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Tube buffers, "tube sound" or just gimmick?

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

Hi there, I believe this is my first post ever on headfi. I have a 2.1 setup which I'm content with, but I've been tempted to impart "tube" sound onto it. I fully realize that generally amps are transparent and any audible differences between them are done by the designer as seen by the workings of Bob Carver and that many ABX tests between tubes and solid states have shown many instances of no audible differences between them.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Carver

 

My question is do tube buffers have any capability of actually imparting "tube sound"? I've read that many tube buffers are simple cathode followers which "fatten" the sound, giving the warm sound tubes are known for. Though how true this is, I have no idea. That's why I'm posting here, has anyone ever had any experience with these kind of devices or any knowledge of them? Has a tube buffer ever been in a ABX?

 

While I'm extremely skeptical of tube gear, many tube buffers are sold for 100-200 dollars which is a amount I'd be willing to gamble for the promise of "tube sound"


Edited by RoughSleeper - 2/20/13 at 6:39pm
post #2 of 35

http://www.head-fi.org/t/204397/tube-buffers-are-they-worth-it

post #3 of 35

A tube stage can have a signature, especially if the designer has intended to emphasize it.  Tubes present the designer with a certain palette that is more readily available that it is with most SS designs.  You can of course build a signature-less tube stage, but what would be the point?  

 

Carver was one of several who proved that the tube signature can be simulated adequately without the use of a tube. Note that the signature is always a divergence away from replicating the original signal accurately, it's always some form of distortion.  Some tend to prefer it, but usually only once they know they are actually listening to a tube.  Carver's Tube Transfer Function amps weren't very much fun because they sounded hyper-tubey without actually having hot glowing glass bottles to look at. Hard to feel the love if you don't feel the heat.

post #4 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post
Carver's Tube Transfer Function amps weren't very much fun because they sounded hyper-tubey without actually having hot glowing glass bottles to look at. Hard to feel the love if you don't feel the heat.

 

This is what I find so intriguing about tubes. . . they look so cool! bigsmile_face.gif I have been converted to objectivism and like to see that there is an actual improvement in SQ before I fork over my money, but I think we on the objective side can sometimes forget that listening to music is an experience and getting our other senses involved can lead to a more enjoyable experience.

 

To the OP, I have messed around with a few Tube VST plugins and find that they can create a warmer tone and really help one or two of my CDs, but the vast majority of my collection sounds better without the plugin. Unfortunately, I'm not experienced with real tube amps to know how close the sound is to the real thing. If money weren't an issue I would have a few wink_face.gif

post #5 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mnarwold View Post

 

This is what I find so intriguing about tubes. . . they look so cool! bigsmile_face.gif I have been converted to objectivism and like to see that there is an actual improvement in SQ before I fork over my money, but I think we on the objective side can sometimes forget that listening to music is an experience and getting our other senses involved can lead to a more enjoyable experience.

 

To the OP, I have messed around with a few Tube VST plugins and find that they can create a warmer tone and really help one or two of my CDs, but the vast majority of my collection sounds better without the plugin. Unfortunately, I'm not experienced with real tube amps to know how close the sound is to the real thing. If money weren't an issue I would have a few wink_face.gif

 

I think it's a common misconception that objectivists are people who don't enjoy the music and care only about measuring things and facts. There's a possible kneejerk reaction that this works against enjoying something as emotional as music. It's not at all reality.

post #6 of 35

What source are using? Because if it's a PC, isn't the foobar player a VST host? It should be easy enough to get a tube sound VST plug-in.

post #7 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mnarwold View Post

 

This is what I find so intriguing about tubes. . . they look so cool! 

 

Yes. I was disappointed when I found it that they weren't worth buying.

 

 

Otoh, I did save enough money to buy a stack of CDs and a bottle of Aardbeg.

post #8 of 35

I feed a Larocco PPA with the line out from the darkvoice 337.  The difference is very noticeable between that and feeding the PPA straight from the DAC output.  The 337 slightly thickens the midrange sounds with its harmonic content, and it also brings in center stage a little too.  The PPA (this particular build) by itself is at times a "dry" and distant sounding circuit with my HD580 and K701 (IE less intimate sounding phones).

post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer5150 View Post

I feed a Larocco PPA with the line out from the darkvoice 337.  The difference is very noticeable between that and feeding the PPA straight from the DAC output.  The 337 slightly thickens the midrange sounds with its harmonic content, and it also brings in center stage a little too.  The PPA (this particular build) by itself is at times a "dry" and distant sounding circuit with my HD580 and K701 (IE less intimate sounding phones).

 

So a cruel person would say that it's pretty much the equivalent of upping the eq slider for the mid-range a decibel, and maybe a couple more sliders about half that. In fact, I *do* say that, and http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

post #10 of 35

Maybe something a bit more sophisticated than that. You also need a small halogen room heater on the desk to get the full experience.

post #11 of 35
I got me one a' them Shanling CD players.
The one with a solid state output and a tube output.

The difference between the two outputs is one has a tube buffer, the other one don't have a tube buffer.

Anyway, yes, the tube output really does sound a bit warmer and richer and "spacier" and does take a little bit of edge off the solid state output.

sometimes I like using the tube output when I listen to music which has the vocals as the main focus.
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post

I got me one a' them Shanling CD players.
The one with a solid state output and a tube output.

The difference between the two outputs is one has a tube buffer, the other one don't have a tube buffer.

Anyway, yes, the tube output really does sound a bit warmer and richer and "spacier" and does take a little bit of edge off the solid state output.

 

A cynical person might say that Shanling could have achieved the same effect with a handful of resistors, and in fact any difference between outputs might be due to such an effect, but that "Give us $2000 for a CD player that isn't in objective way better than a $50 - hey, we've 50c of resistors and extra out" might not have passed muster with the marketing department. 

post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

 

A cynical person might say that Shanling could have achieved the same effect with a handful of resistors, and in fact any difference between outputs might be due to such an effect, but that "Give us $2000 for a CD player that isn't in objective way better than a $50 - hey, we've 50c of resistors and extra out" might not have passed muster with the marketing department. 

 



How would you have configured the resistors to impart vacuum tube distortion on the CD players output stage? I'm genuinely interested.

post #14 of 35

Tubes supposedly impart a "warm" sound. Tubes get warm (or hot) when used. You make the call.

post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by OJNeg View Post

 



How would you have configured the resistors to impart vacuum tube distortion on the CD players output stage? I'm genuinely interested.

 

Why ask him?

He has no idea and nothing constructive to add!

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