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Vacuum Tube Audio in the 21st Century

Why are tube stereos coming back for the audiophiles?

Home theaters and other devices we use today transfer information digitally as computer code. However, it was the vacuum tube that started the home electronics boom in the first place. Find out why tube stereo systems are making a comeback in the 21st century.

Why do vacuum tube stereos still exist?

In the years following the end of the Cold War, the traditional vacuum tube became commonplace in high-end audio products. While the US is firmly entrenched in the production of solid-state digital devices, countries that once lagged behind the digital curve still had large pipe manufacturing plants.

These countries began to manufacture and export vacuum tubes to the west. As a result, American manufacturers such as Audio Research, Cary Audio, ECP Audio, Glow Audio, Granite Audio, Jolida, Manley Labs, McIntosh, Rogue Audio and others have benefited from this phenomenon.

Vacuum tube audio components

Many true audiophiles have never been fully satisfied with the cool, sterile sound quality and performance of transistors and integrated circuits. A niche market has therefore opened up for vacuum tube audio equipment.

While it is possible to import inexpensive vacuum tube audio products from China, several American manufacturers offer affordable vacuum tube audio products, including amplifiers, preamps, and headphone amplifiers. Some are Bluetooth compatible so you can enjoy the convenience of direct wireless Bluetooth streaming and the warm sound of the vacuum tube.

McIntosh Laboratories

Subscribe to online and print publications such as Audiophilia, The Absolute Sound, Superior Audio and Stereophile Magazine for updates on vacuum tube audio products and trends.

home theater apps

Vacuum tube also entered the home theater environment with products such as the Jolida Fusion vacuum tube CD carry, the OPPO BDP-105 vacuum tube modified Blu-ray player, and the Decware Ultra multi-channel preamplifier.

By adding a multi-channel hybrid vacuum tube power amplifier (an amplifier that combines vacuum tubes and solid-state design), such as the Butler Audio Model 5150, you can have a vacuum tube home theater sound system.

Butler Audio Model 5150 5-Channel Vacuum Tube Hybrid Power Amplifier

Vacuum tubes in your ear and on the road

In addition to home audio and home theater products, companies like Apex Audio, Moon Audio, and Vincent Audio make tube headphone amplifiers. You can find tube amplifiers for car stereos from manufacturers such as Butler Audio (Tube Driver) and Milbert Amplifiers.

Moon Audio Headphone Amp—Butler Audio Car Amplifier

Moon Audio and Butler Audio

Are vacuum tube amplifiers worth the cost?

Dedicated fans consider the warm, bright sound of a good tube amp to be unmatched. The only way to know if you should dive in is to look for a vacuum audio product demo. If you have a CD player, DVD player or TV with RCA analog audio outputs, you can connect it to a preamplifier or vacuum amplifier and experience the sound of vacuum tube audio.

If you decide to purchase state-of-the-art tube audio equipment, the Dynaco Stereo-70 tube power amplifier is a timeless classic. Originally introduced in the late 1950s, its design has changed slightly over the years and has been discontinued for a while. However, the Dynaco Stereo-70 has been revived with a new design and now has a higher price tag.

Dynaco ST-70 Series 3 vacuum tube power amplifier 35 watts per channel

Dynaco / Radial Engineering


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Vacuum Tube Audio in the 21st Century

Why vacuum tube stereos are making a comeback for audiophiles

Home theaters and the other household electronics we use today transfer information digitally as computer code. However, it was the vacuum tube that started the home electronics boom in the first place. Learn why vacuum tube stereo systems are making a comeback in the 21st century.

Why Are Vacuum Tube Stereos Still Around?

In the years following the end of the Cold War, the traditional vacuum tube became common in high-end audio products. With the U.S. firmly entrenched in the production of digital solid-state devices, countries that were previously behind the digital curve still had large tube manufacturing facilities.

Those countries began producing and exporting vacuum tubes to the West. As a result, American manufacturers such as Audio Research, Cary Audio, ECP Audio, Glow Audio, Granite Audio, Jolida, Manley Labs, McIntosh, Rogue Audio, and others have tapped into this phenomenon.

Vacuum Tube Audio Components

Many true audiophiles have never been completely satisfied with the cold, sterile sound quality and performance of transistors and integrated circuits. That’s why a niche market opened up for vacuum tube audio equipment.

While it’s possible to import inexpensive vacuum tube audio products from China, a number of American manufacturers offer affordable vacuum tube audio products, including amplifiers, preamps, and headphone amps. Some support Bluetooth, so you can enjoy the convenience of direct wireless Bluetooth streaming and that warm vacuum tube sound.

McIntosh Labs
For updates on vacuum tube audio trends and products, subscribe to online and print publications like Audiophilia, The Absolute Sound, Superior Audio, and Stereophile Magazine.
Home Theater Applications

The vacuum tube also made its way into the home theater environment with products such as the Jolida Fusion Vacuum Tube CD Transport, the OPPO BDP-105 Vacuum Tube Modified Blu-ray Disc player, and the Decware Ultra multi-channel preamp.

By adding a multi-channel hybrid vacuum tube power amplifier (an amplifier that combines both vacuum tubes and solid-state design) such as the Butler Audio Model 5150, you can have a vacuum tube-based home theater audio system.

Vacuum Tubes in Your Ear and on the Road

In addition to home audio and home theater products, companies such as Apex Audio, Moon Audio, and Vincent Audio make vacuum tube headphone amplifiers. You can find vacuum tube amplifiers for car stereos from manufacturers such as Butler Audio (Tube Driver) and Milbert Amplifiers.

Moon Audio and Butler Audio Are Vacuum Tube Amplifiers Worth the Cost?

Dedicated fans feel that the warm, glowing sound of a good vacuum tube amplifier has no equal. The only way to know if you should take the plunge is to seek out a demonstration of vacuum audio products. If you have a CD player, DVD player, or TV with RCA analog audio outputs, you can connect it to a vacuum preamp or amp and experience the sound of vacuum tube audio.

Should you decide to acquire high-end vacuum tube audio gear, one classic that has stood the test of time is the Dynaco Stereo-70 vacuum tube power amp. Originally introduced in the late 1950s, its design changed somewhat through the years and was discontinued for a time. However, the Dynaco Stereo-70 has been revived with a new design and now commands a higher price.

Dynaco / Radial Engineering

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