The VALVE THREAD reboot!

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Rodolfo

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Jul 31, 2023
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The old 'tube vs solid state' debate.

This video on YouTube from Audioholics is interesting (it's NOT about "which sounds best", so don't be put off by the title).
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT1iqlPMAnA


Many folks here are about 'digital' 'bit perfect' 'trying to keep the sound as close to the originally recorded sound as possible' no?
Well obviously tube amps don't do any of that. Due to their inherent properties they always color and alter the sound. They are basically one big tone control that can be 'tinkered with' at a high cost to the user (tubes are $35 - $300 a piece now).
Ironically, tube amp. manufacturers have tried to emulate solid state characteristics over the years by designing out the inherent flaws of tubes! e.g. by going to A/B push pull and by using more tubes to achieve enough power to drive large speakers before the tubes start to distort.
Many, like McIntosh, are now offering hybrid amps so that they can achieve the kind of power output necessary to drive large speakers without producing distortion. And then there is the output transformers required (critical to the design) which need to be big, heavy and expensive!
It's a measurable fact that tube amps are highly reactive (which changes the tonal balance of the input signal as the power output changes), they add noise and distortion and are less reliable than SS amps.
I love tubes for guitar amplification, but that's exactly because of the grit, grind and harmonic distortion they produce when pushed, I'm not sure that I want that in my music 'reproduction' system.
Thank you for this excellent video reference on the subject, I don't agree that "it's NOT about 'which sounds best,'" though. Minutes about 10:00 to 15:00 are interesting and instructive for me, and very much on the question, even if the gents don't provide a simplistic "which" answer. It's also a good reference for the rest of your helpful post. Thanks again for your 2cents+.
 
Like everything in Hifi, there are cheap and mega expensive valves!😀
As I said, most decent tubes not cheap and I don't see the point of owning a cheap valve amp with cheap tubes because it'll become expensive in the long run.
If you are doing amplifiers on the cheap stick to solid state.
Unless you are very rich and can afford to throw money away... :)
 
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Has any valve amp lasted as long with no attention whatsoever? 🤔
That was my point. The valves have a limited shelf life.

Mrs. Ps brother has just purchased a Tesla Model 3 used car, and as I explained to Mrs. P Tesla only gives their batteries 8 years lifespan from new. And they're not cheap to replace.

My old Alfa, by contrast, is 19 years old, over twice as old as Tesla batteries.
 
That was my point. The valves have a limited shelf life.

Mrs. Ps brother has just purchased a Tesla Model 3 used car, and as I explained to Mrs. P Tesla only gives their batteries 8 years lifespan from new. And they're not cheap to replace.

My old Alfa, by contrast, is 19 years old, over twice as old as Tesla batteries.
True.
Valves are like light bulbs, limited life span and you never know when they are going to go.
That said a good valve amp paired with the right speakers can make some wonderful noise....
 
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My2Cents

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That was my point. The valves have a limited shelf life.
Actually, they don't have a limited shelf life.
NOS tubes manufactured in the 50' and 60's fetch premium prices and are quite rare.
e.g. these 'tested' CBS 7025/12ax7's that were made in the 50's go for around $500 for a matched pair.
 

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SallyB

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There are but tend to suffer from overheating issues. That's why all valve or tube and Class A amps need to be placed on top of a shelf, where my poky Class AB amp doesn’t have those restrictions.
Agree over positioning issue. Mine was a swine to position safely on a top shelf. However, if aesthetically they are your thing, then you don’t want them hidden away.
 
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Actually, they don't have a limited shelf life.
NOS tubes manufactured in the 50' and 60's fetch premium prices and are quite rare.
e.g. these 'tested' CBS 7025/12ax7's that were made in the 50's go for around $500 for a matched pair.
Fair play. However, at $250 each isn't cheap, especially if you're on a budget. As @Al ears correctly mentioned unless you're prepared to spend a substantial amount on a tube amp, it's always best to choose a SS amp.
 
I think the glowing tube is one of the reasons they survive, aside from the mystique of the sound. For me, they’re a bit like turntables or bumblebees, they shouldn’t work, but do. The visual allure is significant!

As a child, my parents had a huge table radio, passed on from a deceased aunt. The dial glowed with mysterious names like Hilversum, Moscow and Droitwich. And the insides glowed with valves, which meant it got a bit warm, but they were never replaced afaik.

I’ve always been too wimpy to buy a valve amp, but I did scratch the Class A itch a couple of years ago with the delicate Pass Labs XA-25. Some of the best sounds at shows seem to have been via valves, but I think the ‘rich and warm’ trait is a myth.
 
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Jasonovich

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My recollection of valves takes me back to the early eighties, my 2 x mono block 12 watt class A Edition amps.
Lovely smooth natural sound, still remember Nina Simone's dulcet notes My Baby just Cares...coming through the magical Musical Fidelity MP4s in bridge configuration, speaker cables were solid core copper mains cable.

A lot of earthing noise but didn't affect my enjoyment of music. It was all wonderful, there was no way I would ever go back to solid state amps, that is until, the tubes start popping and it was a real pain having to replace these, so yes fond memories but for me better to keep the old door shut :).
 
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My2Cents

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All new vacuum tubes are produced in only a handful of factories world wide (they are located in Russia and China).
The largest factory in China (Shuguang) closed down in 2019. The vast majority of all new tubes today are now manufactured in the Expo-Pul factory in Russia, regardless of the brand printed on them - even the revived British 'Brimar' brand are made there.
Guitar amplification is the main driving force for the need for new vacuum tube manufacture and during covid there was a massive demand for musical equipment (including tube amplification) that created a world wide tube shortage (not helped by the closing of the Shuguang factory). Prices skyrocketed, but have since come down a bit.
Interestingly, Western Electric set up a factory in the USA to produce only 300B Hi-Fi power tubes and they sell for $1,500 for a matched pair.
McIntosh uses all Russian made tubes in all of it's amplifiers.

 
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