Solid state amp vs tube amps

Is there a noticeable difference in the sound quality of Tube amplifiers vs solid state amplifier?


Interesting nobody brought up noise.  Solid state amps on average are quieter.  You have to spend a lot of $ to get tube amp with a signal-to-noise ratio over 100db (particularly all-tube integrateds).  So for those whose aural priorities start with noise, they usually prefer SS.  Me? I’m a tube guy.


In the last fifty years or so, I have had Tube class A, SS class A, SS class A/B, and several Hybrid amps and preamps.  The preamps were all Class A’s and the Amps were all Class A/B.

Right now I have a Hegel H390, that’s a SS class A/B integrated amp. (The first integrated amp I’ve had in 35-40 years) and a PS Audio, BHK Signature preamp with PS Audio BHK 300 mono blocks. Both are hybrid. I have started tube rolling yet, but will probably do so.

 Hegel is somewhat on the warm side and sounds really good with all kinds of music. It’s dead quiet. The highs are crisp without being sharp, the mids are very good, but I find tube amps excel with voices and the like much better and the Hegel has plenty of clean low end punch.

I’ve only had the PS Audio gear a couple of months. The Amps were bought used and came with 7308 input tubes. In my experience, 7308’s are really great sounding tubes, but are definitely brighter sounding than 6922’s or 6dj8’s. I’m going to replace the 7308’s with some 6922’s and see if the sound is more to my liking.  So like the Hegel, this setup has a great bottom end a very good mid range and I’m going to tube roll until I het the sound I want. The input section on the preamp can use 12au7’s or the 6dj8 line of tubes, so there’s the place I will probably start with seeing as I have many 6dj8’s and 6922’s to choose from here.

One more thing, the Hegel is stable down to at least 2 ohms and probably lower. 

All the best.

For decades, pop (RIP) was a dedicated ARC man. D-79, D-150, SPs of various denominations, etc. He flirted briefly with a ML 335 but it went back into the box when he decided to go back to full valves with Jadis gear. Make of that what you will. 😉

As for me, I built and listened to a pair of Hafler DH-220s until about four years ago I decided to go ARC myself. I tried a used VT-100 from Echo Audio but unfortunately the 4 ohm taps were defective and they very kindly refunded me AND added some for my time and gas money driving a couple times down from the SEA area. Nice folks and I'd be happy to deal with them again if the time came. 

I found a used VS-110 and it's been a delight. It doesn't have the extreme bottom end that the Haflers did, but the upper bass, midrange and highs are wonderful compared to the SS Haflers. My pre is an ARC SP11 Mk2 BTW... 

IN GENERAL, that is to say not ALL, SS amps seem to be faster and have more extended bottom end from what I've heard in IME. Tubes, IN GENERAL, again to say not all, seem to have more bloom and musicality than SS amps. They also tend to clip a bit softer than SS amps. 

Big factors to the above will be supporting electronics, preamp, DAC, etc and of course the speakers. My particular ESLs respond well to both SS and tubes but I prefer the airier, softer tube amplification.

At the end of the day, it's what appeals to YOUR ears, eh?

Happy listening.


There's a noticeable difference in sound quality among amplifiers full stop - regardless of what active devices they use.

I'm exploring the best of both worlds using an MC 901 mcIntosh amplifier. biamping capability allows mids and tweeters to receive tubes which are better for harmonics in that area and solid state for the bass which requires more power to bring it out. The dedicated amplifiers to each of these areas appears to be a really good thing.

Also using NOS small tubes is really cool too.

I also have solid state amplifiers which are gathering Dust in another room. And they were very nice with plenty of power and very  cool temperature wise.