How much of this preference do you think could be familiarity?(*warning, subjective impressions incoming, please don your sunglasses or visor shields....*)
I was thinking of this thread after my experience today. I've been thinking for years it would be fun to have a solid state amp around to throw in to my 2 channel system sometimes (replacing my CJ tube amps/preamp). Then it occurred to me..duh!...I have a solid state amp, my Denon AV Receiver. (130 W into 8ohms/180W into 4ohms). It's just so complexly wired up for my HT stuff I'd never have thought to use it. But I just bought some speaker extension cables:
These made it really easy to just unplug the cables going to my L/R home theater system and extend those cables out to my 2 channel Joseph Audio speakers.
I could only use a digital source, so I streamed some albums I know well to my AV receiver.
Boy that was fun! I had the exact same experience every time I do this: Wow...*that* sure sounds different!
Gone was the slightly golden glow of the tube sound, replaced with a super clean, precision. Recordings sounded even more "precise" in terms of the teeniest bits of
character, reverbs, different drum cymbals being struck, etc. Bass was both in tighter grip, strong, yet perfectly balanced at all times. My recent set up had given me really tight bass from my system...for a tube amp...but this reminded me, yeah, it can get even better with a solid state amp.
I listened for some hours, quite fascinated, to lots of stuff I knew well, including some Level 42 tracks I've been playing on vinyl lately (80's fusion/funky stuff). It sounded so powerful, yet controlled, with deeper bass than I remember from the LP. Though...some aspects seemed a bit lacking from what I usually crave. The sound was a bit "see through," drum snares etc had precise timbre, but less air-moving snap than I'm used to. Also, voices tended to sound more electronic than I'm used to, sibilance with many female pop vocals harder and more steely, a bit more distracting and edgy.
Time to add some more distortion back.......
I swapped the cables back so I was now playing the same sources, but through my CJ tube preamp and monoblock tube amps!
Well....*that* sure sounds different! There was that glow again, that solidity, with that relaxed quality. The sound "lit up" in a way that sounded more live, yet also more relaxed and not "bright." Vocals sounded more soft and fleshy, sibilance "relaxed" in to the vocals sounding more plausibly human, horns in orchestral parts lit up with that golden brassy glow I'm familiar with. With my AV receiver recordings sounded like great recordings; with the tube stuff it had a bit more "it's live" presentation.
Time for more distortion! I changed to LP, throwing on that Level 42 vinyl I'd been listening to (excellent recording). First impression: yup, the bass wasn't as powerfully deep. BUT...there was that solid snappy "crack" of the snare drum I'd been missing. And the punchier "bap" of the kick drum impact. And everything just solidified more, even if a teeny bit of precision in timbre/detail was given up.
I can see someone preferring either one, but I absolutely preferred the tube presentation (and LP as well). It just reminds me of how I got to where I am with my system.
Still, until perhaps I pick up a spare solid state amp, I'll be using my AV reciever sometimes, because it's a nice change and I certainly do appreciate aspects of the sound. I just wouldn't want to live there, I think.
(*ladies and gentlemen, the *subjectivist* has left the building, you are free to take off your visors and get back to technical talk....*)
If you listened to the solid state exclusively for a few weeks or months, do you think it possible you would then find the tube amplification lacking, and less "preferred"?
IE - could it be just that your hearing is "used to", or adapted to the tube sound.