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List of entry level TUBE amps + mod for less than $300

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 


Hi, I am new the to tube amp and wanna to have a sub $300 entry tube amp for my office setup.
I am not looking for detail, attack, speed or treble energy since I already have very good SS amp setups with very good Dynamic full size headphones. I just want to have some taste on the tube roll off and see how it will fit my tastes. (I listen to all sorts of musics from classical, Jazz to pop and rock. Most of time, pop and rock sound really bad on my home setup due to the bad source recordings. So I was looking for some roll off on highs and lows to make the mid smoother.)

 

 

As for now, I have a MUSILAND Monitor 02US dragon + Pro-Ject Headbox II setup and find the amp has too much background noise and too little detail . (I got the amp for free when I purchase my HD800).  I am running both my IEMs (Sony EX1000, UM Miracle) and portable fullsize phone (Ultrasone ED8) in my office, so the output stage should be optimized to low-impedance-high-efficiency phones.

I know nothing about tube amps, and do not even know where to start. Hope some of you can help me.
Thanks!

post #2 of 24

Consider Little Dot amplifiers. The Little Dot amps are perhaps the best for tube rolling as how flexible they are compared to other amplifiers in that price range.

post #3 of 24
I can second that on the Little Dot amps. I've been using my Little Dot MK III for 6 almost 7 years now with no issues. I'm running version 1, the new version two has even more tube rolling options. (Makes me a little jealous every day haha.)
post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 

I was looking into the MK4 with about $300 new. With the default tube, how good you think they are for IEM and low impedance phones?

 

P.S.

I am not gonna plug my T1 in it since it is just for office and open phone design is not that useful in that kind of environment. I may get an LCD-XC or TH900 later if they have sale in Xmas.

 

How about schiit, darkvoice, darkmagic?

post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHell View Post
 

I was looking into the MK4 with about $300 new. With the default tube, how good you think they are for IEM and low impedance phones?

The Little Dot 1+ is the only one of their tube amps designed to drive low impedance headphones.

It is the most recommended low-cost amp in the Grado forums.

Users also enjoy rolling tubes with it.

s a hybrid it can generate enough current and also have low output impedance so sensitive cans are 'quiet'.

The other Little Dot tube amps and are OTL designs. As a general rule OTL amps drive high, not low, impedance cans.

They are on sale for <$120 on Amazon, but you will likely want to replace the stock tubes...

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by parbaked View Post
 

The Little Dot 1+ is the only one of their tube amps designed to drive low impedance headphones.

It is the most recommended low-cost amp in the Grado forums.

Users also enjoy rolling tubes with it.

s a hybrid it can generate enough current and also have low output impedance so sensitive cans are 'quiet'.

The other Little Dot tube amps and are OTL designs. As a general rule OTL amps drive high, not low, impedance cans.

They are on sale for <$120 on Amazon, but you will likely want to replace the stock tubes...


so, in general, tube amps will have higher noise floor compare to SS amp while plug in low impedance phones due to the high sensitivity of the dynamic driver? 

 

I also heard that tubes tends to roll off on both highss and low to give a smoother sound. I just want to know if that is always the case. In SS amps, the PCB design is the only thing that effect the sound signature, while I think in tube, the component is playing a big role too. (I am not saying that component has no effect on the SS amp, but it is much less towards the sound signature and more to the sound quality.)

 

The last thing I want is to get a tube amp, and it sounds colder than my SS amp~~ Clod means very very flat responses that gives you everything in the recording. For example, for a very very badly recorded pop (basically all pop recordings after mp3 player has been invented), the highs will be too over emphasized and the bass will have no extension at all. The last thing I want is tight bass and sibilance because I already have a very very good gear to give me that...........

post #7 of 24

No, what I am saying is that there are two basic types of tube amps, those with Output Transforms and those without.

If you use low impedance headphones, you will want an amp with Output Transformers as these match better due to lower output impedance and more current.

 

Amps without Output Transformers aka "OTL" amps produce lots of amps but less current. They are very simple in design/execution but have high output impedance and are therefore suited to high impedance headphones.

 

The Little Dot tube amps are all OTL designs except for the Little Dot 1+.

 

Yes the type and quality of tube can affect the sound just like the type of op-amp can affect the sound in a SS chip amp.

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

I think only portable SS amps uses op-amps, normal ones will have full discrete setup meaning that they will only have resistors, caps inductors and big transformers.

And, if the topology of the SS amp design is good, even with cheap component, it will still sound good with good extensions.

 

 

Is there any tubes amps that allows you to do a output stage change by just switching tubes?

Something like the Gain switch on the SS amps.

 

P.S.

Sorry for these newbie questions, like I said, I am just entering the tube market~~~~

post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHell View Post
 

I think only portable SS amps uses op-amps, normal ones will have full discrete setup meaning that they will only have resistors, caps inductors and big transformers.

 

 

Is there any tubes amps that allows you to do a output stage change by just switching tubes?

Something like the Gain switch on the SS amps.

 

No op-amps are not exclusive to portable amps, it is a design choice.

Discrete is not 'better' than op-amps but only op-amps can fit in portable.

See Ray Samuels HR-2 = one of the best SS amps made = uses op-amps.

http://www.raysamuelsaudio.com/products/hr-2

 

THE LITTLE DOT 1+ HAS TUBES AND OP-AMPS!

 

 

Yes, tube amps can have a switch for different impedance (Woo Audio WA6) or hi and lo impedance jacks (Mapletree Audio Ear HD) Both are excellent with low impedance cans but neither is cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

As I previously mentioned, you want the Little Dot 1+ if you want tubes for low impedance cans under $300.

 

Please read for yourself:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/364043/little-dot-i-tube-rolling

 

There's lots to learn if you do a little looking around...


Edited by parbaked - 11/20/13 at 7:29pm
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks, but as a newbie, tube rolling is a bit too much for now. It seems that they all comes from different size with different current and voltage specs which is very complicated to deal with for a person that has no previous experience.

 

Little dot I seems to be a good one to start with. Just a few more questions about their lineup.

 

It seems that their numbering system is a bit confusing. The bigger the number, sometimes means it has better build quality and bigger output power. However, there are other cases, it just means newer model update for the same amp.  (Normally, with other company, they tends to use MKxx to tell people that it is an improvement done on the same model, but little dot tends to use whatever they feels like.)

 

My question will be, what is the newest model for little dot I and what are the tubes that makes the sound warm with good mid details?  If I have a default one, is the already sufficient for what I need, or I need to replace the tube to change the sound?

 

Again, the main use will be on Sony EX1000, UM Miracle and Ultrasone Edition 8. All of them are some what sibilant phone.


Edited by AlanHell - 11/21/13 at 7:35am
post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanHell View Post
 

Again, the main use will be on Sony EX1000, UM Miracle and Ultrasone Edition 8. All of them are some what sibilant phone.

The Little Dot 1+ is the ONLY Little Dot tube amp that is designed to work with your IEMs.

Buy that amp with the Western Electric 408A tube upgrade if you can spend an extra $50.

Your wasting time worrying about how a company numbers it's models.

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by parbaked View Post
 

The Little Dot 1+ is the ONLY Little Dot tube amp that is designed to work with your IEMs.

Buy that amp with the Western Electric 408A tube upgrade if you can spend an extra $50.

Your wasting time worrying about how a company numbers it's models.


ok~~

lol, normally the older one is cheaper but not worse than the new one~~~ I just need to be sure that my money goes to where it is. I have more trust in the design than the material that made them (normally revisions made to the same model does not involve major schematic changes). Just like I do not believe changing to an $1000+  power cable will improve the amp's performance while your wall socket is still the one that suppose to send you power. 

 

I think I will get the little and the tube upgrade to see how good it is~~~


Edited by AlanHell - 11/21/13 at 9:12am
post #13 of 24

I would go with the Darkvoice 336se for several reasons over the Little Dot.  The Darkvoice 336se, is mostly point to point wired, which lends itself to easier modding and repair down the road.  Also the tubes used a much easier to come by and much cheaper for NOS tubes.

post #14 of 24

Yeah, everything you say is true except the Darkvoice it is not designed to drive IEMs or other low impedance cans, which if you read the OP is the question.

it would sound terrible with the headphones the OP is using!

The OP is looking for something  "optimized to low-impedance-high-efficiency phones".

If OTL amps were an option, there are many better choices than the Darkvoice!

It is important to read the OP before providing advice!


Edited by parbaked - 11/24/13 at 7:19pm
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by parbaked View Post

Yeah, everything you say is true except the Darkvoice it is not designed to drive IEMs or other low impedance cans, which if you read the OP is the question.
it would sound terrible with the headphones the OP is using!
The OP is looking for something  "optimized to low-impedance-high-efficiency phones".
If OTL amps were an option, there are many better choices than the Darkvoice!
It is important to read the OP before providing advice!
point taken
Edited by scottosan - 11/24/13 at 7:54pm
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