Tube Vs. Solid State

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Yogi, Aug 5, 2002.

  1. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    Ok this might be a pot stirrer, but it might be enlightining to know what everyone's priorities are.

    First let me list the pros and cons of each type. Others please add to the list.

    Solid State:
    ------------

    PROS:
    1) Maintenence free.
    2) Forward presentation: More snap and sizzle to the presentation than Tube gear.
    3) Fast and Accurate: Higher slew rates, high damping factors, very accurate in terms of reproducing the orignal waveform.

    CONS:
    1) Higher amount of odd-order distortion leading to listener fatigue if not properly designed. Some of the designs from Pass, Mark Levinson, Proceed and Krell dont lead to listener fatigue, though.
    2) Go into hard clipping that is strident and destroys drivers (tweeters) almost instantly.

    Please add to the CONS list as I couldn't think of any other reasons.

    TUBE:
    -----

    PROS:
    1) Vintage appeal.
    2) Warm laid back presentation.
    3) Sound louder than SS gear for the same output levels (in terms of watts) due to large amounts of even ordered distortion that makes it sound louder.
    4) Even ordered distortion sounds 'sweet'.
    5) Go into soft clipping that doesnt sound strident and doest destroy drivers as fast as SS gear does.
    6) Tweakability of sound by simple change of tubes.
    7) Could double as space heaters esp. the high powered amps (100+ watts)
    8) The glow-in-the-dark appeal. Seriously, some of them love this aspect of tube gear too.

    CONS:
    1) Highly colored sound, due to higher amounts of THD so less accurate compared to the original waveform.
    2) Costly to maintian. Have to change tubes and re-bias them.
    3) Could sound different everytime a tube is changed.
    4) Tube Microphonics.

    My question to all of you is what do you prefer? and why? One one end there is accuracy and consistent sound year after year and on the other there is colored sound that changes year after year. Which do you pick?

    Having said that I myself found tube gear to be quite musical and sweet. I might someday take the plunge into tube audio myself for my 2 channel listening.
     
  2. DanielM

    DanielM Stunt Coordinator

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    first off I have listened to krell and had listener fatigue
    in about 5 mins...so...
    and as far as accuracy what is accurate when reproducing electronic instruments...when an electric guitar is played with a tube amp and all kinds of effects where is the reference?? whats coming out of the amp?? what is/was picked up by a microphone??
    I prefer the sound of tubes yet I also prefer the ease of solid state[​IMG]
     
  3. Robert_Dufresne

    Robert_Dufresne Stunt Coordinator

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    As you said Yogi, solid state is more accurate and
    to me that is what HIFI is all about.

    If tube amps sound sweet because they add something
    to the original signal, how can they be called hifi .

    Robert
     
  4. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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  5. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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  6. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Yogi:

    Very interesting post....

    After years of using SS, I have recently switched (in fact, am in the process of switching) to tubes. First a comment: Despite having owned better than average gear, and having considerable familiarity with many of the best names in SS, I am less than convinced that solid state is more "accurate" than tubes.

    The reason that I switched to tubes is simple: I find tube gear more musical than SS. (Or to put it another way, I get greater emotional reaction when listening to tube gear.) Tubes sound more like music to me, while SS sounds more clinical. It is not unlike the difference between hearing a tight band performing live, vs. a bunch of experienced studio musicans laying down tracks in isolation.

    Obviously, everyone's MMV.

    Larry
     
  7. mike_decock

    mike_decock Supporting Actor

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  8. mike_decock

    mike_decock Supporting Actor

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  9. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Let's go back to the guitar example, which uses a tube amplifier.

    In this example, where we are mic'ing the amplifier to get a specific sound, the amplifier itself is adding additional 2nd and 4th (and higher) components -- which adds at one and two octave intervals to the sound that is produced by the guitar alone.

    When played back through a tube amp, another layer of harmonics again at the one and two octave intervals are added in again. So we've got harmonics on top of harmonics, the result being a harmonically richer, though less accurate result.

    One can't argue personal preference -- I've spent time with both tube and SS amps. I understand the affection many have for tube amps, but when the day is done it's not for me.

    Regards,
     
  10. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    Great thread, It is nice to finally see some of the false stereotypes of tube gear being addressed in this forum.
    I would like to add that tubes don't "add" anything to the music, they simply have a different presentation that is considered by many, much more natural. It -seems- that many have not actually heard tube gear, and just make an opinion about how they "think" it sounds. It is my opinion that good tubes are much more natural than their SS counterparts.
    I think that the biggest problem that tube electronics face is that they are not considered HT friendly. HT is were all the buzz and revenue are these days. Tube manufactuers need to find a way to participate or they are going to be stuck in the ever shrinking world of high end stereo.
    It is sad but true.
    What we need is a design with a 10x lifespan over traditional tubes, and some good marketing.
    (I can dream)[​IMG]
    -rob
     
  11. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Personally I'd weigh in along Mr. Kotche's point of view. One can find merits in both means of playback and its quite a choice of preference. So many I see that are involved in tubes also take great pleasure (angst?) in switching tubes to further explore things. For those who occasionally find the appeal of tubes compelling, one can always insert devices which provide the 'benefits' of tubes with the 'benefits' of solid state. I'm sure this is heresy to either proponents though [​IMG] The statements I often hear 'being faithful to the live performance' I take with a grain or two of salt as unless you're milli vannili, performances in a particular club or stadium or concert hall will vary both within that particular venue and as it moves from place to place. For those who may be Sinatra fans, there've been many renditions of "my way" as he lent his own interpretation that varied. I don't see it as a big thing, choosing one over the other.
     
  12. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  13. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Yogi and Friends,
    Thank you. Great thread and great discussion, but I want to add some comments as a tube amp lover:
     
  14. Earl J

    Earl J Stunt Coordinator

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    What about price? I have never purchased a tube amp before, only demo'd. But it seems that tube amps seem to be more expensive (not including maintenance) than their SS counterparts. Granted this is based on my limited experience with tubes, but if its true, that would be quite a hurdle for them if they're thinking about entering the "affordable" or mid-level HT market.

    Just my .02
     
  15. Howard_S

    Howard_S Supporting Actor

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    I have never really had experience with tube amps. But I believe the preference is based on what kind of music you prefer? I mean if I'm listening to old jazz records of singers I think I would most likely prefer tubes whereas if I'm listening to pop/rock /jazz instrumental with modern sound engineering I think I would probably prefer solid state.

    I think tube sound is generally regarded as better since pretty much all solid states amp seem to want to achieve a tube sound. So a hybrid or tube sounding solid state amp is probably the way to go.
     
  16. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  17. Bruce Chang

    Bruce Chang Second Unit

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    For vocals, guitar, midrange I would choose tube

    For tighter bass I choose SS gear.

    The tube amp for me is better for my musical tastes, but sometimes I wish have have a tighter bass in Rock music.
     
  18. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    If any of you are interested, here's an article that appeared in the IEEE Spectrum magazine in August 1998:
    http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/select/0898/tube.html
    This article goes into some of the objective engineering reasons for using tubes in audio equipment. It might be useful in dispelling some fairly common misconceptions about tube audio in general. Some test results are included too.
    Incidentally, tubes by themselves are much more linear and have much less distortion than transistors or opamps. If you find that hard to believe, read the article [​IMG]
    One point in Yogi's original post that that article doesn't cover is cost. My monoblock tube amps cost me $250 for the pair, bought from a local dealer with full warranty. A matched set of new tubes cost me $15. I'm driving $500 bookshelf speakers with them in a medium sized room, so that dispels another myth, that you need to spend a lot on speakers to be able to use tube amps.
     
  19. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Lee,

    Sure there are "less colored" tube solutions out there. They are in the minority.

    Most are in the 3% (or more) THD range, and the predominant component of the distortion is 2nd order @ the octave.

    Regards,
     
  20. John Kotches

    John Kotches Cinematographer

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    Saurav,

    I'm not a circuit expert, but I'm wondering what the intended output of the low voltage bipolar and JFETs under test were.

    Also, are the tube parts tested power amp type tubes, or preamp type tubes?

    Interesting reading, and thanks for the link.

    Regards,
     

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