Tube Amps

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  • 12-22-2006, 06:49 AM
    Wayne Carson
    Tube Amps
    I'm wanting to venture into the tube amp arena and have several questions for anyone who can answer. Are they really worth the cost? Are there any decent tube amps out there under $2000 that would be good to start with? Is one watt of power on tube amp 3 times higher than one watt on a solid state amp? Would going with a hybrid type of tube amp be better? Any comments on a 3 channel tube amp?
    Please help, if you can!!
    Tube Newbie :confused:
  • 12-24-2006, 08:47 PM
    Mr Peabody
    3 channel? The only way you'd get multi channel tube amps, that I know of, is a company called Butler Audio or use monoblocks. I wouldn't recommend multi channel tube, it would be expensive and you would need a lot of room for ventilation and although I like tubes for music, I wasn't crazy about it in my HT mix.

    I confess I have not heard a lot of tube amps. They just aren't well represented in retail for my area. When I started to search however, I knew the search was over when I hooked up a Conrad Johnson pre and power amp. I feel the price of their gear is worth it. Compared to other gear in the same price or even higher ,for what Conrad Johnson delivers it's a great value.

    If you haven't yet, I'd suggest listening to some tube gear. Don't let anyone try to stereotype tubes to you, they can be as different in sound as any solid state gear. Much of which depends on what type of tubes are used and what design. You have triode or commonly referred to as "single ended" tube amps which only have power of 10 watts or less. You have "ultralinear" which is a more powerful design and better suited for today's speakers that can be more difficult to drive.

    Another consideration is what type of music you listen to and more importantly how loud do you like it. Big tube power costs. But if your speakers are average or better sensitivity you can get decent volume levels from some of the 35 to 50 watt amps. I've heard that a 50 watt tube amp sounds equivalent to a 100 watts of solid state power. Others, say it's really not much.different strength wise, the tubes just don't clip or distort as hard. I started out with a C-J 50 watt power amp and it drove my Dynaudio speakers to a normal listening level but not much beyond. I eventually bought another exact amp and them converted to monoblocks which doubled the power, now I don't want for anything. The Dyn's are like 86 or 84 dB efficient, so the 50 watt C-J could be adequate with more sensitive speakers.
  • 12-24-2006, 10:54 PM

    Originally Posted by Wayne Carson
    I'm wanting to venture into the tube amp arena and have several questions for anyone who can answer. Are they really worth the cost? Are there any decent tube amps out there under $2000 that would be good to start with? Is one watt of power on tube amp 3 times higher than one watt on a solid state amp? Would going with a hybrid type of tube amp be better? Any comments on a 3 channel tube amp?
    Please help, if you can!!
    Tube Newbie :confused:

    Well they will only be worth the cost if you have speakers that are friendly to tube amplifiers - you should never buy a tube amp to fix the sound of bright systems -- some tube amps are nothing more than glorified tone controls and you do not want those.

    That said there are plenty of tube amps even under 1k that whith the right speakers would be very nice ways to get into tube amps. Perhaps my favorite one and an easy one to get a hold of is called the Antique Sound Labs AQ 1003DT. It uses the EL 34 output tube which is powerful and can run a number of mid level 87db 8 ohm speakers - generally though you want easy impedence high efficiency speakers -- all of these tend to have more dynamic swings and imo generally sound better than inefficient speakers, and certainly if tube amps are going to be used.

    Tube amps ca sound mushy or warm or very much like SS so you need to be cautious on mostof the uninformed rubbish on internet forums by people who never bother to hook up tube amps to speakers they were designed for.

    The AQ 1003DT though I recommend as a place to start on the cheap -- there is no way for me to know or you if this will be good for your speakers or the ones you may plan to buy. You cannot hear an amplifier in isolation so it's sound must be done in the context of a complete audio system. IMO it's the best way to shop for stereos -- throwing money at componants in isolation because of a good review here or there (which everything gets) is completely misguided. Another Amp for around the same price is the Jolida 302b which IME sounds more tubey than the AQ 1003 -- whether that is a good thing will depend on the kind of speaker being matched up.
  • 12-27-2006, 08:40 AM
    Wayne Carson
    The speakers I have are Klipsch Belle and also a set of Klipsch Forte, I believe that both are very efficient speakers.
  • 12-27-2006, 09:20 AM
    yes, they are, the belles have an efficiency of what, 105db or so?
    50 tube watts could easily drive them, even max them out.
  • 12-27-2006, 10:28 AM
    Mr Peabody
    I don't think you gave a budget, the Conrad Johnson MV60 with a speaker that sensitive would be plenty loud. The MV60se uses 6550's which will provide more bass control but it looses some of the midrange magic of the original EL34 version. If shopping used you could get a CJ pre and power for $3,500.00 give or take, and depending on models.

    I haven't heard any personally but Cayin makes a wide variety of tube integrated amps starting around $1,200.00 and up. Some of which have auto biasing for low maintenance and easy tube swapping. VTL and Manley offer tube integrated amps in the $2,500.00 range but I don't think either have remotes.
  • 12-27-2006, 10:37 PM
    Tube Boob
    Would it be worth it to pay more for a Model T? That is the era of technology that you will be getting. And, it is well known that most tube amps do not have flat response, have high distortion, have deteriorating performance over (a short) time, waste energy, have wimpy power output, and cost a forture. How much do you think such benefits are worth?
  • 12-28-2006, 12:48 AM
    Dusty Chalk
    What? There are so many errors in that post that I don't even know where to begin to start.

    Tubes themselves reached their prime in the 60's and 70's -- the Model T, decades before that.

    Even if the tubes themselves are that old, the technology has continued to evolve, and you'd be hard pressed to say that those foibles continue to exist in any but the most badly designed amps.

    I call: troll.
  • 12-28-2006, 02:35 AM

    You are kinda right about some stuff... But distortion created by tube amps are called even order distortion. EO Distortion is very friendly to hear unlike odd-order distortion created by transitor amps. I`ll take 5% EODistortion over 0.5% OOD anyday. power tubes will last 500-2000 hours on average, and they can be had for cheap. KT-88 which are very common and a set of quads can be had for about $100. Of you must have New Old Stock tubes then yes they can be expensive.
    How about this old technology called "electricity"? What happened to Allah, Antichrist, Armaggedon, and Aliens anal-probing? We gotta move on people!!! LOL.
  • 12-28-2006, 07:35 AM
    Mr Peabody
    I think you all have set the record straight on some of the errors. I'd like to also point out that there are many of he old tube amps still in existence by manufacturers such as McIntosh. Though the tubes may need replacing occasionally the basic amp is as sound as any. Some of the really vintage amps like Marantz tube amps today sell for many times the original retail price. Not so many solid state amps can say that so don't discount technology just because it has age.

    This thread really should not turn into another tubes verses solid state war. As already pointed out tube amp manufacturers have continued to improve the product and stereotypes of either tubes or solid state mostly do not apply anymore. I had Krell and then switched to Conrad Johnson, so I'm familiar with both ends of the spectrum. It basically comes down to what one wants from their musical reproduction. Krell vs CJ, is simply a trade off, there are abilities of Krell that other solid state manufacturers cannot match, let alone tubes. On the other hand the CJ equipment is able to provide macro and micro dynamics that I have only heard on the most expensive Krell. In addition the CJ I have is a fraction of the cost of said Krell and the tubes are able to produce a presence that is more able to convince my ears that the performers are in the room. On the other hand, Krell has come the closest that I have ever heard to delivering the impact of live instruments. For instance, ifyou have ever heard drums live, especially a bass drum in an orchestra or marching band, they have a percussion, a physical impact, this is where the Krell excells if that portion is important to you. Well, Krell also has an advantage in the power and drive department.

    It is true that major tube power is expensive and to my knowledge reaches a limit where solid state amps can be found with power of several hundred watts. Solid state also starts to get out of he average persons price range when you get above 250 quality watts or so. The original poster has very sensitive speakers and power will not be a concern for him.