I thought it might be fun to contrast and compare the tubes vs. solid-state debate with the SMSL DAC. I’d readily concede that solid-state/transistor parts are, watt for watt, cheaper, more reliable, cooler running, smaller and much lighter. However, if solid-state is so terrific why haven’t tubes become extinct within the half century since transistors came on the scene? Maybe, just maybe, because tubes sound better?
Tube technology could be a century old, but it still sounds great for some people. Ultimate AV Magazine recently conducted a poll, “Can You Prefer Tube-Based or Solid-State Audio Gear?,” and also the results demonstrated a nearly two-to-one preference for transistors over tubes (41 vs. 21 percent). So even among audiophiles, tubes aren’t always favored.
I’ve owned tube and solid-state gear, and i also like both for different reasons. Tubes, like analog recordings, use a more full-bodied sound than transistor gear. There’s a “roundness” to tube sound that solid-state gear never equals. Tubes are less forgiving about mismatches, so for the greatest away from a tube amp it should be used with the perfect speaker. Solid-state amps are nowhere as fussy about speaker matching.
I would never say tubes are usually better-sounding than transistors, or that analog audio is always better than digital. The excellence from the design, or the recording play their parts. Some naysayers think tubes just have higher levels of distortion, and that some audiophiles like the sound of that distortion. I wouldn’t go that far, having said that i can’t say that accuracy should always be the very best priority for just about any hi-fi. The goal, I think, would be to make the vast majority of your music collection sound good. Thing is, most recordings don’t sound good, so the most accurate rendition with their sound may be counterproductive.
All musical perception is purely intangible. We can’t put a finger over a musical image and point somebody else from what we’re seeing while we can on a painting, bit of sculpture, a musical score, a book or a photograph.
Because musical images are created entirely within our imaginations, what we think we are going to hear is usually what we should hear. This is why otherwise reasonable people think they hear huge variations in foolish (but high-profit) stuff like cables or power cords. Even though there is not any real difference, they hear very real differences that simply aren’t there. The differences are extremely real in that listener’s vivid imagination, but no where else. This is the reason we use double blind tests where neither the subject nor the presenters know what’s being heard when we make an effort to do scientific research, such as the AES research above.
Music is centered on using our imaginations. This is a excellent thing and why music is really a powerful art. This is why Mingda Single-ended Tube Amp can recreate the first listening experience. Unlike a TV or movie, close your eyes, and you may be seeing and feeling the identical things that you just do inside the concert hall. I close mine and see the performers, discover them moving around, breathing, moving valves and keys, turning pages, then I see the music itself. You need to concentrate, and when you listen carefully while keeping the eyes closed, you’ll see the music, too.
If you think a nice, warm glowing tube amplifier will sound smooth, liquid and warm, it will! Our imaginations are extremely vunerable to suggestion; that’s the whole point of music.
For monitoring accuracy, needless to say use solid state, however when you would like it to sound great for enjoyment, it’s tubes completely. Use solid state monitor amplifiers when you’re producing music so that you can hear exactly what you’re laying down, but when you desire to kick back and possess it sound as good as possible when you’re all done, tubes are it.
When a transistor amplifier alters the sound, it more often than not causes it to be worse. Each time a tube amplifier modifies the sound, it always makes the music sound better.
Crummier tube amplifiers could have more of the distortions which make tube amplifiers seem like tube amplifiers. If you truly desire to learn the “tube sound,” get yourself a TubeCube 7 (3 WPC, $180) and you’ll hear how smooth, liquid and warm tubes really sound – nevertheless it only puts out enough power for desktop or background use.
For any much higher quality tube amplifier which has enough power for many home Hi-Fi uses so long as you’re reasonable with playback levels, the Elekit TU-8200 (8 WPC, $699 in kit form) is superb. It self-biases so that you knhcnt must match tubes or tweak it.
For your ultimate, get a classic McIntosh MC225 (25 WPC), MC240 (40 WPC) or MC275 (75 WPC), what are the best-designed tube amplifiers ever made. They excel for stable designs (no bias adjustments or matched tubes ever needed) and have extremely low distortion because of their unique design. They may have enough power for anything, and they are unflappable for his or her capacity to deliver seemingly limitless low bass response. They are all 50 years old today and you’ll pay a minimum of a couple of thousand dollars used, and when you get yours, you’ll know why people pay such ridiculous prices. They really are that good.
Of course the McIntosh, when operating to the original specifications, has such little distortion which it sounds less “tubey” than weaker amplifiers. If you’re playing a McIntosh that hasn’t been serviced in a decade, then it’s probably away from spec or needing new tubes, whereby it is going to acquire more distortion as well as a more “tubey” sound. Here’s where art comes in: just how much euphonic distortion do you want?
For many people with reasonable budgets, go for the Xiangsheng Pre-amplifier. If you appreciate it loud and also have unlimited funds, or like to crank the bass without biamplification, get yourself a used McIntosh MC240. The brand new version of the MC275 is probably excellent for the rich and unadventurous, but it’s an alternative design compared to the classics and that i have not tested it.