Why are tube amps better?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ryan Cruz, May 4, 2002.

  1. Ryan Cruz

    Ryan Cruz Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2002
    Messages:
    139
    Likes Received:
    0
    Or are they not always better?
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2000
    Messages:
    9,413
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ryan, like anything, I don't think you will find that all people prefer tubes. Those that do often say that tubes give a warmer, more natural sound than solid-state components. I have limited experience with tube amps and pre-amps, but I will be setting up my parents' vintage Marantz tube separates in my main stereo system in the near future. It is my hope that I will experience what many others have with tubes in relation to solid-state gear. I am current using an NAD solid-state set-up (C 370 integrated amp biamped with a C 270 power amp). To my ears, the NAD gear sounds great, but the Marantz tube components should be better.
     
  3. Robert_Dufresne

    Robert_Dufresne Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2002
    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    0
    Keith
    I was looking at the pictures of your equipment and I
    noticed a Denon 370 CD changer.
    I am looking to buy one for myself so I would like
    to know if you like it.
    Sorry if this is not related to thread.
    Robert[​IMG]
     
  4. Steve Zimmerman

    Steve Zimmerman Second Unit

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2001
    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    0
    It is my opinion that there are psychological reasons for preferring one type of sound over another. I recently read a review of a very expensive tube preamp in which their very famous and highly-pedigreed designers are decidedly NOT fans of tubes. The irony of their stated goal (which was "to make a tube preamp and have it be as good as solid state") was apparently lost on the reviewer.

    Based on the stuff on display at CES this last year, it's my opinion that we are in something of a renaissance period in audio--in much the same way that modern fly fishermen have lately become enamored of using antique-style rods made of bamboo instead of modern graphite and carbon-fibre.

    I have a hard time believing that all these professional engineers that have spent their entire lives designing equipment are just now suddenly seeing the light and realizing that OH MY GOSH we've been deluding ourselves these last 30 years and tubes really are better.

    I'm of the opinion that it's more than just the sound of tubes that is driving the craze.

    I'm not saying that some people don't/won't like the sound. If you like tubes that's great. Some people like bellbottoms and platform shoes.

    --Steve
     
  5. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 1999
    Messages:
    2,568
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ryan

    Tube amps are said to generate more even order(2,4,6,8 etc) harmonics than odd order (3,5,7,9). Even order harmonics are more ear friendly than odd order harmonics. Tubes also have a tendency to roll off at the top and bottom of the sound spectrum, thus resulting in less bright sound.

    There is also a group of people who swear by tubes. Some of these folks will use a 3 watt tube amp. The design is called single ended triode (SET), and these folks will drive speakers that would usually be considered to need, say, 50-100 watts or more. But they say they love the sound from 3 watt SET.

    There is no discussion that will change their minds. Good chance they are "enjoying" all that even order harmonic distortion. Such distortion is said to be Euphonic or a pleasing sound to the ear.

    For the majority of folks interested in tubes, the compromise they will often come up with is a tube pre-amp and a solid state amp, or an amp with 1 tube and the rest solid state.

    Cost is a big factor with tubes. For the cost of a 25 watt tube amp you can easily get a 125 watt solid state.

    There are lost of issues with tubes such as mechanical harmonics, wear, which brand and specific choice of tube, and much more.

    Those with the resources will sometimes buy exotic super high efficiency speakers so they can use the 3 watt SET.

    Most of us don't have the money for such things.

    Before your time, a fairly famous amp designer named Bob Carver, made a challenge ($10,000?) that he could modify his solid state amp to sound exactly like any tube amp. I believe Bob still has his $10,000. He also makes some solid state amps that give you the choice of solid state or tube type sound via connections on the back so people fascinated with tubes can have it both ways.

    Artie
     
  6. Arnel Enero

    Arnel Enero Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 2, 2002
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    0
    For my tastes, at least, tubes are most of the time NOT better that solid-state. I'm not willing to sacrifice ultimate treble and bass extension, macro-dynamics and transparency just for a little bit extra warmth and harmonic richness (a.k.a. euphonic distortion product).

    Sorry but to me, tube = boring romantic. I don't even remember hearing any tube amp that rocks, the big VTL stuff included. Solid-state amp technology has been improving significantly, surpassing its early shortcomings. So I don't see any reason FOR ME to go back to the technology of my father's teenage years, kinda like leaping backwards. Well, I'm speaking only for myself and I respect all tube-o-philes.
     
  7. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, I've been using tubes in my system for a few months now, and I find the sound more to my liking than when I had solid state.
     
  8. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  9. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
    One more post to wrap it up. IMO, there are good implementations of tube amps, and there are bad ones. Just as there are good and bad implementations of SS amps. When it's done right, both SS and tubes can sound excellent. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and matching the associated equipment is always important. So, in the end, assuming everything else is ideally set up, it usually comes down to a matter of taste and personal choice. I happen to prefer tubes, because my priorities lean towards the aspects of reproducing music that I think tubes do better than SS. Other people will obviously have different tastes, which will lead them to different equipment choices. There's no right or wrong here.
    Note: No disparaging remarks about, or comparisions with, people who wear bell-bottoms and platform shoes [​IMG]
     
  10. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2002
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is a fairly technical article on tubes vs transistors here:
    http://www.trueaudio.com/at_eetjlm.htm
    If you do a Google search on tubes vs transistors, you will find lots of threads covering this topic.
    Several things that I would like to point out that are sometimes misunderstood IMO:
    1. Push-pull tube amps do not create any less odd-harmonic distortion than SS, unless they are in clipping already. A balanced topology always has much fewer even-ordered distortion, regardless of whether SS or tubes. It is only the single-end designs that tend to generate even-ordered distortion products. SET's are either notorious or famous in this regard, depending on your point of view. BTW, SET's generate odd-harmonics also. Some may like even harmonics, but do keep in mind that the same non-linearity that gives rise to even harmonics also results in intermodulation products which are decidedly not musical. The old Mac's and Marantz's are not SET's.
    2. When operating below clipping, good push-pull tube amps sound very similar to solid states. SET's sound different because of the higher distortion, but more significantly I believe, because of the high output resistance. The high output resistance can make the overall frequency response not flat if the speaker does not present a constant resistive load over frequency. I think this coloring is a big part of what makes SET's sound so different. Some people call it warmth. The output transformer also adds its own "sonic signature".
    3. A solid-state watt is the same as a tube watt. One should always operate the power amp below clipping. In a solid state design, the goal is to reproduce audio as faithfully as possible, and therefore, to maintain linearity over as big an output level as possible. In an SET, non-linearity starts very early. Sure, the clipping is more gradual, but does one want to see the onset of non-linearity so early?
    4. It is easier to design a good SS amp at low power than at high power. Those highly efficient speakers can sound equally good (for those who like their sound) when driven by low-power high quality SS amps.
    5. The SET's have a lot more variation in performance than solid-state gear. In the same design, a tube from a different batch may produce a different sound, and the exact operating point is a very crucial adjustment. Tubes also age, with a corresponding change in sound. This also tells you the kind of accuracy one can expect from SET's.
    It is highly personal whether one likes the sound of tubes, especially SET's, or solid-state. If one desires flat frequency response and low distortion, SET's probably should be avoided. There are good push-pull tube amps, though, that compare with the best SS gear in accuracy, when operated within their designed output range.
    At any given price point, solid state amps will give you a better value in terms of output power. There are, of course, bad solid state amps, just like there are bad tube amps, but overall, solid state amps tend to sound much more alike as a group, if one leaves out the bad ones. SET's however, have a bigger variation in sound. Push-pull tube amps can sound very alike, but of course, they are much more expensive than SS, for the same power output.
     
  11. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 1999
    Messages:
    565
    Likes Received:
    0
    Arnel said;Quote "I don't even remember hearing any tube amp that rocks."
    I guess you have never heard what a Marshall amp can do. That's what most rockers use to make music,IE Hendrix. I also prefered tube amps when I played in bands in the eighties. Tubes give you a unique sound/tone that SS just can't offer. I don't have a tube amp in my 2 channel system as of yet but I do use a tube preamp with tube phono stage.
    I will definitely be looking at putting a tube amp in my system shortly. I feel tubes get more of the music than SS, eventhough tube gear does'nt measure up on the test bench.[​IMG]
     
  12. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  13. Arnel Enero

    Arnel Enero Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 2, 2002
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  14. John Sully

    John Sully Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 1999
    Messages:
    199
    Likes Received:
    0
    What Chung said.
     
  15. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  16. Duke H

    Duke H Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2002
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hey! I wear Bellbottoms...and spikey bracelets...and strange colored hair...and Converse All-Stars...I must be pushing some crappy 18"ers through a Technics receiver! No, just kidding. Interesting debate-very philisophical. Would one be better of reproducing musical tones as accurately as possible, or as pleasingly (ok, I know I'm being subjective) as possible? Frank, right on! Marshalls, Fenders, Matchless, VHT, Pignose, Ampeg, bring 'em on! Saurav's right though...not just a different ball park, but a whole nother sport!

    The real reason I'm posting, though, is to ask a question: We're all familiar with the hybrid theory...tube preamp/SS power amp-What about doing it the other way around? I know that that may seem like a pretty stupid (dare I amend to "stupid and/or radical") question, but here's why I'm asking:

    My Dad has an ancient tube amp just sitting around, and I'm thinking about bumming it from him. It needs a bit of work, but I've tinkered with/modified my tube guitar amps enough that I think I could get it up and running, provided I get a service/tech manual. I have a Yammie Htr-5560, and I was thinking about adding a set of high-efficiency speakers to my set up, and running them off of the tube amp (the 5560 has pre outs). That way, I'd be able to use speaker "B" for 6.1 surround (DVDs, CBL, DVD-A, etc) and use the tube amp (speaker "A") for listening to vinyl/CDs in stereo, a la tubes. Here's my train of logic (it's probably more like a herd of stampeding cattle, but I don't quite know how to best word that): Technics Turn Table to 10-band EQ ("smiley face"/"scooped mids" to compensate for vinyl's inherent Mid range boost ("frowny face"), to receiver Aux in (EQ doubles as direct box). Receiver (in 2-chan. stereo mode) feeding tube amp (main speakers, "A"), feeding a nice set of H.E. speakers (perhaps some studio monitors?). Is it worth the hassle (IYO)?
     
  17. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  18. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2002
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    0
    Saurav:
     
  19. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2001
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  20. Duke H

    Duke H Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2002
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    0
    Saurav-My receiver doesn't have a phono stage, if you are asking about that. The Eq I'm using has a sensitivity regulator (correct term? It's called a direct box in the studio). I read somewhere that vinyl has a natural mid boost (low and high dampening/run off, I believe). If not, how should the EQ be set? Not trying to get off the subject, by the way. What does RIAA stand for?

    Another point...what gave me the idea of using a tube power amp was the natural compression created by power tubes. I like the dynamics of it...even if I am (tecnically) generating more imperfections that if I were to go the SS power amp route. I guess the key would be finding the sweet spot...the point where you get compression, without destroying the tone. Again, this is coming from a guitarist's POV...not HT. What do you all think? Are my assumptions correct, or am I off base?
     

Share This Page