Anyone has a reference system where amplification is SS ?

I never heard of audiophiles whose reference system had transistor amplification. It is always tubes. But maybe there are exceptions.


I have a few friends using Nagra amps. Their systems are reference quality

The best systems I’ve heard have been full vacuum tubes by Convergent Audio Technology (CAT).

The best my system has sounded was when I added horizontal bi-amping with a solid state amp below 80hz, and all tubes up top. I simply can’t afford a tube amp that has the bass authority of a CAT amp or a good SS amp, but it’s not hard to get great clarity from even a modest tube amp.

Actually neither, it is paper, screen based, or consultation. One or all are "referred" to when assembling a system.

Repeating the same false assumption after being corrected by others many times is a symptom of illness at worst or of obsession at best  ... Sorry...


I’d say it depends on your definition of what a "Reference System" is.



+1 @mahgister 

Don’t know why OP wants to lose respect and credibility. So unnecessary. 

The concept of reference system is a relative not an absolute ...

It depend of implementation of acoustic, mechanical (vibrations/resonance) and electrical noise floor control among others factors ... It depend not only of each specific parts , tubes or S.S. but it depend of their synergy as perceived in a room designed for the system ...Not a show room ...

Then reducing the concept of reference system to S.S. versus tubes or class D is misunderstanding the great number of factors at play for the experience ...

And by the way psycho-acoustics rule the gear design and experience not the reverse...

Audiophiles or consumers programmed  obsession by marketing  is not knowledge ...


A "reference system" is simply an audio enthusiast’s primary system that they use as a comparison (or a "reference") when auditioning new electronics, speakers, cables, etc. Being one’s "reference" does not necessarily mean the system is anywhere near state of the art/science.

I do not understand how someone with over 7K posts here could say they have,

never heard of audiophiles whose reference system had transistor amplification

Just check the virtual systems for an answer to your question.

I had a system I felt justified the term reference system about ten years ago. The amplifier was a solid state Pass x350. The reason I called it my reference system was the instant I put anything on I could tell everything about the venue and recordings… mastering. While I had an outstanding tube preamp the other sources were clean and very clear and solid state.

I did not realize it at the time, but all the very obvious forward presentation of detail and heavy bass slap was masking a real lack of midrange bloom and rhythm and pace. So, I loved listening to it… you know, I can hear the violinist in the third row move his foot… isn’t that cool! But after 45 minutes I would get bored listening and go do something else.

I mentioned this elsewhere, but I upgraded my headphone system to a very powerful 300B amp. I could not believe the increase in realism and musicality. I felt the need to move with the music… it sucked me into music. I then went and turned on my main system expecting better sound… what I heard was horrible, cold, anemic, lifeless sound.

Over the next year I swapped my Pass X350 for an Audio Research Ref 160 tube amp , my DAC for Audio Research tubed one and now get sucked in to my main system just like my headphone system. All the details are there, but set in correct proportion to how the sound in a real musical venue. My system is an order of magnitude better, more satisfying, and musical. I listen three hours a day and have to drag myself away. But I do not feel inclined to call it a reference system.


I know it is a question of what reference means to each of us… that is what it means to me.


Can this be done with solid state? Good question, solid state continues to improve. I have yet to hear it in solid state. But maybe,

We cannot generalize ONE experience as a rule for all system...

I myself own a powerful Sansui Alpha 607i to drive my picky headphone from the headphone out ...It is my reference system over my small speakers so good they are now ...

I never experienced a mid range blooming so beautiful and realist in my life with anything i heard with speakers and headphones save with the K340 well done and optimized because it is the most hard to figure out headphones there is , being the more complex with his dual chambers, and his hybridration crossover point  for his 2 different  cells, electrostatic and dynamic ,  and 5 tuned  passive resonators ... and  with a complex  demand and hard to drive sensitivity of 87 dB/mW and 2 cells of 400 OHMS impedance each ...

I tried to upgrade the S.S. Sansui with one of the best regarded tubes technology in the world ... I returned it the same day ...This blooming of the mid range was lacking and the out of the head headphone soundfield so characteristic of my optimized K340 was no more there ...

Could i say the reverse opinion of ghdprentice and pretend that my experience is a universal fact and a future rule for all ears, all systems ? No ...I must be as cautious as ghdprentice here ...

Even if i believe completely the testimony of ghdprentice , i had the reverse experience ... No design rule alone , it must be implemented acoustically, electrically and mechanically , and be synergetical with the other components ...


is this a tube verses solid state thread?

must be a slow day at work for the original poster. wants to watch a food fight.

Post removed 

@inna There are many old time Audiogon members who no longer participate. And for good reasons. They all had great systems and amplification was never SS, and some of those people could afford anything.

Actually, one old time a’gon member did post a few minutes before you. His ref system happens to be SS amplified.

I am another A’gon old timer -- and my ref system amplification is SS.

This said, we may easily be exceptions to the rule...

I for one love tube gear as well --the CAT gear mentioned above are favourites-- and I have an old tube-based CAT pre (not in the system).




If we want to be drunk or acoustically transported we are not in the obligation to impose our own alcool ingestion method or our own tubes or S.S. system ... All is good for each different metabolism and all may be good for each own system synergy and acoustic room ...

To be drunk, i prefer champagne to everything else or whisky over beer ...

In audio acoustics rules not so much the gear choices , if the gear choices for sure is very good to begin with ...

I am drunk with cheap beer by the way and i live happy with a low cost system acoustically well implemented ...

I dont feel frustrated because frustration cannot be there when knowledge rule and drive instead of obsession ...

Feel free to mail me a box of champagne bottles ...😊 Instead of a tube amplifier pay me the BACCH filters box system ...And i will call it my reference system drinking to your health best wishes ...Promise...Cross on my heart ....

If not, i will stay happy with my beer and low cost system  ...Creativity make us happy not money ...

"I will not be directly responding to retards and perverts, of whom there is quite a number here."


Good to know...





i would say evaluating the level of a long term audiogon poster / lurker / past poster by reading what they have in the system and have to say is a fools errand…. i typically hear 2-4 different systems a month…

Get out more…..

BTW my reference amp is a hybrid with a VERY unfair advantage… it was purpose built by the speaker designer….

This changes everything! A reference system not based on 100 year old technology? Who would have that? The SS makers better get their act together!

@inna The more of your posts I read, the more ignorant you seem to be. IME, tubes and SS each have their " characteristics ", very specific to each listener. For what I want to hear, Class A, ss, does it for me. Tubes, no longer, and, for a very long time now. There is no right or wrong with our music listening passion. It is very individualistic, and as far as I am concerned, should be whatever floats your boat. My best, Always....MrD.

@inna Wrote:

I will not be directly responding to retards and perverts, of whom there is quite a number here.



Yes, there is both right and wrong, you are simply seemingly unaware of it.

Simply a wonderful question. What about Hybrid Reference Systems? Best of both worlds, 

I was being sarcastic about this being a wonderful question. 

You have not been around long , at least 65% of amplifiers are SS 

not tube . I owned a Audiostore for a decade, the progression of SS over the last 15 years SS Mosfets ,or bipolar transistors have many vacuum tube attributes in smoothness ,there are many more SS amps then tubes , plus some speakers need high current high SS is  to move panels or drivers ,Vacuum tube voltage driven .

look at Vitus Gryphon, Pass labs, Boulder , Ayre, Bryston Krell ,MBL
Luxman,Accuphase Goldman just to name a few and many are Very $$.


I just went from a Tube system to SS. It takes a little re-adjusting with cables, etc. But in the end, I am happy.


I have three reference systems, none of them are tubes. When other audiophiles come over, they always take pictures and tell me they will report me to the hifi police

Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier, Pass Labs X250.8 amplifier and Pass Labs XP15 phono stage. Yeah, all solid state. I had owned Conrad Johnson tube gear for a while. Pass Labs made me forget about tubes. 

"I have three reference systems, none of them are tubes."

Coincidentally, I have three tube systems, none of them are reference.


the instant I put anything on I could tell everything about the venue and recordings… mastering.

Well what do you know…my hifi can do that!  

Look ma. no tubes!

Luxman sells 100x more SS amps then tube for example  just look at their website

It doesn't matter what the amplification is.  It's how the designer / manufacturer has voiced the amplifiers.

I've always had SS---I dabbled in tubes very briefly, but went back to SS. My reference system is Luxman.

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Hello inna!  My SS amp drives the Linkwitz 521 (now being advertised in the "slick" magazines) with a fabuous amp from Starke Sound and the sound is fabulous. The new generation of SS amps is easily as transparent, etc. as tube amps, and is much more efficient, running cooler so its parts don't age as rapidly. Yes, I DO HAVE A 300B anp which I love but it's in the demo/lab system driving very efficient speakers. Enjoy the music; the gear is just a means to an end.

This the stupidest post of 2023

2023 who really cares about tubes like 1980

bro wake up 

I have all three, SS, Tube and Hybrid, I always win.

Now what is wrong with this post? Pretty innocuous, who was offended by this enough to have my earlier post deleted? Some woke stuff bouncing around it’s head. .

@audioman58 Could care less about sales figures, was stating the fact they make tube amplification. Knowing how Japanese and after doing business with the Japanese for 40 years, they sell more than you think. If it doesn’t sell they would get out of the business of making tube amplification.

@lordrootman  guessing you do not get to a lot of audio shows. Or read many of the e zines. Tube amplification will out live you or I bro.

Jakes dad I don’t see what is your point ?

I never said anything about Luxman tube amp ,integrated amps not selling ,they are very good products.

my point was there is many times more Solid state sales  world wide nothing more.

I was not trying to debate ,just the facts much more SS gear is sold nothing more,

Priced from low expensive ,to insanely priced.

Most people put their prefered fetish over synergy, acoustics, electrical and mechanical controls of the system and even over the evident trade-off implied by each design specifics be it tube or S.S. ...Or class D  or hybrid etc ...

Acoustics science  ignorance, and engineering  trade -off complexities choices  ignorance  goes hand in hand with one prefered  fetischism  advocacy for all ...