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 Post subject: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 12:35 am 
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Which do you think performs better?


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 1:55 am 
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For ultimate performance, modern solid state gear is going to win. A lot of the advances implemented in current communications gear could not be done practically with vacuum tube technology, imagine trying to implement DDS frequency control or DSP without modern dedicated processors.

But for hobbyist listeners and hams, ultimate performance is rarely if ever needed and a well designed and maintained vacuum tube receiver that is decades old can "hear" the great majority of SW signals that can be recovered with a current high end piece of gear. Older gear is very fun to use and is often a testament to the intellect and skill of the designers who accomplished a lot with what was available to them at the time and this same gear requires operator skill to perform at its best.

It is very easy to get caught up in feeling the need for ultimate performance but rarely is it necessary. Basic minivans and crossovers of today will reach 60 MPH faster than highly revered muscle cars of the 1960s while RVers of today feel the need to be able to maintain the 70 MPH speed limit on western grades while on their mission to go "Glamping" with fifth wheel monstrosities towed by 400+ HP turbo diesel pickups. We have far more advanced toys available to us now but not necessarily any more fun playing with them.

And I am not immune. I own a 650 HP Corvette Z06 that will out accelerate minivans but many AWD electric vehicles could outrun it to 60 MPH and also a 445 HP diesel pickup but I appreciate the style, design, and performance of older vehicles just as I do that of vintage radio gear.

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 2:01 am 
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Well said


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 2:26 am 
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Location: San Jose, Ca.
As some of you know, I'm a boat anchor bigot - and of course love tubes. I grew up on them starting in 1955 with my first home made tube project at the age of 14. I saw the coming of the transistor and was amazed at what it could do. I've done many projects with them. So as a realist, I know that transistors are very worthwhile and valuable.

but I still love tube equipment - especially my Mac tube amp with my AR3 speakers. Nothing beats the sound quality of it. And as a stereo repair man, I've seen a lot of it.

Long live the tube!

Regards, Larry


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 3:39 am 
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Greetings to the Forum:

I will throw in my $.02 worth on the side of tube-type gear or EARLY solid-state gear. The problem with the new stuff is that it has so many bells and whistles that most hams never discover how to use them all. The worst thing, however, is that many of them have custom displays or internal chips of which only a few spares are made. When one of these large-scale integrated circuits dies, the entire radio is junk, or as they like to say now, E-waste. I have heard of radios costing well over a thousand dollars that are unrepairable after less than 10 years because a custom highly failure prone specialized component is no longer available.

Of course, tubes aren't made any more either, but there seems to be an adequate supply, at least for my life time. Even discrete semi-conductors are becoming hard to find (try finding a tunnel diode these days) but at least the gear with discrete components is usually repairable, even if you have to get creative with repair technique. The new stuff is great when it is working, but when it quits, be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for factory service or worse, to be told that your radio is not supported any more, but for just two or three thousand dollars, we will sell you our latest gem (with the same lack of long-term survivability). I don't have two or three grand to spend on ham gear every few years.

Plus, I like to be able to say that I can repair my own gear (with a little help from this Forum) so my good 'ol Collins S-line just keeps on chugging along.

Just my $.02 worth; your mileage may vary.

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 3:58 am 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN USA
I have enjoyed both tube and solid state gear not to mention some hybrids. Plenty of preference and performance to be found in both topologies. I will say I prefer the oscillator stability and frequency readout precision of solid state gear. Don't ever desire to own one of the 5-10k $ super rigs with dozens of buttons and menus and not enough real knobs.


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 4:04 am 
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It's like the film vs digital discussions on the photography sites. I still shoot film, thank you. And I like tubes, in fact all the more in this day of overengineered expensive and irreparable, disposable ham radio gear. Just more electronic waste to fill landfills one day soon.


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 10:36 am 
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This is an "Apples and Cucumbers" situation. "Solid-State" enables architectures and circuit designs that are not possible with Vacuum Tubes. For any reasonably complex application, the available performance and features will always be better with solid state. The pertinent question might be whether you NEED the improvement.

Consider the photography example: For many, film was always "good enough". For many applications, this will continue indefinitely, but at a much higher price. For many reasons, traditional film photography is horribly inefficient....and digital offers many features and capabilities that are not possible with film.

Back to the question:
Looking at a common application where tubes and S/S can both do the job---high quality audio reproduction---one is not better than the other....they are simply different. S/S has the ability to be much more accurate, but that may not be perceived as better.

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"Measure voltage, but THINK current." --anon.


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 11:20 am 
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Echoing what most all have said here, there are pluses and minuses to both technologies, and I too enjoy both.

I enjoy tube powered gear simply because that's what dominated the first fifteen years of my electronics career, but, simply due to physical size and ease of duplication, SS devices are light years ahead of what could have ever been done with VT technology.

Yet here we are, easily 30 years after the death knell of tube manufacture, and still, radios using technology older than anyone here are still capable of happily chugging along day after day providing enjoyable and dependable service.

We are fortunate that the transition from tubes to SS was so rapid, and the supply line was so well stocked, or we most likely wouldn't be enjoying this hobby nearly as inexpensively as we do.

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 1:17 pm 
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rhrailfan wrote:
Which do you think performs better?
I am assuming that we are talking about communications receivers and transmitters here and performance differences between tube and solid state technology. I have quite a few (perhaps too many) relatively high-end tube receivers and a few solid state units. Here is a look at my current listening post. I like listening to ham discussions both AM and SSB, and AM, SW, and FM broadcast DX-ing. (I'm not a ham so no transmitters.)

Attachment:
Listening Post(1).jpg
Listening Post(1).jpg [ 410.48 KiB | Viewed 490 times ]


I love my Hammarlund SP-600 JX-17 which works great and is very sensitive, selective, and stable. I recently acquired an Icom IC-R70 and am amazed at the things it can do. But my most often used receiver is a Panasonic RF-4900 which I had acquired a number of years ago and was one of my first internet purchases (Radio Attic of all places). I used it as a bedside radio because, besides full AM and SW coverage, it includes the FM broadcast band. It has analog tuning but the digital frequency display was a great convenience over the Hallicrafters SX-42 that I had been using.

One day, I got the courage to give the RF-4900 a complete alignment and, boy, was I impressed with the results. Contrary to some reviews that called it a big box with nothing inside, its circuits are fairly sophisticated and the alignment really woke it up - not that it was all that bad to begin with. The R70 gets used when the going gets rough and I need its additional features. I still use the SP-600 when I feel nostalgic but the RF-4900 gets used most often, mainly because its RF performance is great, its audio performance is far better than the others, and it has FM.

Attachment:
Listening Post(2).jpg
Listening Post(2).jpg [ 399.33 KiB | Viewed 490 times ]


When I removed the RF-4900 from the bedside, it was replaced with a Hammarlund HQ-160 boatanchor that I had just repaired and aligned. But that's since been replaced with a solid state Kenwood R2000 (150 - 30,000 kHz with the VHF option). Less bulk, less heat, decent audio, good RF performance, and, of course, digital frequency display.

Attachment:
File comment: Internet Image - not mine
Kenwood R-2000.jpg
Kenwood R-2000.jpg [ 270.87 KiB | Viewed 458 times ]


Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 3:12 pm 
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Dave,

I agree that the Panasonic 4900 works well and looks nice. A ham in this area ran a service shop that was a factory authorized center for Panasonic and also owned a RF-4900. He told me the only problem with the receiver was a weak power supply and Panasonic later provided an authorized update to cure the issue of voltage drop under load; unfortunately he became a SK before passing along that information to me.

Photography is a good analogy and I still shoot a little film but very rarely and my Canon 1DX and 1DX Mark II digital bodies get 99% of my photo time these days. I shoot a lot of high school sports which requires fast shutter speed often in very poor lighting and these current generation full frame digital bodies with their excellent high ISO performance provide low light performance not available with film. I taught my daughter photography using my Canon EOS 650 SLR body so that she would appreciate the need to capture quality images rather than filling up memory cards like many who start in digital are prone to do and I learned photography with a series of film bodies but I couldn't have gotten the photo below with film, it is a heavy cropped image shot across the field with sensor ISO speed at 40,000 and this is where digital photography shows it stuff.

Technology marches on and also everything it brings isn't always roses (i.e. the ability to create "deep fakes" with image and speech manipulation) it does provide so many tools not available with older technology.

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 3:52 pm 
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Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Quote:
The problem with the new stuff is that it has so many bells and whistles that most hams never discover how to use them all.


I just fired up my new Icom 7300, software defined transceiver.

The problem is not in the equipment... most hams are getting old and impatient, like me, and not willing to take the time to learn all that stuff. The IC-7300 "short form" manual is 84 pages. The full manual is twice that. Of course, it's all included on a CD-ROM disk, so if you have a computer operating near your radio... you can look up the bells and change the whistles.

Rich


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 8:35 pm 
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Joined: Jan Mon 28, 2013 9:35 pm
Posts: 1444
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
If we're only considering HF receivers sometimes the comparison is not
straight forward. ALL receivers are a compromise. Some have outstanding
dynamic range, lower noise, excellent sensitivity, brick wall filters, IMD, etc but
I don't know of any that excel in all of these areas. Tube receivers will have
better dynamic range (generally speaking) and do not have the phase noise
synthesized receivers do.

Like many here I own and have had a chance to use some very exotic receivers.
Tube and solid state. But the fact is a well designed and built two tube regen
will usually hear the same signals the mulit-kilobuck receivers will.

There is a point of diminishing returns. Buy one of each and spend the
rest of your life comparing the ones that are out there!
Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Wed 12, 2019 9:48 pm 
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Location: Utica, NY 13502 (USA)
Quote:
Tube receivers will have better dynamic range (generally speaking) and do not have the phase noise
synthesized receivers do.
What does phase noise sound like? Both my Icom IC-R70 and Kenwood R-2000 PLL receivers have what sounds like fast cooking popcorn in the background of extremely weak signals. The RF-4900, while it can have a quiet hiss behind the same weak signal, is much easier to listen to. It has a conventional analog front-end with a tuning cap. The digital display is a frequency counter with IF off-set looking at the local oscillator through a buffer. The SP-600 doesn't have this noise either. All are connected to the same longwire antenna through a selector switch. Is the popcorn sound on my two PLL receivers phase noise?

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Thu 13, 2019 3:41 am 
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An opinion from Herb Friedman BITD. Full issue here.: https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Ar ... 969-07.pdf

According to that article the first soild-state SWL rigs were aimed at the lower "Budget" tier and bested the earlier low-cost tube receivers. We all know the outcome, tube rigs, even the high-end models fell to the wayside at about that time or shortly after, while the SS versions entered a "feature war" that added more and more layers of functions, convenience and performance. Tuibe designs stagnated at that point, while SS- and IC-/computer-based designs have continued to evolve.
-Ed


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SS SWL 1969.jpg
SS SWL 1969.jpg [ 486.64 KiB | Viewed 383 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Thu 13, 2019 5:47 am 
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Attachment:
hamshack_4.JPG
hamshack_4.JPG [ 172.33 KiB | Viewed 374 times ]
All tube gear here except for an early KDK 2015 2 meter SS transceiver which I haven't turned on in a couple of years.

K5MIL


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Thu 13, 2019 2:19 pm 
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Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Dave Doughty wrote:
Quote:
Tube receivers will have better dynamic range (generally speaking) and do not have the phase noise
synthesized receivers do.
What does phase noise sound like? Both my Icom IC-R70 and Kenwood R-2000 PLL receivers have what sounds like fast cooking popcorn in the background of extremely weak signals. The RF-4900, while it can have a quiet hiss behind the same weak signal, is much easier to listen to. It has a conventional analog front-end with a tuning cap. The digital display is a frequency counter with IF off-set looking at the local oscillator through a buffer. The SP-600 doesn't have this noise either. All are connected to the same longwire antenna through a selector switch. Is the popcorn sound on my two PLL receivers phase noise?

Dave

Phase noise usually sounds like the hiss you describe Dave. Its generated in the phase
detector of synthesized receivers. DSP and SDR receivers have the same problem but
they have the addition of low level digital noise caused by lower bit dithering too.
Most noticable with weak signals.

The hallmark of a really good receiver (IMO) is one that can hear weak signals under strong
signals that are very close to or right on top of each other. This requires good dynamic
range, IMD and low noise.
Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Thu 13, 2019 11:45 pm 
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Well I can compare my 7300 to an SPR 4 and a FT 101 EX in the radio shack here. I cannot do a quick A/B comparison on the same antenna the way I am hooked up but I suppose I could if I reversed the antenna switch to one input and multiple outputs. SPR sounds great but has notably less selectivity. Yaesu has aftermarket 2.1 filter so has selectivity but the AGC seems fast and thus allows noise between syllables on signals. They seem all comparable on sensitivity as the external noise is the limiting factor. And the older two have VFOs so they actually do require an amount of time to get stable and the tuning is touchier.

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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Fri 14, 2019 1:19 am 
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Dave Doughty wrote:
Quote:
Tube receivers will have better dynamic range (generally speaking) and do not have the phase noise
synthesized receivers do.
What does phase noise sound like? Both my Icom IC-R70 and Kenwood R-2000 PLL receivers have what sounds like fast cooking popcorn in the background of extremely weak signals. The RF-4900, while it can have a quiet hiss behind the same weak signal, is much easier to listen to. It has a conventional analog front-end with a tuning cap. The digital display is a frequency counter with IF off-set looking at the local oscillator through a buffer. The SP-600 doesn't have this noise either. All are connected to the same longwire antenna through a selector switch. Is the popcorn sound on my two PLL receivers phase noise?

Dave


Dave,

I wonder if that "fast popcorn" sound you are hearing is another defect in these two receivers? Does it disappear when the antenna is disconnected? Some receivers will make some interesting noises from AGC bus issues when there isn't enough signal to create some AGC bias.

I have some gear that was produced in the peak of the phase noise era, a Yaesu FT-980 transceiver and a Collins 651S-1 receiver and both have performance severely limited by phase noise which is very obvious when trying to use them during an operating contest or other time of heavy activity. But it appears as an increase in the normal background noise raising the MDS level rather than appearing as a distinct popping noise.

A PLL/VCO synthesizer, on average, provides the exact frequency desired but at any given point in time the loop is steering the VCO to correct for deviation from the master standard serving to phase modulate the oscillator which of course then serves to phase modulate signals in the passband of the mixer. The oscillator will have a phase noise distribution around the primary output frequency and for a given set of conditions an oscillator designed for fast lockup/stepping will create more objectionable phase noise than one where a slower lock time is acceptable. The early National HRO-500 has decent phase noise performance, especially for such an early PLL set, because only the first injection oscillator is synthesized and it doesn't need to have extremely fast stepping ability. Sets like my FT-980 and 651S-1 are fully synthesized through the "VFO" level which means they have to step very quickly and the price paid is what would now be considered unacceptably high phase noise. It really was too high then also but there was nothing better in the affordable range. A lot of the lower cost shortwave sets of the time used a fairly slow synthesizer lockup that often muted during unlock time during tuning, the models that didn't provided the "chuffing" noise as they were tuned and the system gained lock. Ham transceivers that allowed for split frequency operation required very fast lockup and again the price paid is phase noise which not only impacts your receivers but creates problems for others because the phase noise is also transmitted.

If you don't mind being stuck on a single frequency, a good quality crystal oscillator provides very low phase noise :)

This link does a nice job of bridging the gap between too complex to understand and too sugar coated to be useful in explaining phase noise; you will also find some of the QST reviews from the 1980s taking a stab at explaining phase noise in their product reviews but even by then the technical quality of QST had gone into a hard dive and this is a better resource: http://www.rfcafe.com/references/articl ... y-v8-6.pdf

Rodger WQ9E


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 Post subject: Re: Tube vs. Solid State
PostPosted: Jun Fri 14, 2019 2:32 am 
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Joined: Jul Sat 28, 2012 9:32 pm
Posts: 233
Tube stuff is more fun. It's like good old fashioned radio. Bare bones skill. Radio as it's supposed to be. I'm not sure how be to word it. All these new computerized rigs have lots of bells and whistles, and a million ways to program them, fancy screens with tons of information. They really are Marvel's if engineering. But something just doesn't seem right. If you can memorize the license manual to pass the test to get your ticket, and have lots of disposable income to buy a fancy rig are you really a radio man? Seems like boxtop CB licensing that came with your CB in the 70's, just to get on there and say 10-4 good buddy. Catch you on the flip flop. Or like buying a golf game because you had enough money to buy a fancy set of Big Bertha's.


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