A bit of valves indulgence...
Let me say first that as most of us geeks and idiophiles we love looking at valve amps and we carry that romantic notion that they sound better than solid state. Being an electronic engineer by trade, and looking at test results alone, I will have to disappoint a lot of people by saying that there is NO technical way they can sound better. I will try to prove my point in a minute.
But before I do, let me recount an experience that let me in doubt of that statement.
A few years back, I have spent an afternoon listening to Tosca valve amps teamed up with Ocellia speakers and I have to admit that I did throughly enjoyed myself, almost missing my plane back to Sydney.
You read the whole story on my "Interviews" page.
Now, you will find below some very troubling comparisons that I have extracted from the Australian Hifi Magazine. I don't recall anybody doing such a comparison before. And let me state that what I am about to present is NOT intended to belittle or promote the chosen products. Neither is it a reflexion on the reviewer(s) involved. Some might think so when they see me using Bryston as a solid state reference, and yes there is a certain level of bias here (sic) as I know very well and use a Bryston 3B in my system. These two products have similar usage and pricing and both are very well engineered and built, and the Audio Space looks almost like a Nagra on steroids - very sexy indeed!
So here we are:
Audio Space Reference 3.1 (300B) - price in Oz 5.480$
Transient response is very limited by the high frequency roll off of the circuitry and the limitations of the output transformers, the bass response is truncated due to the necessary coupling capacitors between stages and the harmonic distortion is quite high, all these factors contributing to the rather mellifluous sound, a trademark of valve amps. These results are fairly typical of most valve amps. This is just an example of one which is actually very well built and deemed excellent on listening tests.
Read the whole review here: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2013/2013-09/audio_space_ref_3p1_amp_review_test_lores.pdf
Bryston 135-SST2 - price in Oz 5,999$
On the the other hand, solid state gives you near perfect transient response throughout the usable bandwidth, with some ringing only on a capacitive load. Note that on a such a load the valve amp is actually working better than on a resistive load, hence the reason why they are deemed to work so well with electrostatic panels.
Harmonic distortion on the solid state amp is buried in the overall very low noise of the amp.
Read the whole review here: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2013/2013-05/bryston_b135sst2_amplifier_review_test_lo-res.pdf
Both amps were deemed to be excellent on listening tests and the jury is still out there on which technology is better.
My particular taste in the way I like music reproduced is one leaning towards "realism" and "accuracy", rather than "musicality". In most cases I find the rendition of the music I listen to more satisfying on a good solid state amplifier.
But, as a journalist, I am interested in both technologies, and as a photographer, I am much more inclined to shoot valve porn than surgical solid state - although Dan D'Agostino gets my photographic juices flowing...
So without further ado, here are a few of these pictures taken at the Show
I hope you have enjoyed the journey through this Show review. Stay tuned as I am about to make a major announcement in the days to come. And yes, it might be a Christmas present for the lucky owners of Microphase speakers - hopefully some are still alive!!!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.