Hagerman Audio Labs "Tuba"
Apr 20, 2020 at 1:40 PM Post #106 of 243

Wes S

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Here's my impression and "review" of the TUBA.

First of all, I am not an audiophile. I m just a medical employee who enjoys listening to music with headphones. My review basically is my observations and comparisons using the different types of headphones that i own. The Tuba is my first real tube amp. My previous tube amp journey consist/ed of Liquid platinum, Loxjie P20 and Xduoo Ta-20, all of which are Hybrids.

I have been using my Tuba for almost two weeks. Jim Hagerman shipped it to me in just over 3 days all the way from Hawaii. It arrived in a securely packed box with a pair of Mullard El84 tubes and power supply. Upon opening the box, I realized this thing is a tank, at least built like one. 7lbs is kinda heavy for a 10"x5" rectangle. The craftsmanship is exquisite. It looks and feels like someone handmade it with love and the result also reflects on the labor that went behind creating something so simple yet high end. The build is minimalistic and straighforward.

Before i jump into the sound signature, I would like to share my experience with my current two other amps, THX 887 and Liquid platinum. IMO, the THX 887 and LP are both clean amps. 887 is an excellent reproducer of sound without any color all the while retrieving details with high precision. 887 is the definition of black background. I would say that the LP is very similar but it adds a certain "tubey" flavor to the overall music, being a tube hybrid amp. The LP is exceptional in the high frequency. The treble is lush and full if clarity. The vocals are lively and forward. The sound is aggressive. It drags you into the music, whether you want it or not. It also punches really hard in the low end as well. With the LP, I can feel every bit of a music, with a moderate soundstage. It was all i wanted from an amp. Something that pulls me in the music and forcing me to see and hear things between my two ears.

All that changed the moment i plugged in my TUBA. I m not gonna lie, the LP had power. Tons of it, so any headphone that I plugged in, sounded loud and powerful. That was not the case for TUBA, at least not initially. Until the tuned the volume knob to around 12-1 o' clock, that's when i discovered what Jim Hagerman had created. I have never heard of anything like this amp before. There was a different feel of the music that I had been listening for the last 10 years. I had just listened to a real tube amp. The Tuba wasn't forcing me to listen to anything, rather asking me nicely if i wanted to....to which I said, hell yes. Long gone were the days of the LP shoving musical bits in to my ear canals, now I was rather inviting the Tuba in myself.

The tuba is crisp, detailed, engaging, with a extremely detailed and wide soundstage. However, it does all the above despite being extremely laid back. Nothing is enhanced over the other. The highs are bright and yet do not bleed into the mids. The mids and vocals are forward and yet they don't upstage the highs. The low end, and this is where the tuba outshines my 887 and LP, are punchy and yet controlled, where my LP feels like loud rumbles that just shake my ear drums. Please try to picture the sound signature that I described about the Tuba, and now imagine that wrapped in a silky tubey screen. Let me say this, the TUBA is not veiled, not at all. In fact, its quiet the opposite. It rather takes any veil or imperfections of the music and adds its own flavor to it. The end result is non-fatiguing, detailed musical experience complimented by a set of Mullard El84 tubes. I personally think the EL84 tubes are more musical than my 6922/7308 variants of my LP. The stock tubes were more than enough for me to see a positive change compared to my LP and I cant wait to find out what kind of difference I might expect to see once I roll my vintage tubes in my tuba.

Now, lets discuss the power and driving capability of the TUBA. As i mentioned before, very few amps (hybrids or not) come close to the power output of the LP and 887. Those two can drive anything and everything from high efficiency planars to power hungry high impedance dynamics. Honestly, that's one of the main reason I have not sold my LP yet. The Tuba may not and honestly, does not, have that kinda power. And yet, it drives every single of my headphones that I've tried. The best combination for the tuba is my Focal Clear. Just plug it in the lo output, turn the volume knob to about 11-12 o'clock, and you ll be music heaven. Same goes for my HD 660s and my friends 650s. The treble and timbre had a new life with the tuba. TBH, there are detailed aspects I heard in the high end that my LP cannot separate as precisely. My dynamics sound more lively with the tuba, period. This is no means to say that my LP is inferior, but the sound of the tuba is more colorful, yet non-aggressive. That, however, is not the case with my planars, unfortunately. But i was expecting that, to be fair. My LCD-X did not sound as lively with my Tuba compared to my LP. It sounded decent, even at the volume knob at 2 o'clock. But the huge 105mm drivers did not seem to be engaging fully due to the power limitations of the Tuba. The tuba did not have much command over the sound signature of my LCD-X, or my A2 Closed. The A2C was the toughest to drive with the tuba. IMO, planars are not the types of headphones to be played with a tube amp like this and i m saying this to be fair to all parties involved. I m keeping my LP exclusively to play my LCD-X, A2C and Sendy Aivas. On the other hand, if dynamics are your forte, especially high impedance dynamics, then I cannot think of a better true tube amp than the TUBA. Plain and simple.

At $650.00 the tube is my favorite amp to date. The fine build quality, rich tubey sound and sturdy tank like build makes this formidable competitor at this price point and much much higher. Rolled with vintage tubes, paired with a good dac, and a dynamic (or planar) headphone, the tuba has made me fall in love with music again during this difficult times. Give this amp a try. I am willing to bet $1.00, this amp will put a smile on your face.


P.S. I have a ZMF Auteur on the way and I can only imagine how good that's gonna sound with my beloved TUBA.
Thanks for the great review and comparisons to the LP. Thanks so much for posting this!
 
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Apr 20, 2020 at 1:48 PM Post #107 of 243

Wes S

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My stock mullards and Gold lions sound excellent. However, they both sound a bit shy on the low end. And thats my only complaint about my tuba + auteur. The LP sounds really full in the low end. I will look into the EI tubes, but they seem expensive. Any other suggestions for tubes?
I have not heard this amp, but I know tubes, and if you are looking for more bass with an EL84 tube, I would look for some Amperex Holland EL84 or Saratov 6p14p (Russian EL 84).

I am really looking forward to hearing your results with some other tubes, for your ZMF dynamics.
 
Apr 20, 2020 at 1:53 PM Post #108 of 243

Jimmyblues1959

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RME ADI-2 DAC has equalizer. It works very well for me.

Sorry, did not read your list of equipment and did not see the RME. That 's got a really good equalizer in it. However, for those who may want a more affordable graphic equalizer, the LOKI is great.
 
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Apr 20, 2020 at 6:12 PM Post #109 of 243

shafat777

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I have not heard this amp, but I know tubes, and if you are looking for more bass with an EL84 tube, I would look for some Amperex Holland EL84 or Saratov 6p14p (Russian EL 84).

I am really looking forward to hearing your results with some other tubes, for your ZMF dynamics.

Thanks for the suggestion brother. The TUBA, imo, sounds a little lifeless with my Auteur. Maybe its because of the lack of power compared to the LP. The Auiteur sounds phenomenal with my LP, especially with my newly rolled Sylvania D getters, like you suggested in another thread. The aggressiveness of the LP, like i mentioned in my TUBA review is really appreciated with this headphone. I am glad i did not sell my LP, becasue the Auteur is the only headphone with which the LP outshines everything else.
 
Apr 21, 2020 at 9:39 AM Post #110 of 243

iamalex

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Thanks for the suggestion brother. The TUBA, imo, sounds a little lifeless with my Auteur. Maybe its because of the lack of power compared to the LP. The Auiteur sounds phenomenal with my LP, especially with my newly rolled Sylvania D getters, like you suggested in another thread. The aggressiveness of the LP, like i mentioned in my TUBA review is really appreciated with this headphone. I am glad i did not sell my LP, becasue the Auteur is the only headphone with which the LP outshines everything else.

The right pairing is trial and error I guess, plus different people might like different pairings which complicates the whole thing even more. What is the impression from other headfiers with high impedance headphones and the "Hi" output of the Tuba?
 
Apr 24, 2020 at 2:14 PM Post #111 of 243

Aech

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Well great activity here! I was gone just for a few hours, went to the exotic wood store in Raleigh and found some Pao Rosa, almost bought some walnut and some Purple heart wood, but after discussion with the wood experts, the purpleheart wood after awhile will turn brown if expsosed to sunlight…my listening room has one window with blinds but I thought I would pass on the purple heart wood and went thry several others species and found this Pai Rosa with nice grain etc…



WP_20200310_16_31_13_Pro.jpg


It took me about two hours, had to bring out the table saw and cut to 10 and 1/2" lengths Mark and drill 8 holes to screw mount, spent 30 minutes with 180 grit and rounded all the edges. Then I have some magic wood paste / oil that I used to brig our the nice grain…you acn buy this at most home supply stores. Its an easy rub on and off and it lasts several months and then you simply re-apply…the wood “drinks” it up wonderfully.


WP_20200310_16_31_47_Pro.jpg



Wood cost me $37.50 for a piece that I could cut 3 pieces from and have a small piece to play with …I did try some tung oil gloss but too shiny for me…

Alex

Note: Those are some $$$ Mullards in the amp, the real deal!
Did you attach it to the chassis by removing the chassis and screwing it on from the inside?

looks great. I ordered one recently and I liked the idea of the wood but it’s a hundred dollar upgrade now and I didn’t like the walnut as much. I like warmer wood tones. I may try Sapele to match it to my Aeolus.
 
Apr 24, 2020 at 3:11 PM Post #112 of 243

Jim Hagerman

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I liked the idea of the wood but it’s a hundred dollar upgrade now

Yes, I did this on purpose. I do NOT want to be fabricating all these wood panels by hand. That's not my thing. You can probably do a better job. Just buy 2 feet of 1x4 (standard North American size) of your favorite tree. Cut to 10.5" each. Sand like crazy. Use #6 wood screws to attach from inside through vents. Works like a charm.
 
Apr 24, 2020 at 3:17 PM Post #113 of 243

Aech

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Yes, I did this on purpose. I do NOT want to be fabricating all these wood panels by hand. That's not my thing. You can probably do a better job. Just buy 2 feet of 1x4 (standard North American size) of your favorite tree. Cut to 10.5" each. Sand like crazy. Use #6 wood screws to attach from inside through vents. Works like a charm.
Oh through the vents? I was thinking I’d need to drill holes. That works even better. Thanks man!
 
Apr 24, 2020 at 3:19 PM Post #114 of 243

Aech

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Yes, I did this on purpose. I do NOT want to be fabricating all these wood panels by hand. That's not my thing. You can probably do a better job. Just buy 2 feet of 1x4 (standard North American size) of your favorite tree. Cut to 10.5" each. Sand like crazy. Use #6 wood screws to attach from inside through vents. Works like a charm.
That won’t cause overheating or void your awesome warranty in anyway?
 
Apr 24, 2020 at 4:46 PM Post #115 of 243

Jim Hagerman

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Those vents are not needed for cooling. Mostly decorative. I designed the chassis such that I can re-use it for other products, in which case a future amplifier might just require that extra cooling. Next up is a matching phonostage... :)
 
Apr 25, 2020 at 11:26 AM Post #117 of 243

shafat777

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I just put in a pair of 60s RCA 6BQ5 in my TUBA and the low end seems to be a lot fuller now. Still my auteur sounds kinda hollow but the tubes made it a lot better than it was with the Mullards.
 
Apr 25, 2020 at 5:00 PM Post #118 of 243

adydula

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Did you attach it to the chassis by removing the chassis and screwing it on from the inside?

looks great. I ordered one recently and I liked the idea of the wood but it’s a hundred dollar upgrade now and I didn’t like the walnut as much. I like warmer wood tones. I may try Sapele to match it to my Aeolus.

Yup just carefully take off the chassis and use some wood screws like Jim states....the only hard part it sanding to your liking and applying a finish coat to your taste.

Pretty simple and pretty to look at!!

Great amp!

Alex
 
Apr 25, 2020 at 6:12 PM Post #119 of 243

Aech

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Yup just carefully take off the chassis and use some wood screws like Jim states....the only hard part it sanding to your liking and applying a finish coat to your taste.

Pretty simple and pretty to look at!!

Great amp!

Alex
Sweet. Yeah I don’t have any issue with the woodworking. I do plenty of that. I just didn’t think to screw it on through the vents. From the pictures they initially Looked like they were angled or slanted vents. But I looked again after him said and now it makes more sense. I just need to get me some wood when the amp shows up. 👍
 
Apr 26, 2020 at 8:56 PM Post #120 of 243

Geebs55

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Thanks for the suggestion brother. The TUBA, imo, sounds a little lifeless with my Auteur. Maybe its because of the lack of power compared to the LP. The Auiteur sounds phenomenal with my LP, especially with my newly rolled Sylvania D getters, like you suggested in another thread. The aggressiveness of the LP, like i mentioned in my TUBA review is really appreciated with this headphone. I am glad i did not sell my LP, becasue the Auteur is the only headphone with which the LP outshines everything else.
Are you sure you have broken in the Auteur? My new Verites sounded "meh" (to quote another Head-Fi user) until I hit the 350 hour mark of music from my phone. Then .... lots of definition, placement, etc ......
 

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