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Understanding the Tube Obsession


Ralf11
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just to promote equity with respect to the analog thread...

 

What is it about tubes?

 

Why does heating up a piece of metal so hot that the electrons can't stand it and leave produce the euphonic subjectivism so beloved by many?

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just to promote equity with respect to the analog thread...

What is it about tubes?

Why does heating up a piece of metal so hot that the electrons can't stand it and leave produce the euphonic subjectivism so beloved by many?

 

I don't know how, or why it happens, I'm just happy it does. Granted, I just bought a pair of hybrid monoblock amplifiers that have only one tube each, so this is somewhat of a "withdrawal" for me. I wonder if I will need help, or counseling? :)

 

JC

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I have been through the tube and tube rolling phase, it was fun.

 

Now I have solid state that has warmth but with improved bass and dynamics.

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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just to promote equity with respect to the analog thread...

 

What is it about tubes?

 

Why does heating up a piece of metal so hot that the electrons can't stand it and leave produce the euphonic subjectivism so beloved by many?

 

It basically boils down to the fact that the distortion created by solid state amps is mostly odd order, which is not consonant with music, while tube distortion is mostly even order which is consonant with music. This type of distortion makes tubes sound, well, warmer and more musical in small amounts. Of course, there is a point where even tube distortion will overwhelm the sound, and the music will sound "distorted".

George

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It basically boils down to the fact that the distortion created by solid state amps is mostly odd order, which is not consonant with music, while tube distortion is mostly even order which is consonant with music. This type of distortion makes tubes sound, well, warmer and more musical in small amounts. Of course, there is a point where even tube distortion will overwhelm the sound, and the music will sound "distorted".

 

SET equals high amount of second order, but not much else.

Push/pull should cancel out second order, and leave a predominate third order.

Many sand amps produce profiles dominated by second and third order distortion, as well.

Tube amps tend to produce profiles evidencing less higher order distortions, but not always. Crank er up.

High end tube and solid state preamps tend to produce very low distortion largely residing in the second and third order range. Also low IMD.

 

Certainly, distortion profiles are key, but I am going with output impedance and transformers, at least for the push/pull variants.

 

Hard to compare SET, since there are so few single ended transistors.

 

Finally, I wonder if microphonics also plays a role? Adds to the airiness, perhaps.

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just to promote equity with respect to the analog thread...

 

What is it about tubes?

 

Same as vinyl, tape, etc.

 

It is not matter of lesser distortions.

 

Lesser distorted sound may be called as "flat", "boring", "faint" etc.

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ISO, DSF, DFF (1-bit/D64/128/256/512/1024), wav, flac, aiff, alac,  safe CD ripper to PCM/DSF,

Seamless Album Conversion, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSF metadata editor, Mac & Windows
Offline conversion save energy and nature

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I have been through the tube and tube rolling phase, it was fun.

 

Now I have solid state that has warmth but with improved bass and dynamics.

 

I went through a tube phase as well. C-J gear. Lovely sound quality, but ultimately not worth the hassle. Actually, it drove me crazy - trying different tubes, bias concerns, etc...

 

What I wonder about is the exposed tube design of today. It seems dangerous to me - little kids, pets, etc... Tube gear of the past was always contained within casework.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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A mate was going to get his 13 year old daughter a tube amp for xmas... I explained the voltages and he sensibly changed his mind.

 

IME, well setup, high quality solid state has delivered the euphony of tubes with increased control and precision.

 

I do like tubes, but I'm unlikely to go back now my solid state rig is 'delivering the music'.

 

;-)

 

I went through a tube phase as well. C-J gear. Lovely sound quality, but ultimately not worth the hassle. Actually, it drove me crazy - trying different tubes, bias concerns, etc...

 

What I wonder about is the exposed tube design of today. It seems dangerous to me - little kids, pets, etc... Tube gear of the past was always contained within casework.

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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What I wonder about is the exposed tube design of today. It seems dangerous to me - little kids, pets, etc... Tube gear of the past was always contained within casework.

 

the casework was used before tubeyness was turned into a fetish

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It basically boils down to the fact that the distortion created by solid state amps is mostly odd order, which is not consonant with music, while tube distortion is mostly even order which is consonant with music. This type of distortion makes tubes sound, well, warmer and more musical in small amounts. Of course, there is a point where even tube distortion will overwhelm the sound, and the music will sound "distorted".

Can we not assume that a competently designed solid state amplifier produces levels of harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion that are below the human threshold of audibility?

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Can we not assume that a competently designed solid state amplifier produces levels of harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion that are below the human threshold of audibility?
Probably no more than it can be assumed that all competently designed cables sound the same. :)

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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Probably no more than it can be assumed that all competently designed cables sound the same. :)

There are other factors besides harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion that can affect the sound of an amplifier.

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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I went through a tube phase as well. C-J gear. Lovely sound quality, but ultimately not worth the hassle. Actually, it drove me crazy - trying different tubes, bias concerns, etc...

What I wonder about is the exposed tube design of today. It seems dangerous to me - little kids, pets, etc... Tube gear of the past was always contained within casework.

Running tube amplification for over 20 years and only one [1] tube failure. What hassle, you set the bias, check it occasionally [far less often then I need to check the oil on my MINI Cooper] and away you go. Experimenting with various valves is an option, not a requirement. Sure, it's requires more attention than flipping the switch on a ss amp but demands far less work than some of the computer audio rigs people own.

 

Silverline Sonatina < Moth Audio s45 SET < Shunyata Hydra < PS Audio UO < i-Fi SPDIF iPurifier < Schiit Modi Multibit < Chromecast Audio

 

profile

 

 

 

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re: hassle - I agree there is some hassle - you have to turn the component on, wait a while, then boost it from tube 'idle' to full power (able to play); then maybe reset the volume ot where it should be

 

also, you have to replace the tubes - maybe every few years, maybe every 6 months

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"The major technical reasons that tubes sound better is that

tubes are

[1] very linear voltage amplifiers (while transistors are not), and

[2] tube components usually use far simpler circuits and need very little error correction, also known as negative feedback."

 

 

Tubes "tend to go into overload more gracefully. Generally speaking,

the onset of distortion when clipping from overdrive is quite different

in tubes than in transistors. Transistors typically produce

high-order harmonics under such conditions, while tubes produce

low-order harmonics..."

 

paraphrase from an interview with Luke Manley, p. 20 of

http://vandersteen.com/media/files/APJ%20Files/APJ10_PROOF.pdf

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Running tube amplification for over 20 years and only one [1] tube failure. What hassle, you set the bias, check it occasionally [far less often then I need to check the oil on my MINI Cooper] and away you go. Experimenting with various valves is an option, not a requirement. Sure, it's requires more attention than flipping the switch on a ss amp but demands far less work than some of the computer audio rigs people own.

You have had 15 post in 2 years.

 

User name Moth Audio.

 

Moth Audio is a manufacturer of tube gear. Are you a manufacturer of tube gear?

 

What hassle indeed.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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User name MothAudio. Moth Audio is a manufacturer of tube gear. Are you a manufacturer of tube gear?

No. I had Craig Uthus build me a custom amp.

 

Silverline Sonatina < Moth Audio s45 SET < Shunyata Hydra < PS Audio UO < i-Fi SPDIF iPurifier < Schiit Modi Multibit < Chromecast Audio

 

profile

 

 

 

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Can we not assume that a competently designed solid state amplifier produces levels of harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion that are below the human threshold of audibility?

 

Me seems, threshold of audibility for amplifier may be considered together with volume knob position only.

 

Example: If it set to 9 hours - there no noise, if it set to 16 hours - we can listen noise.

 

Also level of non-linear distortions may depend on amplitude.

AuI ConverteR 48x44 - HD audio converter/optimizer for DAC of high resolution files

ISO, DSF, DFF (1-bit/D64/128/256/512/1024), wav, flac, aiff, alac,  safe CD ripper to PCM/DSF,

Seamless Album Conversion, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSF metadata editor, Mac & Windows
Offline conversion save energy and nature

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just to promote equity with respect to the analog thread...

 

What is it about tubes?

 

Why does heating up a piece of metal so hot that the electrons can't stand it and leave produce the euphonic subjectivism so beloved by many?

 

I agree with many posts above. Tubes often have a slightly romantic presentation that can complement digital playback. Directly heated triodes(DHT) are especially good at this.

 

I do think that as you work your way up the ladder with better gear that the two camps tend to merge. SS starts to get more tonally satisfying and less harsh while tubes gain detail and realism.

 

I really like Nelson Pass's First Watt products as a good combination of detail and tonality. I have owned a J2 and now have a SIT2.

 

Currently I am auditioning a Linear Tube Audio ZOTL 10 which is designed by David Berning and uses a special circuit to avoid output transformers while offering a very linear output with very low output impedance. This amp uses tubes, 12AU7, 12AT7, and EL84 tubes to give 10 pretty incredible watts. They also have a 40 watt version using KT77/EL34's.


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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Can we not assume that a competently designed solid state amplifier produces levels of harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion that are below the human threshold of audibility?

Yes, we can. In fact, many modern tube amps are so clean and have such low levels of distortion of any kind that they have lost their "tube sound" and sound more like modern, low distortion, SS amps at which point one can wonder, why bother?

George

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