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Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure (Read 5758 times)
Fireblade
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Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
10/28/12 at 16:48:12
 
Hi all!  

Triggered by my mishap with the JJ EZ81, I'm about to embark in a relatively varied range tube-rolling in the Mini Torii.  Haven't done this ever, so I need some advice in relation to the procedure involved, to ensure I arrive to the proper conclusions after a rather large possible number of test combinations.

I need to test 2 different sets each of 6V6's (Tung Sol & Svetlana), a pair of RFT EZ80's, a pair of RFT EZ81's, a pair of Brimar 12aT7's, a pair of russian OC2's and a pair of Amperex DA3's.

I know (suspect) a single tube change may interact differently with the rest of the tubes, so the number of finite combinations is significant.

Complicating things even further, I need to be able to discern when a given combination under experiment is at a steady-state (settled in) condition in order for me to draw valid conclusions from that particular experiment set.

I don't know how you guys go about (I guess it involves experience over the long-run) selecting the different tube changing sequence, to ensure convergence into a rather convincing overall result in the end.

I've been made aware that the Brimar drivers have a particularly long break-in horizon.  This complicates things even further, as the drivers are an essential variable in any tube-rolling scheme.

If I were to start with the Brimar drivers, any other subsequent combination would have to wait a long time to be assessed.

Therefore, I was thinking on doing every other tube combination before dealing with the Brimars, in the end.  In other words, having selected the best possible tube set with the original drivers in place, use this same final result to test the Brimars.  

This way, even if the Brimars take a long time to settle in, at least once they do chances are this would become a definitive result (either Brimars or the original drivers would win), as the rest of the tubes would have been sorted out before.

Of course, the above proposal is not perfect, as theoretically one may find the Brimars may improve with some of the discarded combinations tested with the original drivers.  :-?  I could still do more testing after this final stage, just to make sure we rule out that possibility.

Am I complicating things here?  Am I making any sense? I just want to ensure finding what would be the virtually definitive tube set recipe for the Mini Torii in my own system.

I would also apreciate suggestions on the tube-type sequence to test (other than the Brimar's if you agreed with my earlier proposal), so that I can find the big changes early on.

Any corrections, suggestions and even funny remarks, are welcome.
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« Last Edit: 10/28/12 at 16:54:17 by Fireblade »  

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Donnie
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #1 - 10/28/12 at 19:14:56
 
I say just plug in something and enjoy the music.
Remember thet there is no such thing as perfection.
Good enough is good enough.
The downfall of man is too many choices.
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Lon
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #2 - 10/28/12 at 19:28:07
 
Donnie, that's sage advice.
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Fireblade
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #3 - 10/28/12 at 20:46:46
 
I understand how this may have conveyed a negative impression.   Smiley
But following a structured procedure to ensure better tube-rolling outcomes should not mean becoming obsessive.

I get the message, but I still need some pointers regarding best tube types' testing sequence.  Thanks for the advice.
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Donnie
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #4 - 10/28/12 at 21:08:54
 
Please don't think that my answer was anything but something I just threw out there.
What I mean is don't get too caught up in finding perfection, it ain't there. No such thing exisists.
All this hobby is about is listening to music. I know that there is a Holy Grail out there that we all are chasing. Something that sounds like live music. I've never heard anything that even comes close to what live music sounds like to ME.
Just plug something in that makes sound come out of your speakers and chill out. It is is what it is. Have fun.
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will
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #5 - 10/28/12 at 23:26:02
 
Quote:
need to test 2 different sets each of 6V6's (Tung Sol & Svetlana), a pair of RFT EZ80's, a pair of RFT EZ81's, a pair of Brimar 12aT7's, a pair of russian OC2's and a pair of Amperex DA3's.


FB,

The thing is to get a sense of each tube's sound over time. Even then, it will sound different depending on what it is with, sometimes being sublime, and others not even so good. So don't rule anything out until you have them all burned in and have played with synergy. Even a least favorite can be a great tuning tool if its character fits the set you have in.

And burn in can be a big deal, or more subtle depending on the tube...but if these are all true NOS tubes, they will all  take time to burn in. So Donnie's thought is not bad advice. You could just play around, one tube at a time...get a sense of it, and have fun.

But you have a lot of options all the sudden, and you have to be able to enjoy the sound.....waiting out burnin can be a drag if your sound is not what you like. So I might be a little more systematic at first, compensating for slight issues with one tube by adjusting with other tube(s).

If your Amperex OA3 is like mine, it will change a fair bit over the first 50 or more hours, slowly opening up. Even some OC2s can take time. Usually the obvious parts of the break in will go from dense with unresolved low-mid/bass to opener and more spacious for darker tubes, and from brittle and hard to smoother/ richer for brighter tubes. Actually, they will all act out both of these, but the more obvious stuff could be useful to know. My power tubes, EL34 tend to take the longest in my amp, especially the warmer ones. Seems like rectifiers and inputs are a little variable, but most of your non-power tubes might be somewhat ironed out in 50 or so hours...unless you are lucky and they are a little used!!!

Where to start...Obviously you need to get some rectifiers in there. So I would start with your favorite of those. Try one with your normal tubes, letting it get good and warmed up before evaluting, and then try the other. Then leave the fav in for a while to burn in...

I almost always end up playing with bass and treble on the torii with tube changes...sometimes a fair bit....that last refinement that could make a tube that sounds not-so good, sound great.

The 12AT7 likely will be a bigger change than any if you were using 12AU7s. It will punch things up. So it might be worth checking out next.

The Russian OA3s are typically very clear sounding....If this is true with the OC2, this will give another sound option for brightening/clarifying if this is appropriate to what you want with the other tubes.

This might be a good option when you check out the power tubes....if you like one or the other, but it is too heavy, play with the OC2s, OA3s, or rectifiers to open it up. Or just hang with your current power tubes for a while...

The main thing is to get to know your tubes and in time, you may well use all of them in different arrangements. And if yo are like me, this will be an organic process. I have no idea of my favorite tue sets...It is just the one that is in there. And I think it is fun to change things up discovering new synergy I did not know i had!

By the way...I have been pretty close to the holy grail by my tastes for quite a while...the cool thing is that I can vary it with tubes, caps and/or cable changes! The grail is flexible in my system/room.

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« Last Edit: 10/28/12 at 23:32:10 by will »  

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Lon
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #6 - 10/29/12 at 01:02:22
 
David, both will and Donnie are giving you good advice, and showing that you should find your own way.

The thing that took me a while to grasp is as Donnie points out there are no absolutes, different tubes of different brands and types in different circuits and different systems are going to sound a bit different, and the only "perfect" sound is the one that pleases you.

I go a bit batty in all these uncertainties and burn in times and subtle differences and I over the last two decades have developed this system: I find an input tube that really works for me and most of the material I listen to using mostly stock tubes otherwise. Then I find the rectifier that works best with that input tube. That's my "anchor." From there over time I'll experiment with power tubes and if the component has them voltage regulation tubes. When I get to a combination that really works for me, I generally stop for a long time and just listen.

There's no right or wrong way, I think you'll find your path slowly and surely. I recommend slowly and surely as a good methodology. Oddly enough in the case of the Torii and the CSP2+ that are the Decware amps in use in my main system I've found Steve's supplied tube types to be the ones I've decided on. I've moved to different brands in most tube positions, but kept the tube types as shipped, which I believe are the "designed" tubes in these cases.

After I find the input tube to "anchor" I find that the biggest differences can be found by rolling rectifiers. When I hit one I like I generally stop because I'm really not crazy about tube rolling once I find a set I like.
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Fireblade
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #7 - 10/29/12 at 02:34:09
 
Will and Lon,

Just to clarify: The Amperex regulator is an OD3 not an OA3 (the stock regulator in the Mini is an OA3.)  Also, all these intended tubes are current production, not NOS.

In addition, I have never implied (nor imagined it existed), a perfect tube-rolling system or an absolute perfect set of tubes.  I was just aiming at some systematic approach to accomplish the objective in the best possible manner given the high level of combined uncertainties involved.  This is called a 'procedure,' and we apply this notion tacitly to most activities in our lives to help us cope with interactive or complex tasks.

I understand your points, and the key obviously is 'time.' The best approach would be to try one at a time, for long periods of time, or something along those lines.  Will, I agree with you, in the end some trial-and-error will help me find my own way around this rolling process.

Yes, the rectifiers need go first, and I will try them with the stock tubes, first the RFT EZ81 (same specs as stock) then the lower current RFT EZ80.  Next would be the Brimar 12aT7 with the stock tubes and RFT EZ81, then with the RFT EZ80.

Eventually, I will try the output tubes, one at a time, following this same routine, and finally the voltage regulators.  Considering the in-series break-in periods involved, this will take forever and a day (to quote Les  :) ), but should be fun and worth it.

Lon, you're right: Anchoring with drivers makes sense to me too.  I just need to start with rectifiers, for obvious reasons, but those are next, as described earlier.  I also intuitively follow your sequence hierarchies by tube type.

I think now I get the big picture.  It was a little fuzzy for me before this discussion.  I thank you both for the orientation.   Smiley
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« Last Edit: 10/29/12 at 02:39:43 by Fireblade »  

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Lord Soth
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #8 - 10/29/12 at 03:23:41
 
Here's the "procedure" I use for tube rolling NOS tubes in tube amps.

1. Burn in
24 hrs burn in heater filament only
Followed by
24 hrs burn in with audio signal eg Hagerman's fry baby

50 hrs + burn in will help settle down most valves.
You will get the main sonic signature that way.
Any further sonic refinements shouldn't affect your final choice that much.

2. Input tubes

According to Kevin deal of Upscale Audio, the input tubes have the greatest influence on your sonic signature.

I agree with this from experience.

3. Rectifiers

These affect the operating voltage/ current of all your tubes including input tubes.

So I agree that you need to "lock in" your rectifiers and input tubes.

4. Keep an open mind
Tube synergy is a real concept.

And have fun:)

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will
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #9 - 10/29/12 at 03:28:09
 
Sorry Lord...crossed in the ethers...

FB, Every tube effects the whole sound. You might enjoy looking at how this works. If I have it right it is like this:

The Rectifier is first, turning the transformer power to DC to power the rest of the tubes. Big player.

The OC2 regulates and effects the sound of the input tube, both by voltage and filtering through the VR.

The input tube then goes through coupling caps to the power tubes...setting up the sound the power tubes have to work with.

The OA3/OB3/OC3/OD3 regulate/filter the Power tubes, again effecting the sound of the power tubes...giving different power to the power tubes and filtering the electricity with their own signature.

Then the power tubes receive input from all of the above, AND impart their own sound signature as well.

So it is a matrix of directional interactions...

No tube is in isolation from the others. Playing with this is how subtle magnificence can be found with just the right synergy for your tastes.

You can see that changing any tube will change the whole....then the "anchor" we arrive at (if we arrive at one) we formulate for ourselves based on own comfort level, desires and personal exploration.

For me, I seem to leave the Power tubes alone mostly, and I almost never change the OC2s..but that is about it. I have a number of inputs I really love for different reasons, and they all can have beautiful synergy, so there is no "anchor" there for me. Then...changing the input, since they all have different characters and tonal balance, almost always sets up the desire for playing with the power VR or the rectifier, or both...tuning the bass/density/brightness/warmth/texture to bring out the best of the input...

So I am glad you have and OD3 to play with...It is likely to lean down the sound a fair bit over the OA3 and give you a good sense of what can be done with the OB3 and OC3 who's voltage is between these two. The slight variation in your Rectifiers might be a great tool too for tuning a tube set....one perhaps a bit bigger and pushier and one a little more low key all else being equal (unlikely).

As Lon says...you will find your own way. I just hope it is fun!

Wow, I did not know Brinmar, RFT or Amperex were still making tubes....



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« Last Edit: 10/29/12 at 03:30:05 by will »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #10 - 10/29/12 at 12:25:37
 
Lord Soth,

I like your methodology, makes sense.  When you say 'burn in heater filament only' (first 24 hrs), you mean having the amp on without any playing, correct?  

Thanks for sharing this.

Will,

Got it.  Nice description.  Earlier I said all these tubes were new production.  I meant all of them are NOS, except the re-issues Tung Sol 6V6's.  Sorry!

Thanks for the tips.  This whole process sounds exciting, like looking for a hidden treasure  ...   Smiley  Now I need to wait for this set to get here and start my adventure.

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Lon
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #11 - 10/29/12 at 14:45:20
 
David,

In your shoes I would definitely consider rolling a 12AU7 tube. In every Decware component where I could use a 12AT7, I've never preferred its signature and sound to a 12AU7 in the same component. Could be just a personal thing, but it could be a shared thing too. Smiley
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Lord Soth
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #12 - 10/29/12 at 15:25:41
 
Hi FB

Yes. I tube condition my NOS tubes by 1st leaving it in the tube amp for 24 hrs straight without any audio input.

The next 24 hrs then has audio input to exercise the tube grids.

BTW, I learnt this method of tube conditioning from a tube veteran who worked at the famous Western Electric tube company. This is his recommended method.
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Fireblade
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #13 - 10/29/12 at 15:31:39
 
Lon,

Right.  For some reason, Steve included the 6N1P-Ev (this last connotation refers to the heavy-duty military version of the 6N1P), as a stock driver in my Mini Torii, instead of the original 12AU7.

I've read literature about differences, and they are not even that close, at least not interchangeable, normally (funny).  For one thing, the 6N1P draws more heater current than the 12AU7.

I also came across this reference post from another forum (audiocircle) about the 12AU7:

"I don't mean to be combatitive, but the 12au7 is one of the highest distortion tubes in extant (and not just pleasing low order, but substantial high order distortion as well), at least amongst those used in audio, while the 6N1P is quite linear (low distortion).   All the reports I've read about the Chinese 6N1Ps haven't been kind in terms of reliability while the soviet era 6N1P-ev's are suppose to be bullet proof"

Now this may be an extreme position, but maybe there's some reason behind Steve's decision of replacing the 12AU7 in the Mini.  I was surprised when I realized my Mini had the 6N1P (upon receiving it) instead of the 12AU7, since Steve had suggested to first try the 12AU7 in the Mini due to its lower gains.

The reason why I'll be trying the 12AT7 this time around is because Les Lammers has had a good experience in his Mini with the NOS Brimars.  On the other hand, you may be right, as these things are so subjective.

I may eventually also try the 12AU7, but not for now.  There are many possible combinations and such limited resources.   Smiley  Thanks for the tip, I'll keep it in mind.
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« Last Edit: 10/29/12 at 15:36:12 by Fireblade »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Converging Tube-Rolling Procedure
Reply #14 - 10/29/12 at 15:44:22
 
Hi! Lord Soth:

I see, that's what I thought.  Also, good to have the tube veteran's endorsement.  

I have the Esoteric Isotek Full System Enhancer & Rejuvenation Disc, that I could leave on for the second 24 hrs stage, to 'exercise' the grids (as you put it).  It is supposed to be also good for the speakers when these have not been in use for a while (go figure).

Thanks again!



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