New here and sorting things out: advice about tubes v. balanced ss? (LONG, Sorry)
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:45 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

jrb

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Posts
12
Likes
10
I've been reading about now on the forum for three weeks or so in hopes of educating myself about the world of phones. I find myself just wanting some music late at night in office or bedroom without disturbing the family. Now I've had a pair of HD 580 Jubilees for a few years that I've listened to in my office through a nineties era Denon receiver. I discovered last week that the Sennheisers seem to have been lifted (along with some other equipment.) Who knows when that happened? But my lack of knowledge indicates the lack of enthusiasm I had for either phone, receiver or both. So, I'm starting over; and in fact I'd like some sound I'd care more about. I'm an unrepentant audiophile with three systems of some pretty fine stuff. I've even written a couple of pieces for one of the webzines. So I find myself out of habit trying to suss out just what's the most efficient way to, first, find out what I'm looking for, then, to find what I'm looking for. (Hope that makes sense.)

In three weeks I've received quite an education from you folks. (The first thing that struck me is how civilized you are. Occasionally I look over at Audio Asylum where you take your life in your hands when you post.) Here's what I've discovered and I hope you can help make things a little clearer.

1. Whatever phone (other than electrostats) one chooses can be optimally heard either through one of the good tube amps--or tube stages like Red Wine's; or through a balanced run into a solid state amp.

From what I understand then: one's best options are to go single ended into a tube amp or balanced into solid state (since it appears there are few if any balanced tube options, and Paravicini and others suggest that you lose the sound characteristic of tubes if you don't go single ended.) What I haven't been able to gather is whether or not there is a prevailing preference among head-fiers--especially since I can't find a significant cost difference between the two paths.

So how do you feel? (And, in anticipation of the question of whether I prefer "tubes" to "solid-state," I should say I like both--as long as tubes aren't too tubey and solid state isn't too mechanical and flat. I've a terrific solid state preamp with a tube phono stage for analog and a solid stage CDP for digital.)

I suppose the simplest path is to just track down a Stax system, but I'm not at all sure that it's what I'd most enjoy, and heading that direction seems to take some of the fun of the hunt out of the process.

I have more questions but I don't want to jam them into a thread which has probably already worn folks out by its length.

Thanks,

JB
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 4:05 AM Post #2 of 5

pabbi1

Cavalli Audio Spiritual Advisor
Joined
Jan 12, 2004
Posts
3,879
Likes
38
Well, I certainly call BS on losing something by balancing a tube amp - in that regard, it is no different than SS - both (IMHO) gain when balanced - speed / slew rate, gravitas, control over the bass, and superior channel seperation.

I have a pure tube (psu, input and output stage) balanced amp, a balanced hybrid dynamic and a hybrid balanced electrostat amp. I have put my money where I think it sounds best, including balanced cables. IFF you are going to get a really good amp, the HD650 scales the best - though many prefer the flatter response of the HD600, IFF you like the Senn sound signature. Heck, many even like the hd580 best, given a good amp and source.

I can't comment outside Senn land, except a Lambda Pro might be a good place to start in stats, with a Woo GES, or some of the other used KG designs (kgsss, etc). Otherwise, you are looking at >$3000 for real stat entertainment.

We all have opinions - hopefully you will get a range of feedback you can sift through - but, meets help identify options rather quickly, if you live near a major metro.

HTH,
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 6:06 AM Post #3 of 5

Uncle Erik

Uncle Exotic
Joined
Mar 18, 2006
Posts
22,597
Likes
502
Too bad you weren't around a few weeks ago - we had a meet here in LA where you could have sampled a variety of equipment. The international meet for 2009 will also be in LA next May. Show up if you can - the members here are just as nice in person.

I'll agree with pabbi1 about balanced tube amps - I've only heard a bit of one, but my impressions were about the same. Though I don't think there are many balanced tube headphone amps on the market right now, so your options would be limited.

Also, do you run balanced in any of your current setups? If your sources are single ended, it would cost less to keep using them.

Personally, I decided to stay in the single ended world for now. I just love my phono preamp, and cannot part with the FM receiver or AM/SW communications receiver I use. I might build a bridged/balanced amp and pick up a balanced DAC, but a lot of my listening is vinyl. I don't know if I'd use it that much if I put a rig like that together.

Also, sounds like you're looking for something different from the Sennheiser sound. What kind of music do you listen to? Let us know and you'll get good recommendations.
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 6:07 AM Post #4 of 5

jrb

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Posts
12
Likes
10
Pabbi

About the balanced tubes: that's why I quoted Paravicini and others. It doesn't follow as far as my experience goes outside phone-land.

And I do live in the Los Angeles area: hoping there will be meets in the near future.

As to expense: that's not at the moment a tremendous concern--though I don't imagine I'm springing either for the R10s and the ERA HP-4 together, or the Sennheiser Orpheus system. But an excellent amp and a couple of fine headphones is likely to be where I land.


Thanks for the response and the suggestions.
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 6:42 AM Post #5 of 5

jrb

New Head-Fier
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
Posts
12
Likes
10
Eric,

Well, I have a choice of balanced or single ended for the headphone use: but it will be digital, the analog stays downstairs.

I also, in just searching through the many head-fi threads and recommendations, can't find balanced tube headphone amps.

As to music: I'll give the annoying answer that I listen to pretty much everything. Of course that isn't true--no rap, hip-hop, techno or whatever is most current. I do listen to a lot of classical music (orchestral and chamber), blues, and a healthy dose of pop and alternative country. A recap of tonight: Prokoviev, Stravinsky, EmmyLou Harris, Kieran Kane, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mark Knopfler and Poco.

And I was never comfortable with the 580s. They offered, to me, somehow too tailored a sound--very nice, nothing grating, but a bit veiled and dynamicallly restricted. (As I wrote above, this could well be the Denon.)
My domestic listening throughout the house is primarily to both active and passive ATC speakers. They are exceptionally clean and dynamic and combine great detail with tonal accuracy. They are, in my systems, as tonally neutral in comparison to live music as any speaker I have heard. They are, however, more forward in presentation than many speakers and can wear some folks out. But this is a sound I find most engaging. The headphone that seemed at first glance to fit my tastes is the AKG-701, but if reports that it is tonally lean--or bright--are accurate then it's not really what I'm looking for.

I am in the curious chicken or egg position. Does one buy first an amp then the phones or first the phones and then the amp? Ideally I'd like to buy them together, but it sure looks difficult hearing them together before purchase.

Which is why I too regret having missed the meet. I'm sure I'll go in May, but hope to have something to listen to well before then.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top