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  1. #1
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    300B vs 2A3 vs EL34 vs etc

    I have seen different tube amps using different tubes. The most popular triodes being:

    300B
    2A3
    EL34

    well...I think they are triodes, not completely sure about the EL34...anyways, whats different between them? I notice that EL34 is the smallest amongst the 3, but that's it. Are they supposed to sound different? or is it something else...??

  2. #2
    RGA
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    Yes they sound different because usually they have a totally different amp connected to them. They each have their supporters/detractors. Some designs have way more selection as well which makes them more popular. The EL34 seems to have loads of different options while the EL 84 is rather limited. EL 34 and 84 are pretty cheap though at $10.00 while some of the 2a3 300b I see for $300.00.

    Antique Sound Labs for example has the cheaper tube amp the MG 15 Si but it uses a tube(KT 88) that is more than double the price of the EL 34 used in the AQ1003DT. Pay a $100.00 more for the amp but save way more in the long run...Plus UHF said the AQ1003 was better - I would probably agree but didn't hear em side by side.

    The EL 34 are usually in amps of 30+ watts better for tough to drive speakers.

    I have to laugh have you read the thread on Speaker asylum? I don't get why some don't believe him on the bass output of the AN E D. I thought it was kind of neat that Peter would actually take his wares to the guy's house.

  3. #3
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    Ah yes, I just read it now.
    Seems to me that Peter is the type of man that will go out of his way to prove a point.
    Mr "theaudiohobby", IMO, is sorta on the wrong side of the tracks. His/her signature, "Its not just about the music, I want excellent sonics," is exactly the reason NOT to be in audio. I suppose he/she is implying that every time he listens to something, he comments on the amount of detail it can give. As many have mentioned...who actually go to a concert and analyses the detail coming out of someone's voice or guitar? He/she is the type of person who buys all sorts of metres and computer software to analyse THD, freq response, linear response, etc. Plus, what's there not to agree with? There have been several reviews on the AN E/D, which some of them have been brought to the lab (such as hifi choice). There has been nothing that has said that it doesnt actually go down that low. So we can only accept that 17hz at -6dB as an honest report.

    It will be quite interesting if it actually happens. I can imagine the heat it might stur up. Hmm.. if that his the case, I would also like to argue with peter. I wouldnt mind him coming to my house to show me his stuff.

  4. #4
    RGA
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    Yeah a trip to Canada would be nice for anyone - especially the paradise that is British Columbia. Of course then he might get too close to the U.S. for his liking.

    Okay better not make fun of the States - Michael Moore said they've lost their sense of humour over the last several years.

    Thing is all you need is a test disc...I have one from Sound and Vision that sends a pulse tone starting at 4hz moving up in 4's. I hear sound at ~32hz in the corbner though I suspect it's well down -15db and then at 36hz it's probably -6-10db and then at 40hz it's pretty solid. I had the volume low because i don't trust the disc as it might hurt my speakers/amp. I need an SPL. The E is about 7-8 times larger I'm sure it can add another octave. Brits tend to be conservative wih their ratings anyway. Very little music is below 40hz the bottom A on a piano is something like 52hz so unless your an organ freak or love synthesized rap it's doubt you'll need much lower than 40.

    Well I need a job. 2 more years left of school and already in debt for $40k. Ahh gotta love it.

  5. #5
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    holy geebus 40k!!!
    I'm one of the lucky ones. I have been working for the past 2 summers at a pulp mill, where I make enough to last all year including tuition + a fat check from tax returns. the tax return is gonna fund my new gear. + living at home saves a bunch! So far I'm debt free and happy.

    I hope you wont have too much trouble paying off that debt. Well... at least you arent in the states...tuition is how much there? 12-15 grand a year? We got it easy here.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 92135011
    I have seen different tube amps using different tubes. The most popular triodes being:

    300B
    2A3
    EL34

    well...I think they are triodes, not completely sure about the EL34...anyways, whats different between them? I notice that EL34 is the smallest amongst the 3, but that's it. Are they supposed to sound different? or is it something else...??


    Hi 9213505833,

    While there are differences in not only tubes used...but also in design (like RGA was saying) and with supporting drivers used with the particular output tube.

    Best advice, Just go out and listen. If your thinking of possibly getting into tubes...try to listen with speakers that are the same or similar to the ones you have. Just use your ears to decide what you like...or what you don't like. But, once you find something you think you like or dislike...still keep an open mind. Because you just may find an amp that uses a circuit with the specific tube that really brings it to life. Or perhaps it's paired with a driver tube that really just opens up the output tube...or possibly hurts it.

    I never could understand when people talk about tubes being attractive (in sound) because they clip in a manner that is more pleasing to our ears. While that may be true...it's largely a load of crap BECAUSE if your running into a situation where your amp is clipping...you simply didn't take any care in matching your speakers, amps and listening preferences together. If this is the case...you need to look into either getting a higher powered amp, more efficient speakers or simply turning the volume down so you don't drive the amp into clipping any more. Makes no difference if it's SS or tube...you don't want this to be a common occurrence...in fact, it's best if it could be avoided all together.

    While the el34 isn't a power triode it is a power pentode, but the 2A3 and 300B are power triodes. I'm not sure how many tube amps you listened to. But if your not very familiar with them...and love your SS sound. A higher powered PP tube amp may be a great place to start. There are many many PP amps out there. But one that should be easy to find in most audio shops (that sell tubes) would be the Manley Stingray. It's got some of the nice tube separation and "air" while maintaining a decent wallop to satisfy most SS fans.

    The 2A3 and 300B are both triodes...but do sound very different from one another. The 2A3 while also low powered (2-3.5Watts or so) it still will deliver sound in spades, if some thought is given to matching the amp to your speakers and preferences. It's clean, it's detailed and precise. The 300B has a little more power (8-12Watts or so) but can also sound quite good. The 300B can have a nice, natural, easy, holographic sound. But you must take care when selecting driver tubes with it. From my experience this is where you can grossly color the sound if your not careful in your selection. But as always, let your ears decide what you like. The best implementation of a 300B amp I've heard was an LMD 6sn7/10y/300b tube amp. 45 tube amps also sound good...and this would be an easy choice for me...if they just had a little more power

    There are also a few other triodes you can listen to as well...but if your local hifi shop has them or not is unknown??? Give them a listen...and give the PP designs a listen too.

    take care...and have fun!
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    enjoy the music!

  7. #7
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    OK - this is gonna get real confusing real quick but the basics are as follows:

    2A3, 300B, 45's are all usually SET implementations (although there are push pull 2A3's out there). These are supposed to provide the most musical experience of all, according to afficianado's but have low power output. Basically unless you have high sensitivity speakers and/or listen to chamber music at low volumes they are unlikely to provide enough volume before they start clipping (running out of power). As mentioned previously when they clip it is not as instantly agonizing as when SS clips, but clipping is clipping and is best avoided whenever possible.

    EL34's, KT88's (6550's), KT66's and the rest are all usually found in PP amps. Again there are triode versions of amps with these tubes but they are less common. In PP form they provide more power and some sound very like SS counterparts (Particularly the KT88's) in terms of their ability to provide deep bass (the JJ electronics KT88 is particularly strong here). Typically you can easily find these in amps upto around 50 wpc.

    Thereafter, in the power spectrum, you tend to find ultra-linear amps which can go all the way up to 200 wpc in some implementations (my own amp uses 8 EL34's in an ultra-linear setup with 70 wpc but can take KT88's and go upto 100 wpc if I should ever want it).

    If you really want to take up tube amps and understand what you are getting into it will take some reading up. There are many choices out there but ultimately what you go for will be determined by your speakers (sensitivity and loading) and your choice of music.

  8. #8
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    Most informative guys. Thanks a lot
    One more thing...I hear the word NOS floating in every now and then. What does this mean?

  9. #9
    RGA
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    NOS = New Old Stock. Some people think the old tubes back in their hayday were best and the newer stuff is a step down...this may or may not be the case...Nostalgia is tough to separate from the facts. Try both and see. Generally NOS will cost a LOT more.

    I get my tubes from the tube store because they're the only ones I know of in Canada - they charge in U.S. Prices but no duties etc to worry about. http://www.thetubestore.com/

  10. #10
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    RGA,
    You might also want to check out www.partsconnexion.com. They have some tubes at cheaper prices than the tube store. I checked JJ and EH 300B tubes for interest sake and found partsconnexion cheaper. They, too, are Canadian.

  11. #11
    The sweet sound of Tubes
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    Cool Oh the sweet warm sound of tubes!

    Quote Originally Posted by 92135011
    I have seen different tube amps using different tubes. The most popular triodes being:

    300B
    2A3
    EL34

    well...I think they are triodes, not completely sure about the EL34...anyways, whats different between them? I notice that EL34 is the smallest amongst the 3, but that's it. Are they supposed to sound different? or is it something else...??

    I have a friend who owns some Cary monoblock 300B single ended triode amps. These have simply the most seductive midrange sound I have ever heard. They should for the price..... But the bass is lacking and the sound is not accurate. Still, I sit transfixed that any amp can transport me to audiophile heaven like these Cary amps can.

    I have a couple of Precision Fidelity M7A amps. These were built in the mid 80's. The chief designer was in aerospace, and understood the value of high quality and high tolerance components. His circuit boards are among the finest I have ever experienced in my life. His life was tragically cut short, (shot dead in Noel Lee's parking lot) and the company disappeared.

    My M7As can operate in stereo mode or be strapped into mono. In stereo mode they use 2 EL-34's and 2 AX7A's per channel. These are hybrid amps, meaning they use a transistor front end which enables the tube amplifier to have extremely accurate speed details. Drum beats have impact, and cymbals and gongs are detailed and precise.

    My M7A's are my current favorite tube amps because I am a musician, and the ability of my amplifiers to sound accurate is very important to me.

    For those who say they don't understand tubes vs transistors, simply remember that in live music, instruments all resonate in even order harmonics. So when I play a note on a Violin or Piano, every even order harmonic is energized by my note. This gives live music the warmth that you hear in a concert hall.

    Transistor amps resonate in odd order harmonics. This is the fingernails across the chalk board effect. With most transistor amps, as you turn up the music it sounds better, but hurts your ears. Lots of equipment reviewers refer to this effect as listener fatigue. It is bombardment by odd-order harmonics that do not occur in the actual music itself unless you are listening to dissonant music. Oh, how did I end up on this road?

    I run a Nikko Alpha 130 amp right now for my subwoofers. I do not think it is fair for any tube amp to be asked to control the backside of a woofers motion. This is where transistors do a better job, and under 125 hz, the odd order harmonics are drowned by the harmonic distortion of the woofer cone above 80 spl.

    I hope my ramblings help you sort out some of the "sound" that comes from tubes.

    6551 tubes are also common in current designs, but do not have the midrange warmth of the EL-34s ina triode mode.

    The "life" of music exists in the mid-range. Not in the highs or the lows. That is why my friend's Cary Single ended 300B amp just takes my breath away. I wish I could afford the price of admission, but I have two kids in college.

    Interestingly enough, my Precision Fidelity M7A amps are just so accurate to real music, they make Krell amps sound harsh and broken. And I LOVE most of the Krell amps!!!!! I sold high end electronics for 5 years. Krell is the king of the transistor amplifiers, just listen to the full power balanced amps and tell me I am wrong! Mark Levinson also earns my top respect in this regard.

    If you can find a Precision Fidelity M7A amp, BUY IT. Then hook it up with a high quality passive pre-amp and some silver interconnect wire and you are good to go!
    Last edited by Tubes Forever; 01-23-2005 at 11:01 PM.

  12. #12
    It's just a hobby
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tubes Forever
    For those who say they don't understand tubes vs transistors, simply remember that in live music, instruments all resonate in even order harmonics. So when I play a note on a Violin or Piano, every even order harmonic is energized by my note. This gives live music the warmth that you hear in a concert hall.

    Transistor amps resonate in odd order harmonics. This is the fingernails across the chalk board effect. With most transistor amps, as you turn up the music it sounds better, but hurts your ears. Lots of equipment reviewers refer to this effect as listener fatigue. It is bombardment by odd-order harmonics that do not occur in the actual music itself unless you are listening to dissonant music. Oh, how did I end up on this road?
    Gross misinformation, musical intruments put out both odd and even order harmonics, the piano and the violin put both odd and even ordered harmonics, so you are wrong from the first base. The harmonic sprectra of amplifiers depends on circuit design even some of the best SET put out odd order harmonics in their distortion spectra. Hard clipping is also a by-product of circuit design, a number of the fixed bias circuits hard clip conversly a number of Class A/AB circuits soft clip.

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