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Tubes vs Solid State

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

It seems even with fairly expensive tube amps the first thing you hear when contemplating buying one is, it sounds pretty good, but you really have to replace the tubes to get the really good sound it is capable of. Excuse me but buying a $700 amp and then having to spend another $100-$200 on new tubes doesn't appeal to me very much. Are there any tube amps for under $750 that actually come with good tubes already installed, or would I be better off to just go solid state with something like the Burson SL or Meier Classic.

 It strikes me as odd that the manufacturers of tube amps use tubes that they must know, don't show the full capabilities of their amps. At the very least allow some upgrade option up front whereby you can have the amp shipped with some better tubes in it, rather than having to search high and low to find a compatible and better sounding tube set and then install them yourself.

 Just venting a bit, it is frustrating finding what people describe as a tremendous sounding tube amp, only to find out that you need to spend a fair amount of time and money to actually get it to sound that way because new out of the box, it is just good, not great.

post #2 of 17

I have similar thoughts all the time and I find I am a bit frustrated with my setup. I have 6 pairs of tubes for my Lyr and more coming in the mail now, and there is only one set that I own that I would say are outstanding. And it's been a pretty difficult process to find the good tubes, as in general buying tubes is a crapshoot.

 

Certainly it would be nice to have a convenient solution that didn't take so much trial and error to set up, and if anyone has any amp recommendations in the under $2K price range I would like to hear them.

 

On the other hand this is an expensive hobby and you do get what you put into it for the most part. I ended up with the Lyr after auditioning and being quite unimpressed with the Burson Conductor. The Lyr with the right tubes is quite something, the problem is finding those tubes and being willing to spend the money.

post #3 of 17

Some tubes are dirt cheap and sound great.  I think tube rolling gets a little exaggerated and out of hand a lot around here.  I have two amps, and they sound great with tubes costing a few bucks each.

post #4 of 17

When it comes to tubes, the majority of what people desire or want are long, long out of production. We are talking between 40-60+ years old. These vintage tubes, especially the more rare and desirable do not come cheap and source qtys are very small. A manufacturer cannot possibly buy enough old stock to support their business so they provide what is currently available - new production in most cases, or they buy nos in lots (but that dries up quickly) The reality is that many owners do not want new production, they want vintage. And since everyone talks about their expensive vintage choices... then everyone wants the expensive vintage choices and that is why you think you need to spend $$$ to obtain decent sound. And as time goes on, the desirable tubes become more and more rare. More fail, more are damaged, more are lost or held in personal collections. And... up goes the prices.

 

Another aspect is tube rolling. Simply spending X amount of money does not equal a tube you may like better, it simply means you spent X amount on a hotrod of an old light bulb (teasing) which you hopefully will love. My advice - if your choice amplifier supports it, roll many tubes and see which you like personally. Do not buy a tube or two at $200 for example, instead buy 20-30+ tested, old equipment pulls of various types and see what floats your boat. When you find your one true love... or three.. ten... or twenty, get rid of the rest because at night, if they get wet... they multiply like gremlins and the next thing you will know, you will have hundreds of little glass eyes starting up at you saying PICK ME!

 

I agree totally with hodgjy, many of the gems that I love to listen to are under $20 shipped used. Many under $10 used. I also like several new production tubes, some of which just hearing the brand name can make an audiophiles left eye twitch as no one should like that brand. Reality is, some new glass is actually pretty decent! You do not have to hand over your wallet to get some great glass. There are also many great tube amplifiers WAY under $750 that are outstanding choices.

 

Best of luck - enjoy the hobby!

post #5 of 17

Since you are already frustrated, if I were you I'll stay away from tube amps. Don't get me wrong, I listen to my HE-6 through an all tube speaker amp with vintage Tung Sol 6550 gray plate output tubes and vintage Mullard 12AX7A inverter tubes.

 

Most vacuum tubes are not dirt cheap unless they are the Russians or Chinese designed small tubes that are available still in the millions.

 

The vintage small tubes like 12AX7, 6DJ8 and 6922 from Telefunken, Amperex, Mullard, Philip, etc... are not cheap. But so are the new Psvane or Shuguang 12AX7 from China.


Edited by wuwhere - 6/12/13 at 11:06pm
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by HPiper View Post

Are there any tube amps for under $750 that actually come with good tubes already installed

 

Depends on what you are looking for - and what you are comparing with.  I personally think the LD MKIV SE is a great amp (I have the vanilla MKIV - but eventually upgraded the tubes to the ones they ship with the SE version anyway).

 

http://www.littledot.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=820&sid=30ef21d60d552cdc39d271355834bdf8

post #7 of 17
Two options here. One, build a crack to find out what all the fuss is about. It's an affordable way to try out tube amps and doesn't cost a fortune to roll in different tubes. Two, get a conductor and enjoy.
post #8 of 17

This is precisely my point.  You don't have to spend $200 for a match pair of Telefunken 6992s.  A set of Sylvania 6DJ8s will set you back under $50 on eBay, and they sound marvelous.  I once got a matched pair of them for $17.  Heck, even the new production EH 6992 aren't all that bad.  They beat the heck out of the sound coming out of an iPod's headphone jack.

 

My point was too many people read too many posts here about tube rolling and try to go end game the minute they take delivery of a new amp.  They get frustrated because those vintage tubes you mentioned cost $200+ for a matched pair.  You don't need to do that to enjoy the music.  There are plenty of NOS, vintage tubes out there that sound great and won't break the bank.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by wuwhere View Post

Since you are already frustrated, if I were you I'll stay away from tube amps. Don't get me wrong, I listen to my HE-6 through an all tube speaker amp with vintage Tung Sol 6550 gray plate output tubes and vintage Mullard 12AX7A inverter tubes.

 

Most vacuum tubes are not dirt cheap unless they are the Russians or Chinese designed small tubes that are available still in the millions.

 

The vintage small tubes like 12AX7, 6DJ8 and 6922 from Telefunken, Amperex, Mullard, Philip, etc... are not cheap. But so are the new Psvane or Shuguang 12AX7 from China.


Edited by hodgjy - 6/13/13 at 4:29am
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

 

Depends on what you are looking for - and what you are comparing with.  I personally think the LD MKIV SE is a great amp (I have the vanilla MKIV - but eventually upgraded the tubes to the ones they ship with the SE version anyway).

 

http://www.littledot.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=820&sid=30ef21d60d552cdc39d271355834bdf8


Thanks for that link, that amp really looks nice!! The really cool part is the SE version comes with upgraded tubes already installed just like I was talking about, somebody got it right.

post #10 of 17

I have the LD MKIV SE (w/ m8161 tubes) and it does wonders for my HD600. I preferred it over the Asgard 2.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuwhere View Post

Since you are already frustrated, if I were you I'll stay away from tube amps. Don't get me wrong, I listen to my HE-6 through an all tube speaker amp with vintage Tung Sol 6550 gray plate output tubes and vintage Mullard 12AX7A inverter tubes.

 

 

In my case the frustration is from being so close but yet so far. When I listen to my setup I can imagine what perfection would be like, and often I am thinking "If only these tubes had a little more air, then they would be perfect" etc. 

 

And of course there is no guarantee you can ever find those perfect tubes, even if you do spend the big money.

 

Truth be told I have very few complaints. I've heard most of the items reviewed here and I think I am pretty happy with my rig, especially at its price point. The complication is that as my system has gotten better, I have only become more aware of what is lacking and I often wonder what it might be like if I could go a little farther.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by HPiper View Post


Thanks for that link, that amp really looks nice!! The really cool part is the SE version comes with upgraded tubes already installed just like I was talking about, somebody got it right.

 

No problems - glad to help.  the EH 6H30P1 gold pin power tubes are a definite upgrade.  I tend to alternate between the Mullard M8100 driver tubes and GE JAN5654Ws.  Both are really good driver tubes with a slightly different tone.

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanlitun View Post

 

In my case the frustration is from being so close but yet so far. When I listen to my setup I can imagine what perfection would be like, and often I am thinking "If only these tubes had a little more air, then they would be perfect" etc. 

 

Its not the tubes that lacks air, its your tube amp. I have two tubes, one is an Audio Research D70 Mk II, the other is a Copland CTA 504. I use both on my HE-6 headphone. Both use 4 6550 for output tubes, 2/channel, so both have about the same power. The Audio Research has more air, extension if you will, a little brighter than the Copland. The difference is in the small tubes they use. The Copland uses 5 12AX7 but the Audio Research uses 1- 6550 for voltage regulator, 1-12AX7 for regulator driver, 3-6DJ8 for signal and 4-6FQ7/6CG7.

 

The Copland sounds intimate while the Audio Research sounds open and lively. Different tubes have different sound.

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by helljudgement View Post

Two options here. One, build a crack to find out what all the fuss is about. It's an affordable way to try out tube amps and doesn't cost a fortune to roll in different tubes. Two, get a conductor and enjoy.

Being a newbie I have had the same thought.  This is the direction I will probably go....

post #15 of 17
I will be buying my first Tube Amp as well. I was thinking the Musical Paradise MP301 MKIII Deluxe. Anyone have any idea how these sound?
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