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 Post subject: Class A SS v. Tube Sound
PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:08 pm 
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Are there any general comments one can make regarding how a Class A amp sound compares with tubes? Lots of tube amp owners on CAM, maybe not so much Class A. Curious to know people's thoughts.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:15 am 
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Some class A amplifiers with MOSFET output transistors sound good.
The definition of good sound is subjective.
Some people think playing music in a metal container is good.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:31 am 
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Are you saying all class A solid state amplifiers sound the same? Because they do not.

Are you also saying all tube amplifiers are class A? Because they are not.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:59 am 
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Class A SS v. Tube Sound...They sound "Different"...

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Ohms

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:02 am 
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Sure, generally:

- both solid state and tube amps can run in Class A,
- sometimes SS can sound like tubes
- sometimes tubes can sound like SS
- most times they sound different from one another
- speakers and upstream components (sources, preamp, DAC, cables, etc.) can affect the sound from either

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:49 am 
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I'm running a 300B SET (int) and a Classe DR3 at the moment.

Both run all in class A but neither represent what most would consider the "typical" tube or SS amp, so the comparison is probably useless unless you are going to be using the same amps.

The 300Bs (Valve Art tubes) are fairly forward with the highs and has the usual midrange magic you'd expect. Soundstage and imaging is fine but not outstanding. Bass is fine, but lacks the control and attack that you get from the better SS amps. At 8 watts, obviously speaker choice is far more critical than with SS. But the 300B SET club is a nice niche.

The DR3 is quite a bit less forward with the highs (people often refer to this amp as "dark") but I personally don't consider this a bad thing. Very nice on the mids...what you would normally associate with tubes (which is perhaps why many people describe this amp as a bit "tube" sounding). Soundstage and imaging are good, but again, not outstanding (I think this has a lot to do with the speakers I'm using) The bass is deep, tight and controlled....not necessarily it's best attribute, but its most noticeable (especially when A-B'ing with tubes. Dynamic range is excellent, given its overbuilt power supply designed to give huge headroom
and double down and remain stable into 1 ohm loads. Being pure class A design, it also eliminates switching distortion.

Perhaps I need to seek out a pair of Scintillas?


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:52 am 
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Tangram wrote:
Are there any general comments one can make regarding how a Class A amp sound compares with tubes? Lots of tube amp owners on CAM, maybe not so much Class A. Curious to know people's thoughts.


What's the purpose of your inquiry? Perhaps if you shared your own thoughts so other could see where you might want this thread to go, you might get more response. Otherwise, the rest of us are left wondering why you want to compare apples to oranges.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:22 pm 
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Maybe something like a Pass Labs vs. SET tube amp?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:05 am 
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Winter_vinyl wrote:
Tangram wrote:
Are there any general comments one can make regarding how a Class A amp sound compares with tubes? Lots of tube amp owners on CAM, maybe not so much Class A. Curious to know people's thoughts.


What's the purpose of your inquiry? Perhaps if you shared your own thoughts so other could see where you might want this thread to go, you might get more response. Otherwise, the rest of us are left wondering why you want to compare apples to oranges.


Sure. I am contemplating a system switch up to high sensitivity speakers and a low wattage amp but would like to avoid tubes if possible. Will a Class A amp get me closer to a tube-like sound than an A/B amp or are they completely different sounds.

I recognize that this is a broad question, hence my request for "general" comments. But if this is not possible then so be it.

Thanks all for addressing my query.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:46 am 
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Class A/B is still class A wattage up to a certain wattage.
For example my Nak PA 5Mkii is rated up to 150/side at 8 ohms but the first 30 watts are in class A.
Thats like having a 30 watt tube amp with greater headroom.
My amp will grunt and slam with the best of them because of high current delivery but for most of my listening I'm never above the Class A rating of the amp.
So in answer to your query whether its an A/B amp or A amp. Class A is still Class A.
But where the sound differs from tube is usually found in the midrange frequency response.
I have run 40 watt triode tube mono blocks and although it did not have the slam of SS it did however give me a much sweeter spot in the vocals.
Hope this helps

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:25 am 
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Its a tough call to fully answer well.

I have owned high sensitivity speakers paired with low powered Class A tube amps. When I owned Class A SS it was paired with mid efficiency speakers. Both setups provided musical satisfaction, but the tube setup lasted longer for me.

I cannot separate out why that is - was it the effect of high efficiency speakers, the effect of Class A tube, or the mix? Likewise the mid efficiency setup.

Best advice would be to get out and hear a setup similar to what you are considering, in order to help flesh out for you, what each type of combo delivers.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:26 am 
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Chipmunk1957 wrote:
Class A/B is still class A wattage up to a certain wattage.
For example my Nak PA 5Mkii is rated up to 150/side at 8 ohms but the first 30 watts are in class A.
Thats like having a 30 watt tube amp with greater headroom.
My amp will grunt and slam with the best of them because of high current delivery but for most of my listening I'm never above the Class A rating of the amp.
So in answer to your query whether its an A/B amp or A amp. Class A is still Class A.
But where the sound differs from tube is usually found in the midrange frequency response.
I have run 40 watt triode tube mono blocks and although it did not have the slam of SS it did however give me a much sweeter spot in the vocals.
Hope this helps


But I don't think this type of design is standard. Many A/B amps have almost no pure class A output. I bought the Parasound A21 specifically because the first 10 watts are class A. I shopped around and many amps had no such claims. I love the sound, and probably never go over a few watts of output which peaks at low 80's decibel at the most at my chair.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:17 am 
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Agreed. For so many newer integrated amps this is not the case.
Your Parasound A21 is a John Curl design and he and Nelson Pass who did the Stasis topology for my Nak worked together on a number of designs together.
I know they were together for the Nak CA-5 preamp that I owned a couple of times.
But you are correct. Many amps do not have an A/B switching capability.

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