Do Tubes Homogenize the Sound of Our Music?

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Do tube electronics impart a sameness to the sound of our music -- do they homogenize in some way the sounds of our stereo systems?

In a thread comparing the Lampizator Horizon to the dCS Vivaldi Apex MikeL wrote:

The other thing to consider is whether the Horizon has any tube artifacts that impart a sameness over the music. i did not hear that when i listened to the Horizon at Axpona, but 5 years ago, when i compared the Lampi GG 1.5 and the Aqua Formula dac directly in my system i found the Formula was more synergistic with my system, and allowed my system to be more truthful about the music. the tubes obscured information in some spots. i was reminded i was listening to tubes with the GG 1.5.

LampiNA replied:

"I am glad you don't detect this quality with the Horizon.

I would just gently mention that two generations of Lampizator DAC designs have happened in the 6-7 years since that build and the tube output stages of the entire line up do not portray this quality."

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Other than early conrad-johnson and very "romantic" traditional tube sound, I almost invariably prefer tube electronics to solid-state electronics, component by component. I have made these direct comparisons many times and in many systems. Tubes just "work" for me. Tubes allow me a greater emotional connection to the music.

But I 100% believe that tubes are another merely subjective preference of this hobby. I totally get that many other audiophiles feel differently, and find tube electronics sonically objectionable for one or more reasons.

Despite my personal preference for tubes us tube aficionados have to be intellectually honest and acknowledge that people who prefer solid-state electronics often feel that tubes impart a sameness -- a homogeneity -- to the sound.

Years ago Michael Fremer directly compared in his system VTL Siegfried IIs to the mighty darTZeel 458s. Michael preferred the darTZeels.

Our MikeL several years ago gave me the opportunity to compare in his system the mighty VAC 450s to the darTZeel 458s. I came away with tremendous respect for the darTZeels, but I would've walked out the door with the VAC 450s.

MikeL, in contrast, preferred the darTZeels. If I remember correctly -- and MikeL should please correctly me if I am wrong -- one of the reasons MikeL preferred the dartTZeels is that he felt the VAC 450s imparted a very slight tube sameness to the sound.

What do you think? Do you feel tubes impart a sonic sameness to the sound of music?
 
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Just to give an example, in Alieno I got a sameness with the EML 300b XL tubes and not with the elrog or KR tubes.

So you just can't generalize this. I understand in the context of Mike's system, and those which have been well tuned with SS why this might be the case. Theoretically if someone holds the view tubes are coloring then this will be true. But I think this has been discussed at length..

In my friend's all Allnic system there was a boring sameness which went away by replacing the preamp L3000 (their lowest model) with Soulution 720.

However, replacing the Mayer phono with the Vyger SS phono in an all Mayer chain did not get the same benefits as in the above Allnic Soulution scenario because Mayer did not have the Allnic problem.

I have found Lampi to be more transparent to recordings in the same system than the analog which had the top Pass phono
 
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Everything homogenizes to a degree because nothing is completely neutral, but I suppose at some point it might cross a threshold where the sound is now considered homogenized. I suspect this thread will be all about how to define that point. Also, some amplifiers may cross this threshold regardless of the specific amplification devices used, albeit in different ways.
 
I want to say something here that has gotten a little bit under my skin…

When I joined with Bob V (Rhapsody) and became the Portland “ Rhapsody Listening Room“ I took a lot of grief about how every comment i might offer was no longer to be trusted because i now had a profit agenda.

But Morricab has visited Munich and says all the SS amps don’t deliver, but his brand, that he represents, delivers all the goods. How come I got called out out so vociferously and I have NEVER had negative comments about any brand.
 
I don't know I understand what homogenize or sameness really means.

I have noticed there is a bit of expected tonality and performance based upon what type of tube and circuit is used.

But the same is a bit similar with SS.

Maybe it could be callled a house sound.

To that concept, is a sameness or homogeneous sound really more a house sound or circuit topology sound.
 
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I want to say something here that has gotten a little bit under my skin…

When I joined with Bob V (Rhapsody) and became the Portland “ Rhapsody Listening Room“ I took a lot of grief about how every comment i might offer was no longer to be trusted because i now had a profit agenda.

But Morricab has visited Munich and says all the SS amps don’t deliver, but his brand, that he represents, delivers all the goods. How come I got called out out so vociferously and I have NEVER had negative comments about any brand.
Why this thread?

Maybe you need to go to audio sales 101- 103 where they teach you to trash talk the competition, and anything you sold last year that's outdated today.
 
Why this thread?

Maybe you need to go to audio sales 101- 103 where they teach you to trash talk the competition, and anything you sold last year that's outdated today.
I should have referenced Morricab’s post #19, upthread. (And his others on the Munich 2022 thread.)
 
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This is a very mixed thead. Very divergent perceptions. But its a little like the Axpona thread. It seems shows are fun, but a little deflating.

Its a shame you were rashed elsewhere. It can be mentally draining. From what I remember, you write clean and pleasantly. At least no post I remember made me cringe when I have read them. That's a plus for me.
 
I want to say something here that has gotten a little bit under my skin…

When I joined with Bob V (Rhapsody) and became the Portland “ Rhapsody Listening Room“ I took a lot of grief about how every comment i might offer was no longer to be trusted because i now had a profit agenda.

But Morricab has visited Munich and says all the SS amps don’t deliver, but his brand, that he represents, delivers all the goods. How come I got called out out so vociferously and I have NEVER had negative comments about any brand.
Because you are a VIP Bob. You get special treatment. :D

Seriously Bob I always view your comments come pure. They are how you heard whether you have business interest in it now or none in the past. So Just want to let you know there is me and other people also who dont view you that way.

@Ron Resnick. Is there a trophy for me for being cordial and positive to fellow members.
 
Ahh, a familiar can of worms... Work in this business for a weekend and some form of this conversation will be brought to your table. The answer is that, it depends. A mosfet is an amplification device. So is a tube. The degree to which one is linear or not, euphonic or not, depends entirely upon the implementation. I could blindfold an audiophile guest and play them a system sporting a tube amplifier which they might swear was solid state. You can come close to doing the same with certain solid state devices mimicking 'ye old tube sound'. Recording studios deal with filters (typically solid state) for these effects daily...some will just use a tube buffer. Remember the second generation of digital amps? The first was just shy of nails on a chalkboard, and the second generation (not all but many) over-corrected and sounded like EL34s playing a stereo in the trunk of a car.

Regardless, the historical stereotypes of how these devices play is officially antiquated and not because they weren't valid. We've simply come to a place with so many approaches, varied circuit designs and material advances, that it's impossible to categorize sound in that fashion with any degree of accuracy. It gets worse by a magnitude when you throw this smorgasbord atop a burning heap of system synergy. As we like to joke, we can make the finest components sound awful.

I may have gone off topic a tad. Do tubes homogenize the sound? Certainly some can, but any choice of device can accomplish the same. Regardless, it's certainly not an inherent trait. The 'best' tube designs, as the 'best' solid state and digital designs, all get closer to the music. I would venture to say that if your experience with amplifier design is categorically structured, then you haven't had the right pieces on hand...or there is some other limiting factor in your system.
 
Bobvin, Kingrex,

Your sales topic has nothing to do with the subject of this thread. Please do not derail this thread any further. Feel free to start a new thread to discuss your unrelated topic.
 
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Everything imparts a sameness. If it didn't, we'd be shooting in the dark when assembling a system. I can generalize the following: I generally dislike pentodes and generally prefer triodes. I generally dislike MOSFETs and I generally like BJTs. I generally prefer Class A bias to Class AB. DarTZeel is an exception there! I've always preferred 2A3 to 300b. I generally prefer transformer coupling to capacitor coupling. I generally prefer wire wound resistors to carbon film resistors. Lamm gear is generally laid back and full bodied and a good counterpoint to VdH MS carts which are lively and thin bodied. And on and on.... I'm able to generalize (which is important) through learned experience *because* of the innate character or sameness or coloration of any piece of gear. Tube, solid state, passive, active, it doesn't matter. But then there are obviously degrees, and the entire circuit always creates the sound - not just the tube or the transistor. With that said, though, I've found a few tubes that sound very similar, with distinctly recognizable color every time I've heard them in any gear. E.g. 6550, 6C33C, 300B, EL34, etc. The extent or magnitude of their influence just seems strong.
 
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Everything imparts a sameness. If it didn't, we'd be shooting in the dark when assembling a system. I can generalize the following: I generally dislike pentodes and generally prefer triodes. I generally dislike MOSFETs and I generally like BJTs. I generally prefer Class A bias to Class AB. DarTZeel is an exception there! I've always preferred 2A3 to 300b. I generally prefer transformer coupling to capacitor coupling. I generally prefer wire wound resistors to carbon film resistors. Lamm gear is generally laid back and full bodied and a good counterpoint to VdH MS carts which are lively and thin bodied. And on and on.... I'm able to generalize (which is important) through learned experience *because* of the innate character or sameness or coloration of any piece of gear. Tube, solid state, passive, active, it doesn't matter. But then there are obviously degrees, and the entire circuit always creates the sound - not just the tube or the transistor. With that said, though, I've found a few tubes that sound very similar, with distinctly recognizable color every time I've heard them in any gear. E.g. 6550, 6C33C, 300B, EL34, etc. The extent or magnitude of their influence just seems strong.
What shocked me was what I actually heard across so many systems. The funny thing was that one of the guys I know that was also there from Switzerland reached the same conclusion to me independently from each other. And he has SS amps at home!

Mike made it a point to single out tubes as having a sameness that somehow he believed top SS did not do. After what I heard in Munich this year after a 2 year show break (but heard it again and again over the years at shows) leads me to question this narrative put out there by Mike. I am sure he believes it and based on the way he hears things he clearly thinks the best SS is more transparent and true to the recording I guess. However, this then leads me to one of two choices: A) Recordings are mostly bland affairs with much less dynamic contrast and tonal saturation than real live concerts and the gear just plays it straight or B) They are losing something in their quest for "perfection" that robs them of these live properties.

If A) is correct then I welcome "enhancement" to get the dynamics and tone of the real thing. If B) is correct, then I welcome gear that extracts more from the recording and shows the greatest contrast in those recordings. Either way, I kind of end up at the same place with the same feelings about what I am hearing.

I could have literally sat all day long listening to the Living Voice system with all analog and all tube front end. It made music in an intimate and natural (there's that word) way that strongly reminds me of small scale chamber concerts I have frequently been to over the years...it was not musical...it was music and not hifi. Of course it wasn't perfect and once in a while it got caught out that you weren't hearing the real thing but it was believable enough I could really focus on the music and artistic component and not the whizz bang of the hifi. Was there a sameness? Every recording sounded totally different and yet compelling. So, if engagement to music is the sameness Mike means then guilty as charged!
 
@morricab you've been around the block. It seems somewhat suspicious that you've supposedly only reached this conclusion after attending a show this year. Shows are not even good arbiters of sound. On the other hand, it sounds impressive to rattle off all the big name SS amp builders and say they all suck, but to be honest, anyone who has followed you for even a little while knows you already held that opinion going in.
 
The brain homogenizes sound. It's a gremlin. The brain keys in to any repeated characteristics and in some kind of efficiency process relegates them to lower importance once familiar. It's a hazard of nervosa.

It can happen with either tubes or SS, but since tubes can be more 'pleasing' if you will, they can evade the process a bit longer. There are also a ton of different tubes with different perceivable character depending on type and how they are used.

I listen to tubes and particular solid state (VFET/SIT) and I enjoy them all immensely to varying degrees, but if a gremlin invades on occasion, whether it be brain inurement or an off putting biorhythm, all bets are off and anything can sound bland for a session. Using such generalizations to justify a listening preference between SS and tubes is kind of begging the question.
 
Do tube electronics impart a sameness to the sound of our music -- do they homogenize in some way the sounds of our stereo systems?

I read this thread and I am somewhat puzzled over the primary question: "do tube electronics impart a sameness to the sound of our music." I do not understand the notion of 'tube sameness'.

I wondered what caused the question to be asked. Ron, you said you thought it was an interesting topic to discuss. I suppose we can formulate all sorts of questions to pose to readers. You told Peter you had no agenda and I believe that - I cannot think of anything the question will lead to other than postings and traffic, which perhaps is its rationale.

In support of positing the question, you wrote:
Despite my personal preference for tubes us tube aficionados have to be intellectually honest and acknowledge that people who prefer solid-state electronics often feel that tubes impart a sameness -- a homogeneity -- to the sound.

I try to be intellectually honest. but simply issuing that challenge, imo, does not lend truth to the generalization that follows - it is somewhat a literary trick - ie, not assenting to the claim implies intellectual dishonesty. Granted there will always be people who take one view or another - I don't think there is any universal statement or maxim or guideline to which all audiophiles will agree. I've been in this hobby for a while and read, jeez I don't know how many pages of forum chit-chat, but I have (honestly!) never heard anyone who prefers solid-state electronics make the generalized claim that "tubes impart a sameness -- a homgeneity -- to the sound."

You do give us one example from one person about a specific component, which is just that, one example:
Our MikeL several years ago gave me the opportunity to compare in his system the mighty VAC 450s to the darTZeel 458s. I came away with tremendous respect for the darTZeels, but I would've walked out the door with the VAC 450s.

MikeL, in contrast, preferred the darTZeels. If I remember correctly -- and MikeL should please correctly me if I am wrong -- one of the reasons MikeL preferred the dartTZeels is that he felt the VAC 450s imparted a very slight tube sameness to the sound.

I suppose you could ask a variation of your question: "do Shinkoh Tantalum resistors impose a homogenity on sound?" If my linestage and amplifiers used all Shinkoh Tantalum resistors I expect those components to reflect to some degree the sound one gets when using Shinkoh Tantalum resistors. If someone else has a totally different system and its electronics all use those resistors, I expect it to yield the sound of those electronics using those resistors. Do the two systems sound the same - do Shinkoh Tants homegenize? - dunno, need to listen to them to find out. I expect my electronics to be consistent in the way they sound -- "to be uniform or similar" in the sound they issue forth from one day to the next.

But your question is unlike that variation - do tubes, any tube, all tubes - bring a uniformity or similar sound, indpendently of how they are used. I know you understand the forum terms of service against generalizing, as in 'amplifier XYZ is the best amplifier'. I don't think we can generalize about all components that use a tube.

Except for a couple times, I've had at least one component in my system that uses a tube, sometimes many tubes, sometimes all components. By and large, components have their own character. A line of components from a manufacturer, say the Audio Research Reference series, will, to a degree, have a similar character.

I do think we need to be careful with 'homogenize' or 'homogeneity' and also the word 'similar'. I want my system to offer consistent sound from one day to the next, but I don't want it to make Bernstein with the NY Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall sound like Bernstein with the NY Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center.
 
I read this thread and I am somewhat puzzled over the primary question: "do tube electronics impart a sameness to the sound of our music." I do not understand the notion of 'tube sameness'.

I wondered what caused the question to be asked. Ron, you said you thought it was an interesting topic to discuss. I suppose we can formulate all sorts of questions to pose to readers. You told Peter you had no agenda and I believe that - I cannot think of anything the question will lead to other than postings and traffic, which perhaps is its rationale.

In support of positing the question, you wrote:


I try to be intellectually honest. but simply issuing that challenge, imo, does not lend truth to the generalization that follows - it is somewhat a literary trick - ie, not assenting to the claim implies intellectual dishonesty. Granted there will always be people who take one view or another - I don't think there is any universal statement or maxim or guideline to which all audiophiles will agree. I've been in this hobby for a while and read, jeez I don't know how many pages of forum chit-chat, but I have (honestly!) never heard anyone who prefers solid-state electronics make the generalized claim that "tubes impart a sameness -- a homgeneity -- to the sound."

You do give us one example from one person about a specific component, which is just that, one example:


I suppose you could ask a variation of your question: "do Shinkoh Tantalum resistors impose a homogenity on sound?" If my linestage and amplifiers used all Shinkoh Tantalum resistors I expect those components to reflect to some degree the sound one gets when using Shinkoh Tantalum resistors. If someone else has a totally different system and its electronics all use those resistors, I expect it to yield the sound of those electronics using those resistors. Do the two systems sound the same - do Shinkoh Tants homegenize? - dunno, need to listen to them to find out. I expect my electronics to be consistent in the way they sound -- "to be uniform or similar" in the sound they issue forth from one day to the next.

But your question is unlike that variation - do tubes, any tube, all tubes - bring a uniformity or similar sound, indpendently of how they are used. I know you understand the forum terms of service against generalizing, as in 'amplifier XYZ is the best amplifier'. I don't think we can generalize about all components that use a tube.

Except for a couple times, I've had at least one component in my system that uses a tube, sometimes many tubes, sometimes all components. By and large, components have their own character. A line of components from a manufacturer, say the Audio Research Reference series, will, to a degree, have a similar character.

I do think we need to be careful with 'homogenize' or 'homogeneity' and also the word 'similar'. I want my system to offer consistent sound from one day to the next, but I don't want it to make Bernstein with the NY Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall sound like Bernstein with the NY Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center.
Mike made a similar comment about DACs I believe. There are a lot of others here who comment on tubes "enhancing" the beauty of the music but making it all sound beautiful (i.e. a sameness).
 
Couple of observations:

>> “Tube” amps are such a heterogeneous breed that one should be cautious about generalised statements. An Uber high power push pull kt based amp is as far away from a single ended 45 as you can imagine let alone an OTL. The differences even within triodes is quite dramatic.

>> Audiophiles routinely attempt to drive speakers with too difficult a load for their tube amp - this can often / does lead to a syrupy, flat and boring mess of a sound.

>> Homogeneity can also be especially obvious with solid state amps. The tell tale signs are grain, greyness / lack of tone, absent instrument harmonics, flat stage, and artificiality at a macro scale
 
Mike made a similar comment about DACs I believe. There are a lot of others here who comment on tubes "enhancing" the beauty of the music but making it all sound beautiful (i.e. a sameness).

Guess I have not read those comments. Someone can say that as long as it does not imply anything about solid-state. If it is a relative comment then compared to what? Is it enhanced beauty or is it genuine beauty? Generalizations usually don't get too far before they fall apart. I don't know if that previous sentence is an oxymoron.
 

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