Rebirth of the Tube Amplifier

A tube amplifier, also called a valve amplifier, is a type of electronic amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to increase the power of a signal. They were used in almost all audio equipment until the 1970s when the silicon transistor became increasingly pervasive.

Are tube amplifiers still used today?

Valves are still highly desired in audio applications by most professional users, especially in recording studios equipment and among guitar players who still prefer a tube amp. There is also a subgroup of audio buffs among Hi-Fi enthusiasts who advocate the use of tube amplifiers. They argue that these amps produce a warmer or more natural valve sound. If you are part of this group, the good news is that companies in Asia and Eastern Europe continue to produce valves to cater to this market.

What are the advantages of a tube stereo amplifier?

Apart from their retro look, the following are some of the advantages of a tube amp:

  • Valves are very linear, making it viable to use them in low distortion linear circuits with little or no negative feedback, giving you a clear sound.
  • Tubes are inherently suitable for high voltage circuits.
  • Tube stereo amps are electrically very robust. They can withstand overloads for minutes that would destroy solid state systems in milliseconds. They can also tolerate very high transient peak voltages without damage.
  • These amps generally operate at applied voltages well below their maximum capability, providing long life and reliability.
  • Tube stereo amps have softer clipping when overloading the circuit, which many audio enthusiasts believe gives a more pleasant and more musically satisfying sound.
  • Maintenance tends to be easier because you can generally replace faulty tubes yourself.

Which valve amps can I buy?

There are many tube amps available, some of which are:

  • Nirvana 300B SET. This hand-assembled highly decorative amp provides deep, powerful, extended bass and highs that extend to the limits of human hearing. It provides two-channel audio output rated at 8 watts per channel.
  • Rogue Audio Atlas Magnum. This retro-styled power amp features two-channel stereo L/R RCA audio output. The vintage tubes generate 100 watts of sound output per channel.
  • Yaqin VK 2100. This Hi-Fi tube integrated amplifier provides two channels of stereo sound at 85 watts per channel. It has four L/R RCA inputs and it is equipped with two banana speaker jack outputs.
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