If you’re super happy with the sound, you definitely shouldn’t be made to feel like you need to upgrade, and I think the folks in this forum will generally have similar sentiments. Are (much) more expensive amps better? In general, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s “worth it”. That is extremely subjective, and is a very personal decision based on your preferences, how much you notice the changes, and your wallet.
Everyone hits their limit in very different places, and with very few exceptions, there’s always something better that each of us can’t afford, or otherwise chooses to deem as requiring too much more money for the benefit.
To answer your question more directly, I have owned tube and solid state amps across a fairly wide range of price points (though, admittedly, I started at fairly high end for tubes) and have generally noticed and appreciated the upgrades. Keep in mind that tube amps can have very different flavors, even in the same price range.
If you want to explore tube amps in the $1,000-$2,000 range, you can check out offerings from Woo Audio, DNA (Starlett), Ampsandsound, Cayin, Bottlehead, and Feliks Audio, as just a few generally well regarded companies. You can also buy/sell some used amps if you want to explore and get a sense of what’s available without losing too much money for the benefit of trying a bunch of stuff (that’s what I did for a long time before buying my only new tube amp).
“Sound” advice? Sorry, I couldn’t let that one slip by!
“Value” was perfectly nailed in an earlier post. It’s realy easy to get sucked into the proverbial rabbit hole when it comes to audio equipment. It took me about 15 years to get to my “end game” audio system. “Going used” is a super way to go–especially on forums with trustworthy members such as this one.
My thought = take your time. Try out different things (tube/ss, open/closed, silver/copper, blah, blah blah.
I purchased the $320 Xduoo TA-26, the $300 DarkVoice 336SE and the $550 Eufonika H5DS. What do these three amplifiers all have in common? These OTL amps share the same tube configuration of a 6AS7 power tube and 6SN7 driver tube. The Xduoo TA-26 is the only amplifier that I have ever returned in my three decades of collecting headphone amplification. I didn’t enjoy it’s relative tendency to deaden/neuter characteristic of tubes compared to the other two related amps. Nevertheless, these amplifiers achieve the same ballpark of performance and it is up to the individual to chose which one pleases them, and if they can live with the shortcomings of the $300 ones.
I also own the $1,000 Quicksilver Headphone Amplifier (not OTL) and the $1,200 Ray Samuels Emmeline II The Raptor OTL. The jump in three to four times the price yields a VERY pronounced increase of performance. Logically, a jump in five or ten times as much would yield even greater deviation of performance than what I am already hearing from my comparatively diminutive variation of price points.
That is not to say that the Darkvoice 336SE is a poor performer. For me, it all boils down to my intent. When listening to the 336SE, I seek an unsophisticated but overly wet tubish presentation. With my costlier tube amps my intentions align to a more refined presentation. Yes, if I were forced to just owning one amplifier I would of course choose The Raptor. However I VERY MUCH enjoy the 336SE. Nothing can squeeze micro-reverberations out of a tube like the 336SE.
i wonder if @Resolve would like to share some of his findings here or in a new thread from his amplifier blind testing. In one of his recent live streams, he mentioned something about finding it a bit difficult to identify headphones he previously thought were different.
For me the ta26s with the standard tubes was very bass heavy, even on my hd800s, had some noise on the tubes to… tube rolled em to svetlana 6h13c and EH 6sn7 gold, was way better after that. No more crackling, no more noise and the bass was not overly present, found a good middle ground and i’m pretty happy with the ta26s now. I rarely touch my A90 now… Hd800s really needs tubes, as i dont like it that much on a ss. But as you’ve said. Maybe the ta26s isnt even that good comparing it to your other tube amps. So I should def explore more options