I figured it will be fun to contrast and compare the tubes vs. solid-state debate with the SMSL DAC. I’d readily concede that solid-state/transistor components are, watt for watt, cheaper, more reliable, cooler running, smaller and much lighter. However, if solid-state is so terrific why haven’t tubes become extinct in the half century since transistors came on the scene? Maybe, just maybe, because tubes sound better?
Tube technology could be a century old, nevertheless it still sounds great for some people. Ultimate AV Magazine recently conducted a poll, “Would You Prefer Tube-Based or Solid-State Audio Gear?,” and also the results demonstrated a nearly two-to-one preference for transistors over tubes (41 vs. 21 percent). So even among audiophiles, tubes aren’t always favored.
I’ve owned tube and solid-state gear, and i also like both for different reasons. Tubes, like analog recordings, use a more full-bodied sound than transistor gear. There’s a “roundness” to tube sound that solid-state gear never equals. Tubes are less forgiving about mismatches, so for the greatest away from a tube amp it must be used with just the right speaker. Solid-state amps are nowhere as fussy about speaker matching.
I would personally never say tubes will always be better-sounding than transistors, or that analog audio is always much better than digital. The excellence of the design, or perhaps the recording play their parts. Some naysayers think tubes just have higher amounts of distortion, and this some audiophiles like the noise of that distortion. I wouldn’t go that far, however i can’t state that accuracy should be the top priority for virtually any hi-fi. The objective, I think, is always to make the vast majority of your music collection sound good. Thing is, most recordings don’t sound good, so the most accurate rendition of their sound could be counterproductive.
All musical perception is purely intangible. We can’t put a finger over a musical image and point another person to what we’re seeing since we can on the painting, piece of sculpture, a musical score, a magazine or perhaps a photograph.
Because musical images are created entirely within our imaginations, what we think we are going to hear is often what we hear. This is why otherwise reasonable people think they hear huge differences in foolish (but high-profit) stuff like cables or power cords. Even though there is no real difference, they hear very real differences that simply aren’t there. The differences are extremely real because listener’s vivid imagination, but no where else. This is the reason we use double blind tests where neither the subject nor the presenters know what’s being heard once we try to do scientific research, like the AES research above.
Music is about using our imaginations. This is a very good thing and why music is such a powerful art form. For this reason Mingda Tube Amplifier can recreate the first listening experience. Unlike a TV or movie, close your vision, and you may be seeing and feeling the identical things that you do within the concert hall. I close mine and see the performers, see them getting around, breathing, moving valves and keys, turning pages, and after that I view the music itself. You must concentrate, and when you listen carefully and keep the eyes closed, you’ll view the music, too.
If you believe a nice, warm glowing tube amplifier will sound smooth, liquid and warm, it is going to! Our imaginations are extremely prone to suggestion; that’s the complete reason for music.
For monitoring accuracy, needless to say use solid state, but if you would like it to sound great for enjoyment, it’s tubes entirely. Use solid state monitor amplifiers when you’re producing music to help you hear precisely what you’re laying down, but if you wish to kick back and possess it sound just like possible when you’re all done, tubes are it.
Whenever a transistor amplifier alters the sound, it more often than not causes it to be worse. Whenever a tube amplifier modifies the sound, it usually definitely makes the music sound better.
Crummier tube amplifiers could have more of the distortions which make tube amplifiers sound like tube amplifiers. If you really want to hear the “tube sound,” get a TubeCube 7 (3 WPC, $180) and you’ll hear how smooth, liquid and warm tubes really sound – but it only puts out enough power for desktop or background use.
To get a greater quality tube amplifier which includes enough power for a lot of home Hi-Fi uses as long as you’re reasonable with playback levels, the Elekit TU-8200 (8 WPC, $699 in kit form) is superb. It self-biases so that you knhcnt have to match tubes or tweak it.
For your ultimate, get a classic McIntosh MC225 (25 WPC), MC240 (40 WPC) or MC275 (75 WPC), that are the best-designed tube amplifiers ever produced. They excel for their stable designs (no bias adjustments or matched tubes ever needed) and possess extremely low distortion due to their unique design. They may have enough power for anything, and they are unflappable for his or her capacity to deliver seemingly limitless low bass response. They are all 50 years old today and you’ll pay a minimum of several thousand dollars used, and when you get yours, you’ll know why people pay such ridiculous prices. They really are that good.
Of course the McIntosh, when operating to the original specifications, has such little distortion it sounds less “tubey” than weaker amplifiers. If you’re playing a McIntosh that hasn’t been serviced in a decade, then it’s probably out of spec or needing new tubes, whereby it is going to get more distortion as well as a more “tubey” sound. Here’s in which the art comes in: just how much euphonic distortion do you want?
For most of us with reasonable budgets, choose the Xiangsheng DA-05B DAC. If you appreciate it loud and possess unlimited funds, or like to crank the bass without biamplification, get a used McIntosh MC240. The new version of the MC275 is probably very good for that rich and unadventurous, but it’s an alternative design compared to the classics and i also have not tested it.