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SkyBleu's Desktop Conversion Project (Stage 1: Research)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey all!

 

So, recently I've been in the threads here and there, and it has come to my attention, that I've started to form a liking towards tube amps in how they sound, and also the way they look (the glow) really phases me. I'm not yet certain if tube amps will be my thing, so I decided to make this thread to allow those of this community who are willing, to help a brother out. :) 

 

(I got this image off Google Images, and I don't know who took it, but kudos to whoever did, because it's a nice shot, and I really dig that glow!)

 

 

Background

I should start off by saying that I have yet to listen to many tube amps as yet, but the first one, and only one that I've heard so far was the Bottlehead S.E.X. Although leaning a touch warmth, I found it to be rather interesting as regardless of it's nature, the clarity was still there, as was the level of high-detail. I, who's not much of a fan of dark/warm tonality, thought the S.E.X. was pretty okay/good. The fact that an amp with a warm tonality could do without veil over it's mids/highs was definitely a surprise to me. Although so, this may just be because of my lack of amp experiences; but who knows.. Aside from my little experience with desktop amps and anything of that kind, I will go onto my objectives and reasons behind my "Desktop conversion", what I have in mind, what my budget is, and a few other things, which I will slowly add in over a period of time, or when I am more free.

 

It should be known that I'm really kind of just experimenting with a thread such as this, and I'm not too sure how successful it will be since it may be too expecting, but hey, I suppose it's worth a shot.

 

Objectives & Reasoning

With the use of portable mid-fi gear over the past year or two, I feel that it's probably best for me to begin an investment in a desktop (tube amps) setup, as I am rather curious and interested in the concept, and also the fact that I feel that I could get more out of a desktop setup, as opposed to a portable setup. As I had mentioned earlier, I am not sure if tube amps, or desktop setups are my thing general, but I guess that is why I made this thread - to see if it will be fitting. 

 

Objective: I want to have a mid-fi tube amp desktop setup that consists of multiple tubes, of which will have a range of colours (because I am mesmerized by the glow and illumination that it gives off), and headphones that can benefit from the power of desktop gear. 

 

Reason: By the end of this year, or the beginning of next year, I will have a new laptop, which I intend on dedicating to my education/school as well as for desktop, music-use for when I'm at home.

 

Tonality Preference: I like anything that has high clarity, as well as good detailing, addictive musicality flow, a wide soundstage and quality 3D imaging/positioning. I won't mind if it has a warm tone to it, as long as there is no veil that blankets the mids and highs.

 

Budget: $2,000 (MAX), but really, the cheaper, the better. I'd aim for an amp around $500 tops, or at most, $600-ish, and try to keep it relatively reasonable for the headphones as well. 

 

Timeframe: This little project of mine, I plan on giving it a pretty big time period of around 1 to 3 years to complete, as being a student, there are more expenditures here and there to do, than just to dedicate to a hobby. 

 

 


Questions & Answers

Here, I wish to post a few, if not a plethora of novice questions in which for those who post a noob-friendly answer in response, I'll reference it in this section for future beginners into the desktop (tube) setups. Also if you have a good question that can be helpful to new desktop users, PM me the question so I'll add it to my list.

 

I am aware most of my questions will have been answered multiple times within pages of threads, but I thought I'd collate it all here as a form of my long-term, hobby research. 

 

What are the benefits of a desktop setup, over a high-end portable setup?

What does one look for when venturing into the world of desktop equipment?

 

Is there a common tonality between ALL tube amps?

 

Do neutral or bright sounding tubes exist?

 

What is required of me, in terms of gear, when considering going desktop (eg. what cables? DAC? PC? Laptop?)?

 

Are high quality tubes expensive?
 

Not necessarily. Quite a few expensive tubes out there are only expensive because of how rare they are. Good tubes can be found for cheap prices as well. [Quoted from Snips (Post #4)]

 

 

What tube amp fits my description of what I'm looking for? 

 

Does using a desktop setup use up a lot of electricity?

 

What headphones go best with tube amp setups? Are high-end headphones a necessity?

 

 

I'll have more questions soon, but I'll leave it at that for the time being. I may not be on Head-Fi 24/7 to monitor this thread, but I will surely be on at least once per day to check up on it, and read what you guys have to say:)

 

Thank you in advance, and I hope I didn't come across to demanding!

 

As per usual, I'll do my best to keep this thread updated when I begin the project as a whole..which won't be until the end of this year or so. 

:beerchug:

Cheers!


Edited by SkyBleu - 3/19/14 at 2:56am
post #2 of 7

Just saw this in your sig and a HD800 setup is too expensive so a HE-500 is the way to go. A HE-500, Mini-X and a nice DAC should be around $1500 and then maybe spend a bit on some cables. You can listen to my grill modded HE-500s at the meet. 

 

Not sure about tubes, but as for the benefits over a high end portable setup, I can say I am a successful convert :D

All IEMs I've heard don't present music in the way that high end headphones do and I find a HE-500/M-stage/Spitfire combo sounds better than the $1500 1plus2 and that's not including a $1000 DAP! I recommend the HE-500 a lot, but it is a little warm and not as detailed as the HD800. You may be about to get a HD800/Crack/DAC combo for $2000, but I think the HD800 performs a lot better on better amps than the Crack. 

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lin0003 View Post
 

Just saw this in your sig and a HD800 setup is too expensive so a HE-500 is the way to go. A HE-500, Mini-X and a nice DAC should be around $1500 and then maybe spend a bit on some cables. You can listen to my grill modded HE-500s at the meet. 

 

Not sure about tubes, but as for the benefits over a high end portable setup, I can say I am a successful convert :D

All IEMs I've heard don't present music in the way that high end headphones do and I find a HE-500/M-stage/Spitfire combo sounds better than the $1500 1plus2 and that's not including a $1000 DAP! I recommend the HE-500 a lot, but it is a little warm and not as detailed as the HD800. You may be about to get a HD800/Crack/DAC combo for $2000, but I think the HD800 performs a lot better on better amps than the Crack. 

A second hand HD800, with the right amount of luck could be less than $1,000, and that leaves around $1,000 for an amp + cables. 

 

I thought about going standard desktop, but I'm too obsessed with tube glow to throw that idea away as yet. Are DACs necessary? My real main focus was just for a fancy amp, and not much else. 

 

Hopefully, this meet-up will give me the chance to experiment with tube amps, and maybe have a direction to head in. I can't say I'm much an IEM fan to bother too much with them, but I'm all up for headphones! I'll have to look into the HE-variants, but I honestly wouldn't mind a pair if they're not flawed by a veil. I heard the S.E.X. at Billy's (? or was it the Crack?), and although nice, I'd like a more modern looking amp with more tube options. (Yes, I'm "that guy" who is "looks-dependent"). :tongue:

 

I'll give it time first, so I'll leave this thread for the time being until I make up my mind about what I intend on doing:) 
(and more so, the threads kinda a fail LOL!)

post #4 of 7

Join the Dark Side :evil:

 

Anyways I'll only be answering some of the questions. 

 

 

What does one look for when venturing into the world of desktop equipment?

 

That should depend on your own musical preferences, no?

 

Is there a common tonality between ALL tube amps?

 

Well I wouldn't say ALL tube amps, since there are many, many, many tube amps out there. 

 

Do neutral or bright sounding tubes exist?

 

I would say yes. You can actually look at Dubstep Girl's rectifier thread. Some of the tubes there are described as being brighter than others. 

 

What is required of me, in terms of gear, when considering going desktop?

 

A decent DAC, an amp, and a pair of headphones. Or you can get DAC/Amp combos like the WA7 Fireflies. 

 

Are high quality tubes expensive?

 

Not necessarily. Quite a few expensive tubes out there are only expensive because of how rare they are. Good tubes can be found for cheap prices as well.

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips View Post
 

Join the Dark Side :evil:

 

Anyways I'll only be answering some of the questions. 

 

 

1. What does one look for when venturing into the world of desktop equipment?

 

That should depend on your own musical preferences, no?

 

2. Is there a common tonality between ALL tube amps?

 

Well I wouldn't say ALL tube amps, since there are many, many, many tube amps out there. 

 

3. Do neutral or bright sounding tubes exist?

 

I would say yes. You can actually look at Dubstep Girl's rectifier thread. Some of the tubes there are described as being brighter than others. 

 

4. What is required of me, in terms of gear, when considering going desktop?

 

A decent DAC, an amp, and a pair of headphones. Or you can get DAC/Amp combos like the WA7 Fireflies. 

 

5. Are high quality tubes expensive?

 

Not necessarily. Quite a few expensive tubes out there are only expensive because of how rare they are. Good tubes can be found for cheap prices as well.

I'm thinking about it. ;)

 

1) That's true, what if my preference is an all-rounder of all genres?:o

 

2) Also true, but I've heard the majority of tube amps were warm sounding, so that was the conclusion I had jumped to, haha. 

 

3) I shall visit that thread/page when I'm free sometime this weekend:) I'd love a slightly bright tube(s) if they exist! 

4) Oh, this was something I was wondering...Are DAC's always necessary? And let's say, (may be off topic a touch), if I wanted to just run the tube amp from my portable player, is that possible? If so, what cables does one require?

 

5) Great news! Anything below $100 sounds good:)

 

PS: Added your answer to Q5 to the OP:)


Edited by SkyBleu - 3/19/14 at 2:55am
post #6 of 7

DACs are very important, yes. Just as important as amps, brings the detail out a lot. I have a DacMagic Plus coming soon. 

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lin0003 View Post

DACs are very important, yes. Just as important as amps, brings the detail out a lot. I have a DacMagic Plus coming soon. 
Awesome. I'll have an experiment around at the meet and see how it goes:)
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