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plastic penguin's picture
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Valve Vs Solid State amps

My overriding memory about valve or tube amps was they were relatively low powered. So what is the main the difference between modern valve amps and Solid State?

My system has an "edge" to its presentation, not overly bright or abrasive, which is fabulous when playing live or unplugged stuff. I've always taken the stance that if it sounds good that's all matters, regardless of spec. But is there a genuine difference?

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

They are certainly less efficient, using far more power, watt for watt, against solid state amps.

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Valve amps driven to distortion produce even harmonics which are, well, harmonious to our ears (although are responsible to the 'lushness' we associate with valve amps) which means you can drive them hard and thes still sound good.  Solid state's produce odd harmonics which sound discordious which is why they sound so naff when driven into clipping.

 

That is, of course, a gross simplification and engineering can correct or account for certain parts of it (like making high power solid state amps so you never drive them to clipping) so read into it what you will... Smile

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Valve amps certainly where low powered and many still are. There are a few higher powered ones about today but tend to be very pricey. All tubes will have to be replaced at some stage which also increases the cost-of-ownership but many people are prepared to  put up with this to get the sound they want.

The move by many speaker manufacturers towards smaller, less efficient speakers has pushed many towards solid-state amps.

I myself am in the process of changing to a valve power-amp system purely because I love the sound, particularly on vinyl replay, although ultimately it will mean a change of speakers too.

Yet another move to try and get past 'er indoors! Smile

 

Motto: Never pay full price for anything, there is always room to haggle!

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

The one thing that has choked me off valve amps in the past is the practical issues: Not so much a lack of power but changing of valves and the heat they tend to generate.

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Well conceived Valve amps don't have the "hard, brittle edginess that can afflict SS amps. If you value the emotion and the excitement of the music above all else, it may be the way to go. Carefully chosen SS can get close, but don't quite match this euphonious presentation, especially with mid-range (voices, violins etc)

They mostly don't have the over sugared presentation of the past. It's the SET ones that have the piddly power.

SS usually pulls ahead where powerful controlled bass and hard to drive speakers are a priority.

If possible try to get a listen sometime, as I think you might like it.

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

I run my valve amp at quarter to a third volume and even with its modest power output (only 16W) it subjectively sounds fuller and louder than my SS amps. I think that a valve amp would make the "live or unplugged stuff" you like sound even more atmospheric and "real".  


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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

CnoEvil wrote:

Well conceived Valve amps don't have the "hard, brittle edginess that can afflict SS amps. If you value the emotion and the excitement of the music above all else, it may be the way to go. Carefully chosen SS can get close, but don't quite match this euphonious presentation, especially with mid-range (voices, violins etc)

They mostly don't have the over sugared presentation of the past. It's the SET ones that have the piddly power.

SS usually pulls ahead where powerful controlled bass and hard to drive speakers are a priority.

If possible try to get a listen sometime, as I think you might like it.

Interesting. When I heard the Leema with Spendor SA-1s vocals sounded pretty much spot-on. It's a shame that the major names (Rotel, Arcam, Roksan etc etc) don't produce valve amps. From what I've seen or read valve amps tend to be at the niche end of the market, thus tend to be outpriced by cheaper SS amps.

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RE: I'm currently really happy

I'm currently really happy with my system. But... I keep thinking of changing my power amps. Would older Quad valve amps such as Quad II's or similar be powerful enough to drive Spendor SA1's? I only listen at moderate volumes, very rarely at silly volumes levels, normally maximum of 8, sometimes 10 on my volume control (goes up to 22 with each setting from 6 onwards adding 2.5 decibels).

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Sice i use valve-amps (2005), i don't want to go back. Listening music has become an adventure almoast all the time. Of course sometimes some rythmic tight bass is missing. But the other side is a very lifelike sound with gorgeous vocals and space and dynamics in midfreq (where the core of the music is happening). No listening fatigue and with a modern amp, no dull sound.

There are 2 other technical differences when comparing ss and valves.

1. The valve-amp uses less ampstages (mostly only 2) which gives less phaseproblems and very direct sound.

2 The direct sound is also because of lesser feedback used in the valve-amp.

My speakers which were never known for use with valves have never sounded any better then now. I tried many ss-amps on them.

You could also use one single stereo-power valve-amp. Look e.g. at the Cayin's, or Prima Luna's. I would not go for the (too expensive) Quads. If you don't buy a SET amp the heat should be o.k.. Some 40 W, like mine is a lot of power!

Airport Express (still analog!), Artephonos Energa (tube-amp), Peitho 303 (infinite baffle speakers)

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Feeling very tempted to get some valve amps!

They sound exactly the type of amp I would like!

The Quad II's I was thinking of are the old ones that can be had for about £1000.00 for a pair.

I will look into the other makes you suggest though.

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

I use a valve pre in to a SS power amp and am very, very happy with the results. I use a Croft Micro 25 and a Quad 909. I really think I get the best of both worlds, all the emotion the valves bring (I’m using Mullards now rather than the stock) but also bags of power and the grip of the 140wpc Quad.

 

The Croft I got a line only version which is just £600 and I got an end of line 909 also for £600 (reduced), it destroys almost anything else I’ve ever heard. Shame my speakers can’t do them justice for the moment.

 

I know a few enjoy this configuration but I am surprised more don't try this route.

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

PP, check out Icon Audio's site if you're interested.  They're based in Leicester, offer an entry level 25-watt valve amp for around £500 and it'll get you started.  

There's also the Easter Electric Minimax but that's only around 8-10w so your speakers would need to be pretty able to take it.  Both would clock in around the £500 mark (the latter on the used market).

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Rethep wrote:

Sice i use valve-amps (2005), i don't want to go back. Listening music has become an adventure almoast all the time. Of course sometimes some rythmic tight bass is missing. But the other side is a very lifelike sound with gorgeous vocals and space and dynamics in midfreq (where the core of the music is happening). No listening fatigue and with a modern amp, no dull sound.

There are 2 other technical differences when comparing ss and valves.

1. The valve-amp uses less ampstages (mostly only 2) which gives less phaseproblems and very direct sound.

2 The direct sound is also because of lesser feedback used in the valve-amp.

My speakers which were never known for use with valves have never sounded any better then now. I tried many ss-amps on them.

You could also use one single stereo-power valve-amp. Look e.g. at the Cayin's, or Prima Luna's. I would not go for the (too expensive) Quads. If you don't buy a SET amp the heat should be o.k.. Some 40 W, like mine is a lot of power!

Don't get me wrong I love the Leema and wouldn't change it unless it either died or I came into pots of money (the latter very unlikey), but haven't heard a valve amp for close on 15 years... many on here rate their virtues, hence the question.

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

I think nobody wants to push you. Surely not me. Take your time.

Airport Express (still analog!), Artephonos Energa (tube-amp), Peitho 303 (infinite baffle speakers)

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RE: Valve Vs Solid State amps

Rethep wrote:

I think nobody wants to push you. Surely not me. Take your time.

Absolutely. Wink  Asking out of pure curiosity and it's nice to gain some knowledge on a type of amp that's unfamiliar to me.

Some companies produce hybrid, valve and SS, Vincent spring to mind. Is this to try and obtain the best of both worlds?

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