Is you Amplifier only as Good as the Tube Brands?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by allied333, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I know, another of my controversial statements. But, is your amp only as good as the tubes installed?

    I say for the most part yes if you have a higher end system. The only tube that performs with the clarity my Revel M22s speakers are capable of are Siemens 6BM8. These power tubes are as important at least in this incident as the preamp tube. Of course, the preamp plays a large role too. I tried every 6BM8 made and only the Siemens performs well. If the Siemens 6BM8 were not available, I would pursue another tube amplifier.

    It does not stop here. I rebuilt and upgraded a Scott 299A for a member here with I believe the most critical ears I ever encountered. And, I have had over 100 customers. The tubes that worked for the member here were RCA 12AX7 black plate in the phono and Mullard 12AX7 long plate in the preamp. The Sovtek premium EL84M were also required for my customer. These are the better EL84 vs the cheaper Sovtek EL84 tubes. Anyways, he was satisfied only after the best tubes were installed. Perhaps he will 'chime in' here.

    If you have just average speakers and a cheaper TT plus a lower end cartridge the tubes do not matter as much. But, higher-end equipment do need the best tubes to extract the best performance. I also assume the amp is high-end using good audio transformers and good audio coupling capacitors to extract the best out of the tubes.

    The better tubes can add greatly to the cost of your tube amplifier, but that is the game. No way around it.

    Your thoughts?
     
  2. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    i had a raven audio amplifier a while ago and it sounded spectacular and better than anything for the $. One reason- Raven audio ships with NOS tubes. Not just any old NOS tubes either- they are selected based on knowledge of the NOS tube market and systematically picked for high synergy with respect to their position in the circuit.
    Tubes can make or break the sound of your tube amplifier- every single one of them has the power to do this.
     
  3. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    That is smart of Raven Audio.
     
  4. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    What is interesting here, is that it is a two way street.

    They other way. You can take that best tubes and pair them with substandard electronics and the tube will still sound like a crap tube.
     
    bluemooze likes this.
  5. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I think your tube amp is probably more likely only as good as the output iron, and the power supply, regardless of the brand or make of the tubes made. I think the biggest difference between old production tubes and new production tubes is that the old production tubes tend to be overbuilt with respect to spec, where the new production tubes barely handle heat and turn on-turn off cycles up to spec, and the old production tubes tend to be more consistent from tube to tube -- but that was only true probably back in the day, now that the stock that's available is just what has happened to survive down to today, I'm not sure you can count on great the advantages of the old production line QC. But the differences between tubes of the same type performing up to spec in the circuit are probably going to be less substantial than differences in output iron or power supply stiffness or better or worse power supply filtering. Which is not to say that the tubes (and the coupling caps, I'm always amazed at the difference that coupling caps can make) don't make differences -- how much also may depend on the circuit. But I wouldn't put it all or even primarily on the particular tubes used.
     
  6. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    Personally, preamp tubes had more of an effect than audio transformers or power supplies in the 100+ amps I rebuilt. All had same upgraded coupling caps. But, the power supply stiffness and good audio transformer vs poor make a difference as well. Low noise solid-state diodes also made a difference with amps not having a rectifier tube.

    As for audio transformers. One Electron has a site that tested a lot of vintage audio transformers here.
    Push-Pull Transformer Test

    The Fisher 500C has a 'D' rated audio transformer, but sounds good if a little non-involving.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  7. Subagent

    Subagent I dropped Physics. Ohm's Law doesn't apply to me.

    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    To the extent that it can be rolled until one finds the most desirable sound (to the person doing the rolling), yes. But a well built and well designed amp should still sound pretty good with decent new production tubes. In other words, you can generally improve on manufacturer supplied, tubes (for new gear), or cheap new production tubes (for older gear), but the basic "goodness" of the amp should be apparent given a functioning complement of tubes regardless of origin. IMO.
     
  8. classicrocker

    classicrocker Life is good!

    Location:
    Worcester, MA, USA
    I don't own tube audio components but I can say from experience that different tubes do make a difference in sound in my guitar amps especially preamp tubes like 12AX7's. Personally, I prefer the sound of old 1950/60's NOS tubes but some of the new production Russian and Chinese tubes can sound good as well but just different. NOS tubes are certainly more rugged and can handle bring driven outside their specs and also last longer in my experience.
     
  9. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Your amplifier is also only as good as it's circuit design, engineering, and build quality too. Not to mention the quality of the parts used in building it. And those factors affect how long your amplifier lasts, how well it sounds or doesn't sound, how much stress it's component parts (tubes being a part of the components used), and whether you'll be happy with it for many years. Consider all the above factors in your decision making.
     
    loudinny and vconsumer like this.
  10. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Agreed 100%. I love my amps - have yet to hear a tube I didn't like (except for the microphonic ones - which went in the trash.)
     
  11. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Some circuit designs, the tubes used can be very important to the stability of that circuit. The HH Scott 299 is a lot better amplifier than you give it credit for. It was designed by people who knew how to design a great sounding, stable, well behaved amplifier which was also engineered not to put too high stress on the tubes. The HH Scott output and power iron is excellent quality if good. But use suitable NOS tubes in it, or new tubes of comparable quality.
     
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  12. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I did not say or imply the Scott 299A is bad. My customer wants a perfect sounding amp & got it. The Scott 299A is to date the only amp that performs as well as my Pioneer tube amp. That says a lot. I rebuilt many different tube amps that fall short of my Pioneer amp.
     
    McLover likes this.
  13. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    This kind of insight is what led me to finding an alternative to 'iron' two decades ago, when I learned about Berning's "ZOTL" impedance converter and his line of tube amps that used it. I bought one then (the now-discontinued SET "Siegfried"), and have been delighted with it ever since. I believe I'm just about the only forum member who has a Berning amp with the ZOTL converter.

    And then replacing the three input tubes per channel with the best I could find and afford has taken it to another level. I'd try rolling the power tubes too but there are no NOS or vintage 811-10 or 572-10 type power triodes in existence.
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  14. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I remember when Svetlana brought out the 811-10 & 572-10 for a brief period. Extremely rare tubes now, but the good news is the heavy duty tube filament may last 50,000 hours. Some are listed for sale on ebay though.
     
    McLover likes this.
  15. Otlset

    Otlset free-range audiophile

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Heh, one of my 572-10 power tubes recently went bad, leaving me with only the two in use and no spares. So I went on eBay with fingers crossed and what luck, some guy was selling I think 4-5 quads of brand new Svetlana 572-10s (must have been unsold stock)! So I quickly ordered two quads (around $260 per quad), eight tubes which I hope will last the rest of my life and beyond. :righton:
     
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  16. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Glad we see eye to eye on the Scott's quality. I love the 299.
     
  17. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    Very fine amp. Quality audio transformers.
     
    McLover likes this.
  18. MaxxMaxx4

    MaxxMaxx4 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Winnipeg Canada
    I've found the wire used in preamp's can make a nice but small improvement. Nothing like the way the right speaker cable can transform a good audio system.
     
    tmsorosk likes this.
  19. Ezd

    Ezd Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Seattle
    Is you Amplifier only as Good as the Tube Brands?

    Many people on this forum have more knowledge then me regarding what affects the sound quality of a tube amp, but it is a timely question for me...
    I recently bought a new 300b set amplifier, made in China, MSRP of $2799. The company, Pacific Creek is near me and was selling some SE300I models at an attractive price. I thought this would be an opportunity to listen to a 300b set amp in my own system. Like many companies, they designed the circuit in the US and have the amps manufactured in China for cost reasons.

    Here is a very old (13 years) short thread about the amp from this forum.
    Audio Amps with We 300B tube?

    I am going to continue listening with the stock tubes for a few months, then will try installing higher quality tubes.
    • 300B-98 x 2
    • 6P3 (Russian 6L6) or equivalent x 2
    • 12AU7 x 2
    • 5Z3P x 1
    So, getting back to the op's original question, I will have to decide how much I want to spend on tubes to install in this amp. Where is the point that tube quality goes beyond the capability of this amp to resolve? I guess I am trying to find the "sweet spot". What little research I have done on this has me considering Shuguang Black Treasures 300B-Z and the equivalent of the other tubes...
    I realize that the same tube will sound differently in separate amplifiers, but would appreciate any thoughts from people who have had a similar experience.
     
  20. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I would use these tubes. Pinnacle (Brimar) 12AU7 or 13D5 or you can also use CBS Hytron 12AU7 or 5814. Other 12AU7s cannot compare. RCA 6L6 black plate. RCA 5Z3. New 300B from Audio Note. Should be available now. Reported to be as good as original Western Electric 300B. I think $280 each. Not likely the amp would mask the tube performance with the best tubes imaginable.

    BTW- you may not have much experience in tubes, but plenty of experience in great sound with that amp.
     
    Ezd likes this.
  21. vconsumer

    vconsumer Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado
    This marks the end of any productive conversation on this so-called controversy.
     
  22. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I wrote that opening sentence due to some state I am weird (last week), an idiot, etc. The people that write these negative comments are the ones that are ignorant with anything technical, but they figure they are brilliant. They mislead audiophiles on this forum making others lose money on bad decisions.
     
  23. vconsumer

    vconsumer Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado
    Screw those guys. I just disagree with your premise.
     
  24. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire Thread Starter

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    Here is a report on the Audio Note 300B tubes.

    Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note UK, one of the most fascinating people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He is constantly on a quest to manufacture new what was only once possible in the good old days.

    In this case, Molybdenum anode 211s, called 4242E's. There is a 300B version also but since I don't have a 300B machine right now, impossible to test but I'm sure they are just as amazing.

    Right up front: In my system, these are a lot better than the Elrogs, and that is saying much. In fact, I feel they are better than all but the very, very best of the NOS types, primarily the United Electronics 38111a and the Westinghouse CG1985 (which by the way also has a Molybdenum anode, as does the old WE242E and the STC4242A.) These new old stock tubes are very, very expensive now, almost unobtanium at any price.

    So, a few points. This is not an Audio Note UK invention, it is simply a reflection of the fact that they always research history for the best that was made in the past which is really the only way to know whether they are moving forward or not in absolute terms. This is why I love Audio Note and the crazies who work there. No one else in the audio industry does this with any kind of consistency. So all that has happened is that new technology invented for other branches of electronics have been introduced into the audio chain in the mistaken belief that new is better. Not always true.

    I received two of these 211 beauties, directly from the UK and they are from a special batch, a beta test batch of 50 pieces that have now been confirmed to work reliably and sound consistent. Now Audio Note have 1,000 pieces on order and are exclusive to Audio Note UK under an agreement with Psvane, hence the small badge inside the glass showing the Audio Note logo and a serial number. A nice touch.

    Let me remind you all that I love Psvane tubes. I used four of their 211's in my older AN UK amps (now with @Warren Jarrett at the "Audio Home") and I never had an issue with them. In fact, I have recommended them for a long time. No firecrackers these. So this union with Audio Note UK is exciting for me. The PRICE of these is also exciting. More on that in a minute.

    Molybdenum is extremely hard and difficult to work with, it has a melting point over 3,500 degrees centigrade so very specialized tooling is needed to form it and the cost of starting production is substantial and a good barrier to entry so to speak, but Audio Note will no doubt see copyists having a go, as they always do. Beware of those when they show up (as they will.)

    So as a result of this, the thickness of the plate can vary. This makes some samples glow red because the plate is slightly thinner than other samples, therefore please note that this is not an issue as far as reliability is concerned! Just a pretty color.

    Audio Note UK will be offering these for sale at around $ 280.00 each or $ 560.00 for a matched pair. That's the deal of a lifetime.

    These will be offered through the AN dealer and distributor network worldwide. Note that the 1,000 piece batch will not be ready for another 30 – 60 days, as AN has only just finished testing the beta samples to approve and placed the order. Same, I would imagine, for the 300B version.

    Audio Note knows why Molybdenum sounds better, it is the same reason that silver sounds better and it has taken years of AN's research into molecular and crystaline structures in many different metals to gain a deeper understanding of this. It's what they live for over there. They do the work, we reap the benefits.

    Obviously I'm an Audio Note UK fanboy unabashed. They actually take the time to do proper research into what makes the sound different and better. I don't think anyone else does this in the audio industry much, so when people complain that what AN UK makes is soooo overpriced they really have no idea what the hell they are talking about, and that especially includes their competitors. Rant over.

    Recap:

    So, if you have an amplifier of any make that uses a 211 radio transmitting tube or a 300B type tube (valve), contact your Audio Note UK dealer and grab these. They are NOT expensive, they sound amazing, and they won't blow up. Did I say they sound amazing?
     
  25. tmsorosk

    tmsorosk MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Location:
    Sprucegrove Canada
    No doubt about it. A chap that repaired my vintage tube amps always preached the importance of quality wire.
     
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