Breaking the Myth of the Audiophile

Steven Conner Campbell

Dr. Anthony Blose

For years analog audio equipment has been deemed superior to its digital counterpart. Most musicians, casual listeners, and audiophiles agree that tube based amplifiers, PA systems, and other tube-based equipment produce better sound quality. This can also be seen in the price difference in solid-state equipment compared to valve technology. Tube amps are even more fragile that transistor based amps. At a first glance this older technology seems to be more of a hassle or trend, rather than based off a deeper understanding of physics. By exploring the innards of analog sound reproduction equipment, the science behind the difference between digital and analog audio equipment becomes much clearer. By first establishing the similarities and differences between analog and digital technologies, this project exposes why tube based audio equipment sounds better than solid-state. By building an analog effects pedal as a research tool (powered by a 12AU7 pre-amp tube) and researching older related articles, the difference in the sound quality was discovered to be explained by the amount and type of distortion caused by tubes compared to that of transistors. Tubes or valves handle voltage distortions in a way that pleases the human ear. Transistors on the other hand can produce noisy distortion that musicians and audiophiles find distasteful. The reason for this is due to the physical nature of the two different amplification processes.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-9-2016


Anthony P. Blose

Department/Professional Affiliation

Physics and Astronomy

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Physics and Astronomy