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Stefan Wood

Entering the world of type 45 tube amp sound

66 posts in this topic

They match really well in terms of clarity and sound stage.  Like they are meant for each other.

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I've read people talk about synergy so convincingly that I began to think it was something that could be substantiated and measured, and not purely subjective. Thanks. Enjoy your set-up!

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1 hour ago, Dmitry said:

I've read people talk about synergy so convincingly that I began to think it was something that could be substantiated and measured, and not purely subjective. Thanks. Enjoy your set-up!

I guess what it all boils down to is that you try to get equipment that work well together.  It's all mix and match, and the trick is getting the right match. 

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44 minutes ago, Stefan Wood said:

I guess what it all boils down to is that you try to get equipment that work well together.  It's all mix and match, and the trick is getting the right match. 

Especially when using tube amps, as most tend to be very low in power. 

I wonder if Kevin was trying to push 4ohm speakers, for example, and that led to the heat issue. 

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I respect anyone who has the patience (and sometimes technical ability) to deal with tubed equipment. I have neither (though I did have a tubed preamp in my system for a number of years with no problems).
Anyway, happy listening, Stefan. Enjoy the music!

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I had two different two amps during my "tube phase". One was a Quicksilver GLA EL34-based amp and the other was a Macintosh MC-240, a 6L6-based amp. Both were hot as hell. I also had a Mcintosh MX-110 tube preamp. That was not really that hot and I almost kept it because of that. I came very close to buying a Decware amp based on Lon's recommendations but by the time I decided to go that way, I was moving away from tubes. Part of it was that I decided to downsize and my new home didn't have a listening room where excessive heat wasn't too big of a problem. Besides, for me, tubes really were a hassle that I couldn't justify when I couldn't really hear any difference between them and my SS amps.

And be real here - tubes are nothing like solid state. Solid state - turn it on and play music. Tubes? Are you kidding me here? Find the right tubes. Match the tubes. Manage the turn on of said tubes. Manage the heat. Don't turn on/turn off too quickly (and those random turn on pops in a cold room are so fun!). Red plate (now that is really fun!!). That ever-present hiss. The dreaded hum. Pick the right speakers - gotta get that synergy :). Don't fall asleep or you prematurely wear your tubes out and according to a few users, could cause a house fire. Don't ever blow a speaker unless you want your tube amp to go up with it as they can't drive an open load. The list goes on & on & on. Tubes require constant vigilance. Not so with SS.

Plus, add in that the world of tube amplification seems to bring out the wilder tweaks. Like esoteric, no longer made tubes that change the sound so much you have to spend the money to get them. Different application, different esoteric tube. Driver stage? Get the CV491, a military specification version of the ECC82, which is the medical grade version of the 12AU7 or maybe some Amperex Bugle Boys, but don't use them if they're driving an 12AX7. Output stage? Depending the amp, you could be talking thousands of dollars depending on the vintage, getter design and plate design. Then there's the questionable stuff like the 200 hours of burn-in required before said expensive tubes "sound right". Like cryogenically freezing these tubes somehow improves them. Like gold plating the leads improves their sound (every red plated tube I had was a gold pinned tube). Like isolation rings to minimize harmonics (I tried Herbie's rings - they did nothing). The list goes on and on and on. Way more tweaking in tubes than SS.

Tube amp users are the most subjective group of listeners I've ever encountered. There's no science here - it's really all subjective. If you follow someone's recommendations on your tube compliment and your hearing isn't like his, you just spent a lot of money for something you don't like. Some tube rollers think this is part of its charm. I tried it and found it to be (an expensive) pain in the ass.

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2 minutes ago, Scott Dolan said:

But, Kevin. How do you REALLY feel about tube amps. :lol:

Part of me loved it. I am an electrical engineer, after all, so playing with circuitry and wires is kinda fun. But it is a hassle. When you want to get home from work and play a disc, you just want to turn it on and hit play. Not smart with a tube system. You've got to turn it on and make it's all set before you hit play. Then get the hell away from that radiator unless you're cold. :)

Also - be aware that the tube rolling examples I posted were pulled out of the air and not real examples of what I did back then, but is typical of the kind of stuff that happens in tube rolling all the time.

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I guess I have a very different experience than others with tube amps. I grew up with my Dad's tube system, which had a little hum, not a lot of heat really, EL34 based Dynaco amp plus a tubed preamp and tuner.

Then I tried to get into solid state but never really liked it as much. I returned to tube sound with a 1959 EICO integrated amp, EL84 based, about 10 watts per channel. A bit of hum, a bit of hiss, full-bodied rich sound. I then moved to Decware amps. . . their 2 watt, then their 6 watt, then their 25 watt, and now I have a 3 watt pair of mono blocks in my main system and a 5 watt amp in a second system, both with tube preamps. Speakers are 93db omnidirectional/directional speakers. No hum, no hiss, no heat that I or my wife worry about (and believe me she would). Many who listen say they don't sound like tube amps. . . they certainly don't sound like the "classic" tube amps I grew up with or first owned. To me they sound very much like the best of solid state and tube sound in one. And I've had very good luck buying tubes online, even on eBay.

My system has really been "dialed in" by using another tube component, an eq unit that really allows me to compensate for room anomalies and mastering differences to an extent and tailor the sound in a very pleasing way.


 I've had a few audiophile friends bring over their solid state amps and they just don't do it for me. I'm very happy with the great sound I have, especially with excellent sources (the pre and amplification show me the quality of a source. . . I've gone through a number and somehow have afforded the best I've heard).

Eager to hear your impressions of the 45 Stefan; I'm using a very different output tube type in mine, SV83 or 6P15-EV, Russian tubes pioneered for video use, very fast and clear.

Edited by jazzbo

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BTW - if you think buying used records on eBay is a hassle, don't even think about buying weird tubes there! I ordered from several different eBay sellers and got tubes that were "tested good" that didn't even work. :)

I just remembered another story from my tube days... I once bought a very expensive (~$400) quad of the Psvane 6CA7 (EL34) tubes for my Quicksilver GLA amp. I was told to wait until 300 hours before deciding if I liked them. One of them flared out in less than a year, probably less than 75 hours. Psvane said they were out of warranty. Before dying the tube sounded fine, but that was a very expensive experiment.

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Kevin, were the speakers you were driving inefficient? Do you think that may have played into the excessive heat? 

I have to admit that while I've talked to a lot of tube users, I've never heard any of them mentioning heat as an issue. 

Perhaps your amps were simply struggling to power your speakers? 

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I have B&W Nautilus 805s speakers. They are not inefficient speakers at 89 dB, but they are not horns at 100 dB either. Lower efficiency speakers are not a problem for tube amps unless you're trying to play them loud. Conversely, some tube amps hum or whoosh like crazy with high efficiency speakers, so there's that side of the coin too.

Both of my tube amps were rated at 40 watts per channel and I would say that I was never playing my music loud enough to generate heat in my amp. In fact, I nearly always let my tubes warm up before playing any music and when I went into the room after about 10 minutes or so, the room would be warmer. The Quicksilver GLA got very hot, very quickly. The Mcintosh got pretty hot and took longer to heat up but was still brutal in the summer.

Both tube amps were much nicer looking than my solid state amps. I do miss that glow. :)

Edited by Kevin Bresnahan

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6 hours ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

When you want to get home from work and play a disc, you just want to turn it on and hit play. Not smart with a tube system. You've got to turn it on and make it's all set before you hit play.

My wife's the same way.

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HenryYoungman_PrimitiveSounds.jpg

A great record!

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A generalization that doesn't ring true for me is that you can't listen to tube amps right away. . . I can with mine.

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7 hours ago, jazzbo said:

A generalization that doesn't ring true for me is that you can't listen to tube amps right away. . . I can with mine.

That and the excessive heat thing are both claims I don't believe I've ever heard before. I believe that is what he experienced, as he'd have no motivation to lie about it. But it does seem as though his experience was unique. 

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No problems turn a tube amp on and playing here.

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Stefan, did the 45 amp arrive yet?

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Not yet.  Fed Ex is moving at a snail's pace.

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Googling "tube amp hot" brings up many discussions of this. Tube amps run warm to hot. Here's a discussion on headphone amps: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/do-all-tube-amps-run-hot.359543/ Headphone amps running hot seems to indicate that it isn't dependent on the load, correct?

Here's another discussion that actually starts off with a post showing the measured temps on an Dynaco ST120 amp while playing music: http://dynacotubeaudio.forumotion.com/t828-tube-amps-get-pretty-warm-especially-in-the-summer-photo

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Edited by Kevin Bresnahan

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Well, keep us posted. I'm predicting you are really going to enjoy the amp with your Betsys.

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Stefan - what Type 45 tube amp are you picking up?

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I have no personal experience with tubed amps (only experience with a tubed preamp), but I have read reviews of tubed amps that warned that some get hot enough to cause a mild burn. Obviously not universal, but the heat factor evidently exists.

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If you grab a tube in use or recently used, especially a power tube, yes, they are hot and can cause burns. But I have never had an amp that made a room hot or gave off a lot of heat when standing near it. I lived in Texas in non-central air housing with one of the largest power tube amps I ever had for a spell and never felt it was adding heat to a room.

Edited by jazzbo

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