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New to tube amps - why you? (Read 4024 times)
Steve Deckert
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If the 1st watt
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New to tube amps - why you?
11/17/10 at 00:57:25
 
Quote:
Hello Steve,


This email might be a bit incoherent because I know nothing about tube amplifiers. I don't know anything about solid state amplifiers either so here I go with a pinch of humor to make a point.

Since I know nothing, when I do have a conversation about tube audio equipment, I become confused and can't remember a conversation I had 5 minutes previously.

One gentlemen says, oh no, get an OTL, another guy says, you don't want an OTL, get a push pull with an output transformer. By this time my brain is fried and I forget about tube amps for about 9 years.

Someone told me to buy an Austrian made Ayon Orion. It looks nice why not? Too many tube amps, too much marketing in a 'buy words not substance' society, Do more searching and find you. He also said avoid auto-bias amplifiers because no one does it correctly and to do it correctly makes amplifier unnecessarily complex or perhaps unreliable? I never heard of tube biasing until someone from Manley Labs explained it to me and how do I know what they said is fact.

There are lots of very beautiful tube amps out there, you know this. I want more than looks.

My speakers are 2-way transmission line Buggtussel, stated 86 sensitivity. Company is no longer in business, too bad, because I wouldn't doubt he did it correctly.

I want to be able to listen to any kind of music, though mostly listen to music for one piano or possibly an additional cello, not classical, not popular, not mainstream, not ear piercing volume in a small  room with high ceiling. All unfinished wooden walls and ceiling. Don't need foam, need tube amp advice and perhaps a tube amp, integrated or equivalent?

Who do I believe to invest money in amplifier design. You want to sell amplifiers, so does everyone else. I don't want hassles, tubes blowing up, starting fires, the need for 4 gauge grounding wire attached to grids buried 30 feet below the surface with special salts for ground or any flavor of snake oil.

I presently am happy with a McIntosh solid state amplifier. With my loss of higher frequencies and chronic  tinnitus, things aren't bad, however, my curiosity gets wild occasionally and tube amps are very pretty.

I generally don't write because I prefer to hear someone's voice.

I appreciate any help you can provide.




Great e-mail btw,...  classic.  

Despite having to digest all the contradictory statements and research you seem to have the two right ideals in mind:  Good sound and reliable service.  That puts you well ahead of the previous call today that within minutes turned into a discussion about the brand of wire used inside the amp.  That guy is too distracted by the details to get the overall picture and will likely call me again in 6 years ready to buy.

With reference to choosing between all the different amplifier/companies out there in audio land...

In trying to weed the garden so you can see whats left that can be trusted as an incredible value - you can consider how many amplifiers you've looked at that are retailed in stores and mass produced ( or Chinese built ) against the ones that are hand built by the same gurus from start to finish.  (There is of course no comparison between a mass produced amplifier and a hand built one.)  Then just make sure the company making the hand built amps is well established and the head engineer can hear.

My first tube amp experience involved an amplifier with 8 output tubes and 60 watts per channel that had to be biased.  I found that tubes had to match as well, and they seldom ever did.  My routine started with turning the amp on and letting it warm up for 10 or 20 minutes and then get my meter out and try to bias it the same on all tubes.  Generally took another 20 minutes -  Then I would listen and after about 2 hours I would have to bias it again to get it perfect.  It was not unlike owning a pet that required constant attention and expense.   I only owned it for a year and then gave up.  Of course being a mass produced amp that I could afford it only sounded average at best which wasn't enough to justify the huge pain in the ass of operating it.

Interestingly enough, amplifiers that are self -biasing like ours, sound better too.  The fixed bias that you have to constantly set is popular because it gets about 20% more power from the amplifier.  I frankly could care less about that, only interested in the sound and reliability.

Our amplifiers come with a lifetime warranty because they don't break.  Tube life is long in our amps and the tubes are easy to find and affordable, not to mention you can always get original factory tubes from us.  They are simple to operate, painless in fact.  Just turn it on and enjoy.  All of them can be used stand alone, like an integrated, meaning you can simply hook your sources up to the amp and control the volume with the level control on the front.  

About your speakers; Kevin Blair's company fits my criteria for weeding the garden.  Ironically I see we have a similar design to his Amygdala's called the MG944.

To drive your speakers with a sense of effortless and ease our TORII MKIII is a sure shot.   However if you wanted to get your feet wet with some evening listening at a modest volume, try our SE84C+ amp out on our 30 day trial.  By the end of the trial if you liked the experience but want more power then the MKIII will be a risk free upgrade.  

It's prudent to note that we do not build amplifiers on a GOOD, BETTER, BEST marketing strategy.  Our lowest priced amp is the same quality and fidelity as our highest priced amp, the only differences are in power and each has a subtlety different spin on the signature of the sound.  


Anyway, you're certainly welcome to call me any time.

Thanks,




- Steve Deckert
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Pale Rider
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #1 - 06/19/11 at 18:38:43
 
This is a great exchange, and I came upon it this morning while wondering—after reading some tube reviews, in which the reviewers recounted multiple bias setting exercises—why don't more amp designers use self-biasing designs? Granted, in high-end audio, the opportunity to tweak endlessly appeals to many (if you have to get up to swap LP sides or discs, might as well re-set the bias), but I have been unable to find material that points to an auditory advantage to fixed bias (unlike the trade-off that good vinyl requires and is justified for many, i.e., cleaning, table adjustment and maintenance, cartridge issues, etc.). Anybody?
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Steve Deckert
Administrator
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If the 1st watt
sucks why continue?

Posts: 2389
Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #2 - 06/19/11 at 20:23:13
 
Fixed bias is more efficient than self-bias, not to mention adjustable.  It makes an amplifier have more power than it's self-biased equivalent at the expense of listenability.  Most designer's are overly worried about power.  They would have, for example, made the Zen TORII have a fixed bias and ultra-linear output transformers, run the voltage a lot higher, and had somewhere between a 40 and 60 watt per channel amplifier.  The Zen TORII is about 25 watts.  So you can see how strong the temptation would be to build the more powerful amplifier... must be why the overwhelming majority do it.

Steve

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Pale Rider
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #3 - 06/19/11 at 20:51:27
 
That makes sense Steve. And it certainly lines up with what I see out in the marketplace. Even in the low-power SET market, people obsess on watts.

Happy Father's Day!

Greg
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« Last Edit: 06/19/11 at 20:55:14 by Pale Rider »  

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Donnie
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #4 - 06/19/11 at 22:01:42
 
This reminds me of what my dad tought me a long time ago. You don't need any more tool than what it takes to get the job done. Everyone gets obsessed with the numbers and they don't take the time to actually figure out what they need to do the task at hand. When I tell people that my stereo puts out 25 watts per channel they tell me that their Sononkynon box system puts out 125 per and mine must be only 20% as good as theirs. I always say that they may be right, but mine makes me happy.
Again, my father told me that "All you have to do is beat them to the finish line, you don't have to lap 'em". I'm missing my Dad today. Happy Fathers day to all of you dads out there.
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #5 - 06/19/11 at 22:08:16
 
Thanks Donnie. Good advice from your dad. Reminds me of something my first father-in-law said to his son: "If you need a fancy car to get the girl, you're going about it all wrong."
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Donnie
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #6 - 06/19/11 at 22:51:18
 
Everyone here knows that you don't need a fancy car, you need a fancy stereo to get the girl.
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Re: New to tube amps - why you?
Reply #7 - 06/19/11 at 23:45:41
 
Grin
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