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Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me! (Read 1778 times)
DancingSea
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Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
10/11/21 at 23:52:05
 
Aloha,

As mentioned elsewhere, I own:

1) ZBox - Zen Triode Output Stage aka buffer with a front mounted "gain control" to adjust the input level.  But has no "gain".  Even though adjusting the gain control lowers the volume, the directions specifically say it is not for volume control.

And on order:

2) ZRock2 - a Tube EQ Stage with "gain".  Not sure if this is also a buffer, or a line stage, or neither.

3) CSP3 (premap) on order.  The CSP3 description states:

"The CSP3 is a purist execution of a classic all-tube line stage".

I also currently own a Marantz Model 30 integrated that has a traditional preamp built in.

I'm not clear about a number of things:  

1) I don't understand the different between a tube buffer (ZBox) vs a tube line stage (CSP3).  And also how the ZR2 fits into either category.

2) How is the CSP3 as a tube line stage different in function from a traditional preamp?

For example, as found in the Marantz integrated in terms of preamp vs line stage?  Is the Marantz essentially a solid state gain stage?  Is the "gain stage" term specific to tubes?

Basically, I find all this buffer and gain talk quite confusing.  And the ZBox has a gain control on the input, yet has no gain control, which confuses me yet more especially given adjusting that knob does effect the volume.

In the world of solid state, it's very clear to me.  A preamp controls volume and allows for a variety of sources.  A power amp drives the speakers.  An integrated has it all in one.  And sources are sources, DAC, CD, Phono, etc.  That is all very clear.

When I read through the product listings for 3 Decware products that I either own, or have on order, the whole gain/ line stage lingo escapes me.

Please help me understand or direct me to the "Decware for Dummies" part of the website   Shocked
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CAJames
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #1 - 10/12/21 at 00:22:33
 
Let's see if this helps.

Traditionally a "preamp" controlled volume, switched between sources and included a phono stage for your turntable. With the advent of digital they took the phono stage out the preamp and started calling it a line stage. So it controls the volume and switches between sources. But as a practical matter "line stage" and "preamp" are pretty interchangeable these days. A buffer just takes the input and adds some tubey magic, but doesn't have a volume adjustment.

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GroovySauce
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #2 - 10/12/21 at 02:01:03
 
Zbox has an attenuator before the circuit. The circuit runs about 1:1 voltage in to voltage out. This is why it can only lower the voltage and not raise it. This way if you have a source that will overload the circuit you can attenuate it down as to not distort.

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Brian
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #3 - 10/12/21 at 04:15:38
 
DancingSea said:
"In the world of solid state...  A preamp controls volume and allows for a variety of sources.  A power amp drives the speakers."

I would add that the solid state preamp would probably also be a pre-amplifier. If it were a vacuum tube circuit, I would be sure of it. Most power tubes have a low amplification factor, some as low as 3:1. This is not nearly enough voltage multiplication. Drive stage tubes have much high amp factors, maybe anywhere from 20:1 up to whatever 6C45 has, I think it was 52:1. This drive stage pre-amplifies the signal to send it on to the output stage where the power tubes can give it big power; not by voltage multiplication, but by the fact that they can handle much higher current than can the little voltage driver tubes.  
     I would guess that solid state acts in a similar way, with a power output section requiring voltage multiplication from a gain stage in front of it.  

The volume control of a preamp (either solid state or tube) is (to the limit of my thin knowledge) entirely in that potentiometer - variable resistor under the volume knob; which is to say the volume control of the preamp is passive. The preamp increases volume actively with voltage multiplication, but the controlling of the volume by the user is only to turn the volume down, not turn it up. When we turn the knob from 2 to 6, we are not turning up anything in the circuit, we are only rolling back the amount of restriction the variable resistor was using to hold the preamp back from full operation.

I hope this is accurate. It is my understanding of the thing.
Brian
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Brian
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #4 - 10/12/21 at 04:23:41
 
DancingSea said:
1) I don't understand the different between a tube buffer (ZBox) vs a tube line stage (CSP3).

In my view there has been some shorthand word usage there.  The way I would phrase it is: the difference between a line buffer (ZBox) and a line gain stage is that the gain stage multiplies line voltage and the buffer does not. The line spoken of is the cable between the source and the power amp.

2) How is the CSP3 as a tube line stage different in function from a traditional preamp?

No difference. Preamp is what the CSP3 is.


Brian
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Simona
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #5 - 10/12/21 at 06:58:14
 
Yeah, that is a troll.
The same one I banished to smoke turds in Hell.
Myaccountaccess.com
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Archie
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #6 - 10/12/21 at 16:55:12
 
Steve posted this a couple years ago and it is helpful to understanding the CSP3 performance.


CSP3 INPUT VOLTAGE CHART w/ 5U4 and 6N1P-EB

Note:  Outputs set to full, Volume set to full.  Input pots set to zero and charted through their range.

2V INPUT SIGNAL, 528Hz

Position =  Volts
0 = 0V
1 = 156mV
2 = 492mV
3 = 1.53V
4 = 2.8V
5 = 4.0V
6 = 5.1V
7 = 12.22V
8 = 25.0 V
9 = 32.0 V
10 = 32.0V

1V INPUT SIGNAL, 528Hz

Position = Volts
0 = 0V
1 = 60mV
2 = 200mV
3 = 552mV
4 = 1.05V
5 = 1.5V
6 = 1.9V
7 = 4.8V
8 = 7.7V
9 = 10.12V
10 = 10.12V

The max input voltage with the input control set all the way up is 3.38V.  At that point slight clipping is seen at the full 35V output.  If you trim the master volume down and the output control down, the distortion will become inaudible but it will still be there, just at 15 times lower level.  That means you can shove 10 volts into it but it will always sound better set to 3.38 or less.

Keep in mind these figures are with the CSP3 connected to my test gear which is 178KOhms so the output voltage will vary somewhat into different loads.  Also keep in mind the 120V at the outlet and the tubes you use will effect these results making them go up or down.

Steve
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ZLC
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ZP3 (25th A Mods)
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Archie
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #7 - 10/12/21 at 17:35:22
 
Don't many balanced sources put out 4 volts?  I guess you'd have to be using a ZBIT though.  I find the chart helpful so that I don't overdrive my ZR2 which only takes a maximum input of 15 volts.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
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ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
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ZMA (25th A mods)
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DancingSea
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #8 - 10/12/21 at 17:56:33
 
Cool, thanks for all the replies.  So “line stage” is the same as “preamp”, just without the phono stage.  I was hoping that line stage was different.

Part of my wondering is treading on audiophile heresy.  As mentioned elsewhere, I have the Marantz Model 30 integrated. It can be run as an integrated, or the preamp section can be completely shut down and it run as strictly a power amp, using a separate “power amp in” connection and a setting in the menu.

My issue with the CSP3 is that it has no remote.  I can control volume on my primary source, the Marantz SACD 30n which has an optional variable output connection (line stage), like the DirectStream, and use my cushy Marantz remote.  And using the Model 30 as an actual power amp.

Buuuut, doing so means only one source can experience the CSP3 secret sauce. My Ah! Tjeob CD4000 has no volume control.  If I connected a turntable directly to the CSP3, I’d have no remote control volume for it either.

If I leave the Model 30 as an integrated and run the ZRock2 and CSP3 into one of the line level inputs, I can use the full balance and tone controls on the Marantz, and more easily switch between sources.  And utilize remote control volume for all sources.

I realize the purist audiophile approach would be to use the fixed level outputs on the Marantz SACD 30n, and set the Model 30 as a power amp only.  And get up to adjust the volume, which would likely drive me crazy!

Thus my reason for discerning the difference between a line stage and a preamp is to better figure out which route with the Marantz products is the lesser sin. To utilize the variable output on the SACD 30n, or leave the Model 30 as an integrated instead of converting it to a power amp?

I essentially have 3 preamps/ line stages. Both Marantz pieces, and the CSP3 have volume control.  Because I can’t imagine life without a remote, the debate is around which Marantz preamp (volume control) do I use?  The simple one on the SACD 30n?  Or the feature rich one on the Model 30?

Either way it won’t adhere to audiophile orthodoxy. Which is the lesser sin?
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lazb
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #9 - 10/12/21 at 19:00:18
 
You COULD get a ZTPRE with the remote volume control option and have Steve's "tube magic" in front of whatever you use for an amp!!!
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #10 - 10/12/21 at 19:10:41
 
Don't worry about a lesser sin. Sin is sin. You'll be just as guilty either way! Wink

I say that as a fellow sinner. I use a DAC that has a lossless digital volume control balanced out into a ZTPRE balanced preamp and then into a ZBIT and then into a ZROCK2 and then into a CSP3 preamp and then into SE84UFO3 Monoblocks which have gain controls. Certainly not a purist audiophile situation. . . and yet to me it sounds better than paring the system down to bare essentials audiophile-wise. Very much so. So I certainly will not be casting a first stone. Or second or third. . . .

My advice is try each way and see which you prefer. It just may be that the best sound is source to CSP3 to ZROCK2 (or vice versa between C and Z) and then into the Marantz as just a power amp. Or the difference between running all into the preamp section of the Marantz may sound as good or nearly so. And you can find phono preamps with a volume control if you look--I had a PS Audi GCPH with one for a few years and it's a very decent phono preamp. And there's also the possibility of a Decware switch box. . . with a remote. . . down the line in the future.

Or maybe you will find the Marantz preamp section so good that you won't need the CSP3 and can sell that to someone with an aversion to long waiting lists.

Just be comfortable being a sinner. An audiophile one at least. I've learned to be one.
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Archie
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #11 - 10/12/21 at 19:21:02
 
Quote:
No problem using them, but if you are sending 15 volts to the ZR, you will have a few other worries.


Why do you say this?  I'm not at the 15 volt level since that would cause me to barely crack my ZMA pot but other than this, is there an issue?  I'm probably at the 5 volt level.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #12 - 10/12/21 at 19:27:18
 
From the product page:

Input voltage            0 ~ 15 volts max

Although I probably exceed that with little consequence on occasion.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #13 - 10/12/21 at 19:33:57
 
I don't totally understand all this but I do feed it from a ZTPRE via the ZBIT with both pretty well gain rolled up. Not sure what that is in volts but it's a lot of gain.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #14 - 10/12/21 at 19:40:20
 
Okay, but the ZTPRE puts out a lot of gain. . . a lot, up to 35 volts. And I have the output more than 3/4 up. Not sure how that works but with the CSP3 after the ZROCK2 I can put too much gain into my Monoblocks if not careful. And I think into my ZROCK2 before hand though I've learned to be cautious and not introduce distortion.
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will
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #15 - 10/12/21 at 19:43:49
 
I agree with Lon, once you start to experiment it will all become more clear. And I would phrase the sin part differently, but also agree with Lon there. Having a lot of modded Decware stages in a line is far from an audiophile sin for me, the opposite in fact. Sure, just the amp is more purely transparent by a bit, but with really well done resolving and transparent pre stages, that also offer interesting adjustments to the sound, is the amp alone "better" here.... not for me.

As alluded to, one consideration if you stay with this plan is that if you have a source with less output than the 3.38v rating for CSP3 input, depending on adjustments, this voltage into the CSP3 could go higher when adding another gain stage before the CSP3, like the ZRock2. Or with a ZBit that receives a higher voltage output from the balanced outputs of the DAC. When I am running the ZBit, my particular DAC increases from 3 volts RCA output, to 6 volts balanced out. So the ZBit wide open puts out 6 volts, higher than rated input voltage for the CSP3.... Then I use a ZRock2 after the ZBit, and the ZRock has some gain if we set it past unity, which most do because that activates the ZRock effects of awakening the signal bottom to top.

So multiple pre stages can require balancing, especially since the edge of too much voltage out is often a beauty area, maximizing the signal with the sonic adjustments the pre stage can enhance, so seductive. Especially with a strong source, if you are using pre stages for tone, lucidity, hit, etc... potentially too much voltage is real in my experience, and when it is high enough to overload something, we get distortion, so the need for tuning/balancing gains.

And with all those Decware stages you have, or have ordered, the ZBox (no gain) and ZRock and CSP3 (both having gain), to me, using these optimally, they are more for sound adjustment than volume, the big beauty in balancing together the individual enhancement potentials of each to pull the most beauty for a given system/room. Then, once tuned by sound for the source and system/room, fine tuning them per recording (if needed or wanted) can be a great tool for optimizing a recording that is off balance with your system, to calm and lean it a bit, or beef it up a bit .

In other words, to me, these all adjust the sonic qualities of your whole system from different attenuator levels... so when you turn up or down the master of each of these, they change not just the perceived volume, but the sonic attributes of the signal.....To me, the characters of the output sound of each are pretty different at low "volume" and at high "volume." So I use the amp for most volume adjustment, being pretty neutral across the range of the attenuation. I guess I am saying that though Steve's designs are purist in many ways, to me, these pre stages are (thankfully) not "purest" in terms of adjusting volume without effecting the balances of the sound.

My guess is that your Marantz pre stage is more about the latter..... designed to make the amp louder or quieter without changing the character of the sound notably. So if you use all your Decware stages for system sound tuning.... once you get them each optimized, individually and collectively for the best sound, then I would guess using your remote controlled Marantz pre for volume would likely be a relatively clean approach.

How you integrate your sources using all the pre stages makes my head hurt.... I guess that if you want to use all the Decware stages for all sources, a relatively "pure" and easy approach might be to integrate a very transparent switch box before the pre stages. But then, if the output voltages for each source are different, you may want to adjust your phono pre to match your DAC out voltage/volume... so one gain stage before the switch box, and the rest after.

With my two sources, for my main DAC, with balanced outputs, I go 1st through a ZBit, then through the ZRock2, and finally through the CSP3. For the other source, I use the CSP3 to switch sources, so only run this source through the CSP3....
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #16 - 10/12/21 at 19:48:53
 
Lin, At about 15 to 17 of 20 steps most of the time.
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Archie
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #17 - 10/12/21 at 19:57:54
 
Steve's chart is very informative.  The pots are non linear in a random sort of way and the 2 volt input versus the 1 volt input are vastly different.  I have a 1 volt input and I run wide open on the Master and Outputs and the Inputs at 7.  I've run the Inputs higher but I like having a bit more adjustment on my ZMA pot.  But I've never had discernable distortion even with the CSP3 fully open.  That said, with my 1 volt input I'm only at 10 volts out of my CSP3.  The point for me is the added density I get the higher I set my CSP3.  I've run without it and thought I liked the sound but when I'd put it back in, the difference was pretty huge.

One interesting thing is where the CSP3 has to be set just for parity voltage in/out.  I don't think I've ever bothered to run at those levels.
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ZLC
Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
ZMC1
ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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DancingSea
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #18 - 10/12/21 at 20:16:36
 
Will wrote:

Quote:
As alluded to, one consideration if you stay with this plan is that if you have a source with less output than the 3.38v rating for CSP3 input, depending on adjustments, this voltage into the CSP3 could go higher when adding another gain stage before the CSP3, like the ZRock2.


First, thanks to all for the replies.  I take comfort in the fact that Will and Lon are just as sinful   Wink

Will, that volt thing is something I have little understanding about.  The Marantz SACD 30n has a fixed output voltage of 2.5V (10K ohms).  The variable has a maximum of 5V (10K ohms).  My thought was to run the SACD 30n into the ZR2 —> CSP3 —> Marantz amp.  Mainly because the CSP3 has a lower output impedance and therefore will mate with the Marantz amp better.

But I have no idea how the output voltage of the SACD 30n figures into all of this.  Please advise.

I have had the ZR2 on order since March 1.  Had no plans to add the CSP3.  Though I have had a long held interest in trying the tube preamp/ solid state amp combo.  Out of curiosity.  Have read many posts that like that combo.  Paul McGowan, FWIW, says it’s the way to go.

The impetus to get the CSP3 now is based upon the ever growing waitlist.  Ordering now allowed me to add the CSP3 to the ZR2 order.  Both should ship in about 4 months.  If I waited to get the CSP3 this summer, God knows how long the list could be, 2 years???  Who knows.  A lot longer than 4 months.

As for the Marantz gear, which I really really like, I got it before the price hike, and at a decent discount on top of that.  While retail is $6K for the combo, I got them for $4K total.  The decision at that point was between the Model 30 and the Rogue Pharoah 2, the new version ($4k).  They use similar NCore modules, but the Rogue had the tube stage (2 tubes).  My theory is that the CSP3 will be far better than the Rogue’s tube stage, and come out less money grand total.  And I LOVE the look of the Decware gear, the cherry wood chassis, the tubes sticking up like plants in plain view, just love it.  Steam pump.

And that’s what led me to this point.  Curiosity and the ability to jump the line (so to speak) on the waitlist by adding to my long standing ZR2 order.

Thus understanding more about the voltage situation would be helpful.  And hey, as Lon said, it seems like a no risk experiment.  I assume the ZR2 is staying for sure.  If the CSP3 doesn’t provide a tangible tube magic experience, I can easily get 100% of my expense back by selling it here.

I honestly have no idea what the “tube magic” experience is.  Only that I’ve seen so many YouTube videos, and read so many reviews alluding to it, that I want to try and experience it myself.  I did have a PrimaLuna Prologue power amp for a trial some years ago and didn’t care for it as a power amp.  Perhaps I’m too accustomed to solid state bass?

I’m super curious about the Decware low watt amps, but that will take getting new speakers, which is a bridge to far at this point.

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #19 - 10/12/21 at 20:28:17
 
OK. I don't need more volume and prefer the sound this way. I honestly do believe I can overdrive the ZROCK2 if I am reckless with gain before it.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #20 - 10/12/21 at 20:48:12
 
I do have the CSP3 turned down a lot.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #21 - 10/12/21 at 21:20:10
 
As far as loudness.

I did an experiment with my low sensitivity speakers connected to my Yamaha a-s2000 amp.  I calculated out how loud -20Db full scale would be at my listening position for 2W, 6W, and 20W through my speakers.

My head is about 2.5m from my speakers.  I set up a reference microphone and ran some pink noise through each speaker and recorded the SPL (I ran a control and -20Db Full scale and 0Db Full scale were 20Db apart)

I then set my amp to where -20Db FS was the appropriate level
2W was about 63Db
6W was about 67Db
20W was about 72Db

So each of those numbers has 20Db above it the theoretical amp could produce.

So for everything except symphonies the 6W line played loud enough to irritate the missus upstairs.  Symphonies didn't really come together until the 20W simulated tick mark.

My Metallica S&M album stayed between -4 and -2.

I also ticked a spot which was as loud as my amp should play about 78Db at -20Db FS.  That played so loud it physically hurt my ears to do the test.

I decided to jump in with both feet for the new Torii MkV.  I have a similiar set of challenges, as I have a Yamaha A-S2000 and the matching Yamaha CD-S1000, and an IFI Zen Stream for network content, and an IFI Zen Blue for bluetooth.  I am going to use the Yamaha S2000 as a preamp, and run my speakers off the Torii and see what happens.  I probably could have gone with the 6W integrated and been happy, but darn it the sales marketing on the regulator tubes was too good so I went big.

Pardon the ramble.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #22 - 10/12/21 at 21:58:48
 
Dancing Sea wrote: "Will, that volt thing is something I have little understanding about.  The Marantz SACD 30n has a fixed output voltage of 2.5V (10K ohms).  The variable has a maximum of 5V (10K ohms).  My thought was to run the SACD 30n into the ZR2 —> CSP3 —> Marantz amp."

I agree, this can be confusing. I hope I can help it make more sense.

Looking at voltage in terms of sources matching in volume downstream, voltage effects volume. And in a gain stage, voltage can also accentuate the effects created by the gain stage, both within the stage, and beyond. If designed for sonic adjustment flexibility, more or less voltage effects the tubes etc in the stage, and how the voltage out from that stage effects the next stage.... To me, in these particular stages you have, or have ordered, both voltage within and beyond matter to the sound.

So if you balance these pre stages as sonic system/room adjusters, and want both sources feeding them to work similarly in sound and volume... you can adjust those source's output voltages for a similar voltage out, also giving a similar volume out from the beginning. Then the first pre stage after, and beyond, will read and adjust the different source sounds similarly. Basically, to pull this off simply, lets say you like the sound of your SACD at say a 3 volt output. Then if you have a very transparent phono stage, by sound, you could switch back and forth between SACD and phono, adjusting the phono stage to match the volume the SACD puts out as closely as possible.

I would say the CSP3 adds a lot of tube magic and signal quality adjustment. And at any gain within its "sweet" voltage range, you can progressively diminish or empower its sonic influences from fairly minor master gain adjustments. But to me it feels quite transparent at different gains within this range... if that makes any sense.

To help illustrate this, though not the same in sonic and volume/voltage adjustability, with your ZBox, you can increase or decrease its effect with its attenuator. But the CSP3 does this sort of on steroids, having a lot of gain/voltage adjustability, having more tubes you can change for sonic preferences, and altogether more for the voltage to run through and tune. So when adjusting the CSP3 gain/voltage up or down, it tones up and down all the parts the voltage runs through more, and having more voltage gain to adjust with, it offers a fairly wide range of effects by just changing its "volume" pot. But within the sweet range, even though the lucidity, density, warmth, intensity...etc is balanced differently, it can sound really pretty transparent at all settings in this range (assuming the recording's spectral variance is not too intense).

So the ZStage, ZRock and CSP3, are able to adjust gain up, as well as down, each to various degrees.... the gain/voltage effecting all that the signal goes through in each design, as well as the next stage. And with the ZRock adjusting EQ at the same time as gain, the EQ level adjustment being integrated with the "volume" (gain/voltage) control, as you add voltage, the signal and all it carries is intensified... and beyond the point where the EQ kicks in, more voltage comes with the EQ circuit balancing the ZRock more toward bass.... So its attenuator adjusts voltage/signal intensity, EQ, the sound of the tube, and the following stage.

No doubt, this can get tricky to understand, especially without experimenting with the gear. And I can't say I have it totally down, but I hope this helps.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #23 - 10/13/21 at 01:12:43
 
yostjacob, adding to will's excellent comments, i will 2nd your decision to go with the torii mk 5. i had a decware amp rated at 3.2w [taboo mk 4]......and even with  an audio chain that includes a source with a voltage output of 4.5w and corresponding zbit, a csp3, a zrock2, and 95 db speakers, in a a bit more than moderately treated small room, i STILL found the output of the amp to leave me wanting due to an underlying inherent problem in thinness to the sound and inadequate power that left too much on the dynamics dept on the table ---- on too many 70's rock recordings, and just about any highly complex music. Some days it was more than enough, other days it was plain inadequate. Some of that is due to having single driver speakers, but speakers beyond this isnt friendly in a small listening room.....so the answer whether big or small room is more quality Decware power.

The 6w choice may very well have been ok with you....but why gamble? Having power on reserve will never hurt, and having slightly less will always be a nagging issue in the end analysis. Have extra power and not having to worry about the what ifs and all the trouble is more,than worth the extra cost. No more flea watts for me anyway. so like you, i too have a torii mk 5 on order.

And another biggie......flea watts can be a huge hindrance to other choices in speakers you might make in the future. Why be bound by that?

Brad
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Torii MK V-25th [on wait list], CSP3, ZRock2-25th, ZBIT, Omega Jr. XRS ALNICO spkrs, Omega DH 8 sub, Bryston BDA-3/BDP-2, Brick Wall 8, Ansuz Conditioning, Audeze LCD-3F...PI Audio AQD1 Diffusers, DIY room treatments.

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #24 - 10/13/21 at 02:16:40
 
You are correct on the prudence argument.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #25 - 10/13/21 at 08:22:14
 
This thread, causing me to think about what defines "better" or "worse," I have some thoughts that I hope might be useful for some. The main thought is.... whether more or less power, or a pre stage are "better," seems to depend on what we start with, what we need, and how the qualities of the addition suit our system.

When I first fell into the beauty of Decware, I had noticed an amp on Audiogon that Steve had for immediate sale. It was Saturday, and not knowing any better, I called. Fortuitously, Steve picked up the phone! We had a really nice talk, and I ordered the SE34.... Loving the amp, but it being too quiet in this room with my ±88 dB speakers, I got up with Bob, who happened to have a pair of MG944s that another customer decided he didn't want. Being 94 dB, I got them and with a few modifications, I still love them. A fast and really encouraging beginning with tubes for me!

The system was simple, highly resolving and touchingly beautiful.... If I recall correctly, it had a hospital receptacle, an Audio Brickwall power distributor/filter and some passive power filters, a Rega Apollo, a Decware SE34 (with KT77s, a GZ34, and 6N2Ps), Decware Styx and Silver Reference ICs, VHAudio recipe power cables, and MG944s. But it was still not quite enough power for this room and my listening tastes... close, but not enough to give me enough headroom on some recordings, and especially for extra quiet movies. So I got a Torii. But this was all relative to the whole of my system and room, and I might easily have stayed with the SE34 had my room been half the size, or if I had 97-98 dB speakers.

Now, several system iterations later, especially having learned to do modifications and make resolving cables, and gradually having improved all aspects of my power, components, system and room over time, I can without doubt say my system is way more resolving and musically transparent than with my simpler SE system, now including three pre stages! But everything is seriously modified or home-made because that is what I needed to do to get what I needed most efficiently. It is beautifully fast, lucid, resolving top to bottom, and critical to me, surprisingly well balanced for bringing out beauty from most recordings I have. And I have no doubt that the "additions" of resolving pre stages contribute to all of this in my setup.

So to me, traditional conventions about "purity" can be real for sure, but also how critical simplicity is depends on what we are starting with.... We know variability in all the system parts and the whole effect this....power; vibration; cables; components; the parts that make up components; artfully modified or not; tube sets; and the room's ability to utilize all that... everything matters. And just how well a lot of good stuff comes together can make a system not-so great, good, or great. So relative to resolution, transparency and musical balance, in my experience, one system might need to stay simple to hold onto whatever transparency and resolution it can muster.... And another, can be so transparent and resolving, that adding a very transparent and resolving pre stage (or three), and the cable qualities needed to pull this off fluidly, can be an enhancement to lucidity and the sense of musical resolution and balance.

Just changing the interior signal paths in my Decware to mostly UP-OCC silver/teflon wire mixed with some Duelund round silver for flavor, and using more resolving input and output connectors and attenuators, transparency and resolution increased in a pretty big way here. But I had a front end, cables and room that could clearly reveal this. And tuning bypass caps, power wires, resistors... all to work gracefully together.... my start point, no matter how good it gets, is ever-improving so far.

Finally, my system allows more of the important subtler aspects of resolution to be preserved from recordings, resolution actually feeling enhanced by cables that really do seem able to "disappear," while making the system sound more like sweet music. The cables are as important to my sound as anything... They can still be costly using good connectors and wires, but much, much less than of the cost of comparable quality bought commercially, and I can tune them to fit my sensibilities. Similarly, my sources, in their current iterations, are to me, maybe twice or three times as resolving and balanced on the deeper levels of purer resolution and space as my old now, Rega Apollo was. So it begins way better now, the source to me the most important, allowing so much more to be revealed as long as the rest can come up to it.

How good things had progressively grown became clearer after I got a ZRock2 from Lon that had the VR mod, but not others. Closer to stock, the balance Steve created was compelling and exciting, but finally did not match this system enough for me. And starting to modify it in steps, each step that worked improved the qualities that would make it a better match in speed, resolution and space, but also showed some minor remaining veils and colorations a bit more in this tuned up system. So I figured that my starting place was more resolving and fast than I had realized, and that I needed to treat the ZRock2 pretty much the same as the rest, with more full-on modifications, including PS bypasses, signal caps, all UP-OCC signal wires, KLE's best silver RCAs, a gold plated Furutech IEC inlet, and a few resistors. Now, after a fair number of experiments to find the best balances to me, it matches and enhances my system seamlessly.

But had I had an all stock system (which I have loved), I am guessing it would have matched well before further modifications. Or if I had a system with Steve's modifications and got the ZRock2 fully modded by Steve, I suspect that too would have matched well.

At the same time, Steve's and some other's creative innovations in quality but relatively affordable amps, innovative pre stages, speakers, sources and the rest, continue, always finding better solutions. To me, this is altering conventional ideas of musical "purity" needing to be ultra simplistic. And this baseline just gets better and better, faster and faster, as it allows us to hear more and more.

So I have had times when I had to experiment some to integrate a pre stage to more fully utilize its sonic benefits with minimal down sides. But at an notably increasing pace, innovations in gear (not least of which Steve's) make it more resolving and musical, with greater resolution and space to begin with. So to me we are growing more able to start with a much cleaner, more musical, and affordable platform for exploring additions like resolving pre stages. Not that they all work well in all systems, just that with care, there can be a lot better chances of the big beauty with more stages now.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #26 - 10/13/21 at 18:03:08
 
Will kindly wrote:

Quote:
I agree, this can be confusing. I hope I can help it make more sense.


Thank you for the very thoughtful and exquisitely detailed reflections.  Fascinating.

Regarding voltage.  Please let me know if this is on the right track.

I plan on removing the ZBox from the primary train.  My main source would go Marantz SACD 30n —> ZRock2 —> CSP3 —> Marantz Model 30 as either power amp, or integrated.  Thanks to your guidance, I now know that the output/ input voltage of each device effects the sound.  Is there a rule of thumb for voltage matching, or is it more about trial and error?

Much of what little I know about tubes comes from watching Kevin Deal videos.  For awhile, impedance matching was a mystery to me.  He explained that a general rule is the input impedance of an amp ought to be at least 10 times greater than the output impedance of whatever is just upstream of the amp.  The higher the better.

Following that rule, and after a conversation with Steve, led me to acquire a used ZBox because the output impedance of the long awaited ZRock2 was not ideal for the input impedance of my at the time Hegel amp.  The Marantz is better in that regard, but not ideal. The CSP3 has a lower output impedance than even the ZBox, thus the ZBox can be set aside, or used elsewhere.

The point being that the “at least 10 times” rule helped guide me by providing a numerical standard to follow.

Is there a similar rule for voltage matching?

For instance:

Marantz SACD 30n has an output voltage of 2.5 (fixed) or 5.0 (variable).  The ZRock has an input voltage of 0-15 volts with no spec for output voltage.  The CSP3 has an adjustable input and output voltage (0 - 30 volts).  The Model 30 input in power amp mode is 1.0 volts/ 18Kohms.

Is there a basic standard one could use to look at those specs and decide what would be an optimal setting for the CSP3, like the 10X impedance matching maxim?  Or is it more esoteric?

Am I correct in saying that somehow the total voltage output specs must not reach too low or high a number? If so, what is the ideal range?

I prefer rules as I’m not a tinkerer.  Thus if there is no such voltage rule, could you please create one 😛

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #27 - 10/13/21 at 18:17:16
 
I look at voltage this way.  Steve's amps generally reach maximum power with a 2 volt input.  The amp's attenuator acts like a valve, throttling the inputted voltage from zero to the full input voltage.  If the input voltage is greater than the amp's max of 2 volts and the amp pot is turned all the way up, the amp will clip/distort or whatever.  By increasing the input voltage beyond the 2 volt max, it forces us to throttle back the voltage with the amp's attenuator.  Higher input voltage might "improve" the sound but it will never make the amp more powerful.  

In my case, my TT through my ZMC1 and ZP3 puts out about 1 volt.  If I fed that directly into my ZMA I'd never reach the full potential of the ZMA.  By boosting the voltage with my CSP3 and ZROCK2 I can get 100% out of  my ZMA, even though I "throttle back" the inputted voltage with the ZMA pot.  My CD player puts out 2 volts so even without the CSP3 and ZR2 I can max my ZMA.

I'm more of a plumber than an electrician so I don't know if my analogy is correct but it seems to work in practice.
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ZLC
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ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #28 - 10/13/21 at 21:39:27
 
Is it reasonable to substitute the word “volts” with the word “volume”?

Volts conjures up complex electrical engineering connotations. While volume is a word I’ve long understood.

Is it correct to say that I’d adjust the volume on one of my soon to be 3 line stages in order to make it sound good?  When said like that, it sounds easy enough. When characterized as volts it makes think I must hire someone to do it properly.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #29 - 10/13/21 at 23:06:05
 
Up to a point that might be but once you pass the amp specs (i.e.,  number of volts for max power) it breaks down and more volts just cause clipping.  By example, when I got into moving coil cartridges I ordered a ZMC1 step up transformer (MC carts are very low output).  While I was waiting for it I was still able to use my system since I could boost the fraction of a volt coming out of my ZP3 with my CSP3 to usable levels.  The tradeoff was more noise though since the CSP3 boosted that right along with the signal.

So, you can boost weak signals to make them usable (loud enough) but a strong signal may have to be throttled down to avoid clipping/distortion.  My TT signal is 1 volt whereas my CD signal is 2 volts.  For them to have the same volume I either have to turn my ZMA volume higher for the TT or boost the TT signal with my CSP3.  But even with the CSP3, if I avoid clipping my amp, neither will be louder than the other.
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Technics 1200G TT w/ Ortofon Jubilee MC cart
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ZP3 (25th A Mods)
ZR2 (25th A Mods)
CSP3 (25th A mods)
ZMA (25th A mods)
Homemade Big Betsy Speakers (F15s)
Silver Cabling
DIY Isolation platforms under amps & TT.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #30 - 10/14/21 at 00:55:34
 
This white paper from Steve might help:  https://www.decware.com/paper55.htm
Bob
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Caintuck Lii15 1.5" Padauk, Elekit 8200R (to be UFO25th), CSP 25th mods, Holo May KTE , PI2AES or HQPlayer/USB/IFI Zen Stream, Roon, Qobuz, Tidal and Spotify(various ICs and Power Cables)
Heresy IIIs, Reisong A10 (to be Torii Jr), Pontus II
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #31 - 10/14/21 at 01:32:44
 
Archie wrote:
Quote:
I look at voltage this way.  Steve's amps generally reach maximum power with a 2 volt input.  The amp's attenuator acts like a valve, throttling the inputted voltage from zero to the full input voltage.  If the input voltage is greater than the amp's max of 2 volts and the amp pot is turned all the way up, the amp will clip/distort or whatever.


In regards to the "Steve's amps generally reach maximum power with a 2 volt input", is this a listed spec?  Does some spec in the normal amp specification list, Decware or otherwise, refer to at what voltage an amp reaches maximum power?

Take my Marantz setup.  The SACD 30n is specifically designed to mate with the Model 30.  The SACD has an output voltage of 2.5 (fixed), or 5.0 (variable).  Both are significantly higher than the Model 30's stated input voltage of 1.0. The specs don't say the input voltage is a maximum, only that it's 1.0.   And yet clipping is not an issue in any normal listening situation.

I'm wondering if the voltage thing is more of an issue with tender Decware tube amp watts?  Or am I not understanding the whole thing?

I am a little intimidated by the two (right and left) line level output controls on the CSP3.  How do these differ from the master volume knob?  Don't they both do the same thing, just the master volume does it for both channels simultaneously?

My uninformed and neophyte approach to integrating the CSP3 by using either Marantz piece as a volume control, was to simply put the CSP3 output and master volume knobs on maximum, and then control the volume on the Marantz.  Is that how one correctly integrates a CSP3 when the CSP3 (we really need to come up with some better names   Smiley) is not being used to control volume?

Or will I need to enter the esoteric world of mysterious voltage adjustments and hope for the best?

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #32 - 10/14/21 at 02:42:33
 
Sorry, I have been working on this a while and have to go, so have not reviewed your more recent questions, still a few back. As Archie was pointing to, the voltage out from a source needs to be at a given level or more based on the amp's input voltage requirements in order to reach the amp's full power. So an amp rated for 2 volts input, you would want 2 volts or more going in to achieve full power. Then higher voltage in does effect how the full power potential of the amp is arrived at, so if it is going to clip at a max power output level, then higher voltages from the CSP3 can cause the amp to clip at a lower level on the amp's volume knob.

And if you are using the CSP3 as a volume rather than for sound tuning, and the amp was fully cranked, you could easily end up below that 2 volts with your CSP3 gain knob set for quieter volumes. So for lower volume only, the 2 volt thing does not really matter as far as I can tell, because if the pre setting is based on volume, and if lower volume equals lower CSP3 voltage out than 2 volts, you don't need full amp power anyway.

But what I am talking about is finding the right "volume" pot settings to give the optimal sound range from the CSP3. And changing the "volume" pot in this range does change the volume, but more importantly, it adjusts the voltage to modify the sound qualities from within this range. And once into the "beauty range," the optimal voltage range for sound, higher master gain settings increase the voltage through and out of the CSP3, making the sound more lucid, dense, weighty, etc. Where less voltage, the sound is more relaxed, lean, open, less full and bassy. This can be very illuminating for tuning for optimal system sound, and once that optimal "volume" pot range is found, also useful for adjusting to bring out the best of different recording qualities. In this case, your primary volume adjuster would be the more neutral sounding amp, and the CSP3 adjusts volume in this range, but is more about effects on the signal sound.

So going just on volume is not necessarily going to be a good rule if you are using a CSP3 for sound tuning rather than just volume.

If this is interesting to you, if you set up your initial CSP3 gain settings based on settings others have found to put you close to, or into this optimal sound tuning range, you are ready to play around and see what you hear. Then, if want to explore the sonic effects of "gain riding" between the amp and CSP3, you can work with pretty subtle adjustments and hear what upping the CSP3 "volume" does while lowering the amp volume to keep the loudness about the same. This is gain riding. Then ride the gains a little the other way, lowering the CSP3 while upping the amp, and listen for the sonic differences while keeping the same volume. And this is not much of a range on the CSP3 master gain pot for me. Mine is modded to be toned back from full output, so yours may end up different, but the master "volume" range I use on my CSP3 is between ±2 o'clock - ±4 o'clock, and mostly between, the level depending on how I want to adjust recording's balances. So a pretty narrow optimal sound range for me.

So once you get a good average gain range for the CSP3 you like the sound of, you are good to go, the CSP3 adjustments more about tuning sound qualities of the system, and for recordings if you like. And the amp becomes the ultimate volume determinant, the amp adjusted how you like strictly for listening levels, while maintaining the optimal CSP3 gain for sound.

Then, once you get a handle on that, you might add the ZRock2 into the equation. With a pretty neutral recording, and the CSP3 in the middle of your preferred sonic range, set the ZRock2 for the sound you most love from gain ("volume pot") adjustments that bring out your favorite sound range from it. Then having established good baselines for optimally tuned sound, minor adjustments with the gain stages can be used to increase or decrease the particular qualities each impart ... allowing continued exploration of the best settings and balances for the most optimal system sound, or to adjust the system to make different recording qualities sound better.

If this is still a little baffling, I would suggest that if this theory of sound tuning sounds interesting to you, to not get too caught up in trying to "understand" until you have the gear in hand and can try it. Then I think it can all make more sense.



For me sound is always my ultimate gauge. Going too much by measurements and specs to me is part of what makes a lot of audio less than great. If a piece is designed mostly by theory, you can have great specs and not so great sound. My thought here is that the sound influences the parts used impart are a big deal beyond measurements. And the collective sound of a lot of parts can be better or worse to our musical perception and experience.

By extension, every system/room is different, and though there could be some consensus I suppose about what output voltage range produces the most optimal sound from a CSP3, but I think how we get there is quite variable. Even using exactly the same tubes with two CSP3s in two systems, I figure what is coming into the CSP3 effects the CSP3 sound, as do the small input and output pot settings in relation to each other and to the master gain... not to mention bright speakers and rooms with a weaker bass needing different sonic tuning balances than rooms and systems that might tend to too dark and/or bassy.

So I don't know how to do it better than starting with known settings, and tuning from there by sound for your system/room and tastes.

But for an example, my current setup is the Tranquility DAC, ZRock2, CSP3, and Torii IV.

I just measured the voltages out that I had arrived at from sound tuning, not measurements. For the CSP3, the range I like with the current tube set is from about 4.5 volts to about 9 volts at the RCA outputs. And this is about 2 o'clock to about 4 o'clock on the master gain of my particular CSP3.

The ZRock2, using a Mullard 12AU7 tube, and the A setting, I got from about 2 volts to 2.9 volts output for the voltage/gain range I prefer using this tube. This is not much above "unity gain," the point where the bypass switch off sounds really close to when the switch is on. Finding unity, I then turn up the gain knob a bit, and the ZRock adds some signal intensity, more bass weight, lucidity, fullness, dynamics, all with the particular ZRock2 flavors. Turn it up some more, and it goes more weighted toward bass, fuller. With this tube, this range that I prefer for sound, relative to the knob setting, is also pretty small.... approximately 1 o'clock to 2 o'clock.

But this is me, and this particular tube, and to get similar effects from a more powerful tube like a 12AT7, or those between 12AU7s and 12AT7s, you will get greater gain from the tube, more volume and signal intensity... so turning down the gain knob setting for that tube would likely be a more neutral start point to adjust up from, and adjusting to tastes from there.

So, finally, higher "volume" does relate to a higher voltage. But depending on the amp volume setting, your CSP3 gain/voltage could be too low to pull its deeper beauty if used strictly for volume. And to me, it is the associated voltage that is most important, the best voltage range electronically creating the optimal sound range.

I hope this makes it clearer.

Will
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #33 - 10/14/21 at 06:49:24
 
I second Will's suggestion not to get too worried about this until you have the equipment in hand to play with.  I posted Steve's chart earlier since this really cleared things up for me.  Honestly, I still don't really understand all of the knobs on the CSP3.  I think there is some redundancy that is there for headphone use.  I'm more of a set and forget guy.  Occasionally I might tweak my CSP3 Inputs or my ZROCK2 setting but generally they just stay put nd I only adjust the volume on my amp.
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DancingSea
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #34 - 10/14/21 at 17:14:40
 
Will wrote:

Quote:
I just measured the voltages out that I had arrived at from sound tuning, not measurements. For the CSP3, the range I like with the current tube set is from about 4.5 volts to about 9 volts at the RCA outputs. And this is about 2 o'clock to about 4 o'clock on the master gain of my particular CSP3.


Thanks to all. And thanks to you Will for your clarity, depth, and the utter generosity of your replies.

These sort of starting point settings are very helpful.  I understand “o’clock” much more than volts.   I’ll begin with a CSP3 master volume setting of between 2 & 4 o’clock.

What’s a good starting point for the CSP3 right and left line level output controls?  The CSP3 manual is rather vague regarding those two knobs.

Thank you.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #35 - 10/14/21 at 17:26:12
 
Archie wrote:

Quote:
I posted Steve's chart earlier since this really cleared things up for me.


I wish I understood Steve’s chart better. To my brain it looks like a nonsensical collection of numbers with a disassociated descriptive text 😂.  I’m reasonably adept at operating my Mac, but would clueless if I read a discussion describing how Mac OS operates under the hood. In my youth I was an exchange student in Finland.  All these years later I still have no clue what the Finnish teachers were saying 🤣. It’s like that with tech charts for me.
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Archie
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #36 - 10/14/21 at 17:42:32
 
You have to take Will's settings for his Master Control in context of both his source voltage and his settings of his Input and Output controls.  Steve's chart is very straightforward.  Look at the CSP3 controls while looking at the chart.  Steve shows the voltages with the Master Control and Output Control maximized and the Input Control set at each of its positions.  What Will measured is for a fixed Input/Output but a varying MC.  For example, if you look at the chart with a 2 volt source and the Inputs set to "6," the voltage out of the CSP3 will range from "0" to 5.1 volts depending on the Master Control position.

The absolute voltages really don't matter other than telling you when you might be approaching a limit (like the 15 volt max input to the ZROCK2).
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #37 - 10/14/21 at 18:02:34
 
The manual is pretty clear about set up actually:

Once everything is connected and warmed up and you are happy that there are no excessive amounts of noise or hum, you can set the controls on the CSP3 to match your amplifier’s requirements:
1) turn up the input level controls all the way (clockwise). These are only adjusted during headphone use and only with headphones that get too loud.
2) turn on your source and get some music playing.
3) turn up the main volume control on the CSP3 to halfway.
4) slowly turn the output level controls up until you hear music playing at a normal listening volume.
5) your preamp is now adjusted properly for your amplifier.
6) further experimentation can be made by adjusting the gain control on the
amplifier if it has one relative to the output level settings on the CSP3.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #38 - 10/14/21 at 18:24:46
 
I wonder how many use the manual's setting?  It doesn't seem to account for gain riding.  I've had Steve suggest several different approaches.  One included maximizing the amp volume pot and making the volume adjustments just with the CSP3 which also negates gain riding.  It seems like there are two approaches in opposition.  I completely understand DancingSea's confusion over CSP3 settings since to me, it's the most confusing piece of equipment Steve makes.  I've never heard an explanation of the difference between the Input and Output controls either.  I've inadvertently used them in opposition to others on the Forum and when I reversed things I could hear no difference.
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Lon
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #39 - 10/14/21 at 18:39:04
 
Well, I no longer have input gain controls on MY CSP3 because when I had it built I included the Anniversary mods and inquired about a glass resistor and Steve gave me the input controls bypassed with a glass resistor. It's a marvelous sounding preamp and killer headphone amp and I don't know how that particular mod has influenced the sound compared to the stock preamp. I just get to play with the output controls, which I keep at about 5 to 7, sometimes 4 if I have the amplifier gain set a bit higher than I usually do. All these adjustments influence the system sound.

But the set up that I quoted from the manual DOES set the preamp up for gain-riding. Once you have it set up that way you can experiment with gain riding using the amplifiers gain controls (if your amp has one, Decware amps do unless modded not to, and DancingSea's integrated does) as Steve mentions in the quote, and you can also use the input gain controls to influence the gain signature.

On my CSP2+ with the Anniversary mods I have and do use the input controls and I definitely hear their influence on the sound. If I have them high the sound is slightly thickened with the output controls higher up, and if I have them lower the sound is slightly less dense and a bit "lighter" in tonal balance.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #40 - 10/14/21 at 18:43:13
 
Quote:
On my CSP2+ with the Anniversary mods I do use the input controls and I definitely hear their influence on the sound. If I have them high the sound is slightly thickened with the output controls higher up, and if I have them lower the sound is slightly less dense and a bit "lighter" in tonal balance.


This is sort of how I do mine.  I probably got it from you and Will.  You more or less confirmed my suspicion that the having both Input and Output controls are redundant.  I just pin my Outputs.
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will
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #41 - 10/14/21 at 18:52:24
 
After playing around with your new toys, if you are interested in Steve's voltage chart, it would likely be easier to get.


Thinking more about the small pot adjustments, I don't use my CSP3 much for headphones, and as it turned out, my headphones are pretty good volume wise when changing over to them from speaker listening. So the pot settings I use are fine for going back and forth, but mine were set up by-sound for my speaker system listening. So I have not explored the small pots used to make the transition between headphone use and speaker use listening friendly, but think I recall the pots can be, in part, about adjusting for different impedance headphones to work well volume-wise when changing back and forth between speakers and phones???  So settings that you make for the speaker system listening would not blow your head off if you change to phones... or the phones being too quiet and having to turn the master way up, and blowing you away if you forget when changing back to the speakers??? Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will comment further on this.

Using my CSP3 mainly for system tuning, I find the small pots are really handy for balancing the signal for right and left balance. Especially if you use a lot of tubes, left/right balance can go subtly off, making the sound stage a little off. And you can easily compensate for right-left room sound with these adjustments... Or maybe your stereo system is balanced, and the room makes the sound stage seem a little off balance. Then the pots are your friend for fine tuning your sound stage.

Personally, I found the adjusting the pots, front and back useful for fine tuning the sound also. I seem to recall a lot of folks running the first set of pots behind the master volume on 10, wide open, and the next set back, 5-6???? But before modifying mine, I ended up liking 9 in the front, and 7-8 in the back, usually 7...  It sounds to me like fine-tuning balances between the front set and back set of pots is balancing the tubes to best pull the beauty from working well together... Here, these settings are based on mostly using an ECC189 input, and a pair of nice 6922/ECC88s for output. And I can't say exactly why, but I almost always preferred the front one down a bit from wide open, mellowing the push of the sound to my tastes.

So if you were to choose to try what I found best in this system on yours for a start, and setting the CSP3 up for gain riding rather than system volume, I would start with your current amp system set for your average listening volume. Then, if you try my settings on the small pots, start with your master volume all the way down. Then bring the CSP master up to where you like it for normal listening.... up to more-or-less the average listening volume you got from the Marantz/amp volume setting without the CSP3. This master level will depend on your amp power etc, and how the CSP3 interacts with it, and it may well be different than mine. So start easy!

But if this puts the master where it still has a good adjustability.... (not way down, or way up on the knob setting) and if you like the sound, then play with the pots a little and see what you think... If you lower one or the other pair, you will need a higher baseline setting on the master for the same volume. Or if you raise a pair of pots, you will end up with a lower master volume for the same volume. I like my potentiator sound best on the higher side of its center, so mine is set this way, but it is fine more in the middle, and would work fine with a usual range of 9-11 o'clock, or 11-1, or where I use it... I just prefer the sound of this pot on the higher side, and based on the small pot settings I like best. But you mainly need to be left with a usable range for tuning.

Then if you want to tune the CSP3 together with the amp for the best sound you can get from the combination at average listening levels ... I would go back to my earlier explanations for gain tuning between amp and pre, with some form of "gain riding" used to find a relatively neutral balance from blending of the CSP3 and amp master volume settings, while also bringing in a nice touch of tube enhancement.... potentially more lucidity, fluidity, warmth, dynamics etc... With minor gain riding, find gain settings that leave you with a neutral spectral balance for your average recordings, and the sweetness from the CSP3 active in a way you prefer. This could end you up at a more-or-less set and forget level, or a good average sound as a beginning. Being relatively neutral, it is a good place to tune warmer/fuller, or a little leaner and more open by increasing or decreasing the CSP3 in the average listening level balancing. This could be a nice place to start for optimal sound, and for future system sound fine-tuning, or to tune "off" recordings into a better sound.



And I agree, my setting have changed through time.... so maybe a good start, but you might end up likeing yours different, so have fun learning it and finding what you love.

For example, after starting to pull more resolution and flow with bypass caps, connectors, resistors and wires... with the tube sets I was using, I ended up preferring 8-10 in the front, and 8 in the back. Finally, I found myself adjusting only the front one to fine tune a tube set, or to fine-tune right/left balance, the back staying at 8 here. So I measured that output pot resistance with those pots set at 8, and replaced the pots with a really good sounding resistor, increasing transparency and flow. So play with it once you get used to how it works...

I hope this helps open thoughts on how the small pots can be used for sound tuning and otherwise. Once I find a great balance from the small pots, and the master gain, for my system and room, when I had two sets, I was mainly set and forget on those little pots, doing any fine-tuning with the master. And if I change tubes, I often play a little with the small pot settings front and back, to be sure, sometimes changing adjustments by a notch, but most often they end up the same as they were after testing the new tube set for overall sound quality. Now I will on occasion adjust the remaining front pots (now stepped attenutors) for sound with tube changes, mostly set at 8 though, but sometimes 9 or 10.

Then if a tube set needs a little right/left adjustment, I do that to get the sound stage right. In my system/room it is amazing how much this can help... The sound stage can sound great, but just a little weak on one side compared to the other. Then dialing it in a bit, the sound stage slots into a really wild beauty, clearly maximizing my system potential in relation to this room. When I get the R/L balance just right, powering up the weaker side just so, it is like the whole thing expands and slots into place. Usually it becomes deeper, with the players and spatial information between them more differentiated, and sound stage "boundaries" I did not know were there just expand. The room boundaries before this are already way gone here, the stage wide and deep, and extending beyond walls, but when I get the R/L balance just right, it all becomes a little bigger, a little more defined, sometimes notably deeper, decays more "real" and audible, and subtle decays feeling like they are fading more into infinite space.


On using the CSP3 as a volume adjuster, I don''t have much experience with this either, preferring gain tuning for sound. But I think this is what Archie is referring to as an option.... If used for more traditional preamp use I think the CSP3 would become the main system volume adjuster. From your description of your pre inside your amp, the CSP3 would all or mostly replace the pre in your amp as your new volume adjuster. Using it this way, the amp part would be set, perhaps functionally be wide open, and the volume controlled by your CSP3 preamp.

So as I understand it, if you want the CSP3 to work more in the traditional sense of a preamp, your amp would be set with little or no attenuation, and used all for power.... and the CSP3 would be your volume adjuster. In this case, I don't know from experience what to suggest with the small pots and master pot setup, maybe the instructions quoted from Steve, or a variation of those....remembering the CSP3 has a lot of gain, and especially if your amp is powerful, be careful with initial CSP settings!

But again, I hope someone more knowledgeable about using the pre this way will comment.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #42 - 10/14/21 at 18:58:46
 
Archie wrote on 10/14/21 at 18:43:13:
This is sort of how I do mine.  I probably got it from you and Will.  You more or less confirmed my suspicion that the having both Input and Output controls are redundant.  I just pin my Outputs.

Well they may be redundant for you but not for me. And I wouldn't want to discourage others from experimenting with them.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #43 - 10/14/21 at 19:06:51
 
What gets my head spinning is that between the CSP3 and the amp we have four ways of adjusting "volume" from zero to maximum and every combination in between.  Aren't the number of combinations something like 1X2X3X4=24?  I end up removing some of that variability by just pegging my Outputs and Master Control.  But that's just me.  Steve seems to have developed the ultimate tool for the sound tweaker!  Bottom line is that the CSP3 is worth having (essential IMO) and once in hand can be played with and fine tuned for almost any contingency.  The reason I so appreciate the chart is that it gives me a "picture" of what's going on.  I really should buy a multi-meter so I can measure things like Will does.
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #44 - 10/14/21 at 19:18:33
 
I can adjust gain at my source(s), my ZTPRE, my ZBIT, my ZROCK2, my CSP3 and my Monoblocks in my main system--and I have a PS Audio P15 that I can set in different modes that influence the sound as well.

Then there's tube-rolling with so many possibilities especially if you have some converter bases handy.

It can be a bit overwhelming but ultimately I can never be bored or stuck into a sound that isn't ultimately satisfying.

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #45 - 10/14/21 at 19:53:58
 
Quote:
It can be a bit overwhelming but ultimately I can never be bored or stuck into a sound that isn't ultimately satisfying.


I'm very strong on the above. Over the past 3 years of experience with tubes, its the very reason I will never return to SS pre-amp/amplification. With SS you hit the power button and hope to God you love what you're hearing, otherwise its just another merry-go-round buying and selling spree ad-nauseum. With tubes, the sky is the limit.

And with point to point electronics, its fun to explore even more in depth, making significant improvements on the status quo. I plan on doing a level of this in my hobby now....to increase what is given and make it that much better. With the help and guiding hand of an esteemed forum member, I'll be doing so very soon with the CSP3, Zrock2-25th, and Zbit....most probably leaving the Torii MK 5-25th pretty much alone when its finally delivered.
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will
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #46 - 10/14/21 at 20:17:54
 
Yes, I agree with everything. My personal take... I am like Lon at this point, using every adjustment I know for more refined sound tuning. And in the direction Brad is leaning... I have gone off the deep end, with cable making, and tuning speakers, amps and DACs interior stuff toward a progressively more complete and entrancing sound.

It is the seduction that drives me forward. But as much, the mind "taken over" by more complete musical perception, discernment, and creative tuning explorations, less distracted by "this and that," it becomes more receptive to perception and insights. And with successes, musical immersion potential grows deeper, enhancing my life experience, making me feel better. To me it all becomes a powerful natural meditation... really sweet and satisfying as the exploration, focus, and the musical immersion experiences take over mental rambling, clearing and opening up consciousness so that it is less biased, more receptive, more awake, expanding abilities to feel, perceive and know.

Progressive, I think as we get better at tuning, we get better at hearing... leading to becoming better at perceiving, and at discerning what we are perceiving.

Associated, if we are drawn to adjustment, with practice and exploration, we can become better at defining needs for adjustments, and the need to uncover more engulfing sound tends to drive us to learn the effects of specific adjustments, causing us to learn the tools.

So for me, the many tools we have available with this gear gradually became more familiar out of a need for a more natural and complete musical experience.

Importantly, thinking about confusions in all this, in my uncharted path, learning sound tuning to get the deeper beauty across recordings remains gradual over a lot of years, and continues to evolve with experiments. And clearly some are drawn in more, and some less. But the more successes in finding beauty, the more I am drawn to go further... causing me to learn more, which in turn, makes it easier and funner to explore more.

But how far we each want to go is really variable, so listening to some of us who have been pulled way in, no doubt it can get overwhelming thinking about all the potential, and all the adjustments that can help us experience our potential. But I think of it as a language, and by practicing fine-tuning, while being drawn forward by the excitement of finding more immersive sound, we naturally learn what different adjustments can do... and discovering more of them as we go... we learn the language.

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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #47 - 10/15/21 at 02:16:08
 
All - THIS is what i fell in love with on this forum when I was researching SET's. The exchange of knowledge, opinion, shoot'en from the hip and support to experiment. All my Decware gear allows so much adjustment, but I never STRESS over the '' is it right"?? If my toes are tapping and I submerged in the music.... it's right. Love it, happy listening all, Chris.
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DancingSea
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #48 - 10/15/21 at 17:12:59
 
Meanwhile, back in kindergarten   Smiley

Will wrote:

Quote:
For example, after starting to pull more resolution and flow with bypass caps, connectors, resistors and wires... with the tube sets I was using, I ended up preferring 8-10 in the front, and 8 in the back.


I'm a little confused about what's the "front", and what's the "back".  Is the master CSP3 volume knob the front?  And the two right and left channel output adjustment knobs?, pot?, the "back"?

Will also wrote:
Quote:
From your description of your pre inside your amp, the CSP3 would all or mostly replace the pre in your amp as your new volume adjuster. Using it this way, the amp part would be set, perhaps functionally be wide open, and the volume controlled by your CSP3 preamp.


My situation is sort of the opposite.  I prefer not to live without a remote control for volume.  I can control volume with the remote on two different Marantz devices.  The SACD 30n, or the Model 30 integrated amp (which can be run with the integrated preamp off if desired).  Therefore, in terms of volume control, the CSP3 is the odd man out.

Should I then set the CSP3 to "wide open"?

Thanks
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Re: Tube Parlance, Please Educate Me!
Reply #49 - 10/15/21 at 17:18:26
 
Archie wrote:

Quote:
The reason I so appreciate the chart is that it gives me a "picture" of what's going on.


I appreciate you attempting to teach me to fish.  The act of actually fishing is proving quite elusive, therefore, could you please catch and fish and give it me 😂?

I like the idea of the chart guiding me, but it's escaping me.  Could you please provide an example of using the chart for discernment?  For instance, my Marantz Model 30's power amp input is 1V.  How would you take that spec, use the chart, and what conclusion would you reach about how to set the right and left output pots/ knobs?

Mahalo Nu!
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