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Looking for an inexpensive tube amp - Page 2

post #16 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

First off, neither of the amps posted were straight headphone amps. Both of them can drive speakers. Whether or not they can drive HIS speakers is a different story. 

 

@clowkoy: No. The asgard is not going to power large speakers any time soon. 

 

Who ever recommended the lepai is also a bit off. I bought the lepai for a small weekend DIY project, and it had some really bad distortion problems when you turned the volume up. Long story short, it is a piece of junk.

 

 The bravo amp should be burned and left in a shallow grave. It is essentially a crappy SS amp with a glowing piece of glass on it. 

 

And finally, troll dragon is right. Chinese amps suck. They are often times thin sounding, and you would be better off buying a decent solid state receiver. 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

@OP: At your price range you would be better off hunting tube equipment on ebay. A pretty decent tube amp would be a jolida FX10, a sansui 1000a (especially if you take the time to clean it and restore it a bit), maybe something by Knight or dynaco.

 

In any case, you can always get a tube power amp, and then get/make a speaker amp to headphone amp adapter.  

 

So basically, the two things I want to do with an amp are inconsistent with one another, and all I can afford is crap anyway. I wanted to hear what all the fuss was about with tube amplification. I've never owned a tube amp, and always have been something of a skeptic, especially at the prices they commanded the last time I even looked into it (20-30 years ago.) To someone who's been "away" so long, discovering the existence of so many reasonably-priced tube amps was revelatory, and seemed to signal an opportunity. I don't expect a miracle for the amount of money I am willing and able to spend, but crap that doesn't even do what I need and and doesn't do it for long is no bargain at any price. It was the reviews on Head-fi that prompted me to investigate what was out there, and rekindled my desire to check out a tube solution.

 

I quit paying attention to audio for so many years for two reasons:  My point of diminishing returns with audio gear has always come at a pretty low price point (coincidentally just above my maximum budget, and apparently it's still right about there), and; too many audiophiles had their heads too far up their own asses for me to keep a straight face in any discussion of sound. Neither the totally subjective approach of The Absolute Sound or the clinical "If it can't be measured it isn't real" approach of Stereo Review (sorry Julian, wherever you are) seemed complete to me, and I see that both approaches are still alive and well. Thank you all for the attempt to help, but I've gone from being excited by the myriad of possibilities out there to being certain I can't do anything that makes sense with the amount of $ I have available. More's the pity, but so be it, I'm gonna go listen to some music on my ****ty stereo.

post #17 of 31

Yes and no. 

 

What you want to do is rather inconsistent for the audio world. There seems to be a schism between headphone people and speaker people. Not a big one. But just large enough for fancy speaker amps to not have a headphone out. 

 

For older things, it is simply because headphones weren't as popular as they are now. 

 

But there are speaker amp the headphone converters that will bridge that gap, so don't worry. 

 

Also. Your budget is not low, and you can get some great stuff. The sansui 1000a in particular IS a great tube amp. Sure it takes some TLC to bring it back from a neglectful home, but usually they can be as little as 350 in fairly good condition. 

 

The issue is that the generation that knew how to make amps with tubes is largely dead. Companies like Knight, heathkit, dynaco, Hoffman, and Western Electric all made amps that could crush these chinese amps....but they are all gone.  Audio and in particular tube audio is not an exact science, but people these days try and treat it that way which screws up the sound. Chinese amps suffer from this 9 times out of 10. Schiit, Woo, and several others also suffer from this too. 

 

There are only a handful of good tube audio companies that are still making things in this day and age. The Jolida fx 10 for instance is still being made, and it has massive bang for buck sound. But the companies that know they are good at what they do will often charge for it. Companies like audio note and synthesis are almost exclusively in the 1K+ range. Jolida is about the only one I know of that actually makes affordable hi-fi tube audio that is good. 

 

In the end, you CAN get something good, but it just make take a bit more time and effort to get what you want. 

 

If you still want to call it quits, then that is up to you, but don't give up so early. It just takes a bit of time and know how to track down something that is actually worth the money. It will just give your new amp more character wink.gif

post #18 of 31

Forget the Asgard recommendation. It's not for speakers.beerchug.gif

post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by clowkoy View Post

Forget the Asgard recommendation. It's not for speakers.beerchug.gif

I know, thanx anyway.

post #20 of 31

If you are just looking for a tube based headphone amplifier I have recently picked up a Little Dot MK IV for my beyerdynamic DT880 Pro's

It's still a Chi-nee tube amp but there is quite the following here, and we have a large tube rolling group.

 

Little Dot MK IV

http://www.littledot.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=820&sid=4dbda4647d5b0adb838b03df8acae507

I paid $375 landed, duty, taxes and all with a DHL 5 day delivery.

 

The only thing is they are really made for high impedance headphones, but with gain settings of 3, 4, 5 & 10 it will drive my 35Ω Ultrasones quite well too.

 

Here is the LD Tube Rolling thread:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/563884/little-dot-tube-amps-vacuum-tube-rolling-guide
 

It's another option if you are looking for an inexpensive tube sound.

beerchug.gif

post #21 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

Yes and no. 

 

What you want to do is rather inconsistent for the audio world. There seems to be a schism between headphone people and speaker people. Not a big one. But just large enough for fancy speaker amps to not have a headphone out. 

 

For older things, it is simply because headphones weren't as popular as they are now. 

 

But there are speaker amp the headphone converters that will bridge that gap, so don't worry. 

 

Also. Your budget is not low, and you can get some great stuff. The sansui 1000a in particular IS a great tube amp. Sure it takes some TLC to bring it back from a neglectful home, but usually they can be as little as 350 in fairly good condition. 

 

The issue is that the generation that knew how to make amps with tubes is largely dead. Companies like Knight, heathkit, dynaco, Hoffman, and Western Electric all made amps that could crush these chinese amps....but they are all gone.  Audio and in particular tube audio is not an exact science, but people these days try and treat it that way which screws up the sound. Chinese amps suffer from this 9 times out of 10. Schiit, Woo, and several others also suffer from this too. 

 

There are only a handful of good tube audio companies that are still making things in this day and age. The Jolida fx 10 for instance is still being made, and it has massive bang for buck sound. But the companies that know they are good at what they do will often charge for it. Companies like audio note and synthesis are almost exclusively in the 1K+ range. Jolida is about the only one I know of that actually makes affordable hi-fi tube audio that is good. 

 

In the end, you CAN get something good, but it just make take a bit more time and effort to get what you want. 

 

If you still want to call it quits, then that is up to you, but don't give up so early. It just takes a bit of time and know how to track down something that is actually worth the money. It will just give your new amp more character wink.gif

I'm curious then given your opinion of these new bottom tier Chinese amps, how you account for the OVERWHELMINGLY positive reviews they receive here and elsewhere. Yes, some negative points are mentioned, but a rating below 3.5 and 4 stars is by far the exception, and most have 100% positive reviews. Mass hysteria? Chinese government agents? I don't mean to imply that you're wrong, I don't have a clue, that's why I asked, but I've seen reviews where people claim to be moved to tears by products that you either say outright or imply are not worth the shipping charges to obtain. You must admit that works out to a pretty weird data set for someone doing research, which is what I'm trying to do. Please don't mistake my incredulity for ingratitude.

post #22 of 31

There are some great tube amplifiers out there nowdays (and also rubbish just like SS), some even at modest prices but I think Trolldragon has the best suggestion here. LD amps like this are  great amps as delivered and can be rolled to much higher levels with simple and cheap valves / tweaks. They can then drive what ever power amp you require to drive speakers. You might have something available or something could be bought but the LD will give you the experrience of a high quality valve headphone amp that performs well out of it's price range and has the capability to be taken much higher again for pennies. It will give you a look at high quality valve and what the fuss is all about.
 

post #23 of 31

Cheers Nic!

Nice praise of the LD's from a serious Woo owner, appreciated.

beerchug.gif

post #24 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by senorx12562 View Post

I'm curious then given your opinion of these new bottom tier Chinese amps, how you account for the OVERWHELMINGLY positive reviews they receive here and elsewhere. Yes, some negative points are mentioned, but a rating below 3.5 and 4 stars is by far the exception, and most have 100% positive reviews. Mass hysteria? Chinese government agents? I don't mean to imply that you're wrong, I don't have a clue, that's why I asked, but I've seen reviews where people claim to be moved to tears by products that you either say outright or imply are not worth the shipping charges to obtain. You must admit that works out to a pretty weird data set for someone doing research, which is what I'm trying to do. Please don't mistake my incredulity for ingratitude.

 

 

How do I account for them? People have nothing to compare them to. I am kind of picky about this stuff because I have listened to hand made western electric amps and I have listened to horrible Woo audio amps (not all woo audio amps are bad, but the WA5 is almost laughable). I use a REALLY good amp and a REALLY pathetic amp to sort of benchmark amps. I don't think very many people have access to such opposing extremes in tube audio to really make an educated guess as to how good something really is. 

 

Don't get me wrong, chinese tube amps are ok, but they are grossly over priced for what they are, and most of the chinese tube amps that are overly popularized just flat out suck. 

 

Sometimes you do have chinese companies that are kind of like "ma and pa" stores that actually do care about sound, and they make pretty good amps, but for the most part, tube amps are more a product of profiteering than they are about making good sound. 

 

If you open up one of those chinese tube amps and look inside, you will see that they are not using paper in oil capacitors, they are not using high quality metalized resistors, and most importantly, they are probably using crap transformers that were made in a sweat shop. Quality of components makes a massive difference in tonality. Chinese amps are usually made with crap parts and they charge people as if they were made with high quality parts. 

 

Their designs are also sort of junk. Instead of using trial and error, most chinese designers will just hook everything up to an oscilloscope and try and make everything have a flat response curve. Sometimes this works, but 99 times out of 100 it will make the amp sound like dog crap because tube amps are not supposed to have a flat response curve. That is when you start getting tube equipment that sounds exactly like SS equipment at which point, you are paying 3 times the amount of a decent SS amp for an amp that sounds the same but has glowing little light bulbs on it. 

 

In the long run, it is better to either A) stay away from chinese amps or B) know exactly who you are buying your amp from in china and make sure they know what they are doing. 

post #25 of 31

If you're on a budget and willing to build your own you could build Pete Millett's "Starving Student" amp, its for headphones and not speakers though.

post #26 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by willcarroll View Post

If you're on a budget and willing to build your own you could build Pete Millett's "Starving Student" amp, its for headphones and not speakers though.

As I said in a previous post, I have neither the time nor the inclination (or the tools-don't even own anything to solder with) to undertake such a project. Moreover, I want the thing to work. Even the worst piece of crap is probably going to work better than something I build. In the immortal words of Harry Callahan, "A man's gotta know his limitations."


Edited by senorx12562 - 8/10/13 at 12:27pm
post #27 of 31

I have a HD800, would you guys say that the bottlehead crack would be a good tube amp for my first purchase in a amplifier. 

post #28 of 31

excellent choice for an 800

post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nic Rhodes View Post
 

excellent choice for an 800

I was hoping you would say no. That way I can just be happy with my LCD3. Im seriously just about to sell off these HD800.. I didnt think too much about the kind of money if have to spend around this headphone..Doing that to the LCD3 alone nearly had me on the streets. The HD800 appears to be more expensive in terms of settling down with a preferred setup.

post #30 of 31

I have 800 and LCD3s. The latter need some power but are not silly to drive (unlike HE6s). The amp needs to be able to drive 50 ohm headphones however. The crack cannot. The 800 are an easier prospect but really like OTL which are for 300+ ohms headphones in my book (even 250 is too low to get the best out of them). I get great results with Crack, LD 4se and Woo 2. Other amps also work well  but OTLs are made for the 800, 650, 600, 240DF, 880/600, and T1s. The Crack here has amazing bang for the buck.

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