Tube Noob questions

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Skilly

Tube Noob questions
« on: 5 Jun 2021, 05:31 pm »
I am embarrassed to ask. Just stating the questions reveals my ignorance. My life experience is 100% solid state. That said, Here I go:

Tube amps vs. Tube Pre-amp: What are the difference one might experience with each? I understand, conceptually, the benefits of Tubes in the Amp, but is a similar impact imparted by the Pre-amp? If one has tubes in the amp, are they beneficial in the pre-amp? Does one want/ need tubes in both?  Are tubes more or less significant in the Pre-amp vs. the amp? Are the affects enhanced by having tubes in both? Is it more important to have them in one of the other?

Do speakers "match" with tube reproduction in some manner? Are some Speakers better at capturing the tube experience?

These are a good start to my education, however, can one really understand these differences without listening to them oneself?

I appreciate the input.
Scott 

Tyson

Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #1 on: 5 Jun 2021, 06:04 pm »
IME, tube amps do better with speakers that are relatively efficient and have a smooth impedance preferably 8 ohms or higher.

Tube preamps are maybe a better place to start for a newb because they give you that tube flavor without having to worry about speaker matching.

FullRangeMan

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #2 on: 6 Jun 2021, 12:09 am »
Do speakers "match" with tube reproduction in some manner? Are some Speakers better at capturing the tube experience? 
Full Range drivers direct connected to the amp are the speakers that more show sinergy with tube amps, speakers with xovers and boxed enclosure are a distant second place.

rotarius

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #3 on: 6 Jun 2021, 01:49 am »
I would say it depends on your music taste.  Tubes do soften up the bass so if you like bass heavy or punchy stuff, stick to SS amps.  As mentioned earlier, start with a nice tube preamp, my preferred tube is 6sn7 for preamps.

mick wolfe

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #4 on: 6 Jun 2021, 04:19 pm »
IME, tube amps do better with speakers that are relatively efficient and have a smooth impedance preferably 8 ohms or higher.

Tube preamps are maybe a better place to start for a newb because they give you that tube flavor without having to worry about speaker matching.

Tyson is spot on in regard to amplifiers. Tube amps shine with speakers that have benign impedance curves that stay above 4-6 ohms.(and yes, higher efficiency would complete the perfect package) If your current speaker is less efficient with an impedance curve that's somewhat erratic dipping below 4 ohms on occasion, solid state is a normally a better choice. So initially, your current speaker will dictate the best choice in amplification. Either way, nothing wrong with a tube pre-amp experiment even if your current speaker is best suited for solid state.

Skilly

Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #5 on: 6 Jun 2021, 07:36 pm »
Thanks for the tips. There is some great guidance here. I am feeling like my questions were a reasonable place to start.

My speakers are GR Res X-LS Encores without a sub-woofer. There bass is decent but not outstanding. Is it possible that I might lose a significant sense of bass with a tube pre-amp? By using the valve pre-amp with a SS amp, should that balance out a loss of bass?

I have not seen a response about the use of tubes in both stages?  Would that be because it is a non-issue?

mick wolfe

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #6 on: 6 Jun 2021, 09:12 pm »
That speaker looks tube friendly on paper anyway. A lot will depend on room size and how loud you listen. Under normal circumstances you should be fine with all tube amplification. A tube amp in the 40-60 watt range should work quite well.

Tyson

Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #7 on: 6 Jun 2021, 09:19 pm »
Your speakers would be fine with a tube amp, especially a push-pull variety (they usually have 4 output tubes). 

I run a tube preamp and a tube amp (and a tube DAC too!).  Clearly I love how tubes sound.  To me they give up a bit of the percussive quality that SS gear excels at, but in exchange you get a whole lot better tone and more organic presentation of the music. 

ASMAN

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #8 on: 10 Jun 2021, 02:33 pm »
I think you get the best of both worlds either by running a tube pre to SS amp or like I do bi-amp using my tube integrated amp for the highs and mids and use the output to drive a SS amp for the bottom end.
If I were to upgrade I would go tube pre to SS amplification.

opnly bafld

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #9 on: 10 Jun 2021, 08:07 pm »
Best of both worlds is tube amplifier for you speakers and solid state amplifier(s) for your subwoofers.

speltz

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #10 on: 16 Jul 2021, 09:02 pm »
Like you, I’ve always had a solid state setup but I recently purchased a tube preamp. I love it!

Solid state gear tends to sound glassy in the treble and it’s fatiguing on the ears after a little while.

Solid state tends to be more detailed so instruments are more precisely positioned in the soundstage. Tube amps have a more holistic presentation. Both are appealing in their way but the holistic/coherent presentation is perhaps more musical.

If you go for a tube power amp it may require a lot more tubes because more amplification is required than in a preamp. More tubes means more heat — and tubes are expensive, so more tubes means increased costs, too.

If your speakers are sensitive enough that you don’t need high wattage, you might get by with fewer tubes in your power amp. But personally, the tube preamp and solid state power amp strikes me as a good arrangement.

/mp

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #11 on: 17 Jul 2021, 04:35 pm »
I am embarrassed to ask. Just stating the questions reveals my ignorance. My life experience is 100% solid state. That said, Here I go:

Tube amps vs. Tube Pre-amp: What are the difference one might experience with each? I understand, conceptually, the benefits of Tubes in the Amp, but is a similar impact imparted by the Pre-amp? If one has tubes in the amp, are they beneficial in the pre-amp? Does one want/ need tubes in both?  Are tubes more or less significant in the Pre-amp vs. the amp? Are the affects enhanced by having tubes in both? Is it more important to have them in one of the other?

Do speakers "match" with tube reproduction in some manner? Are some Speakers better at capturing the tube experience?

These are a good start to my education, however, can one really understand these differences without listening to them oneself?

I appreciate the input.
Scott

There are no dumb questions. Sometimes, there are dumb answers.

The short answer is it depends.

One may make accurate generalizations; however, remain cognizant they're generalizations. The devils in the details or, if you prefer, theory and reality do not always map 1:1. Design & execution details are independent variables from tube vs. solid state. Bob Carver and Tim de Paravicini, both folks positioned to know, claimed they could make either tube or solid state amps sound like what we broadly call tube or SS sounding-like amps.  Both Music Reference and EAR amps--two brand which come to mind--have 2 ohm output taps. A pair of EAR 509 tube amps have no difficulty powering a pair of Martin Logan Quests. Speakers whose impedance dips to 0.7 ohms IIRC.  (One should add in the interest of pedantic accuracy the caveat their 100 w/ch are insufficient in a baronial hall. That's an artifact of the playback environment. A 100w SS amp would have the same problem.) Other variables include (again, generalization) the differences between triode, tetrode vs. pentode tubes, single ended  vs. push-pull & operating class.

On a cost basis, I believe it's fair to say one gets more tube magic(tm) with a tube pre-amp & SS amp than visa-versa. As always YMMV.

There's no substitute for first hand experience. Visit what remains of the brick & mortar dealership industry, trade shows, friends of friends, etc. Hear for yourself. They will largely be apples to oranges comparisons since the largest difference makers are room, & electro-mechanical transducers (speakers, phono cartridges & microphones) IMHO. The differences between SS & tube, however great, are smaller than the difference between different speakers or the same speakers in different rooms.

I hope this helps raise more pertinent questions than it muddies the waters.
Happy listening,

Addendum: There are also tube hybrid amplifiers which use SS & vacuum tubes in different stages within the amp.
« Last Edit: 18 Jul 2021, 04:12 pm by /mp »

speltz

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Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #12 on: 19 Jul 2021, 08:24 pm »
One may make accurate generalizations; however, remain cognizant they're generalizations. The devils in the details or, if you prefer, theory and reality do not always map 1:1.
Good advice in general!  :lol:

Quote
On a cost basis, I believe it's fair to say one gets more tube magic(tm) with a tube pre-amp & SS amp than visa-versa. As always YMMV.”

What do you think of a tube phono stage feeding a tube preamp (which then feeds a ss power amp)? Do two consecutive tube stages constitute too much of a good thing?

Tyson

Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #13 on: 19 Jul 2021, 08:27 pm »
Buy a good quality used tube gear, then you can sell it without a loss if you don’t like it in your system.

twitch54

Re: Tube Noob questions
« Reply #14 on: 19 Jul 2021, 08:54 pm »


What do you think of a tube phono stage feeding a tube preamp (which then feeds a ss power amp)?

I like mine .......... Fosgate Signature phono-pre > Audio Research LS28 > Pass X260.8 mono blocks.

Quote
Do two consecutive tube stages constitute too much of a good thing?

not for me !