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Davidc

Finding that tube amp.

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Davidc    92

Gonna hold off on the Tube amp for the time being however, I've contacted the gentleman at Redhead audio requesting to purchase on of his Cal Labs CDPs. Time for some rich, warm, and analog sounding cd's. Jmanz wants a feller to get going on the paintball gear. yikes :smt072

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Davidc    92

So the California Labs CL-15 CD player will make one's head swim with detail and imaging. It arrived yesterday. Cd's are still a bit bright for my tastes but then, it depends on the CD too. With the new unit, one can listen at higher db's and not experience ear fatigue.

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ndboarder    203
now that you've gotten that out of the system' date=' its time for paintball gear :smt075[/quote']

davec=:smt021 =ndboarder Until the guy gets those products ordered. No more of this audio stuff

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Davidc    92
now that you've gotten that out of the system' date=' its time for paintball gear :smt075[/quote']

davec=:smt021 =ndboarder Until the guy gets those products ordered. No more of this audio stuff

I don't know if I've got that out of my system yet though. It's an addiction quite possibly. :smt030

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Davidc    92

I think this gentleman summarizes some of the finer points:

CrazyHead

11-25-2002, 07:40 PM

This was a good thread to catch up on...

Here's my take, I'll try to put some of the tube misunderstandings and mysticisms to bed here.

I used to feel that tubes were a waste of time because they add "distortion", were so expensive, and were just rich person' play things. Plus, they are old tech -- how can they be any good? So, I lived with various solid state amplifiers while I continuously read things about tubes, etc.

Then, about one year ago, I found a used JoLida 502A sitting on the floor of a local hi-fi shop. I saw the tubes and noticed it was in the "used" pile of gear, just sitting there collecting dust. I asked how much it was, I expected it to run at least a grand or two. Later I found out that the 502 originally sold for around $1200 when it was new. The price tag on the used one was an astonishing $280. Unheard of -- even on eBay these things regularly go for $700-$800. So I took it home and gave it a listen for a demo.

I am glad I did, because I immediately liked the sound. It was somehow cleaner and more robust.

I've modded my amp, replaced some caps, a handful of resistors, upgraded the wiring and such, and of course there's the joy of tube rolling (experimenting with different makes and vintage of tubes to change the sound). None of the tube changes are like EQ'ing things different. It's hard to explain, really... it's more of an aural type of change. Subtle ways in how the sounds are changed, their weight, the air between instruments, etc.

Tubes and solid-state equipment produce different types of distortion. Solid-state gear produces mostly what is known as odd-order harmonics. Tube gear, on the other hand, produces more of what is known as even-order harmonics. The details of which are fairly interesting and of an entirely different thread. But, it is certain that the human ear prefers even-ordered harmonics (even meaning that each multiple of the fundamental lands within our tuning scale, odd-ordered does not).

The general saying is that solid state can be harder to listen to than tube equipment due to this very issue. Harder in that it becomes more fatiguing, much quicker. Expensive SS gear uses lots of negative feedback to mask the distortion. Different tube circuits use negative feedback to reduce distortion as well. However, both amp types leave their own sonic signature and you can tell the difference.

The other issue revolves around clipping. A transistor is, more or less, a switch. It's on or off. When you reach a peak, and the transistor can go no further, it will simply shut off and clip the signal. This can happen at virtually any time as you increase the power demands on the amp. This clipping will result in added distortion, hardness to the sound, or an edgy feeling. It will become harder to listen to. Tubes, conversely, operate as a "valve" (hence the term fondly used in Europe, "valve amps"). A tube will distort, but not clip from what I understand. It will reach a peak but it will never simply flat-line at the extremes and burn the sound up. Tubes gracefully distort. The valve comparison comes from the idea of turning a valve, the more you turn the more current flows.

As for why tube gear generally sounds finer and more detailed... I believe this can be summed up very easily. Tube amps are about a thousand times simpler to design than a solid-state amp. If you've ever seen the guts of a tube amp, you'll know what I mean. A handful of resistors, caps, power transformers, and tubes are just about all it takes. You can build one yourself in an afternoon. Now, open up your big Marantz or Harman/Kardon receiver. You'll see boards and boards and hundreds of parts, caps, resistors, transistors, little traces, ribbon cables for controls, logic boards, ICs, DACs, the works! All sorts of things for that poor little audio signal to run through. Crosstalk and all! Yikes! Take a look at the RCA jacks in those receivers... from the jack right into a PCB trace that probably runs for 50 feet through all kinds of components before it finally hits the power.

So, you have a tube amp with about 50 pieces total. Then you have a solid-state amp with about 500 pieces total. Which is going to take the line-level input to the power in less time with less obstruction? :)

This, combined with the more even-ordered distortion that a tube amp provides, yields unbelievably good sound... the type of sound that makes everything sound more real, far cleaner, and more involving!

Like others have said... I find it hard to listen to solid-state amps anymore. Even the high-buck audiophile ones, as clean and analytical as they are, still sound edgy to me. Something is just "not quite right" about them.

Then there are the hybrid amps... the ones that use a tube pre-stage and solid-state power amplification. These are interesting beasts because they lace the sound with a little of both types of distortion. You get the bass control of solid state with some of the euphonics of tubes. A hybrid is also a simple circuit (not as simple as pure tube, however) and thus less signal obfuscation. They're also much less expensive to produce (you can find JoLida hybrids for around $350). A lot of people just dig the heck out of hybrid amps and swear by them. I have not heard one, personally, but I am sure they are as good as they claim!

So that's everything in a nutshell. I hope I've helped clear a few things up for some of you regarding the non-technical side of tubes amps. If I am wrong with anything, feel free to correct me. This is just the summation of what I've read over the last year. :)

Good listening, everone!

-crazyhead-

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nodle    617

I would still love to listen to something that had some tubes in it. I have heard how clean they sound and nothing can compare to them. I think they need to make an Ipod with a single tube in it. :-)

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Davidc    92
I would still love to listen to something that had some tubes in it. I have heard how clean they sound and nothing can compare to them. I think they need to make an Ipod with a single tube in it. :-)

I do believe there are some headphone amps out there that employ the use of tubes. I'll do some digging.

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nodle    617
I would still love to listen to something that had some tubes in it. I have heard how clean they sound and nothing can compare to them. I think they need to make an Ipod with a single tube in it. :-)

I do believe there are some headphone amps out there that employ the use of tubes. I'll do some digging.

Ya I believe I have seen them. But pretty spendy.

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Davidc    92

So the Jolida. Tastey little devil for the money. Mids are polished with silky highs. It may not be as dynamic in the low end as the NAD however, she's got a good dampening factor just the same. Remote control is cool. It actually turns the volume control knob. The sub out is nice but, I need to find a way to get the gain up a ways. Need it to drive the subs harder. Build quality is impressive. The Pre-tubes really make for super musicality.

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