Tubes vs. Transistors in Recording Equipment

“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.




3 thoughts on “Tubes vs. Transistors in Recording Equipment”

  1. The later article Hamm wrote, “Transistors Can Sound Better Than Tubes”, is MUCH tougher to find. I wonder why.

    1. Nothing evil here: “The later article Hamm wrote, “Transistors Can Sound Better Than Tubes”” is published in the AES Journal, it’s just not free (5 $ for AES members, 20 $ for non-members). Go to “”, then to “publications”, then “AES E-Library”, enter “Hamm”, and search.

  2. No, I’m not going to pay $20 to AES for a forty year old article. I’m sorry, I’m not now and am not going to join AES, especially since their conventions are nothing but a phat toob mic pre fest anymore. Nothing but overpriced recording gear. No speakers, no amplifiers, no nothing anymore.

    Copyright duration needs a trimming back. Badly.

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