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General tube and nontube amp questions

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Alright, I have a few general questions about amps here I would've asked in the general question forum, but there's going to be more dedicated amp-knowitalls on this forum thread thing, so I'll ask here to get a few more/better answers.
So, what are some of the biggest differences between tube amps and nontube amps? I know that they're both going to have a little different sound or feel, but I'm not sure which one I would like.
Moving on, what exactly can amps do to music? I mean, I like a nice bold feel to my music and I don't want to accidently get an amp that makes my music sound gorgeously airy when I'm trying to listen to some driving fusion or grinding almostmetal. I want to get an amp or two that'll give my music the depth, weight, and overall, rich sound I want.
Can I split the sound to isolate the highs from the mids and lows in an amp? Cause I like a dark, full low and lower mid range sound, a bold midrange, and a soaring high section, especially for cymbal crashes. I listen to my uncle's steriophile audio system, and I could practially see the drummer's expression when those cymbals rang out.
Should I incest a lot of money into a headphone amp, or a headphone? Or even money, cause I have my eyes on some headphones, but I have no idea about amps. Or if I need a DAC for the amp from my computer to get some perfectly awesome sound coming out the those two speakers to fill my brain with artwork.

I know that's quite a lot of smoke and mist surrounding my questions, but I don't mind vague answers, I just want to make sure I know what path to take.

post #2 of 11

"I listen to my uncle's steriophile audio system, and I could practially see the drummer's expression when those cymbals rang out."


The closest I've heard a drumset reproduced was an all Cello system by Mark Levinson a long time ago. No headphone system will even come close to that experience.

post #3 of 11

This is going to be a little vague, just sharing my experience in this area.  They are only my experiences and opinions, not facts.


I got into this hobby three years ago and had a whole lot of the same questions you are asking now.  Started out with headphones and MP3, moved on to re-ripping my cd collection into FLAC and buying a good DAC.  Next I started experimenting with different amps by buying them, selling them, and trading them.  I bought a couple of sets of B-Stock speakers that I normally couldn't afford and collected a bit of vintage gear and speakers.  After that I moved onto, and this part has proven to be rather expensive, high res downloads and vinyl. 


That feeling you got from your uncle's stereo; I just achieved that last week after three years. I know how you felt and, really for the first time, understand what the more experienced users here are talking about.  It happened purely by accident.  I was stuck at home and feeling restless so I pulled the solid state integrated amp off of some small bookshelf speakers and hooked up a monster tube amp to them; I had never done this before because I knew tubes don't like complex crossovers and because I don't have a dedicated preamp for the tube amp.  Right now I am using a headphone amplifier as the pre-amp, but by god it is working.  Well magic happened.  Before this the system was nice and clear and powerful, but it wasn't musical; it didn't feel like you were there in the audience of a live performance.  Sterile is the word that comes to mind.


I don't think that my experience in and of itself speaks so much for the magic of tubes as it does for my new number one rule for the budding audiophile; synergy.  Now, this is weird since the amp made all the difference, but I think the number two rule should be focusing resources on either the source or the headphone/speaker.  I could have had the most expensive tube amp in the world and it wouldn't have brought out the goose bumps if I was starting with a 1 volt source full of 96kbps mp3 files and ending with non neutral speaker.


If you do go tube keep in mind you can roll them to change the sound characteristics and you can't do that with solid state.  When you mentioned splitting the sound I don't really know what you mean.  With the right speaker combo you could bi-amp them, but your system would have to be designed to do that.  You can't just run a positve and negative line from two different amps to one speaker; I don't know what that would do...break something...blow a fuse....start a fire...

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

So, I'm pretty sure what I'm getting out of you is I should probably put my money to all things fairly evenly, due to the fact that if I'm lacking in just one of the parts, everything'll sound bad. I'm using Apple Lossless for my music at the base, so there is no problem there, but I have yet to get any kind of DAC for my computer yet. I've got no amps, and no good headphones (the Beats Solo I have are a great gift, but now that I've heard true headphones, now I hear the distortions). I'll hopefully be getting a job soon, so I'll have a tidbit of money to blow while I can, but after college, I'm not gonna be spending much on my hobby. I'm sorta thinking about getting a tube headphone amp, but I'm not sure about all the tubes, since I'll have no idea what to get when I get into that zone.

post #5 of 11

I ended up spending more for my headphone amp than on the headphones them self ( grado sr225i )

I would recommend a hybrid tube headphone amp highly, there are very good reviews here about little dot hybrid tube amps, but they depend on the headphone impedence, most grados are 32 ohm, Sennheisers are higher impedence, keep the impedence in mind when looking for an amp

What ever headphones and amp combo you buy either make sure you can hear them first or that the store has a good return policy, take my word for it, I heard my grados but not the first headphone amp i bought, I sold it and bought a different one and love the new headphone amp smily_headphones1.gif

For a low cost dac Schiit makes one called the modi, for $99, they are very good to deal with and reply to emails quickly and ship quickly, they also make a magni headphone amp for $99 both together are called the Schiit stack smily_headphones1.gif

I think you will like a hybrid tube amp better than a solid state amp, the only place in town that I know of that has a hybrid tube amp is vinyl Rennasaunce in overland park, it is a music hall that is open box, but they should let you listen to it if you call first and ask, they also have a music hall dac with a headphone jack, it's a hybrid tube dac but the tube stage is only for the RCA output frown.gif

I would recommend going and listening to as many headphones and amps as you can and than deciding which one has the sound you want smily_headphones1.gif

I listened to bowers and Wilkins p5 and sennheiser momentums at best buy and then started reading about grados and went and listened to them and fell in love and bought a pair the next day smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by autoguy - 8/13/13 at 2:55pm
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the ideas there! Didn't even know of a hybrid tube amp till now, so I'll definately look into that there.I've pretty much got a good idea of what headphone I want, and it's a mere *cough* $300. I'll be sure to meander over to that store sometime and I'll check it out as well.

post #7 of 11
Glad to help, a hybrid tube amp is a mix of solid state and tube technology

You have half the battle won if you have narrowed down what headphones you want smily_headphones1.gif $300 is not bad for headphones, what brand do you want ?

Reading another thread here, someone recommended the aune t1 dac tube amp, ya might check it out too, I think they said that they cost under $200

Vinyl Rennasaunce is worth the trip, they have records and used CDs too, it took them a little while to decide we where alright, but now they are cool, my young cousin still gets the eye when he goes there though he usually goes to the Westport store to buy CDs

If you want to listen to the hybrid amp they have call first and ask for josh

I don't work for vinyl rennessaunce or music hall, or any music store, I just recommend stores that we like and treat us properly smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by autoguy - 8/13/13 at 9:00pm
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Getting Audio-Technica's, I've listened to Grados and Sennheisers and a few others, but A-T has that nice full sound I like. And I'll look up that place once I have a car to get to it, I need to redo a lot of my music because it's in the iTunes default bitrate. Thanks for helping me out!

post #9 of 11
Cool, my cousin has audio technicas smily_headphones1.gif

I took my cousin to the Westport vinyl Rennasaunce once and now he goes there weekly dang near smily_headphones1.gif

Glad to help, good luck on finding an amp smily_headphones1.gif
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

I just hope I can find something that'll last, and wont break my wallet! I gotta get a portable one as well.

post #11 of 11
I would recommend spending a bit more on an amp, buy once cry once smily_headphones1.gif quality products will last longer than non, generally saying spend a bit more on a good amp and it will last longer than say a fiio or something lower end smily_headphones1.gif

Portable amps I know nothing about, not enough to recommend any smily_headphones1.gif

Hide yer wallet, I sent mine away after the beating it took from the grados and two headphone amps, my wallet gets to come back soon, I have some money to put in it after selling one of the hp amps smily_headphones1.gif but not until the hp amp has been delivered to the buyer smily_headphones1.gif

Set a budget and try to stick to said budget, and don't listen to any gear that cost more than you are willing to spend, I found that out the hard way smily_headphones1.gif it was and is worth it though smily_headphones1.gif I originally set a budget for a hp amp and listened to the music hall amp and fell in love with the sound so the budget went out the window smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by autoguy - 8/14/13 at 9:39pm
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