Valves v Transistors

SteveR750

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A question to Cno maybe, and other valve fans. Am intrigued if the sonic differences are the same footprint as guitar amps? There is a world of difference between the two in that application, but sonic since sonic fidelity is not necessarily what you want for guitar. IME of the latter, class A is smooth, and AB has a a sharpoer agressive edge to it; but ultimately is about a harmonic distortion component. I can see that there is a sonic warmth, and almost organic creamy sound that a transistor amp rarely achieves. Is this the same signature for a hi fi amp also?
 

tino

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Sep 29, 2011
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I'll be watching this thread ... I'm currently debating the merits of going (amplification-wise) for valve (SET), hybrid (valve Class A pre-amp) or a lush sounding transistor amp (not necessarily full Class A)
 

CnoEvil

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SteveR750 said:
A question to Cno maybe, and other valve fans. Am intrigued if the sonic differences are the same footprint as guitar amps? There is a world of difference between the two in that application, but sonic since sonic fidelity is not necessarily what you want for guitar. IME of the latter, class A is smooth, and AB has a a sharpoer agressive edge to it; but ultimately is about a harmonic distortion component. I can see that there is a sonic warmth, and almost organic creamy sound that a transistor amp rarely achieves. Is this the same signature for a hi fi amp also?
Oh, the pressure!

It is really something that one has to hear for oneself, and I have no idea what a Valve guitar amp sounds like.

The mistake people make is assuming that all valve amps sound "warm and gooey".......it couldn't be further from the truth. With the right speakers, they are full of life, are lively and dynamic, with great transient response.

The area they can fall down compared to a well sorted SS amp is on bass, which can, more often than not, be as tight and hard hitting....so if you listen to a lot of bass driven music, it may not be the right amp.

If you like a forward analytical sound, then it would also be the wrong choice......though VTL make the most dynamic sound I've heard from a valve amp.

If you listen to classical, jazz, simple male/female voice and acoustic stuff, then there is little better. If you are following Acalex's journey, there is lots of insight being discussed......in fact I'd be surprised if he doesn't chip in.
 

acalex

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CnoEvil said:
SteveR750 said:
A question to Cno maybe, and other valve fans. Am intrigued if the sonic differences are the same footprint as guitar amps? There is a world of difference between the two in that application, but sonic since sonic fidelity is not necessarily what you want for guitar. IME of the latter, class A is smooth, and AB has a a sharpoer agressive edge to it; but ultimately is about a harmonic distortion component. I can see that there is a sonic warmth, and almost organic creamy sound that a transistor amp rarely achieves. Is this the same signature for a hi fi amp also?
Oh, the pressure!

It is really something that one has to hear for oneself, and I have no idea what a Valve guitar amp sounds like.

The mistake people make is assuming that all valve amps sound "warm and gooey".......it couldn't be further from the truth. With the right speakers, they are full of life, are lively and dynamic, with great transient response.

The area they can fall down compared to a well sorted SS amp is on bass, which can, more often than not, be as tight and hard hitting....so if you listen to a lot of bass driven music, it may not be the right amp.

If you like a forward analytical sound, then it would also be the wrong choice......though VTL make the most dynamic sound I've heard from a valve amp.

If you listen to classical, jazz, simple male/female voice and acoustic stuff, then there is little better. If you are following Acalex's journey, there is lots of insight being discussed......in fact I'd be surprised if he doesn't chip in.
Here I am. Indeed I would suggest you to read quickly my thread as a lot of insight have been discusses.

Here the link: http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/jadis-love-at-first-sight

I have now a tube amp at home (Jadis D50RC Signature)since first time I heard it...I was captured. Cno is perfectly right...if you are listening mainly to jazz, acoustic, simlple male/female voices I think a great tube amp has no comptetitors (or very few :D). The sound might not be neutral but you don't care as it's taking you so much emotionally that you forget about everything.

He's also right about basses. But I must say that the Jadis I have at home now it really impressed me in the bass department...as it is very deep and punchy...and very controlled as well. Well, compared to the AMS it was a lost battle but it's not a fair competition as bass is really one of the strongest points of the Musical Fidelity's one

The AMS35i, despite being a solid state, it is very similar to the Jadis in terms of musicality and emotions...and here it's where it got me thinking. Don't get me wrong...Jadis still is slightly better on pure voices...but the gap is not that big.

In the end is a matter of personal taste and type of music you listen to. I realised the gap between a great tube amp and a great SS pure class A is not huge. Valve is still more musical and emotional where the solid state is more practical and suitable for all kinds of music...but it stills remains very smooth and musical.

I guess the AMS35i would be the perfect choice for somebody loving the sound of a tub amp but not wanting to go through the hassle tubes might represent.

Hope it makes sense.. :)
 

CnoEvil

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acalex said:
The AMS35i, despite being a solid state, it is very similar to the Jadis in terms of musicality and emotions...and here it's where it got me thinking. Don't get me wrong...Jadis still is slightly better on pure voices...but the gap is not that big.

In the end is a matter of personal taste and type of music you listen to. I realised the gap between a great tube amp and a great SS pure class A is not huge. Valve is still more musical and emotional where the solid state is more practical and suitable for all kinds of music...but it stills remains very smooth and musical.

I guess the AMS35i would be the perfect choice for somebody loving the sound of a tub amp but not wanting to go through the hassle tubes might represent.

Hope it makes sense.. :)
Have you heard an AB amp that has come close to what you have been looking for?......maybe the M6i came closest?
 

CJSF

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Have a listen to Glen Crofts 'Hybrid integrated valve amps' . . . he turns old thinking on its head.

The Valve/MosFet marriage he uses is superb, a fine mix of, musicality, delicacy and pure power that needs to be heard to be appreciated . . . (pre amp; Valves - power amp; MosFets)

CJSF
 
Some very interesting points and opinions from CnoEvil and others.
I also have no idea regards sound quality of guitar amps but would agree that none of the more modern valve amps I have listened to recently have been 'warm and gooey'.
I have never owned a valve amp myself but have heard many, in fact as I'm getting older I am finding my musical tastes changing somewhat and tending towards the genres that valve amps work best with.
I am going down the hybrid route myself with current power amp soon to be replaced with a valve based stereo power amp.
I believe there will be many more going down this route in the future as many set-ups combine the best of both worlds whether it be a valve preamp / transistor power amp or vice versa.
 

CnoEvil

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Alears said:
Some very interesting points and opinions from CnoEvil and others. I also have no idea regards sound quality of guitar amps but would agree that none of the more modern valve amps I have listened to recently have been 'warm and gooey'. I have never owned a valve amp myself but have heard many, in fact as I'm getting older I am finding my musical tastes changing somewhat and tending towards the genres that valve amps work best with. I am going down the hybrid route myself with current power amp soon to be replaced with a valve based stereo power amp. I believe there will be many more going down this route in the future as many set-ups combine the best of both worlds whether it be a valve preamp / transistor power amp or vice versa.
AE, this (imo) is a very sensible approach. I think to get the best of both worlds it needs to be a Valve Pre + SS Power and this is for the following reasons:

- It plays to the strength of each format....The SS will then maximize the bass.
- SS Power amp, as long as it's not Class A, will use less power.
- The Valves in the Pre-Amp last longer.

By having Pre/Power, you can mess about until you get the right mixture.
 

floyd droid

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Good to read that a couple of you have attempted to put the 'warm and gooey' thang to bed. This term stems from way back when and has kinda stuck, which i think puts/has put, a lot of folk off valve amps. Also, lets not forget how the amp has been voiced and what compliment of valves used make them all sound different. Therefore,generalising 'Valve Amps' aint right tbh.
 

acalex

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Sep 13, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
acalex said:
The AMS35i, despite being a solid state, it is very similar to the Jadis in terms of musicality and emotions...and here it's where it got me thinking. Don't get me wrong...Jadis still is slightly better on pure voices...but the gap is not that big.

In the end is a matter of personal taste and type of music you listen to. I realised the gap between a great tube amp and a great SS pure class A is not huge. Valve is still more musical and emotional where the solid state is more practical and suitable for all kinds of music...but it stills remains very smooth and musical.

I guess the AMS35i would be the perfect choice for somebody loving the sound of a tub amp but not wanting to go through the hassle tubes might represent.

Hope it makes sense.. :)
Have you heard an AB amp that has come close to what you have been looking for?......maybe the M6i came closest?
Yes...the M6i was definitely a great amp...a lot closer to a pure class A than anything else I have heard. Still doesn't understand when Musical Fidelity products are definied as cold and analytical...
 

acalex

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Alears said:
Some very interesting points and opinions from CnoEvil and others. I also have no idea regards sound quality of guitar amps but would agree that none of the more modern valve amps I have listened to recently have been 'warm and gooey'. I have never owned a valve amp myself but have heard many, in fact as I'm getting older I am finding my musical tastes changing somewhat and tending towards the genres that valve amps work best with. I am going down the hybrid route myself with current power amp soon to be replaced with a valve based stereo power amp. I believe there will be many more going down this route in the future as many set-ups combine the best of both worlds whether it be a valve preamp / transistor power amp or vice versa.
Well...let's define what modern valves are...it really depends on the manufacturer here.

Jadis has a very strict policy regarding valves selection...they buy a stock of valves, then do their testing in-hous and keep only the best 25% which is installed on their amps. Rest is shipped back to the producer.

A tube pre-amp plus a great class A solid state power amp would also be a great combination indeed...
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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Don't forget the (admittedly few in numbers) solid state, pure class A amps. Or those A/B amps that are biased to be class A for a sizeable proportion of their output (especially if that proportion is higher than the maximum output you are ever likely to use*).

*For example, someone with an ATC SIA2-150 amp, used with relatively efficient speakers (or at moderate/reasonable volume levels), may never actually hear it operating in class A/B because two thirds of it's 150 wpc output is in class A.
 

SteveR750

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To set the guitar amp reference point - an all valve amp will sound loudre, much much louder than an equivalently power rated transistor amp. It will have a lot mor punhc and bloom, most tranny amps sound flat and a bit lifeless in comparison. Most guitarists would prefer to use a 15W valve head than a 100W transistor one. Warm and gooey they are not, warm and organic and full of lovelt overtones yes.

I had wondered therefore that a valve amp might have that same bloom, that same punch to it, whicj might manifest itself as a very dynamic, full sound?
 

chebby

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SteveR750

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Well, ultimately they have to achieve a very different outcome. Most Marshall amps are chosen because of their overdriven sound, which is the last thing you want with an audio amplifier, in fact most guitar amps for that matter. They all use varying combinations of thoise same valves in the pre and power stages, and I'd imagine music played through my guitar amp wouldn't be particularly impressive. It's the basic traits though that might be appealing.
 

CnoEvil

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SteveR750 said:
I had wondered therefore that a valve amp might have that same bloom, that same punch to it, whicj might manifest itself as a very dynamic, full sound?
Steve my friend, be careful as you may be about to "cross the Rubicon". >)
 

SteveR750

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CnoEvil said:
SteveR750 said:
I had wondered therefore that a valve amp might have that same bloom, that same punch to it, whicj might manifest itself as a very dynamic, full sound?
Steve my friend, be careful as you may be about to "cross the Rubicon". >)
"Look out! Another Rubicon ahead!"

You sir, are incorrigible :)
 

CnoEvil

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chebby said:
Looking at the Marshall specs and descriptions, they are using pretty standard valve fare (EL84s, EL34s, ECC83s) so it might be worth investigating something like a £549 Icon Audio Stereo 20PP integrated...

http://www.iconaudio.com/portfolio-item/stereo-20-pp/

...based on a 1955 Leak design.

Review compared against a Rega Brio-R...

http://www.hifichoice.co.uk/news/article.asp?a=8887

Your 88dB Proacs might be efficient enough if the amp isn't thrashed.
I would take this amp along with some Audio Note AZ-2 (or AX-2), over a pretty expensive SS system.
 
A

Anonymous

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I am not much of an expert on amps im going to be honest, but i always thought that valves offer more detail in the sound when i have heard them.
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Think Cno hit the nail on the head when he said: "With the right speakers, they are full of life, are lively and dynamic..."

It isn't so much about whether it has valves or solid state, but careful matching. I haven't heard a valve or tube amp for a number of years but there's always been a perception of warmth or creamy etc. etc. Likewise with the Leema WHFIs reviews has err'd it on the bright side - couldn't be further from the truth.

My only concern with valve amps is the lack of output with the majority: Speaker matching is essential.

Careful matching and room acoustics. That sounds familiar... ;)
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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plastic penguin said:
Think Cno hit the nail on the head when he said: "With the right speakers, they are full of life, are lively and dynamic..."

It isn't so much about whether it has valves or solid state, but careful matching. I haven't heard a valve or tube amp for a number of years but there's always been a perception of warmth or creamy etc. etc. Likewise with the Leema WHFIs reviews has err'd it on the bright side - couldn't be further from the truth.

My only concern with valve amps is the lack of output with the majority: Speaker matching is essential.

Careful matching and room acoustics. That sounds familiar... ;)
same here, even with an open mind it is hard not to be swayed by tech specs.

Though, a 40W valve amp sounds much louder than a 40W transistor amp, even with the same speaker sensitivity in it, though in a guitar combo there is no crossover, just a 10 or 12" single driver with a pretty high sensitivity.

Maybe the comparison doesn't stand at all, after all they are trying to do very different tasks......
 

drummerman

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Good and bad ones abound. A decent Valve amplifier will cost, not least because good transformers are expensive and casings are not mass produced. Economy of scale et all. They will almost inevitably be less powerful than a SS equivelant, have more distortion/measure worse and require more careful speaker choice. Add finite life span of tubes and their replacement cost to make it even more attractive.

Considering all that, it is a miracle that anyone would still use them though I myself have heard lovely ones and used to own one.

regards
 

CnoEvil

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drummerman said:
Good and bad ones abound. A decent Valve amplifier will cost, not least because good transformers are expensive and casings are not mass produced. Economy of scale et all. They will almost inevitably be less powerful than a SS equivelant, have more distortion/measure worse and require more careful speaker choice. Add finite life span of tubes and their replacement cost to make it even more attractive.

Considering all that, it is a miracle that anyone would still use them though I myself have heard lovely ones and used to own one.

regards
I agree, and it was for all those reasons that I went for SS Class A......but Valves can give a taste of that for less money. I like what the Pure Sound A30 can do, and it can be had ex-dem for £1k.
 

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