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  • Tube or Solid-State for The Low Octaves?

    David K. brought up,an excellent point in one of his posts in the horn speaker thread.

    Contrary to popular belief tube amps have more natural bass than ss equivalents, with competent SET electronics like Lamm ML2 & ML3 (yes, I'm biased !) being the most natural, semi active designs rob you of that.
    Personally speaking, bass is an area that might represent the biggest trade offs in our audio system. For instance, Magnepans do in some ways stand up basses in ways dynamic speakers can only dream of. And vice versa.

    When it comes to amps, I am firmly in David's camp. No solid-state amp that I have heard can reproduce for instance the magic of the cello on the Janaki String Trio tape like the cj ART amp. And even more so after the upgrade to the cj GAT preamp. There is a sense of wood and strings, plucking vs bowing and radiating body with a beginning and end to the instrument that eludes most solid-state amps.

    The Kondo amplifier also had low end unlike many SE amps I've heard, especially from the '90s where you had to give up the frequency extremes to get a taste of that midrange. But I can't speak to other SE amps being made today.

    Yet I might feel differently if I owned other speakers or say listened more to rock music, electric bass or even say a Reference Recordings title with their seemingly bottomless low end. The type of low end that goes on forever and requires a true full range system to properly reproduce. Here you might really appreciate say the grip of an amplifier like Dan D'Agostino's Momentum amps bring to the table.

    What are other people's thoughts and feelings on the subject and how does it impact the choice of amps and speakers in their system?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

  • #2
    I always thought the conventional wisdom was that SS was better for the bass and tubes were better for the midrange and treble.
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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    • #3
      I don't think there is a clearly cut answer. It depends on the amps and the efficiency of the speakers and the Damping factor of the amp. Then the music you listen to comes into play and the room as well and how synergistically it all works. I didnt buy my SS amp because of bass performance. I bought it because it reproduced the mids and highs with a liquidity I didn't hear in other SS amps at the time.i like natural sounding bass as much as anyone but I wouldn't build my system around it.
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      • Sgood@verizon.net
        [email protected] commented
        Editing a comment
        What is the Damping Factor and how does one use it in assessing tech specs? How important is it? Manufacturers don't seen consistent in listing this measurement in their Specifications collateral/manuals, etc. Why? In the end, I let my ears guide me on amp decisions but have always been curious about this spec. Thanks.

    • #4
      Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
      I always thought the conventional wisdom was that SS was better for the bass and tubes were better for the midrange and treble.
      Not sure when it started but generally in context of slam, not quality .

      david
      Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
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      • #5
        I've grown to loathe the overused audio term, "slam." Never understood what this meant and not sure why it is used so often when describing bass. When I hear a bass player in a jazz trio, slam never comes to mind. Even drum kicks or something in low octaves, it should never overpower the rest of the music going on. I'm with David K. Quality bass is what we are all after. I'm with the consensus on tubes doing it much better than solid state.

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        • #6
          I certainly haven't noticed a loss of bass quantity or quality in switching from a Pass Labs INT-150 to a PrimaLuna HP.
          DALI Epicon 2 speakers; SVS SB13 Ultra sub; McIntosh MA9000 integrated amp; Esoteric K-03 SACD player; Oppo 205 Blu-ray player; Sennheiser HD800S headphones VPI Prime Signature turntable/Ortofon Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge;

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          • #7
            Originally posted by Analog21 View Post
            I've grown to loathe the overused audio term, "slam." Never understood what this meant and not sure why it is used so often when describing bass. When I hear a bass player in a jazz trio, slam never comes to mind. Even drum kicks or something in low octaves, it should never overpower the rest of the music going on. I'm with David K. Quality bass is what we are all after. I'm with the consensus on tubes doing it much better than solid state.
            Haven't figured what "tight" means in this context either, Bass is anything but!

            david
            Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
            Distribution: NEODIO

            Special Sales: van den Hul
            Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformer, Venta Airwasher

            Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers
            http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...stening-room-1
            http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...earfield-setup

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            • #8
              Originally posted by 1morerecord2clean View Post
              I don't think there is a clearly cut answer. It depends on the amps and the efficiency of the speakers and the Damping factor of the amp. Then the music you listen to comes into play and the room as well and how synergistically it all works. I didnt buy my SS amp because of bass performance. I bought it because it reproduced the mids and highs with a liquidity I didn't hear in other SS amps at the time.i like natural sounding bass as much as anyone but I wouldn't build my system around it.
              Can't argue with this.
              Hugh Nguyen
              ACA

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              • #9
                I think it is more dependent on the individual device rather than simply saying tubes are superior to solid state in this regard, or vice versa. Yet this perceived improvement is not solely due to an individual device but rather how it synergistically interacts with every other component in the system. In the case of most tubed amplifiers, it comes down to the output transformer as the interface between the amplifier circuitry and the loudspeaker. In the case of multiway loudspeakers, this is primarily the interaction with the crossover.

                Most recently, my acquaintance with the new/old Mac 240 has found improved performance with his Klipsch speakers. This should not really come as a surprise since Klipsch speakers were voiced primarily with tubed amplification. For whatever reason his previous solid state amplification sounded harsher in the mids with less bass. This is not to say that there isn't a solid state amplifier that would have provided the same improvement, just no solid state amplification on hand did.

                McIntosh unusually used output transformers in some of their solid state amplifiers. As previously mentioned the transformer acts as an interface between the circuitry of the amplifier and the crossover of the loudspeaker which may be beneficial, ameliorating deleterious interactions with the loudspeaker componentry.

                I am unsure as to whether or not tubed amplification would provide much in the way of improvements in my system or not. My speakers are two way thus a simple crossover, provide solid output to very low bass, and are very efficient. My amplifier while solid state has enough power that it is essentially idling at any normal listening level and more than enough to control driver excursion. I'd certainly like to do a comparison but that is unfortunately unlikely unless someone would kindly lend me an nice tube amp for awhile.

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                • Guest's Avatar
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                  thank gawd those smilies are not moving...

              • #10
                Originally posted by 1morerecord2clean View Post
                I don't think there is a clearly cut answer. It depends on the amps and the efficiency of the speakers and the Damping factor of the amp. Then the music you listen to comes into play and the room as well and how synergistically it all works. I didnt buy my SS amp because of bass performance. I bought it because it reproduced the mids and highs with a liquidity I didn't hear in other SS amps at the time.i like natural sounding bass as much as anyone but I wouldn't build my system around it.
                Sure a speaker choice might force you to go one way or the other but resistive load and power requirements of speaker are a separate matter nothing to do with what we're discussing here, which is the difference in sonic characteristics of tube and ss amps, generally speaking of course.

                david
                Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
                Distribution: NEODIO

                Special Sales: van den Hul
                Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformer, Venta Airwasher

                Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers
                http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...stening-room-1
                http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...earfield-setup

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                • 1morerecord2clean
                  1morerecord2clean commented
                  Editing a comment
                  So are you saying that relative requirements of a speaker for adequate bass performance and the amp paired with them don't influence what you hear in the end? Are you saying room size relative to amp power, speaker efficiency, and the music you choose to hear don't influence the final result of what you hear in bass performance?

                • david k
                  david k commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Not at all, of course the speaker can have a bearing and lock you into one type or another. But take any top speaker from JBL, Wilson, Magico, Vivid, Tannoy, Kharma, JM Lab to name a few with average power requirements where you can use either tube or ss and you'll hear clear difference between quality of tube bass vs solid state. Of course if you go for ridiculously difficult to drive speakers like some MBLs or German Physics then you're stuck with ss and only with very high current ones.

                  david

                • MylesBAstor
                  MylesBAstor commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Alon was skeptical at first that the cj ARTs could drive my S5s; the review proved otherwise. Problem is that you get reviewers making statements say that the Wilson can only be driven by a solid-state because of the load/phase angle presented to the amp. So everybody believes this and only used ss amps with the speakers. Then you hear amps like Nick Doshi's sound wonderful on the Sashas and Sasha 2s. Then you hear VTL amps sounding very nice on Alexias and Sashas And so on. So one should be careful -- and possibly withhold judgement-- about an amplifier's ability to drive a given speaker unless they try the combination.

                  How nice would it be if all high-end speakers were nice loads like Maggies or say NOLAs. It just seems nowadays that as one buys better and better speakers, one also buys a harder to drive speaker.

              • #11
                Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
                I always thought the conventional wisdom was that SS was better for the bass and tubes were better for the midrange and treble.
                Conventional wisdom is not always right. Like people talking analog and not having listened to a turntable in 35 years. Problem is in this world, something can be totally wrong but if it's repeated a million times, it becomes fact. Or the "respect" that one audio manufacturer buys by spending millions upon millions of dollars in advertising. Conventional wisdom would tell you that their wave radio is.....

                Same goes with tube amplifiers. We can talk about the bass of 30 or 40 year old tube amplifiers or we can talk about modern tube amplifiers. I think people might be surprised by just what today's tube amplifiers can do in the lower regions. Or perhaps--as it the intent of this thread--is to revisit the subject and does conventional wisdom still hold true? I vote nay!

                One example might be Nick Doshi's tube amplifiers. Conventional wisdom might be that there's no way a tube amp will drive XLFs, Alexias or Alexxs. Yet I've heard his amplifiers sound wonderful on Alexias and at the most recent Axpona on Alexx's. Karen Sumner, who has one of the keenest ears in the industry, just bought Nick's amps to drive her Wilson speaker too. And I've heard D'Agostisos sound very good on Alexias. Different roads to Rome going on.

                PS. I do think there is something though to the slam issue too. Listen to a bass drum on a Reference Recordings recording or even a closely miked recording. Sometimes the sound does hit you in the chest.
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
                -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
                -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

                Comment


                • #12
                  Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post

                  Conventional wisdom is not always right. Like people talking analog and not having listened to a turntable in 35 years. Problem is in this world, something can be totally wrong but if it's repeated a million times, it becomes fact. Or the "respect" that one audio manufacturer buys by spending millions upon millions of dollars in advertising. Conventional wisdom would tell you that their wave radio is.....

                  Same goes with tube amplifiers. We can talk about the bass of 30 or 40 year old tube amplifiers or we can talk about modern tube amplifiers. I think people might be surprised by just what today's tube amplifiers can do in the lower regions. Or perhaps--as it the intent of this thread--is to revisit the subject and does conventional wisdom still hold true? I vote nay!

                  One example might be Nick Doshi's tube amplifiers. Conventional wisdom might be that there's no way a tube amp will drive XLFs, Alexias or Alexxs. Yet I've heard his amplifiers sound wonderful on Alexias and at the most recent Axpona on Alexx's. Karen Sumner, who has one of the keenest ears in the industry, just bought Nick's amps to drive her Wilson speaker too. And I've heard D'Agostisos sound very good on Alexias. Different roads to Rome going on.

                  PS. I do think there is something though to the slam issue too. Listen to a bass drum on a Reference Recordings recording or even a closely miked recording. Sometimes the sound does hit you in the chest.
                  Of course there are exception to rules, but generally SS amps without output transformers ( tube amps have em) generally have a lower output impedance/higher damping factor than tube amps thus exerting tigher control and damping on the bass drivers of the loudspeakers.
                  Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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                  • Rob
                    Rob commented
                    Editing a comment
                    ...

                • #13
                  Great amps are great amps be it tubes or SS I have not had a modern tube amp in my system has I prefer the SS I run my amps 24/7 and i like the no break downs .

                  On modern tubes I am sure they are more convenient than amps of old how reliable are new tube amps compared to SS.

                  Sound is harder to say what is best as so many people like different sounding systems I have been at shows where people in the same room as me loved the sound and I am checking for blood running out of my ears.

                  Some times I have heard a great room and others are saying it has no sound ( other than the music ) drum roll please.

                  Are modern tube amps trouble free I know one big name tube amp that likes to ride back and forth to the factory in the back of a truck.

                  Re tubing cost what would you say that runs for a ten year run heavy use say a 100 watt amp

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                  • #14
                    I like tubes on bass, its congruent with the mids and highs that are also tube driven. "conventional wisdom" should always be challenged, my 'ah hah' moment happened the day I encountered VTL 225 monos, the secondaries are fixed at 5 ohms and uses ALL of the transformer instead of part of it. I heard religion that day and it forever changed the way I thought of SS vs tube bass reproduction, for once it wasn't over damped the way a lot of SS sounds like (to me) on many speakers.
                    TechDAS | Graham Eng | ZYX | B.M.C. | Boulder | Magico

                    "Listening to Analogue music is an act of rebellion in a digital gulag" - Simon Yorke

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                    • #15
                      Originally posted by Rob View Post
                      I like tubes on bass, its congruent with the mids and highs that are also tube driven. "conventional wisdom" should always be challenged, my 'ah hah' moment happened the day I encountered VTL 225 monos, the secondaries are fixed at 5 ohms and uses ALL of the transformer instead of part of it. I heard religion that day and it forever changed the way I thought of SS vs tube bass reproduction, for once it wasn't over damped the way a lot of SS sounds like (to me) on many speakers.
                      I agree that some solid-state amplifiers can sound overdamped and not let the music bloom naturally. And that will affect the midrange.
                      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                      ________________________________________

                      -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
                      -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
                      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                      -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
                      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

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