Valves v Transistors

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CJSF

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May 25, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
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.
I've said it before on the thread . . . Croft Hybrid Integrated have the best of all worlds, £1000 new, hard wired, no PC board, no compromise . . .

CJSF
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
CnoEvil said:
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.
You could also add that they over heat quickly and most are pig ugly (the latter is subjective, of course). Look at some and they give the impression they've been cenceived in a Frankensteinesque lab by a mad professor.
 

acalex

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Sep 13, 2011
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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
This is all true. The Jadis has 3 huge transformers and I guess those things are expensive...plus it is also completely handcrafted.

Regarding the hassle, final tubes need to be replaced every 4 to 5 years...whilst smaller tubes need to be replaced every 8-10 years. This won't be an huge drama to be honest...good tubes are still widely availble if you know the right places. So at the end of the day if you really like the kind of sound valves produce, it wont be so complicated to live with them

Only real hassle is that whenever you are not listening to music you should switch your amp off...whilst with SS you can leave it on at least for the full day (switching off at night)
 

acalex

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Sep 13, 2011
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plastic penguin said:
You could also add that they over heat quickly and most are pig ugly (the latter is subjective, of course). Look at some and they give the impression they've been cenceived in a Frankensteinesque lab by a mad professor.
I would tend to disagree on this PP as it does not overheat more than a good pure class A amplifier. In terms of look, I think some of them are absolutely beautiful...but this is of course very subjective as well :)
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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SteveR750 said:
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.
Likely a result of the combination of distortion characteristics and dynamic ability which is (within the constraints of the design) probably higher than in a solid state amplifier with 'stiff' power supply. It may seem more powerful but the downside can be audible at frequency extremes and a lack of ability to control cones. There are exceptions as always but they usually cost money. I am unfortunately not familiar with the latest products so can't comment on specifics.

Happy Bank Holiday Monday everyone

regards
 

shafesk

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Sep 18, 2010
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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?
Absolutely yes, rather amazingly if you listen to artists such as Jimi Hendrix known to have used tube amps and listen to it over tube hifi amps it manages to reproduce it more faithfully than a solid state amp. I have my cayin a-55 t compared it to Cambride Audio 340a, Marantz Pm5004 and a Pearl Lite. Truth is yes the solid states sound cleaner but I don't go back to these amps anymore...I listen to the Cayin, I think thats something to be said, especially since I used to love clinicality. I don't know if you actually play a guitar but if you do, have you ever tried to use a digital guitar processor which has a digital replica of the ibanez tube screamer and compared it to the real thing? Its shocking really. I think traits such as reproducing a song accurately is much less important than reproducing a song with soul, sure a pub band can cover Pink Floyd by playing exactly the same notes but can their guitarist reproduce the same passion as David? Hope my anologies make sense.
 

shafesk

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Sep 18, 2010
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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... ;)
Hey there plasticpenguin, I jumped into valve amps with less than ideal speakers for the job as you can see from my sig. My amp is rated at 20 watts in triode n 40 watts in ultralinear. However, even in my 18ft X 18ft bedroom I still use the amp's 20 watts. Even in triode mode the amp sounds much more powerful than my 40 watt CA amp. This is quite surprising, I don't know why this is. I do think a good 20 watt valve amp is good enough for a moderately driveable pair of speakers. My brother has a miniwatt (3.5 watts per channel) connected to his BnW dm602s and it works fine, its not putting out concert levels but its great for a study room or late night listening.
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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shafesk said:
... I think traits such as reproducing a song accurately is much less important than reproducing a song with soul ...
Interesting comment and in essence I agree. Though purely subjective, if you can't connect with music emotionally, it becomes life less. - The problem with your statement is that what you hear is to some extend a representation of what the equipments designers idea of reproduction is and more importantly, often a sound that has certain characteristics across the band, regardless of recording quality or genre. If you are happy with that (and you certainly would not be on your own) fine. If you want to hear the untarnished truth and with it the hard work that has gone into making outstanding recordings (or, bad ones), you are better off with equipment that measures well and consequently, imparting little character of its own.

As to your comment on subjective power of valve amplifiers, please read my previous post.

regards
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
shafesk said:
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... ;)
Hey there plasticpenguin, I jumped into valve amps with less than ideal speakers for the job as you can see from my sig. My amp is rated at 20 watts in triode n 40 watts in ultralinear. However, even in my 18ft X 18ft bedroom I still use the amp's 20 watts. Even in triode mode the amp sounds much more powerful than my 40 watt CA amp. This is quite surprising, I don't know why this is. I do think a good 20 watt valve amp is good enough for a moderately driveable pair of speakers. My brother has a miniwatt (3.5 watts per channel) connected to his BnW dm602s and it works fine, its not putting out concert levels but its great for a study room or late night listening.
The Mezzos aren't hard drive. If you had a pair of ATCs, Spendor, Dynaudios the amp may struggle. The add to the equation that speakers need an amp that has sufficient control, especially at higher levels, this could be an issue.

Given I've owned 40 watt amps for around 14 years (Arcams), and in isolation they sound fine but up against a gutsier amp they are found wanting (that's with a 91db speaker).
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
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shafesk 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?
Absolutely yes, rather amazingly if you listen to artists such as Jimi Hendrix known to have used tube amps and listen to it over tube hifi amps it manages to reproduce it more faithfully than a solid state amp. I have my cayin a-55 t compared it to Cambride Audio 340a, Marantz Pm5004 and a Pearl Lite. Truth is yes the solid states sound cleaner but I don't go back to these amps anymore...I listen to the Cayin, I think thats something to be said, especially since I used to love clinicality. I don't know if you actually play a guitar but if you do, have you ever tried to use a digital guitar processor which has a digital replica of the ibanez tube screamer and compared it to the real thing? Its shocking really. I think traits such as reproducing a song accurately is much less important than reproducing a song with soul, sure a pub band can cover Pink Floyd by playing exactly the same notes but can their guitarist reproduce the same passion as David? Hope my anologies make sense.
Yes, and I have used DSPs from Boss, and latterly POD. Close, but certainly no cigar, and this is excatly what I am getting at. One sounds "real" the other a pale imitation.

Your post makes perfect sense to me.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
There are two important factors with espect to valve amps

1 the ability of a tube to drive a load

2 the distortion made by these tubes.

Tubes struggle to drive difficult loads (i.e. low impedence or wildly varying impedence, low sensitivity) so how a speaker sounds on the end of a valve amp can be very different.

Secondly, when tubes distort they produce even harmonics which are fairly pleasing to the human ear. This pleasing nature means tube amps are often driven well beyond their clipping limit without people realising, the warm and fuzzy sound people talk about is typically this distortion.

Edit: to add, solid state produces odd harmonics which sound harsh to our ears (it's very much like chords and dischords to those musicians amongst you).

it's been a while since I've listened to a tube amp but I've no doubt that nowadays people can build tube amps that largely negate these issues - hence you have your not warm and slush amps now available.

With guitar amps, in the "olden days" people would intentionally drive their (tube) amps to clipping so that they got that nice warm distorted sound that everyone knows and loves. Nowadays you tend not to get all tube amps as they are big and heavy not so reliable etc. A good compromise is that you get tube pre-amp stage so you can drive that to produce nice distortion and then amplify it with solid state (that isn't driven to distortion) - the best of both worlds some would argue.

It is possible to model these harmonics and recreate them using solid state technology. I won't say they sound the same (as i've never heard them - not played guitar for 10 years) but I'd be willing to bet that they are pretty darn good and that often the differences heard are not down to the amplification itself but more the speaker and cab design.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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drummerman said:
shafesk said:
... I think traits such as reproducing a song accurately is much less important than reproducing a song with soul ...
Interesting comment and in essence I agree. Though purely subjective, if you can't connect with music emotionally, it becomes life less. - The problem with your statement is that what you hear is to some extend a representation of what the equipments designers idea of reproduction is and more importantly, often a sound that has certain characteristics across the band, regardless of recording quality or genre. If you are happy with that (and you certainly would not be on your own) fine. If you want to hear the untarnished truth and with it the hard work that has gone into making outstanding recordings (or, bad ones), you are better off with equipment that measures well and consequently, imparting little character of its own.

As to your comment on subjective power of valve amplifiers, please read my previous post.

regards
I too agree with this.......but I take the view that it is next to impossible to know what the mixing engineer actually heard (with all the variables), so I go with what sounds natural (to me) coming out of the speakers.

As I grew up being taken to Classical concerts (even playing in a couple) and Operas (my mother was a classically trained singer), I look for Piano, Violins, and the Human voice to sound correct and emotional.....getting the mid-range right, is the acid test that I look for.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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SteveR750 said:
shafesk said:
I don't know if you actually play a guitar but if you do, have you ever tried to use a digital guitar processor which has a digital replica of the ibanez tube screamer and compared it to the real thing? Its shocking really. I think traits such as reproducing a song accurately is much less important than reproducing a song with soul, sure a pub band can cover Pink Floyd by playing exactly the same notes but can their guitarist reproduce the same passion as David? Hope my anologies make sense.
Yes, and I have used DSPs from Boss, and latterly POD. Close, but certainly no cigar, and this is excatly what I am getting at. One sounds "real" the other a pale imitation.

Your post makes perfect sense to me.
Me too, based on my experience with transistor Class A v AB (I'm lumping valves in here for the sake of simplicity, apologies for that).

If I absolutely had to pick one I'd take the Class A/valve amp, for the simple fact that the things it does well (timbre, mid range, soundstaging, and lack of a certain kind of unpleasant distortion) lend themselves towards both communicating the emotion of a piece of music and also towards long term satisfaction.

AB amps have better control of the bass and drive harder loads. Good AB amps are pretty smooth as well, especially with a good source and good speakers that aren't themselves bright.

The ideal is to have the qualities of both, but that costs a fair bit of dosh, eh :read: !
 

Thompsonuxb

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Feb 19, 2012
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The differnces between valves and transistors I think is not so great in the sound they actually produce. The diffrence to sound between these 2 types of amplification is more to do with speaker technology.

Back in the day speakers used much bigger cones, especially regards bass reproduction. compared with the speakers of today. I think that as had a genuine impact on how music sounds today through most domestic systems. Which in turn as changed amp production/design.

One of the problems I see with todays amps/transistors is real low frequencies, or lack of real current, which is no longer needed to shift large cones. The bass produced from an old pair of Tandy (remember them) speakers owned by my cousin, with 6 inch mid range and 12inch sub compared to my Missions 5 inch mid range 6 inch sub is evidence to me.

While most valve amps are of low wattage their current ability is high. Which allows for the lower register/frequencies. Maybe thats why they re discribed as warm/muddy sounding compared to the brash bright sound of modern amps.....its the speakers.
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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paradiziac said:
Me too, based on my experience with transistor Class A v AB (I'm lumping valves in here for the sake of simplicity, apologies for that).

If I absolutely had to pick one I'd take the Class A/valve amp, for the simple fact that the things it does well (timbre, mid range, soundstaging, and lack of a certain kind of unpleasant distortion) lend themselves towards both communicating the emotion of a piece of music and also towards long term satisfaction.

AB amps have better control of the bass and drive harder loads. Good AB amps are pretty smooth as well, especially with a good source and good speakers that aren't themselves bright.

The ideal is to have the qualities of both, but that costs a fair bit of dosh, eh :read: !
Modern amplifier circuits have evolved a fair bit and the better ones measure very well. I dont think having a 'pure Class A' Arcwelder will bring significant benefits these days other than perhaps a cosy warm room and higher electricity bills. I wonder sometimes how much of it is hot air (literally). I am not an amplifier designer and stand to be corrected of course.

As to the lack of unpleasant distortion in valve amplifiers ... not all are built equal. 3rd order uneven harmonics, often associated with harshness are not unique to badly made Solid Staters. I've enclosed a link which explains much better than I can. Unfortunately I am not that bright but make up for that by being pretty. -

It is often even harmonics, second order that give valve amplifiers a 'pleasant' flavor. Needless to say, distortion, pleasant or not, is not accurate but may be preferable to some listeners. Broad generalisation is probably misplaced. A good, capable designer can probably make a bigger difference than different topologies.

regards
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
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nawty said:
There are two important factors with espect to valve amps

1 the ability of a tube to drive a load

2 the distortion made by these tubes.

Tubes struggle to drive difficult loads (i.e. low impedence or wildly varying impedence, low sensitivity) so how a speaker sounds on the end of a valve amp can be very different.

Secondly, when tubes distort they produce even harmonics which are fairly pleasing to the human ear. This pleasing nature means tube amps are often driven well beyond their clipping limit without people realising, the warm and fuzzy sound people talk about is typically this distortion.

Edit: to add, solid state produces odd harmonics which sound harsh to our ears (it's very much like chords and dischords to those musicians amongst you).

it's been a while since I've listened to a tube amp but I've no doubt that nowadays people can build tube amps that largely negate these issues - hence you have your not warm and slush amps now available.

With guitar amps, in the "olden days" people would intentionally drive their (tube) amps to clipping so that they got that nice warm distorted sound that everyone knows and loves. Nowadays you tend not to get all tube amps as they are big and heavy not so reliable etc. A good compromise is that you get tube pre-amp stage so you can drive that to produce nice distortion and then amplify it with solid state (that isn't driven to distortion) - the best of both worlds some would argue.

It is possible to model these harmonics and recreate them using solid state technology. I won't say they sound the same (as i've never heard them - not played guitar for 10 years) but I'd be willing to bet that they are pretty darn good and that often the differences heard are not down to the amplification itself but more the speaker and cab design.
Only in budget amps, like the Marshall valvestate range. I've got a 10 yr old DSL401 which is all valve, before that an Epiphone Blues Custom 30, again all valve. I have owned a cheapo Marshall MGFX 100W all transistor amp and it was so so. I have tried the Spider modelling amp (which do the same thing as the POD that I use), and they are OK, but not the same. I think most guitarists amateur and pro would choose an all vale amp over a hybrid.
 

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