Modern Tubey Sounding Amps

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

  1. Blair G.

    Blair G. Senior Member

    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Modwright is working on a tube buffer, there is a thread on Audio Circle. Sounds promising

    Quick Product Poll! Tube Buffer with Volume Control?
     
  2. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
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  3. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I mean the prices do get nuts but I was in Macau not long back and I was looking at the Baccarat table in the Sands and I noticed that the maximum bet was 2.5 million HKD ($315,000USD) - so in one bet which takes about 1 minute to complete - you could drop $315,000! And then I looked at my friend and said "This is not even the high roller room. This is the regular floor! No wonder Macau takes in 7 times the money that Las Vegas takes in.

    So an Audio Note amp - lol - nothing.
     
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  4. sturgus

    sturgus Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis Mo
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  5. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    supreme power and authority but i did not find any of several encounters with jadis based systems to sound golden or romantic.
     
    geodiak likes this.
  6. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Reading the OP's profile - it would probably make more sense to buy different loudspeakers. The warmer presentation people seek is typically found in more natural materials - paper/silk than kevlar/plastic/metal. That hyper detail (grain and mismatched drivers) lead to a sense of unease.

    Nothing against the Focals - I have enjoyed several pairs but then I was listening for fairly short periods - they're not exactly a warm rich full bodied presentation.
     
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  7. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    Plastic diaphragms tend to sound a little warmer than paper IME.
     
  8. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I suppose it depends on the rest of the speaker as well - but I have not come across a speaker using polypropylene that I have much cared for. The bigger issue is the fact that drivers have a sonic signature beyond frequency response and when a woofer is handling the same frequency as the tweeter - that overlap is where on longer session instruments become a problem for me. I find plastic affected in some way so perhaps warm could be used - maybe slower.

    Most of the speakers I have owned though have used paper woofers - so it may just be that my ear is more used to that presentation and I do tend to prefer its use in brands I don't own as well. I try and think of speaker lines I found to be warm sounding in the 1990s - probably would include speakers from ProAc/Castle/Linn/ (though some of these may have shifted now) and more current Sonus Faber/Von Gaylord/ and some Wharfedale models, certain Harbeths, Totem, Gershman Acoustics, LS grouping of speakers - Vandersteen? (been a while on Vandersteen for me), Meridian, Celestion - copper versions of the AN speakers, Wilson Benesch.

    Not a bad grouping of loudspeakers to be honest - Von Gaylord "The Return of the Legend" were especially warm rich and full bodied. Maybe too much but they sounded sublime on the music I put on them. So there is that. And the funny thing is the Von Gaylord is one of those that goes DIRECTLY against my generalization - Kevlar woofer AND Kevlar tweeter! LOL - One of the warmest thickest sounds I've heard - then again perhaps that driver matching - Kevlar to Kevlar matters.

    [​IMG]

    And I know this is unrelated but I'd love to hear the liquid cooled monoblock amplifiers they sell

    [​IMG]

    200 watts per channel pure class A Triode

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    Vollum era Tektronix scopes set the standard on how to build a piece of vacuum tube equipment properly. They should be preserved and studied. Having said that they were designed for purpose and they cost the price of a decent new car in a lot of cases. Even consumer service techs and factory production lines rarely bought Tek, they bought service grade equipment like BK Precision, Sencore, or the like. However, high end audio equipment that now costs the price of a new car today is in no instance I've seen built like a Vollum era Tek scope, and some of it is shoddy by any standard. Buyers who have no technical knowledge and are proud of their ignorance in some cases are part of the problem. Tek's major customer was the US military, with NASA and the GO-CO nuclear weapons industry also prominent, they knew what the good stuff was and in that day took a personal interest in the taxpayer getting value for his (even then admittedly exhorbitant) price.

    Second runner up was probably Collins Radio. We are lucky to have the manual for "How To Build A Collins Quality Design" in the public access now:

    http://www.collinsradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CollinsQual.pdf

    JFK was President, Marilyn Monroe was the hottest actress in Hollywood, and this was the internal guide for how it is to be done at Cedar Rapids in June, 1962. It's still worth careful study.
     
  10. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    The more I thought about it, I realized I find quite a wide variation among drivers of a given material. For example, Harbeth's Radial plastic sounds brighter/cooler to my ears than the typical plastic cone. Spendor and Epos plastic is quite warm in contrast. My JMRs are a doped-paper and a fair bit cooler than my Spendors (cooler probably the better adjective than bright) Same can be said for my Tannoys - also paper. I've heard warm paper drivers but all the ones I can think of at the moment were in vintage speakers.

    When it comes to aluminum, I typically despise the sound but I find LS50s quite tolerable. I also like the aluminum domes used by DefTech. I'm not a fan of the Vandersteen tweeter used in their model 1 through 3. It was sibilant and bright - the only weakness in otherwise excellent speakers.

    AMTs and Ribbons are also a crapshoot it seems. I like the ones in Martin Logans but can't stand those of Golden Ear. Magnepan's fall somewhere between.

    My experience with Spatial's specially-treated titanium drivers furthered my interest in beryllium (alleged to behave like beryllium) I've heard a few beryllium tweeters in the past but maybe those auditions were too short to realize their strengths. I recently had a longer audition of Revel's Salon 2 and noticed the same sonic signature. The highs were warmer/sweeter than what I hear with many silk/fabric domes, however, they retained all the "air,"extension, and detail of a good aluminum dome.

    Anyhow. I better stop before i derail the thread.

    More on topic, I recently switched out the driver tubes in my CMII and the "tubiness" increased by many times over that of its stock form - tube "bloom" for days - almost too much of a good thing. I'd like to get a decent mic and record some of these differences, as I'm certain they'll be quite obvious, even to an untrained ear. I'm now convinced that much of a tube amp's voicing comes down to tube brand and quality.
     
  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Yes we seem to share some similar tastes as I felt the same way about the KEF and Vandersteen tweeeter - I am not sure why they're as popular as they are because treble brightness is the absolute nail in the coffin - I can take a lot but not that. And I also enjoyed the AMT tweeter in the very affordable Martin Logans. I actually liked the speakers far more than their entry level but far costlier panels! Berryllium has mostly been a mixed bag for me. Usher and Focal have been good - albeit different - Focal is brighter but acceptable (when Bob Hodus set the speakers up). I didn't like it at all in the Reference 3a speakers and prefer the older models when they were run by the previous designer.

    I tend to gravitate to speakers and products that stand the test of time. I may not love them but I can usually see why they have lasted.
     
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  12. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    NH
    Guys, I appreciate all the responses, but I'm not looking to change out my entire system for tube warmth. I'm not looking to ditch my speakers or my preamp. I'm not unhappy with the sound of my system. I just wanted to add some of the legendary tube syrup to augment my system when the mood strikes. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my OP and for that, I apologize. If it's not possible to achieve what I'm looking for without starting over again, then I can certainly live with what I have.
     
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  13. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    The things to read are Tek's book "Typical Oscilloscope Circuitry" which was their design principles for things like the 535 and 545, and the Concepts range of publications Concepts Series - TekWiki . They have all the key principles of how to design tube circuits like you really mean it.

    Most audio circuits in use today take their information straight from the pages of Langford-Smith's tome "The Radiotron Designer's Handbook" 4th Ed, 1952. Particularly chapter 15 "Fidelity and Distortion". He goes all the way from subjective evaluation - tranparent, veiled, muddy, dead and flat etc, and a whole section on listener fatigue. But chapters 12 to 21 are the key sections on audio design from power amps through to loudspeaker crossovers. In many ways there has been bewilderingly small progress in tubed audio design for the last 70 years.
     
  14. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    I haven't had much luck getting a real tube experience from hybrid amps. My SS Yamaha amp is fairly tubey sounding on its own, but that's sort of a different debate I'd rather not get into.

    The hybrids systems I've experienced sounded very little like my tube integrateds - lost the magic and sounded far too accurate/clinical - whatever term you'd use to describe a boring, uninvolving amp. In this way they were worse than some completely SS amps. My hunch is that if any managed to get it right, it could be those offered by Audio By Van Alstine or Odyssey Audio, but that's only a guess.
     
  15. Lonson

    Lonson Don't Get Around Much Anymore

    The drawback is a 3 month build wait or so, but this is my recommendation--and go all out with Type 2 Jupiter caps and all the Anniversary mods. You can dial in Lushness.

    DECWARE Vacuum tube Bass restoration EQ

    This is the icing on the cake to the sound of my systems.
     
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  16. Sugar Man

    Sugar Man Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hermosa Beach
    Wait. What? TONE CONTROLS? Heathen!!!!! I don't want my poorly recorded sources to sound better - they need to be played back ACCURATE and AWFUL, dagnabbit! Tell us more @Lonson. Does this contraption really work? This sounds like something I am looking for in my main rig, although at the risk of becoming an outcast among the audio purist police. :cop::hide::cussing:
     
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  17. vinylkid58

    vinylkid58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, B.C.
    Maybe transistors had something to do with this.:D

    jeff
     
  18. Lonson

    Lonson Don't Get Around Much Anymore

    It really works, and very well. You can read user impressions here: Forums - ZROCK2
     
  19. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    And that OP, lies the problem. Its not going to matter how much tubey goodness you are after, it is what tubey goodness your Focal's are going to deliver, which is not that much.

    If you amp is too tubey or underpowered, you Focals will just sound mushy and without definition.

    I think the best that you can do is get a powerful tube amp with KT-120 power tubes or KT88's. Pricewise, the Rogue Cronus magnum will be the most cost effective solution. You can by a used Cronus Magnum for around $1,250.

    Get yourself a nice speaker A/B switch. This will allow you to either connect a single amp to two sets of speakers or it will allow you to have two different amps and switch back and forth between your single set of Focal's.

    I used to use my A/B switch to switch between two sets of speakers run off of one amp. Then I changed and set it to run either a tube amp or a SS substitute off the single pair of ALtec Lansing A7's.
     
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  20. RavenDave

    RavenDave Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Chita, Texas
    I find this discussion somewhat disturbing in that the quality of sound is based on anything other than obtaining the highest point of accuracy possible. Great tube amps can absolutely achieve this across the entire frequency spectrum. Whether they sound different, tubey, too solid state or whatever seems to stray to the problematic at best. Music playback is about the delivery of the emotional content of the recorded event at the highest degree of accuracy possible. Amplifiers that can fully achieve that during playback should be what people should seek if they truly care about their love of recorded music. Of course much of our favorite music is imperfectly recorded too. And there is a good reason they are constantly being remastered as the technology allows.

    As I opined in other discussions, each individual piece in the collection of components that the amplifier is placed within is extremely valuable to the final quality of the system's playback ability. The weakest link is always going to limit what the system is capable of. In the end even the room is an important component. Whether a component has a "flavor" or not would be a huge problem for me personally, and that is especially true because I was a professional musician that made recordings I wanted to be as close to how I wrote, performed and the musicians played it during the recorded event. Because of that the level of accuracy is what I would think should be sought above all else. After all that is what will deliver what the musicians played, and the engineer mixed, and the producer and mastering engineers were after when the event was finally completed.

    The truth of the work exists somewhere within that recording, and no matter what... what you can actually hear when you listen to the recording over any system... the closer you can get to hearing everything that the musicians and engineers intended for you to hear - is where the truth of the work lies. Do you wear sunglasses when you go to a museum with fine art to look at because you like the color of the lenses?

    Saying all that though, in the end it is of course all about the individual's taste and what makes him, her or them happy. Some of us seek the truth, and some of us want to be happy. Some only know what they have heard in the past. Some have never even heard live music, and most have never played it!

    So, I stand behind the thought that the truth can be achieved best when the music playback is as close to the actual event as is technically and financially possible - for the individual system's owner. In a perfect world I guess all music and systems would be free for whomever wanted them. But who then would ever want make high end audio playback system components, and to go to the extreme expense of doing all that is required to record a performance for posterity? Wouldn't that be a travesty! What would life be like without music~!!! Personally, I would never want to know. Then again I would also never wear sunglasses to an art museum!
     
  21. G B Kuipers

    G B Kuipers Forum Resident

    Location:
    Netherlands
    I like your art analogy, and think about this: someone has designed the lighting at the exhibition. If you could choose, would you prefer to view the paintings in daylight, in fluorescent light (very accurate and with lots of detail!) or perhaps in a slightly warm spotlight? For me, that choice is what hifi is about.

    Perhaps ideally we would view a painting in similar lighting conditions as it was painted in. Period correct, in other words. Translated to hifi, that would mean listening to Sinatra (Capitol) on big horn speakers and a push pull tube amp. You could do worse!
     
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  22. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO

    I think somewhere all those Tek books are on line and agree that they are well worth reading.

    Props also to the late Jim Williams and his book
    Williams, Jim, ed. (1991), Analog Circuit Design: Art, Science and Personalities, The EDN Series for Design Engineers, Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 978-0-7506-9640-1
     
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  23. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    RDH 4 is useful but I turn your attention to the Audio Cyclopedia and the Shea's Amplifier Handbook, both of which are still in copyright and are not vailable for download nor have they been reprinted. They'll take you into the sixties and the last mainstream tube designs.

    Ralph Karsten who posts here may have additional information.

    If you can read German, Rainer zur Linde's Audio und gitarrenverstarker mit Rohren (sorry for omitting the umlauts) has some very interesting stuff as well, including an autoformer coupled Finnish design that is quite elegant and unique.
     
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  24. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    One problem when manufacturers get into discussing accuracy is that they all typically make several different amplifiers using different tubes. Those amps all sound different. Accuracy is an ABSOLUTE. There is and can only be one accurate answer to 2+2=4.

    May 3 and 5 are more accurate as answers than 1 and 6 but i wouldn't get onto the space shuttle with any answer that isn't 4.

    So there is no absolute accuracy. You are forced to toil in the subjecrive realm of living with the weaknesses you can tolerate and for which you most enjoy.

    And in audio it is tougher since more and nore makers are figuring out that the best sounding amplifiers in level matched blind auditions are low or no negative feedback amplifiers. Even SS makers are coming to this conclusuon.

    Thus Single Ended Triodes. And yet they pretty much stink when directly comparing measured performance to pp tubes or the even better measuring SS amplifiers.

    Lastly, the warm sounding amp to some people may in fact sound like accuracy to that person and the lean detailed sound may come across as being pitifully inaccurate because it can be easily argued that the amp is not CAPTURING the ambiant cues of the hall or the depth of the recordings.

    Which then takes me back to Peter Qvortrup's essay called Are You on the Road to Audio Hell. Where the bes amps and equipment differentiate recordings the most. Of an amp or speaker always has AIR around instruments all the time on every recording...it is probably introducing its own sonic signature.

    Findung Accuracy through
    Contrast Are You On The Road To... Audio Hell? Article By Leonard Norwitz And Peter Qvortrup
     
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  25. Just Walking

    Just Walking Forum Resident

    Location:
    Abingdon UK
    The problem with feedback amplifiers is that open loop (in other words with the feedback disconnected) should reproduce the full audio bandwidth and a healthy margin beyond. If you have a lower bandwidth and then rely on feedback to extend the bandwidth it results in what Matti Otala termed in the 1970's as Transient Intermodulation Distortion (TIM) https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b3c0/a892a982ebde91f83f228905dac30186f827.pdf. Of course with a low feedback amplifier, which is typical of a tubed amplifier because of the presence of an output transformer, is much easier to meet that criterion, which is one reason that they audition well.

    However, a correctly designed high feedback amplifier is also TID immune, particularly with modern high bandwidth power transistors, and it would be interesting to do an AB shootout between two best of class low and high feedback amps.
     

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