Another day, another manufacturer giving up tubes for the the digital crack pipe. Well, not completely giving up tubes, but as 6Moons points out, David Gill of "all tube, all the time" Art Audio is about to release a new integrated amp with digital guts. Sacrilegious? Heck yeah.
But Art Audio is not the first. Bel Canto made the jump, as did Audio Research (not completely, but they've got a digital amp in the mix) as well as a few other players. Of course, for those audiophiles out there screaming "chips are not digital," I'm not going to make any big distinctions between class D, Tripath, switching and chip amps because, really, they ain't tubes and they ain't got big heat sinks so no sense making things more confusing than they need be, ya dig?
What's interesting about this is how much can be done with the new don't-call-it-digital technologies. The ICEpower modules from Bang and Olufsen are finding their ways in many, many new amps and provide huge juice to the tune of 1000 watts in a tiny box. Sound? A cross between tubes and solid state, or so the professionals say. Same with other pseudo-digital (switching) amps like NuForce, Chord, Kharma, Linn and other big players. Heck, if anything can be said about 2005, it was the year digital amplification exploded.
So does this mean the end of tubes? Of course not, since many will argue tubes just can't be touched sonically. But with the digital dogs kicking ass and taking names, it's increasingly hard to justify the price, low power and lack of user-friendliness of tubes. Of course, tubes are just damn cool and make women swoon which is, of course, all that matters. But if Srajan "touch my tubes and die" Ebean gave up his $10k+ tube monos for the $1200 Audiosector Pateks then, well, it's worth talking about. Are we looking at a "digital" dominated future?