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Tubey Tube Amp?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
What tubed amps offer the traditional, tube sound? (Read warm, luxurious and syrupy)
post #2 of 32
Look for one that has triodes feeding an output transformer, preferably with little or no negative feedback. That usually gives you the traditional "tubey" sound. OTL won't always give you the tube warmth and they're faster. Thing is, it seems like most tubed headphone amps are OTL. I don't think it's just for the sound, either. Quality output transformers can run $100-$200 each, so that would be another $200-$400 in cost. The extra cost doesn't help sales much, and most here seem to buy on price. Everyone wants the "cheapest tube amp."

Availability is a factor, too. I think Sowter is the only one with a line of headphone output transformers, though the Hammond 125E is good, and Electra-Print, Victoria, and others will wind one to your specs.

Also, I strongly prefer octal (8 pin) base tubes. I think they give better sound than the noval (9 pin) miniatures. You want some meaty triodes.
post #3 of 32
You can go way back and well designed tube amps will not sound like this but poorly designed ones will have a couple of those attributes. They are still available though I haven't heard any lately. You can buy a tube amp and have it modified to low bias and an imbalance of the plate voltage to the rest of the tube. Also you could use an output tube with a very poor damping factor mismatched to the output transformer.
post #4 of 32
You won't be surprised to find out that another way to get tubey-ness is to have a tube preamp feed a tube amp. This may seem silly at first but a magic combo of not so expensive preamp and amp can sometimes sound much better than either seperately. I can confirm that iBasso D2 (op amp portable) + Little Dot Mk III (OTL entry level tube amp) sounds worse than either seperately hah. I'm getting a dual 12au7 preamp (might be a Foreplay variant) and we'll see how that goes with the LD III though.
post #5 of 32
I don't know how it works here in the headphone world where power is measured in milliwatts, but in the rest of audio, the characteristics you're talking about get more and more subtle as you go up the foodchain of tube design. When it gets good enough, the differences between good tube and SS amps with plenty of headroom for the loads they're driving are very small. Worth it to some, completely lost on others. Tubes and SS sound dramatically different when they are clipping, which shouldn't happen.

Tim
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioDwebe View Post
What tubed amps offer the traditional, tube sound? (Read warm, luxurious and syrupy)
When I think of warm syrupy tube goodness, I always think of the ASL (Antique Sound Labs) amps.
post #7 of 32
What's your price range?
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
I guess the price range would be less than 500. I've got the MPX3, and the Raptor enroute, so I think I've got the not-so-tube-sounding tubed headamps covered. I was looking to check out a tubed amp that offers a warm, luxurious escape into the music; something that will seduce me after a long day at the office; a headamp whose forte isn't necessarily dissecting the soundstage and allowing me to hear into every crack and crevice of the recording.

So I guess another question is which tubed amps offers a relaxing and seductive sound? Accuracy isn't a must.

Which amps would you recommend?
post #9 of 32
EarMAX Silver Edition would be worth considering.
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tfarney View Post
I don't know how it works here in the headphone world where power is measured in milliwatts, but in the rest of audio, the characteristics you're talking about get more and more subtle as you go up the foodchain of tube design. When it gets good enough, the differences between good tube and SS amps with plenty of headroom for the loads they're driving are very small. Worth it to some, completely lost on others. Tubes and SS sound dramatically different when they are clipping, which shouldn't happen.

Tim
pretty much the same here in headphone-land as it is in "real speaker" land.

once you pass a certain threshold of quality, the differences become less and less.

we have lower power requirements, but lower fault tolerances. the distance from driver to ear lets speakers get away with some things that just dont fly here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hellopanda View Post
EarMAX Silver Edition would be worth considering.
agreed. any of the earmax variants actually. ESPECIALLY if you generally use low impedance headphones at low to mid volumes (slightly above average talking levels)

have you tried tube-rolling in the MPX3? there are some smooth tubes and some less so. i would try a combination of TRULY cheap tubes.
post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikongod View Post
agreed. any of the earmax variants actually.
x3
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikongod View Post
have you tried tube-rolling in the MPX3? there are some smooth tubes and some less so. i would try a combination of TRULY cheap tubes.
I've rolled some with the MPX3, but, for me, with tube-rolling, I notice a difference only when I initially change the tubes. After a couple of minutes, my ears have a tendency to adjust to the new sound. As long as the tubes aren't terrible, I'm generally okay with whatever tube happens to be in.

I'm a bit too lazy to be a real tube-roller, going back and forth and back again. Sheesh! I used to drive myself crazy with my home rig. I kind of got tired of all the tweaking and all the time it consumed. Sometimes, when in a "tweaking" mood, I'd spend hours with tiny adjustment of the speakers, vibration control devices under this, then that, etc; speaker wires on the floor, off the floor, on wood blocks, on ceramic blocks, ad nauseum, and I'd forget to actually listen to tunes.

I'm kind of a set it and forget it kinda guy.

Having said that, I'm getting ready to swap out my current tubes with the original that came with the MPX3 so that I can kind of level the playing field for when I compare it to the Raptor (hopefully) next weekend. I was told the Raptor comes with the original tubes, also.

My plans for now are to compare the two and see which one I prefer and sell the other. We'll see, though. I'm hoping that I'll have the strength to let one go.

I'm praying for strength now. But, I wouldn't be surprised if the Head-Fi Spirit gets ahold of me and I end up keeping both.
post #13 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hellopanda View Post
EarMAX Silver Edition would be worth considering.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikongod View Post
any of the earmax variants actually. ESPECIALLY if you generally use low impedance headphones at low to mid volumes (slightly above average talking levels)
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpelg View Post
x3
Man, those things are tiny...and expensive! How do they sound?
post #14 of 32
For 'really' tubey sounding tube amp I would go with the Little Dot II+, they're out of production for a while now but it remains the most pleasantly euphonic tube amp I've heard to date.
post #15 of 32
And I was under the impression LD generally sounded colder and more exact, closer to SS than the classic tube sound . Is this tubey signature characteristic of all LDs (particularly III and IV) or just the LDII ?
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