Solid state amp vs tube amps

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


It depends on the specific amps, the speakers and system being used, and several other variables, but in general, yes....there’s a notable difference in how they sound.  The better the system, the easier the differences are to hear.

There are differences that are more easily detected, as stated above, the more resolving your system is.  In your system u have to figure out which general amplifier type u like better.  Complicating matters is that within an amplifier type there will be discernable differences in sound signature.  I find that I mostly gravitate toward high powered hybrid and solid state amps driven by a tube preamp.  I have a modest powered strong performing class d amp that's also a honey.  You just have to listen, experiment and experiment more.  You can listen to reviewers, at least some of them.  However, I have had gear that once listened to, I could not get my arms around what had been written in a respectable Audio mag.  I have though found an alignment with Terry London's listening preferences- not completely but mostly.

In general, yes… very much. Solid state tend to be much quicker but very easily run out of power. The often have much less mid-range bloom and rhythm and pace… resulting a much less musical sound. In general tubed amps will sound much more powerful and natural. I had top of the line powerful solid state amps for decades. Once I got a tube amp, I will never go back to a solid state.

Yes.   Anyway a big difference in sound...hard to use "quality" as a measurement of a subjective essence such as sound. 

Everyone has their opinion, as you see above.  But the main difference is power.  SET tube amps are generally 10 wpc or less and require high sensitivity speakers. Those who dedicate to build thier system around them tend to be prejudiced in support of them.

Those with less sensitive speaker, most people, become dedicated solid state guys.  they have no choice, and they often rationalize and justify their position and become ss guys.  They tend to be less supportive of tube amps.

In between you have to push-pull amp guys who have moderate power, can use speakers a little less sensitive and try to pretend their push pull amp is as good as an SET.

My point is we all end up in camps supporting what we like and it is unusual to find someone who is agnostic in the tube/ss debate.

So it is really impossible to decide which one you are without listening, unless you want to just side with the one with the best writing style.


... And yet I went out and bought a Melton, P/P, KT-88 tube amp and much prefer my 20+ year old Yamaha RX-Z9 in "Pure Direct" mode. The Yamaha is a very high current amp and really bring out the high end of the Heils with so much more detail and the bass is fuller and more distinct. And I am a stickler for detail.

Use a good set of phones or monitors and the differences are obvious. Volume levels were matched to within a couple tenths of a dB. The Yamaha has >30,000 hours and the Melton has about 60 hours on it. The speakers have undergone modification since the videos, but the differences are still very audible.


Anyway a big difference in sound...hard to use "quality" as a measurement of a subjective essence such as sound. 

+1.  They do sound different.  "Quality" may be a subjective term.

@marquis4099 The differences you usually hear have to do with how tubes and traditional class A or AB solid state amps make distortion.

Quite literally the 'sonic signature' of any amp is its 'distortion signature'.

I used the word 'traditional' as there are class D amps now that have a distortion signature much like tube amps do, and unsurprisingly, sound very similar as well- but with greater transparency owing to lower distortion overall.

I use a tube preamplification to help my active speakers...

It work...

But if you think tube/s.s. make a difference and it does, acoustics control of the room had more impact than almost any upgrade improvement... Acoustics does not replace gear design improvement for sure, nothing does; but acoustics control overpower anything else.

I just put a resonator in my room today...

Huge difference when well tuned...The difference in effect of the S.Q. aspects of sound when only one resonator is added at the right place and tuned as it must be , exceed all my other gear change since the begininng of this acoustic corner for near listening...


I’m glad this topic finally came up!

But seriously, I’d have to say that while high-quality equipment can definitely improve sound quality, I’ve found that room acoustics have an even greater impact. This includes differences between tube vs. solid state. Don’t get me wrong, good equipment design is still important, but acoustics can significantly influence how you experience sound. In fact, I recently added additional diffusion in my listening room, and after adjusting them properly, the difference in sound quality has exceeded most other gear improvements. There is real power of optimizing room acoustics – it can surpass the benefits of many equipment upgrades.

Once a room is fairly well dialed in, though, at *that* point you have a truly level playing field and any additional changes to gear can be evaluated with more objectivity and confidence.

A key question to you, OP, is whether you have the room as tuned in as it could be? If not, that is the next lever to press.

I agree. The room acoustics are very important. That said, there are great amps of both types. I have two systems, one is all tube including the cd player, and the other is completely solid state. I enjoy both. If you have a high-end store near you, where you can listen to both, you should do that. I always preferred tube equipment, but I found some solid-state equipment that I really like too. Good luck.

@marquis4099 - I don’t think anyone has asked yet, but would love to hear more about your motivation behind the question? Are you embarking on a search yourself? Or is it more of an academic question? 

If it’s the former, you’ve got a potential audio adventure in front of you. Going to listen to solid state and tube amps is a treat. To your original question, I don’t think I’d actually heard a tube amp before. When I finally did, I was hooked. And my fate was set. Tube amps just sound more relaxing and inviting to my ears. 


Ask yourself why most professional electric guitar players use tube amps...then ask yourself, "why am I talking to myself?" Is it OK to like both SS (bad look when abbreviated) and tube amps? I have efficient speakers so I enjoy an excellent tube SEP from Dennis Had, and I rotate in a Pass XA-25 (Nelson Pass likes designing "tube-like" class A stuff) which might be the best sounding amp Pass makes. Tube preamp. Also, tubes might simply be more you have a box of transistors that you like to look at like my drawer full of tubes? Hold a transistor up to the light...yeah My Pass amp just sits there, my tube amp glows.

As a Valve Amplification user for more than 30 Years and one who could not entertain SS Amplification or Digital for close to 25 Years.

I have been introduced in the recent past years to experiencing through Demo's in the home system and in other systems, both Digital Source ( now owned and used regularly) and modern design for SS Power Amplification, which I would readily own.

My take on the experiences had in all systems, where all dem's had have been as a Valve vs SS comparison.

Is that I could easily move to SS and remain thoroughly satisfied and contented.

The detected differences in the end sonics produced by each Electronics Circuit Type is a non-concern.

Life's better with fewer prejudices and concerns about the escalating costs of rare vintage Valves. 

For the first time a solid state amp sits between the speakers burning in. Thinking it might add tighter bass with better damping factor. So far there are definite advantages albeit with some drawbacks. It's going to take a while as it doesn’t have the hours on it to consider it burned in.

A bit drier but with somewhat better resolution. Less bloom with slightly less ability to give the suspension of disbelief to the music. Tighter bass but maybe not as tuneful there. A bit flatter two dimensional sound which is my main concern. I’m thinking it will take at least a couple of months to parse out which presentation is most appealing. Hoping to see better depth of sound stage but the width is actually better. 

Lots of interesting replies. Simple answer is they are different designs and they do different things. Parts play a big part in sound quite usual although the old BEL amps were simple designs that sound great. Consider what parts in the designs produce sound starting with the transformers. These days custom made transformers are getting harder to find for audio applications. Quicksilver monos come to mind recently. Tube equipment can have many design variables like number of stages choke loaded  transformer coupled, tube retifcation, etc. That can impact the sound. Speakers, room treatments and cables do not impact the sound as much as the design of a component. That is why parts upgrades are so important for sonic improvement. Once you learn the differences that make sound do what it dies then you’ll be in a much better place to make decisions. Happy Listening


Just wondering about hybrid integrated amps like Macintosh MA352. Does that represent a best of both worlds solution? Or is that more of a gimmick?

One of the major factors on whether a tube amplifier sounds different than solid state is how well the respective amplifiers can generate increased current into low impedance loads. If the amps are connected to speakers that have low sensitivity and a demanding impedance curve the two types of amps will likely sound quite different.

First example is driving speakers like Wilsons or Thiels that can dip to around 2 ohms over part of their frequency response. These speakers were designed and voiced to be powered by beefy amps that can double their power with each halving of the impedance. My Krell KSA 300s puts out 300 watts into 8 ohms and 2400 watts into 2 ohms. It is driving Thiel CS6 speakers that dip to around 2 ohms in the mid bass with a demanding phase angle. A typical tube amp will simply not be able to drive these speakers so that they have a flat frequency response. In the frequencies where the impedance drops to a low level, the amp cannot provide the current to drive the speakers.

Second example is driving speakers from a company like DeVore that are designed to have a flat impedance curve and higher sensitivity. There are also many horn speakers that have this characteristic. For these kinds of speakers a high quality tube amp and solid state amp will sound much more similar.

My point is that besides the pleasant sound that some people ascribe to tubes, there can be a large frequency response difference between amplifiers depending on what type of speakers you are driving. You will never see a pair of big Wilson speakers driven by an SET amp at an audio show. They are driven by monster amps typically from D'Agostino. They were designed and voiced using these amps and they were willing to accept the high current requirements to achieve the sound they want. One can argue that tubes have more "bloom" or whatever, but there can be large, measureable, frequency response differences depending on what amp you use to power speakers with a demanding impedance curve.

@marquis4099 Yes, you will notice a difference, but it may not be as great as you think, and ‘better’ will be a judgement you’ll have to make. 

My experience: bought the best solid state and tube gear I could afford, some of it, just barely, assembled two systems in the same room, and after two weeks of listening I still couldn’t tell you which I prefer. They sound almost identical, the difference coming down mostly to the speakers and their placement in the room. I did notice, though, that when I swapped in the latest component —a top-of-the-line tubed preamp— that the mids and highs were super smooth compared to the entry level solid state gear it replaced.

Many say that it is relatively easy to build good-sounding tube gear because most (but not all) of the magic is in the tube; it is very difficult to build solid state gear to the same sound quality without going to expensive parts and meticulous construction. Others say that all tube gear produces distortion and that they are not worth the bother or additional expense of periodic (or emergency) replacement. You’ll just have to make up your own mind.

If you’re trying to decide which way to go, I wouldn’t go with tubes unless you’re comfortable opening up the case once in a while, making adjustments, and replacing tubes, either because you need to, or you just want to see how other tubes will make your system sound. 

No one has mentioned the output impedance of tubed amps vs. that of SS amps. The higher impedance typically found in tube amps makes them more load dependent, and can introduce audible variations in system response based on the speaker’s reactance. In my opinion this phenomenon accounts for much of the mystique around system synergy. It is said the McIntosh MC275 has an unusually low output impedance and therefore sounds more “solid state” than other tube amps. 

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.


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The idea on certain designs of Valve Amp having as part of the design an ease of access to the Valves, resulting in a very simplistic requirement to exchange a Valve is very attractive.

As exchanging Valves can and in certain cases do create a difference to an end sound that is discernible  for the impression made of being more attractive in use.

Then there is the alternative side and the one why many Valve Amp Design have the Valve visible to the user. That reason being easy observation of the Valves during use and after Power Off.

 There are not many who have a long term understanding of using Valve equipment, that would suggest a Valve Equipment is something that is switched on and forgotten. The Valve equipment is at its very best, when the user is disciplined to be vigilant in their observation of the equipment when in use and after Power Off.





Dear @wolf_garcia  : " Ask yourself why most professional electric guitar players use tube amps... Is it OK to like both SS (bad look when abbreviated) and tube amps? I have efficient speakers so I enjoy an excellent tube SEP from Dennis Had, and I rotate in a Pass XA-25 (Nelson Pass likes designing "tube-like" class A stuff) which might be the best sounding amp Pass makes. "


Your speakers are not a guitar, so for me is a uselees argument for tubes in a room/system..

N.Pass " designing " tubes like " SS ". That was a marketing flag because when he was in Threshold his way of thinking was way different.


Btw, everything the same today good class A/AB SS designs outperform the best tube you can have in mind,  overall it's just better and like everything " things " change over times. So think today not 5or 10 years ago or even older times..


Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORIONS,


Solid state has gotten awfully good, whether class A, A/B, D, Gan, etc.  I don't think there's a good argument for tubes anymore, other than nostalgia or the cool factor.  I've owned several tube amps over the years, some sounded great.  But....I don't miss the heat, maintenance and overall fiddly-ness. Done with tubes.

@hilde45 *s*  I'm glad you're glad, but the 'tubes v. s.s.' carousel seems to come to town at least once a month; it's that 'timing' i'm going to mark on the calendar and run a theory...  {28 -(31-10)= June 8...+/- a day either way...}....

It won't answer to the T~v~ SS dialogs, but potentially fascinating... 😏 ;)

+ to @joc3021 , I've been A>A/B>D'd already enuff, off to meet the Gan-it, dammit Janet....go down on the Fed Reservations Notable stupor slab and take the ride...

I'm interested in the Hybrids that have and are emerging, looking to flower and perhaps impress....  And, of more import to all us'sall, what/how/and wth happened when it came to your place of sculpted space....?

Cutting the Chase to the Typical done here: You went with This and it did That. ;)

*Ahem* requote that class ic from one of the Ancients:

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORIONS,
....unless the distortions' are what You Really Enjoy....;>))

@rauliruegas ✨ You've been QuoteBombed

I prefer tube amplifiers over solid state. Tube amps usually have a better soundstage and more air and dimensionality over solid state. Tube sound more real and more engaging. Solid state amps sound more accurate and better precise.  I own a few solid state amps but have twice more tube amps in my home. 

IMHO both can sound great. Tube amps always sound good. As takes more monaaay. 

I have always used tube amps all my life but recently started looking for a solid state amp because of the growing unreliability of currently made tubes. There are some solid state amps that can make tube enthusiasts happy because they will sound a bit like "tube amps", but the problem is the price, as you have to pay considerably more for a good solid state amp than for a decent tube amp. For me, for example, Vitus Audio SIA - 025 is a wonderful amp I could replace my tube amp with any time, but the price is very high. 

I’ve had the Pass XA25 for 4 years. My speakers are 100dB and could be driven by a small watt amp but I like this sound. 3D sound stage, quick, clean, natural and easy to listen. This amp is made without the usual 2nd harmonic distortion signature that Pass usually has(correct?). Single ended and plenty of power. Note: I use a passive preamp so it is all the amp that makes this nice sound. I have been tempted to try a tube amp but wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money so I doubt it would "beat" the Pass in my system.  Another consideration is tubes.  Since we have banned Russia this has pushed valve prices up.  I saw a pair of tubes the other day for $2500 or so.  I know you don't have to spend that but I don't really want to fiddle with my equipment all the time.