I did use Tube & Solid state in the past. But I refer Tube preamp for signal and SS for high current. For me it is the best to make them combine. All it need are system match. My Supratek tube preamp will match with my SS Bryston. Make them the best for all around Hybrid system. And Tube power-amp are too slow only good for Blue. Charmber Classical. Jazz. Now I want to sell my 845 power-amp
As of late, if I had to choose, I'd probably go for the solid state Plinius SA 100 MK III. That's if I had to choose, as at any time, I can plug in the VAC PA 35.35, or the little secret weapon, the modded Sophia Electric "Baby" amp. All sound great, but the Plinius is more fully fleshed out with better slam, but especially smooth, along with the detail and slam, in full class A mode. If push came to shove, the Plinius would win, but not by a very large nose.
Well thats an interesting question. So much of it depends on what kind of speaker you want to drive. Personally I prefer SET, but with as few tubes as possible. Matter of fact, my current amp uses op-amps as the gain stage, SS regulation, so only a pair of 300B for the output devices. The pre-amp from the same company uses a pair of nickel core transformers for the gain stage, and impedance matching. So I prefer tubes, but not too many of them.
With that being said, I have heard vintage Rowland gear sound wonderful. With speakers of moderate to low efficiency, this is a combination that can work wonderfully. The older Rowland stuff has much of the same presentation as tubes, but with a more even tonal balance.
@John, sounds like were using similar type of amps. The 2A3 push pull I have here now also uses an op-amp driver circuit with some of Jack's custom wound step-up transformers. So yeah, that puts me in the tube camp pretty firmly, though I don't have anything against solid state, I just find tubes to give me more satisfaction from listening. I think for me, it just comes down to the right amp for the job, speaker, system, and music choices all play a part. I've heard plenty of great solid state amps that I wouldn't mind owning, but there is still a magical quality to a good tube amp, esp. a triode amp, that seems to elude most all transistor devices.
Copied from another post elsewhere: I love the crisp, fast, clean power of solid state (especially Spectral) amps. They are truly breathe taking at times. But for shear musicality and pure joy of listening, nothing beats a tube amp. From low power 2-3 watt SET setups to monstrous 250 watt push-pull beasts, there is a luscious, liquid, harmonic grace that tubes provide which no solid state amp I've ever heard can match. (Though I would love to hear a pair of Spectral DMA-360's try!) As I said before I'm not and acoustics expert in physics, but I have passing knowledge of basic science. It makes some sense to me that an analog electrical current that faithfully generates a sine/cosine wave which is then faithfully tranduced through a mechanical speaker cone will have a more natural sound to our analog based tympanic membrane, malleus incus, & stapes. No digitally reproduced representation of a wave (no matter how many steps are in said wave) can perfectly reproduce a sine wave. Yes, I know that no tube perfectly recreates the electrical impulse that a real sound wave generates on my ear either. But somehow I have to believe by it's very nature of being analog, it has a better a chance to achieve this goal.
For me its solid state. No question. Tubes do distort in a more benign way if overdriven (that is why they are still revered by electric guitar players) but there is no getting around the fact that valve technology is 'vintage' and was replaced by solid state over 40 years ago and for good reason - lower overall distortion, better reliability, less power consumption, less maintenance cost, lower output impedance, higher transient power capability, less bulky, better dynamic range, less speaker matching issues, less suseptibility to damage. Its like the situation with vintage cars - the original are still revered by collectors but the modern gives the better driving experience (and by large margin).
Digital amps - yes like CD/DVD the signal is digitised at some stage but the number of bits used in quanitisation is to such a resolution now that it is not an issue and the digital to analoge converts back into a perfect sine wave. The question is about the resolution of fine detail where waveforms are quite complex or unusaul. Here again it is not difficult to achieve many orders of magnitudes better than degradations introduced by the best speakers.
I have 2 systems for a reason. I use a tube amp for digital because it takes the edge off of that unnatural harshness(digital & solid state amplification don't play well together) that goes with digital & it gives me realistic presence(solid state over does it). Tube preamps hurt the sound,in my opinion, so I don't use one of those. My CD player has a active built in solid state preamp with independent volume control so I don't need a additional preamp just my amp & CDplayer. For analog, I use solid state because it gives a more natural presence to the music( tubes make the LP's sound like I'm in the back of the auditorium vs solid state that makes the music seem like I'm centered 10 rows back on the main floor), in my opinion. :)
Tubes are great at swinging voltage, not so great at swinging current and they are damn inefficient sometimes. I owned a Counterpoint SA-5000 / SA-220 combination. The sound was sublimely addictive...but the low level background "tube rush" was maddening, especially on phono. My electric bill nearly tripled. Ultimately, I couldn't afford to sustain that bill or tolerate the "tube rush" when listening to records (which was most of what I listened to back then) and sold them. To be fair, the majority of the noise was from the pre-amp. This combo was the first set of electronics where my soon to be wife stopped and mentioned how good it sounded upon first hearing it (Acoustat Spectra II's and these replaced a Hafler XL-280 power amp and a Paracas pre-amp) . There was some magic there but it was, for me, a mixed bag.
I owned and preferred Solid state for the next 2 decades - Mark Levinson ML-28 pre-amp and an ML-29 power amp. Something can be said for low-powered solid state done right and that combo had the magic without the background noise or the electric bill.
I prefer the control, background silence and bass of well executed solid state - I have owned Jeff Rowland (Model 5 balanced and a Model 2 with the battery pack - both were terrific sounding but annoyingly kept blowing fuses), Adcom (GFA-555, GFA-545) along with the little XL-280. I still own a Pass X-350 and a Pass X-3, a Classe' CA-301 and a CA-101, a Coda Continuum Stage 3.2, an Adcom GFA-535 (this is a terrific little budget amp with plenty of power in addition to being quite listenable) and a GFA-5500 and a BAT VK-200.
The X-350 is the best amp I have ever owned - stone neutral, drives anything to any level without batting an eye and just gets out of the way of the music. Best bass I have ever had in my house and a flawless midrange. The BAT is excellent if just a tad dark. The Coda may be ever so slightly "dry". The Classe' is like the Pass but with a little less slam.
I finally went back to tubes for a dedicated phono stage (Modwright) to replicate what I had with the Counterpoint on LP's but without all the noise. The Modwright is dead quite with my low output MC and the sound is glorious analog.
Tubes can work well on the front end for low level amplification (and for analog and headphone amps) but only when well executed (meaning no noise - a $4k tubed pre-amp shouldn't have "tube rush"). SS for the amps. Thanks how I see it.
@Greg Actually I do something quite similar, but in one system. I prefer tubes for my power amplifier, and solid state for the phono stage. I find that I like only a minimal amount of tubes in my system, too many of them makes it overly lush and warm. While I have heard some good tube DAC's, I have yet to hear one I like better than my multi bit, solid state Audio Magic DAC. On the phono side, SS goes so nicely with analog that I am content. Of course there is still a bit of tube warmth due to the fact that power amp uses tubes. But lately I have been listening to the Liberty Audio phono stage and it is so evenly balanced that its hard to fault. This phono stage excels at dynamic contrast, and has excellent bass performance. So from my perspective, I find an application for both technologies in one system.
Hi John :) Nothing wrong with tubes & vinyl, many like that type of combo. So many different choices out there these days & after having auditioned 20-30 different brands in both solid state & tubes for amps & preamps I had made a choice that I'm happy with for both of my systems. I've not heard of Liberty Audio phono stage before- I wonder how it would compare to my EAR 324 solid state phono stage? I'm just glad that more people these days are getting into vinyl playback. :)
Liberty Audio is actually a factory direct project of PBN Audio. The phono stage uses the same basic circuit as their $20K and $12K phono stages. The power supply is not as overbuilt as those mega dollar units, but it does have the same pedigree. Another interesting fact is that everything but the circuit board in built is the US, and its assembled at PBN. This isn't a piece thats been farmed out to a low cost builder. Not a budget phono stage, but it sure offers a lot of performance for the money invested.
Sorry you guys for seeing me anywhere at AE but i was absent and i am trying to catch up:) Great subjects & audiophile issues all around! My Liliane is working a full 36 hours straight in hospital and have much more spare time! To our issue under question: think it all has to do with my background & DJ audio experience.........prefer mostly solid state amps!! Although the last decade i have bought a superb Nagra PLP tube/battery powered preamp which complements fully all of my solid state mosfet power amps! Mainly i listen to smooth jazz & live audio dvds, as well as progressive house/trance music.....l8tely! From the 80s as you can see from my video downloads, are also some of my favorite tracks! Overall the speed, power & efficiency......and even sweet sound are characteristics that i have found on mosfet integrated or power amps! Though for the epidermic effect(body effect!)and ultra emotion, some tube amps like Air Tight, Nagra, Audio Research win me over! If i had to choose: solid state would be my preference! The bass frequency also plays a big part in my final decision!
I'm very fond of the BEL 1001. It's a very sweet sounding SS amp that still remains my first choice. One of my all time favorite speaker designers likes the BEL as well but still prefers tubes. Funny thing is he once asked "How's that semiconductor working for you?" "Mine's a conductor!"