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From Tube amp back to SS. Who has done it?


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About a year ago I had the chance to acquire a well regarded Tube amp (see sig below) at a good price. I had been wanting to scratch that itch for a while so the timing was good. At the time I had a MF a 3.2 integrated which I was happy with. I held onto that for a few months, testing the new valve amp to make sure I liked it enough to ditch the SS collection. 

 

I found the valve integrated did everything that the MF had done, and more. Dynamics, detail retrieval, sound stage, imaging, and especially the bottom end. Definitely not a case of falling in love with tube warmth or distortion.

 

I am now considering going back to a SS amp. I am interested in hearing the opinions of those who have charted a similar course. Tried valves, loved them, but found a SS integrated that does what their good valve amp did but better. I'm not in a real hurry but am considering amps in the 2K range, 2nd hand. Some of the recent Class D implementations might fit the bill.

 

Any thoughts or ideas welcome from those in the know.

 

Cheers :thumb:

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Can you describe  your tube based system that you found very unsatsifying?   I had played with SS systems for over 30 years in all forms – ultimately I ended up with a 3way fully active syst

Great thread.  I couldn't decide so I have two systems which I swap between every 4-5 months.  The valve system (flea powered SET with vintage full range drivers) sounds completely different from the

Never been able to give them up. Tried lots of SS and they never bring that magic that tips things towards realism and have ended up buying valves since I started buying them 25 years ago. Your mileag

I went from SS to a full on tube based system for a couple of years and then back to SS.  I don't buy into the audiophile BS about valve based systems and found them very unsatisfying - very wanting.  Coincidently, all the truly great systems I've heard have been SS with not a valve in sight.  But I understand we each have our own preferences, biases and delusions. ?

Edited by Peter_F
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12 minutes ago, Peter_F said:

I went from SS to a full on tube based system for a couple of years and then back to SS.  I don't buy into the audiophile BS about valve based systems and found them very unsatisfying - very wanting.  Coincidently, all the truly great systems I've heard have been SS with not a valve in sight.  But I understand we each have our own preferences, biases and delusions. ?

Thanks Peter. Out of interest what kind of SS set up did you go back to?

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Never been able to give them up. Tried lots of SS and they never bring that magic that tips things towards realism and have ended up buying valves since I started buying them 25 years ago. Your mileage may vary.

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have tried all sorts in 2nd (bedroom) system including mf a3,2 even a300 at one stage. and eventually shoe horned a valve integrated that is well and truly a significant step forward.

 

no plans to going back or anything like that.

 

that said main system is very much SS and no plans of changing anything there either.

 

I think its a case of what's appropriate. ala speakers running and what hope to achieve. while tubes work well in my 2nd system. SS works well in the main system :)

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ps another approach if in two minds is to go the hybrid approach or valves in source ? is what I do in my main system. have tube phono pre. also have a valve dac and a valve headphone amp :) 

 

so in some ways probably is wrong to say my main system is SS. as it can be just depending what source I choose. Since I have valve and non valve sources.

 

many run a valve pre amp with SS power. or valves in other ways. so more ways to look at this I think :) what ever works for you :)

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Separates is always an option I guess although I'd like to stick with an integrated if possible. I still love the Opera Consonance but I'd also like to hear some views of people who have found awesome SS integrateds that do it all for them so they don't miss valves :)

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I do both.  Valve amp for critical/extended listening.  Usually weekends.

SS for music the rest of the time just "being there"/background if preoccupied doing other stuff and flick on/off at will.  Just an old Rotel, but hey, surprisingly adequate.  Does not replace valves. 

 

Although, having auditioned a Rega Brio a while ago, my thoughts did turn impure.  The moment passed.

Takes just a minute to flick over the cables.

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24 minutes ago, lemarquis said:

Separates is always an option I guess although I'd like to stick with an integrated if possible. I still love the Opera Consonance but I'd also like to hear some views of people who have found awesome SS integrateds that do it all for them so they don't miss valves :)

oh theres hybrid integrated too if what looking for... valve pre and SS power :) and some mighty fine ones at various price points....

 

id keep options open if happy to explore both :) 

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3 minutes ago, betty boop said:

oh theres hybrid integrated too if what looking for... valve pre and SS power :) and some mighty fine ones at various price points....

 

id keep options open if happy to explore both :) 

All options open for sure. I think the Opera is very good so if I did go back to SS (or hybrid) it'd have to be a significant step forward as opposed to sideways though :)

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The new Exposure sounds like a valve pre with ss power. 

Cafad posted recently review of 2010s2d model and it's for sale. 

The higher model 3010 s2d is playing in my room.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Irek said:

The new Exposure sounds like a valve pre with ss power. 

Cafad posted recently review of 2010s2d model and it's for sale. 

The higher model 3010 s2d is playing in my room.

 

Thanks for the heads up. I'll have a look :thumb:

 

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22 minutes ago, lemarquis said:

 

Exposure for sure IMO.  Only the 2010S, 2010S2 or 2010S2D though. The 3010S2 is slightly brighter.

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I would not be able to afford a valve power amp that does what my SS monos do. I have a very nice valve preamp though. Its that good, I would need to go back to A/B'ing numerous preamps to try and work out its sonic representation. 

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I tried tubes a few years back.I like Tubes for the Tube sound.I like SS for the Power Slam and detail they produce.End game will be a Complete Tube system for the best of Tube sound and a Solid State system to run my Vaf I93Mk2 .Takes time to complete but will have the best of both worlds in the end.

Stump

 

P.S Both systems give me 10/10 pleasure.

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Went from tubes to D class amp.  Using Tubes on the input side with the D.  In retrospect hybrid might be the go.

Edited by eman
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I went from tube integrated (Opera Consonance) to tube separates and are now firmly in the SS camp.

 

Pass Labs XA30.8 & XP20. The Pass Labs amps seems to have the best of both worlds for me.

 

 

Edited by Whites
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3 hours ago, Peter_F said:

I went from SS to a full on tube based system for a couple of years and then back to SS.  I don't buy into the audiophile BS about valve based systems and found them very unsatisfying - very wanting.  Coincidently, all the truly great systems I've heard have been SS with not a valve in sight.  But I understand we each have our own preferences, biases and delusions. ?

Can you describe  your tube based system that you found very unsatsifying?

 

I had played with SS systems for over 30 years in all forms – ultimately I ended up with a 3way fully active system.

 

Since 6 years ago I am now using Absolare 845 SET amps driving field coil Voxativ 9.87 system with integral SS active Ripol bass system and have never been happier.  It is dynamic with extreme resolution and clarity and the best bass I have ever heard in my room.  Any change I make in my system is immediately heard.

 

I find it is problematic considering recommending SS v Tube systems – I have heard hundreds of wonderful systems around the world  and have heard great sound from all sorts of systems using different types of gear SS and Tube .  Only conclusion I can declare is that system synergy is the key from my experience.

Edited by Aperalim
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59 minutes ago, blakey72 said:

Exposure for sure IMO.  Only the 2010S, 2010S2 or 2010S2D though. The 3010S2 is slightly brighter.

It looks like they change the design of the old 3010S2 because the new 3010S2D is never bright, not even close.  

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1 hour ago, blakey72 said:

Are the Eos the old ones with the Focal inverted tweeter or the new fabric dome?

They are the Reference tweeters 29mm soft dome tweeter 

Edited by lemarquis
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15 minutes ago, Irek said:

It looks like they change the design of the old 3010S2 because the new 3010S2D is never bright, not even close.  

No, not saying the 3010S2D is bright. Just that the 2010's are very warm. I don't think I've hears any model Exposure that I would call bright. 

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1 hour ago, blakey72 said:

Exposure for sure IMO.  Only the 2010S, 2010S2 or 2010S2D though. The 3010S2 is slightly brighter.

Funnily enough, the Cafad and Terry O review was rather mitigated. The Opera Consonance is a good amp. I think I'd need to go a little higher up the SS food chain to beat it.

1 hour ago, eman said:

Went from tubes to D class amp.  Using Tubes on the input side with the D.  In retrospect hybrid might be the go.

I had been thinking of Class D, especially the more recent implementations. Can you tell me more about that experience after tubes?

26 minutes ago, Whites said:

I went from tube integrated (Opera Consonance) to tube separates and are now firmly in the SS camp.

 

Pass Labs XA30.8 & XP20. The Pass Labs amps seems to have the best of both worlds for me.

 

 

That's some serious coin there :) but I am interested in moving in that direction. Do you have any suggestions in that area that are closer to, say, a 2.5K 2nd hand budget?

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16 minutes ago, lemarquis said:

They are the Reference tweeters 29mm soft dome tweeter 

Right ok. Yeah the 2010S2D or 3010S2D if you want slightly more power. The Eos I had were the metal tweeter and were too bright for my ears.

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I’m all DIY and only have all DIY gear in three systems. Over the 50 years I have been building audio gear I have built many tube and SS amps. Currently I have three tube amps and three Class D Tripath amps. 

 

For fun I drop one of the tube amps in my main system for a week or two or a month but now finding I’m going back to the Class D amps. I have two excellent tube preamps and there is always one in place. So really my main system is a hybrid. Tubes up front and 180W Class Ds doing the heavy lifting into Altec horns and bass box.

 

For absolute detail, super bass control and clean mids and treble the Ds can’t be beat and with tube preamps I’m getting the best of both worlds.

 

Im yet to here an SS amp, vintage or modern, which really shakes me. At best I have only been stirred. Good luck with your search. 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, lemarquis said:

Funnily enough, the Cafad and Terry O review was rather mitigated. 

Jeff and Terry, Terry and Jeff. Those boys get together at Terry's and drink too much beer! No just joking, they have a great time. Wish I was up that way. I got the impression you were after something very warm and smooth. Is this what you read?

 

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14 minutes ago, blakey72 said:

Jeff and Terry, Terry and Jeff. Those boys get together at Terry's and drink too much beer! No just joking, they have a great time. Wish I was up that way. I got the impression you were after something very warm and smooth. Is this what you read?

 

That's the one. The Opera Consonance isn't really warm and smooth. It's very detailed, has great bottom end and dynamics.  I think I'd need to go a bit higher end than the Exposure.

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25 minutes ago, mwhouston said:

 

For absolute detail, super bass control and clean mids and treble the Ds can’t be beat and with tube preamps I’m getting the best of both worlds.

 

Im yet to here an SS amp, vintage or modern, which really shakes me. At best I have only been stirred. Good luck with your search. 

 

 

I do enjoy your blog! I have my eye on the Hypex  Class D modules kit. Looks like that's a good way forward with a tube pre.

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2 minutes ago, lemarquis said:

That's the one. The Opera Consonance isn't really warm and smooth. It's very detailed, has great bottom end and dynamics.  I think I'd need to go a bit higher end than the Exposure.

Yeah that;s fair enough. Have you asked Cafads opinion?

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6 hours ago, lemarquis said:

Thanks Peter. Out of interest what kind of SS set up did you go back to?

I went nuts for a while on Accuphase gear. 

 

Which speakers are you using? 

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1 minute ago, Peter_F said:

I went nuts for a while on Accuphase gear. 

 

Which speakers are you using? 

Osborn Eos Reference. I've heard good things about Accuphase, Luxman, McIntosh et al. Subject to my budget of course...

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6 hours ago, betty boop said:

oh theres hybrid integrated too if what looking for... valve pre and SS power :) and some mighty fine ones at various price points....

 

id keep options open if happy to explore both :) 

This should definitely be considered. Vincent and Unison Research make some good ones. Or yes Tubes in Source another option.

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3 hours ago, lemarquis said:

I had been thinking of Class D, especially the more recent implementations. Can you tell me more about that experience after tubes?

 

D class is not hot or heavy for a start.

 

D class has amazing detail and control. Found the uppers to be hard thus the tubes on the input side.

 

Much like our Houston said upthread which is understandable because it's one of his tripaths.

 

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I had a Copland CSA29 in my system for a while, Hybrid Valves in the pre and 80 watts SS output.

Running a Nelson Pass First Watt DIY  M2x and B1 pre amp these days with MOSFETs in both pre and power.

Only 25 watts but very nice watts.

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I Just did this this week! 

 

However have def thought about going tube pre with SS power.

 

Anyway, i moved from an Audion Sterling El34 amp into a Vintage Sansui AU X -701.

 

I had only one weekend with the Sansui, but i tell already the Sansui is gong to be soooo right!

 

Both amps were great, the ss has the better definition, clarity and power while still keeping, what i would describe as 'the space between the music' a tube like trait.

 

IMO not all SS amps have that trait.

 

cheers Damo

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I went from class A Pass Aleph to all tubes SunAudio and McChanson. Phono is also a tube amp. I don t think i would ever go back to SS. Maybe hybrid with another Pass Amp for the bass.

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Just now, maxsimonjp said:

I went from class A Pass Aleph to all tubes SunAudio and McChanson. Phono is also a tube amp. I don t think i would ever go back to SS. Maybe hybrid with another Pass Amp for the bass.

There are lots of amps which will give you good bass. It’s the mids we should lookout for today. 

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It's a very interesting discussion! I'm certain that on a money-no-object budget, there are SS and tube amplifiers which are equally thrilling.

On a severely monetarily challenged budget, I went from SS to SS to SS and found myself on a merry-go-round of interesting improvements without ever getting a sense that I was in the midst of the performance.

 

I'm off that merry-go-round, but it has been more by chance than design.

 

My first tube amp is my last, but it has changed phenomenally over the last few years. I heard Joe Rasmussen's JLTi-modded Chinese Yaqin KT-88 based amp (Joe's version 2) at an Audiophile Society of NSW meeting, and fell in love with the near-realism I was hearing. At that time I was running an Arcam Alpha 10 + 9P which was pretty good. But the JLTi Yaqin was on a different planet. I found a Mark 1 version on eBay (apparently the 2nd one Joe had ever modified), bought it and listened to it - none of the magic of the Mark 2 version I'd heard. I sent it on to Joe to modify and it came back to me as the first hint that I might experience live-performance-quality music in my own listening room. That came somewhat closer with Mark 3 and Mark 4. Still it was nothing like listening to a classical concert (which I do many times each year).

 

A couple of months ago, Joe introduced me to his new prototype version, which was an almost total rethink of tube amplification. I expected a step up. I did NOT expect a complete personal re-evaluation of what recorded music can sound like. I convinced him to modify mine (the first unit upgraded to "Mark 5"). And I've been revelling in it ever since.

My brother is a professional musician and music arranger. He was gobsmacked by the sound.

 

My wife has had little interest in my sound system. She commented a couple of weeks ago how beautiful the music is out of my system. We'd been married nearly 40 years and I had never heard words like that come out of her mouth about hi-fi.

 

Truth is, it is no longer a pure tube amp. It now uses a SS (MOSFET + transformers) front end to drive up the transconductance needed for his power tubes, beyond anything he can get from a tube front end. So maybe I've gone back to SS after all, but not really - it's the power tubes which do the real magic, once they are sufficiently primed.

I know you are in Melbourne, but, if you want to change your opinion back again, pop up to Sydney for the Sydney Audio Club meeting on August 18 and you'll hear the world's first public audition of this amazing amp. I guarantee you will not leave unaffected.

 

Cheers

Warren

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