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Anyone try using 'tube' pre-amps in-line before your amp?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I was considering buying individual tube pre-amps, and putting them in-line between my new PC sound output and the 5.1 input jacks on the receiver I plan to buy. I was curious if anyone has tried doing this in order to achieve a 'tube sound' on their solid state hometheater/sound system? I want to try this for music listening and perhaps even more if I like how it sounds. The speakers I will be using lean towards the bright-end and I've liked how some setups sounded when using tube amps on bright metal-type speakers. I normally choose to use poly-based speakers for the damping effect. I intend to try to induce a 'tube sound' to emulate a slight 'smoothing/damping' type effect for this system. I've heard tubes work well in this regard in other systems in the past. It might work in this way as well.
post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

Hi all,

I was considering buying individual tube pre-amps, and putting them in-line between my new PC sound output and the 5.1 input jacks on the receiver I plan to buy.
I've been designing and using tubes for decades, and this is not a worthwhile application for them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

I was curious if anyone has tried doing this in order to achieve a 'tube sound' on their solid state hometheater/sound system?
The is no such thing as tube sound. . Get that myth out of your head. There are hundreds of topologies an at least as many tubes you could us in them, and each could beeee to sound different, from guitar amp to undetectable. All you will accomplish is to spend money for little to no real effect, incease dstortion (never good no matter what audiophools tell you), lower your signal to noise and increase your output impedance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

The speakers I will be using lean towards the bright-end and I've liked how some setups sounded when using tube amps on bright metal-type speakers. I normally choose to use poly-based speakers for the damping effect.
Does 'will be using' mean you don't have the speakers yet? If so, then don't buy some with an audible defect not to your liking. The brightness / harshness from many metal cone/dome drivers is due to improperly damped, high Q breakup modes in the drivers, and a device at line level, especially a simple tube stage cannot, ever do anything to ameliorate this effect; it has to be done at the design stage of the speaker.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

I intend to try to induce a 'tube sound' to emulate a slight 'smoothing/damping' type effect for this system. I've heard tubes work well in this regard in other systems in the past. It might work in this way as well.
Tubes upstream will not do what you want. Save the money you would waste here and redirect it to better speakers without the defects you dislike.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 View Post

I've been designing and using tubes for decades, and this is not a worthwhile application for them.
The is no such thing as tube sound. . Get that myth out of your head. There are hundreds of topologies an at least as many tubes you could us in them, and each could beeee to sound different, from guitar amp to undetectable.

You first say that tubes changing the sound is a myth, then you go on to say that it can change sound depending on the topology. Get your story straight. Tubes DO audibly change sound depending on the design and tube type.
Quote:
All you will accomplish is to spend money for little to no real effect, incease dstortion (never good no matter what audiophools tell you), lower your signal to noise and increase your output impedance.

Yes, there will be 'minor', nearly inaudible changes to the sound in other ways, like S/N, etc. The point is to apply a type of signal distortion which is pleasing. You say I shouldn't, fine, but I want to test it out to see if I like it.
Quote:
Does 'will be using' mean you don't have the speakers yet? If so, then don't buy some with an audible defect not to your liking. The brightness / harshness from many metal cone/dome drivers is due to improperly damped, high Q breakup modes in the drivers,

STOP! That's all crap. The Infinity Entra series speakers from over a decade ago were designed SPECIFICALLY to render 'breakup nodes' INAUDIBLE. And they accomplished it with their diaphram material and driver development and listening tests with trained listeners. However, the 'brightness' of this and other speakers usually have NOTHING to do with anything other than the speaker material giving off a 'signature' damped sound. Damping sometimes can be over-done and drivers can lack responsiveness to delicate signals. So, damping isn't about 'breakup nodes' when you find a highly refined driver material and design like in this Entra speaker line. It's merely a chosen level of damping to cater to some of the more delicate sounds. These speakers sound neutral, accurate and sensitive to nuances, however does lean 'slightly' bright. It's not by any means objectionable, but could be improved just a tad with a 'tube' effect I think. I've heard more 'metallic' sounding drivers benefit immensely from a tube amp.
Quote:
and a device at line level, especially a simple tube stage cannot, ever do anything to ameliorate this effect;

Really? I will be testing this and will report back to let you know. Either way, I'll be honest in my eval. I bet there will be a 'smoothing' effect, but hey, I've never tried it on the 'pre-amp' section before. I've only ever heard true tube amplifiers before.
Quote:
it has to be done at the design stage of the speaker.

The design of my speakers are fine and sound incredible near-field at a PC. I just usually enjoy the damping of good polypropylene drivers more because they sound more 'smooth'. But these Entras truly do have a nice, clean, precise sound that is ever so slightly on the 'bright' side. But to someone else, it would probably seem 'just right'. I am used to listening to smooth, highly damped speakers. The Entras seem to have slightly better detail in the upper midrange.
Quote:
Tubes upstream will not do what you want. Save the money you would waste here and redirect it to better speakers without the defects you dislike.

Again, I don't consider them to be in anyway as having a 'defect' in their sound. Like any speaker, they have their own 'sound'. And it's very good. I just want to try and achieve the effect I've heard tube amps delivery to metal-based drivers in the past. I have a suspicion that it might make these sound delicious. Even if I just played these without any trickery, the sound is fantastic as it was intended by the engineers.
post #4 of 6
Hi Timothy,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

You first say that tubes changing the sound is a myth, then you go on to say that it can change sound depending on the topology. Get your story straight. Tubes DO audibly change sound depending on the design and tube type.
A9X-308 did not say "that tubes changing the sound is a myth". He said that "The is no such thing as tube sound". What he means is that every tube amp distorts the sound in different ways, so there is not a singular "tube sound", as your first post seems to imply (although you may not have meant to imply it). So his story is straight, and you both seem to agree that "Tubes DO audibly change sound depending on the design and tube type".


I don't want to discourage you from experimenting with your tube amps, but you might get more mileage experimenting with a parametric equalizer. Not only would it get you far better control that a fixed-distortion tube amp, but it should also allow you to simulate different types of tube amps (although I don't know where to get the necessary parameter data). It also be a whole lot cheaper than the average tube amp.

Granted, if you already have tube amps to experiment with, then go at it. But a DSP would be the most direct way to tweak your audio.
post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

Hi all,

I was considering buying individual tube pre-amps, and putting them in-line between my new PC sound output and the 5.1 input jacks on the receiver I plan to buy. I was curious if anyone has tried doing this in order to achieve a 'tube sound' on their solid state hometheater/sound system?

I designed and built tubed equipment back in the days when tubes were all we had. I learned electrical engineering when tubes were the standard for building audio gear. SS was just coming out. I question whether there is just one thing that can be reasonably called "tube sound".

I believe that as the theory goes, there is a certain combination of linear distortion, nonlinear distortion, and noise that can be called "Tube sound". Trouble is, every tubed amp and preamp has its own set of those things and about the only common characteristic that they have is that they have is that they have more of it than a good modern SS amp. It is possible to build both tubed and SS equipment that has no audible distortion but it is harder and far more expensive to do it with tubes.

Intentionally building equipment with audible noise and distortion is itself antagonistic to the philosophy of high fidelity and back in the days when tubes were all we had we tied ourselves in knots building tubed gear that avoided them. When transistors got available and cheap enough to be competitive there were preferred for other reasons such as reliability and size, but as audio technology advanced SS noise and distortion continued to improve until it was preferred on all practical grounds including both cost and sound quality. That puts us in the late 1960s or early 1970s. SS continued to improve and tubed technology languished and because uneconomical.

If you want to have a system with "tubed sound" you first have to figure out which of the many possible tubed sounds that you want to have.
Quote:
I want to try this for music listening and perhaps even more if I like how it sounds. The speakers I will be using lean towards the bright-end and I've liked how some setups sounded when using tube amps on bright metal-type speakers.

Oh, you want to listen to what most of us would consider to be a distorted, crappy sounding system. Maybe Jordan Watts speakers and SET amplifiers. I've tried to forget all of that punishment.

You might might want to look for an anti-high-fidelity forum. I'm sure they exist.
post #6 of 6
Just turn down the treble control.
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