• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

Tube vs solid state amps

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You can restore an old tube amp and make it sound extremely good for very little money. Due to the simplicity of tube amps, not many components are needed in the signal path, and the sound tends to be very good as a result. SS amps are often more complicated and use a lot of negative feedback, which may or may not detract from the sound.

Tube amps also have serious aesthetic value- they look awesome when they are going.

I like tube stuff for the idea of using old technology... I also like old SS stuff from the 70s too. I hate the throwaway junk everyone buys new - sounds crappy and wont last 10 years.

my $0.05 (due to inflation)
Tube amps have an "easy listening" quaility that can only be matched IMHO by very expensive SS gear.

They produce primarily even order distortion, which the ear tolerates better than odd order distortion (SS).

They do need to be matched with efficient speakers, as they are generally in the 10-30 watt range for output.

My favorite output tube is the 6BQ5, and there are tons of these amps still running around, and I've seen really good ones go for 50 bucks or less, even on eBay.

So, what do you have to lose??

If you don't care for bright then tubes are easier on the ears. Equal wattage or close to equal wattage amps or actually recievers Fisher 400 and Marantz 2252 using everything exactly the same I prefere the tubed one because the highs are not as hard edged to my ears. Just personal preference. Only thing I can say about using SS as reference is that you need to get reference speakers that are tube friendly as well as good sounding with SS. This is not always the case as different designers or firms design according to their style and you can not always just change out componants and have a good test for the other products. But the hunt is really a lot of the fun, so enjoy!
I agree with what has been said so far, but would like to add this observation from my world.

In general I think tube amps. sound better with simple speakers like 2 way or 3 way designs with low order crossover networks. The best match up for a tube amp. may be a single driver/full range speaker.

SS amps. with there low Z output seem to be able to control speaker systems that are more reactive and use high order crossovers.

Like Thatch_Ear said the hunt is part of the fun. Just remember not all speakers will work well with all amps. I have had very good results with both types of amps. I'm running a byamped 5.1 system right now with both Solid State (bipolor outputs in 2 of them Fets in another) and Hollow State/Gas Fets/ Valve/Tube amps. for the top end of the biamp on the front and center channels.

I like it, it works for me. You mileage may vary, always wear seatbelts.

Tubes vs ss

I have been using an Audiolab 8000A for comparison when I build a new amp. I have a hybrid tube amp with SRPP tube input /driver and a MOSFET output stage. It works very well . The bass on the hybrid amp varies depending on the type of feedback that is used. The midrange is much better ( more life like ) on the hybrid amp and there is no lack of HF as compared with the Audiolab. I have also heard very expensive all tube amplifiers. They sounded great. Comparisons are always difficult because the other variables like the acoustics of the listening room, the speakers and the source are always different. Comparisons can only be made if the device under test is the only variable. The conclusion , as mentioned by many others before , is to pick what sounds better to your ears. Nothing can change that. Have fun.
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