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To Hans Wetzel,

Wow! A dismissive attack on vacuum tubes and record players on an audiophile website written not as a letter to the editor, but by its editor as if his opinion was fact -- incredible.

Everyone has their preferences (and is entitled to them), but dismissing LPs and tubes altogether as outmoded just seems silly, especially in such a brief essay. Perhaps you're just trying to be controversial? It's one thing to say tubes and vinyl aren't for you, but quite another to dismiss them out of hand.

For my part, I've never heard a 100-percent solid-state amplification and digital-source system at any price point that didn't leave me just a bit cold. That includes high-resolution digital sources and top-end solid-state amplification. That's not to say there was nothing enjoyable about these systems, quite the opposite. Still, I wouldn't trade a less-expensive tube/vinyl system for any more expensive solid-state/digital system I've ever heard.

Some folks like vanilla and some folks like chocolate. Arguing that the "vanilla folks" are somehow misguided is just foolish. Same goes for preferences in audio. Yet audiophiles seem prone to being absurdly hidebound as to their particular preferences being "correct" and anyone who doesn't agree being "deaf." Unfortunately, it seems that many audiophiles enjoy looking down their noses at anyone whose system preferences, ideas about audio, taste in music, etc., don't agree with their own more than they actually enjoy listening to music.

Ironic then that an audiophile website devoted to less-costly entry-level gear and thus designed at least in part to draw in new high-end enthusiasts would publish an outright dismissal of a fairly large sector of the hobby.

Sincerely,
Travis Cunningham

A few points in response.

My monthly writings, per their filing under the "Feature Articles" section of the website, reflect only my personal opinion. Accordingly, my intention is not to be controversial, but rather to illustrate my own views on various aspects of the high-end audio scene. I can see how many tube lovers would heartily disagree with me, however.

In turn, I think if you reread my piece you would find that I support this very subjective opinion with nothing but facts. Tubes are a 100-year-old technology that by definition are outmoded (or old-fashioned) within the context of high-end audio. Their characteristic warmth is a result of audible distortion. Lastly, they generally have a shorter lifespan and are less efficient than transistors. I don't think any of these points are in dispute.

Finally, I am in total agreement with you that everyone is entitled to their own preference. My piece expresses only my lack of understanding as to why many listeners prefer tubes and LPs over more modern designs. I don't believe I wrote that such listeners were in any way wrong or "deaf." I don't think that my hearing is any more correct than other listeners'. But where I take issue with your "vanilla/chocolate" example is that there is no objective criterion for evaluating the qualities of one flavor over the other that are not, on their face, arbitrary. In high-end audio, however, subjective opinions about equipment are often taken in tandem with technical measurements. On that basis, I don't fully appreciate why tube fans prefer a sound that is "colored," in a way, by vacuum tubes. My ultimate point was that solid-state designs are getting much better at capturing the musicality and warmth that you seem to find so appealing in tube/vinyl rigs, perhaps making the newest generation of solid state gear attractive to listeners like you and me.

Fittingly apropos of all this, I will be reviewing an amp/preamp pairing that includes a single vacuum tube to "smooth the harsh digital edge." I am very much looking forward to hearing the duo in action, and appraising it not to see if it accords with my personal taste, but on its own performance-related merits. I may yet come to like tubes! I hope this afforded some context and clarity on my original piece. Happy listening, Travis. . . . Hans Wetzel