To enjoy music in your home, reproduced though loudspeakers, regardless of the source, be it vinyl, tape, CD, MP3 etc. the small signal produced by the player needs to be amplified to be a large enough and with enough power to move the cones in the speakers to make the sound. The equipment that does this is called an amplifier. (Some of these players produce such a small signal that they need another amplifier, called a pre-amplifier, before the main amplifier driving the speakers – Record players using vinyl as the source is one of these!)
Modern HiFi or stereo equipment uses amplifiers that are designed and built using transistors in one form or another.
Just about all technology in the early 1900s through to the late 1960s (and later in some applications) was based on valves. This all changed with the invention of the transistor.
Vacuum tubes or valves are made from glass, use quite a lot of power, get hot and use high voltages at low currents to operate (they are also large compared with transistors). This in turn means that more often than not, a transformer is used both to isolate the user from the high voltages and to convert the high voltage, low current to lower voltages at higher currents required to make the loud speakers work. Transformers are large, heavy and expensive.
Transistors are smaller, encapsulated in plastic (mostly), use lower voltages, are capable of delivering higher currents and more often than not, drive the speaker directly, without the need for a transformer. Transistors are also a lot cheaper to make. This makes it easier and cheaper (smaller and lighter!) to design an amplifier using transistors.
Unsurprisingly, the use of transistors rapidly overtook valves almost everywhere- except in electric guitar amplifiers and in some high end HiFi music reproduction (there are other places where valves are still in use). The pursuit of cheaper more convenient products however, left something behind - decades of development that had gone in to valves and their use in radios, televisions and music reproduction systems.
There are many who would argue that there is something special about valve amplifiers and that they sound different from solid state amplifiers. While it is true that there are some very fundamental differences between how energy is transferred from the amplifier to the speaker in a valve amplifier compared with an amplifier using transistors, there are differences between one transistor amplifier and the next.
We have researched the technology and looked at how it was done by the best and then gone back to first principles in electronics engineering and physics to design our own. Of course there have also been huge advances in all of the other components that are needed to make the valves work since the 1950s and 1960s and we have used modern components to develop a great sounding amplifier making valve technology available for you to enjoy.
All we know is that the SAM-A1 is the first in a family of valve-based, stereo audio amplifiers that have been designed to make the best of the vintage valve technology. They sound amazing.
Not only do they sound amazing but we believe they look good too and whether or not you believe that valves are somehow special compared with transistors; we like the way our amplifiers sound and there is definitely something special about seeing the valves glowing as they work, seeing them light up as they get hot, something ‘alive’ about them which definitely sets them apart from transistors – which only glow when there is something very, very wrong!
We hope you enjoy our amplifiers as much as we do!