Originally Posted by George
You might be surprised.
Valve amps can sound very good with digital sources. They soften the top end in my experince which is always a weak area. Old technology working with new.
Speakers are the most sensitive of all the components. Paying a lot is no guarantee of good sound.
I remember borrowing my late father's Monitor Audio speakers as I was thinking purchasing a pair. They sounded wonderful in his house but dreadful in mine and they were expensive speakers for their day.
In the case of the Monitor Audio speakers, I'd bet that it was an unsympathetic interaction with the room that made them sound bad.
I've heard tubes sound both good and bad, but because of their electrical properties, this is kind of an unpredictable crap shoot that has more to do with the combination of that particular tube amp and speaker than anything else. That's not the way things should be designed, but that's my rationalist geek speaking. The Audio Note devices are also not the best examples of tube design.
I do agree that paying $$$ for speakers doesn't guarantee good sound --- the majority of speakers over $10K prove that. What you generally should get by paying more is lower bass, louder playback capability, and lower non-linear distortion. What should be given at most price points is a flat frequency response, and good off-axis behavior. Most speakers above a certain price point don't give you any of that, and in fact often perform worse cheaper ones. The performance variance amongst high-priced speakers is far bigger than budget speakers.
Of course, once you've spent all that money for a speaker, you can still ruin it by placing it poorly in a room.