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Q: Can I tell at a glance if my preamp is tube or transistor?

Can you recognize by a glance what kind of amplifier you have in front of you without reading the specifications? Do they have special visual features? For instance, could I recognize a vacuum tube from a transistor one?


The answer is yes, you can tell instantly.

There is a perception in the pro audio manufacturing industry that solid state preamplifiers (transistor, FET, integrated circuit) are ordinary and vacuum tube preamplifiers are special.

(Or perhaps that's a perception put about by clever marketing.)

So a tube amplifier will always be very clearly identified as such, so that a potential purchaser can see that it is supposed to be special.

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So you will see 'TUBE' in big large letters on the front panel.

Or you will actually be able to see the tube(s) through a window in the case. Hi-fi manufacturers sometimes mount the tubes externally, but that would be too fragile for studio use.

If you can't see 'TUBE' written on the front, or a window displaying the tubes inside, then it is almost certainly a solid-state device.

If you come across an exception, please let us know!

By David Mellor Friday July 23, 2010

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