Tubes Do It -- Transistors Don't.

I never thought transistor amps could hold a candle to tube amps. They just never seem to get the "wholeness of the sound of an instrument" quite right. SS doesn't allow an instrument (brass, especially) to "bloom" out in the air, forming a real body of an instrument. Rather, it sounds like a facsimile; a somewhat truncated, stripped version of the real thing. Kind of like taking 3D down to 2-1/2D.

I also hear differences in the actual space the instruments are playing in. With tubes, the space appears continuous, with each instrument occupying a believable part in that space. With SS, the space seems segmented, darker, and less continuous, with instruments somewhat disconnected from each other, almost as if they were panned in with a mixer. I won't claim this to be an accurate description, but I find it hard to describe these phenomena.

There is also the issue of interest -- SS doesn't excite me or maintain my interest. It sounds boring. Something is missing.

Yet, a tube friend of mine recently heard a Pass X-350 amp and thought it sounded great, and better in many ways than his Mac MC-2000 on his Nautilus 800 Signatures. I was shocked to hear this from him. I wasn't present for this comparison, and the Pass is now back at the dealer.

Tubes vs. SS is an endless debate, as has been seen in these forums. I haven't had any of the top solid state choices in my system, so I can't say how they fare compared to tubes. The best SS amp I had was a McCormack DNA-1 Rev. A, but it still didn't sound like my tube amps, VT-100 Mk II & Cary V-12.

Have any of you have tried SS amps that provided these qualities I describe in tubes? Or, did you also find that you couldn't get these qualities from a SS amp?
Based on what I have heard, I find your generalizations to be very accurate as far as they go. I, however, have also not heard the best new SS amps very much at all. From what I have heard, though, I would add that very good SS can give qualities such as transient cleanliness, tactile bass, image density, and even-handed frequency response that will leave many tube amps in second place in those areas. The best price-no-object SS amps I ever personally listened to were the ML 33H monos. It was only a brief audition, but I was left with the feeling that I had never heard any amps just so completely get out of the way without leaving a trace of an artifact behind. It was like listening to air. But then again, neither have I listened to the tubed amps in this price range. In my own system, I only finally became happy when I switched to tubes, and there I stay for the time being.
I am a vinyl and tube man, that stated, I find that SS has improved tremendously over the last two decades, so that basically the old dichotomy no longer holds true. I suggest you listen to a well set up Spectral system through very revealing speakers and you will be very surprised. Or take a listen at the value for money excellent Marsh amps, the Gryphons from Denmark, or for much more money, the offerings of Edge and Halcro, of FM Accoustics.

As far as the bottom end of the musical spectrum is concerned, I am not for tubes, for the simple reason that you can get the same results for far less money through SS. Tubes can handle this as well, since about ten years or so, but those amps cost a packet!

Actually the endless debate about what is better is rather outdated and has become purely ideological. Generally amps of both denominations have edged a bit closer to the real thing and besides, one should not really judge them by themselves, I find, but by the chain they are in and what exactly they are being used for, like high end, low end, midrange etc. Cheers,
I feel that there are system synergies that also must be taken into consideration. I have heard a few great ss systems but I have never owned a great ss amp. The price for admission is probably too high for me but as Zaikesman notes with the ML 33H, they are out there.

It seems generally, in a given price range, tubes are easier to live with long term and less fatiguing. I recently heard a Pass X-350 amp in an unfamiliar system and it was terrible, not the amp but the system. Surely something was wrong. I have heard the Pass Aleph's, the 30 watters sound wonderful. Bottom line there is no clear cut winner and there are enough music lovers that listen through SS that are happy to not discount them.

Where ss in general comes up short is in the "release of the note", the inner harmonic realness and decay that one hears with live instruments. The wholeosity (thanks Gizmo for that term) of the sound. This lends itself a "presence", for lack of a better adjective, that in general escapes SS devices and systems, even expensive ones in my experience. On the other hand another discovery over years of listening is that I have less tolerance for slow ponderous tube gear that euphonizes the sound or adds a richness or syrupy quality that isn't real either. The balancing act is to get the best of both worlds without sacrificing the qualities that each offer.
I always like these threads. Anyway, I'll chime in from the SS camp. As Detlof said, I think both types of amps are getting closer, and there are some great amps out there, from both religions. Though I'm still a SS guy (everyone claims I'll change eventually) I do like all the good qualities of a good tube amp, just as the tube lovers do. I've haven't heard a SS amp yet that even gets close when it comes to vocals.

My problem with tube amps is that whenever I listen to one, I can hear the amp, instead of just hearing the music. A finger hitting a string, a stick hitting a symbol, or a hand hitting the skin of a drum, all sound more real to me when reproduced by a SS device. Though SS amps may not have the harmonic richness and spaciousness of tubes, to me they seem to color the sound less.
Tubegroover, you forgot thermionic coolosity in your analysis. I find that to be a very critical factor too. As for the either/or thing I agree with Detlof that the "debate" is irate. Some folks like myself have at least one thermionic unit laying around that uses SS to point the ac in the right direction so it can't be all bad.

I remain
I actually like pairing a tube preamp with a solid state amplifier. I find this combination gives me the best of both worlds; without the shortcommings of either format individually. This is especially true in more mid-priced systems.

There are also some hybrid tube/solid state amplifiers out there that solve many of the same issues. Blue Circle just came out with two new hybrid amps. You may also want to consider the Sim Moon W5 and Blue Circle BC26 fully solid state amps.

Hey you guys! How come I seem to be the only one who gets told that I must like the "euphonic" distortion of tube amps.

I read an extremely interesting article the other day on the web. The premise was, that single-ended triode amps sound as good as they do, because of system synergy with single driver speakers(primarily). It seems this guy did some distortion analysis of SETs, and speakers. The SET generated primarily second order harmonic distortion, which was the bulk of the total harmonic distortion measured, very little other. The speakers measured primarily second order harmonic distortion also, with very little other. These distortion characteristics mainly differed in phase relationship.

His hypothesis was that if, by way of chance, the 2nd order distortion of each item appeared at 180 degree phase angles apart, the distortion would be cancelled out, creating the "straight wire with gain" ideal. If they appeared at 0 phase angle(together), they would add, and distortion would double. Since either case was unlikely, his solution was to determine which side of the 90 degree phase angle the intersection was, and phase the speaker wiring to place the phase intersection of distortion closest to the 180 degree mark that you could. This way if it was at 30 degrees and adding, by reversing phase, you could put it at 210 by reversing phase and achieve a high level of distortion cancellation. If you leave it at a phase angle close to 0, then the distortion adds - bad. Since the majority of this occurs in the 2nd order on both items, once a certain percentage of this 2nd order cancellation occurs, the THD is dramatically lowered for both items as a package.

This is his reasoning for why SETs have the remarkable clarity they do, while measuring in distortion %, the way they do.

His finding was that by switching phase connections on your speakers, you could find out which way sounds better(reduces distortion) on your system. You don't have to use measuring equipment, just your ears. The goal is to have the amp distortion cancel the speaker distortion as much as possible with your equipment.

This is not possible with push-pull or SS amps, as their distortion characteristics are comprised of many orders of harmonic distortion, and are not coincident with the distortion characteristics of speakers.

The effect is somewhat lost on multi-driver speakers because of the phase changes induced between drivers by the crossover network.

So, while I cannot personally attest to the veracity of his findings, it sounds like a very interesting explanation for the apparent dichotomy of SETs measuring poorly and sounding great. The amp is not used to drive a measurement meter. It is used to drive a speaker, and as such may exhibit different behaviors when doing so, than some lab freak with a meter may even realize.

Maybe there is no "euphonic" distortion in SET amps, when you connect them to a speaker and listen to music. What a novel concept. I never really liked the sound of a meter anyway.
Twl, might as well give them the article. Eduardo de Lima ?

Why Single Ended Tube Amplifiers

I remain,
Lamm 1.1 mono blocks do it all
Beautiful tube bloom and air
Rock solid solid state low end authority
Fleshy mid bass texture
Imaging, soundstaging, you pick the positive characteristic
My first tube amp was a kit I built in the early 60's, I have had a tube amp in and out of my system since. Currently I have two amplifiers, Cary 805B monoblocks(tube) and a Jeff Rowland Model 10(ss). As wondeful as the Cary sounds, I keep the Rowland amp in most of the time. I find the Rowland the best overall amplifier I have heard in my system. In my experience the best ss amps are as musicial as the best tubes,of course they don't sound the same and they both have strengths and weakness but they are more alike then different.
There is no doubt that tubes come in various flavors and colors, some of which are quite nice. Some are really awful, I'll leave it to you to discern. Imho, for little money you can get a really *nice* sounding amplifier using tubes, one that gives the impression of "musicality" and "smoothness." So, that is all good.

To get a similar result from solid state, imho (again), you need to go an "extra mile" or so to get certain things right, or else you end up with a sound that personally I do not like at all. Unfortunately, a *great number* of manufacturers seem to either have or like that sound...

What I think is needed can be seen on my site in either the SE Mosfet amp design, or better still in the full out Symphony No.1 design.

Having said that, I admit that I *prefer* the sound of a very high quality, high power triode amp on my ESLs over the arguably more accurate and cleaner Mosfet monster(s). However on other systems, there is no horse race at all. And for bass, tubes are definitely on the short end of the stick.

So, the answer is: use the right devices for the right applications. (often that means bi-tri-quad amp'd set ups)

:- )
Each to their own taste! I use 33H on the mid/tweeter panels of Infinity IRS Beta. These panels voiceds with ARC tube products when the speaker was designed. With a good source, I find the 33H and Bat VK50SE preamp combo right on the money, though I have het to try any of the higher-end tube amps on my system, a friend has a similar setup with a Mac 2000 and it sounds good as well.
Hey Kevziek...

I hate to break it to you, but on most recordings the instruments ARE panned into place with a mixer. Sorry. :-)

SS amps might be more accurate in that way (allowing you to "hear" the seperation between tracks). I do agree with you though...I think tube designs (done right) sound more musical and real, though I have heard some that sound so friggin' amazes me that people think the sounds they produce sound anything like real instruments. Still...everything is relevant. Some recordings are made using tube mics and tube preamps and others are made with SS mics and preamps, and both can sound amazing if done right.
I have to weigh in on the SS side when it comes to amps, not because they are all better, but because a few of them are. While I've heard very good tube amps and can appreciate their abilities, I've never heard one that could do bass so that it sounded real. The current and damping just can't handle it, and so I always end up "hearing" that it's a tube amp. It sticks in the back of my mind and won't go away, reminding me every time I hear the thump that I'm listening to a tube amp. I suppose my value system would be very different if I only listened to chamber music and vocalists, and I have no doubt I would be sitting here extolling the virtues of tube amps. SS amps, on the other hand, have gotten to the point where a few of them really CAN seem to disappear from the chain. Not many, and not until recently, but they're out there. My Ayre V-5 is the first amp I've ever owned, SS or tube, which allows me to actually say (the majority of the time, anyway) that "I can't tell it's there." And in my mind, there is no bigger compliment that can be paid to any piece of equipment.

This doesn't address the obvious and more difficult question, which is whether tube or SS preamps are better. I think tubes have a lot more going for them in a preamp, and may always have the upper hand over SS in this application.
I own both solid state and tube pre-amps and amps (Placette and First Sound, Pass and CJ). As with many things in life, I can’t decide which I prefer, so I switch off—a month or two with one, then the other. When I make a switch, I’m usually glad I did and wonder what took me so long.

On balance, however, I tend to prefer solid state. For all of the strengths of tubes—the body, the bloom, the emotional connection, and the other qualities, which many of you have articulated so well--most of the time when I’m listening to tubes I am craving greater clarity. Tube amps, particularly at lower listening volumes, tend to sound too “soft” to me, as if I am listening with a pillow over my head.

I am obsessed with the sound of cymbals. If I put on a jazz z recording, regardless of how great the piano or sax or kick drum may sound, if the cymbals don’t have what I believe is correct bite and aliveness, then I can’t be happy. Solid state seems to deliver these qualities more consistently, whereas tubes (my tube amps, anyway) seem rolled. I wish I would not fixate on this so much, but there you are.

However, I’ve come to feel that listening level is a huge variable in all of this and, further, it is too widely ignored by reviewers and audiophiles alike. A story: I was in a dealer’s many years ago listening to one of the original Hales loudspeakers. I remember thinking it sounded awfully dull, like an old Advent or AR speaker. Later, someone else came in to hear the Hales, put on an opera selection and cranked it way up. I was floored! It sounded so much like the real thing! But I rarely listen that loud. I knew then that the Hales were a very good speaker and also that they were not for me.

I tend to listen at low volume, where detail and clarity serve to help the illusion of music. At higher volumes, these may become less important. Most systems are demonstrated at high volumes. At HE 2002, for example, many, many rooms were louder than I normally listen (and many were just too loud, period). (Most also sounded too bright to me, so I don’t think I generally prefer a bright sound.)

A system that sounds good to me at high volume (even lifelike volume) may not be a good choice for me because it may not deliver the goods at the lower levels I typically prefer. If I’ve got the tube amps in my system and I crank it up, the cymbals sound right and the music sounds real, more real than with solid state. But at lower volume…

I would like to see reviewers be more diligent about addressing performance at different listening levels, particularly for speakers and amplifiers.


KarlS, you need to try listening to a Berning ZOTL. One reviewer, when he was asked about the ZOTL he reviewed, said that it was the best SS amp he had ever heard. Of course it was a tube amp, but the point he was making was, that it had the beauty of a tube amp with the speed and woofer control of a SS amp. The Bernings are remarkable amps.
I feel that a considerable cost upgrade was required to get a SS amp that I could live with. I eventually went with Accuphase. It has the so-called 'Accuphase Golden-Glow' sound, a smoothness and fullness similar to tubes, but with the power to rattle the walls. I currently drive it with an Air Tight tube preamp and I am quite pleased with the combo.
Dburdic, I agree with you about tube systems. I hear the tube amp. Some of the tube defenders call this continuous space. I call it glueon. I like black space. On the other hand, I have yet to hear, vinyl aside, an ss system sound pleasing. Like Tubegroover, I strive for a balance twixt the two. I use a transparent Pass X 150 for power, a Pass Aleph P for gentle switching; and a well tubed Jolida 100 controls the sound. As has been noted, solid state amp technology has progressed, so much so, that you won't hear any evil second order harmonics. Pass X and XA amps are foremost examples. Then again, the Pass amp can sound horrible if used in a poor sounding system. It is a slave to whatever is fed to it. I think we all understand that.
To further expand on the Berning bass performance I will say that the Berning zh270 amp has bass performance comparable to the best ss amps I have personally heard. With a stable 8 ohm load this amp will deliver full power down to 2hz and listening is believing. I have never heard any tube amp deliver the clarity, pitch definition and sense of real acoustic space in the low bass like this amp. It is comparable to the best ss in these areas if not offering the ultimate slam of a large ss amp. Another example of the converging of the two technologies.
I would add Atma-sphere amps to this list. OTL amps that really "kick" at lower levels. My former amp (integrated) was an EAR 834. Great amp, about the same power as my new Atma-sphere MK60-2.2's, but what a difference in presentation! The EAR had the definate lush tube bloom, sweet but without the bass control and snap that the Atma-sphere has. The Atma-sphere OTL combines the warmth and liquidity of tubes with the punch and control of transistors, without that solid state "hash". (Please email me if you want more info on Atma-sphere equipment. I have no financial interest in this product line, I just know an affordable gem when I hear it!!!)
I've been very curious about the Berning but never tried it. Do you have any experience with driving lower-impedance speakers with it? My speakers are a ruler-flat 3.5 Ohms with near-zero phase throughout the entire audio band, except for a single closed-box peak in the bass, so what do you think? I've talked with one zh270 owner who felt that this would be pushing it a little too much, that the amp probably couldn't handle that kind of load. But if you have any comments, I'd love to hear them.

I appreciate the Atmasphere approach, but I can't bring myself to burn that much juice or to think about the retubing costs!
Karl, I think that it could do it, with the feedback selector switch in the 2 ohm position. My experience with the low impedance on the Bernings is some of the "life" goes out of the music. I think that this limits the dynamic headroom capability of the amp. I did not notice any problems with reproducing the low frequencies with a 4 ohm impedance load. It was most noticeable to me in the midrange vocals, where some "life" left the sound. 6 ohms was just as "happy" as 8, so anything above 6 ohm nominal should not be noticeable. I found this when I was doing some speaker designing for my MicroZOTL which is a push-pull design much like the ZH270 except no feedback. By using some non-inductive load resistors in a series-parallel network across the speaker terminals, I could determine the sonic behavior of the amp at different loads during play. I could determine where it would "harden up", if you will. Now the ZH270 has some limited feedback switching which provides better behavior under some difficult conditions than my no-feedback design. But my output impedance was 1.8 ohms, which is the same as the 2 ohm setting on the ZH270, so I think it would be similar. So I expect it would sound good, but not as good as a 6 or 8 ohm load.
I concur with Fatparrot on the Atma-Sphere assessment. I have heard the Plinius 102's in Jadem6's system and am impressed with the sound he is getting from these amps.

Karls, If I remember correctly, Atma-Sphere states that their amps consume only 10% more power than a similarly spec'ed Class A SS amp. Also, the Atma-Sphere amps do not have to be retubed very often and use low priced tubes to boot.
Karls-I haven't tried the zh270 into a load that dips low or in your case ruler flat at 3.5 ohms but have read and heard many conflicting comments on its performance at the frequency extremes into such loads that I don't know what to think. How about you Twl? Nah you're definitely the wrong guy to ask :)

I sure am curious myself and anyone in the Central Florida area that has such speakers I will gladly bring over this amp to find out first hand. Everyone I know has medium to high efficiency speakers and the amp sounds great on all of them. The high frequency impedance converter adjusts for impedance dips unlike traditional OTL amps which just run out of current unless there are enough output tubes to provide enough. Transformer coupled amps also do the brute force gig which is why they don't fare well into such loads, especially in the bass and why ss is a better choice for across the board performance.

Regardless, my guess is that the tonal balance especially at the frequency extremes may be affected with certain loads. With my speakers the amp is well balanced and extended across the frequency spectrum. The high frequency performance is also right up there with an absolute crystaline clarity with air and space to match. I really can't hear any problems anywhere but I'm still looking. You know something is on the ball when you start critically listening and find yourself just enjoying in spite of yourself, it happens all the time :)
Tubegroover, see my last post above for my experiences at lower impedances with the Berning.
Sorry Twl, I wrote my response prior to yours showing up and besides it was more tongue in cheek knowing your preference for high efficiency speakers. Your findings are what I suspect and seem consistent.
While I generally agree with what you say about tubes and I have been a happy tube user for many years I would like to point out the following.
There are no absolutes in audio as personal preferences and equipment interface issues rule.
I have found instances, with some (few?) speakers and some (few?) front ends and the right cables, where solid state can deliver satisfaction. It doesn't always happen this way but...and that is maybe what your friend encountered.
Try the Gamut line of amps.

I have heard many more SS amps in my time than tubes.

An amp I recently heard and subsequently bought is the Gamut D200. This amp sounds different than any SS amp I have ever heard PERIOD. It sounds similiar to tubes, and it has some general tube characteristics. Such as it's bass control is not world class Krell like. However it does not roll off the top like most tubes do. This being stated, the amp does everything world class. It would make a AR VT100 mk2 sound well... not-so-good. I am very familiar with the VT100 mk2 and consider it to be an outstanding amp (I have come close to buying one). HOWEVER, the Gamut D200 does everything better than it. And I do mean EVERYTHING. The Gamut has insane transperency and has been compared by TAS favorably to the $30k LAMM monoblock tube amps. And the LAMMs are some of the best amps on the planet SS or Tubes. I would have loved to compare the D200 to the LAMM M1.1 hybrid amps. The LAMM M1.1's are supposed to be some of the best ss/hybrid amps in the world. I imagine that the LAMMs have a better bottom end than the D200 amps, and they are more powerful 100wpc class A into 8 or 4 ohms is pretty amazing (LAMM power).

The one thing that really stands out about the Gamut D200 amp is the soundstaging. I have never heard an amp that does better. I do not think the TAS has heard an amp that does better. The guy I bought it from has never heard an amp that does better in this department (and he has heard a lot of amps).

My 2C


One of the reasons why the Pass X-350 sounded better than the MC-2000 on the B&W Sig 800's is obviously the power increase. The B&W's are hungry for power and the MC-2000 is a bit of a wussy. See... the comparison between 350 watts vs. 130 watts is not exactly fair on a speaker with an 8 to 3 ohm swing at 91db which is the same rating for the N801, a speaker well known to need lotza power.

I know what you mean about tube vs. solid state. I used to love highend SS but... after having a few tube amps - and a hybrid, I realized there was no comparison and no going back.

I may take Tok20000's advice - since he's an audiophile I trust - and try out a GamuT for myself.
I have heard a lot of the expensive tube amps and always liked there sound better than SS. But recently I had the opportunity to listen to Edge's entire amp line including their signature model. They are incredible. Great SS is every bit as good as great tube gear. It is in the $3,000 - $7,000 price range that I like tube better.
BWHITE, you're right. How short-sided of me to ignore the power differences of the MC-2000 & the X-350. My friend w/the MC-2000 complained of how it was unable to deal w/ the complexities of full-scale, loud passages. Of course -- it don't have the juice!! Whether it would detail as well as the X-350 at lower levels -- well, I'll have to ask him if he listened to that.

MURALMAN1, as far as "continuous space" (my phrase) vs. "blackness", I don't agree w/you. When I listen to live music, I don't hear "blackness" around the instruments. I hear the space, and I especially hear it when the instrument is playing. The reverberance & reflections of the instrument rush through that space, defining the space & , to a degree, the instrument . BUT I do admit that there may be some tube "sound" that is part of the sound of the space, and not completely accurate. Again, it's a question of a WHOLENESS & REALNESS of the sound. I'm not saying SS can't do that, but I haven't heard it, though it seems that some here have and believe it can.

DBURDICK, a string pluck or the attack of the stick on a cymbal sound more defined & real on tubes to me. The fact that you find the opposite to be what you hear, makes me want to do more comparative listening.

Doesn't this comparing become wearying, though? I can't tell you how tiring it is to disconnect & reconnect and relisten. Especially when you biwire and use spade lugs! And then listening to the same cuts, back and forth. I'm sure many of you can relate.

The GAMUT sounds worth checking out. I have heard the high praise given to the Atmasphere and the LAMM amps, but they are too pricey for me.

The response to this thread has been great ---- hope it continues.
I am still using the Aloia 1501 and it still does it for me. These SS were more pleasant than the tube amps I've had[Wolcott and Cary 200's] and without the breakdowns I used to have.
Kevziek, your response is refreshing. I need to restate my "blackness" preference. Most music's final sound is created in the production lab. There, things are separated, remixed, and immersed in new ambience. I prefer live music recordings. For instance, with Eva Cassidy, "Live at Blues Alley" I enjoy all the rawness of reverberations and reflections, crowd noise and incidentals.

What I DO NOT miss is the manufactured warmth of straight tube systems. It captivates the music in a pervasive web. AGREED, tube gear produces more believable stick on cymbals, human voices, string instruments etc. I use to use all tubes for the love of the music. I just wished I could have all the great sounds without the colored background. I found an inexpensive way to get just what I wanted. With the likes of the ingeniously clean Pass X amp I can capture the magic of tubes with my valve powered cd player.

I encourage you to try this real tube alternative instead of investing in a ss amp that merely mimics "tube sound." I taylor my system's sound by just rolling two little tubes.

I'm listening to my Apogees radiating Jim Brickman playing some sweet piano as I write, and it is soooo good.
Muralman, strangely, I never seriously considered a tube CD player, thinking this was the ultimate use of tubes as coloration devices. Perhaps my thinking was awry. Which CD player you have?

I do realize the majority of recordings undergo a mixing and panning process, but for my comparisons, I use audiophile recordings, such as Reference Recordings, Chesky, etc.

I will have to try a Pass amp. I hear mostly good things about them; although I do read criticisms as well, mostly about bass quality and midrange asepticness and thinness.

As far as manufactured warmth, I don't perceive this in my Audio Research VT-100 Mk II. Indeed, some tube fans think it too SS-sounding, although I consider that a misnomer. My Cary is unfortunately not broken in yet, and with a recent move and things in an uproar, I don't know when my system will be up and running.
It is my opinion that tubes, used sparingly, lend a sense of palpable liquidness to the sound. I like keeping the tube amplification in the primary step up station. After that, I think more tubes are superfluous, at best. After all, how much even harmonic distortion does one need?

I tried a Sonic Frontiers Line pre amp. It is, as you probably know, also generally considered ss sounding. I sold it in favor of the Pass Aleph P, mainly because tube rolling six tubes is pricey, but also because I sensed the extra bottles weren't needed. The Pass X and the P are clear conduits anyway, and are slaves to upstream components, allowing me to hear the full flavor offered by the front end.

The cd player is Jolida's newest, the JD-100. This is an all metal chasis player fit with a Phillips transport. It utilizes a linear 24/96 DAC and two output tubes.
Muralman1, in my limited experience the Sonic Frontiers Line 3 pre amps have the best bench specs I've ever seen on a tube pre amp. If the Sonic Frontiers pre amp sounds solid state perhaps the statement "TUBES Do It -- Transistors Don't." applies to a departure from fidelity?
I bought a used SF Line 3 back in the spring of 2000. The only negative comment that I have is that you can clip the front end. The BAT pres may have an edge here. However; this is not a real problem in my experience. I use the Line 3 in combination with a Bryston 4BST to drive a pair of Ohm 300's. It works for me. I find myself listening to the CATV blues channel at 3 AM many a Friday night. Usually, with around 12 beers in me. I am a happy drunk.
Unsound and 7p, Sonic Frontiers is a great company. My pre amp was great. With the right tubes, like with any other valve component, the SF Line amps, cd player (defunct), and Pre amps are world class. Using a valve pre amp in conjunction with an ss amp is a tried and proved way of doing things.

I just am taking a different tack that works better for me.
Personally, I think it is rather funny that some people think that "tube heads" are in it for the distortion. That cracks me up!
TWL, its consistant with people preferring vinyl to digital. Its the distortion!

Salut, Bob P.
Bob, if it were distortion, why do we think that it is sometimes so close to live music? It would seem then, would it not, that either live music is, or our ears are distorted and then if indeed it is distorted, as the measurement crowd loves to point out, then it is mostty even order harmonics and that is indeed closer to live music in comparison to ss clipping.
If you coun't blocking/chopping sound out (which is, in part,why cd's are so "quiet")as distortion, cd's create more distortion than any source. It's just the sin of omission and some folks do not miss what they do not hear and consider it "clean"...

C'est la vie

I remain,
Detlof, I don't know why you think that vinyl-tube playback sometimes is closer to live music, anymore than you know why I think that CD-SS playback is closer to live music, if well recorded. I do know that ticks, pops and limited dynamics do not make me think that I am closer to live music, but coughs and whispering might!
I do believe that a poor recording played back on a Vinyl system will sound better than the same poor recording played back on CD system, possibly because the vinyl system adds or replaces the element missing in the recording (creates phase distortion or changes the frequency response).
The explaination lies more in the recording than in the playback system.

Salut, Bob P.

PS. My vinyl playback system consists of Oracle Alexandria MK IV, with RB300 and BPS. I still use my PAS 3x and ST 70 in my second system.
Bob, I spoke of tubes distorting, not necessarily of a vinyl-tube playback event, but then, come to think of it, I DO think and experience almost daily, that with the right TT, arm and cartridge, and with an LP properly treated, you will more often than not have neither tics, pops or limited dynamics and will thus come closer to live music, than anything else including SACD. Of course many LPs do have, what you mention, but with a well set up vinyl frontend, the noise is somehow transported to another plain, beyond the music. It has to be experienced to be believed. Besides, I find the "black silence" of CDs completely unnatural and dislike it immensely. We all have our preferences. Cheers,
If ANYONE on this board REALLY thinks that I, or other tube aficionados here, are buying tube systems to get a certain type of "even order distortion" or euphonic sound out of this gear, then they are totally deluding themselves. This notion that the purpose of tube gear is to introduce some kind of "likable" distortion, is ludicrous. I cannot even believe that I am hearing that kind of stuff from people who are supposed to be knowledgable about audio. Do you really think so poorly of your fellow audiophiles to believe that they would spend large sums of money to "distortion-ize" their systems? Do you think that they have no idea what good sound is? I can understand that some people in the SS camp like the sound of their SS amps, and that is fine. Good SS amps can do some things very well. And good tube amps do some things very well also. Nothing does everything perfectly. So all of us have preferences. But the idea that some audiophiles think that the "tube guys" are purposely distorting their systems is outrageous. I find this very disturbing.

Now, I am the first to point out that all things have deficiencies and will try hard to promote my ideas of what better sound can be. But, I have never promoted the notion that people who use digital sources or high power SS amps, are doing it because they like to reduce the sound quality of their systems.

Just think what people would say to me, if I stated that they use CD players because they like the "synthetic,lifeless sound". Or they use SS amps because they prefer the grainy, sandy distortion that only SS can provide, with the euphonic odd-order distortion. Or that using some SS preamp with a tube amp can add just the right amount of "sand" that we love so much.

This is unbelievable. Why do you do this? Is it a lack of understanding that tube systems can provide very good lifelike sound? Have you been brainwashed by the audio writers that spew out this garbage? Do you believe that spec sheets tell all about tube amps, but tell nothing about SS amps? Just what is the purpose in all this?

I love tube amps and I promote their use. But you will never find one post by me on this forum that actually denigrated an SS amp in a correct application. And I have never stated that the owners of SS amps are enthralled by some kind of distortion in their systems that is inherent to SS designs.

Now we have people actually posting on these threads that if they just put a couple of tubes in the system, then that is enough to give the "even order distortion" that they want. Incredible! What is this world coming to?
I love the distortion I get with my SS amp. I went through several SS amps before I got just the right distortion. I would buy tubes if I could get the compressed lifeless sound they have before breaking-in and the dulled sound when they are on the way out. Unfortunately there is that inbetween thing when they lack the distortion and lifelessness. Damn that period!!!
To go with the distortion of my SS amp I love the lifeless sound of redbook CDs. It is amazing some idiot in a lab could come up with this retched sounding medium and get someone in management to go along with this. Where would I be without this crap. I'd have to listen to good music.
I'm only being a little sarcastic.
Detlof, I agree with Clueless that CDs omit information which analog preserves, but I wonder about your take on interstitial silence - LP playback does contribute a certain minimum noise floor which is much higher than digital (or a master tape). Is it your feeling that you would less enjoy LPs if they sounded the same, except for displaying a similarly "black" lack of background noise as CDs? Do you need this noise to in effect "bias" your ears, or would the more info-rich analog medium be even better if this noise could somehow be removed while maintaining the rest? I have found that the masking effect can be a funny thing: you don't consciously realize when it's going on, but you do as soon as the previously masked noise is removed from the source, system, or listening environment. Shouldn't the ambient background noise captured by the microphones ideally be the only noise floor transmitted or imposed in a hypothetically perfect recording/playback chain?

To me, the tube analogy here is with low-level high-gain tube stages, mainly in the preamp and/or phonostage. I have now configured my own system to the polar opposite of the more conventional tube front-end/SS power amplification scenario mentioned several times above. From having a pure-tube amplification chain (was all C-J), I have gone to an SS phonostage (the op-amp based Camelot Tech Lancelot) and preamplification (the FET based InnerSound), while retaining all-tube power amplification (VTL MB-185 Sig's). Yes, I do find that the lowered noise floor renders my LPs with a little more of the "blackness" of digital, and I consider it a good thing. (BTW, although my digital rig doesn't feature this, I might not be opposed to considering a tube buffered output stage for the CD source, if it isn't a high-gain stage.) This set-up represents a quite recent change in my system along with a new listening room (which is quieter than the old one), and I am still evaluating what, if anything, I will have lost if I choose to remain without tube preamplification. But I'll tell you one thing I do not miss, the constantly encroaching paranioia caused by all the spurious "contributions" courtesy of them cute li'l fire-bottles.
Zaikesman, you pose a very good question, which I have often pondered for myself, however am quite unable to answer in any satisfactory fashion. I go to live music events quite often. Zurich is musically lively city. Perhaps it is the ambient noise of a life event , which I miss in classical CDs. Instead of blackness, I expect to hear those subtle cues, which tell me of the size of the hall, those reverbs from the side-, or backwalls, which simply are not there. This is, what makes me so uncomfortable with and dislike most of the classical offerings through this medium. Cheers,
Many live events are heard via tubes. Perhaps that's why many feel that tubes sound more "life like".
Convenience, cost, etc. are valid reasons for choosing anything over something else - I do it all the time myself -but have no validity when discusing absolute quality, or rather, the closest to absolute than we can presently percieve and/or replicate.

I am not biased to one arrangement of matter versus another - and that is the bottom-line difference between one technology and another. If SS sound is more "real" - more like sound-sounds-like as I sit and think about it - or causes me to become more involved in the music at a greater, deeper, more progressive rate than tubes, then I would certainly go that way.

However, I see no need to sauve people's ideas by backing away from the obvious: there exists and has existed a discernable progression that occurs as one becomes adept at listening and more knowledgeable about what is available in technology, and that is: people in their progression move from SS at one end to tube at the other.

Every five years, we say that SS is closer to tube, the implicit assumption to that continuing discussion being that SS is not as good as tube. This is still the same case and it continues to be that case because it is true. No one who has gone over a long progression of evolution in stereo ever says that SS is better than tube because its not true. Isn't that an empiric pattern worthy of contemplation?

Now, what are the problems?

Here we go...SS does not produce space that is pressurized, that is congruent to the space that you exist in in a deep existential way; does not replicate the phenomena of sound as it moves through space that the deep, intuitive structures of the perceptive mind discern; does not offer a continuous simulcrum of the intra-relationship of how source and space are both separate and integral at the same time; does not replicate the "event horizon" of sound projection and surrounding space as a delineation to the the identifying part of the listening mind, and, simultaneously, impart a perception of no-boundary between sound and space to the receptive parts of the listening mind; does not impart an intuitive sense that depth progresses back infinitely, rather than in planes defined by the players on them with a rear plane that, by its existence, defines rear space; does not infuse the deep harmonic fabric of the core note with air, so that sound is seen as integral with space (as it is in "reality"); does not infuse the transient attack with air, nor lend a sense of infinite dissipation to the decay of sound, etc.

Yes, SS has worked to surround players with a greater sense of space immediately around them and gathered within the planes that they occupy; and, yes, mechanical artifacts of distortion have been reduced, but this hardly should cause anyone to be tempted to claim that SS is approaching tube sound in quality of the listenting experience as a whole. By and large, SS has merely improved in the areas that it already excelled at, but reducing sterility in source distortion hardly makes up for the still existing - and I would argue, terminally flawed - rendition of space on: 1) space's integral relationship to sound as it moves within space 3) the sound projection's harmonic structure as it relates to space, and 4) the relationship of how differing sound sources intra-act in space simultaneously as they move out from and towards the listener.

This is what is meant by "congruency" and "continuity".

I do not want to say the SS can not be enjoyable and that it is not worthwhile, but that is a relative statement - and should not be altered just to make some more comfortable.

I have recommended systems composed of SS components, but that does not alter the present state of SS vs. tube, nor does setting up a "euphonic" strawman to push over when you are pushed, nor in, at the end, retreating in trailing arguments regarding price, convenience, etc.

Ahhhh, that felt goood.....