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Woo 3+: Adventures in Tuberolling (update page 6)

post #1 of 90
Thread Starter 
I plan on going into detail eventually on this subject, but haven't seen a 3+ tuberolling thread yet, so I figured I'd start one...

A little background: The 3+ is my first tube amp, and my posts tend to be more on the "impression" side than the technical "I measured a slight rolloff in the 14.2khz range" type, so when I'm describing how something sounds, I tend to use descriptive language and talk about the feelings a sound conjures. If you prefer overly-analytical and scientific reviews, skip my posts, lol.

Note #2: The tubes I'm using, unless stated otherwise, are all NOS matched pairs or NOS singles (for the power tubes). They have all tested new or better, and have been matched closely both in sections and in pairs. I don't have test results, so just take my word for it. Also most of them are not fully broken in yet, and have less than 75 hours or so on them (at least as far as MY useage of them goes), so they'll be changing over time, and I'll post updates as they do...I like to give a "running commentary" on them, and won't be putting any of them on extended burn-in cycles.

Note #3: The equipment used is listed in my sig. I'm too lazy and settled in with my stuff to bother swapping cables and fiddling with crap at this point. Everything is HD650/Woo 3+/OMZ DAC/Monarchy DIP (in 96khz mode)/Denon DVD.

Note #4: I'll post pics as soon as I can, and try to get some really cool glowing shots. The Woo looks so awesome in the dark, lol...

Ok, on to the tubes I'm using now, and some very brief impressions to get the ball rolling...note (#5, lol) that these are overall impressions of these sets, but I'll post more detail on the differences between the individual tube types as I gather more data.

The stock tubes...
Power tube: Western Electric 6AS7GA (1982)
Preamp tubes: JAN Philips 6922 (1986)

Not bad, not great either...the stock tube set is readily available late production tubes. They are a nice introduction to the tube sound, coming from solid state, like I did (MKV). They sound a bit congested and flat in the soundstage, but otherwise perform well. I've hardly used these at all, but I'll get more time in with them to establish a sort of "baseline" for later comparisons. Right now though they are rather bland and boring.

My "go to" set...
Power tube: Tung-Sol 7236 (mid-60's)
The Tung-Sol 7236 is the computer rated version of the 5998 type, and has higher tolerances and section matching than the 5998. This tube supplied TONS of power...bass impact and definition is markedly better than the stock tube. Extremely silent - no pinging or ringing either on warm up or cool down. Not very microphonic with external vibration either. Rock solid in every way, and a fairly difficult tube to find.

Preamp tubes: Siemens & Halske E188CC/7308 (mid 70's)
The Siemens 7308 is about as good as it gets in the 6DJ8/6922 family in terms of matching, microphonics, and very tight tolerances tested at the factory. These are similar to 6922s, and have gold pins, halo getters, white labels. Fairly rare in the US, and they fetch a high price in matched pairs. How is the sound? Very detailed and airy. Accurate, fairly uncolored, clean and neutral...pretty much a "reference" tube for me. They compliment the HD650 extremely well - they give a more forward presentation, bright but not glaringly so top end, and have awesome soundstage and imaging. They are like very clean windows into the soul of your music, and any myth of the Sennheiser veil gets shattered by these. Very flat frequency response with articulate bass, neutral mids, and crisp highs. They bridge the gap between tube and solid state sound very nicely, and are pretty analytical. I don't feel like I'm missing any details with these, or they are hiding anything from me either. Favorite of the bunch, for the time being.

Other power tubes awaiting detailed analysis and break-in:
Power:
Tung-Sol JAN CAHG 6080WB (1960)
RCA JAN CRC 6080 (1956)

Got both of these cheap off of Ebay...haven't done much with them yet, other than make sure they work and to get some general impressions. The Tung-Sol 6080 pings like crazy for a while when warming up then settles down nicely. It has really ample bass. The RCA is really microphonic...like...REALLY. Also, it pings so loudly on warm up and cooling it sounds like our vintage stove, yet somehow this noise doesn't transmit through the phones. You can hear it across the room, lol. They sound the same(ish) with different noise issues, but compared to the 7236: as expected, it was the quietest and bassiest. The other two are fine, and have clean lows and mids, just not as much as the good T-S.

Other preamp tubes awaiting detailed analysis and break-in:
Siemens & Halske E88CC/6922 (mid 70's)
The Siemens 6922 is very similar in a lot of ways to the 7308 in terms of sound signature...they retain the neutrality, transparency, and soundstage of their big brothers, but have a slightly different feel to the highs. These are not broken in yet, so a direct comparison is difficult, but they at this time sound even airier and a bit thinner at the top end. Very quiet tubes as well, but I have almost no time on them so I'll reserve commentary at this time.

Amperex ECC88/6DJ8 (Bugle Boys) (1954)
The Bugle Boys...ahh...*sigh*. These are glorious. They are my newest tubes, but also the most vintage and "boutiquey". I spent a little time with them last night, and was amazed at how different they sound from the Siemens. The BBs are...in a word...well, two: relaxed and sweet. Beautiful mids, clean yet soft highs, detailed bass. Slightly more laid back and open impression of soundstage. Very "vintage" sound - like what I remember as a kid, that "woah" feeling the first time I heard an awesome stereo...There's also this sense of restraint. Not like they are holding back anything, just a very effortless sound, like the tubes are mellow and easygoing yet could kick your ass if they wanted to - sort of this bottomless well of analog power. Not peaky or grating, all smooth curves. They remind me of audible honey...sweet, golden, liquidy, with wonderful tone and musicality. They are a lot more microphonic than the others, but this is to be expected with this tube type.

I think these tubes would be ideal for a 701 - they would breathe some life into them, give them the warmth they need, take an edge off the sterility. They are a little rolled off and smooth at the top - the Siemens really excel in top end airiness and clarity which works great with the 650s, but there's a lot of HD650 flavor in the BBs already. I can't tell yet if it's TOO much. The Siemens give the Senns what the phones are lacking in my opinion, or correct their "flaws": neutrality, a more upfront feel, brighter/crisper highs, speed... but the Amperex are like all the things that make the 650s beautiful x2, lol.

Can't say yet which I like best, but the Siemens work well with my system and to my ears "finish" things. It's like Siemens engineers came forward in time, fell in love with the 650s, went back to their own era, and designed a tube that would compliment them. The BBs are as if Amperex engineers came forward in time, heard the 650s and also fell in love with them, but when they went back they tried to create a tube that recreated what they loved about the 650.

Closing comments...
The German tubes fit the cultural stereotype - they are precise, well designed, and are a model of perfection. The Dutch are just more romantic and full of fun and easy going.

I'll get around to posting my preferences for which tubes with which type of music, different pairings of preamp and power tubes, and anything else that crosses my mind eventually. In the mean time, feel free to ask questions, comment, or post your own Woo 3/3+ tube combos. Thanks for reading my BS!

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 90
nice comparison and I would on your comments about the 7236, the 7308's and the BB's. good call on all points.
post #3 of 90
Thread Starter 
I didn't get much time listening this weekend, but I rotated all the tubes and let them burn in for a few hours each. The noisy power tubes (the 6080s) are now much less so. I know I said I wasn't going to burn them in, but I wanted to more or less get them all to a similar state of useage. They all have quieted down and are beginning to open up a bit, so it'll be some time before I can really get a good comparison going.

In the mean time, does anyone have anything to share as far as their Woo 3/3+ tube choices, what they've tried, and what tubes they like/don't like? I'm curious to see what others think. I know there's the fairly long "Woo 3 modified" thread, but that's mostly concerned with recapping and other stuff, not so much tuberolling...
post #4 of 90
Nice comparisons. Ebay is great for tube shopping as well as tube dealers and even audiogon for some of the premium vintage stuff brotha.
post #5 of 90
Great job! I don't even own this amp and still enjoyed reading about the tubes and your impressions. I hope some other Woo 3 owners jump in to keep it going. These tube-rolling threads are invaluable for the information, and timeless as people will always be buying these amps used.
post #6 of 90
My go-to set of tubes for my WA3 was a pair of Amperex USA white label PQ 6922's with a Tung Sol 5998 as the power tube. I tried various 6as7's, 6080's and 7236's in the power tube position, but to my ears none of those tubes offered the overall balance that the TS 5998 did, and I especially liked the tonal color and sheen that I heard through the 5998. And on top of that I really dug the Coke bottle shape of the tube :>) .
post #7 of 90
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys...I'm new at the whole tube game, so describing the differences is sort of hard, but some things just really jump out at you, like the difference between preamp tubes. Power tubes are a bit more subtle, and so far all I can really tell there is how noisy they are, lol. Although the 7236 is REALLY bassy compared to the others.

Spareribs - Ebay has worked out pretty well, but I've never really shopped on there, and compound that with learning what I need to look for and ask sellers, I've had to learn quickly. It definitely made me learn Siemens and Amperex geneology rather quickly, lol.

Orcin - thanks, I appreciate it. I'm not the most technical or golden-eared, so if anything I try to make my posts fun to read. Glad to know SOME folks can still enjoy them!

KZEE - That's good to know, re: the 5998's. That's pretty much the last tube I'm looking for to complete the set, so to speak. Maybe a Cetron 7236 just to compare to the T-S I have now. And I agree, they are really cool looking. The four power tubes I have now all look a little different internally, but are otherwise the same boring old cylindrical shape...I love the Coke bottle shape of the 5998s and 421A, but there's no way I think I'll ever come across one of those (at least, come across one that's not insanely priced...). From what I understand, the 5998 is the "next best thing", but with the 421A being nearly three times the price (on average), I'll take the 5998 any day, lol. I'd also like to try the US Amperex PQ's some day. They are pricey, but not prohibitively so, and I've read great things about them, so maybe some day...
post #8 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golden Monkey View Post
KZEE - That's good to know, re: the 5998's. That's pretty much the last tube I'm looking for to complete the set, so to speak. Maybe a Cetron 7236 just to compare to the T-S I have now. And I agree, they are really cool looking. The four power tubes I have now all look a little different internally, but are otherwise the same boring old cylindrical shape...I love the Coke bottle shape of the 5998s and 421A, but there's no way I think I'll ever come across one of those (at least, come across one that's not insanely priced...). From what I understand, the 5998 is the "next best thing", but with the 421A being nearly three times the price (on average), I'll take the 5998 any day, lol. I'd also like to try the US Amperex PQ's some day. They are pricey, but not prohibitively so, and I've read great things about them, so maybe some day...
Although the 7236 sounded good, to my ears it was a bit white sounding and lacked in tonal color in comparison to the 5998. The 7236's bass is very good however.

Jamato8 has experience with the 421A, and if memory serves me he preferred the 7236 and 5998 over the 421A. Maybe he'll chime in and tell us for himself.

The PQ's sound great, but they are known to go microphonic, and that's just what my PQ's did after about a year (they were new when I got them), so I don't think I'd recommend them. A tube that I've found to sound every bit as good as the PQ's is the Tungsram 6922, and they're much more reasonably price to boot.
post #9 of 90
The 421A was nothing special though I wanted it to be but my bias did not sway me. :^) I have an older (1950's) and 1960's version and neither floated my boat.
post #10 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamato8 View Post
The 421A was nothing special though I wanted it to be but my bias did not sway me. :^) I have an older (1950's) and 1960's version and neither floated my boat.
OK, thanks John - you may have just saved Golden Monkey some $ .
post #11 of 90
I have tried the 7236 and 5998. The 7236 is more "clinical" sounding. The 5998 has nice laidback sound to it that makes you wonder at tube amps.

The Siemens 7308 is also clean and airy. The Bugle Biys 6DJ8's also have that laid back sound to it that makes it great for jazz and R&B

I would pair the 7236 with the Siemens 7308 and the 5998 with the bugle boys
post #12 of 90
Thread Starter 
LOL...no WAY I was going to spend that silly cash for the 421A. I actually have a nice offer for a pair of 5998s (yeah, I know...I only need one, so we'll see...I'll either keep the other as a spare, or pass it along to another Woo owner).

The 7236/7308 combo is really nice for rock, electronica, metal...the "faster", noisier kind of music, for sure. They are a fairly clinical combo, but not TOO much...it's not like it'll suck all the life out of your music. It's a very clean, clear, and punchy combo with a more up front presentation. Coming from a solid state amp (the LD MKV), I'd say it retains the qualities I liked about the SS amp, but still has that tubey presence and soundstage...there's all the speed and detail and openness of the MKV, but more musicality and less sterility. Much more forgiving of source material than the MKV as well - poorly recorded/mastered CDs that were nearly unlistenable on the MKV are still not great, but at least I can listen to them without focussing too much on the technical side of things and still enjoy the music.

The Amperex 6DJ8s on the other hand are so relaxed and smooth, it's like having your ears massaged...the best I can think of for comparisons are listening to acoustic and the like - I have a Flamenco collection recorded and mastered in 48/96, and with the 7308s, there's a lot of brightness and detail - plucked strings have a sharp, defined edge (not glaring harshness, just an almost "digital" either-there-or-notness to them), and on passages where there is a dancer and singing, all three elements (strings, voice, and dancing/claps) are very defined in place and time. Soundstage is very wide, and placement is exact. With the Bugle Boys, I found myself spending a lot more time focussing on the "feel" of the music...the woodiness and tone of the guitar body, the vibrations of the strings (and whether or not they were metallic, nylon, or gut...), the intensity of the clapping (with each clap almost conveying its own mood - hard to describe, but some was more intense and "meaty", some more full of gusto, etc.) as opposed to where in space it was coming from, that sort of thing. Vocals are a lot "sexier" too, lol...there's this emotional weight that comes through a shade better - the 7308s are accurate and detailed (in the breath, timing, and pitch), but they have a more detail oriented feel. Using the 6DJ8 tubes is a much more "organic" experience.
post #13 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by glitch39 View Post
The 5998 has nice laidback sound to it that makes you wonder at tube amps.
I don't know what you mean by laid back, but if you mean that the 5998 lacks dynamics then I'd have to disagree... of all the power tubes I tried in my WA3 the 5998 was the most dynamic and punchy of the bunch.
post #14 of 90
Thread Starter 
Hey Glitch, can I borrow your Chesky sampler again? I think it's high time for some detailed comparison...I'll trade you for the Powervar, lol...
post #15 of 90
laidback does not mean lack of dynamics for me

for me, dull would be the word to describe lack of dynamics.

It's hard to describe, it you haven't rolled all those tubes before
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