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Old 28th November 2001, 06:50 AM   #1
pkgum is offline pkgum  Australia
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what are the pros and cons of valve amps?
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Old 28th November 2001, 01:01 PM   #2
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Well all I can think of is they're not audio gear of choice for lazy people....just like me... They need lots of care and attention.
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Old 28th November 2001, 06:05 PM   #3
HDTVman is offline HDTVman  United States
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There are nearly an infinite number of opinions on this subject. It realy comes down to personal preference. You need to listen to some good tube gear and deside for you self. You can build or by, new or used. Some of the older used equipment can be a great choice for up grading or rebuilding into a compleatly different design.

Reliability is not a problem with most tube gear unless the tubes are pushed hard. Conservitive design and correct biasing will yield long life in most cases. I have tube amps. that have run for many years with daily use and required zero maintanince (an old Harmon Karden made in the 60s and I just replaced the output tubes for the first time, one was a little weak).

The type of amp to use is more determined by the speakers power requirements and how they react with the amp and the kind of music you listen to.

Good luck in you quest.
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Old 29th November 2001, 12:02 AM   #4
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Talking To tube or not to tube

In my opinion the major difference in tubes is in the highs. Tubes and SS are going to distort and I find the distortion of tubes to be much more pleasant. I have heard that the order of harmonics of the human voice and that of tube amplication are the same while SS is not. I don't know what that means but I have and do notice that even high quality SS the highs can be piercing while with tubes they tend not to be. There are so many factors to consider when choosing audio gear and cables etc. What kind of music you like and how loud, how much you want to spend and whether or not you might want to DIY and build your own. You want to end up building your own amps then I recommend tubes. A bit easier, more dangerous and some tubes sound better than others so you can feel great about buying those Telefunkin 12AX7s on Ebay.
To tell you the truth I really can't say I can tell the difference between tubes or SS in low bass. Both sound good. I use both. Some speakers sound like crap with tubes but sound fine with SS and the other way around. I will say this though, the little things can mean much more with tubes, especially Single Ended amps because of the very low wattage. The SPL of your speakers, the cables you use, the rest of your componants become much more critical. Single ended and you are going to hear everything and will then only be able to listen to some of your old favorites in the car because the recording wasn't as good as you thought it was. It is lots of fun and it won't quit. Like great wines and automobiles. Never get tired of playing.
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Old 29th November 2001, 02:22 AM   #5
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Cons...the ones not open to argument:
Heat--set aside the operating class, the filaments produce heat. It's the nature of the beast. Good in the winter. Bad in the summer.
Low damping factor--this can be improved somewhat by using good transformers, but tube amps simply do not get the kind of damping factor that solid state amps can do, at least not without a zillion dB of negative feedback (which is part of how solid state amps get such high damping factors), but then you're throwing away one of the better aspects of tube design. (Note that there's no agreement as to how much damping factor is 'enough.' Some tube amps [almost always high powered ones] are quite good in the bass in spite of having low damping factors. Go figure.)
Tubes--you have to replace them at intervals. How long? Depends on hard they're biased.
Cons...the ones open to interpretation:
Weight & size--this one almost evens out. Both tubes and solid state need power transformers, but only tube amps need output transformers. (Unless you want to go OTL...I'm working on it as fast as I can. If you're in a hurry, go find a published design out on the web.) However, solid state amps need heatsinks, which brings things nearly to parity. (Note that tubes have built-in heatsinks.)
High voltage--yes, this can be a nuisance, dangerous, even. On the other hand, you're not going to stick your finger in there, are you? On the other, other hand, I've been hit with jolts numerous times, and am still here. It hurts. You cuss. You go on to the next thing. Just be careful, and when you're not careful...cuss quietly.
In between:
Distortion--tube amps distort, and so do solid state amps. Tube amps generally (there are exceptions) measure as having higher conventional distortion than solid state (just for reference, a good tube amp will measure less than 1% distortion without trouble). But...tube distortion is of lower order harmonics, which are easier on the ear (no one disputes this part). Tube detractors invariably seize upon this and declare that people who like tube equipment 'like euphonic distortion.' There's no easy answer here, just make a choice. Hint--go listen to live music and choose the circuit that sounds more like the concert hall. Music is the benchmark, not measurements.
Pros (note that tube detractors will bitch about some of these):
Sound quality--exquisite, if the circuit is done properly. Tubes image like there's no tomorrow, something that solid state amps can approach, but have never equalled. If you like imaging, tubes are for you. If it ranks lower on your priority list, then the battle is somewhat more evenly balanced.
They look cool--some people don't like the look of glowing filaments. Personally, I think they need their heads examined.
They automatically protect your speakers--this is the flip side of using transformers. Even if a tube flames out, the most you get is a quiet pifft through the speakers. When a transistor amp goes down, it can sometimes take drivers with it.
Tubes clip more gracefully--this is sometimes expressed as 'tubes sound more powerful than equivalent power solid state amps.' When a solid state amp clips, it generally sounds pretty rough. Most tube circuits clip so softly that people don't even realize that they've hit the wall.
I use both solid state and tubes in my system. I like both, for what each does best. But don't let folks kid you, what tubes do, they do really, really well.

Grey
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Old 29th November 2001, 02:41 AM   #6
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Default Some Pros

I understand it's all a matter of taste, so all I can do is speak for myself. After purchasing a pretty good high-end ss system, after several years I found that I was listening less and less. For me, a relatively inexpensive EL-34 push-pull tube amp brought back the magic. Less harsh, not fatiguing. Since then, I've gone to hell in a handbasket, less and less power, more and more pleasure. Douglas Self would spit on me, but I don't care!
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Old 29th November 2001, 03:04 AM   #7
walker is offline walker  Australia
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Well put Grey, accurate, to the point, succinct. I too have both valve and solid state, (BJT and FET) amps and like them all. I've got CDs, vinyl and 78s and love them all as well, (ok I have cassettes and reel to reel as well, hmm).

I tend to like the tight bass, clinically accurate sound that I get from solid state, if I want a friendly sound I go thermionic. I've never met some one who doesn't like the valve glow. I've got some bright red LEDs in my BJT amp, looks great, but it's not the same, (they do actually perform a legitimate function).

Pkgum, don't forget that speakers, room acoustics, and recording will make a larger difference than the amp selection!

Grey, could you tell me which is better red or white wine? Via la difference!

Regards WALKER

PS If I was starting out in DIY I'd go for a solid state amp.
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Old 29th November 2001, 03:54 AM   #8
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Walker,
The first duty of a great wine is to be red...
I forget who said it, but I agree wholeheartedly.
I no longer have a reel-to-reel, but enthusiastically support vinyl. I have some CDs, and am cautiously optimistic about SACD (which I've heard two or three times under decent, but not ideal circumstances), and DVD-A (which I've yet to hear).
Incidentally, something I forgot to put above...women, in my experience, respond much more positively to the glow of filaments than they do to LEDs. What follows is up to you.

Grey
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Old 29th November 2001, 05:29 AM   #9
paulb is offline paulb  Canada
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Big pro: the mystique and aura of those little filaments glowing in a darkened room and your friends oohing and aahing.
Then saying, "You spent HOW MUCH?"
He he he.
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Old 29th November 2001, 06:14 AM   #10
walker is offline walker  Australia
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Paul, so cynical There is, of course an element of truth though.
Some valve amps don't cost an arm and a leg, (ok, and your first born). There are some nice kits to be had at a more reasonable price.

Regards WALKER

PS If she's good looking those OOHs and ARHs might be worth it.

[Edited by walker on 11-29-2001 at 01:17 AM]
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