Tube Rolling. Worth The Effort??
Feb 19, 2015 at 11:11 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

Mr Rick

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I own a couple of SS amps and a couple of tube amps. I am intrigued by the possibility of "improving" the SQ by replacement of tubes.  I don't believe in expensive cables, designer fuses or line voltage conditioners, to improve SQ and I am quite happy with how my tube amps sound currently. 
 
Will the exercise of tube rolling really provide me with a noticeable difference, good or bad, over what I currently have??
 
Feb 19, 2015 at 1:14 PM Post #2 of 12

prot

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  I own a couple of SS amps and a couple of tube amps. I am intrigued by the possibility of "improving" the SQ by replacement of tubes.  I don't believe in expensive cables, designer fuses or line voltage conditioners, to improve SQ and I am quite happy with how my tube amps sound currently. 
 
Will the exercise of tube rolling really provide me with a noticeable difference, good or bad, over what I currently have??

 
There are audible differences between tubes.  At least I could clearly hear some when rolling  12AU7 tubes in my minimax DAC and various 6922-s in my HP amp.  Wont describe any of those diffs as night-and-day but they were mostly audible.  And the whole rolling experience was fun. 
 
Can't really tell you how much effort & money are those differences worth ... that you have to decide for yourself.  I won't pay more than $50 for a tube, no matter how praised it was ... but some people pay hundreds or even thousands
 
Feb 19, 2015 at 2:37 PM Post #3 of 12

headdict

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  I own a couple of SS amps and a couple of tube amps. I am intrigued by the possibility of "improving" the SQ by replacement of tubes.  I don't believe in expensive cables, designer fuses or line voltage conditioners, to improve SQ and I am quite happy with how my tube amps sound currently. 
 
Will the exercise of tube rolling really provide me with a noticeable difference, good or bad, over what I currently have??


I have no experience with tube rolling, but I use a parametric equalizer, whenever I'm not satisfied with the SQ. Differences are exactly as noticeable as I want them to be.
 
Feb 20, 2015 at 5:09 AM Post #4 of 12

TheGrumpyOldMan

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Oooh boy, that's quite the question to ask in this forum ^_^;
 
The rational answer, certainly prevailing here, would be that the amp should be neutral, so the music is as it should be, without coloration. And that a good tube amp should, and can be neutral like that. So what would be the point of swapping the tubes then. Or it is not neutral, in which case the changing of the tubes may change that coloration, but how would you know then which one is closest to the original intent?
 
For the record, I think due to the very nature of the tube amp, in which the tubes are active electric elements, it will alter the sound in some way (unlike cables etc.) And as such, I think the tubes themselves have a bigger impact on the potential neutrality of an amp than its construction (though that is a whole other debate, and I may contradict myself shortly..)
 
So, IMHO, as the acronym goes, based on a bunch of tubes I own and admittedly enjoy, on at least 6-7 different amps over the last few years, and one tube DAC (optional output):
 
It does depend on the amp to some extent. I have a nice Peachtree Nova with optional tube stage, and I have swapped the tubes 2-3 times, could never hear a difference. I have a Fosgate Signature, a non-OTL design and I could barely hear the slightest difference if I reaaally paid attention in a way that no longer let me enjoy the music, same for the Woo WA7 (I have been mystified by some the claims of audible differences between the few tubes compatible with it, some of which I have used myself...)
 
On the other hand, on my "big" Woos (the OTL WA2 and the (balanced) transformer-coupled WA22) some tube combinations are definitely noticeable, and some work better with certain headphones and/or types of music, Yes, it is coloration, but I listen to music for enjoyment and it makes me enjoy it more, or helps smooth over some of the not-so-good recordings. And it is usually a combination of tubes (rectifier, pre & power) that I have named something like "Straight Sylvanias" vs. "Bottled Rock Power" etc. But that's just me -_-;;
 
If on the other hand you asked me for example to recognize the difference between two properly working power tubes, I'd fail miserably... Since this is the Sound Science ghetto -_-, I can probably admit this: I think that most of the tube comparison lists here on Head-Fi are more of an exercise in creative writing (but make for an interesting shopping list). I very strongly doubt the authors would be able to clearly differentiate between the tubes of the same type unless they are colored to the point of near-defectiveness, and never mind matching up the lush prose describing its character with the actual tube, in any kind of blind test.
 
You will also notice an interesting trend that the more rare and expensive a tube is, the more magical it apparently sounds (kinda like burn-in, it magically only ever improves things, never changing for the worse). Can't remember the last time I read something like "I bought this 1940's Western Electric, put it in, and it sounds kinda meh..." And new tubes (even if they're not cheap knockoffs) somehow never have the same quality or "warmth" of NOS even if they're well-built & tested before sale...
 
So, my answer would be: it depends. Especially whether your amp is a type that is responsive to tube changes (kinda, the more tubes are involved, the more likely it is :) You don't have to buy super-expensive tubes just because they supposedly make a bigger difference. And you should probably have a set of spares anyway in case the ones you are using go bad, so you might as well try something different...
 
And the only way you're *guaranteed* to audibly recognize a certain tube in your amp it's the one going bad :D
 
Mar 5, 2015 at 1:09 PM Post #5 of 12

Mr Rick

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  Oooh boy, that's quite the question to ask in this forum ^_^;
 
The rational answer, certainly prevailing here, would be that the amp should be neutral, so the music is as it should be, without coloration. And that a good tube amp should, and can be neutral like that. So what would be the point of swapping the tubes then. Or it is not neutral, in which case the changing of the tubes may change that coloration, but how would you know then which one is closest to the original intent?
 
For the record, I think due to the very nature of the tube amp, in which the tubes are active electric elements, it will alter the sound in some way (unlike cables etc.) And as such, I think the tubes themselves have a bigger impact on the potential neutrality of an amp than its construction (though that is a whole other debate, and I may contradict myself shortly..)
 
So, IMHO, as the acronym goes, based on a bunch of tubes I own and admittedly enjoy, on at least 6-7 different amps over the last few years, and one tube DAC (optional output):
 
It does depend on the amp to some extent. I have a nice Peachtree Nova with optional tube stage, and I have swapped the tubes 2-3 times, could never hear a difference. I have a Fosgate Signature, a non-OTL design and I could barely hear the slightest difference if I reaaally paid attention in a way that no longer let me enjoy the music, same for the Woo WA7 (I have been mystified by some the claims of audible differences between the few tubes compatible with it, some of which I have used myself...)
 
On the other hand, on my "big" Woos (the OTL WA2 and the (balanced) transformer-coupled WA22) some tube combinations are definitely noticeable, and some work better with certain headphones and/or types of music, Yes, it is coloration, but I listen to music for enjoyment and it makes me enjoy it more, or helps smooth over some of the not-so-good recordings. And it is usually a combination of tubes (rectifier, pre & power) that I have named something like "Straight Sylvanias" vs. "Bottled Rock Power" etc. But that's just me -_-;;
 
If on the other hand you asked me for example to recognize the difference between two properly working power tubes, I'd fail miserably... Since this is the Sound Science ghetto -_-, I can probably admit this: I think that most of the tube comparison lists here on Head-Fi are more of an exercise in creative writing (but make for an interesting shopping list). I very strongly doubt the authors would be able to clearly differentiate between the tubes of the same type unless they are colored to the point of near-defectiveness, and never mind matching up the lush prose describing its character with the actual tube, in any kind of blind test.
 
You will also notice an interesting trend that the more rare and expensive a tube is, the more magical it apparently sounds (kinda like burn-in, it magically only ever improves things, never changing for the worse). Can't remember the last time I read something like "I bought this 1940's Western Electric, put it in, and it sounds kinda meh..." And new tubes (even if they're not cheap knockoffs) somehow never have the same quality or "warmth" of NOS even if they're well-built & tested before sale...
 
So, my answer would be: it depends. Especially whether your amp is a type that is responsive to tube changes (kinda, the more tubes are involved, the more likely it is :) You don't have to buy super-expensive tubes just because they supposedly make a bigger difference. And you should probably have a set of spares anyway in case the ones you are using go bad, so you might as well try something different...
 
And the only way you're *guaranteed* to audibly recognize a certain tube in your amp it's the one going bad :D

I apologize for not responding to your detailed response.  I thought something sounding too good to be true probably was. LOL
 
That being said . Today I received two pair of tubes for my Schiit Lyr. I'm really not expecting much more than a spare set of tubes for my trouble, but I paid very little for them so the exercise in rolling should be painless.
 
Thanks again.
 
Mar 5, 2015 at 4:05 PM Post #6 of 12

Tuco1965

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I have a Lyr that I roll tubes in. Stock tubes didn't sound bad IMO.  My current favourites are some NOS Russian 6n23p Voskhods.  These were inexpensive.   I can't see spending big coin for different tubes though.  As to whether you can hear a difference is entirely up to you.  
 
Mar 5, 2015 at 4:10 PM Post #7 of 12

Mr Rick

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  I have a Lyr that I roll tubes in. Stock tubes didn't sound bad IMO.  My current favourites are some NOS Russian 6n23p Voskhods.  These were inexpensive.   I can't see spending big coin for different tubes though.  As to whether you can hear a difference is entirely up to you.  

Those are the tubes I received today. 
L3000.gif

 
Mar 5, 2015 at 4:18 PM Post #9 of 12

Mr Rick

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Mar 5, 2015 at 5:10 PM Post #10 of 12

TheGrumpyOldMan

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  I apologize for not responding to your detailed response.  I thought something sounding too good to be true probably was. LOL
 
That being said . Today I received two pair of tubes for my Schiit Lyr. I'm really not expecting much more than a spare set of tubes for my trouble, but I paid very little for them so the exercise in rolling should be painless.
 
Thanks again.


Hey, no problem. Once I got started, I was a bit on a roll
rolleyes.gif
... I think the question in the topic of this thread is a good one, and there are probably others who'd be interested in more information about this. I know I'd have liked something more Sound Science-y when I got into it, and not just the more creative, personal descriptions that abound on Head-Fi.
 
And of course, while I can see all the rational arguments against the use or need of tubes, I still luv 'em anyway, the enjoyment of music is not always about being rational. I just wouldn't confuse that with some kind of objective assessment, beyond trying to be as neutral as possible in describing them.
 
And I hope you enjoy yours!
 
Mar 6, 2015 at 11:19 PM Post #11 of 12

dvw

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This is indeed a very interesting topic. Like anything manufactured there is a tolerance. For tube the parametric tolerance can be quite large. In order to get a consistent result, engineers have to account for the difference between tubes. A good design will negate the difference between tubes and a lesser design will struggle to do so. So if you have to roll tube to optimize the sound, then the design might not be optimal.
I don't have a lot of experience rolling tube. But I used to design a device called Fetron that replaced tubes because tubes do wear out. And some of those used aged tube would definitely make a difference if they are out of spec.
 
Mar 7, 2015 at 1:33 AM Post #12 of 12

bigshot

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  he enjoyment of music is not always about being rational.

 
That's true but audiophilia isn't about being rational either. It isn't even about the enjoyment of music. It's about OCD.
 

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