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Considering Tubes for RS1i...Should I be intimidated?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have a pair of Grado RS1i that I'd like to buy an amp for.

 

I hope to purchase one of the new Emotiva ERC-2 Differential Reference CD players to use as my source (one of the main reasons being it decodes HDCD and I have a couple hundred HDCD discs...).

 

Though this is my first post, I've poked around for quite awhile...long enough to know that the Mapletree Ear+ is a great match and that tubes in general mate well with the RS1.

 

Though it is at the very top of my budget (of $1,200), I am leaning toward the WA6 SE.

 

My question for you guys is this: Given the fact I've never even seen a tube amp before, should I be intimidated by the idea of owning one?

 

In other words, I read a lot of threads about tubes that frankly just confuse the heck out of me, not to mention cause concern with all the talk of buzzing noises and other issues (that while solvable) all seem to require some level of expertise/experience that I don't have.

 

Is it naive to think I could buy a tube amp, roll in the tubes that come with it (or the Sophia upgrade everyone seems to think so much of) and not have to worry about it for at least a couple years?

 

And if any of you do have words of caution, are there any SS amps you'd steer me toward for my RS1?

 

Thanks!

 

post #2 of 15

As tubes go, MAD EAR with Grados.  Match made in heaven many say.  I finally pulled the trigger on the MAD for my Grado RS1.

I had Woo Audio 6 (upgraded) and while they are great, they are very solid state in their sound.  They are very dynamic but also somewhat bright.  I would go with Woo Audio only if you wanted an amp that will work with other headphones.  But if it's mainly for the Grado's, I would go with Mad Ear.

For solid state, as of now, there's some mention of new Schiit Asgard with it.  

But whatever you buy, you do need something that smooths out the treble, increases soundstage and gives a better bass impact.

 

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'll probably end up with more than just Grados, so that's part of my lean toward Woo Audio.

 

The only experience I have with a headphone amp is with an RA1 that I borrowed for a week or so. To be honest, I couldn't hear much of a difference between the RA1 and the headphone jack on my Pioneer SX-255R receiver.

 

It seems that most folks around here advise against the RA1 in favor of tubes, but with the Schiit Asgard being offered for just over half the price of the RA1, it's definitely piqued my interest.

 

Does anyone have any experience with the Schiit Asgard/RS1 or WA6 SE/RS1 combos?

 

And is my trepidation about tubes in general just a matter of being new to it all, or are there a lot more problems with tubes than SS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #4 of 15
Tubes are extremely reliable.

The catch is that you have to buy an amp that's well made. A lot of cheap ones cut corners and that's where problems come from.

I've been running various tube amps and radios daily since around '98 when I got my first tube radio. The unrestored gear is (not surprisingly) unreliable. Replace them with modern guts and they soldier on for years. Also keep in mind that the old stuff is usually built the right way, unlike a lot of the cheap tube gear made today. All that stuff is landfill-bound as soon as they have a serious problem that costs more to fix than they're worth.

Anyhow, $1,200 can get you a few decent models. One that's good with Grados is the DNA Sonett. It has output transformers so it'll have a low enough output impedance to match well with Grados. The 6H30 is a good sounding tube, and the amp is built point-to-point. Point-to-point means that it'll be easily serviced 25 years from now. While no guarantee of sound quality, point-to-point is a good indication that the builder is serious about making a quality product instead of trying to turn a fast dollar off something with tubes.
post #5 of 15

I don't have an RS1i and it's been a while since I had the RS-1 (old model), but The Raptor from Ray Samuels performs extremely well with my HF-1, HF2, and PS1000. Different tube compliment than the others on your list and a good match with Grados. If you're considering a WA6 SE and plan on using other cans, perhaps The Raptor should also be on your list. Whichever amp you choose, don't be hesitant about venturing into tubes. You don't need to tube roll, but it can be fun trying different tubes and tweaking the sound when you're up for it. Any of the amps you are considering are made well enough that you won't need to troubleshoot as long as you understand which tubes are compatible if you do choose to roll the tubes and that you get your tubes from a reputable source who won't send you bad tubes (which are an easy source of noise problems).

 

It's not surprising that the RA-1 wasn't impressive. I owned one for a while alongside my RS-1. The amp uses a simple circuit that can be outperformed by inexpensive DIY options, and a good tube amp will definitely take the RS1i to another level entirely.

post #6 of 15

Your trepidation towards tubes is natural, they are different from SS and require a little more care and feeding.  However, the tube sound more than makes up for any phantom reliability issues.  Imo of course.

 

The MAD is no one-trick pony.  Although it sounds great with Grados, it will also sound great with a lot of other 'phones.  In the spectrum of signatures, it leans a bit toward the sweet-sounding side, so pairing it with brighter/detailed oriented headphones would be appropriate.

 

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

I think you guys have given me the push I needed to take the plunge into tubes...Thanks!

 

After reading so many good things about WA6 SE and Woo Audio in general (and really liking the looks of those amps for whatever small amount that's worth)...I'm almost to the point of searching for compelling reasons NOT to go that direction.

 

I noticed some amps are "single-ended OTL" and others are "SET Class A, transformer coupled". 

 

Not having any clue what that means, am I okay with the SET Class A type to pair with my RS1s? (Or does it even matter...?)

 

Thanks again for all the feedback!

post #8 of 15

RS1's and other low impedance headphones will pair well with transformer coupled amps.   Actually, output transformers allow tube amps to pair well with most any impedance load.  OTL (output transformer-less) amps are better matched with high impedance headphones.

 


Edited by lbj - 4/18/11 at 7:02pm
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by sammyrambler View Post

I have a pair of Grado RS1i that I'd like to buy an amp for.

 

I hope to purchase one of the new Emotiva ERC-2 Differential Reference CD players to use as my source (one of the main reasons being it decodes HDCD and I have a couple hundred HDCD discs...).

 

Though this is my first post, I've poked around for quite awhile...long enough to know that the Mapletree Ear+ is a great match and that tubes in general mate well with the RS1.

 

Though it is at the very top of my budget (of $1,200), I am leaning toward the WA6 SE.

 

My question for you guys is this: Given the fact I've never even seen a tube amp before, should I be intimidated by the idea of owning one?

 

In other words, I read a lot of threads about tubes that frankly just confuse the heck out of me, not to mention cause concern with all the talk of buzzing noises and other issues (that while solvable) all seem to require some level of expertise/experience that I don't have.

 

Is it naive to think I could buy a tube amp, roll in the tubes that come with it (or the Sophia upgrade everyone seems to think so much of) and not have to worry about it for at least a couple years?

 

And if any of you do have words of caution, are there any SS amps you'd steer me toward for my RS1?

 

Thanks!

 


The absolute best amp (SS or tube) that I've heard the RS1/RS1i headphones one (owned them both) is the MAD Ear+HD. There is a Super II, but the Ear+HD is the warmer and tubier version and the better match. Dr. Lloyd is fantastic to deal with and highly recommended:

http://hollowstate.netfirms.com/
post #10 of 15

You shouldn't be afraid of tubes, especially if you get a $1000 amp. If it's a $1000 amp you shouldn't run into any issues. I've bought tube amps ranging from $100 to $500 and I never had these issues you are talking about like humming etc. The nice thing about tubes is that you can roll the tubes to get a new sound, but that itself is an expensive place to go to.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm relieved to hear that it seems most of the tube-specific problems are primarily confined to either lower quality/less expensive tube amps or to defective tubes themselves (which reputable suppliers will replace within a 30-day period, etc.).

 

So you guys have definitely disspelled my fears and I'm excited about trying my first tube amp!

 

I noticed that lbj mentioned the MAD Ear+HD was great with phones other than the RS1 as well, and the supposed versatility of the WA6 SE was one of the main draws for me.

 

If my track record in other hobbies is any indication, I see myself trying a lot of other headphones (across the range of sound signatures, eventually).

 

When just considering RS1s, most threads seem to suggest that the MAD Ear+HD beats out every other amp...tubes or not.

 

Do I understand the general concensus on the site that while both amps will be a significant improvement over my old Pioneer receiver hp jack, the MAD Ear+HD will give my RS1s a slightly better bass response, etc., than the WA6 SE?

 

I've read that both amps would be great with RS1s...but is it necessarily true that the WA6 SE is a better match across a larger range of phones than the MAD Ear+HD?

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

So I pulled the trigger an the WA6 SE and the new Emotiva ERC-2.

 

To be honest, when I had 3 nights in a row where I dreamed about either glowing Sophia Princess tubes or that picture of Dr. Lloyd on his website fooling around with some 45s...I just went for what my gut told me today at the particular moment I decided to act.

 

Thanks to all of you for the feedback and reassurance about tubes!

 

 

post #13 of 15
I have the Grado RS1i. Simply fantastic on the Musical Fidelity X-CAN V3 with X-PSU V3. I prefer the original Philip Jan Tubes... Also great with the RSA SR-71 (The original). It sounded tuby as well but with the solid state bass slam... I am thinking of selling... If you are keen, drop me a PM...
post #14 of 15

Yes! you should be terrified... for your wallet.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

At least my wallet is safe for a little while at least because it's empty! (And I don't do credit...)

 

As I recently said in the RS1i Appreciation thread, this is my first foray into higher end audio and it has been an absolute revelation. Music is extremely important to me and I just didn't realize how great a decent pair of cans could sound. (And until the WA6 SE and ERC-2 arrive in the next few weeks, I have a mediocre source and no amp...)

 

I am really looking forward to even a very small improvement in SQ over the hp jack of my receiver and to trying new 'phones in the future. No matter what, the joy I've gotten out of my RS1i is worth much more to me than the cost of the whole system I hope to have in place soon.

 

I can't lose! biggrin.gif

 

 

 

 

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