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Tube warmth and distortion and it's pros

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by silverears, Apr 13, 2014.
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  1. Redcarmoose


    Friends and family can choose a song to play when they visit.
  2. sandab
    Tube distortion is at higher frequencies, 2x and sometimes 4x.  (Even harmonics.)  This changes the color.  Note that 2x is a brighter frequency added to the fundamental. 0.5x would be darker.  However, because of how tonal color is perceived, it doesn't really make it sound brighter, but warmer.  It's called tonal color because just like visual color perception it's based on a tristimulus model.  0.25% (~-50dB) is easily perceived, like adding a splash of green to blue.
    Here's the spectrum out of an Amperex 7308 that I scoped.  1kHz sinusoidal on the bottom and spectrum (DFT) on the top.  As you can see there's a component at 2x (2kHz), 4x, and a little bit at 5x.  The 5x is probably from the budget componentry in this device and adds an edge of shrillness or tinniness.  The 2x peak is at about -50dB.  This spectrum represents about 0.3% THD and the odd-order at 5x is vanishingly small.  But it's enough to affect the perception of the sound.
    For more on timbre (aka tonal color), wikipedia at least mentions the terminology even if it's not particularly educational.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbre
  3. cjl
    I would love to see listening tests that showed a 5x harmonic at -70dB or less is audible.
  4. bigshot
    Even the 2kHz at -50dB is at or below the edge of audibility. It would probably be masked by the music.
  5. Maxx134
    Good post..
    what is needed today is a "box" or even a "dsp" that would generate the specific harmonic distortion effects of the best tubes.

    Then the sonic beauty of the extravagant expensive tube market could be available to the masses and "starving student" types.

    Bob Carver was able to do this to a large extent.

    I think I have seen some eq processors dsp settings try to emulate tube effect,
    but when you listen to the real thing,
    You realize we are not there yet to fully simulate it.

    Regardless, the "sonic flavor" of best tube gear is something highly musical and to be desired.
    It probably has to do with more than EQ or harmonic distortion alone.
    No its not magic either lol.

    In solid state camp, I remember how output transistors were differentiated.
    Mosfets were regarded for their sweet treble tube like characteristics, while "bi-polar" transistors where considered dry, exact and powerful.
    So even solid state wasn't considered perfect.

    Now I read about opamps and it seems never ending which amp sounds best every year a new fancy untill you get to the very top there it narrows to less choices.

    Oh well just saying...

    Info taken from another post:
    Even order harmonics sound as musical chords (notably octaves), which subjectively makes the sound "richer". Odd order harmonics sound less pleasant. Aharmonic distortion is discordant and is often implicated in designs that sound "brash", "harsh", "brittle", etc. Push Pull amplifiers use two nominally identical gain devices "back to back". One consequence of this is that all even order harmonic products cancel, leaving the - subjectively less musical, less "rich" - odd order products to dominate. The total (measured) harmonic distortion content is lowered, but subjectively the design may sound worse. A push-pull amplifier is said to have a symmetric (odd symmetry) transfer characteristic, and accordingly produces only odd harmonics.
    (Reference - Wikipedia - Harmonic_content_and_distortion)
  6. StanD
    Many top flight tube amps have distortion levels below what a human can perceive, so in those cases it might not make any difference. Personally I prefer a pure clean that does not change the nature of what was recorded. Many feel differently, thankfully one has many choices of amps available.
  7. Maxx134
    Your absolutely Correct.
    I have also noticed same thing.
    The best tube setups don't really sound like tube or transistor,
    They simply sound realistic yet musical. .
    They having space and clarity without any dull bloom or other negative aspects associated with tubes.

    On the other side, there is history of past solid state to sound sterile and harsh, but I don't see that anymore especially with good equipment.
    What I noticed biggest improvement in sound for me is going balanced.

    I currently abandoned tubes for my headphone amp, but felt my dac could use a little help with it's treble tonality because it is a sabre based dac
  8. bigshot
    My solid state amp is audibly transparent too and it sounds realistic and musical. If they're transparent, all amps sound the same.
  9. StanD
  10. Maxx134

    Wow I just read two articles that blow the whole case open about tube superiority over solid state..

    So it seems I've been duped into thinking tubes are inferior because they flavor the sound, when the exact opposite true.

    Also it seems that it is not that tubes give a false impression of larger space,
    It is actually solid state that loses the sonic ambient cues that where there all along..

    Wow what a mind bend, like I have been in the matrix and just come out realising the truth...

    The truth will set you freeee!!::


    And this link:


    Happy Holidays
  11. StanD
    Good luck with that. If you want tubes just get them and be happy.
  12. castleofargh Contributor
    is it just me or is he pretty much saying that most AES people don't know what they're doing?
    "what is IMD? distortions can have several orders? what is this witchcraft?" said the AES guys...
  13. SilentFrequency
    I was in a store recently and noticed a Samsung "sound bar" speaker that goes under tv which had 2 small red glowing tubes in the middle of it and was being sold with the tube part advertised as major attribute.

    Bearing in mind that maybe the general average person probably doesn't even know what "tubes" are, I could totally see why Samsung had added tubes as a feature for this speaker as it visually just looked pretty cool but maybe novelty factor too.

    As for how it sounded, it was just ok but maybe it was not set up properly in the store anyway?

    ps I think this tube speaker also came with a separate sub woofer speaker that connected to it also :)
  14. SilentFrequency

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