Do It Everyday!

Vacuum TubeLearn something new, what in the hell did you think I was talking about?  For the last couple years I have turned into such a homebody and it really has been to my detriment.  Less time spent in the world around people and adding to my database of experiences, sights and sounds has constrained my intellectual expansion.  As an illustration going to had a lesson in science.

The Tree House is a dive and it’s perfect.  Feels a bit like the furnished basement of a friend you would have hung in school to listen to music and play pool in school.  After arriving way too early which is a habit of mine we took our drinks and wondered in the room adjacent to the pool room to listen to the duo that was setting up where there was a tree coming out of the floor and going apparently out into the fresh air above.  Taking a seat on the bench we bullshitted with the duo and when they went off I did the thing I do, take a general inventory of the room.  Thus I looked at all the band stickers plastered on the wall, chalk scribbling on the ceiling and the wear brought by years of musicians adding their own ink to the history of the venue.

On the floor was an amplifier with a panel out.  Musicians are poor I know but there was a vacuum tube looking right back at me.  Briefly, vacuum tubes are controllers of electric energy.  Think of them as the great-great-great-great grandfather to the dimming switch for your wall lights.  Before the vacuum tubes it was either on or not.  I’m no genius but damn didn’t these things go the way of the DoDo bird?  Not being sure I asked Jon if they were transistors or vacuum tubes, I could be wrong.  As an electrical engineer he knows this stuff but usually he assumes that it’s only interesting to him.  In fact his ability to patiently have conversations of this nature was always an attraction to me.

Turns out that for most applications when the transistor, a semi-conductor device used to control electricity, came on the scene the new technology was embraced by most.   Not for the audiophiles.  Sound engineers and musicians for the most part agree that the obsolete vacuum tubes are still the way to go:

Tubes Vs. Transistors, from newsletter #47 of The Absolute Sound magazine:

“… if you want to try to break across the border into something approaching realism, I still think you have to use tubes.” –Harry Pearson, editor

“…tubes are more realistic. They have more bloom; they have more light; they have more body. They do that thing I call ‘action,’ which solid-state doesn’t… tubes just eat solid-state alive.” –Jonathan Valin

“… what you almost never get out of a solid-state piece of equipment is a sense of continuousness…” –Harry Pearson

“… there is a subtle but unmistakable sense of roundedness and solidity that tubes have…” –Paul Seydor

“… [tubes] give you the sense of having much more power. A 60-watt solid-state and a 60-watt tube amp never sound equivalent in terms of power.” –Harry Pearson

“… I hear more stuff with tubes…” –Jonathan Valin

“You can tell some things from measurements … but that tells you nothing about how the amplifier communicates the music. You get that from listening.” –Robert Harley

So I learned something new.  Advances in technology will never suit all users and so what is thought of as archaic by some are heralded as exceptional.  As much as I read and watch all the science and physics programming that I can I don’t think such a living example would have been presented to me.Vacuum Tube