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Tubes Versus Transistors-Is There an Audible Difference

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Engineers and musicians have long debated the question of tube sound versus transistor sound. Previous attempts to measure this difference have always assumed linear operation of the test amplifier. This conventional method of frequency response, distortion, and noise measurement has shown that no significant difference exists. This paper, however, points out that amplifiers are often severely overloaded by signal transients (THD 30%). Under this condition there is a major difference in the harmonic distortion components of the amplified signal, with tubes, transistors, and operational amplifiers separating into distinct groups.

JAES Volume 21 Issue 4 pp. 267-273; May 1973
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AES - Audio Engineering Society