“Engineers and musicians have long debated the question of tube sound versus transistor sound.”
From the AES Journal, in the form of a paper first presented in 1972, Russell Hamm delivers a quasi-scientific study and analysis of the difference between tube and solid-state microphone pre-amps. Click here to read the fourteen-page article. This paper confirms what most recording engineers seem to realize intuitively: solid-state and vacuum tube amplifiers operate equally ‘well’ (read: musically-pleasing) when operated totally clean. However, Hamm reports that tube microphone pre-amps offer 15 – 20 db more acceptable semi-distorted headroom on transients, while only showing a 2-4 db actual increase in electrical output over this range. I.E., as Hamm states, tube microphone pre-amps can be extremely effective compressors. There’s more to it than that; read the piece and draw your own conclusions.