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  1. #1
    Forum Regular slowGEEZR's Avatar
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    Feb 2007

    triode vs ultralinear...

    I've noticed that a lot of audiophiles think that tube amps run in triode mode generally sound purer than the same amp run in ultralinear mode. I've read that, since ultralinear mode has more power than triode that it should be used for certain types of music (rock, large ensembles, etc.) and for listening loudly and triode is great for some jazz, acoustical, smaller ensembles,etc. It has generally been said that, when the amp is run in UL mode, the output is greater, but the quality is less. All of these statements have been reinforced in my readings of some popular current tube amp offerings in some current magazines. Since my own tube amp sounds so good to my ears and it runs in UL mode, I decided to do more reading regarding these generalizations. After all, how could I be happy if my amp doesn't allow triode mode?

    This is what I found out, after reading articles on design and many review articles dealing specifically with these designs. Are you ready? ....The answer is "it depends". It may or may not be true that a triode mode is purer, with less distortion than the same amp run in UL mode. It may or may not be true that UL produces a bigger quality sound than the same amp run in triode mode. The results depend entirely upon the design of the amp. There are amps, that when run in triode, have more distortion than when they are run in UL and vice versa. There are amps, that when run in UL can't be played as loudly as when they are run in triode, even though the power is greater! The reason for this is that in these amps design, the distortion in UL is greater than in triode and one can't listen to the UL mode above a certain volume level. There are other amps when run in triode, the distortion at certain frequencies are much more than when run in UL and UL is preferred.

    Of course there are many other factors that determine the sound qualities of an amp, but at least I found out that, based on triode or UL design alone, one or the other does not necessarily produce a better sound for any type of music. On the other hand, many of the more popular current designs seem to fit the generalizations in the first paragraph above. To me, this reinforces the idea to audition carefully and to trust your own ears when buying any audio device. - Steve

  2. #2
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Lower AL
    I appreciate your observations, Steve. Nice post. I've wondered about the same subject. My tube amp runs in UL. I've read that some owners have modified it to run in triode and have been pleased with the results. What they gave up in power was made up in more realistic sound presentation. I'm not so sure I would mod an amp that's designed to run in one or the other. When I move up to a better (and more costly) amp, I think I'll audition both types and the amps that allow you switch between ul and triode on the fly.

  3. #3
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Nice one SlowZy,

    I probably dont have as much knowledge as you do on this subject.

    I think the purists would prefer UL amps over UL designed amps with Triode/UL switch. Just all depends on how we appreciate music based on different designs. Sounds like JD-1000R is making your ML sing beautifully.

    I think the biggest upgrade for everyone is to improve their ability to enjoy music.


  4. #4
    Forum Regular slowGEEZR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Thanks guys. Yeah, I'm liking the sound I'm getting. A buddy of mine, who plays drums, listened to my system and yesterday bought new speakers and the same amp. He had listened to my system with the Krell powering it and thought it was nice, but when he heard it with the JD, he said this was the first upgrade that he thought was worth the money. He said that on my system he could tell just what the drummer was doing, which he said he couldn't on other systems he listened to. - Steve

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