubes was a 400 dollar repair bill after three months playing music through it. DOUGH!
A 400 dollar repair bill on an ampifier doesn't tick me off near as bad as the 500 dollar repair I just paid for a leaking toilet. A house sucks up more dollars than any stereo or car repair, even a BMW, TVAD.
boy, that brookstone stereo looks better and better each day. low maintainance and great sound. i own one.
Rhljazz, our home repairs cost substantially less than our car repairs by a fair margin.

$500 for a leaking toilet?

I've fixed all our leaking toilets myself. Replaced tanks, valves, and complete toilets. The cost of parts is shockingly low compared with a plumber's labor. Worth learning how to do it if one's penurious. Pretty simple, really. But, I completely understand that many people don't want to deal with it.
Well, I'm back in business after the last tube escapade. I suddenly had two separate problems: one tube in one channel wasn't measuring any bias voltage, and popping in the other channel. The was the reason that I started this post; two sudden problems which superseded the others I've had. Anyhow I was able to solve both problems without any major repair bills. The first problem was a wire that came off the bias measurement terminal which I resoldered. The second problem was a bad 6c33c power tube; luckily I had a replacement. So for the time being I'll continue tubing along!