Solid State

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Solid State is another word for semiconductor based amplifiers where the components used are made in a solid form and thus NOT using vacuum tubes.

Solid state amps can be roughly divided into two groups.

Discrete amplifiers are made of individual components such as single transistors, FET’s or other single devices. It is not uncommon that in the design itself some opamps are used but these are not in the audio-part of the amplifier circuit but could be part of a protection circuit or DC voltage correction circuit (DC-servo). It is often claimed that these type of amplifiers are/perform better than opamps which by themselves basically are mini- amplifiers that usually are far more complex than an entire discrete amplification circuit. It is an assumption based partly on a myth and partly on truth. In some aspects discrete amplifiers can have the edge on opamp circuits but when looking at performance within a certain voltage range opamps are hard to beat on may aspects.

Op-amp based amplifier designs contain less VISIBLE amounts of components but one has to remember that those tiny chips, even those with just a few pins can have extremely complicated high performance circuits in it with components that do NOT exist in discrete components. Not all opamps are suited to be used as audio amplifiers. This is because of certain properties that may not be desirable for audio such as relatively high noise levels, low power supply voltage limits, low output current capabilities, frequency range, speed or settling time to name but a few. Most audiophiles like to swap out opamps for other types but this may not be the wisest thing to do as an opamp that performs well in circuit A may become unstable or perform poorly in circuit B and vice versa. Subjective found differences between opamps can usually not be shown to exist in (blind) comparison tests with perhaps the exception of their behaviour when operating OUTSIDE their intended operational specifications. When used as output devices that directly drive low impedance headphones these limits are reached quickly.

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