I believe...in tube amps now.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert Elliott, Jun 9, 2002.

  1. Robert Elliott

    Robert Elliott Stunt Coordinator

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    I admit I have never believed or understood the tubies. They rattle on about air, lushness, warmness, and other general terms that sound like hogwash. Tubes couldn't possibly be worth a damn I thought - old technology that is passe.
    The wait on the Outlaw allowed me to do a lot of reading, much of which reinforced my belief this tube stuff was nonsense. Fortunately, it also left me to browse want ads, ebay, pawn shops, etc. I picked up several sets of speakers and ended up short on amplification. A set of Klipsch Heresies sat unused and begging to be played.
    I had heard the maniacal ravings of folks on the Klipsch forum about this little integrated tube amp called an Eico HF-81 which was supposed to stomp steady state amps costing much more. I heard folks here talking about using tube preamps for two channel. I thought I need to get a tube amp and see if this is for real or these people are on crack.
    Started researching DIY. Kept thinking I don't want to spend this much on something I may hate. The Heresies kept begging. Dropped onto Ebay and won an auction on an Eico with very little info on its condition. Immediately thought "oh, shit" what did I just do. I paid $182 for something I know nothing about.
    I will get to the point. [​IMG] Received the Eico and it was in great condition. Opened it up, peered inside, and thought what the hell is all that. Discovered it had all "mullards" - supposed to be a big deal - so I thought ok, all is not lost; I can resell the damn thing. Hooked it up to my Heresies and connected a PS2 to play CD's.
    As I listened casually to the EICO, I kept hearing sounds that suddenly caused me to feel like I heard it in the room; now the sound was coming from the speakers in the room but this was the item making the sound seemed to materialize in the room. I listened and kept thinking that is neat. I decided to take a more active role in listening. I went through some Jewel, Neil Young, Dire Straits. I was hearing something but I couldn't lay my finger on it.
    During Neil Young (Goin Home), it came together. As I listened I became decidedly aware of the drums playing in the background - in fact, I 'knew' exactly where the hi-hat, tom-tom, crash cymbal, etc. where located. I could hear the variations of the metals used, I could hear whether the hi-hat was muted or not, I could hear the shimmering and fading away of the crash cymbal as it was played. I WATCHED a drummer's movement across a drum set.
    I needed to get a grip. I marched into the other room and queued the same track on my KSP400's through the Yamaha. I focused and listened. The sound was fantastic, very good, unbelievable, but...the shimmering of cymbals ended too abrubtly, the difference in sounds was not as pronounced, the instruments were not revealed in the same place. I heard the drums and they were great - but I no longer saw them.
    It is difficult to describe, but one music system disappears and instruments, singers, etc. take its place and you feel like you can reach out and touch the different voices you are hearing. You can 'feel' their presence. It is surreal.
    Sorry for the long post. My eyes were opened. Maybe this will arouse the curiosity of someone else. If you like two channel, you owe it to yourself to check out tubes and experience the effect a musical instrument can have on your soul. The Eico is incredible and can be found cheap; just use more prudence that I did in making your purchase.
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Robert, you have me intrigued. I just brought my parents' vintage Marantz Model 7 tube pre-amp and Model 8B tube power amp to my house today. It will take me awhile to get them set up, but I will be comparing the tube separates eventually to my NAD C 370 integrated amp/C 270 power amp biamped solid-state combo. I can't wait to do it. First, I need to get some stands to place the separates on. Second, I need to make sure I know how to adjust the bias. Third, I need to figure out how to connect speakers wires to the pre-amp since it has terminals I am not familiar with. It should be fun going through the learning process and finally hearing what these components can do. Enjoy your tubes!
     
  3. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Robert,

    Believe me, I know what you are talking about. I was converted to tubes about seven years ago. I own Conrad Johnson Tube amps (and locally built tube pre-amp).

    I also have a Bryston 4Bst, and my friends are constantly lending me their newest solid state amp purchases to try out in my system.

    The solid state amps can be terrific in their clarity, precision and power. But compared to good tube amps, the sound is always cold and electronic. Singers sound more synthetic.."hard," not made of flesh and blood. Switch back to my tube amps and...it's like watching the blood return to a corpse. Singers sound warmer, fuller, fleshier
    and finally, human.

    Also, on tube amps the sound has a spaciousness, and seems to break free from the locations of the speakers with ease.
    Greater spacial relationships between instruments (as you mentioned). You sort of forget about the speakers as the sound sources. When I switch in an SS amp, the sound tends to constrict and harden, to stick to the speakers much more. It's harder to get into the virtual reality aspect of the presentation with SS amps (for me).

    My brother-in-law is an "old-school" audiophile...very by the book with specs, doesn't go in for tube nonsense, and thinks much high-end stuff is a waste of money (fair enough). He sat down to do a tube vs SS amp comparison at my place, stating that it was probably a waste of time because he'd likely not hear enough difference.
    I'll never forget the abrupt change on his expression when the tube amp/pre-amp replaced the SS integrated amp.
    "Wow," he said. He forced me to go back and forth between the amps. He was truly amazed, and said he now understood my preference for tube amps. "It sounds richer, more real, like they are there," he remarked.

    Take a voice or acoustic instrument, squeeze it through the long chain of recording and play it back through a typical play-back chain (using SS amps) and the result is:
    what once sounded human and real, now sounds synthetic and electronic.

    What tubes do for me is they make instruments and people once again sound properly "organic."

    To generalize: With Tubes I believe. With SS I don't.

    See what cantankerous fun this hobby is?

    Rich H.
     
  4. Robert Elliott

    Robert Elliott Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi all,
    Keith, you are in for a surprise. As far as bias, I have no idea how to do any of that. Hell, I was pretty much and still am scared of electrocuting myself touching stuff inside the case. I have pulled out some tubes now though. [​IMG]
    Rich, great post man. You nailed some of the things I felt or heard on the head.
    I thought and still do think my one system has a great soundstage BUT sounds are 'stuck' to the speakers. You know where the speakers are and while they create a presence between them, they don't project sound at specific points in space.
    You said virtual reality. I thought to myself, while listening to Rush, its like a frigging hologram of the band is there ala the Dr. on Star Trek. I can't get over it. I listened to Dire Straits' Brothers in Arm and thought I was having a religious experience.
    If you want a mind-blowing experience, listen to Jewel's new album using tubes. She will be in the room and you will want to touch her. Solid state won't let you near her. [​IMG]
     
  5. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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  6. Vlad D

    Vlad D Screenwriter

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    Man, do you guys got me intrigued!
     
  7. Robert Elliott

    Robert Elliott Stunt Coordinator

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    Frank,
    Mullard 12AX7's, 12AU7's EZ81's, and EL84's. [​IMG]
    You aren't kidding. I am searching all over the place to find a place to test tubes, acquire tubes, etc. It is demented. I have a bad EL-84 that needs replacing and finding one or a set(Mullards) presents few opportunities unless you are willing to part with some cash. I can get a quad right now of 'new' ones but it will cost more than I paid for the amp.
    Vinyl. I had already determined I was pulling out the vinyl and old LT Technics table before getting the amp. It has been 14 years or so since that stuff was used and I am looking forward to rediscovering all the stuff I had on vinyl and never replaced with CD. Of course, the upgrade bug will have me worrying I need to upgrade to a Rega or Music Man.
    My wife thinks I have lost my mind. The kids want to know what the hell a record is. [​IMG]
     
  8. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Welcome to the next stage of the addiction/madness [​IMG]
    I'd like to add only one comment here - don't expect to put a tube amp into any old system and have 'magic' happen. Tubes need much more careful matching of equipment, which in turn requires a greater understanding of the issues involved (IMO, of course). The Klipsch Heresies are perfect for pairing with tube amps, but that doesn't mean that every speaker will benefit similarly.
    Me, I heard tubes for the first time a year ago (and I've been in the hobby for less than 2 years), and I know there's no going back for me. Of course, that means I have to pick the right kind of speakers too.
    Anyway, all I'm trying to say is this: a system comes together to create magic. Replacing one component or another can (and usually will) make a difference, it'll often make an improvement (though I can think of several speakers which would sound worse with tube amps than with SS), but one piece on its own cannot do everything, all the components need to be in harmony for the music to really flow.
    And now I'll stop with the flowery prose [​IMG]
     
  9. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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    Robert, if you frequent the "Tube Asylum", you will learn all you want to about tubes. I have bought tubes from only 2 places. I like Kevin at Upscale Audio, www.upscaleaudio.com. Another is www.Tubeworld.com(pricey though) There are many tube dealers you can choose from. Perform a search on Google or better yet, the Tube Asylum.
    Good luck!
     
  10. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Robert said:

     
  11. John Tompkins

    John Tompkins Supporting Actor

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    Congrats Mr Elliot!! Finally me and you can agree on something[​IMG]
    What are you using for a preamp ? I have found MAGIC in a little 149.00 bottlehead foreplay tube pre.For two channel It knocks the socks off of the lex, denon,rotel and every other ss pre I have had. (Im sure it would KILL the 950)..you knew I had to sneak that in there[​IMG]
    I Just ordered a sumiko project 1.2 TT along with a grado red cartridge and a sumiko project box phono stage to go with my bottlehead. I did this because of all the people that I had called insane(suggesting tube gear) were right and these same people say TT, so Im hoping there right again.
    Sorry,I see the Eico is an integrated amp. I have found the best combo for me is a tube pre along with a ss amp. That combo gives you the nice warm tube sound and at the same time incredible solid bass and seperation from a ss amp.
     
  12. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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  13. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  14. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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  15. Robert Elliott

    Robert Elliott Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi guys,
    Jeez, Frank gives me a link back to the Njoe Toeb after I had worked so hard to forget it. That was going to be my introduction to tubes. [​IMG] I can't spend any more money - or so my wife says.
    Hey John,
    You are one I was referring to in my original post when I mentioned tube preamps. [​IMG] Your bottlehead got me looking and then I moved into the Consonance series and was going to do an Ella. I chose integrated cause I really did not believe I was going to like tubes. Now, of course, I am already thinking about needing to furnish another room. I agree with a tube preamp or amp stomps the two channel performance of likely any SS prepro.
    Trying to find a reason for work to send me to Miami so I can pick up my old TT and albums. This little EICO has also made me largely remove 2 channel performance from my criteria for a new pre/pro. Hell, I was thinking I could just pick up a Lexicon MC1 for the HT and I am done. Who knows? This audio thing just grabs you by the ass and takes you for a ride.
     
  16. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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    Do you all think that having a hybrid integrated like one of the jolida's would bring some of the magic of tubes with the authority of SS into the music? Or do you all think that a separate tube pre with ss amp would be better? I have always been intrigued by tubes since the day I first heard a tube system but that system was way out of my range but with the advent of cheap 'made in china' integrateds like ASL and Jolida I can dream of owning a tube system one day.
     
  17. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Well, the Jolida units get good press for their sound almost everywhere, I've seen a few sketchy comments here and there about their QC. ASL's lower end gear is priced similarly, but I've heard of fewer problems. Sonically, ASL is pretty amazing for what it costs (I own one of their amps, and have heard a couple of integrateds and preamps). I haven't heard any Jolida, so I don't have any meaningful comments on them.

     
  18. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    When I heard tube amps for the first time they were SET monoblocks powering Avantgarde duos 3.0. They sold for $10,000 each teamed with similar prices equiptment.

    Anyways the music was extremely detailed and there wasn't any audible distortion. During vocals I could hear every grasp for air and lip smack as if the singer was speaking through high end equiptmen. (Which they are)

    At first I marveled at the detail and the incredible dynamics of the sound. Then I began to focus more on the minor details and imperfections of songs instead of enjoying the music. This became somewhat irritating that I couldn't enjoy a song I've always heard, but instead drawn to the minor imperfections in speech and movements.

    I suppose I'd have to get use to such pristine quality but to me, having high end equiptment that revealing can be somewhat artificial in that it amplifies noises that you don't hear in real life. It's just that when I listen to a live performance or when a person is speaking I am not drawn away to detail, quality, and liveness...
     
  19. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Chris:

     
  20. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    Last night while listening to a Tony Bennett SACD through my tube rig, I heard him light up a cigarette and set the lighter on a stool between vocal phrases.

    It dont get any cooler than that.

    Mike
     

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