tubes vs transistors

There is this question we need to ask ourselves. What is more suitable for audio? Tubes or transistors. This is a debat that is going on since transistors are used for the purpose of audio. And probably will it be a neverending battle, as long as there a people who are too stubborn to admit that tubes are just the best. Why? Simple, because tubes have been designed to amplify sound decades ago. Only for this purpose.

The English call it ‘valves’ which is another word for a gate that can be opened to let the electrons pass through. Transistors, however are never designed specificly to amplify a sound signal. They just can do it. And of course, transistors are reliable and can produce loads of current and power. As tubes have a limited life span and are not reliable in the long term. Not to mention the lack of power and not be able to drive ‘difficult’ speakers. Have I already mentioned the ‘brownish’ sound they produce? You might remember this from the radio used by your grandparents?

Forget these prejudices being spread by the ‘transistor churches’. Nowadays tubes can run up easily for 10.000 hours or more. After they ‘run out’ you just replace them by new ones. You can even use tubes from another brand to see what sound you prefer the best. Transistors however, wear out too. Yes, wear out like tires of your car. They will sound slightly worse through the years. You will hardly notice it. But replacing them is something you can not do yourself, if you are not a technician. And it is mostly an expensive job too.

On paper transistors produce a lot more power and current than valves do. But that is theory. Good quality tube amplifiers can drive most speakers pretty good. Of course, there are extremes, which tubes will not be suitable for, but that is 1% on the market.Valves always give you the impression they have a lot more power than they can really produce. If tubes sound dark or brown, there is something not right.

Good tube amps sound neutral and clear. Of course, there is this typical ‘tube’ sound. It is a type of distortion our ears and brains like the best. The natural and smooth presentation and the 3D image, which can never be made by transistors. They have another type of distortion, we humans pick up and don’t like. We get kinda tired of it in the long run. Class A operation, is solving some of these problems, but will never get what valves can achive. I can enjoy transistor amplifiers. But, I can always detect something that I find artificial or irritating. Although, some brands come close to tubes, I will never get back to transistors again. Even not for my cd player. And as soon, I find a good tube pre amp, I will replace my good old Meridian too.

My advice is, to try tubes. It can be your cd player, pre/power amp or even your phono pre if you use a pick-up. See for yourself what the magic of tubes will do to you. I can not imagine, that you ever want to go back to transistors again. Unless, you have bad experiences with it of course. If that is the case, please let me know. For now, listen without prejudice!