Little Dot Tube Amps: Vacuum Tube Rolling Guide

  1. Topodomain
    Kind of noob question here, but does switching of tubes affect amp's capability to drive planars? Will tube rolling change output amperage? I've been drooling over LCD-2's or LCD-3's but for a fear of wife and wallet i cannot justify change of amp. Which of those (in other words, lower or higher impedance) would be better match for LD IV se? I'm running C3g's now, would 6sn7's or even 6080's with external power source help?
  2. unclebrudy
    While certain tubes can push a bit louder volume than others, your MKIV isn't designed to push low-efficiency planars, plain and simple. Look into hybrid tube amps like the Lyr/Lyr 2 if you want to continue on your tube journey, or a solid state amp if your heart is set on a planar such as the LCD line.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  3. Acapella11
    Dear Topodomain, I had the Hifiman HE-500 and I have the LCD-XC and both work with 6H6N and 6H30P Type tubes but not so well with 6SN7 tubes, especially the HE-500. For 6080, you would need to read the output power specs. I think the LCD-X are easier to drive than 2 or 3 though but I also much prefer them over 2s and I prefer the signature over 3s.
    I agree that it is a good idea to buy your Perfect headphone in the beginning and then build the system around it. My favourite is the HD800 (not HD800S) and the Beyerdynamic T1 is smother great dynamic headphone. Both of these are perfect with tube amps and also the right solid state amp. Even though I like the planar sound a lot, I still slightly prefer the dynamic driver sound which I find a bit sharper for details.
    However, if you are eyeballing more with planars, my wholehearted suggestion goes to a Chord Mojo, which then also acts as an amazing DAC for your LD.
    Enjoy your journey of sounds
  4. rexhu100
    I tried HE560 on my LD III, and it sounded terrible. HE560 is rated 90db on sensitivity. I also tried the Fostex t-x0(95db), and it sounded OK. I'm not quite sure what the sensitivity is on the LCDs, but I think it is generally a bad idea to use cans with low impedance and low sensitivity on LD III.
    MIKELAP and unclebrudy like this.
  5. araxiscentauri
    Hi all, just a question...I have a Little Dot MK3 and a spare pair of 6H1N-EB power tubes. Are those tubes compatible? I don't want to try them out as I'm scared it'll damage the amp. Thanks for your help in advance.
  6. jamesbdh
    So I broke my power tubes. I was using the 6hm5 with what looks like 6n6p-IR. Does anyone have a better suggestion or place to get replacements reasonably?
  7. mordy
    Hi jamesbdh,

    Sorry to hear that - how did the tubes break? From being incompatible with the amp or dropping them?
    In the past I tried a number of variants of the standard 6N6P power tubes. Even though the IR tubes sounded the best (did not try the DR tubes because the prices went through the roof), the regular inexpensive power tubes sound quite good.
    However, if you would buy suitable adapters and any 6SN7 tubes you will get better sound from the Little Dot amp than the OEM power tubes.
    MIKELAP likes this.
  8. jamesbdh
    Apparently my headphone cord was around the tube when I went to put them on. I saw the post above about the adapters but looks like it would be almost $60 for the tubes and adapters?
  9. rexhu100
    Definitely get the 6sn7 if you have the money. I can't quite hear the difference among various 6n6p tubes, but 6sn7 makes a big difference.
  10. rexhu100
    This is what I'm currently using
  11. jamesbdh
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
    rexhu100 likes this.
  12. rexhu100
    I think the price is pretty good for these (if they are indeed NOS). It is unfortunate that good tubes cost an arm and a leg, but for pure tube driven amp, it often does make a difference.
  13. unclebrudy
    Would you be so kind as to elaborate on why you're running these power tubes, and how they compare to say, tubes that don't need adapters? Thanks.
  14. mordy
    Hi jamesbdh,

    There are very good sounding 6SN7 equivalents that are quite inexpensive and really underrated: The Russian 6N8S/6H8C.

    I paid less than $8 for a pair including shipping, and I use them every day. ATM I can't find the seller, but you will find similar low prices in the link above. I have several Sylvania 6SN7 variants and IMHO the 6N8S stand up very well in comparison.
  15. rexhu100
    I have tried the Russian 6N6P (stock), Russian 6N6P-IR, and Shuguang 6N6-T. Keep in mind that these tubes get extremely hot when operating, so when I'm comparing them among themselves or against 6SN7 tubes, I have to wait a few minutes before switching tubes. Also, the newly inserted tubes need about half a minute to heat up to operating temperature. I'm emphasizing these aspects because I don't have very good 'hearing memories', so it is entirely possible that some details in the difference is lost when I'm waiting/switching. So take my opinion with a grain of salt. Also, I used VE Zen 2.0 and HD 600 for the audition.

    That being said, I believe here is a significant improvement in sound quality moving from stock 6N6P to 6N6P-IR, and again form 6N6P-IR to 6SN7. Also, the improvements are more noticeable on HD 600 than Zen, probably due to the change in sensitivity, among other factors.

    The biggest improvement is the tonal clarity across the frequency range. The sound is just more crisp to my ears. Another big improvement is the reduced harshness in the treble. This is especially noticeable on the HD 600 where I have to turn up the volume. HD 600 can be fatiguing sometime, mostly due to the harshness in the high. This is the case before switching to 6SN7. With 6N6* tubes, the cymbals or high octave guitar will pierce my eardrum at the volume where I find bass and mid are appropriate. Also, the sound of the cymbals sounds muddled/distorted in some rock/jazz tracks. This improvements is less pronounced on the VE Zen. My theory is that Zen is a lot more sensitive than HD 600, and I don't need to turn the pot as high to produced the same perceived volume to my ears. The 6N6* tubes just won't hold up at a higher output level.

    I have multiple sets of 6SN7 tubes, but I haven't gotten around to fully audition them all. I'll post my impressions on them later.
    unclebrudy likes this.

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