I don't really think it was that early, if you are talking about serious amps. I got my first transistor amp, a Heathkit, in Nov. 1963. I think tubes were still the rule in 1965, I was using SS but most of my friends still had tubes. The demise of tubes was signaled when I looked in the window of a high end store in Chicago and saw 8b's being closed out at $149. Almost bought one but I switched early and have never wanted to go back.
Yes, it was probably somewhere in the 1965 to 1970 time-frame, hastened by the commercial success of a lot of poor sounding made-in-Japan solid state gear, which the leading American manufacturers from the golden era of tube hifi were not successful competing against.
Among the leading American manufacturers of tube equipment during the "golden age," based on a quick Google search, Avery Fisher sold his company in 1969; H. H. Scott in 1973, after producing (or at least selling) solid state gear for several years, without much success; Saul Marantz in 1964 (hastened by financial problems, apparently caused largely by the development and production costs of the legendary 10B tuner).
McIntosh exists to this day, of course, pretty much in its original incarnation (although now under foreign ownership). Among their earliest solid state products, I believe, were the MC50 power amp introduced in 1969, and the C24 preamp introduced in 1964.
A separate but related question is when did solid state gear began to be competitive in sonic terms, by audiophile standards. Other readers of this thread may be interested in the following thread from a few months ago, to which you made some good contributions:
The late '60's was when I noticed tubes disappearing in favour of solid state at an accelerated rate. Even earlier for things like radios. I can't put a specific year on it. I bought my first "high end" amp in '71. It was a second hand Fisher, already a couple of years old. No tubes in it. I can't remember everything else I was looking at at that time, but I don't remember seeing tubes other than McIntosh. Even then the thought of buying something with tubes seemed "old fashioned".
I disagree with the premise of the question - tubes never "lost" to solid state, but were merely "outsold" by solid state, in much the way that Chevy outsells Porsche. Popularity does not equal victory, except in a commercial sense...it's rather a reflection of the lack of discernment of the masses.
In 1986 Pioneer and Sansui were both still making a tube receiver (all tube except for the phono section). By 1969 both had stopped. So my vote is 1968 was the last year that the major audio companies were seriously into tubes.
Mac got out in 1969. I think Marantz did too. In 1970 I don't think anyone was doing tubes except Electronic Industries, which was founded by Bill Johnson of ARC. Electronic Industries is still around (they make circuit boards including the boards for ARC gear) and obviously ARC was spun off, about 1975. So that period marked the Nadir of tubes and they have been on the resurgence ever since.
In the guitar amplifier world, it did not happen that way- tubes were and are the only game in town the whole time.
Thanks for the answers.
The only point that I want to clarify is the use of "lost." As was posted I meant in terms of number built and then purchased by the consumers for good or bad reasons. Simply the numbers. Recall my analogy to CDs and Vinyl Records. Thus there was a time when you walked into a stereo and T.V. shop or even the predecessor to "Hi End" dealerships a brick and mortor "Stereo Salon." By then I didn't see anything tubed. I recall Macs but only as SS in the fancy stereo shops. I am unclearif they kept producing anything but the MC275 continuously. 1967 saw the introduction of the MC2105 an SS amp that had an occasional sale or two.
To be clearI am a tube person. And the Tube systems I use are winners.
Let's not kid ourselves ... 99%, if not more, of what we use in our daily lives is solid state driven ... start with the PCs that we are using to view this thread. What portable devices are tube driven? 'Lost' may not be the best choice of words, but please don't think that tubes rule just because we purchase the occasional EL 34 or roll some NOS 12AT7s for more midrange bloom
I know this is an old thread but I didn't understand you contrasting tubes and transistors with analog and digital. Both tubes and transistors are fundamentally analog devices (although either can be used in digital circuits). But to your question, tube lost to solid state on day one if a more linear response is the only objective.
Decades ago I worked in sales at a high end audio dealer in DC. I'll never forget how the B&W folks who visited were "concerned" over how dull their flagship model sounded in our showroom, drove all over DC to find replacements for the power amp tubes (can't remember which amp), once replaced, the speakers sounded awesome!
With that in mind, I've shied away from tubes....until a few months ago. Some of my audio buddies worked on me to consider getting a tube preamp, letting me know that in low power applications, tubes would last a long time.
I replaced my solid state preamp with a tube unit and immediately enjoyed a more musical "bloom", especially in acoustic piano. Now that I've swapped out the original equipment tubes for better models from Russia, this preamp just sounds awesome!
My point is that the tube vs SS issue has nothing to do with the digital vs analog question. Both tube a ss amplifiers can be built as class A A/B or even D. This is a digital vs analog question, not a tube vs. SS one.
My post was simply to clarify this because the original post starts out talking about the introduction of digital media but then ends by talking about the shift from tube to SS.
Tube can be very good and I have hand built several tube amps. They sound very nice but they still can measure up (if you actually do the fourier analysis of the frequency response characteristics) with the best SS amps. Distortion can be pleasing to the ear but it is still distortion.
The digital media sentence was an example of a major industry shift. I remember as a kid that we had Sherwood tube equipment, but by the time the mid 60s had gone by tube gear was not what most HiFi shops were offering. Until fairly recently there were only a few brands of tube gear available (during the 70s and 80s, 90s). It was a question asking when people remembered that shift from tube to SS. It was not a question about digital vs analog. Almost all of my current gear is tube BTW.
It's been interesting to see during my 5 decades plus long career as a pro guitar player how SS stuff attempted to get into the guitar amp market. Weird Fender stuff, Gibson "Lab" series amps (actually one of the better ones), the extremely popular Roland Jazz Chorus 120...I tried them (I actually bought a Fender London Reverb in 1981 or something…meh…), as well as many other working guitar players I know, and, with the exception of a few Ultra Clean Tone jazz dudes (Polytone amps come to mind), pretty much everybody gave up on SS with few exceptions. The harmonic content and snappy response of tube amps simply feels and sounds right. Now I prefer relatively low watt stuff, including boutique-ish single ended amps.
I was a heavy listener when it happened, probably 69-70. It brought down the cost of watts considerably and those inefficient speakers often came to life. They certainly weren't as musical but at that time we were attempting to break windows and my Phase Linear 400 was up to the task. Yes, it oscillated and yes it took out some speakers. But I still say it wasn't a bad sound, until it went up in smoke. No smoke actually but it was fried for sure.