Modern Tubey Sounding Amps

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Barnabas Collins, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I haven't heard Manley amps in a long time but they didn't give the impression they were particularly valvey sounding to me. But to be fair when I heard them they were driving Spendor - and those plastic woofers always sound reedy to me so it was probably nothing to do with the amp. Speaking of Manley - those new headphone amps look GREAT and apparently you can run them as a preamp. This may also be a consideration.
     
  2. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    The Stingray was designed by EveAnna Manley, David's ex wife after David left Manley Labs and founded VTL.

    I'd definitely say it sounds tubey. I love it, as well as the Jumbo Shrimp preamp and Mahi monoblocks.
     
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  3. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    It's pretty easy to get tubey out of EL84s. I've never seen a schematic of the Stingray but I'd bet it's pretty cookbook.
     
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  4. theron d

    theron d Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore MD
    I thought my Quicksilver 70s with Quicksilver tube preamp driving Vandersteen 2ceSig II was very tubey sounding. Liquid like midrange, holographic.
     
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  5. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    I'm with Benzion on this. This will be controvertial, but a well designed tubed power amp sounds the same (or very similar) as a well designed solid state power amp.

    But that is not so much the point - the art (and it is an art) in designing tubed power amps is voicing them to make them less accurate, but providing a particular and pleasing sound and musical experience. I've had Krell class A solid state and later Audio Research power amps, and enjoyed both. But I've gone back to solid state, because I need ten channels to power my active speakers - and five stereo tubed power amps would have been insane.

    I seem to remember that Nelson Pass took one of his solid state power amps, and tweaked it (for distortion, which orders of it, and what phases too) so that it had exactly the same characteristics as a valved amp, at which stage they both sounded indistinguishable. I might be misremembering the precise details, but that was the gist.

    Another Pass-quote "...The result was so interesting that I released it as the SIT-1, with a knob on the front panel and a meter showing the voltage/current operating point of the SIT, so that users could make the adjustments and decide what they liked best. We floated some prototypes around and found that most people preferred a particular setting. There was a consistent subjective observation that there was a difference not only with the level of second harmonic, but phase also. Negative-phase second harmonic tends to expand the perception of front-to-back space in the soundstage, separating instruments a bit. Positive phase does the opposite, putting things subjectively closer and "in your face."..."

    All of which will do absolutely nothing to answer the OP's question :D
     
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  6. Hudo

    Hudo Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Dublin, Ireland
    The first moment i heard Primaluna preamp, I totally understood that quote from sterephile review "That's a second-harmonic generator!" (PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium line preamplifier Page 2 )
    So for that lush tube sound, use Prima integrated, or Prima preamp with some SS power.
    For even more lush and that mid range magic add Mullard tubes, even original PL (rebranded Psvane) are quite warm and musical.
    IMHO.
     
  7. HiFi Guy

    HiFi Guy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    I own a PrimaLuna Dialogue HP integrated. Up until recently I would have disagreed with you. I didn't find mine nearly as tubey sounding as I had hoped.

    In the last couple of weeks, it seems to have really come into its own. Maybe it takes 8 months to break in the output transformers. Whatever has happened, I really really like it now.
     
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  8. DPR

    DPR Active Member

    Location:
    California
    Personally I think the only way your going to find the sound you want is to audition at least a few pre amp and amp combinations. I have found the pre amp adds at least as much if not more to the "tube sound". I have several systems both tube and and some very high end SS. My main tube pre amp recently lost a channel and I replaced it with my SS pre amp and much of the magic went away. The synergy between the two is very important. I'm not familiar with the op's speakers but I currently drive a pair of 88db Sonus Faber's with a pair of custom 45 tube mono blocks along with a small sub woofer and in a 24'x30' room have all the volume I ever need for Classic Rock, Blues and acoustic music.

    Test drive as many as you can and find the sound your looking for.
     
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  9. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I've been kicking around the idea of moving to separates. I think with my PMC's, something like a NOS tube DAC, feeding a tube preamp, into a nice SS amp would work well. There is a Magnus MA-200 on CAM at the moment. Built by Canary Audio. Big amp - 100 watts of Class A power. 200 watts into 4 ohms. Looks awesome but I can't drop $2K at the moment, and I'm still testing out a few things that I already own to figure out which combinations I like best. When that's done I should have a good idea if I want to make any changes. I might need to start lifting weights again.
     
  10. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    It is going to have an EL84 sound, which is more on the tubey side than not, just the same as most EL84 amps.
     
  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I have two EL84 amps and they don't sound much alike - granted one is SE and the other is PP. But this raises the point about some SS manufacturers and how wholly clueless that are.

    Just Walking notes a SS maker who claims he can make a SS amp sound like a tube amp (Carver claimed it I believe) but then I say "which one" since tube amps don't sound anywhere near the same even within the same use of tubes. I remember directly comparing two $1500 integrated using the same tubes (EL34) the Jolida 302B and Antique Sound Labs 1003DT. The former was fat veiled and stereotyically tube. The latter was modern - brighter thinner faster sounding but lacked bass weight and the bigger fatter stereotypical tube sound.

    And as all tube owners know you can change the sound of the amp with the tubes you purchase - some are slight changes some are rather significant. SS has none of this ability. Carver and others may very well be able to add distortion to a SS amp by adding resistors in the line to create what they perceive to be a stereotype (a kind of tube buffer) approach but then they have a dog in the hunt - they're trying to sell you SS and a good way to do that is to to try and denigrate tube amps. Tube coloured and distorted - buy our "Accuracy & Truth."

    But as I usually say - SS power is quite cheap on the second hand market these days and we live in a time where we can have our cake and eat it too. So why not have a SS power amp and a SET? I will go out today and peruse the second hand shops in Hong Kong to see what SS amps are around - who knows maybe I'll see an Accuphase or Pass Labs or something. But I am saving for a Jinro - so it's just window shopping - there is no SS amp from anyone that beats a Jinro IME.

    I suppose I can respect what SS brings to the table as an audiophile but I like what a good tube amp brings to music - and music is more important than audio.

    Fred Crowder reviewed the top Pass Labs monoblock amps and compared them to Audio Note 300B Kegon monoblock power amps on his big horn speakers. Pass Labs Xs 150 Monoblock Amplifiers Review
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
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  12. Johnny Action

    Johnny Action Forum President

    Location:
    Tacoma, WA, USA
    I understand none of this.
     
  13. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    You are absolutely right - it was Carver. Told you my recollection was foggy when I said it was Pass :magoo:

    Regarding tube rolling, we really need to look at the physics of why different tubes sound different. I suspect that the root cause is microphonic effects, and this was studied at length by Mullard back in 1962. Summary is here Valve Microphonics with links to the actual, very easy to read two-part articles at the bottom of the page.

    Tektronix used to select tubes for some of their classic era oscilloscopes and plug ins for tolerance to vibration, and defined the tests for that selection. And then they used to mount the chassis in which they were installed on resilient rubber mounts (with lock-down gizomos so that would be safe during shipping).

    Tests for tube selection here, including vibration tests http://w140.com/tekwiki/images/1/14/157-_checked_and_tested_tubes_specs_and_procedure.pdf

    They also aged tubes in huge racks before fitting into the equipment, which also weeded out infant mortality. http://w140.com/tekwiki/images/0/0a/Tek_tube_aging.pdf

    I strongly suspect that tubed audio manufacturers do little if any of that.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
  14. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The problem with this is that all of it matters not one wit to the end consumer. the consumer is buying an audio product to recreate the sound from the information it is given - which is the source disc. it's pretty much the same regardless of the consumer product whether it be a car, a TV or a toaster. A SS maker may in fact be able to make his amplifier emulate ONE tube amplifier with certain attributes over a recording or two (although Carver hardly established that - a bunch of people nodding slavishly in an agreement on a simple test isn't proof).

    Over the years as blind tests have indicated that low feedback amplifiers sound better (even when big name SS amp makers chose a $100 Radford tube amp over their own $3000 SS amp designs) A Future Without Feedback? some of these SS manufacturers have begun selling lesser measuring low feedback amplifiers and have admitted that "Oops we were wrong our prior amps stunk and now these new ones are sounding better" - Ahem Dan DÁgostino is one of them.

    Ultimately that's the issue - As someone who grew up with SS and a measurements first approach kind of guy - tubes were a silly notion to me. Until blind listening, of sorts, comparing big SS power to an 8 watt amp (not realizing it was 8 watts or a tube amp) where the latter had vastly better bass depth and control while presenting a fuller presentation and lacked grain presented by the SS amp. So while one can post streams of white papers and technical articles all day - it really doesn't impact that experience - a car can have the greatest reviews in the world but if you sit in the driver's seat and find it horribly uncomfortable there really is little else you can say about the car to make you buy it. It's the same with headphones - if they're uncomfortable - any other attribute they may have is nullified there and then.

    Albeit I am not a fan of a lot of tube amp makers either - ARC has never really sounded good to me even though they're a big name. But they do not make Single Ended amplifiers. Some of them sound like mud. In fact I purchased a Rotel preamplifier over an ARC preamplifier in direct comparison. Although the Rotel was better - I sold it off in about a year. Some of this generalization about SS vs Tube to me comes down to what specific amplifiers are being compared.
     
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  15. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    Hey - if you aren't interested in well researched reasons why tubes sound different *when installed in the same amplifier* that is your call. What you seem to be saying that the end consumer has absolutely nothing other than ill-informed opinion, that is just an opportunity to be reamed by the audiophile tube retailers.

    You are broadening the discussion to amplifier topology - do you want to discuss that?
     
  16. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I disagree - listening is not an ill-informed opinion - you listen - the results will tell you what is better. If you think your listening is corrupted with one bias or another bias then listen in a blind level matched session. Either way - you have to listen - reading 100 pages of WHY one tube sounds different than another tube helps you exactly - zero. If A sounds better than B then A is better - why do you care about the reason? If you think A sounds better than B because the salesman is tricking you then you listen level matched and blind.

    The ears need to lead the measurements not the other way around.
     
  17. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire

    Location:
    MI
    If tubey means distorted, I would not want that amp. If tubey means warm sounding, any single-ended amp using triodes would be warm & inviting on the right high efficient speakers. Klipsch Cornwall speakers come to mind.
     
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  18. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    Well your call. But tube rolling is a subject for the deeply pocketed, and the tube dealer's delight. Makes me think of getting into this particular bandwagon myself in retirement to fund a hefty pension.
     
  19. Eaglesfan9

    Eaglesfan9 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Huntsville Texas
    Unless I missed it there is no mention in this thread of Carver tube amps.
    I heard the Crimson 275 ($2,750) at the last RMAF and thought it stunning. Eventually bought one and am very pleased with the results. It drives Quad 2905s with great ease.
    Power is said to be 75 watts into 8 ohms but I think it puts out more than that. The tubes are guaranteed for 5 years.
    Am really enjoying my music, which is what it is all about after all.
     
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  20. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    And it says something that Carver makes only tube amplifiers now!
     
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  21. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Well that is true - it requires money to buy tubes - but then it depends what you're comparing things to. I mean if you spend $2000 on a tube amp that with stock tubes beats every $8,000 SS amp you try - well that leaves you plenty of money to experement with tubes. It also depends on the amp. EL84 amps use very inexpensive tubes - 211 based amps not cheap.
     
  22. Fedot L

    Fedot L Forum Resident

    I used to listen, attentively, for rather long periods, to high quality sound material “through” high quality ultra-linear push-pull control power amps and “through” high quality transistor amps.

    And to me, there is neither “tubey” nor “transistor” sound. There is audibly distorted sound (i.e. when an amp and/or any other audio component, adds its own audible non-linear distortions to the signal it treats) and audibly undistorted sound (i.e. when an amp and/or any other audio component, doesn’t add its own audible non-linear distortions to the signal it treats). No matter “tube” or “transistor”, “modern” or “not modern” amps.
     
  23. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    F.Y.I.

    "In early 2012, Pass Labs will be releasing their ultra-monster two-chassis-mono (four-chassis for stereo) power amplifiers: the Xs-150. The Pass Labs summary deign theory essay about the Xs amps is located on the News page of this website. The Pass Labs Xs-150 is 150 WPC into 8-ohms and the list price is $65,000."

    [​IMG]
     
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  24. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I suppose to be fair to Pass Labs - Fred's Reference amps - the Audio Note Kegon Balanced 22 watt per channel 300B amps are $95,000 a full $30k more list. So they should be better! They should be hand of God on your ear drum good!! :)
    Audio Note Kegon Mono Block Tube Amplifier Review
     
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  25. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
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