tubes or no tubes

ok, finally I am getting into higher performance...but now to cross or not to cross the tube bridge.

Sold my PMC TB2s, waiting on a pair of FB1s from a fellow Agon member and thinking of using a VTL ST 150. Go tubes or stick with my Bryston 3BST?

Just wondering about the sonic match to an easy speaker to drive (8ohm @ 90db)

Any thoughts...please? I think I know the answer, guess I am looking for the push...yes?
forget push, take the plunge! The VTL in reference would be a perfect place to start. Just remember, there's no going back!
Gelmhirst, here's a push: go with tubes and you're likely never to look back. We each have different sonic priorities. For me, I listen almost exclusively to acoustic instruments and good tubes deliver more of the natural timbre and harmonic overtone structure of the instruments than solid state. Whether VTL is the right choice for you, or BAT, or Conrad-Johnson, or Atma-Sphere, or Berning, or Rogue, or any number of other very good tube manufacturers will be a matter of further refinement of what's important to your ears, as well as the value equation. But I'd chose an appropriate tube amp from any of these before I'd live with any of the best ss amps I've heard.
I agree with all of the above posts. The VTL ST150 is a great sounding amp and is built like a tank as well. It inspires confidence. The only upside to the Bryston is the 20 year warranty. Sonically, the VTL is in a different league.
I'm not familiar with VTL gear. I use the Cary SLI-80 Signature ($3,200) an integrated which IMHO is better than solid state regardless of cost. I agree with the person who said there's no going back. WORDS TO THE WISE: (1) Make room in your budget for rolling tubes -- tubes make a huge sonic difference, (2) look for tube rectification and, (3) look for point-to-point wiring as opposed to printed circuit boards.
As far as the 'sonic match' is concerned, your speakers should be fairly easy to drive. That is not the issue. There is a longstanding and often acrimonious debate over whether to tube or not to tube...

The answer is not as sumple as some people might make it out to be. If you were to review every system posted on AudiogoN, the split would be close to 50/50 on any given day. That either means that half the people who posted their systems are a bunch of moronic fools (is that redundant) or else the difference is not that important.

SS is simple and once the listener buys an amp they can live with, there is nothing else that needs to be done. Tubes require a greater level of commitment. Tubes wear out, some faster than others. Tubes need to be biased on a regular basis. Some say monthly others say every six months. Some amps are self biasing, so that aspect can be eliminated.

Tubes sound very good when they are at peak performance, but what about the rest of the time? First they must be broken-in, this can seem to take an eternity. Then after several minutes of bliss begins the break-down process. Since tubes will not break-in at the same rate, the listener is never certain which tubes are ideal and which are either early or late in their lifespan, and what affect this has on the sound of the music.

VTL makes are great product, but so do Pass Labs, Classe, Bryston, and Krell. There are lots of great amps made, each of them must be judged on their own merits, not the ongoing tube vs SS debate. Buy the product that meets your needs and sounds the best to you. Life is just a series of compromises unless you're Bill Gates, or Bill Clinton. The rest of us have to live within our means. What will best fit your needs and means?
Nrchy, From you 4th paragraph I can tell which side of the acrimony you hail from! FWIW, despite the maintenance issues, and they do exist but not to the degree that you suggest, my tubes sound better on their average days than the best SS stuff ever does! Take that!!!!! :-)
Ah..The battle rages on....

Having crossed back and forth over that line many times looking for the magic amp I have finally found an amp that I really find to be something special. It has the magic of VTL Tiny Triodes with the brawn of a high power muscle amp. Of course it is the Ayre V3. I had heard so many good things about these amps over the years, but never really jumped on the wagon. I was spinning through ARC, VTL, Krell, Cary, Kora, Classe, CJ..I could go on, but the bottom line is that there is something very magical to the sound of this Ayre. Of course I am front ending it with a highly modified ARC LS-7 tube preamp.

Regarding your purchase of the VTL 150. That is a fine amp and it seems to hold its value. It sounds good, uses an easily obtainable output tube and looks good. It would be a good choice. The Audio Research Classic 60 is a fine sounding amp as well. The power is lower and the care and feeding is a bit higher as well. The CJ MV-50 thru MV-60 are excellent amps as well. They are easy to maintain and sound awesome.

My only recommendation for a new tube purchase is to steer away from the Chinese stuff. It all looks great, sounds ok, but who will fix it if a tube bottle-rockets and burns a handful of resistors? I think that at some point your local BFI trash pickup will have a special recycling bin for most of that gear.

So cross over, have fun with it. You can always cross back. When you do, I suggest that you consider the Ayre.
I believe it depends on what tube amp and or; to go with what speakers. Right now as we speak I have 4 tube amps. They range from a little Sound Valves el34 stereo amp to the CJ8xs monos.Thrown in between, an Aeries g 845 pair.--Along wit 3 SS amps.--Well sure, I have several pairs of speakers as well.(2 horns and 3 with cones)---It just isn't as "cut and dry" a choice.--Buy 'em all and try 'em all.BTW I live in an apartment;it's getting crowded in here.
I think the next debate should not be tubes or SS but the color of the faceplate. Everyone worth their salt knows that champagne finish gear sounds better than black or silver equipment!!!

Don't worry about the merits of any particular amp, get one that's the right color, everything else will fall into place.
What about a hybrid (teh hee)....with a champagne faceplate with black and silver accents.

Glad to help.
Rooze, sounds like the best of all five (?) worlds!?!
Definitely tubes w/those easy load speakers. I was in your shoes once & as someone (many) here said "you'll never look back". Damned if they weren't right. push, push (H. Mann)
Not only should you go tube, you should also consider SET! An 845 or 300B will do the trick with those speakers if the impedance stays pretty flat.
Personally, I have McIntosh tube gear. I don't have any of the above mentioned problems other tube guys talk about. My MC225 was built in 1966 and still has ALL the original tubes. Sounds excellant. I have a MC240 from 1968 that has EH output tubes, the others being original. I still have the GEs for "critical" listening, since they still test fine and sound a bit better. I have an MC275 "reissue" from 97 that has the McIntosh labeled KT88, Svetlana tubes and other Russian built inputs. It is the best sounding and quietest of them all. (It has printed circuits, the older ones are point to point.)
My C22 reissue pre-amp has all McIntosh labeled Chinese built tubes. It sound excellant, too. And quiet!!
Any tubes you get in a Mac or from the Mac Service Department meets the stringent McIntosh specs. Period. If it does not, they don't sell it to you. I understand other companies relabel the "seconds" for their products and, of course, the "seconds" also turn up at retail locations, and auction sites. What, you think they just toss them out?
You get what you pay for. You may want to consider older McIntosh tube gear. It does have a lot of positive attributes. Hey, I don't even have to mess with bias adjustments! More time for MUSIC.....
One final thought: I gave up on SS. TUBES RULE!!
Many people who are unfamiliar with electronics initially react to tube
gear as if it were some obsolete technology that is only appropriate for
hi-fi geeks with slide rules in their shirt pockets.

Tube preamps, tube DAC's and tube tuners are for the most part no
more likely to break or require maintenance than solid-state gear, as the
small signal tubes in those components pass very little current and can
last for many years. Tube power amps require a bit more upkeep, as the
output tubes, which do pass a lot of current, do eventually require
changing, and this involves biasing the tubes, but biasing is usually very
easy (as noted above, some tube amps are self-biasing, which means
the only maintenance required at all is changing the tubes when they
wear out, which is about like changing a lightbulb).

I believe it is a myth to say that solid-state gear is inherently more
reliable or a safer purchase than tube gear. Tube gear essentially
becomes a brand-new component when the tubes are changed. People
who think transistor gear is "buy it and forget it" forget that
solid-state gear can break, and when it does, getting it running again is
not as simple as just replacing a worn tube -- the component has to be
fixed. In fact, some big-name solid-state power amps as young as ten
years old cannot be fixed at all when they break, as the output
transistors used in them have gone out of production and are no longer

Of course, buying really well-made tube gear generally makes ownership
easier, and audio is absolutely like everything else -- you tend to get
what you pay for. VAC, CAT, Air Tight and Audio Valve, for example,
make bullet-proof tube gear. As for me, my main system features a
solid-state CD player, solid-state preamp and phono stage, and tube
monoblock amps. My second system features a tubed DAC, which has
the original, now ten-year old tube in it and sounds better than ever.

I do not think that "tube or solid-state" is the issue. I would
strongly suggest to any newbie that he/she make decisions about hi-fi
gear on the basis of sound quality and business reputation of the
manufacturer, the latter point being very important because most high-
end hi-fi gear is basically hand-made in tiny production runs and even
in the case of well-known brands, usually not backed by what most
people would consider a "company". Like yourself, I owned a
Bryston amp (4B-ST) for five years, as it is an honest, good sounding
product that probably
won't break and can be fixed if it does break. your tubes and be happy (don't worry :)

Try to find a current production amp from a good company, one that doesn't require any real maintenance or tricky biasing etc. Most amps have quick and easy biasing procedures and some are auto-biasing.
Tubes will last for ages and operate at peak performance for the majority of their working life. Even when a tube passes it's so-called expiration date, it will still be delivering 99.9% of it's performance and in most cases you won't hear any hint of diminishing sound quality. People who sit and worry about how many hours they have on their tubes and are they really getting the best sound....well they're mostly closet SS people and have other more serious problems to worry about, like integrating with society!

I had a CJ CAV 50 for a couple of years and the most I did to it was reset the bias every 3 months - 2 minutes with a screwdriver. I owned a 40 year old Leak Stereo 20 that worked perfectly and never needed biasing.
Of the many amps I've owned, SS and tube, I've had a problem with one tube amp and one SS amp, so it's all even on the maintenance front for me.
Check out Conrad, Cary, VTL, Manley or even ARC (there are others).

Everyone should experience tubes in their system at some point. To resist the temptation is futile and foolish.....It's like eating peanut butter sandwiches and never trying them with jelly!

PS - I must fess up that I currently have a tubed preamp but a SS power amp, but it's a temporary inconvenience that will be rectified sometime soon!
Thanks everybody, for the great feedback. I will be putting my SS up for sale in a few weeks, and seeking a tubed alternative. I can't wait !
Gelmhirst Hi.
Here is my experience:I am into the hobby for years,I don't claim to be the high-end authority,just learning from my mistakes .My first high-end powr amp was a ML 27.5 SS.It was bought new and it was so expensive for my low income at the time that I had to finance my purchase.I was all smiles from ear to ear.Roll forward a number of years later and I found myself wanted to try tubes as I was reading more and more about it in the magazines and such.Anyway I was making by then way more money and bought a CJ MV55.From the minute I listened to that little tubed power amp I was hooked,like WOW.Music to my ears.Sure my Levinson is much more powerfull but NOT as musical and mind you the ML27.5 is one mighty SS amp.A classic and one of the best that came out of Madrigal Labs.These days I use my 27.5 to drive the bass on my Aerial 10T while Rogue Audio M150's(tubes)are pushing the mids and highs.My CJ MV55 is in a secondary system.
Do yourself a favor and try Rogue Audio or any other reliable manufacturer that designs tube power amps,if music is high on your list.For the record I particularly enjoyed Raquel and Rooze posts,couldn't have said it better myself.
I use to own all tube equipment in the 80's ,went to solid state about 1990 to 2004,and crossed back over to tubes this year never to cross back again.My ears were so pleased when I crossed back to the other side.I have an ARC VT-60 and I will never look back again.
I had very good tube amps over the past decade. Cary slm-200's, Wolcott Presence 220's, and as of a week ago the Manley Neo-classic 250's. I never could deal with the 3 month tube failure syndrome so I was turned on to the Jeff Rowland Model 6. I thought this would be a lateral move but it turned out being another dramatic improvement. My speakers are the new Von Schweikert VR-7SE. The manley's were a joke compared to the Rowland. Manley's had half the bass and no where near the highs. They just couldn't control these speakers and left the sound on the bright side. Maybe its sonic compatability. The difference must be the higher current. The manleys were 250 watts and the Rowlands are only 150 which loses me
I guess I will tell you what everyone else has said, buy a good tube amp. The whole point is that if you want to improve the sound, buy NOS tubes. It can be a bit annoying, but when you get the right combination of tubes you will obtain magic. Just the fact that no one with SS gear bothered to respond to youir post should make your choice clear. With a speaker of 90dB you can read up on single ended, triode push-pull type amps. Whatever you choose you will live happly ever after.
Gelmhirst, If you haven't pulled the trigger yet - I'm in the process of breaking in a new Primaluna 5 amp. I have 92db speakers, 4ohm, and am I impressed. I'm using SED KT88's. Its cheap, well built and idiot proof, plug and play! Something to think about. If you want more info, E-Mail.
I prefer the sound of tubes. But at the moment I am enjoying solid state (until I get some funds to upgrade to what I want).

Tubes give a more enjoyable sound to my ears, especially with vinyl. That being said, I like being able to leave my solid state on all of the time and not worrying about tube life for now.

Be careful though, it is addicting.

Just a follow up, I have gone all tubes, and it has been a long time coming...very glad I took the plunge, there's nothing quite like it. I do like the mb Rogues as an entry level trial to the tube world. I look forward to the journey ahead..
Thanks everyone for the push!
Tubes tend to have much more harmonic distortion than SS amps.

So it depends whether you like the added extra harmonics...some find this more musical...whatever you prefer and almost all natural sounds are full of even harmonics is a question of taste.
I think Shadorne hit the nail on the head. Last weekend I listened to a friend's TRL 225 that just replaced his many-tubed Cary to drive a pair of Spendor monitors. The sound with the TRL is more open and transparent, and the imaging has improved; the Cary sound is perhaps a bit warmer. For my taste, the TRL 225 is a big improvement over the Cary.

right, and there are plenty of tubed amps (Berning ZH70 comes to mind), that when properly tubed, are as or more transparent than any SS amp, and some SS amps that are darker than most tubed amps, so no generalizations!
I'll take NO TUBES...
Actually I have a Tube Preamp now - An Audible Illusions M3A.
The one major complaint about tubes that I have is that every year or so my tubes get noisy.
When I change the tubes - I have a different sounding preamp.
Something is VERY Wrong with that.

If I had a CD player in my system, maybe some tube amplification would be necessary dull over the annoying CD sound that makes me want to take an ice pick to my ear drums.

Obviously I hate CD's.
I don't really hate tubes - I just hate the tube sound.
Not all tube equipment has the tube sound. VTL and Quicksilver for example.
I liked my M3A with one of the sets of tubes I had in it.
I just changed the tubes and I hate it again.

I'm going back to a solid state preamp.
If I miss the sound of tubes - I have plenty of DCC records to listen to.

Now I'll defend tubes in a different application.
I'm an electrical engineer in the Military Aerospace world where I need to design things that can survive and operate through a hostile nuclear event.
Tubes are DEFENITELY the way to go.
(Oddly enough - we USUALLY are not allowed to use tubes)
But That's why the Russians still use them. Trust me - they have plenty of transistors.
They keep advancing their tube technology for this reason.

The best sounding Audio tubes I have used are the Mil Spec (NOT commercial) Sovtek tubes. About 25% of them are great for audio.