View Full Version : tubes or solid state? any audio zealots?

04-15-2005, 02:50 PM
Howdy friends,
I have been a fan of klipsch speakers - there's a whole nother topic - and am getting ready to make an upgrade move, perhaps buying a set of used 'heritage vintage type' speakers and new amp. I have been roaming the web and as you might expect, audio opinions are nearly as crazy as mac vs pc. I have become interested in tube vs solid state amplifiers and even entertaining the idea of building my own amp. Wondering if any of the gurus are as enthusiastic about music systems as they are macs.
BTW, only two channel set ups have my interest at this point. Although watching movies in a 5.1 set up would be nice, my home just won't facilitate a speaker arrangement to support it. As I have heard it said, you have two ears, you need two speakers.
ps. you might ask, what's up? with computer music, mp3s, 128bps conversions, etc, what difference does it make? Well, my home stereo is for DVDs and LPs. Whereas I convert my music to mp3 in order to transport it in my truck and on trips for work, when I want to get down with pink floyd or joni mitchell and some scotch in quiet of the old homestead, I want the best I can afford. Besides, those tubes make such an interesting glow in the dim lights.

04-15-2005, 04:30 PM

Never worked with one except as a kid and enjoyed "tube" pre-computer days but now I like computers and have no "tubes" all solid state. Never mixed the two. :D But I have read and see a lot of people like the old tube products - amps mostly it seems. But I really just don't keep up enough to know the "when, where or why's" of it any longer. biggles, M.Brane or other members might. - Randy

04-15-2005, 04:57 PM
Hey Bif,
IMHO tubes rule for several reasons.
1. Tubes enhance the natural harmonic spectrum of sound making it more lifelike.
2. Tubes require high current which = headroom for dynamic bass and high end responce.
3. Tubes naturally compress high end frequencies in a way that is pleasing to the ear, rether than the harshness of digital.

Many Digital recording studios use tube pre-amps to "warm-up" their input,
this does help take the harshness out of digital recordings.

The new 5.1 does give nice surround effects, but for my ears it sounds puny,

Best advice is find somebody with a completely tube stereo system, and let your ears be the judge.
(your whole concept of audio will change)

enough said for now ,


04-17-2005, 09:14 PM
I'm a big fan of high quality tube gear. I'd rather have solid-state stuff at a low price-point though. That would be the majority of mid-fi the stuff you would find at the local big-box electronics retailer.

The Marantz/Pioneer/Kenwood stuff from the early to mid '70s is much better in both build, and sound quality than anything they've put out since.

At the end of the day though the gear you have is much less important than the room you put it in. Cheap gear in a good room will sound better than the best gear will in a bad one.

It doesn't take much to drastically improve the acoustics of the average room, but most of the methods required will likely not sit well with aesthetics of the average female. LOL

Here's a good site (http://www.johnlsayers.com/phpBB2/index.php) to read up on what's required to have a good sounding room.

Low to mid quality surround sound is an attempt to overcome poor room acoustics, and component quality IMHO. If done right it can sound quite good, but usually this requires more effort, and expense than setting up good stereo.

04-17-2005, 09:56 PM
Hi M.Brane,
I was hoping you would jump in,
Yes I have an old Marantz solid state amp that kicks ass.
Prior to that an Onkio (old) that was awesome (also solid state).
when i first used the Onkyo I thought was in Heaven.
For my ears, the reproduction of a live performance is the scale to be judged against.
That amp died due to a power supply problem , the Marantz comes close.
i can not afford a Macintosh Tube Stereo...
Thought about hooking up two old fender twin reverbs for a stereo but that would be overkill, and the neighbors would hate me.
Using a new Onkio tuner/ amp currently but miss the old.
Sorry if I rambled here , but this is a passion of mine.


04-17-2005, 10:03 PM
BTW M.Brane, I am jelous of your cool guitar gear.

04-18-2005, 05:26 PM
BTW M.Brane, I am jelous of your cool guitar gear.

Thanks man! I've only been collecting amps for over 25 years. :eek:

I wouldn't have the McIntosh either if I had'nt been lucky enough to find it being abandoned in a pile of junk by it's clueless previous owner. It had a MR65B Tuner as well, but it didn't survive the trip to the trash. My Marantz 2230 was another trash score. The tape monitor button was stuck. :rolleyes:

The advantages to working in a rich neighborhood. 8)

There are some low-end tube amps that are somewhat affordable like the Zen amps (http://www.decware.com/newsite/tubes.htm) that come in kit form so you can do the assembly yourself. You'll need some pretty efficient speakers to run 'em though. They don't put out much power. Of course you don't need tons of power with a tube/horn setup to have plenty of headroom at a reasonable volume.

The stuff to really avoid is the low priced pseudo-tube stuff where they just stick a tube in an otherwise cheap opamp based circuit for the coolness factor. There's some "pro audio" gear where the tube isn't even part of the circuit! Anything that uses a wall-wart PSU should be avoided like the plague. Tubes need high voltages/currents to sound good. I also tend to very skeptical of things like power, and speaker cable that costs thousands of dollars. Especially when reviewed by people with poor room acoustics. :p

There's a lot of voodoo in the audiophile, and music worlds. After a while you get to a point where you can almost smell the BS.


04-18-2005, 07:40 PM
There's a lot of voodoo in the audiophile, and music worlds. After a while you get to a point where you can almost smell the BS.

Hey brane, just like the computer world. ;)

I am jealous of all you audiophile types... Was heading that way some 20 years ago myself, but got on a different road, and don't even have decent stereo gear now. Life just gets in the way. :mad:

PS: Any of the "donation" gear in working order yet?

04-18-2005, 10:48 PM
Hey brane, just like the computer world. ;)

I am jealous of all you audiophile types... Was heading that way some 20 years ago myself, but got on a different road, and don't even have decent stereo gear now. Life just gets in the way. :mad:

PS: Any of the "donation" gear in working order yet?

You can get some good sound cheap if you keep an eye out for that old '70s stereo gear. Classifieds, yard sales, thrift stores etc. Maybe even the dumpster. :D

No remote controls or presets though.............

Have'nt done anything yet other than pop the cases open to take a peek. I was out of town for the weekend, and had to clean the tax papers off the table so I have a work space.

Need to get a hard drive for the Gossamer.

Thanks again for donation. You rock! :kickass:

04-19-2005, 02:42 AM
Stepping into this one late.

Macaholic gave the typical reasons for favoring tubes over solid-state. I've had the pleasure of hearing high-end tube gear: Conrad-Johnson amp/pre-amp feeding a pair of big Thiels, California Audio Labs feeding I can't remember which. Sound was awesome but pricey. I've also heard some high-end solid-state stuff tpp, Mark Levinson, Krell, Linn, etc. feeding a number of different speakers.

I really don't know about low-end audiophile tube gear though, never heard any of it, and whether they deliver the goods with serious compromise -- of the sort M. Brane mentions.

Just set up a small system myself and went solid-state. Tight quarters -- bookshelf speakers all the way -- with short profile. So that meant the standard route for these logistics -- British gear. A pair of small Epos speakers driven by a Creek A50iR integrated amp -- so bulk of the money went into the amp. Sound is awesome: neutral, sweet, very clean, a bit laid back but very musical. The Creek is far superior to the NAD and Marantz (current) stuff I heard as well, but heck it costs twice as much as the latter two. Also better than my old Adcom pre-amp/amp combo which was a way too forward and bright, fatigue listening to that. Also heard those same Epos driven by the "reference" gear of Linn and Mark Levinson. Sure the latter are better than the Creek, but heck they cost a heck of lot more and certainly we're talking diminishing returns. (Using an old Denon CD player that was around for CDs, rather than the DVD Player which is a bright and thin in comparison.)

For reasons already mentioned, I passed on the 5.1 system. To do that stuff right costs. Since my primary aim was to setup for music, I focused on that with the cash at hand. To go 5.1, I would have had to settle on a lesser amp at the expense of the music.

Got to agree as well with the voodoo in the audiophile word. While I can attest to hearing the effects of different interconnects and cables, I don't think I'd ever consider speaking 3-4 figures on those items. I use Kimber PBJ interconnects (very open), and Audioquest F14 or Type 4 cables for the speakers. I kept those and sold the rest of my gear before making a big move. I prefer the sound of Type 4 (which is like 2 x F14), but my old F14 is flat and white -- all the better if someone complains about big colored cables running everywhere. :D

I saw a lot of used gear too at steoreophile stores, hard core audiophiles tend to change gear a lot and treat them with care. So you can sometimes find good deals on higher-end stuff both really old and of more current times. I passed on a lot of it because I'm a couch potato at heart -- I need a remote. ;)

04-19-2005, 11:06 AM
Know I've jumped in on this one a lil' late, but for those that love tubes, macs and Geekdom in general, check out this (http://www.18watt.com). Bif, if you're really interested into building 'em, go to the downloads section.

04-24-2005, 03:30 PM
Thanks a bunch for the replies. As I figured, the views are varied and depend on personal taste, from what I have been reading all around the web, sometimes folks hear what they think they do because they expect to. Funny how that stuff works.
At any rate, I managed to get my grubby mitts on a set of Cornwall speakers and can hardly wait, like I am gonna wet my pants, to get a vintage tube amp. I have narrowed it down to either an EICO or an H. H. Scott, both integrated amps rated at around 20wpc. They have been completely rebuilt and it is just a matter of coming to an agreement with the sellers, and then shipping them here (they tend to be rather heavy). I will post my thoughts about the joy of victory or the agony of the other, although if my pleasure with these speakers is fortuitous, then I won't be disappointed.

04-25-2005, 11:23 AM
Hey Bif,
Looks like you did your homework, I like the idea of matching components to their time-frame and the Cornwalls should complement either amp.
At 20 watts per channell you are probably looking at an EL-84 based amp.
One of the sweetest, harmonicaly rich tubes ever.( baby brother to the EL-34
which made Marshall guitar amps famous).
Also, a 20 watt tube amp will make most 100+ watt solid state units sound thin and weak,( think headroom).
Last of all you are correct. It is all in the ears of the beholder.I have seen friends EQ an amp to where it sounded terrible to my ears , but it made them happy...
I like a system that reproduces the instruments so realisticaly you feel like the performance is being created in your room.


04-25-2005, 11:31 AM
I have seen friends EQ an amp to where it sounded terrible to my ears , but it made them happy...

I always hated what EQ's did to the real sound. Except as a kid I had to have the 10 Band that BSR made :D What a joke - saved my money for ever. People don't like it when I leave my music mostly flat. :p

04-25-2005, 12:36 PM
People don't like it when I leave my music mostly flat. Randy, then you'd really like the Creek A50iR (http://www.creekaudio.com/downloads/images/A50i.jpg) I bought. Take a close look at the front panel -- you can zoom in to see a total of 2 knobs (volume, input) and 2 buttons (power, tape monitor). No balance, treble, bass, etc. It's always flat. :D

04-25-2005, 12:50 PM
Damn thats slick looking eric... man I gotta stay away from things like that. :D Cost me about 5,000 last time I went "looking". I have traded my stereo hobby expenditures to computers. (still have a decent Sony ES series) Although my old 1975 vintage Marantz is acting as the pre amp it sounds good to me. - Randy

04-25-2005, 01:17 PM

sounds like you're blessed with a Mastering Engineers ears! The "real sound" you mention is what the said engineer decided to go with. Then it got processed by the playback medium, then by the amplifier, then by the speakers, and finally by your ears. As Dave said, it's all in the ears of the beholder. I think that it's generally accepted that speakers are the most subjective components in a sound reproduction system, all excepting the listener's ears themselves.

My partner in audio crime always cranks the bass way above what I find comfortable, as do all of my tall friends. I'm short, and always EQ the bass way down compared to them. And there's an interesting anecdote I'd like to share about this very subject.

I have a friend Chris who is a live-sound engineer. For some years he was the sound man for a very successful band who wound up with a very large fan base in Japan, and many large concerts in Japan were given. This tall/short bass EQ subject came up in conversation one day, and Chris told us categorically that when he was running the PA for a concert in Japan where the average height of the audience members was significantly shorter than that of U.S. or European audiences, then he would cut the bass component of the mix by a nominal amount based on his experience and audience feedback over a long period. That may be just a load of hooey, but I don't think so. The ears are the input devices of the whole somatic system to which they are coupled, so it's not just the "ears of the beholder" it's the whole beholder themselves.

So, when you're setting the EQ for your own pleasure, do it the way that sounds right for you; it'll never be right for everbody, and the mastering engineers have a tough row to hoe trying to come up with a mix which works for most folks given the variations in speakers, room, ears, and stature! If you like it flat, maybe you have those mastering ears.

04-25-2005, 01:21 PM
Looks cool Eric,
Many try to use an Eq to try to compensate for an inferior ( to my ears,HAHA)
sound system.
Not pointing a finger at you Randy, If you like the old Marantz pre-amp sound your ears are fine.
But an EQ can not repair a bad signal.
So many bands / singers( don't get me going ,haha) I have worked with think an EQ will enhance their voice.
Just like a 'puter if the data is not there to start with...no enhancement will
restore what is not there.
And again , I see/ hear people with Awesome audio systems rape the original sound thru EQ and Bass boxes.
Of couse I have to laugh sometimes, I saw a good guitar picker/ player with a small black box plugged in between his Les Paul and Marshall Amp.
Sounded like he was playing thru a small black box...LOL


04-25-2005, 01:29 PM
Ahhh, Biggles, we meet again...
Is the word subjective ?

Dave :D

04-25-2005, 01:38 PM
Not pointing a finger at you Randy, If you like the old Marantz pre-amp sound your ears are fine.

My Sony Pre amp a 1000ESD went "click/clunk" and shut off one day about a year ago. Probably something easy but never had anyone help me pull it down .. all the connections so I quickly or temporary tossed my then dusty sitting Marantaz and had music .. never fixed the Sony. :o A lazy jerk..

04-25-2005, 01:41 PM
Today a chat room would have worked. :D

04-25-2005, 01:47 PM

subjective is the word! The only real sound of music, or anything else for that matter, is what you really hear from a real source in real time. Everything else is processed, no matter how good the gear is. And maybe that processed sound is what you want, and that's OK. But I'll take anybody's money that I could tell the difference with my eyes closed between Ry Cooder playing in my shed/studio and the finest studio monitors or hi-fi system playing the finest possible recording of him in the same space.

I'll get off my hobby-horse now. Sorry.


04-25-2005, 03:05 PM
Well i am happy music is something we can all still get passionate about.
If you have "Ry Cooder playing in your shed" it would probably be more intense then any recording.
but I get the point made...
Um how about Ry Cooder playing in your bathroom...
No wonder people sing in the shower.
I'll get off my hobby-horse now also...


04-26-2005, 03:47 AM
I was lucky and got tickets to see David Bromberg last fall at a small, old time theatre. Incredible experience to hear live music again. It had probably been since my altered senses, Little Feat days of rock'n roll that I was at a 'concert.' Still, the times that such opportunity presents itself where I can justify the expense or even care to hear the performer are too far and between.
That is my main reason for embarking on this quest to upgrade my home system in hopes of revealing the more true nature of the sound. Tubes seem to be the way to go, so long as they drive extremely efficient speakers, hence the Klipsch.
Now I am wondering how good of quality is the output of a computer CD drive. I'm sure the specs are in that manual somewhere, I've got an unused Yamaha CD-RW with stereo RCA outputs on the rear, I will have to hook it up and see what happens.
Audio meets computer hacking and mods - dr frankenstein!

04-26-2005, 06:28 AM

sorry, didn't mean to hijack your thread! But now I'm jealous! Little Feat were, are, my favourite rock n' roll band of all time, although I never got to see Mr. L. George et al.

As for tubes, they just ain't cool. They're hot! Not so sure about the audio-out of a CD-RW though, folks don't spend $K's for good D/A convertors for nothing, despite any marketing hype.


04-27-2005, 05:33 AM
Well, I canned the idea of using a computer CD drive and let my passion run wild, on an impulse I bought a MarrantCD38, also known as the Tjoeb Tube 99. It uses tubes for amplification and allows for substituting different tubes to refine the output, kinda like upgrading processors or video cards in a powermac! I like that idea.
Now I need to come to a decision on an amp and I am going to get to sit back an enjoy.

01-10-2006, 08:53 PM
Synergy, the whole has to be greater than the sum of it's parts.

Try the speakers with the amp (and front end) in your room/s and see how it goes... never buy without listening in your listening environment!

I think someone mentioned previously about room acoustics and treatment. Nuf said.

Tubes can sound 'nice', they're euphonic and coloured, but as John Atkinson once said "They're really just a tone control, and an unpredictable one at that." Is that 'fidelity'? That's up to you.


david robinson
04-24-2006, 05:36 PM
biff, try decware.com. custom built tube jobbies for you.