Once you ‘tube can you ever go back?

I have been very happy with my NuWave Phono amp for many years, but I’ve had the opportunity to audition a Brocksieper Phonomax tube phono amp for the last week. I think I’m in trouble. Just nothing in the world like that tube sound…

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It comes down to what you like. I personally do not like tubes in just about any application. :man_shrugging:

short answer, nope. I need to have tubes somewhere in the signal path.

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The answer for me: I don’t need tubes in source components, but have to have all tube preamplification and amplification. Have to. Grew up with them, will pass away with them.

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I was advised with my initial system by a friend who is a sound engineer and came from the perspective that accuracy was all important and any kind of colouring was a negative. As I explored my own tastes, I found that I enjoyed a warmer tone.

3 years later, I’ve just secured a tube preamp which I should be receiving in a months time… I can’t wait! I know for me, tubes are that something that I’m craving, warm and sweet.

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Interesting. What don’t you like about the sound?

Interesting debate. I’m fascinated by the idea that tubes color sound, but SS does not. Both technologies color, but just in different ways. I personally try for the best of both worlds – the bloom and dynamism of an all tube preamp, and the brute force power of SS power amplification.

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While I am a tube sort of guy…
Over time have found that tubes because of their many different
sub types even within a brand…just like an ice cream parlor with
so many flavors that pull on you to be tried…and human nature
(at least myself) can spend a fortune on these…and worse yet…
tube roll while listening to a particular track to see if I prefer or can
hear a nuanced difference…

A never ending cycle…

So for me I have broken away from tubes as I like them way tooooo
much!!!

I’m finding modern day ss gear to be quite good… and frees me from the tedium…

Yes you can return to ss

Happy trails and listening friend!!

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I totally get that. It can be maddening. . .the tube-rolling and analyzing. But it’s also exhilirating. And the plateaux you can reach! That’s what keeps me in the tube world.

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Independent of the sound, I simply like tubes - looks, glow, gentle heat (usually gentle, but some get seriously hot), the wonderful tinkley noises as they warm and cool.

But I find neither tubes nor solid state to necessarily sound better. Tubes can be cooler and solid state warmer, and vice versa. It is all in the design of the particular piece. I have a good selection of both and mix and match at whim.

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Once I heard tubes I couldn’t go back to SS I’ve tried a few times, It’s never stuck.

For some reason there is this collective “wisdom” that tubes have a warm, syrupy and inaccurate sound. Yes, some tube amps will sound like that. There are many that don’t.

Tube mics are very popular. If tubes are so inaccurate why use them to record music?

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I like a well designed circuit whether it’s SS or tube. I can’t help but agree with some of the qualities Elk mentioned with tubes. The way they look in the chassis, their subtle clinks while warming up. But something about the way they CAN make the music sound a little more tangible really grabs me in.

I’ve heard SS gear that definitely had some trickery going on and had hidden tubes somewhere, and tube gear that sounded as though the tubes weren’t even in the circuit.

I don’t look at tubes as being a must, but I’m confident given a blind test, I’ll pick the tube gear over SS.

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This would be an interesting group blind test. I wonder what the results would be with a 100 audiophiles providing a blind reference.

The problem would be picking the two representative sets of gear. Both tubes and solid state can be analytical, syrupy, etc.

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I’ve settled on a mixed system after years of experimentation. Vacuum tubes are IMO brilliant in certain applications. I believe SS is the best solution for power amplification for various reasons. Tubes are my chosen solution for a line stage, whether it’s my BHK Pre or from some other manufacturer. Because that is where tubes can be magic without the inherently noisier nature of the device (relative to transistors) being a handicap. Incoming sources are high level and excellent S/N with tubes is straight forward. Phono stages are all about design and execution and tubes can either be wonderful or a failure where very high gain and very low noise is at a premium. Currently I have a Modwright PH 150 phono stage, which is actually a hybrid not pure tube, and it delivers the goods. But I went through more than half a dozen other phono stages the majority of the them SS and I could if I hadn’t happened on the Modwright have been happy as a clam with SS. A phono stage I think is the toughest component of any to make any blanket judgement about the merits of tubes versus SS.

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Excellent info

Oh so true. Audio research ref6 - deeply cool sounding. Pass labs xp30 - much warmer.

It’s like almost everything in life, be open minded.
“All tube amp/preamps sound like this, all solid state sounds like this”.
No. About that as a truism, I am closed minded.

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For me, tubes or ss is like asking someone who eats both, if pizza or burger is better.
Answer: it depends, there are good and bad of either one and both can taste/sound absolutely satisfying.

None of them in the best case should have characteristics like overly analytical or overly rich. I personally always chose quite ss sounding tube amps or tubey sounding ss amps.

I experienced setups where you wouldn’t need or want more than the ss involved and I heard setups and own(ed) tube gear, which isn’t identifyable as such by paying attention to the lack of typical ss strenghts.

What I see is, that you have to take care and spend money to get a ss amp on tube level in terms of e.g. openness, palpability, air and natural 3D imaging…and you have to do the same to get a tube amp on ss level in terms of e.g. bass control and power delivery.

What I experienced and why I use tube gear at certain places is, that especially at the preamp stage, usual weak points of tubes can be absolutely avoided and addressed in good designs while ss preamps hardly to never get on the level of tube preamps in their strengths.

It’s different for phono stages where up to an insane price level I tend to prefer good ss ones due to the better signal/noise ratio and for power amps, where I tend to prefer ss or hybrid tube amps due to their better bass control, durability and maintenance behaviour.

To sum it up, just as with vinyl, the typical cliches of rich, pleasant, colored sound imo is not what characterizes or should characterize tubes in their best appearance. Tubes should attract attention for unsurpassed openness, palpability, air around instruments, speed/dynamics, 3D holographic imaging, and natural vs. audiophile refinement while perplexing with firm but bodily and lively instead of damped and dry sounding bass.

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valve gear, like reel to reel tape machines, are more of a hobbyist thing - stuff to fiddle with, maintain, adjust, swap out, great fun.
at least that’s how it was with me: my teens and twenties were spent with valve gear almost exclusively, my 40s and 50s have been solid state. i’d love to play again, but i’m having just as much fun tweaking and adjusting in the digital domain instead :slight_smile:

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Having both tubed gear and Solid State I have found I like both and use both.

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