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Feliks-Audio ELISE...New thread.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by hypnos1, Oct 1, 2015.
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  1. DecentLevi
    OK I'm calling a meeting to everybody here, especially @richdytch and anyone else who's recently been intrigued by (or should I say mislead by) mixed quad power setups on the Elise. @mordy you may be interested, and @UntilThen feel free to add anything too.
     
    Motivated by the rekindled interest that has sprung up here recently on multi-tube power setups, I thought I'd spend the evening doing some direct A/B comparisons of multi quad power tubes compared with higher caliber single power tubes. Although this is coming from somebody who owns essentially all the flagship power tubes (GEC's, slotted graphite plate Bendix 6080, Mullard 6080, RCA 6080, TS 5998, 421A, etc.), I had done this assessment objectively, without any preconceived notions on which setup type or appearance should sound better - sound is the most important thing in the quest is for audio nirvana.
     
    So I dusted off my old 6SN7 to dual 6BL7 adapters from the closet where they have been since earlier this year while I have since moved many, many steps up above them on the audio fidelity latter. I had to swap tubes around a few times to discover my favorite pairing, which was 6BL7 + GE 6SN7 GTA with 'Bad Boy' 6SN7's as drivers (shown below). After three distinct warning signs from the Elise (more below), initial impression was that this sounds quite great, and scales well with my improved upstream gear (DAC components) into the Elise. Tonality and dynamics were OK, but nothing moved me too much.
    20161225_185627-.jpg
     

    Next up RCA 6080 as powers:
    Tonality was the same but the RCA 6080's are more vivid, organic, intimate and smooth. Putting back in the former quad powers makes it sound somewhat dry / sterile / non-engaging by comparison.
    20161225_190636.jpg
    note: the black disks under the tubes are 'socket savers' which aid to prolong the lifespan of the sockets and save the Elise from frying. The "one tube per socket" setups do not need an adapter, but the socket savers are nice.

     
    Next up: GEC 6AS7G as powers:
    A whole new level of realism and enjoyment has opened up. It seems a little difficult to explain the sonic differences between these and the quad setup so I'll explain by analogy. The comparison seems akin to coming out of a dusty, cold humid room where you're sometimes chaffed by sandpaper versus this where you're inside a lofty, luxurious reality and far away from that nasty artificial reality experience of a former life.
    20161225_190441.jpg
     
    Next up Tung Sol 5998 as powers:
    (after having just listened to the multi quad setup again)
    Gobstoppingly more lifelike and deeper into the scene with realism and truuee-life energy packed to the brim compared to the quad setup. Drums are now real and no more artificial feeling I was getting from the quad setup. Layering / imaging is improved by what seems like a hefty 400%
    20161225_191524.jpg
     

    Next, the mixed quad setup of dual 6BL7 + dual EL3N: Sounds very "back row", while retaining all of the negative qualities of the above multi-quad setup which to me were dull, flat, slightly fake, and non-engaging. I also compared the quad setup to my Bendix slotted graphite plate tubes and the sound from the Bendix was much "deeper into the scene", much more vivid, sweet and 3D.
     
    To an untrained listener, or even a pro user on a fresh day, those mixed quad power tube setups could sound good - even great. But after comparison to the power tubes which are universally undisputed champions, these really don't hold any water to a proper setup of good power tubes, as the way our expert engineers at Feliks Audio designed it to be used: "one tube per socket".
     
    Folks to put it into literal perspective, I received three warning signs from the moment I switched on the Elise with mixed quad power tubes: both a hum on one channel then a channel imbalance which morphed into a rippling distortion sound in one channel until it fully warmed up, and a sound that developed on right channel like rustling of leaves and remained on the Elise even with a complete tube change out to native-class tubes.
     
    Dual 6SN7 + dual 6BL7 on Elise: You're doing it wrong, and you're endangering your Elise. Something isn't completely sound electrically with this setup and Elise is trying to tell us so. Invest just $20 or so on RCA 6080's and you'll get a vastly better power tube setup. Myself and at least two others have bought a pair from Langrex in the UK and received them in mint condition, in no time with expert packaging! Here's the link (just email them with your inquiry), you'll thank me later I assure you!!!!
     
    20161225_185627-2.jpg
     ​
    screenshot-you-are-doing-it-wrong.jpg Cheers-youre-doing-it-wrong.jpg
     
     

    While at it, I also gave it a go with miniature power tubes; replacing each of 6SN7 and 6BL7 with one pair of either 12AV7, E80CC and  ECC88 via their 6SN7 adapters, to which I got appalling results. Appallingly horrible! Very loud hum in both channels, super low volume, and a very ugly sound after turning off the amp, akin to rustling of dishes in a sink... believe me I would not make up something like that! And now my Elise is off with everything unplugged in hopes that rustling sound in the right channel I hear even with native tubes, will dissipate - one that began only when I inserted in that evil mixed quad contraption. Suffice it to say that as far as I'm concerned, any non-matched types of power tubes should never be used as powers in the Elise - and by that I mean that a possible exception may be had for quad 6BL7-only or quad EL3N-only, rather than mix & match types. For me personally, quad power tubes will never again touch my Elise, with the only exception of quad EL3N.
     
  2. Spork67
    Oops.
    Is this the 2nd Elise you've damaged with your multi-tube experimentation?
     
  3. UntilThen
    Am I glad you've finally come to this conclusion @DecentLevi.  [​IMG]
     
    Let me put it plainly. If you have all the recommended power tubes such as 
     
    gec 6as7g
    gec 6080
    Bendix 6080
    WE 421A
    Tung Sol 5998
    Tung Sol 7236
    Chatham 6as7g
    Mullard 6080
    RCA 6080
     
    with a selection of drivers.
     
    and you're still not happy with the sound from Elise, then it's time you find another amp or you need a new headphone.
     
    Multi power tubes only apparent advantage to me is the seemingly wider soundstage but at the expense of less vividness and clarity. You can achieve wider soundstage by other means too. If you have another tube amp like the Darkvoice 336se, you can use Elise as preamp into DV to get a wider soundstage but you're diluting the sound. I've tried that in the past and have just left it alone - not recommended !
     
    Just listening to everyone's taste in music, I've a fair idea which power tubes will appeal to them. DL, you weren't too endeared to 5998 initially but I knew you'll warm up to it over time. With the music you're listening to, 5998 will provide the intensity, punch and energy in your ECM.
     
    That dual adapter for 6BL7 and 6SN7 can be a curse rather than a blessing. I've seen so many of you throwing caution to the wind and just about try to fit any tubes in it. We don't know what the long term effects will be on Elise but I sure hate to see anyone destroying their tube amps with prolong experimentation and usage. It is the same reason I'm against using an external power supply in Elise. It is going a bridge too far.
     
    I've also cut down on my usage of 6xEL3Ns. It's only making an appearance because it's red and it's Christmas. There are better ways to make Elise sound her best with those power tubes I list above paired with a good selection of drivers discussed here.
     
    This is just my view. Everyone has a right to how they wish to roll in their Elise but you won't find me encouraging multi power tubes.
     
    Note:- I did think that the sound from 6SN7 as drivers and 6BL7 + 6SN7 as power tubes is pretty good but it's not better than using single pair of recommended power tubes. I also don't know what impairment it might have on Elise in the long term. Therefore I don't recommend it.
     
    hypnos1 likes this.
  4. DecentLevi
    Nope, fortunately after just 30 min. of everything unplugged from my Elise including RCA cables, power cables & all tubes out, she forgave me and is simmered down problem free now back to normal tubes! The first Elise I ruined I couldn't know for sure whether or not the mixed class tubes were the cause, but now I see a connection when the same issue was just starting to set in when trying these mixed class setups... so let this be a main reason for anyone else around here to recycle this setup... get better sonic performance and a longer lasting amp with a simpler setup.
     
    And UT, well written. Let's hope the others heed our call too. I did this on my Christmas evening for you guys, comparing multi set-ups to simple ones, to hopefully prove a point. Actually I did have some hope that I may get even better sound out of a new miniature tube power concoction, but only to realise the stock-class ones are better.
     
  5. Spork67
    Glad to hear it DL.
    Elise is certainly versatile, but she's a finely crafted piece of audio equipment, not some kind of lab rat. :)
     
  6. DecentLevi
    Miniature driver tubes on the other hand are a whole other story, and my current favorite all time driver tube is Tungsram E80CC which has been largely outdoing all other FDD20, EL3N, 6SN7, etc. driver tubes I've tried, and are "one tube per socket", not any multi mixed types. These are 12v tubes which run in 6v mode with a 12AU7 adapter - these were part of the Elise's remedy when I brought her back around to single tubes tonight, have been tested long term. Elise loves these and and runs in normal temperature with 0 hum and absolutely 0.000000000% signs of trouble.
     
  7. UntilThen
    Well done DL. Thanks for doing work on Christmas evening. That in bold is my motto. Don't deviate too far from the amp's design. [​IMG]
     
  8. hypnos1
    Hey @DecentLevi...glad to hear you've "dun seen the light" lol! [​IMG]...and also issued a stern warning. I truly hope you haven't done permanent damage to your amp - it is indeed quite possible that this kind of experimentation may have contributed to your first unfortunate experience. Hopefully yours is plain sailing from now on...[​IMG]...
     
    At this point - and I hope I'm not sounding like "sour grapes", I feel I must vent the last remnants of my frustration at this thread having been to all intents and purposes 'derailed' a long while ago now, after my constant pleas for restraint on this subject...[​IMG]...
     
    However, the plus side is that @pctazhp started up yet another Elise thread of course, which has also proved to be one of the busiest on the forum lol!!...WELL DONE, pct!...and just proves that this amp has indeed confirmed its place as "The best sub-$900 tube amp - ever...PERIOD"!! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    And so I wish all Elise owners continued, safe enjoyment of their well-chosen piece of tube amplification...both for HPs and as first class pre-amp!!..CHEERS!...[​IMG]
     
  9. richdytch
    OK. It's a very long time since I felt like a naughty schoolboy but the 6bl7/6sn7 power tubes have been removed and I'm now running RCA 6080. I have to say though, that in my particular system, no combination of any of the 6080 tubes I own, with either 6sn7 or el3n, sounds anywhere near as nice as the sn/bl setup I was running with good 6sn7 drivers. I just demoed the difference to a friend who concluded without prompting that the bl/sn config sounded far better.

    But I'm happy to accept your well-intentioned warnings and will go back to the drawing board. Looks like I might be having something of a tube sale in the near future as I try to acquire some Bendix 6080, TS 5998 or GEC 6as7g. Cetron 7236 are also on my horizon.

    My reading of the reams of info on quad power tube setups had led me to conclude that 6bl7/6sn7 was OK, but I obviously missed quite a lot of info. I should point out that I'd never experienced any noise or distortion with that setup that suggested the amp was struggling. But I know that 'no noise' doesn't equate to safe.

    One popular setup I've never been able to use is quad el3n -that results in nothing more than hideous buzz.

    Onwards and upwards.
     
  10. pctazhp
    @DecentLevi. My hat is off to you for your major undertaking. Thanks.
     
    For some reason, I never got very excited about the multi-tube approach. Even the quad EL3N power set up didn't rock my boat, unlike the experience of most others.
     
    Also, in my experience I rate both GEC power tubes, as well as the Bendix 6080 above the TS5998. Again, I just never warmed up too much to the 5998s, but I know they are very highly regarded tubes. Fortunately, just about all of us have found our bliss with Elise. @hypnos1is now beyond bliss, and as usual creating strain on pocketbooks all over the world. [​IMG]
     
  11. Jozurr
    Ive decided to sell my ECC31 NOS pair which I think works well on the elise from what Ive read. its up in the FS forum.
     
  12. MusclePharm
    Hey guys, what cans would you recommend to someone who listens mainly to rock/metal? Between Beyer's T1 2nd Generation and the Sennheiser HD800?
     
  13. DecentLevi
    I would recommend the Mr. Speakers Ether C or Ether C Flow but it's @ $1,500 - $1,800. So otherwise I'd give 'big-ups' to the Senn. HD-600... get at least 70% the performance of the HD-800 for 1/3rd the price, and some stellar dynamics, FR, soundstage and voicing to boot! [​IMG] 
     
  14. MusclePharm
    Unfortunately they're way above my budget and for that price I could get the HD800 S... Besides, I'm having a hard time finding any in EU...
    You recommend HD600 instead of the T1 2nd Generation too?
     
    I do have the HD650 so I'm looking for something on a superior league...
     
  15. Spork67
    I had T1G1 and listen to a lot of hard rock and metal. Loved them.
    Haven't heard the HD800s.
     
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