Tube amps...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Kevin C Brown, Jan 13, 2003.

  1. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Any suggestions for around $500 (new or used) for a dude who's had solid state amplification for more than 20 years, for a tube stereo amp to compare to what I have?

    Anything to watch out for (other than worn tubes)?

    Thanks...
     
  2. Mark Leitch

    Mark Leitch Stunt Coordinator

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    The big question is... what speakers are you driving... there is a very wide variety of tube amps. My only caution is there may be no going back to SS ;-)

    M.
     
  3. Todd Beachler

    Todd Beachler Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd like to know about any diy tube kits in the same price range. they'd be paired to a set of Acoustic Research AR-1s.
     
  4. James Bergeron

    James Bergeron Supporting Actor

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    Maybe you should start with the ASL wave's they are $99 each, and sound GRRRRRREAT! [​IMG]
     
  5. Michael_Hml

    Michael_Hml Stunt Coordinator

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    Kevin,

    The ASL waves are nice, but you need efficient speakers to mate up with the 8w (if I remember right) output.

    I've been in the same boat as you with this. I've had SS gear for 20 years and recently decided to give tubes a try as well as get into DIY gear. I decided to build and modify a Velleman SS kit preamp, and am now working on a tube line stage (AKSA TLP/Nirvana) to go with it.

    I'll be using SS amplification for now, and speakers of no particular efficiency rating. It's not the "purist" approach, but it gets me started. This way, if I do decide I'd like to go forward with a tube amp, I can take it one step at a time. The next stage would be building a nice pair of efficient speakers, and then some type of tube amp.

    I'm even thinking that if I really do like the sound of the line stage, I may build a multi-channel version for my home theater gear.

    You could even build/buy a tube preamp for now and drive an SS amp and your existing speakers with it.

    Another approach is to pick up a piece of vintage gear. There's a guy here in RI who buys, rebuilds and sells vintage tube gear, who quoted me a price of around $275 for an HH Scott 222, including new output tubes and capacitors, with a warranty. For $450, he offered a completely rebuilt HH Scott 299 with wood case. If I hadn't already built my preamp when I decided to try tubes, I probably would have gone with one of these.

    -Mike
     
  6. James Bergeron

    James Bergeron Supporting Actor

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    They don't have to really be THAT efficient. I have run my tubes on Axiom M80TiSe's, M22's M3's, Dahlquist QX6's, Paradigm Studio 40's, Paradigm Atom's, B&W 303's and a pair of high end Thiel's (don't know model) All worked great, they strugled a bit on the Thiel's but that speaker is hard to drive and was meant for big ass SS amplification.

    They actually perform great with the 40's. I'm running a Tube pre-amp as well. Currently I'm driving the QX6's. I feel like a little change so I might try out the Studio 40's again.
     
  7. kevitra

    kevitra Second Unit

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    A used Jolida 302b integrated tube amp is around $600. You get a tube pre and 50wx2 of tube power.

    The Wave 8s are nice, but they really rolled off the top end of my speakers. The Jolida does not roll off the top.
     
  8. Mark Leitch

    Mark Leitch Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with you kevitra... I had the waves for awhile and they are good for what they are. If I were going to recommend an "inexpensive", flexible tube amp, the Music Reference RM-10 would be at the head of the list.

    Mark.
     
  9. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    OK, I have Vandersteen 2CE Signatures. I think about 86 dB.
     
  10. Michael_Hml

    Michael_Hml Stunt Coordinator

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    Kevin,

    I think that 86db is low for the ASL Waves, but it also depends on your listening volume and the type of music you want to listen to through it.

    I am *far* from having a great depth of knowledge when it comes to tube gear... but that said, IMHO, I think you would be better off with one of the HH Scott amps, the Jolida mentioned above or even the tube line stage/SS amp route, any of which would seem to be better suited for driving speakers with 86db sensitivity. (Someone please correct me if I'm off-base on this)

    -Mike
     
  11. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    86 db? What volume do you listen at? This could be trouble with tube amps. There are a few in the 50-100W range but they're expensive and, I think, don't sound as good as the lower-powered single ended versions. Sorry I can't help...

    To me, a 100 watt amp was not enough for 87db speakers.
     
  12. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    ever consider something from behringer to go between your pre and amp?
     
  13. Mark Leitch

    Mark Leitch Stunt Coordinator

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    I would not drive the 2ce with the waves... it will not work out. There are also many awesome amps that will drive them.... and you need not go to herculean tube amps to do so. Even something like the VTL TTs would be worth checking out... just depends on how "tubey" you want to get.

    I have a nice tube amp driving my ML CLS IIz's... a difficult load... and it does it beautifully. You may also try the autoformer approach depending on what specific amp you go with.

    Mark.
     
  14. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Man, lots of stuff to check out... [​IMG]
    For now, it's kind of an "experiment". Get something really cost effective for now just to hear how it sounds, and then maybe check out something more expensive if I can hear enough of a difference/improvement. I'd say I have a medium size room, and I'm about 9 ft away from the speakers.
     
  15. Michael_Hml

    Michael_Hml Stunt Coordinator

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    Kevin,

    It's a whole new world of stuff to check out. I spent a couple of months just looking at options, browsing Audiogon for used gear, reading forums, etc. As with anything else in this hobby, there's so much that is subjective, but even a lot of the more far-fetched things are at least fun to read about.

    The other thing I picked up to play with is a PAIA "Tubehead" - which is kind of an interesting piece of gear. I had read about it, and as usual with these types of things, some love it, some hate it, some have never heard it but have a very strong opinion of it, etc. PAIA sells it in kit form, which I probably should have bought in retrospect, but I picked one up cheap on Ebay (well under $100). It runs with two 12AX7 tubes plus three 5532 op-amps. It allows you to vary the amount of tube "sound" that is injected into the audio path, plus mix between fully SS through the op-amps vs. fully tubed through the 12AX7s and anwhere in-between.

    With the design of the Tubehead, you can vary the drive of the tubes, so you can get just a little "tube" sound, all the way up to over-driving the tubes to get a very crunchy/distorted sound - I've read complaints about that, but its just part of what it offers, not a shortfall. I've found, that without over-driving, and some careful adjustment, I can get it to sound quite good. I do like it - enough that it made me decide to build the AKSA TLP for comparison, as the TLP is considered more "high end" for whatever that's worth.

    Of course, me being me and not being one to leave well enough alone... I opened up the Tubehead and decided to upgrade the hell out of it. Stock, it uses pretty cheap/inexpensive components inside, so I'm rebuilding it with higher quality. This is why part of me thinks I should have bought the kit - so I could have built it this way the first time... but at least this way I get to hear the "before" and "after." When finishes, it'll have 1% resistors, seriously upgraded capacitors, high quality potentiometers for the controls, new op-amps (Burr-Brown OPA2627BP), new hardware (gold RCA jacks, better wiring, etc) and some new tubes (Sovtek 5751). I'm also going to put everything in a new case with the tubes external so that I can do some tube-rolling without taking it apart. Even though I'm upgrading the stock power supply, it's not very well-designed, so I'll probably end up building a new one as the next "stage" of this.

    When the dust settles on this thing after all of the upgrades and tweaks, the Tubehead will have cost me less than $300, and kept me busy for several weeks building & tweeking, then give me something to experiement with and listen to for months or years.

    The way I look at it, all that matters ultimately is not whether or not I have the perfect component, but whether or not I have fun learning about it and experimenting along the way. Contrary to some of the more hardcore "purist" views I've read, this can certainly be done without dropping a small fortune, and still result in very good sound.

    Getting into this the past few months has really reminded me why I started enjoying this hobby in the first place. I've got some really good SS gear now and it sounds great (and for HT at least, I wouldn't dream of giving it up), but this is new and different, so its like being back at the beginning again - learning, deciding what I like, trying/tweaking new gear, etc. I'm far from being an audio "newbie" but now, with tube gear, in some ways I am again... and it's been a lot of fun. :)

    -Mike
     
  16. Kevin McCurdy

    Kevin McCurdy Stunt Coordinator

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    If your looking for tube sound some prefer to use a tube Preamp with solid state amps. Something like the Bottlehead Foreplay could be tried relatively cheap if your willing to build it?
     
  17. Martin Rendall

    Martin Rendall Screenwriter

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    I have a Bottlehead Foreplay preamp driving a Bryston amp and Paradigm Studio 100's. Very nice... much better than using my HT receiver in two channel mode. The difference in soundstage was jaw dropping.

    James,

    Are you saying that the ASL Waves can drive Studio 40's OK? The impedence curve of the Studio line has kept me in solid state for the amp section. One thing I've thought about is to try biamping, with a SET on the top and SS on the bottom... but I suspect that would leave the ever important mids stuck being driven with the SS amp.

    Martin.
     
  18. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Michael- You're scaring me! [​IMG] I *already* spend too much time on my stereo/ht... But I do like the idea of being to vary the tubeness, because then it would seem easier to hear if there is a difference, and how preferrable it is.
    Chu- I checked out Behringer, and I think you're suggesting I check out one of their digital boxes that mimics a tube sound just so I can compare, really cheap? That's an idea.
    Oh, I had simply assumed that tubed amps are the most important because that's the last piece of the chain before the speakers, but a tube preamp, ... more/less "important" ?
    How about something like the Mesa Boogie 50/50?
    http://www.mesaboogie.com/Product_In...reo_power.html
    I'm just really familiar with them and their (higher end) guitar amps.
     
  19. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    The Behringer product I'm thinking about Kevin is this one. It's available online here.
    No doubt, there's a store somewhere around you called Guitar Center (online it's MusiciansFriend.com) and their return policy is very consumer friendly. They also dicker on price. This unit goes for $150 and I'd see if they'd bite at $125. What's interesting about it is that it does have some bypass modes, so if you want the tubes out, they're gone. Also the parametric equalization might prove to be beneficial to you in dealing with some room issues. You'll need to get some cables like RCA's to XLR going in and out which will increase the price somewhat. Behringer's a solid company with a pretty good rep in the pro market. Guitar Center's got a ton of stuff, mostly pro oriented but that's not to say that some products can't find utility in the home environment. In any event you can read more about it on Behringer's site...read the manual...whatever, right? At least you won't have to put up with the high prices of a tube based amp or the technical deficiencies of a SET.
     

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