Tubes vs. solid state.

I just switched back to my ss equipment and can't see how I listened to ss for so many years and thought that I had a good system, maybe the equipment needs to be left on for some time.
But regardless of that, the difference is startling. I know that my tube equipment is not the same degree of excellence as my ss, but now ss sounds lean, thin lifeless. Have my listening priorities changed? One thing I noticed; my listening perception adapts to the sound present in the room. As I write this the sound is improving incremently.
Anyone share the same experience??
I will post as I will continue to listen and notice differences.
Ss is simaudio p-5 w-5, tubes are Cj premier 4 amp and audio experience a2se preamp.
Are there ss preamps that will satisfy or am I smitten by bubes I mean tubes.
I don't know about bubes but tubes are hard to get away from....I guess so are bubes.........
Is the romance over? I don't think so. Best to check out some system other then your own, say at a dealer that has a good stock of tubes and SS. I have both, and I always go back to tubes, especially if the source is analogue. I have never found SS to equal the sound of great vinyl played through a chain of tubes. Hey, I've been at this for fifty years. I started with tubes and always come back to them.
Our ear/brains are quite adaptable over a wide range of listening situations. My sense is that if we like the music we're listening to, we adjust our internal processors to get the most sonic happiness out of the experience, hence our audio systems will sound best after we've settled into focusing on what we want to hear.

Also, those times when it all sounds like horse hockey, chances are it's our emotional state getting in the way of satisfaction and not system performance. This is in part what keeps the audio business going.
I really like the sound of tubes, but for now, for simplicity and low noise, I am satisfied with SS Clayton Class A amps and TEAD Vibe/Pulse preamp, which are the opposite of "thin and lifeless." I do have a tubed output stage in my CD player, but only 2 tubes to worry about.
I have tried tubes and solid state. Tubes are OK, but to me sound kind of flabby and slow. Audio Note and Blue Circle being the exception to that. Solid state on the other hand is sometimes, but not always, too cold and sterile. I prefer Naim gear as it sounds just right to me.
Tubes and SS benefit from warm-up IMO.
"One thing I noticed; my listening perception adapts to the sound present in the room."

Nice point. It takes time to wrap our brains around something new.

"I know that my tube equipment is not the same degree of excellence as my ss, but now ss sounds lean, thin lifeless"

That's to be expected switching from the Premier 4: A particularly seductive and involving amplifier IMO. Generally speaking, while the sonic gap seems to be closing between tubes and SS in many modern designs, I doubt that SS will ever encroach on that Premier 4 magic, if that's to your taste.
I just bought a Sophia Baby Amplifer, my first tube amp, and was surprised at how good it sounded. I replaced all the caps and installed new Cardas RCA inputs, and yesterday built a 10' power cord for it. Shockingly sweet, powerful, you know the rest of the jargon. It's mighty 10 watts per channel is plenty to drive my thirty-five-year-Tannoys perfectly. My other amp? A 300WPC SS. It's a fine sounding SS amp, but it can't touch the Baby.

Tubes for the right load are untouchable, I'm now thinking. The right SS might change my mind, but if it could, I couldn't afford it anyway.

Sophia demo:$400
New caps and inputs$160
DIY power cord:$120

See if you can get this quality of sound with SS for the same money. I rather doubt it.


I had a Jadis Defy 7 and made numurous comparisons between it and a Classe DR-9 yrs ago. I sold the Jadis and why? Because the Classe was so good at what it did that I saw no reason to dirve myself into a state of near panic waiting for tube replacement,and with the price of tubes I could purchase more software. True the Jadis was pretty to look at, but sound wise I could live with the trade off. Most of the older CJ amps were built badly rusting screws and all.
I don't know about bubes, but boobs are hard to leave alone...
I'll take boobs over both tubes and SS anytime! . . . however, in the frequent abscence of the first one, I use my ears. . .

Seriously, I would probably choose CJ over SIMAUDIO every time. . . on the other hand, I do not deem myself a tuboholic or SSian by any stretch. . . . to me it's all in the design, execution, and end result of an individual component, and whether it matches or not the particular emotional musicality that I am after. If you wanted to listen to some SS that moves me, Give a listen to Belles ref 350A, GamuT I250M, Bel Canto Ref 500M and 1000M, Rowland 312. Other brands/amps that I suspect may be of the kind I may like, although I have not had the opportunity of hearing them yet are: Pass XA.5 series, Accuphase, Chapter Audio.

The list of those I do not care about in SS, class D, or tube technology is far to long to be worth mentioning.
Interesting concept about our hearing becoming accustomed to bad sounding equipment. That does not happen to me. In fact, bad sounding equipment sounds worse with time. Positive changes tend to quickly become assimilated into the sound and they become less noticable over time.

SS amps need very careful matching to reach their potential. The correct preamp and cables will make or break a SS amp. In fact, a cable can make all the difference between music that is involving, and a sound that is unpleasant.

If your SS amp has been in storage, it probably need 200-300 hours to break-in again. That is the likely reason for some improvement based upon the information provided.
I have read articles about how your ears adapt to the sound given them, for instance, if there is too much high freq info the ears tame the high end (I forget if it was a physical or physcoacoustic effect). Maybe that is what you are experiencing...

FWIW whenever I go to AK Fest (hi fi show in Detroit) I go into each room and listen first and find out what the gear is after (in the hopes of being impartial) and always prefer the rooms with tube gear to the solid state gear which sounds flat and lifeless in comparison.

As a side track and a very pleasant one, talking about boobs has reminded me of a nice film with lovely well you know mammary glands. Anyone see la belle epoque, this was one of Penelope Cruz's early roles.
Then there is also After the Fox with Peter Sellers, an oldie but a classic. Kind of like tube amps, old but hot I mean classic.
FWIW whenever I go to AK Fest (hi fi show in Detroit) I go into each room and listen first and find out what the gear is after (in the hopes of being impartial) and always prefer the rooms with tube gear to the solid state gear which sounds flat and lifeless in comparison.

Is it just possible that visually knowing tube gear is playing your brain starts adjusting. What I am saying just suppose tubes were lit in a room and behind the curtain a SS amp were running the whole show. Do you think that it's just possible that you might relax and sit knowing it were tubes and not SS? Just a thought and not challenging.
It depends what tube gear is being compared to what solid state products. There are good and bad products in both camps. Generally I lean towards tubes in the preamp with a solid state amp but to each his own.

Anyway I think that all of us on this thread have been booby-trapped from time to time and whats even better, they usually come in matched pairs.
Hmmm, have been booby trapped more than once. . . at least in one particular case the pears must have been deep cryoed on the rack. . . together with the rest of the underlying chassis. . . spent 2 months of sheer hell trying to warm up the I/O. . G.
Schipo who are you asking?

Pedrillo I will have to watch Belle Epoque again...
Also try Sex and Lucia which has Paz Vega who is similar in looks to Penelope Cruz (a bit more voluptuous but less perfect) in a fun/interesting/silly movie. hubba hubba...
I was asking FWIW..but all can answer. I was just wondering if it's all possible that the brain will adjust to a coloration that is inherit in tubes. This coloration might just be very appealing to the human ear and thats all.
I believe one sane audiophile locked alone in a room could carry on a SS vs. tube debate all by him/herself without coming to a conclusion.

Each approach when optimized yields excellent results, which can be thoroughly enjoyed without hesitation, until the other approach - also optimized - is presented. The cycle can be repeated ad infinitum.

Tvad, or ad nauseum


Schipo, the point I was making is that I do not know what gear is being used when I go to the rooms to listen but consistantly when I like the sound it has tubes. This is a very casual (unscientific) observation, heck I WANT to like ss so I do not have to buy tubes but it ain't worth it for me.


Tvad, no need to "IMO" that post; it's pretty much unimpeachable. It seems to me that the "tube vs. SS" debate has been so pervasive on these threads throughout the years that it belongs in the same class as the "Ali vs. Tyson" debate. There's no answer but it's fun. Also, the issue is so fundamental and subjective by its nature, that everyone has an opinion and can get involved. IMO
Tvad, I meant to add that I hope you're enjoying your new speakers.
I'll have to check Lucia out.
Forgot to mention Wedding crashers, there's some nice valves! Then there's that hilarious scene in American Wedding with the escort girls dressed as a maid and officer.
Well for me, speakers are more important and the speakers I prefer seem to do better with ss.
Adjusting from tubes to solid state is like adjusting from electrostatic to dynamic speakers. It seems all solid state designers are trying to make their amps sound more tube-like. Solid state and hybrid equipment does take a long time to warm up, like 3 days.
For me, a tube amp crossed over at around 80hz to a quality sealed servo sub is audio-nirvana. All of the slow, flabby bass arguments against tubes go out the window with this setup.
As far as the adjudstment to new kit is concerned, I am sure that is true, both for worse and better sound. We have all had the experience, I am sure, of an excellent upgrade, which clearly advances the sound of your system. A week later, you have lost that lift, you hacve adjusted to it and it no longer registers. As an aside, I am sure that this is the reason some are on a perpetual upgrade treadmill. Change, any change, will tend to register as an improvement. That disappears after a while and you need a new fix. I wo'nt bore you with the philosophy and physiology of perception. Suffice it to say, we are hard wired for change in sensory input, not constant inputs.

As for SS/tube, it is one of the perpetual arguments. I like tubes, specifically, my SET amp. If I had to have SS, it wouuld need to be well executed Class A. In general, I find powerful class A/B, SS amps, grainy and fatiguing. Plainly there are exceptions, the Lavardin IT being one.

I think if you asked 100 audiophiles who have used both tubes and SS, a majority would prefer tubes. I do'nt know that, but I suspect that would be the answer.
I've asked over 200 audiophiles. 47.6% prefer tubes, about 9% prefer SS, the remainder have no preference.
I was a tube guy for years n' years - built my own (SE and PP) along with modifying plenty of vintage pieces. I had no positive experiences with solid state, having been disappointed with Adcom, Marantz or any solid state pieces.

That was until I tried some vintage Threshold gear - the S/500 and FET-10 linestage / phono units. They do sound 'different' than tube gear. I liken the difference between 35mm film (tubes) and LCD (solid state). With my Magnepan speakers and the Threshold gear I'm happy as a clam and have no urge to go back to the fussiness of tube gear.
I'm glad somebody started a tube vs. solid state thread.

It's a long time coming.
I mainly prefer tubes somewhere in the system. I love what they give to the midrange. With that being said, I am also enjoying my solid state Cayin 265Ai Class A integrated amp right now. It takes about 2.5-3hrs for it to warm up and sound its best but once it does it sounds so 3 dimensional and sweet :)
Thanks for the laugh!
I have had both;the only solid state amp(s) I really enjoy are my jeff roland model 6 monoblocks;on the tube amps I have owned the cary slam 100 and audio valve challanger 180 monoblocks are my best performers driving soundlab m2's.I can see both sides of this question but for me the tubes best the solid state.
Just to chime in here. I believe that tubes vs solid state is a matter of budget and price point. Low level solid state amps sound bright if not designed and constructed correctly. Low level tube amps sound warm, until you realize that something is wrong with the sound also. But, top of the line amps, either solid state or tube? I'll tell you seriously. I have listened to top of the line amps and I'll take either. Audio Research Reference 610 amps vs Boulder top of the line? Can't pick. They both sound wonderful. I listened to Krell amps for a time and still find them too bright. Switched pre-amps and still bright. Switched amps, to a Mark Levinson amp and brightness went away. Here is what I have learned over the years. If you stop listening and don't know why, something is driving you away from your system. But, if you can't wait to turn it on and listen for hours, then it is just fine.

You hear transistor amp manufacturers boasting of a "tube like" sound. Reviewers may compliment an amp as having a "tube like" liquidity.

You don't hear tube amp manufacturers boasting of a "solid state" sound. Reviewers may criticize an amp as having a "solid state" dryness.

Transistor products aspire for a tube like sound. Tube products are just that way by nature.
I agree if you can't wait to listen and in turn and can't turn the system off then its a good thing.
This reminds me of my fascination over the MBL system, I couldn't leave the room at the show, and I wasn't alone.
Some of the music they played was not my cup of tea, for instance there was some crap oops I meant rap, but it sounded awesome and everything else did too.
I want to enjoy music and would like to find myself easily enjoying new genres. I want my system to help me enjoy music I didn't feel before, then it becomes a musical journey.
I didn't feel jazz before, but as my system improved I found it easier to enjoy jazz.
guyz ever try tubed bubes? As in you tape on a 6SN7. killer stuff.

Hello Gents ,

I have heard great sound out of both and i have heard bad sound out of both , so I'm of the opinion both will work if you shop carefully,

For me personally , i cannot be bother with how finiky tubes are and find the cost of re-tubing ... well, painful! so i tend to stick to SS stuff.

I want to suggest that solid state has become so good that it really makes little sense to use tubes. There are solid state products out there right now that rival tubes but improve on areas that tube gear can seldom handle. On the other side of the coin the only thing modern tube gear is now doing is sounding like really good solid state, definately not your warm and fuzzy sound of a day gone by. I still like both but it is important to mention that your choice may be based on what type of music you normally listen to. I like tube preamps but I have had solid state preamps that make you question things.
Would you care to list those solid state amps which have a reputation that rival tubes in terms of harmonics, mid range excellence, and 3D sound? The common understanding is that you need to look at amps which cost over $10k on a SS amp to even approach a tube amp.

Second, good tube amps can drive all but the most difficult speakers. Some of us use crossovers, and allow subs to handle the really low freq's which allows us to use low powered tube amps (mine is only 25 watts).

The challenges of having a speaker driven by voltage (tubes) instead of by current (SS) can easily be remedied. On the other side of the coin, good luck trying to find a SS amp which handles the mids and highs the way tubes do. It is near impossible!!

Notice the near unanimous concensus here that tubes are superior for most musical genres (non death metal or dance music - who listens to that crap any way).

I presume that you don;t have much experience with listening to actual tube AMPS - tube preamps + SS amp does not equal a proper tube setup.

I'll never forget when I heard my first tube amp. It was a lowly jolida 302b integrated. I wept as I went through my CD collection and rediscovered music in the mid-range which I never thought was there, nor did I ever imagine that that much detail and information can be stored on a CD. Every "high end" SS amp that I've tested failed to retrieve those details off of my CD's.

Once you turn into a tubehead, you never go back.
The ASR Emitter is one such SS amp that gives up nothing to tubes, and does certain other things no tube amp can do. Used prices are not so bad, especially since it's an integrated. (Yes I have one listed but actually I'm keeping it.)

The Red Wine products give up a little dimensionality but tonality is spot-on, and again offer certain advantages.

Same with Pass, other traditional class A SS.

Some people just like the tonality differences that arise from the respective frequency response deviations. Since most tube amps will put out less power into lower impedances and most solid-state amps the opposite, you end up with quite different bass & other characteristics (ie the impedance rise at the tweeter xover point makes the tube amp sound brighter - more 'detailed' - more 'alive'). Depending on the speaker these differences are either a pro or con for one topology or the other.

And for sure some people do like the soft, rolled-off sound many tube amps, especially SE, give. You don't realize anything is rolled-off except in comparison. (Is this why SETs 'pull vocals out from the mix'? Because both ends are downplayed?)

I'm a long-time SE tube guy but the fact is that while tubes can sound great and it is generally easier/cheaper to build a very good tube amp, the output devices are but one part of the equation, and 'tube sound' is just as unnatural as 'solid-state' sound. Natural sound should probably be the goal.
Interesting thread. I have been back and forth so many times, but for the last 2-3 years I have been very happy with an SS system - perhaps it is finding the right mix of components? I would have stuck with tubes were it not for the maintenance and small children in my house. It took a little playing around, but you can certainly build an SS system, today, that provides a lot of the musical flow of a tube system.



Yes, in fact, your hearing does adapt to sound and your brain will filter out the most irritating aspects of it to make it more pleasant. That is why the myths of warming-up amplifiers and braking-in the cables exist.
BTW, I also love the midrange, but I prefer it always accompanied by bass and treble.
Actually the older I get and as I gradually loose my hearing the more tubey my SS equipment sounds , so it is all good.
Uh-oh. What happens when a tubes vs. solid state thread merges into whether break-in and warm-up exists? Next, someone will say that some wire they found in the dumpster of Home Depot is just as good as all audio cables in existence. This thread may actually implode.

Maybe this thread should be shut down. There are plenty of other good threads such as:

What speakers will my cat like?
Why are there so many [component x] for sale?
What is the best [component y]?
Remote doesn't work, could it be the batteries?
Cooljazzcat, thankyou for your opinion. I like some of Audio Research solid state amps like the 100.2. Also like Conrad Johnson solid state, makes you wonder why go the tube route. The McCormacks with Revision A, very trasparent and grain free. Aleph class A products, very sweet sound. Currently using a PS Audio upgraded HCA-2, wonderful midbass and detail, superb low end. I was thinking of hooking up with the solid state Bel Canto Pre 1 or 2. Or maybe the PS Audio PCA-2 with external power supply, a great match with my HCA-2. Too many products to list but great products for the price. I like to leave my system on all the time for background music, can't do that with tubes. I wonder if digital switching amps create a new category of their own.

Currently running the latest incarnation of a VTL tube preamp with the upgraded HCA-2, spectacular full sound but have to turn the tube pre off when not in use. The VTl pre really brings out the best qualities that garnered the HCA-2 its stereophile class A status.

I can definately understand why you wept when you heard your first tube integrated, if I was there I would of wept with you and would of even brought a box of Kleenex.

I think Paulfolbrecht elequent response was very intelligent & thorough pointing out some differences between ss & tubes. I hope you people live forever, will not criticize anyones choices because there are so many differences in room accopustics, components and speakers that are unique to ones system, makes it difficult to make an accurate call on recommendations in regards to ss & tube.
Phd, thanks for your input.

I have heard some of those amps you mentioned however they are still different than my amp with EL34's which is known as the ideal tube for mids. There is a harmonic bloom to them that I have not heard in SS setups.

Second, you said:

"I hope you people live forever, will not criticize anyones choices because there are so many differences in room acoustics...."

But before that you said:

"I want to suggest that solid state has become so good that it really makes little sense to use tubes.'

You see, it YOU that started criticizing people's choices to use tubes....peace.
Cooljazzcat, if I think solid state is better, is just a matter of opinion, certainly not attempt to critizise. I did mention that I like both ss and tube. Keep in mind my music tastes vary from softer music to hard rock. My current preamp is tube but prefer an all solid state system because there are some good ss products plus I want to leave it powered up most of the time. I know I would really enjoy your all tube system if I could give it a listen.

I was curious if you ever been concerned about a shortage of tubes and/or even good quality tubes since some good sources/factories have been shut down. Also I read that some sellers of tubes on the internet don't know they are really selling an inferior product because the original manfacturer logo has been wiped out and restamped with a new more respectable manufacturer. Thanks for your time.
PLease list the ss equipment that sounds as good as tubes, I am really intersted as I love the sound of tubes but hate to give up what ss offers.
I like my tube preamp but dislike the bass roll-off and the hum.
01-26-10: Pedrillo
PLease list the ss equipment that sounds as good as tubes...
You're kidding right? This is a no-win question.

As soon as someone gives an honest opinion of an amp that qualifies, someone else is going to come and piss on the suggestion.

The likely candidates have been mentioned over and over again in dozens of ss vs. tubes threads. Do a search for the recommendations, and then try one for yourself and let your ears decide.