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Tube Rollin (Read 6267 times)
patshrews
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Tube Rollin
12/31/14 at 20:31:03
 
Hi Everyone,

I'm looking to roll some tubes, and wanted the biggest bang for the buck. I have all stock tubes except for a pair of Super Cryo Golden Lion 6922's.
It has Tung Sol kt66's as well.

Thanks,

Pat
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Lon
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #1 - 12/31/14 at 20:53:42
 
Pat, regulator and rectifier tubes will bring you big bang for little bucks comparatively speaking. I recommend trying other OC2 (or OA2 or OB2) tubes, they're generally cheap for matched pairs. And a different brand of OA3 (or OB3, OC3. . . some even like the super lean sound of OD3) tubes can reap interesting sonic changes. Also rectifier tubes can have a big impact. . . I use old RCA 5V4 tubes in one of my Mk IIIs, and new Valve Art 274B in the other and each has its merits.
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patshrews
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #2 - 12/31/14 at 21:08:08
 
thanks Lon!
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #3 - 01/01/15 at 01:14:09
 
Pat,

Did you read over this thread: https://www.decware.com/cgi-bin/yabb22/YaBB.pl?num=1384627106/0

I find the MKIV to be exceptional for tube rolling once fully burned in…a tube rollers dream. Finally it is best to have a selection of each type to mix and match if you really want to get refined to your personal space and tastes, but you can get nice changes with just one tube type if you are lucky. Did the Gold Lion 6922s help?

Also, it all depends on where you want your sound to go. If you follow up with some things you would like to change I could be more specific.

And it is system and taste dependent, but there are characteristic qualities of tubes that read across systems.

I have tried many tubes in my MKIV (perhaps more than anyone on earth) and have some that I consistently fall back on in this system and room.

I agree with Lon, you can get a lot from VRs.

The O_2s affect the inputs, and O_3s the power tubes. If you need to lean/open the sound, one or both can be changed. If you need to do a lot due to excess bass/darkness, you can chill both, replacing the OC2 with OB2 as well as changing the OA3s to OB3s. Alternately leave the OC2s and put in OC3s, or as Lon says, OD3s for the most leaning from the big VRs. There is a lot you can do with these tubes if you need to open the sound, but you will get different tonal qualities from different brands of the same value tubes if your tone has good balance.

In the OC2 line, I have been using some European 75C1s, and they are really nice...open, textured and a bit warm. Quite similar but perhaps a little bigger sounding are Mullard OC2s, but are hard to get. Also, if yours came with Russian OC2s, Raytheons or RCAs will offer some difference, the Raytheons a bit bigger and more warm, the RCAs open like the Russians, but more solid and bigger sounding.

I am glad Lon mentioned OB2s. I found OB2s too lean when I explored them in my MKIII, but in the MKIV, I just put in some RCAs and they create a nice spacious opening of the sound, but still revealing attack and dynamics nicely. With this particular tube set they sound more delicate and open without sounding lean, having a very nice "live" sound. But I am running Genalex KT66 which have a tonal density without sounding dense overall, and Miniwatt PCC88s which  are a bit more warm and tonally dense for this tube type. Both are a nice compliment for the slightly leaner OB2. With these tubes the OB2 is more subtle in the MKIV circuit than in the MKIII. Very nice for opening up the system if needed.

For the big VRs I use OB3s, alway liking them better than OA3s. They open the sound just enough to cut density and reveal articulation and nuance. The 40s OB3s are more solid and big sounding (my current fav), and the 50s are a bit more warm and textured (my fav in the MKIII). If you have notably too much bass with the stock OA3s, Hytron OC3s are really nice tubes for opening and leaning without sounding thin.

Valve Art KT66 is a pretty inexpensive way to try other power tubes. I like them a lot from Antique Electronic Supply. Ask for higher lp if you get some. They sound open like the TSols, but without the slightly flat/warm veil of the Tungsols. They are nicely extended and transparent with nice body. Then the cryo'd Genalex KT66…more money, but they keep pulling me back in. Really nice tubes for a solid foundation in the MKIV. More body, power and tonal density, but still very nicely articulated and nuanced. For the money, the Valve Arts are very nice though….when I put either in I like them better. These two tubes represent remakes of the two variations of legendary NOS KT66.

The Rectifiers effect everything providing the DC, making them pretty great for modifying the sound.

NOS 40s-50s RCA 5U4G-STs are an old fav and can be gotten relatively inexpensively if you take your time on Ebay. In case you have not spent time there, always go for good measurements and look carefully at the pictures to see that they are in fact the same construction..getters the same shape and size and in the same configuration, the same glass and mica arrangements etc. This holds true for all tubes. It does matter. You can contact sellers if there is question too. The RCAs cover the same territory as Ruby's, but they tend to do it in a much more facile way, drawing out more natural body, subtlety, smoothness, inner detail and micro detail if your system is revealing.

My fav 5V4G/GZ32 is Mazda. It is a bit more solid, big and revealing than the RCAs I have, particularly in the mids, but generally less easy to find inexpensively.

For inputs, though the MKIV does 6922s exceptionally, I almost always end up with 7DJ8/PCC88s. They are all a little different, but they tend to bring out more fine detail and openness without sounding hard or brash, also having nice texture. I love the early 60s Miniwatt PCC88s (made by Amperex Holland) I found on ebay for good prices. I have a lot I can get to sound great with the right tube compliments though. These tubes are getting more popular, and more sellers are asking higher prices, but if you look, you can still get nice NOS pairs pretty inexpensively, still much cheaper than 6922/E88CCs.


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patshrews
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #4 - 01/01/15 at 02:01:12
 
Hi Will,
I did look through that thread several times. The Gold Lion 6692's opened up sound a lot. I don't know how much better the sound can get. So I want to try the VR's and Rectofiers next. Thanks for the advice!

Pat
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #5 - 01/01/15 at 02:39:33
 
Yes, have fun. It can be a labyrinth but also it can be very rewarding. At some point I had enough variations of each tube type that I could get great sound from many tube combinations. Now it is is just really fun to change things up now and then. It makes the system alive, refreshing the music in exciting ways. Also, as I go forward, I am constantly amazed by how the beauty can be taken further. I felt like my system/room was almost eerily real and beautiful years ago, and it was. But now it is well beyond that, though the descriptors are still the same.
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norolex
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #6 - 11/06/19 at 01:02:21
 
Has anyone ever tried 0E3s? I was looking around for a Brimar 0A3 when I came across a pair of Amperex metal base 0E3s -
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #7 - 11/06/19 at 01:31:09
 
Hey norolex,

I am thinking not. If it is electronically compatible, looking at the OE3 tubes I could find on eBay, it seems OE3 have a different connection/pin arrangement than OA3, OB3, OC3, and OD3s.
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norolex
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #8 - 11/06/19 at 17:53:40
 
thanks Will,
I was noticing that as well.
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #9 - 11/06/19 at 19:42:22
 
Sure, no problem norolex. Seems to me that an OD3, sound-wise, is a pretty substantial change in general from Steve's voicing choice of an OA3 (on my Toriis anyway). With OB3 and OC3 in the middle, to me anyway, these four cover a lot of tuning potential with the big VRs. I have used OB3 and OC3 so long, mostly OB3, that I almost never find going back to OA3 or OD3 useful here. Nice things happen with OD3 and OA3, but also some balance or saturation issues for me. Maybe different ones, but it seems that there are going to be two of the four that are most optimal sounding in a given setting all things considered. So  I am thinking an OE3, if it did work, might be too far off the design voicing in most cases anyway.

But if one were using OD3, and still needed opening clarification, assuming the amp has two VRs, one could adjust the other VR as well.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #10 - 11/06/19 at 21:15:05
 
I too think 0E3 would likely be unsuitable in the amp(s). I am using 0B3, keep coming back to either that or 0D3W. I can't use 0C3 at all, thin and brittle. I get much more bass out of 0D3 types, and an open and clear tonal balance and sonic picture--with the right complement these are excellent tubes. But my DAC has a new operating firmware that has further moved noise and jitter away and the 0D3 types are now too much of a revealing thing and there's a trusted old pair of Arcturus 0B3 that are just right.

It's fun and informative to roll these tubes!
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ginny
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #11 - 11/26/19 at 22:27:53
 
Seeking advice...

current tube arrangement in my Tori MKlV:
VR: one NOS OA3 &  OC2 per ch.
Rectifier: one 5U4 per ch
Input: one 6922 per ch
Output: currently using Cryo treated Gold Lion KT66

Listening room is quite large with cathedral ceiling (which I am sure is a negative), hardwood floor with 9' x 13' area carpet remnant.  Speakers are placed on the carpet using the stock spikes to try to get a little more of the hardwood floor effect. Speakers are also 20" from back wall and spaced about 7.5 feet apart.

I would love to lose the carpet remnant but that is not an option.

What I hear is just a little dark on the high end  ie, could stand to be a little more crisp, specifically the detail in the vocals and cymbals which seem to be lacking just a bit.

I do plan to buy a quad of EL34 to take advantage of the Hazen Grid feature to see if that helps and would love advice in that area as well as any of the other tubes/manufacturer.

Thanks in advance
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Lon
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #12 - 11/26/19 at 22:53:59
 
You haven't mentioned the brands you are using for the 6922 or the 5U4. . . . I would recommend trying a TAD 6922 or a Telefunken (new reissue) 6922--these are brighter and livelier tubes than you may be using. And possibly trying out the Valve Art 274B that Steve was supplying with amplifiers for a while, that is a big and bold and lively sounding tube. . . .
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ginny
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #13 - 11/26/19 at 23:08:04
 
thanks for the reply Lon.

All tubes mentioned were shipped with the amp except the power tubes.

I could try to get more info from the actual tubes....
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ginny
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #14 - 11/27/19 at 02:46:17
 
Lon,
Sylvania OA3
Raytheon OC2
Rectifier 5U4 has no markings
Input 6922 has no markings
Output Gold Lion KT66
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #15 - 11/27/19 at 02:55:58
 
Ginny,

EDIT, sorry you responded to tube types as I was writing.

Sounds like your system/room is balancing toward bass, a thickish darkness masking mids and highs? Every tube can effect this. If you look at your 6922s and 5U4Gs and try to let us know what the markings on them are, it might help. The rectifiers might be Shuguang...brown base and coke bottle shape? And the inputs could be a 6N1Ps, 6N5Ps, both with Russian lettering, or at some point Steve was shipping Electro Harmonics 6922...hard to guess. If you can tell us more we can perhaps help more since each tube type has characteristics, but can vary widely within that.

Gold Lion KT66 are definitely big/warm tubes that are likely contributing. EL34s are quite variable, but most will bring out a bit more mid/top information than your Gold Lions, though they may muddle the bass a bit compared to KT66s generally...

If you like everything else, but would rather shift it a little toward more open, the balance more into the mids and highs, an OB3 in place of OA3 occurs to me first. Or OB2 in place of OC2. The former will tone down the power tubes a bit reducing heaviness/darkness there, and the latter will tone down the input tubes a bit, reducing darkness and thickness there...both effecting everything else in relative subtle, but meaningful ways. Changing both is an option too if needed, and VRs, by comparison are pretty cheap and good to have around for fine tuning. You can go further with VRs, but this might be a good test.
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ginny
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #16 - 11/28/19 at 15:27:46
 
5U4 Rectifier Is a coke bottle shape and has a star on the face, and in the star is 5Z3P. Under the star is 74 and a Roman numeral 2. The base is dark brown and on its face is a circle with a J inside.

The 6922 Input tube on its face has a 6H5 followed by what looks like an upside down U only squared. Second line underneath is 87 followed by a symbol that starts with a dot then a line that goes up then around to the left then down to form a u followed by 07.

I guess it would help if I knew how to post pics, but this is the best I can do.  ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to all...
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Lon
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #17 - 11/28/19 at 16:47:51
 
Looks to me as if you have a Russian rectifier and a Russian 6NP5 input tube. Unless you are having overwhelming bass, and if you just think you are getting a darker tonality than you like, I think my recommendations in the tread above may be helpful. And if you are getting more bass than you like, Will's suggestions for alternate regulation tubes are spot on.

I would try a different input tube or rectifier first, one or the other, and see how that changes things. . . .
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #18 - 11/28/19 at 17:59:29
 
Yes it is tricky...all so system dependent. Lon makes a good point, looking for other indicators beyond thickness, darkness and rolloff.

For me, when on the edge, it is often difficult to discern bass qualities, room often doing pretty bad and confusing things...like certain resonant modes holding up so well they thicken/darken/mask the sound in general, making it more difficult to identify too much or too little. Too much of those frequencies for sure, but too much bass...maybe, maybe not. Sometimes thickness and muddle can make it seem like too little bass due to masked articulation.. In that case, opening it up can make it seem more bassy, reducing thickness and allowing more articulation to get through, more "hit."

But I agree, bass can be a good indicator for VR changes. However, depending on everything else, I experience a wildcard here. With over-powered VRs (for my setting) I do not necessarily get overwhelming bass the way my system is tuned. An equally important VR read for me is too much density, force, hardness, and thickness. If the sound is overly dense/thick, it pushes everything harder, often exacerbating bass/mid/bass issues, but also making the mids and highs too heavy/dense. In this case, leaning it down can solve bass thickness and balance toward bass, but also, in general, will cause the middle and top to have more presence and feel more relaxed. Making it more difficult, you can tone things up or down a bit with any tube type, but VRs are a great tuning tool for the whole...if it is too lean, or too big/dense/thick, but otherwise nice, they are nice tools.

I think the Shuguang 5Z3P is a 5U4G equivalent. I have tried 5U4G labelled tubes from Shuguang, and they are OK, but in terms of refinement, there are nicer tubes. The thing is, as 5U4G types go, this one is not comparatively dark in my experience. But you can go more articulate, cleaner and faster with different rectifiers altogether.

I used Euro GZ32s for years, and loved them. They have gotten costly though, so a risk, but I find them faster, less weighted toward bass, and more articulate than 5U4G types, with nice clean tops. 5V4GA types are electronically similar, usually a little less refined sounding than Euro GZ32 types, clean and pretty fast though, in some settings with some of the tube types, too clean. They are often pretty inexpensive though, so may be worth a try. I did not see many choices on eBay today for fat bottles but these looked interesting to me https://www.ebay.com/itm/Tightly-Matched-Pair-5V4GA-GE-NOS-NIB-Vacuum-Tubes-will...

There are a lot fo 5V4G RCA coke bottles out there. I think I recall Lon liking a particular vintage of these for a while. I found the one pair I tried a little sluggish and warm for me, but this does not mean my RCAs are as good as other vintages of the same tube necessarily, or that we are not responding to our system complexes more than the individual tubes.

Similarly with 6N5P, generally a pretty nice 6922s....pretty good balance, lively and a little warm, but I would not necessarily say dark or dull per se in my limited experience with them. I have not heard the TAD or new Telefunkens Lon recommends, but trust what Lon hears.

To add a bit, 6922s are generally the most powerful/forceful of the type. So again, the density/forceful question comes up. If your sound is too in your face, a signal too powerful could be a player in the dark balance with a feeling of rolloff you are getting...like an OA3 compared to a similarly toned and lower key OB3, a 6922 is strong in general compared to gentler alternatives like a 6DJ8/ECC88, or ECC189. These could chill things down a bit and likely bring up more space, texture and fine detail. Also 7DJ8/PCC88 types, and PCC189, in general they tend to move you more toward open and clearer.

Then there is a the labyrinth of power tubes!!!!! I have been liking 6L6 types for some years, 807s specifically. In that vein, something like newly made Tungsol 7027A or Tungsol 7521As are not real distant from your Gold Lions, but have a different feel. With a quick test, they seemed powerful/big, faster and more articulate in most of the spectrum, to me more balanced with less mid/upper mid focus, and better articulation down low especially. Having good extension, they seem a bit warm/wet, but with good space and fine detail. Also KT77s tend to notably punchy and fast, and also open/clean and extended.

One thing to consider in all this to me, is that if you plan on keeping your Torii, it can be fun to slowly gather a variety of tubes to tune with. Each tube is different within its type, and each type has characteristic qualities. Also, each effects the others in its individual ways, and the rest of the set is equally influential on how an individual tube sounds. So there are lots of ways to subtly or more powerfully tune with tubes. For me, occasional fine-tuning within a given set of tonal parameters can produce a lot of variety that can be compelling...changing things up nicely for hearing music "new" again.
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ginny
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #19 - 12/01/19 at 14:23:46
 
Thank you Lon and Will for the information. I’m going to take the advice of both. I’ve decided to  stick with the same Gold Lion KT66 output tubes at least for now.

I’m going to purchase a pair of Valve Art 274B and TAD 6922 (thx for the suggestion Lon)

Will, you touched on a 6DJ8/ECC88, or ECC189. “These could chill things down a bit and likely bring up more space, texture and fine detail. Also 7DJ8/PCC88 types, and PCC189, in general they tend to move you more toward open and clearer.”

I’m interested in trying a pair of each and would like advice on which of the many brands you would lean towards.

And lastly a pair of 5V4GA GE NOS NIB.

Special thx to you 2 for sharing your knowledge , you guys are gold on this forum.
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #20 - 12/01/19 at 16:16:44
 
You're welcome. Seems like a good plan. Will give you quite a few different tube complements to experiment with and likely find a sonic change you'll favor.
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will
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #21 - 12/15/19 at 02:00:17
 
Sorry it took a while to get back. I wanted to listen to a lot of ECC189, PCC189, PCC88/7DJ8, and ECC88/6DJ8’s before responding. Generalizing, these are more open/less dense sounding tubes in direct comparison to most E88CC/6922s. Sounding like the power is turned down a bit, shifting the balance a little away from bass can leave more space throughout. Less focussed/dense, more spacious, they tend toward increased fine detail and empty space, offering more apparent harmonic information, ambience, textures, air...

Within this, the ECCs tend a bit toward warm, and PCCs a bit toward open definition and dynamics, both usually good at fine detail in space.

That said, especially PCC189 and ECC189 are similar. Some of each warmer and textured, and some of each more open and focussed, blind testing, it could be difficult to say which type is which.

Volume-wise here, I would say ECC189 and PCC189 are often (but not always) closer to ECC88s, and PCC88s seem a little more powerful, but still less than E88CC/6922s. Assuming this translates, though likely not noticeable for systems with plenty of headroom, if a system using E88CCs is on the edge of distortion at favored listening levels, these slightly lower key tubes could take that edge further.

Within a given type, design and materials influence sound, reflected in company and vintage choices. Even within the "bigger three," Phillips, Holland; Siemens, Germany; and Mullard, though each tend to have “company” character different from one another, there are also lots of individual variations within each company. And there are a lot of nice tubes of these types outside the more ubiquitous makers...way too much for me to cover.

Then with differences in system/rooms, including how each tube in a tube set influences the others....it is tricky to predict results. In this context, excess high clarity tubes more easily fell toward hardness before modifying my amps with faster, more revealing, spacious, and textured sounding parts and wires. As important, my front end is made up of highly resolving and fine-tuned components and cables, avoiding truncating very fine information. Having sorted out many impediments to resolution and musical transparency, all told, I think this system is exceptionally resolving of musical complexity that helps solve hardness without masking. Impressions are based in this "forgiveness" derived from reducing limitations on musically refined fine detail/resolution and spaciousness. All systems complex and individual, what we hear from a tube might be different, but comparing tubes to tubes can reveal predictable tendencies.

A slight wildcard here, I am working on refining updated HR1s to best fit my system/room needs, gradually increasing dynamic resolution, and supporting this, fine-tuning bass and warmth balances. Though very close now, the speakers remain just a little dark in the mid-bass for me, causing some recordings prone that way to be a little heavy, slowing down bass, while slightly overpowering space and fine detail. So while waiting for caps, resistors, wires and drivers to fully burn in, I am compensating with cleaner Tesla 11TA31s (thanks Lon) as input voltage regulators. Normally these tubes are a bit lean for me, but now, my sound is better than ever, revealing ZYGI's new driver and crossover design beautifully.... Really nice harmonic complexity, space and spacial differentiation, extension and density. As I try to balance clarity with musicality, darker recordings are tending to warm but not thick, while being fast!.... And clean recordings, I am trying for that delicate balance of open spaciousness with subtly sweet textures and warmth. With the tubes I am using, changing to the Tesla VRs as the speakers and I adapt to modifications helps me get the balance closer to what I am trying for...the theme of this thread. To me, tuning to get the most across a lot of recordings is a tricky balance, but the more refined the system becomes, the more it is worth the effort, giving beautiful music from many recording balances.

Going further for this test, I started with open sounding tubes in all 8 tube positions (Torii-5, CSP3-3), seeing if I could take clarity over the top. I historically use calmer OB3 voltage regulators over OA3s, and 75C1s (=OC2 but sound more complex to me). But now in place of the 75C1s, I am running the Teslas. They are a OA2 equivalent, but they make the inputs sound less lean, warmer, and a little more powerful to me than OA2s I have, yet they push less than 75C1s. The Tesla 11TA31, more spacious, brings out more harmonic information with complexity in this case, but could be lean with different combinations. With open and powerful Tungsol 7027As for power, PCC189s or PCC88s in the inputs of the Torii and CSP3, as well as the outputs of the CSP3, it was very clean! Some combinations got uncomfortably so, to a point of hard edges on harder recordings. But, switching one of these cleaner inputs with more textured and slightly warmer variations of the same tubes, it was good, some combinations very nice! And after replacing the 7027As with also open, but less powerful/focussed, and more warm/textured RCA 807 power tubes I typically use, most open combinations of input tubes were good.

Ultimately I tend to prefer a more open/revealing, fast, and less dark sound, but I do it with a combination of clearer/cleaner and warmer/more dense tubes, increasing complexity when "right." Along with my modified speakers and amps being a little warm, warmer tubes with less finesse in resolving low mids/mid-bass can push the balance too far into darkness for me. So here, it takes a good tube to notably warm without excess masking of fine detail, space and textures, especially in the low mids and mid bass. I can fine-tune focus and space of a tube set with gain balancing my ZBIT and CSP3, increasing tube flexibility, but fine detail in space across the spectrum, always tricky, is trickier with tubes tending dark.

Exploring PCC88, ECC189 and PCC189 mainly, after initial tests, back to my usual 807s (with adapters), and supporting the Teslas VR opening compensation, instead of my usual warmish Mullard E88CC with parasol getters for CSP3 power, I am using a more neutral ALGRA E88CC with A-frames and gold pins...a good German seller said Mullard made. Finally, for rectifiers, Telefunken and Valvo RGN1064 (4 volt, needing special adapters) warmish with good resolution of fine detail and space.

A long lead up to: When things are right, open/spacious tubes can be amazing tools toward a sense of "liveness," something I love.

Tubes:

NOS ECC88s, popular alternatives to more focussed E88CCs, price often reflects this. Moderately reduced bass contributes to a tendency to help resolve complexity, usually more noticeable in the midrange. A sometimes associated wild card, with some ECC88s, bass can get a little too soft/thick for me. But there are a lot of very nice, well balanced ECC88s. Early sixties Bugle Boys have been popular for a long time for good reasons. They have an open sound with good balance, textured and spacious much like many PCC88, PCC189, ECC189s. Also some late 50's/early 60's Siemens are to me a very nice tube for the type. This particular tube has a flat getter riser with a groove impressed in the center. The riser base starts wide, narrowing part way up on one side, forming something like an A shape support for a medium large hallow getter. Open, textured, with warmish extension, it is quite similar to also nice Siemens-made ECC189s that look identical.

In my case, these Siemens tubes are both examples of nice euro tubes hiding behind RCA, GE, or CBS labels, typically having "made in Great Britain, made in Germany, or made in Holland" on the tubes. Historically, being "off" brands usually leaves them more available and less costly.

Also in recent years PCC88s have become popular with increasing prices, but worth checking out for the PCC88 sound if it seems appropriate to system needs. Relatively powerful and balanced, though a little less bass than E88CCs, they are usually more articulate, fast, and spacious than ECC88s. I used PCC88s almost exclusively in my Toriis for quite a long time. Then after finding a pair of  late 50s Siemens-made ECC88s, I started an affair with them.

During this time, I often considered trying PCC189s and ECC189s, but never got around to it until Lon mentioned he had tried some in his Torii. Checking several out, I also found they can be really nice tubes, and less known, a good value. Most I have cost ±30 per pair. But since then, they too have come up in popularity and price, though still good values to me. And with care and patience, you can find nice tubes of any of these types relatively inexpensively.

A few cautions if you are not familiar with Ebay tube buying. It seems more sellers are putting up tubes these days with decent electronic matching, but not matching construction-wise. Lately I saw a fancy "pair" of E88CC, one with gold pins, and one with steel pins while also having different O getter shapes and diameters. Though they were electronically a good match, I doubt they would sound the same.

So, along with good electronic matching and strength, I avoid even subtle construction differences. Even when the insides look identical, and the glass shape is a little different,...or the micas, wires, plates etc are placed a little differently in the glass, to me this indicates a possibility of different production/materials, and possibly variations in sound. Not always a deal, but I like to play it safe.

Looking at the seller sales numbers and review ratings is helpful...lots of good tube sellers on Ebay, but I always look carefully at test scores and construction matching for pairs.

Favorite ECC189s I have are mostly early 60s, a good time for quality tubes. Some are Siemens-made and labelled, or labelled GE, RCA...; or Heerlin plant, Holland tubes with Philips, Miniwatt, Adzam or other labels; and Great Britain-made, Mullard or IEC labelled, sometimes labelled by US companies or others like Haltron and Zaerix... Tubes made by these "big three" in the late 50s/early 60s tend to offer good "tastes" of a type. That said, I like all the ECC189s I have tried. And I need to remind myself, burnin for true-NOS is real.

Philips-Holland, Siemens and Mullard made tubes, each show family and individual "flavors." In a quick test, a pair of early 60s Philips Miniwatt ECC189s with smallish O getters, are quite dynamic and clear with quiet warmth and notably big spacial information. An RCA labelled Siemens (mentioned above) is a bit warmer and softer, a little less dynamic and clear, but nicely textured and musical, a tube I have used a lot....A GE labelled, smallish O getter Mullard is warmer yet, but still resolving. Often associated with "warmth," some darker tubes can be less resolving and dynamic, some even veiled, micro information masked especially lower down. These GE/Mullards passed that test, sounding like many (but not all) early 60s Mullards, warm but complex and resolving.

I tend to prefer a mix of warm and clear tubes supporting one another, averaging toward spacious and revealing with some warmth. And even with my amps being more resolving, I tend to prefer O getters over A-frame's slightly tighter sound. But depending on everything else, tighter sound can be an advantage. A pair of Sel Lorenz A-frame PCC189s (best I can tell '67 Heerlen, Holland date code) sound really good to me...extended, spacious, articulate, and smooth. The O getter Sel Lorenz I have, also 67 Heerlen, is slightly softer, a little less articulated, with finer detail textures, a sound that is seductive to me, also really good. PCC189s labelled Phillips Miniwatt with medium O getters, early 60s Holland/Heerlen, are clear, a bit bigger seeming, spacious and dynamic, while being complex and warm. Especially this pair I can hear are new, beginning to loosen up with more micro information after quite a few hours of play. Also early 60s, Mullard labelled, large O getters, are a step warmer, often the case with Mullards, but these are quite revealing and textured also. This is "true warmth" to me, where darkness does not damage articulation and fine information.

Some Siemens labelled A-frames (Siemens/Halske codes), so far are perhaps the most dynamic of the PCC189s I have, vivid with micro and spacial information, and a little bigger bass than most. Also some Siemens PCC189s, very close kin to some Siemens PCC88s, with the same getter style...straight wires going up to the O getter, both are often labelled Telefunken.

These PCC189s have '64 date codes and are less obviously clear and powerful compared to their look alike PCC88 siblings, one of the clearest PCC88s I have tried. I think this is in part due to their notable power and extension showing what they have more. A really good tube, I don't use this PCC88 often, only if I need relatively powerful opening to balance a warm tube set. Whereas its "little brother" the Siemens PCC189, is clear, but a little less boldly, and textured enough to sound less demanding.

I won’t go much more into PCC88s, but generally, I might suggest 60s Philips/Holland, Mullard, or Siemens made tubes as relatively safe to explore. Of these big companies, not always, but often with these tube types, Holland tubes tend to be relatively neutrally balanced, dynamic and clean, with quiet warmth. Siemens tubes of these types are usually quite revealing in slightly different ways to the Heerlen made tubes, or resolving with a different flavor of warmth, but quite revealing in general. Great Britain Mullards, tend more often toward warm, though these types I have are still nicely resolving. Outside these, to get a feel for this tube type, some relatively inexpensive tests might be National (Matsushita), a little warm and predictable for me as I recall, but a good tube with good complexity. Lots of people love them, and with care, they can still be gotten inexpensively. Also, Teslas, a very clear PCC88, as clear as early Siemens, but with a more spacious, less powerful feel as I recall. I like them, but they are clean, perhaps too open, or perhaps just right depending on the rest. Another less costly PCC88 test with a more unusual/individual sound, big, with pleasantly revealing and spacious mids, are Zaerix labelled, made in Russia. It is a fat tube with almost square micas and a classic Russian "flying saucer" getter.

Lots of interesting tubes around to explore, and if 6922/E88CCs are a little dense and forceful in a setup, some of these may be worth checking out. I could go on (even more!), but I hope this helps.
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #22 - 12/21/19 at 15:22:15
 
What a fantastically researched and written post Will!

I'm glad that the Tesla VR tubes have been a successful addition (I have three pairs in reserve, I love these tubes). And I'm happy you've been exploring these ECC189 tubes. I'm using a trio of Mullards in my CSP2+ with the 25th Anniversary mods and using this preamp solely as a headphone amp and getting great sound.

It's amazing how so many tubes can shine in these components. John notes that rectifier and voltage regulation tubes are very important in these amps and they are. I used to pay more attention to input and driver tubes but learned about five years ago how profound the difference between rectifier and regulation tubes can be and how they can complement a tube complement so thoroughly top to bottom.

I wish that 0A3s worked for me as I have a number of them and would have tried to get a pair of those Steve discovered. But they are just too forceful and edgy with the tube complements I prefer. I've been using 0B3 very successfully. I have one pair of Arcturus that are labeled 0A3 but are 0B3 and are fantastic. I get the very best bass with these. . . . Or at least til this week when I got in a pair of Sylvania that are OLD. They come NOS in original boxes that are the oldest Sylvania boxes I've ever seen. And they are sounding very good in the Monoblocks, giving me most of what the Arcturus brings that I love and also having an even more open midrange and a dynamic contrast that is better, probably because they are new, stronger tubes. So I'm happy to use them.

I'm still having wonderful luck with Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifiers and use them in the components in my main system--I've yet to find rectifiers that come close to the sound I relish in these and I've had no failures for over two years of use. In my video based system I've been favoring a pair of Amperex 5U4G that I have found that have a very clear and punchy sound. Not sure where these are made, there are no markings at all other than an orange Amperex label and the tube type. I have used a number of rectifiers in this system with great effect including a pair of straight shoulder RCA Type 80s that appear very old. I think the fact that the listening room is much larger has a great impact on tube choices.

In my main system I have been really enjoying a trio of Amperex 6085 tubes that really are so different from other tubes that once I tailor the system to them with gain matching and tube complement I just can't keep out. They have a tonal balance and a wonderful sense of texture that I delight in. In the ZROCK2 they give a dynamic and palpable sound, and though I don't think they really should work in the Monoblocks as a (huge) 12AU7 type, they DO, and very very well when you work to tailor to their gain characteristics. I have a Tungsram 6085 that I use in the ZROCK2 in my video system that I really like in that component. One day I'll get another Amperex to use there--the Amperex are just a bit richer and deeper sounding.

Tube rolling in the Decware components is so so rewarding! It's the doorway to a multiverse of sound.
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #23 - 12/28/19 at 20:49:21
 
Thanks Lon. Your latest tubes sets seem to indicate nicely how your ongoing experimentation can be quite rewarding! I love how tube play can be so powerful in tuned up Decware too! If everything else is capable of revealing what is on the recording with good spectral balance, and without masking subtler aspects of detail and space, I think the sonic influence of each tube position indicates the relative transparency of Steve's designs...each tube showing its character pretty clearly.

As hard as I might try, I can't really segregate the importance of one tube position over another, perhaps especially in the Torii where each of the 5 tube types are so influential to the balance of sound they create together. Though VRs and rectifiers are fundamental to the power of inputs and power tubes, notably influencing how the inputs and power tubes sound, power tubes and inputs remain equally important to me.

That said, I get Joman's sense for how tuning with rectifiers and VRs could be a good beginning. But without good inputs and power tubes that can reveal the character of the VRs and rectifiers, their effects are less clear. At the same time...a rectifier or VR that is under or overly forceful effects choices for the signal intensity (and related sonic traits) of inputs and power tubes. Though for me, a really refined tube set always comes down to the subtleties, the individual tube sound of rectifiers and VRs, along with the signal power the combination creates, define, and potentially limit which inputs and outputs are able to mesh well with them.

Thinking back to when I was first getting into tubes, had I not found early on how OB3s relaxed the stock sound compared to OA3s, I may not have fully discovered what a range of beauty and immersion I can get using my Toriis. Within my system/rooms, with the speakers I have had, Steve's design preferences seem to be a bit more warm than I prefer, and more powered up (at least the Toriis). And though VRs were often talked about relative to bass emphasis, as you mention, "edgy" can easily be an outcome of overly forceful balances too. This is why I like the term forceful...the bigger sound of more powerful tubes going across the spectrum, well beyond bass. Not that OA3s are necessarily too much, but they can be. And if they are, pushed and forceful describes the effect to me, just like these terms can describe 6922 types (relative to lower key inputs) in cases where everything else pushes a system to the edge of an overly focussed/intense signal.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been working gradually on caps, resistors and wire types and gauges in my updated HR-1s. Moving more fully into a sound I find spectrally balanced and "alive" in my setting, I love hearing more into these new drivers and crossovers, modifying Bob's modifications more to my taste making everything new again. I had pretty much this same relative balance before with the original HR-1 setup...damping, plinth space tuning, and tweeter adjustment with resistors and caps my tools then. But with the new top driver and crossover design, and making adjustments inside and out with nice caps, resistors, and a complimentary balance of very good wires of milder gauges, I have a similar balance and "liveness" as before, but now with notably greater complexity. Fast in general, that effect spreads throughout, and with smearing notably absent, deeper, more articulate and fast bass, increased spaciousness and fine detail...more complex textures and ambient information, increased soundstage width, depth and saturation, and a gentle warmth sweetening the complexity....all supporting musical immersion.

Interestingly, after finding this compelling and musical balance, I have been enjoying an old pair of JAN OA3s! Also back to the 75C1s (OC2) I had been preferring in recent years. My speakers, faster, more revealing and open...less dark, I seem to have stumbled into no real need for compensating with OB3 and the Tesla OA2 equivalent, though they remain real choices. Now, in my systems (both using Toriis), the HRs (and similarly adjusted MG944s) are easier for me, allowing relatively broad shifts toward openness, or toward more intense warmth more easily, and without hardness or thickness. I am still toning back the amps using PCC88 and PCC189s as inputs, and usually RGN1064s, a relatively mild and revealing rectifier, lower key than Sophia Aquas, while tending here to being a bit more spacious and complex within a similar warmth.

But I have been using this rectifier type for several years, so it was an interesting discovery that I can use OA3s after getting the speakers tuned more to my tastes. These particular OA3s give a very transparent and complex sound relative to others I have, but none-the-less, OA3s! On initial impressions, it seems I can, for the first time, love the signal power an OA3 offers without reservation.

This is likely dipping into hair splitting territory for some folks. But for me, this is what is needed for a sound that is very natural and live, with excellent very fine detail and space, impactful bass with natural timbre and speed....and without excess warmth, slowing/masking thickness, or hardness.

Finally, I guess for me, the best tuning potential with tubes comes from gradually learning the natures of all the tubes. Then, experimentation can lead to synergistic "magic," revealing previously undiscovered potential. As we talk about different tube traits, to me, not attaching to any of this as hard and fast "rules" is probably sort of critical. System changes and various tube choices can "bend" or "break" those "rules," and if we can't ride with it, we might miss the deeper beauty.

It is so cool to me how "alive" tubes are individually, while creating a seemingly limitless range of complexity through many, many potential combinations. Seems practice identifying tube traits, and how to analyze them more completely, can make tuning relatively calculable. But finally, for me, within this, trial and error seems to be the path to find really deep beauty, and all the tubes effect one another, so matter.  
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #24 - 01/06/20 at 20:56:01
 
Will,
What an excellent write-up..very professional.
It really gives a novice such as me a chance to make an educated purchase...thx
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #25 - 01/07/20 at 22:43:18
 
Thanks Ginny. I am glad these thoughts are of some use to you!
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Re: Tube Rollin
Reply #26 - 01/18/20 at 15:06:57
 
I have been meaning to update my last post but kept forgetting.

My attempt to stay with OA3s was short lived. It was different this time though.

After progressively refining power and vibration; lots of cable iterations; more USB refinement; DAC, pre and amp mods, and lately, refining passive signal filters/enhancers, and modifying my upgraded HR-1s...Each step, the focus was on more natural speed (faster to a point), easier flow, deeper empty space with complex but smooth fine detail...a result of clarification geared toward complexity, so not edgy, and without sacrifice to body...And likely most difficult for me, across most recordings, that delicate spectral balance with fast bass that is deep and impactful while not masking open mids, highs...and especially, all important harmonic content that makes the music feel real.

Now that everything in the system better supports these qualities, abundant subtle information gives beautiful complexity across the spectrum. Not just mids up, the bass is full and felt but fast...and thickness is opened by space and detail, resolving more easily into punch and lower end timbres.

With this system/room balance, retesting OA3s, they didn't cause the overly dense/thick bass and hardish mids they had tended to bring out here on recordings that lent themselves these ways. I liked them.


However.....

Listening carefully, but "passively" for a few days, I did not have opportunities to sit in the listening seat late at night, with lights out, my usual before bed ritual. And when I did, I still liked the powered-up focus from OA3s (as compared to my standard OB3), but from "the seat," I noticed the core signal was too dense for me, overwhelming aspects of harmonic complexity I depend on.

Once I "found" more natural balances with more complete textures and ambient spacial information...very nuanced decays extending from the note hit at the instrument to way out of the room, I can't stand masking or overwhelming the super fine information. I have come to need that fragile balance of rich body and spacious revelation across the spectrum. Though still quite present, the power of the OA3 signal concentrated the signal too much for me, the energy focussed, reducing space and fine detail in the balance. Associated, it moved the soundstage forward, and though retaining most width, there was a loss of ± 20% of its depth. It sounded great, but not real, and I always seek the unrestricted qualities of a real musical experience...what I hope these descriptors point to.

This is not to say this would be the same in all systems and tube sets. It wouldn't. But hopefully, this experience helps point to ways of arriving at deeper engagement in other system/rooms.

I'm back to a variation of my "old standards" over recent years, OB3s, 75C1s, 30s RGN-1064s, 40s RCA 807s, and early 60s Siemens made ECC189s. The music is more beautiful and captivating than ever to me, on a new level really, lots of exploration coming together sort of magically. Touched by the beauty, I can't stop listening long.
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