Anyone quit tubes due to sound?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by head_unit, Jul 19, 2019.

  1. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Los Angeles CA USA
    I confess, I'm not quite sure what I mean by the question. From another thread, it occurred to me that tube users seem pretty sonically happy. So I'm wondering if anyone stopped using tubes because they decided they just did not like the sound. (That is different from "got tired of changing/biasing tubes" "too hot for my room" "changed back to solid state to get huge power" and such practical reasons). I'm also feeling "tried a cheap tube amp and didn't like it" is a different kid of exception.

    I had some tube amps back in the day from my uncle, may he rest in peace. They were great, but one eventually burned while driving a large woofer which was being used as a fruit bowl, thus causing the fruit to jump, much to the amusement of the variously intoxicated and high attendees at the soiree. The other...I forget what happened. And heading off to college, solid state replacement (NAD 3020 IIRC) was more compact and far more affordable and low in S/N. Later I changed to receivers and the same factors still hold, though I still think about tubes.

    P.S. Why is the poll so weird? Well, somehow, even wiping cookies, the site wouldn't let me post the thread without it.
  2. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    If I only listened to heavy music I might go with SS—might. Sometimes that sort of music can get too mushy. That's about 10% of what I listen to, though, and having some element of acoustic suspension in the driver array helps mitigate this issue.
    thomaskong and bever70 like this.
  3. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Temecula, CA
    Are you kidding? If it doesn't glow, it doesn't go.
  4. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Not me. I’d still be running vintage and single ended tube gear if it were not for practical reasons like space, and ease of use issues but I must admit that the active speakers I’ve been auditioning are really quite impressive. Still once I get my speakers and space sorted out I think I’m going to go with a tube phono pre to add some of that goodness.
    tubesandvinyl and SandAndGlass like this.
  5. Grower of Mushrooms

    Grower of Mushrooms Omnivorous mammalian bipedal entity.

    I like to toast marshmallows while listening.
    Jimijames and bluesaddict like this.
  6. Sedwards

    Sedwards Forum Resident

    I have 47 tubes in my main system and it can be a pain in the ass to troubleshoot and maintain sometimes, making me occasionally consider SS options. But nope, never thought of giving any of it up because of sound. Listening to Cassandra Wilson's Love is Blind while I type this and can't imagine not having tubes.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
    DrZhivago, chacha and SandAndGlass like this.
  7. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Same here, I usually switch of the tube in my preamp (schiit saga) when I listen to some metal/hardrock as I prefer a 'dry' sound for that kind of music.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  8. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    There's nothing like tubes in the world of guitarists, excepting a few. There's something about a vintage Ampeg SVT with its sextet of 6550's pulsing a full 300 watts of ultraviolet into 2 ohms.
  9. Ray Parkhurst

    Ray Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Santa Clara, CA
    I used to be all-tube, but now I'm only tube on the front end. Power Amps are solid state. I may go hybrid someday, with all-tube voltage gain and then solid state outputs only, but I build all my own tube gear and have not made up my mind to do that yet. I switched to solid state due to heat, not sound.
    Muriel Heslop likes this.
  10. lonelysea

    lonelysea Forum Crustacean

    After a long day of work at the grist mill I like nothing better than to grab a cold beverage from the ice box and spin some 78s on my vacuum tube system while the wife heats water on the coal stove for my bath.
    James Bennett, ivor, OldSoul and 26 others like this.
  11. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Eagle, Idaho
    I comprised. Two 12AU7's in my BHK Signature preamp, solid state Benchmark amp.
    hi_watt likes this.
  12. wwaldmanfan

    wwaldmanfan music junkie

    NJ, USA
    I ran a 1961 H.H. Scott 299c for decades. A great, classic integrated amp, but not enough power to drive my B&W's. Now, I've got a 300w class AB solid state amp out of necessity. The rest of my system is digital anyway, so it's fine. To get the equivalent power out of tube amps would not be in my budget.
    timind, KT88, The Pinhead and 2 others like this.
  13. enfield

    enfield Forum Resident

    Essex UK
    I invariably prefer a SS over Tube for the same price bracket..i have found sensibly priced tube amps to be decidedly 'one note' in the lower registers.Never heard a really expensive tube amp so cannot comment on their qualities.
    Drewan77, timind, ls35a and 1 other person like this.
  14. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 I’ve opted for fun in this lifetime

    I think the tubes vs SS thing is a bit misleading, it’s not an all or nothing deal. I was running my Cornwall’s with a Fisher KX-200, It developed an issue that needed a repair and while it was out I came upon a MAC 4100 I couldn’t say no to. I thought the MAC sounded better so the Fisher never made it back into the rack. I don’t think that translates to tubes being worse than SS, it just means one amp was better than the other. I’m sure a pair of MC 30’s would likely sound better than the MAC as would any number of other tube amps.

    For the most part I’ve found tubes have a sweeter midrange and SS has better bass detail. But again, every piece of equipment is it’s own thing and some do some things better than others. So I wouldn’t pick sides or be all or nothing in either direction. Both can sound great and both can sound crappy.
  15. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Unapologetic Music Ho

    Though I continue to use SS power amps, I don’t ever see myself using anything other than a full or hybrid tube preamp. Having said that, a number of SS pres could temp me albeit at a dire cost (SST Ambrosia, DarTZeel NHB-18NS and the like). But, I wouldn’t be switching because I didn’t love the sound of tubes but rather just for the sake of hearing what those particular pres were about.

    For guitar amps it’s tubes or die.
  16. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Iowa, USA
    I tried tubes and switched back to SS.

    Guitars sound best played thru tube amps, I'll not argue that one.
    macster and timind like this.
  17. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    Just because a piece of equipment has tubes in it does not mean that it will sound good. However I do find that tubes are able to impart a certain degree of "magic" to the sound which one very rarely hears with SS.

    What I don't like out of some (mostly vintage) tube gear are rolled-off-sounding highs and flabby bass. But I absolutely love it when a piece of tube equipment has a sweet midrange and a holographic soundstage. So I'm always trying to get the best of what tubes have to offer while at the same time attempting to minimizing their flaws.

    I've been running tubes to one degree or another for over 38 years now. And every time that I have tried my system without tubes over the years I have found that after a month or two I'm bored with flat soundstage and sterile tonality of (most) SS gear.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
  18. IRG

    IRG Well-Known Member

    Ithaca, NY
    I will. With a "depends" note. I've owned a few "decent" tube amps; Fender, Marshall, Vox, Traynor, maybe a couple of others. I could never get them right - usually because a good tube amp for guitar needs a large enough space to get them cranking just right. A lot of smaller clubs don't even like them now. Then I discovered the Roland Blues Cube Artists (with it's own tone module that kinda looks like a tube) and have never been happier with my tone. It's a platform amp; my cleans are very nice, the lower gain blues crunch is good. But both come alive with pedals, which I love. Fuzz face, muffs, tonebenders, overdrives, etc. Plus a great effects loop for delays/reverb/chorus, etc. The amp takes on the personality of what I want, not the other way around.

    I'd still like a Fender Princeton '68, someday maybe I'll get one, but the BCA is just too good on its own. Also, not an inexpensive amp either, just really good. On another forum, an owner of a studio got me intrigues to this amp. He owns a ton of amps for his customers to use. If they don't specify, he usually chooses the BCA, and just dials in the right pedals for the sound the artist is looking for. More reliable, easier to dial in, no hassles of tubes.

    That said, I'd like to try a tube amp in the future for my audio system, maybe a Prima Luna or Line Magnetic. Just need an appropriate budget.
  19. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    They do.

    Good description.

    One was the right amp for the job, the other one wasn't.

    The point here is that a system must be matched. Often, people use tube amps on speakers that are better reserved for SS amps.

    I find that tube amps work their magic best with sensitive horn loaded speakers or similar.

    Today, may people opt for towers and those are generally better off with higher powered SS amps.
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  20. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan

    I joined tubes because of sound. :)
  21. Ontheone

    Ontheone Forum Resident

    I don't think anyone quits tubes due to the sound. Possibly the PITA factor but never the sound. Heck, why do you think people often pair a tube pre with a SS amp?...because tubes make SS sound better! It's like wrapping a beef tenderloin in bacon....bacon makes everything taste better. Personally I prefer to have my bacon wrapped in bacon :laugh:
    Wally Swift, Kyhl, Melvin and 4 others like this.

    TEA FOR ONE Well-Known Member

    I use a tube preamp with my class A SS amps. I am VERY happy with the results. I know that part of what I like about the tubes is the distortion,and I find the soundstage wider and deeper than any pre I've had in my system. I realize that this is totally subjective. I'm not saying that tubes are the end all,be all,but to my ears today,they are. Of course that could change next week! Odd hobby we have here!
    KT88 likes this.
  23. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Is there any such thing as bad sex between anxious and willing partners? Bad sound?; I doubt it. Not exclusively anyway. If they got new speakers which were just not designed with any tube amp in mind, then yes, but you can't squarely blame the tubes for that. Technology evolves, and SS designs do deliver more power with lower noise into tougher loads. Maybe most importantly, they do it more affordably.

    Tube gear died when the tubes died. People just bought them thar new-fangled SS amps that "everyone was raving about". It wasn't about sound but reliability.
  24. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    This is certainly true if one is playing around with flee power SET and SEP amps. However this does not really hold for moderate to higher-powered Push-Pull tube amps.

    For example of the opposite scenario: Electrostatic speakers are notoriously difficult to drive as well as inefficient. And yet a higher-powered tube amp melded with electrostatic speakers can be a match made in heaven.
  25. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    Haven't you heard the old saying, "Once you go tubes, you never go back"? Well, anyway, my ex-girlfriend told me something like that, and I certainly agree with it, as obviously every answer on here agrees too.

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