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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I will only say this: Every big name SS amp brand in Munich failed to make convincing music…every one. I am talking Soulution, CH Precision, Vitus, D’Agostino, Nagra, Krell, Mark Levinson, Pilium, AVM, Audionet MBL, MSB and yes even darTZeel (although they were probably the best of the lot).

What did sound good and seemed plentiful were hybrids.

Aries Cerst had new hybrids of unique design (only a single stage), Ypsilon was good, Cessaro used a hybrid, Gobel speakers were driven by a hybrid, TotalDac too. Also Audionec by Riviera

Every room with “Statement” SS digital sounded bland or, well, digital (Wadax, MSB, DCS, CH, Soulution ). Rooms with reference tube DACs (Aries Cerat Homerus, TotalDac, Horizon etc.) were at least decent to excellent. Connection? I don’t know but that’s what I heard.

Statement analog with tube phonostages sounded mostly wonderful.
They didn't convince you, which is fine and your personal opinion is respected, but all of the brands that you mention did convince a LOT of other people. Different strokes for different folks.
 
My top SS ranking based on what i heard in munich , which is limited off course because things can be changed with better system matching.
This was a goal of my show visit in the first place before to buy any SS.

1 The gryphon apex
2 R Koda
3 CH precision Pilium FM acoustics

The first 2 were more natural sounding with Pilium not far behind .
Id have liked to hear the pilium on a Kharma or Rockport lyra which wery my top speakers together with Kroma ls
 
My top SS ranking based on what i heard in munich , which is limited off course because things can be changed with better system matching.
This was a goal of my show visit in the first place before to buy any SS.

1 The gryphon apex
2 R Koda
3 CH precision Pilium FM acoustics
It's interesting to me but also perplexing for me. Not sure if the brands that you heard at the show with the systems that they happen to be in, with the power they are using, in the rooms that they are in, will deliver the best match for your system/room/speakers etc. Maybe, but maybe not.

I think at the shows you can definitely get a great clue and you can physically see the equipment and hear what it did at that show/system/room, but will it do the same for you in your room/system/show. I hope it does.

I only say all of this because I can change one power cord and change what a system sounds like. With so many variables involved with hearing a system/component at a show and "hoping" it does the same thing for you in your home/system is always a bit scary for me. But that's just me, I'm sure you are different as is everyone else.
 
Homogeneity can be a feature of either tube or SS.

After years of getting my head around this I feel the best aspects of authenticity for me lay more easily (and cost effectively) with the better tube amps… that great SS is a different beast altogether (even when it displays tube like qualities) than it is to great tubes and they both lead to essentially quite different experiential outcomes.

The strength of the best tubes lays for me in an unhomogenous gestalt of an honest natural balance… and great SS portrays sounds with a different kind of greater apparent distinction. This stuff is all layered in preference though. Where your focus is shapes preference.

Great SS can make the various difference in the parts clear and great tubes can tend to do better for me at its clear presentation of the whole. Not to say both can’t do some of both or quite well at either.
 
Homogeneity can be a feature of either tube or SS.

After years of getting my head around this I feel the best aspects of authenticity for me lay more easily (and cost effectively) with the better tube amps… that great SS is a different beast altogether (even when it displays tube like qualities) than it is to great tubes and they both lead to essentially quite different experiential outcomes.

The strength of the best tubes lays for me in an unhomogenous gestalt of an honest natural balance… and great SS portrays sounds with a different kind of greater apparent distinction. This stuff is all layered in preference though. Where your focus is shapes preference.

Great SS can make the various difference in the parts clear and great tubes can tend to do better for me at its clear presentation of the whole. Not to say both can’t do some of both or quite well at either.
For me it’s a little different. It has everything to do with the speakers and the overall system set up.
In some systems I prefer very low wattage SET. And some systems I prefer highpower tubes. And with some speakers and systems I prefer a good solid-state.

I think Peter said above it’s hard to generalize. For me it’s impossible to generalize.
 
I am still hoping to discover if emotional connectedness to the music is itself a form of homogenization. We have been discussing tubes versus solid state for years whether we generalize or not.
 
I am still hoping to discover if emotional connectedness to the music is itself a form of homogenization. We have been discussing tubes versus solid state for years whether we generalize or not.
I get a complete emotional connection from either tubes or solid state depending on the overall system and the music being played. It’s much more about the music that I am listening to than to the gear for the emotional connection for me.
 
@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.
You seem to have missed the part where I put in parenthesis "but heard it again and again over the years at shows". It is not a new observation. So, nothing suspicious and my views have been consistent online for well over a decade (see my 2016 review of Munich on this forum, for example...I was writing for positive feedback then (you can see my review on their site as well).

Coming back after two years without shows and hearing so many "top end " systems with those kinds of components was a reawakening on my views. I went to many of these rooms three or four times just to see if I caught them at a bad time. I report what I hear, you can take whatever bias you think I have into account on my view. I avoided making a "worst of show" list but probably you can guess what would be on it...
 
I personally have no problem with your opinion on any of your reporting. It’s just your opinion nothing more than that.
 
I get a complete emotional connection from either tubes or solid state depending on the overall system and the music being played. It’s much more about the music that I am listening to than to the gear for the emotional connection for me.

For me it all depends. The gear and how it’s set up can often get in the way of emotional connection to the music. Sometimes I listen to music over some system and all I hear is the system. It is too distracting to appreciate the music.

I think one of the questions that Ron is asking is if we are emotionally connected to the music, all music, on a particular system, is that itself somehow a form of homogenization. I’m still confused by what he’s trying to get at.
 
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For me it’s a little different. It has everything to do with the speakers and the overall system set up.
In some systems I prefer very low wattage SET. And some systems I prefer highpower tubes. And with some speakers and systems I prefer a good solid-state.

I think Peter said above it’s hard to generalize. For me it’s impossible to generalize.
I agree the speakers determine which is viable but still the different amps are still different in fundamental experience. But I’m terms of being good or bad or homogeneous it is not possible to generalise.
 
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If you usually shift to tubes from SS at the average Joe, you will immediately get a better tone, timbre, organic feel, decay, flow, NS, call it what you will.

That said, SS requires more work, in terms of set up. Now, Mike's room, coupled with the lowest noise floor and excellent tweak/component matching, does the decay, flow, dynamic range, etc. When he adds tubes, they will increase his noise floor and add haziness, is my guess, from having heard the big 7 with 300b at his place. It is almost like his system is still, there is no component, and the music just emanates. I am sure I won't prefer the Thrax hybrid to the Dartzeel at his, though I did prefer the Thrax hybrid to Dart 468s on Stenheim Alumine 5 in a direct compare elsewhere. However, that is Mike, and in most cases, SS without much tuning, where many audiophiles just spend lavishly to set up big cones with big name amps, will sound similar to what Brad describes in Munich.

The Yamamura and Pnoe (with Mayer) both did something no other systems could do. The Yams have their own SS amp, and is the best speaker/system I have heard with Mike's though no similarity between the two. What the Yam does is exactly like what SETs horns do, yet with a lower noise floor, and higher microdynamic inflection, using SS. Pietro mentioned that he tried many top end SETs from Shindo and Kondo and they did not work well with the Yams.

In Heihei's system which is fronted by a Lampi, the Audionet Stern and Heisenberg has been preferred by him to Mayer pre, Berning Quadratures, etc. I only compared it with Berning Quads, and the Audionet was quite superior on all fronts.

But these above are exceptions, and require a lot of set up and tuning and expense and serendipity.

I prefer Audioarts' FM acoustics-Zellaton to most valve systems except for the best SETs horns I have heard. Again, crazy expensive. In small systems, Jazzhead's was very good with all SS, but still too expensive

The use of Soulution and Dartzeel preamps into valve power amps, in preference to valve preamps, has been confirmed with more than one system from Allnic, Shindo, NAT, Tenor 75 OTL, and CAT. Smart use of SS sandwiched with valve amps and phonos leads to no loss of valve magic, in fact reduces noise floor, cleans up haze, improves drive and resolution, and adds much higher transparency to recordings. Yet, with Pnoe, all Mayer pre, phono, and power is better left to all valve instead of introducing SS in the middle

I preferred the Vitus and Luxman power amps to Kondo Kagura on Magico and to Ypsilon Aelius on Vivid, and I preferred the Vitus integrated to Luxman hybrid integrated on Tannoy Kensington. I am sure the Plium will sound great at Bob's or Bob's. There is an excellent video of a boulder system with old living voice horns (which were not the same as the current ones but more of a prototype)

So yes, we should be open to SS. That said, it is much easier to set up a musical system plugging in valve components, with less tuning effort for room and for the component, as compared to SS systems. A valve set up with Tannoy or devore will take you a long way, and then simple valve components with great horns will take you probably all the way at a much lower expense. It is fine if it does not sound as good as the Yams or Mike's. Only your ego will be hurt.

And if we are asking such general questions, they should be more targeted to the general population, those with normal rooms, reissues, digital streaming, and accessible equipment.
 
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For me it’s a little different. It has everything to do with the speakers and the overall system set up.
In some systems I prefer very low wattage SET. And some systems I prefer highpower tubes. And with some speakers and systems I prefer a good solid-state.

I think Peter said above it’s hard to generalize. For me it’s impossible to generalize.
On this we do not agree. I think the sense of realism in a system has much more to do with the source and the electronics.
 
For me it all depends. The gear and how it’s set up can often get in the way of emotional connection to the music. Sometimes I listen to music over some system and all I hear is the system. It is too distracting to appreciate the music.

I think one of the questions that Ron is asking is if we are emotionally connected to the music, all music, on a particular system, is that itself somehow a form of homogenization. I’m still confused by what he’s trying to get at.
+1. Emotion is always possible with good performance of music… it is essential for something more than a basic objective awareness to take place and I also figure that it’s not that tubes make emotion in the connection but rather that many amps fail to allow emotions to connect fully through.

I feel that when the parts call attention to themselves and there is differentiation from wholeness that the mind kicks in to look for the discrepancies and the feeling that comes from other process within other areas of the mind step back. The answer to music is found in the correlations to expectation.
 
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A tube (model, brand), a particular tube pairing, a few vs many tubes in a particular component… I might buy into the “sameness” proposition but in general I’ve never had that sense from tubes. If there were a place i might be more suspicious of this it would be tube amps that sport many, many tubes to achieve high power output. In that case the sheer number of tubes might mask individual subtleties (plusses or minuses) to balance out the sound into a “sameness” but perhaps that was the intent of the design. I’m not an amp designer (totally ignorant) so I might be talking shit.
 
I think one of the questions that Ron is asking is if we are emotionally connected to the music, all music, on a particular system, is that itself somehow a form of homogenization. I’m still confused by what he’s trying to get at.
Me too. I really have no idea how the word homogenize and audio reproduction work together.

I only say all of this because I can change one power cord and change what a system sounds like.
Especially when you consider the "truth??" of Bobs comment.

It really seems nothing at all in audio is homogenized if a dedinition of homogenize is to not allow, say milk and fat to separate. Extrapolating that to audio would mean some component is noy allowing other inputs to inject their sonic signature which is not the case.

There is really no homogenizing audio as everything impacts everything else.
 
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