Choosing an amplifier for your vinyl turntable is an important part of your audiophile life. And even though it boils down to just two types, there is a real war of tube amp vs. solid-state, as you can easily see if you visit a forum of admirers of one or the other type. Therefore, this article will be more informative. Here I will tell you about the main advantages, disadvantages, and differences between the types of amplifiers. Hopefully, this will help you decide the first step – who you are: a tube or solid-state amp fan. But ultimately, you will still have to dive into an endless sea of brands, modifications, and varieties, requiring researching and testing models that fit your preferences and budget. Well, let’s get started.
The roots of the tube amplifier go far back in history, to when it was first created in 1906 by inventor Lee de Forest. Today, the design differs from the original, being the interaction between cathodes and anodes in a vacuum, which creates the voltage. And by type, tube amplifiers are divided into single-band or push-pull, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. But the warm, soft, comfortable sound, which is so appreciated by its fans, characterizes any of them. And in addition to the warmth of the sound, its realism is also worth highlighting. Enthusiasts of tube amplifiers call this effect “holographic”, as if it immerses you in the center of events, surrounding you with the sound of each instrument from different angles. If you suddenly need more power, you can also replace such an amp with another tube amp whenever you want. All of these are advantages.
At high power and low frequencies, tube amplifiers make noise and are unclear. So you will have to sacrifice listening volume for optimum quality. Thus, we can conclude that this type will suit those audiophiles who prefer quiet genres of music. However, they are unsuitable for heavy bright ringing genres, like Metal, as they do not give enough clarity, squeal, or mix in the bass. Also, the disadvantages include the fact that they are very flimsy. So you must know how to handle them for the same replacement, store them properly, and be careful. And you could say that a breakdown of such an amplifier is not a problem, given the possibility of replacing it. But here’s the trouble – they are not cheap!
Solid-state amplifiers are modern devices called transistor amplifiers, elementary because they use transistor circuits. So you connect them to your speakers without transformers, getting sound from an electrical signal.
They are powerful and give you clear sound and deep bass instead of tube amplifiers. No noise, hum, or extra distortion. Besides, many audiophiles on a tight budget can afford them. And they serve for a long time without requiring replacement or specific maintenance. The solid-state amplifier will suit the fans of electronic music and heavy genres of Rock and Metal, but also the fans of classical music, where the clarity of each instrument is important in the overall picture of the composition.
The choice is clear, you will say here. But I still recommend you listen and feel the difference in the sound of each type of amplifier because the solid-state one sounds cold, chiseled, and harsh without proper volume. Hence, it is impossible to say that it will satisfy every taste. In addition, the high volume often results in signal clipping, in other words, clipping. But they are compatible with any speaker.
All in all, I hope you understand that it is better to hear once than to read a hundred times, but now you at least have an idea of each type of amplifier.
To summarize, there is no clear answer to whether tube amps are better or solid-state. As you may have understood from this article, the choice is determined by your preferred genre of music, your budget, how important loudness or clarity and warmth are to you, and even what kind of speakers you have. If you’re determined to win on this issue, set yourself up for a long road of trial and error integrating an amplifier for your turntable into your audio system, and you’ll be rewarded in the end. After all, the important thing is to keep you happy.