Why is solid state more popular when tubes are better?

Yes tubes are more involved and require periodic maintenance. Hybrid tube components need not apply, these are really solid state.

Tubes are better for multiple reasons and yet the world and the trade prefers solid state. Those rare audio shops that are geared toward stereo listening and serious connoisseurs tend to Focus more on tubes.  Those in business who like to improve volumes tend to offer solid state.  All the YouTube channels looking to improve their business tend to be solid state.  Maybe because tubes require much more expertise to sell, and there's lesser and lesser to go around. Solid state is more of a fast food commodity.

Tubes are difficult for businesses due to all the maintenance and complexity so you see it less often. Much much easier to sell hybrids or solid state.






As Wolf Garcia has said, there are many "reference" systems using tube amplifiers of all kinds - otherwise companies like Jadis, VTL and Audio Research (now rescued) would not exist.

The term "reference system" is a bit meaningless. However, to the extent that is is taken to mean systems aspiring to emulate the dynamic range and frequency response of live music, the challenge in using tubes for non horn-based systems of this type is the sheer amount of tubes and associated circuitry needed to generate high power output.

As atmasphere noted above, tubes produce harmonics (distortion) that most solid state gear does not. That distortion is pleasing to many, but not to all. It can also be overdone. I have a tube preamp (Cary SLP-05) and a solid state amp (Levinson 432). I like the "tubiness" of the Cary, but if I pair that with a tube amp the "tubiness" gets to be too much.  In addition, my speakers are not very efficient and have a significant phase angle issue at low frequencies and I find they are better driven by a big SS amp. Also, I do not listen to much rock music, and, quite frankly, my system is not as good with that type of music as it is with jazz, folk, vocal, classical etc.   My point - there is no right or wrong. It depends on the specific equipment, the type of music and personal tastes. And, as others have mentioned, tube rolling and tube adjustments, esp. in power amps, are not for everyone. It's nice to have options to tune the sound to your own particular tastes.

@carlsbad2 wrote:

@emergingsoul Looks like you hurt the feelings of some sensitive sold state guys. They arn’t ok with your prefernce for tube amps.

Oh well.


Oh, it’s not really about preference. It would seem there are even some valve aficionados out there troubled by the absolutist stance of the OP, which is the crux of the matter, right? But I guess to some valve lovers seeing it being made into an objective fact that valves rule helps boosting their egos, or something.

Even still, why are so many riled up about the statement made by the OP? Is he an über-authority, a deity? It’s just words, a stance likely meant to provoke. Whatever floats your boat in whatever setup context. I’ve heard great of both valve-based and SS amps; the former (i.e.: SET’s) in particular through passively configured high efficiency speakers, the latter on actively configured dittos.

It may interested some to know that, not only to my ears, SS amps actively configured in some regards have a somewhat more "tubey" sonic imprinting vs. running low eff. passive speakers, not least through the midrange and HF region. This is perhaps more the arena of Mr. Karsten of @atmasphere if there are changing distortion characteristics (or their lack) at play here to account for sonic differences, but in any case the SS amps would see a vastly easier load when not looking into a passive crossover, which is likely the main reason for a deviation in named characteristics.

OP…“Regarding reference systems recently mentioned above. While very respectable, these seem to be professionally grown Systems revealing precise characteristics of music being played that may not be enjoyable for longer-term use.”


Sorry, I am not going to re-read the whole string again. But I think you really nailed it here. The system I had (with high end solid state amp ten years ago), I called my reference system because the moment a new cut came on the venue and mastering was in my face. The level of detail was out of proportion to the musical content. The bass would slap me in the face and chest. This has absolutely never happened in a concert unless some audio engineer turned up the treble / gain too much.


From years attending the symphony, I learned that all the venue clues are there, but the are subtle, not in the foreground, the bass is there but spread out over a half second… not slapping you in the face in a microsecond. 

A well designed tube amp gets the gestalt right… it doesn’t overemphasis details. It gets music right.