The topic of amplifiers is fascinating and all too frequently misunderstood area in the world of performance audio. The misunderstandings and resulting false conclusions are the result of many factors. You have likely heard the usual stereotypes about amplifiers such as:
-Solid state amplifiers are required for high power and difficult to drive loudspeakers
-Solid state amplifier are less expensive
-Solid state amplifiers have the best sounding bass
-Tube amplifiers always make systems sound better
-Tube amplifiers add distortion that makes the sound "warmer"
-Tube amplifiers are "more musical"
The list could go on and on, with all of these stereotyping statements being false in one way or another. Truth be told, amplifiers and their operating designs, are extremely complex and cannot possibly be categorized into two simple groups of tubes vs solid state. Here's why.
The design and the resulting sound quality of an amplifier, is influnced by many factors. Overall topology and layout of the design, type of parts used, and the quality of parts used play a major role in creating the sound quality from an amplifier. Amplifiers from either the solid state or tube amplifier categories have the potential to be designed really well or not so well. We will not get into the design and engineering aspects here of what makes amplifiers sound good or not so good, but let is suffice to say that not all amplifiers are created equal. Which brings us back to the title of this entry, what amplifier do I need?
The best thing you can do is ask around and do some research. A word of warning however. Many internet forums are filled with strong opinions that are not well supported with facts, With that out of the way, you may wish to call a dealership near you for advice on amplifiers to try, or give a call to a retailer with great service such as The Needle Doctor. After you have spoken with several sources about amplifiers to try with your system, find a way to audition the amplifier in your system at home.
This short article is meant to open your awareness to the world of amplifiers and avoid falling victim to stereotypes that lead you towards the purchase of an amplifier that is not ideal for your system. The best advice would be to keep an open mind and try a variety of amplifiers before making a decision. If you have never tried tube amplifiers or never tried solid state, there are numerous choices that can take your system to another level of enjoyment.
Our listening experiences with GRAVITAS loudspeakers allowed the opportunity to try a wide variety of amplifiers, both tube powered amps and solid state. We have experienced excellent results with these amplifiers:
-Constellation (solid state)
-BAT (solid state and tubes)
-Pass Labs (solid state)
We will cover the topic of amplifiers in the next blog entry with more details about what makes for a great amplifier. In the meantime, try out some amplifiers in your system and hear the results. Send us an email with your findings! We love to talk audio.