Tube chain of command.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Buzzman3535, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Buzzman3535

    Buzzman3535 New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I am using a fosgate signature phono....very nice tube sound. very nice actually.

    Looking for new integrated amp down the line. I always thought I would like a tube amp, but what is the thinking if your phono is already tube based.

    Try and balance it out with a good solid state amp?

    Can you have too many tubes?
     
  2. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Prescott, AZ, USA
    I like the tubes - I'm all tube system but yes you can mix and match if you like.
     
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  3. Paully

    Paully De gustibus non est disputandum

    Location:
    Alabama
    No argument there. I think quite a few people do a tube pre and a sand amp and are very happy. I use tubed equipment for phono, pre, and amp but everyone has to make up their own mind. But some do like the power and control of a solid state amp and the benefits of tubes in the pre.
     
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  4. ghost rider

    ghost rider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Chicago
    To each his own. I'm sure some might not like how my all tube system sounds mainly because it sound very different from what they are used to.
     
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  5. vinylkid58

    vinylkid58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, B.C.
    Really depends on what speakers you have and how hard they are to drive.

    jeff
     
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  6. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Different tube equipment have different sonic signatures. So it is possible to build an all tube system that is neutral or one that is very warm and sluggish sounding when compared to a neutrally balanced system. Too many tubes from a maker that has a warmish sound results in the latter. I typically use a tubed preeamp and a SS power amp, but I have also used every combination conceivable. The benefit of using SS for the power section is efficiency in power (no tube cost, typically less electric utility cost, and less heat dissipation). There are a handful of tube power amps that can dish out deep and tight bass for most any speaker system, but that does come at a cost. It also sounds amazing. ;)
    -Bill
     
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  7. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    I will add that I also typically prefer a solid state phono section. Since the title of your thread suggests where one might best utilize vacuum tube amplification, I find that spot to be the line stage. Even in a system that has a tube power amp, I like a SS phono section more often than not. It can be done with tubes but it costs two or three times what a SS unit would and then there is maintenance due to noise creeping in after some use. It adds up to a rather expensive (and hot) system.
    -Bill
     
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  8. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    The only need to be concerned with “balance” is if you need 100wpc or more to light up your speakers. And you can certainly do that with tubes but it’s not practical.

    I think a SS preamp has (or can have) a blacker background. The idea of compounding a tube sound has not been my experience. I find modern stuff to be detailed and neutral.
     
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  9. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    My experience has been that if I had a choice, and I did, I would use a good SS class-A preamp and tube power stage, rather than the other way around.

    I do have some rather large Rogue M-150 monoblocks that put out 150-Watts apiece in the ultralinear mode. They have enough authority if I really want to power up the system.

    The SS, then tube approach works for me.

    Now I have a 6SN7 tube based preamp on the main A7 system, which is now a pure tube system, since my addition of a tube phono-pre.

    No, it doesn't sound too tubey, just more analog sounding, even with digital sources.

    The monoblocks use KT-88's, which I prefer in modern amps, gives better bass than EL34 based amps.

    But, now that there are reasonably priced high power tube amps that use the newer KT-120's, you can get plenty of tube power, for not a lot of money. The Rogue Cronos Magnum is a good example of this.

    I restrict my use of tubes to the A7 speakers, that are highly efficient. But use strictly SS on my modern tower speakers, because they sound fine with SS amps.

    Since I run them almost 24/7, the cost of replacing power tubes can add up. This is as specially true when running the monoblocks with four KT-88's in each amp.

    But, it is true, that some speakers are less efficient and do perform best with SS power, so tubes are not necessary and a SS system can sound very well indeed.

    Fortunately, highly efficient speakers that sound best, when driven with tubes, have an added benefit that you don't need a lot of power to drive them. The smallest tube amp that I have is only 3.9-Watts and while it won't quite drive the A7's to concert volume, it will drive them to a nice room filling volume.

    I find that I can drive the A7's to a louder than room filling volume with an early 60's tube amplifier with tubes in the EL84 family that can produce 20-22 Watts (per channel). At, the 36-WPC the PrimaLuna produces, it is ALL the tube power I will ever need.

    The key here is that some speakers are voiced with solid state amplification and so they sound good with SS and there is really no reason to even consider, bringing tubes into the equation.

    While you can put tubes on any speakers, if they are not going to bring much to the party, you might as well stay with SS.
     
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  10. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I don’t think many speakers have been voiced for tubes in the past 40 years. Hence the need for modern tube amps to be massive power plants.

    When I think “voiced” it’s more about music or HT. Tuned for base and dialogue in the case of HT.
     
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  11. sturgus

    sturgus Member

    Location:
    St. Louis Mo
    The only time you can have too many tubes is when it's time to replace them. :uhhuh:

    Looking for new integrated amp down the line. I always thought I would like a tube amp, but what is the thinking if your phono is already tube based.
    Try and balance it out with a good solid state amp?


    For many people this integration works very well. I know their are some very nice tube intergrated's out there, but I would look at going separates. This will just give you more flexibility. You can go tube pre-amp SS/amp or SS/pre-amp tube/amp. Most people try the Tube pre-amp SS/amp and find it very satisfying. A lot will be determined by the synergy of amp and speaker. If you have the right speaker an all tube system can be very nice. It's always about synergy.

    What speakers and amp are you using now?

     
  12. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    We are along the same lines here.

    When I say "voiced" I mean, that as far as the general buying public are concerned, tubes went out forty years ago (or more). Even McIntosh stopped manufacturing their world famous tube amplifier's, in favor of SS (which makes a pretty big statement).

    They were not the only ones to do so. Scott, Fisher, Marantz and all the major manufacturer's, dropped kicked tubes, in favor of the more modern, reliable SS.

    So, I and my friends, made the transactions to SS as were were in our young teens and becoming more interested in sound reproduction. So all of my later teen years and all of my adult life, I only knew the "joys" of SS amplification.

    I didn't really know that modern tube equipment was still being manufactured. I knew that there were factories in the U.S.S.R. and the People's Republic of China, had the remaining tube manufacturing plants. I knew that electric guitar amplifier's still used tubes and I (wrongfully) assumed that tube audio went the way of the Dodo bird (It's equally a shame that there are not any Dodo birds on our planet any more).

    If you are currently manufacturing speakers today, with the intention of mass marketing to the general public, you design them to sound their best with SS amplifier's.

    But, as you say, the general public is not buying speakers, at the big box stores, for two channel stereo, which is a concept that has been far removed from the general public, as far as any attempts of achieving something approaching audiophile quality. One word that they associate with music, EAR BUDS.

    When people go to big box stores, they are going there to purchase flat screen TV's, AV receiver's and speakers to complete their HT experience (let's throw in a subwoofer with this one).

    So, yes, most speakers sold today are designed to be mated to SS amps and their primary use IS for HT. Here, any stereo use is strictly an afterthought.

    As such, the majority of these speakers give little attention to the midrange, but suggest that their bass is outstanding and their HF is dynamic.

    The people who are purchasing these speakers are spending mere minutes in a big box store avaluating their performance. They are selling extreme dynamics, they are selling the quality of a motion picture cinema, in your own home.

    The same goes for the video, take one of the store demo TV sets home and look at the picture, while viewing a movie, the resulting picture is horrendous! I absolutely hated LCD TV's. My previous TV was from 2006 (and I bought it used, for a couple hundred dollars), was a Texas Instruments DLP design, which I liked and the size and weight didn't bother me. The picture was good and the colors natural.

    But, the TV had been on its last legs for way long and the picture was dark, to the point that you couldn't see it in the daytime, so I decided, that I had to retire the TV. I would have preferred to have a really good tech, restore it and put it back in use. Since that was not going to have to happen, I was being forced into buying a new TV. I opted for a store demo to save some money.

    The picture adjustments were just awful. Once I properly adjusted to picture to my preferences, life was better.

    The point is too many speakers that sound dynamic in the store, can lead to listening fatigue, once in your home.
     
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  13. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    It's interesting, things really are designed to make a quick impression. Like the TV in the store that is shooting lasers in your eyes or a sound system that is above everything else loud with bass that will punch you in the chest. It makes people quickly stop and pay attention. I find that each era has a sound quality, our is characterized by loudness.

    In my opinion that just isn't how tubes work. It's more of an understated sweetness that is addictive more than it is shock and awe. I'm playin ball at a pretty low level, I'm sure a 100K all tube system is plenty capable of shock and awe. But from what I've had in my house, when someone that isn't into it wants a demo (or I force one on them), they system that they can't talk over without yelling and moves air in the room is the one they respond to.
    People that are into it to the level of knowing if a cart is MC or MM by listening or can differentiate between tubes, have a much different reaction.

    At the end of the day I think if you develop an appreciation for the sound of tubes, you will grow to want them throughout the system. It's a process.
     
  14. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    On topic...my ranking for tubes in a system would be

    1) Phonostage. It's just the thing I would miss the most if it were gone
    2) Power. But only if it is producing enough power to drive the speakers they are running.
    3) Preamp. A great place for tubes but not because it gives you a "tubey sound" but because it just sounds great. I put it third place because it can be a bit "hissy" depending on the quality of the preamp and I think SS can really do an excellent job in this spot.

    Dollar for dollor for dollar, new SS stuff sounds better. What I mean is, if you have just $1,000 to spend on a new out of the box phono stage, SS is going to be better. Get that budget up to 3K and the tubes will be the winner, same thing on down the chain. I don't think tubes in and of themselves make anything better. Put a couple tubes in a $400 phono stage and it doesn't make it a great phonostage.
     
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  15. jkull

    jkull Member

    Location:
    NJ
    First thing- saw a few members above state that the best place to utilize tube components (if having to pick one), is at the power source, or, the amp. I agree with that entirely. Any amp will produce some distortion and harmonics. Tube amplifiers produce all even order harmonics, which are satisfying to our ears, unlike SS amplifiers which will also produce odd harmonics which are attributed to the harshness that some SS amps portray.

    You aren't going to drown yourself in too much of anything by using multiple or even all valve driven components. You are open to so many adjustments to your systems sound through easy swapping of tubes as well.. can be fun.
     
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  16. ghost rider

    ghost rider Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Chicago
    I could not agree more. I started down the road to tubes with a Project tube box then McIntosh C2500 preamp. Each was an improvement. When I demoed the Rogue ST100 I was comparing it to my 20+ year old Bryston 4B a descent SS amp. Trying to justify the new purchase I was listening to how each amp sounded. To be honest at 1st I wasn't completely sure. Some music like jazz was clearly better but classic rock stuff I have heard all my life and mostly on radios at work (not exactly hifi) When I play records many are new to me used records that I never heard except on the radio before and when I listen to them on my all tube system they literally sound like different pressing/mixes than what I'm used to. Everything about them sounds better, more depth better bass can clearly hear instruments that I may not have even noticed before, the vocals sound better. Everything just sounds distinctly different. Like listening to led Zeppelin I can clearly pick out the 3 or 4 guitar tracks that just never stood out before.

    I think the ST100 was the biggest leap forward and I can see many people not taking the time to listen to the detailed differences but rather thinking of the cost and how this possible new amp doesn't sound quite right. So I stopped switching the two trying to convince myself that the 4B was actually better in some respects and settled in and let it play. There is no going back for me.

    On a side note with tube gear you can fine tune it to your liking by experimenting with different tube options.
     
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  17. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Forum Resident

    I have three Rogue amps. M-150's, a Cronos Magnum and a KT-88 powered Stereo 90. And I totally agree with your statements.
     
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  18. Buzzman3535

    Buzzman3535 New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    great information, thanks everyone.

    I have a relatively inexpensive integrated amp (cambridge audio azur 350). If i am upgrading in the future to separate power amp...do I still need an additional pre amp over and above my fosgate phono preamp?

    Do you need a phono preamp....then a regular preamp....then a power amp too? I don't know the answer because I have only had integrated amps that contain both preamp and power amp sections.
     
  19. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    Always use that fosgate. If your current integrated amp has pre outs, you can run it to a separate power amp, thus bypassing it’s internal amplification. If not, you will need a preamp.
     

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