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Shopping for entry-level tube amps

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

After having a discussion with another Head-Fi'er, I've decided that since I want to color my audio, a tube amp would work well for me. I'm not setting a budget for this because I'm not entirely certain what it costs to get a good entry-level tube amp. That said, while I've taken a gander at the Little Dot Tube Rolling thread, I'm not entirely in the know on tube amps and I don't know any good places to shop for different tubes.

 

I want one of these so that I can alter the mids and bring them out (as a lot of headphones have a recessed midrange, or just aren't very forward). I want to be able to hear vocals clearly. Which tubes should I consider for which amp? Keep in mind that this is my first headphone amplifier, so please don't get carried away and suggest a WA7 Fireflies to me (ugh, like I could afford that). I'll probably buy a solid-state amp later on, but for now, I want something I can experiment with.

 

tl;dr My questions are as follows:

  1. Good entry-level tube amp setup for midrange?
  2. Places I can shop reliably for tubes?
  3. A few suggestions for tubes, amp notwithstanding?
post #2 of 9

Tube amps are hard to design for on the cheap. The cheapest I'd purchase (non-hybrid) would be the Bottlehead Crack, which is only good for high impedance cans. I wouldn't worry so much about tubes at this point. Also, do you have a dedicated DAC? If not, you should consider budgeting one in to get a clean signal.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jodgey4 View Post
 

Tube amps are hard to design for on the cheap. The cheapest I'd purchase (non-hybrid) would be the Bottlehead Crack, which is only good for high impedance cans. I wouldn't worry so much about tubes at this point. Also, do you have a dedicated DAC? If not, you should consider budgeting one in to get a clean signal.


I'm aware of that. I figured that I'd be paying at least around $300. I don't have an external DAC, currently.

post #4 of 9

I know you were kind of ambiguous on purpose, but is there a preferred price range for a DAC and amp that you would like to stay in?


Edited by jodgey4 - 5/27/14 at 9:38pm
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jodgey4 View Post
 

I know you were kind of ambiguous on purpose, but is there a preferred price range for a DAC and amp that you have?


I would probably end up buying these separately, and I considered buying a fairly cheap DAC just to get the audio away from a weak source (like my smartphone or PC). That said, I'd be willing to spend around $300, but I'd like to keep below $400. I don't really know what that can buy me, but I've seen some Little Dot tube amps that a lot of people like within the budget. Outside of the price of an ODAC (which is solid-state), I don't know what the rest of the setup would cost me. So I'd say $400 is about the magic number.

post #6 of 9

Little Dot and Garage 1217's Project series are all tube roll-able hybrid tube amps, or you could try the Aune X1 which is a USB tube DAC with a SS amp section. I don't think you can get full tube amps suitable for low impedance cans at that price. Throw in a budget DAC (ODAC, Schitt Modi... those are all I know in that range), and you should be set.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jodgey4 View Post
 

Little Dot and Garage 1217's Project series are all tube roll-able hybrid tube amps, or you could try the Aune X1 which is a USB tube DAC with a SS amp section. I don't think you can get full tube amps suitable for low impedance cans at that price. Throw in a budget DAC (ODAC, Schitt Modi... those are all I know in that range), and you should be set.


I'll take a look at those. Any idea which specific Little Dot amp I should grab, and what tubes I could experiment with on it? I kind of want to know a place that I can buy tubes because the tube-rolling thread for Little Dot amps (believe it was MK4?) listed several that I couldn't find anywhere.

post #8 of 9

I've never really looked into the Little Dot line... just make sure it has a low output impedance (ideally 1/8th of your headphone's impedance, so ~4ohms for the X1's I see in your signature). I've never tube rolled, but maybe ask on the Little Dot thread about current tube recommendations/dealers. Best of luck to you, let us know what you decide!

post #9 of 9
I bought a Darkvoice 336SE used, and it's pretty good. La Figaro is a related firm; supposedly their products are upgrades on the Darkvoice line but that's unconfirmed.

LD III is well-regarded.

S***** Vali has a good reputation for a hybrid, though that's not the same.
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