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La Figaro 339

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by cal8949, Jul 15, 2010.
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  1. tintinsnowydog
    Was originally planning on rolling TS 7236 + RCA 5693, but then my 2nd GEC 6as7g as well as ef80 adaptors arrived in the morning and I couldnt resist... In short, wow, that's why everyone worships this tube. All my listening today was on HD800.

    40273311_694895307545784_6125248535240638464_n.jpg 40318670_2085036961813071_5022543358761893888_n.jpg 40325389_1954386761290499_2615297202481790976_n.jpg


    Everything about the GEC is just right. The first thing that hit me was the superior micro-detailing, soundstage+imaging and the layering. Bass extends so well, I've never heard my HD800 reproduce such good sub-bass. Treble is equally well extended, very smooth and very even. Mids, especially lower mids, have perfect amount of weight. If I had to complain about any one thing, it would simply be that it is not as relaxing as a warmer tube; this is truly analytical but still, for my tastes, full of musicality and most importantly, renders the tone of everything just right- not too bright/shrill, and definitely not too dark.

    Celli+double bass have never sounded so good; their reverb in Carnegie Hall is now accurately captured beyond the initial attack, and bass pizzicato now seems to extend almost to the other end of the stage, can almost feel the vibrations on both sides of the headphones. Horns+ trombones+contrabassoon whips and entries in Bernstein's rec of Shosta 5 are the most brutal I've ever heard them, exactly the sound I imagined when I first saw the score.

    The microdetails (by extension, the transients too) are unparalleled in orchestral music; I can discern the individual bowstrokes of ppp violin tremelos, the crunch of the stick hitting the strings in the weighty sections that deliver the quintessential shostakovich sound which I've only ever heard reproduced when actually playing in an orchestra, and I can make out the individual attacks of each violinist in col legno sections. I can hear the individual keys being pressed and air passing through them on the saxophone upon its entry in Shafran's 2nd movement of Kabalevsky 2.

    The layering (and i guess almost synonymous with separation as well?) is also something I've missed out on until i heard this combination. Orchestral textures are so well separated yet still musically coherent. The sound actually is slightly congested at 50% of regular listening volumes, but above that it opens up, as does the soundstage. Soundstage is widest and deepest I've heard so far. This supreme layering made me laugh during G Gould's 1981 goldberg variations; I can't imagine the piece any other way now, his singing is so well entwined with the delicate keyboard playing(i can hear the individual fingers hitting the keys even in the densest moments of Bach's writing).

    EF800's did not impress off the bat, but I now appreciate the real attention and liveliness (zing) it adds to the sound sig. Mine are unfortunately noisy and left one likes to crackle every 30 seconds or so. Will see if the situation improves after a dozen hours. I've already ordered EF86s+adaptors to alleviate this situation though, which should be better anyways according to the rest of this thread. Tried TS6sj7gt with them first; the tone was arguably even more beautiful, but I lost the sizzle and lively tone I have already mentally attached to this combo, so I swapped in RCA 5693s in the meantime. I'll update this post once i get the EF86.

    40317207_1847087301995822_220166156806258688_n.jpg 40325144_720928581588872_2297904170188931072_n.jpg 40337678_232495690760115_7936419231598379008_n.jpg

    not as pretty and symmetrical as the metal jackets don't glow.

    GEC 6AS7G + RCA 5693 RED HOT

    Sound signature was, largely, identical to pairing with EF800 (main contribution to sq i've found is still in the power tube), but with less brightness/dare i say glare, and a more rounded tone across the spectrum. I think I actually prefer this combination's tone, but once again I miss the really active liveliness that is necessary for music that is presenting so much microdetail; without EF80's, the synergy just wasn't hitting the spot perfectly. I would gamble that the EF86 will provide the perfect compromise here. I will stick with this combo until i get the EF86s for the every so slightly more laid back presentation/tone, smoother mids, and more pragmatically lower gain so I have more room to turn the volume knobs. Volume matching is a task of its own but I did feel this combination compelled me to listen at slightly higher volumes than the EF80 pairing as it was less fatiguing/bright.

    I will alternate these with TS 7236+RCA5693 tomorrow to see which is the best for classical music. Can't imagine 7236 beating all aspects of the GEC! it is likely to remain my go to, at least for HD800.
    MJS242 likes this.
  2. tintinsnowydog
    And a side note; does anyone else's amp smell strongly of burnt plastic after about an hour's use? I've been trying to keep listening sessions to below 3 hours at a time as the burning smell becomes very strong after the 1 hour mark. Maybe my room is just not well ventilated.
  3. Mizicke5273
    That is great! Thank you for working to get the group buy together anyways!
  4. sup27606
    No, mine doesn't. There is no smell at all, just heat, though mine has been used for years now (bought it from another head-fi'er). Sometimes, new equipments smell as they are settled in and the smell should go away with use. However, if this smell is due to a plastic wire shielding touching a hot part, then you need to address it. If thats the case, the shielding will be worn away exposing the bare wire, increasing the risk of shorting or electric shock.
  5. wwmhf
    Thanks a lot for sharing you experiences with us. You description about 5693 suggests for me to try them with my Russian power tubes.
  6. tintinsnowydog
    Noted. I will power it on again when I get home tonight for a few hours, and see if the smell persists. If it does I’ll open it up again and check the circuitry closely.

    No problem at all, many more combinations to test as it’s still my first week with the amp! Which power tubes are you using, the stock power tubes? I personally didn’t care for those, they’ve been wrapped up and put away. The RCA red drivers are my default go to right now; most neutral and detailed without sacrificing much tonality. For the coziest most enjoyable tone the ts6sj7gt still can’t be beaten but way too hard to find at a good price, hope mine still have lots of life left in them (bought untested). I’m almost hesitant to plug them in to preserve them; hope I can find a backup pair soon.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
  7. wwmhf
    The Russian power tubes I want to try further are 6N13S(6Н13С) which, I think, emphasize the lower part a little too much. So I hope the brightness of 5693 can balance those 6N13S(6Н13С).
    But I am now using pair of RCA 6AS7G together with a pair of Russian EF80 by adapters, and I can listen to this configuration for a while.
  8. tintinsnowydog
    I think the RCA could go either way with the bass; it’ll either make it more accurate or it could emphasise it. Let us know how it goes!
  9. wwmhf
    Well ..., I have to get a pair of 5693 first. Your impression about 7236 + 5693 will also be interesting to me because I do have a few 7236
  10. tintinsnowydog
    I ordered a quad, as well as a quad of TS 7236, from Dale at vacuumtubes.net; email them about it as their web stock listings are months old. Their pricing is not bad, off the top of my head it was 15$ each for the RCA reds and under 50$ for the 7236. They had plenty in stock as I was offered a lot of 12 for each! They came well packed, in original boxes, and looked unused. I plugged them in briefly before just to test and they are clean without any background noise whatsoever up to 3:30 o’clock (way higher than listening levels). Sold as tested as well, and matched closely even though I didn’t ask for it; not like dual mono needs it :)
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
  11. MJS242
    I was talking to xmdkq the other day and he mentioned that you can run 6336 tubes as well (and that the amp was designed with that in mind even though it has a higher current load than a 6as7/6080). He mentioned that you want to pay attention to the left and right transformers (feeling the covers) and that above 70 degrees (celsius) is too hot and you should power the amp off. This is going to be true for even the 6as7/6080 tubes if you're in a warmer climate and don't have AC or you're not running the AC. I've used the 339 for years and never had temperature problems (but yes it does get hot).

    Here's xmdkq running 6336's in my custom amp:


    tintinsnowydog likes this.
  12. tintinsnowydog
    Tung Sol 7236 + RCA 5693

    this is a superb combination. Pics first;
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    I now understand why people call this 'solid state sounding'. It is very analytical, and extremely linear. The amp's inherent sound sig and musicality combine with this combination's highly analytical timbre to provide a very transparent and revealing, yet still enjoyable sound.

    Certainly it does not have the micro-detail or slam of the GEC 6as7g. The separation and layering is also not nearly as good. But to my ears it is able to be more revealing because of the more linear response. What does that even mean? Sure, linear= no part of the freq curve emphasised, but what does that sound like? The best (classical) track to demonstrate this that I've found is Gutierrez's Prok 2 cadenza. The runs are brilliant, and cover the full range of the piano up and down several times; it's better at testing linearity than a sine wave because they are actual distinct notes to listen out for! This combination was the first time I heard every note equal- especially those in the middle registers that so often go missing with a less faithful amp/headphone- but with bass notes still given the right amount of impact, and the very top octave of the piano still rendered with finesse and sparkle. Try it out for yourself; the section begins at 8:06 (-2:53 from the ending), and after it you are treated to one of the most epic orchestral entrances in the concerto repertoire;

    Even though the micro details are not as good, the overall presentation of an orchestra is more balanced; therefore every single instrument is brought up to an even playing (listening?) field, and the result is greater transparency and detail as a whole. This combination allowed me to hear clarinet/timpani/viola/second violin entries I previously didnt know existed, especially in dense textures where either heavy bass or brilliant treble would mask this middle register. The linearity was only a slight problem with Mravinsky's trumpets; in all the Tchaik symphonies, they were just slightly too bright for my tastes at max normal listening levels, as they sat too close to the HD800's 6k peak that this combination doesn't try to tame (again, a problem i experienced with solid state and the tube hybrid amps).

    Naturally, this linearity made vocals amazing as well. They are not made as liquid as a warmer tube would, of course, but the tone and enunciation is spot on. This combination definitely deserves the pick for best pairing with classical music, specifically orchestral and romantic-era onwards piano solo, and I would specify that it is predominantly for analytical listening. Switching back and forth between HD650 and HD800, they are both equally compatible, with the HD800's greater soundstage making the detailed, analytical presentation slightly more coherent. I think that for chamber music, while this combination still holds many advantages, a warmer tube would make the presentation more intimate and inviting.

    Will try some good old RCA 6as7g's next! Don't think any of the ones I bought were black plates though. Lost an auction on those today that I really shouldnt have. The hunt continues :)
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
    MJS242 likes this.
  13. MJS242
    Looks like the website has adapters now
    Mizicke5273 and tintinsnowydog like this.
  14. Mizicke5273
    I just placed my order for the set! Thanks for the heads up.
  15. xmdkq
    An order has been received and you will be notified when it is sent.
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