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REVIEW: Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11 - Page 13

post #181 of 267

Running high impedance phones (like the HD600, HD650) directly to the tube out works great.. but IMO, using a dedicated solid state amp (that's connected to the tube output) is the way to realize the full potential of just how well the tube buffer is implemented.  I'd recommend as neutral & transparent a solid state amp as possible so as not to color the sound any further (than what the tube (being used) provides).

 

You don't need a particularly powerful ss amp downstream (something like the O2 works great for many phones.. particularly with the HE-400).  I have the TD-11's tube out connected to the Lake People G109-S.. and drive all my phones off the G109.  How does it sound?  Terrific.  The G109 is an excellent amp in it's own right (our very own project86 reviewed it at InnerFidelity).. powerful, detailed, smooth, and very transparent... and proves to be an excellent match as a 'power amp' when the TD-11 is used as a pre-amp.

 

The HD800 performed quite admirably when hooked up directly to the TD-11's tube output.. but the "sparks began to fly" when the G109 (or more recently, the HPA V200) was brought into the equation.  What I heard was all the excellent qualities of the tube out's sound get "magnified."  The essence of the sound was still the tube's voicing.. but I hear all those things in a much more engaging, technically proficient manner.  The improvement in sound was not small or insignificant, either.. it's easily noticeable (and appreciable).  For lack of a better description, it felt like the tube output got 'turbocharged.'  With the G109 inserted (ownstream the tube out), I heard much better dynamic range, note weight, instrument separation, soundstage, and over all articulation.  Taking not of the fact the G109/V200 has ridiculously low output impedance (<1 ohm), I can even get that 'tube flavor' with my custom IEMs!

 

As far as using the HE-4 and/or HE-500 coupled directly to the tube out, I found that experience poor to down right unlistenable.  Like most (non-hybrid) tube amps, the TD-11's tube out has a very high output impedance (~40-50 ohms, I believe).  The high OI causes poor damping with low impedance phones (i.e. most all the HiFiMan planars)... and this is why high impedance phones (i.e. the Senn HD580/600/650/800) are less affected (and thus, usable directly with the tube out).  Using a solid state amp with the tube out eliminates this problem as amps like the Objective2, HPA V200, and G109-S all have extremely low output impedance (and adjustable gain), satisfying damping & low noise floor requirements for virtually all headphones.

 

If you anticipate wanting to use the tube output with a HiFiMan planar, I can't recommend the LP/Vio amps enough (and that's not just cause I have my G109 for sale.. lol).  Their mid-upper tier amps sound amazing with practically any phone you throw at them (including very sensitive IEMs), but I sense a particular synergy with orthos that's immensely enjoyable.

 

The LP/Vio amps (as well as may Audio-GD offerings) are capable of delivering oodles of current into low headphone impedances.. which is precisely what planars crave.. so combine that with the TD-11's wonderful tube out capabilities.. and you would understand why this combo is very pleasing ..and very versatile.


Edited by FlySweep - 3/31/13 at 10:40pm
post #182 of 267

re: coolblue's query re: the herbies damper, i posted this elsewhere last week::

 

last night i took that herbie's tube damper of mine and put it on my telefunken 6dj8/Ecc88; for the first time actually making it go o n the tube a lot tighter than i had been doing (based on others' directions). but brent jesse told me they should go on quite snugly, so:

HUGE difference in sound. the tele which was always very, very good but not amazing except for an amazing high end, changed as follows:

- tightened up/more focused throughout the spectrum.

- faster (resolution of notes)

-bass tighter and deeper

-mids much more evident!!!

-the transparent and extended highs are still both t and e; but not as "spacey" souding, not as diffuse and/or not as "echoey" or thin along the edges

have not tried it on any other tubes, as i don't wanna mess with the new mighty mojo of this tele!!!

my best friend (aka "the tube dr") told me this afternoon that a lot of time you can't even hear the microphonic effects/affects themselves, but that after damping the improved sonics make it clear that the tube had issues that are now taken care of (note that i've never seen him use a damper in any of his umpteen mono blocks and preamps) but what he said fits the bill for the tele. i can now hear that part of the crasy highs were, indeed actually crasy!

this tube is now very much at the level of the USA Amperex PQ 6922 I am so impressed with...a HUGE difference from using a damper on it. (note: the tube dr told me he has never heard a difference as great as i'm reporting). so, maybe i'm just trippin'...but i dun think so!

 

adding this note on headfi:

 

i have since tried the damper on a number of my other tubes and got no effect whatsoever on most, very slight on a couple. so take this as a caveat regarding dampers. many won't need one, some you think are fine will improve with one, some you wish would improve will not. microphonics is fun! 

post #183 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlySweep View Post

Running high impedance phones (like the HD600, HD650) directly to the tube out works great.. but IMO, using a dedicated solid state amp (that's connected to the tube output) is the way to realize the full potential...

Thanks for all the details FlySweep.  For me, this is what is great about head-fi and the people here.  I'm enabled to make informed buying decisions based on the experience and advice of many others, instead of me wasting lots of money and time starting out in wrong directions.

I think I will probably go with a two-step approach: for now I'll plan on getting Beyer DT880 600ohm headphones to use with the GF 11 tube-out, then later I can move up to the next level with a LakePeople or Schiit solid state amp and one of the Hifiman planar headphones.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by analog'd View Post

re: coolblue's query re: the herbies damper, i posted this elsewhere last week::

 

Thanks analog'd.  It sounds like the UltraSonic Rx-9 is definitely worth a try for $30.  I'll order it from thecableco.com, and also ask them about their 'headphone lending library' program.

post #184 of 267
Originally Posted by coolbluesurface View Post

Thanks for all the details FlySweep.  For me, this is what is great about head-fi and the people here.  I'm enabled to make informed buying decisions based on the experience and advice of many others, instead of me wasting lots of money and time starting out in wrong directions.

I think I will probably go with a two-step approach: for now I'll plan on getting Beyer DT880 600ohm headphones to use with the GF 11 tube-out, then later I can move up to the next level with a LakePeople or Schiit solid state amp and one of the Hifiman planar headphones.

 

You're welcome.. I took that same approach and would most definitely recommend it for other prospective buyers.  Analog'd is a terrific resource for tube rolling, too.. he brought the Voskhod 6N23P to my attention and I've found it to be a wonderful, very inexpensive tube in the TD-11.  I've now got some Amperex tubes that are even better.. but for the money (and availability), it's tough to beat the Voskhod "Rocket."

post #185 of 267

Yes, I actually bought several tubes based on your guys' forum posts at ak, including the Voskhod rocket and Zaerix :)

Can someone please send me the "TubeDAC-11 tube rolling spreadsheet" via PM on head-fi? (audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=439184)  When I click the download link at ak I get a login page, and when I click the Register link I get message "Sorry, registration has been disabled by the administrator."  (No reply from the site admins when I emailed them a few days ago.)

post #186 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlySweep View Post

 

  Analog'd is a terrific resource for tube rolling, too..

i have it on good authority that that guy just makes stuff up.

post #187 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolbluesurface View Post

Can someone please send me the "TubeDAC-11 tube rolling spreadsheet" via PM on head-fi?

 

I received the document via PM from analog'd - thanks!

post #188 of 267

My Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11 arrived today.  So far I have not found any of my tubes via Tube Out to give as high a quality of sound as I enjoy from the Line Out, but I understand that I may need to give each tube time to warm up to full potential over a few days.

Does anyone else have a problem with a loud pop to the speakers when clicking the TubeDAC-11 power switch on?  I thought this issue had been solved years ago in all audio electronics, as I seem to recall "anti-pop technology" listed as a 'feature' of even low-end products for a long time.  I don't understand why I should be obligated to unplug the cables from the RCA output to avoid damaging my speakers when turning the unit on.  Could it be that I need to add a power conditioner or automatic voltage regulator between the wall outlet and the TubeDAC-11 to prevent that problem?


Edited by coolbluesurface - 4/2/13 at 10:30pm
post #189 of 267

Yeah, the TD-11 has a couple of quirks that should have been caught in the design phase, but I've learned to live with them.  Getting otherwise good tube electronics for $325 makes the quirks a trade-off I can live with.  Try turning the input selector to a source that you don't have and turning it on, or turning the volume control all the way down and see if one of those helps your situation.  NEVER EVER pull out the headphone plug from the jack unless your speakers are turned off or the TD-11 has been powered down for a while, or you will hear a loud pop regardless of where your volume knob or input selector is.  I generally connect my phones to the back of the unit with a Y-adapter, so the pop is not an issue for me.

 

I would like to see these issues addressed in a future iteration, but that will depend on Ian Grant's situation.  He's been very ill since at least December.  We should all continue to wish him well.

post #190 of 267

After reading this I feel like canceling my Bottlehead Crack + Speedball and just order this tubedac amp.

 

I was planning on doing

 

mediocre dac > bottlehead crack speed ball-> HD 600.

 

would the tubedac 11's headphone/tube out amplification be better than the bottlehead crack amplification?


Edited by audiojun - 4/11/13 at 12:47pm
post #191 of 267
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by audiojun View Post

After reading this I feel like canceling my Bottlehead Crack + Speedball and just order this tubedac amp.

 

I was planning on doing

 

mediocre dac > bottlehead crack speed ball-> HD 600.

 

would the tubedac 11's headphone/tube out amplification be better than the bottlehead crack amplification?

 

Dunno, I haven't compared them directly. I love the Crack though, and I don't think either way is wrong. Both should sound great - with the TD-11 maybe being cheaper and more compact if that matters to your system. 

post #192 of 267
Originally Posted by audiojun View Post

After reading this I feel like canceling my Bottlehead Crack + Speedball and just order this tubedac amp.

 

I was planning on doing

 

mediocre dac > bottlehead crack speed ball-> HD 600.

 

would the tubedac 11's headphone/tube out amplification be better than the bottlehead crack amplification?

 

I've got a Crack + Speedball on the way, so I'll (eventually) be able to offer some comparisons vs the TD-11.  The Crack won't arrive for another week or two.  The BH probably swings a bit more voltage than the TD-11's tube output.. but when I had the HD600, it sounded great from the TD-11's tube out.  The TD-11 also has a solid (but not spectacular) built-in DAC, it's more versatile as far as inputs & outputs, and it only needs one tube.  Pair an inexpensive solid state amp with the TD-11's tube out (so the TD-11 becomes a pre-amp) and you can run virtually any phone with the tube.  I do this with the V200 (or Objective2) and it's terrific.  While the TD-11's tube out is very capable, I feel using it with a solid state (power) amp is the way to go.. there's a noticeable improvement in sound and dynamics.. plus, you can then use the tube output with a ton of phones without having to worry about matching impedances (provided the power amp has reasonably low OI).

 

The BH Crack doesn't have a DAC, it's limited in terms of inputs/outputs, and it needs two tubes (input & output).  The Crack is said to have quite a bit of gain, too.. so if the DAC you use has higher than normal output voltage, the volume pot could be difficult to dial in and use at low volumes.  Again, since the TD-11 works as a pre-amp, so it's much easier to match it's DAC (or an external DAC) with the power amp.  All that said, the Crack is supposed to be quite impressive.. and seems extremely popular with the Senn HD600/650/HD800.  I'm getting it to use exclusively with the HD800 in my living room.  I keep the TD-11 at the desktop and eventually plan on using it with a nearfield speaker system.

 

I don't think you can go wrong with either.. it's all about how you plan to use either amp and what features you need.

post #193 of 267

FlySweep,

 

howdy partner!

 

what will you be feeding into your BH Crack?

 

regards,

 

Jimmy

post #194 of 267

Ok thanks for the reply, I guess I will stick with the bottlehead crack since it has a better resell value.

 

This dac looks promising for people who need a tube preamp.

post #195 of 267
Quote:
So far I have not found any of my tubes via Tube Out to give as high a quality of sound as I enjoy from the Line Out, but I understand that I may need to give each tube time to warm up to full potential over a few days.

I felt the same from day one and I ended up never using the tube out -- I probably just needed to break it in.  But I'm speakerfi so I have tubes in my preamp and amp.  I suggest you break that puppy in.

 

Yeah there is power on/off pop if the volume is up, a mechanical tick (not tied to volume) whenever the USB input engages (if you are using the USB input), and I think while on the S/PDIF input a small speaker tick if you sleep/shutdown the computer with the volume up.  My Yulong D18 doesn't exhibit these traits.  None of this bother's me because it's dead quiet during playback, something vinyl guys struggle to achieve.  I think the TD-11 just likes the attention.

 

If Ian's health insurance is the self-employed kind than it's probably not as good as it needs to be right now -- I hear no insurance (medicaid) is the best insurance.  All his proceeds are probably going to his treatment.  I would like to think that being his customer I made a more meaningful and effective contribution than a cancer collection container in a seven eleven (or a wasteful entity like red cross).

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