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Tube Advice Needed for my DAC and my Amp for HD800.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I've had the HD800 for about three weeks now. I am loving them more and more each day. A little background (you can skip this if you just want to provide some advice on tube options for me, lol): like another member, I was 99% about to buy the TH900 about six weeks ago. Then shortly after reading good things about the TH600, I added them to my list. Then shortly after that, I accidentally came across some HD800 threads. I never considered them before that time because I thought that I was a tiny bit of a bass-head and for whatever reason, when I thought about the HD800 a couple of years ago, I only recalled hearing about how they are only good for classical and there was no bass. Those comments stuck in my mind since then and so they were never considered. But then since I was about to plunk down a fair bit of money, I didn't want to leave any stones unturned and have post-purchase remorse for not even at least giving other HPs a chance. So I started reading more about the HD800 again and became intrigued. So I added them to the list and the more I read, the more I started moving them higher on the list.

 

On audition day, I tried the Ultrasone Edition 10 and 12, Fostex TH600 and 900, Beyer T5p and T1, Senn HD700 and 800. The Beyer's were quite impressive but in the end it came down to the Fostex's and the HD800. Although the Fostex sound was captivating, I found that the HD800 would give me more long term fun as they were very equipment dependent that it would give me reason or excuse to keep trying new things (equipment, tubes, etc.). The Fostex did not seem to change nearly as much as I tested with different amps. So after two days of testing, I walked out of the shop with the HD800 and I haven't second-guessed since the early days after the purchase.

 

After purchasing the HD800, I brought them to the store that I was considering buying the Line Magnetic DAC and amp from. Originally I was only going to buy an amp but after hearing the vacuum tube sound on the LM 502CA DAC, I had to find a way to include it into my purchase. BTW, these pieces are a lot cheaper to purchase in Hong Kong than in North America so I couldn't pass on this after reading some positive reviews of the Line Magnetic equipment. The dac has the ability to switch between the ESS 9016 dac chip or two analogue tubes 12AU7/ECC82 valves.

 

Here are a couple of links to a quick review on the Line Magnetic 502CA DAC:

http://www.witchdoctor.co.nz/index.php/2013/06/line-magnetic-lm-502ca-vacuum-tube-dac-review/

http://www.mcleans.info/shop/productDetails.do?productId=225841

 

The amp that I purchased is really a small speaker amp but it also has a HP plug, although it is 1/8 only. The fact that the amp can run speakers was what peaked my interest in it because it gives me the option to move into the speaker world more easily. It has two EL84 6BQ5 and two 12AX7 ECC83 tubes (all tubes appear to be their own Line Magnetic brand). I have no idea what kind of sound these tubes produce relative to other tubes so unfortunately I cannot give you any feedback on that. I just assume that I can do better.

 

Here are a couple of links on the Line Magnetic Mini 218 IA amp:

http://audioshark.org/amplifiers-8/cool-tube-gear-line-magnetic-680-page2.html#.UsniHWQW1Kk

http://pitchperfectaudio.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/abcdefghijk-lm-n-oh-yeah/

 

 

 

The bottom line is that I do not know anything about tubes but I would like some help/advice on what kind of tubes I could consider for the DAC or the amp. I would like to start with low priced tubes before I consider moving onto more expensive ones. Since the HD800 is my primary HP with this set up, I would like recommendations for tubes that would produce a full body sound and more warmth. 

 

Thanks in advance for your time and effort!


Edited by Rayzilla - 1/31/14 at 5:02am
post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

Here are some photos of my purchases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Rayzilla - 1/31/14 at 4:59am
post #3 of 11

Nice set up, thanks for sharing.

 

Check this one, comes from this website, pretty informative https://www.tubeworld.com/12ax7.htm

 

Good luck

 

12ax7_guide.gif

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks Blackmore. I will have to check the pricing and availability of the tubes in the "Warm/Smooth/Rich" box. But please remember that I am totally new to this tube world. I have no clue what is good/bad and how to look at them.

 

Here are some pictures of the tubes that the shop owner suggested.

 

Note that the prices are in Hong Kong dollars (approximately HK$250 -> US$32 and HK480 -> US$62). I assume that I can negotiate a discount too but not sure how much.

 

I'll post some pictures of the other amps available at this shop but they are all speaker amps.


Edited by Rayzilla - 1/31/14 at 5:51am
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Here are some pictures from the shop that I bought my DAC and amp from.

 

 

 

He actually hooked up those speakers to the LM Mini218IA amp. It was able to run them fine but my inexperienced ears told me that they were not able to show the true capability of those speakers. It was with these speakers that I first heard his products. The 'vacuum tube/solid state' button on the DAC made a huge difference in the sound. It had a lot more body and fullness to the sound when it was running on the tubes. That's when I told myself that I had to find a way to work the DAC into my purchase budget.

 

Afterwards he hooked up some smaller bookshelf sized speakers and they ran them just fine.

 

 

post #6 of 11

Just look up on Google, for all terms etc, just read as much as you can and then make purchase.

 

If you decided to buy Mullards, dont get any that were made later than 1975, best are from 50's, but they are not cheap and many are used, so, if you like to keep your tube gear for long term and buy tubes from Ebay and such, do concider to buy tube tester. Actually, go and buy one right away, so nobody can fool you with tubes. You can buy exepensive tubes, but they can be bad and worth nothing, but, they also can demage your gear, so, be carefull where you buy them.

 

On the picture you posted, I see some yellow/green boxes on back, these are Amperex, I believe, good tubes. Mullard on front is from 80's, I believe, which you can try of course, but I wouldnt. Same goes for ElectroHarmonix.

If you like to roll, get old production RCA Black Plates, Tung Sol, Telefunkens, Siemens, Brimars and Mullards. All of them are great tubes with their own tonality.

 

On the other hand, I strongly suggest you roll your power tubes as well, get Amperex, RCA or Tesla ( not JJ Tesla ) https://www.tubeworld.com/6bq5.htm and you will be settled, but if you get Mullards, it will bring you the most delicate top end and most addicting midrange out there.

post #7 of 11

Nice dac & amp !!

 

I've an amp that use el84 & 12AX7 too : that's an old Antique sound labs MG Head ;)

 

 

 

As You can see , I use a pair of NOS Mullard RTC EL84 . On this Pics I had a NOS Siemens 12AX7 i really like a lot ( transparent , cristal clear) and this warm Mullard EL84 + cristal clear Siemens was my favourite.  I've now an Ei 12AX7 ( a gift from a friend and i don't know anything about this Ei)  and this one sounds perfectly well too but a bit less "sharp" than the Siemens and it seems my hd800 is a bit more forgiving. 

 

That said, my choice on my amp could be very different than yours on you amp. 

post #8 of 11

Id go with JJ 12AX7 and JJ EL84.

 

Will def. create a darker, warmer sound!

 

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackmore View Post
 

(1) Just look up on Google, for all terms etc, just read as much as you can and then make purchase.

 

(2) If you decided to buy Mullards, dont get any that were made later than 1975, best are from 50's, but they are not cheap and many are used, so, if you like to keep your tube gear for long term and buy tubes from Ebay and such, do concider to buy tube tester. Actually, go and buy one right away, so nobody can fool you with tubes. You can buy exepensive tubes, but they can be bad and worth nothing, but, they also can demage your gear, so, be carefull where you buy them.

 

(3) On the picture you posted, I see some yellow/green boxes on back, these are Amperex, I believe, good tubes. Mullard on front is from 80's, I believe, which you can try of course, but I wouldnt. Same goes for ElectroHarmonix.

If you like to roll, get old production RCA Black Plates, Tung Sol, Telefunkens, Siemens, Brimars and Mullards. All of them are great tubes with their own tonality.

 

(4) On the other hand, I strongly suggest you roll your power tubes as well, get Amperex, RCA or Tesla ( not JJ Tesla ) https://www.tubeworld.com/6bq5.htm and you will be settled, but if you get Mullards, it will bring you the most delicate top end and most addicting midrange out there.

(1) Thanks again Blackmore. This is good information. I would love to spend some more time on Google, unfortunately now is not a good time but hopefully I will get around to it. I'm just so overwhelmed that I don't know where to start. For example, one of the tubes is 12AX7 but it appears that some replacement tubes do not even have "12AX7" on it. And another example, there are tubes with "12AU7" on them, can they be used as a replacement? 

 

(2) Unfortunately expensive tubes are not within my plan and budget right now. I want to go through a few cheapies to get some more experience and get a better feel of what I like and don't like before taking a chance on the more expensive ones. I will look into the tube tester though. How much are they and what should I look for in the tube tester, or are they all pretty much the same? What do they tell you?

 

(3) The yellow/green ones are marked at $1200 HK. That is is about $150 US. I'm not sure how negotiable they are but I would guess maybe a 10-15% discount, so maybe about $130 US. With the other brands that you mention, will they all have the 12AX7 marked on them? Which, if any of those will be in the lower price range of say less than $35?

 

(4) I guess the power tubes are the ones with the EL84 on them? So the power tubes will also have an impact on the sound? .... I have a lot to learn and so little time.  :(

 

Thanks for your help!

post #10 of 11

Tubes have differ prints on them, but they certainly can be the same. For example 12AX7 ( USA number ) = ECC83 ( European number ), but they are identical and fully replaceable.

The other one 12AU7 = ECC82, same story, but 12AX7 are not the same as 12AU7, they are not directly replicable, be careful. That’s why I told you, just Google and you will be there in a while.

Last one is EL84 ( European type ) = 6BQ5 ( North American type ), again, same story, they are identical and you can use both in your power section.

If you don’t have money for expensive tubes, try USA types from brands like RCA, Sylvania and Tung Sol, which are plenty out there on sale, just make sure you buy from someone who can test them for you. Tester let you know if the tubes have shorts or gas, but also whatever they are weak or not, that’s the basics. I bought my tester for USD 175, but pro testers are much expensive. My is classic one from B&K

http://www.ebay.com/itm/B-K-606-Tube-Tester-calibrated-with-Manual-and-Tube-Chart-/251442570535#ht_114wt_1026  They are oldish, but works just fine for basic tests.


Edited by Blackmore - 2/7/14 at 8:08am
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackmore View Post
 

Nice set up, thanks for sharing.

 

Check this one, comes from this website, pretty informative https://www.tubeworld.com/12ax7.htm

 

Good luck

 

12ax7_guide.gif

My own personal preference has always been with the 1950s US 12AX7, esp. Raytheon, Sylvania, RCA.  Same goes for the 1950s TMBP US 5751 tube, if it will work. I think they are the best in the lower left box.  This table seems quite consistent with what I hear, too.

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