Tube preamp for Marantz receiver - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 31 Old 09-15-2019, 12:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Tube preamp for Marantz receiver

I have been contemplating for sometime to upgrade my receiver. I recently bought Quad s1 speakers and I am looking for a warm sounding amp for them. Should be a receiver actually as they would need to do HT duties as well. I am bent on buying Marantz SR 5012 as everyone describes Marantz sound as warm. My question is how can solid state amps have different sound signatures? If not, Yamaha / Denon / Marantz / Onkyo / Pioneer all should have same sound and should differ only in terms of features.

Also, if marantz would sound like just any other SS receiver, would it help if I add a tube preamp? I am looking at - Fosi Audio P1 Tube Mini Hi-Fi Stereo Buffer Preamp 6J1. I am planning to connect it as follows: PC to Schiit DAC via optical -> Tube preamp -> Receiver (to be connected to analog / RCA input of the Receiver)

Please advise.

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #2 of 31 Old 09-15-2019, 12:17 PM
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When it comes to tubes, you don't want to cheap out. You're much better off going with this design, which has been around for a bit and sold under various banners:

https://www.amazon.com/YAQIN-Stereo-.../dp/B00DYHU0G0

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post #3 of 31 Old 09-15-2019, 12:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the recommendation. Unfortunately it is not available in my part of the world (India). Any other suggestion?

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #4 of 31 Old 09-15-2019, 12:42 PM
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Yaqin sells worldwide. You can find that tube buffer on eBay.
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post #5 of 31 Old 09-15-2019, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HumbertHumbert View Post
My question is how can solid state amps have different sound signatures? If not, Yamaha / Denon / Marantz / Onkyo / Pioneer all should have same sound and should differ only in terms of features.
Like any audio component, receivers sound the way their designers and companies want them to--they are "voiced" to obtain a chosen sound quality. Tube components can sonically vary widely as well. You get to choose what you like best.

Here is a link to Yamaha voicing an integrated amplifier:


Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.
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post #6 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 08:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. It was helpful.

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #7 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 09:08 AM - Thread Starter
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I came across the following tube preamp. Looks pretty good. Can you please advise:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000...chweb201603_53

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
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post #8 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HumbertHumbert View Post
I came across the following tube preamp. Looks pretty good. Can you please advise:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000...chweb201603_53
That's definitely not made by Marantz, so buyer beware.

You you looking specifically for a volume controlling preamp or would a tube buffer suffice?
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post #9 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 09:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Volume and bass / treble control would be welcome but I can live without it. I am after tube sound.

Yes, I understand it is not by marantz but do you feel it can replicate tube sound? I know it's hard to tell by the looks of it but counting on your experience

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #10 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 09:41 AM
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I know nothing about that particular design.

If you really want to get "tube sound," there are better and more known options out there. What is your budget? I honestly think the Yaqin buffer is a good value for the money. Plenty of people like it, and it doesn't have a volume control so you'll avoid double controlling it. But there are other options out there I can help you with.
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post #11 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 10:15 AM
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I've done a little thinking on this. Obviously, it depends on your budget. I ranked your best options first, which of course, costs the most. Each option has descending cost.

If you want to experience tube sound:

1) Get a true tube amp. You'd be surprised how loud 1 watt really is. Decware should be on your list http://www.decware.com/newsite/tubes.html.

2) Contact Woo Audio and ask them to custom add a pre-amp out to their WA3 https://wooaudio.com/amplifiers/wa3. I did this, and it works great. I used it mainly for headphones, but the line out is nice and works well. It's a very tubey sound.

3) Get the Yaqin tube buffer. Probably the easiest and cheapest approach, and it will color the sound. Many people like it.
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post #12 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 10:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks a lot. Quick question - My main speakers - Quad S1 - are not very efficient. They are rated at 84 db. I thought they would need an amp which can pump out at least 50 watt / channel. Most Chinese tube amps I came across are less than 25 watts / channel. Do you think a low rated tube amp can drive the S1s?

Decware looks fabulous. But to their high wattage stuff is completely out of my budget. I am looking at amp / preamp around $500.00. As per your recommendation, I am currently looking at Yaqin and Woo Audio. I found the following on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/YAQIN-Stereo-...ct_top?ie=UTF8

It's a bit more than I would like to spend but I am head over heels for it

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #13 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 12:00 PM
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Yeah, at 84 db, you'll need more wattage than a pure tube design can offer within your price range. To give you acceptable headroom, you'll want at least 15 watts. So, to achieve your goals, you'll need to hybrid amplify. There's two ways to do this:

1) Feed a tube line-level signal into your Marantz, like a tube buffer.

2) Get a hybrid amp with a tube stage and solid-state amplification stage and skip your Marantz altogether. There are plenty of Chinese clones on eBay. The Yaqin you found on Amazon appears to be a hybrid design. There's no way they are getting 52 watts out of that tube design without some FETs kicking in. Yaqin makes decent stuff for the price. But keep in mind a 52 watt tube amp that is custom made to order with premium parts can cost easily $10,000 or more, so keep your expectations in check. This is why I think the tube buffer is the least offending option on the cheap.

It's just my opinion, but I would recommend not getting a tube pre-amp because your Marantz is an integrated receiver, which has a built in pre-amp and separate amplifier. By adding a pre-amp in front of it, you'll essentially be double attenuating your volume control. This leads to problems and sets the stage to blow your speakers if you forgot you changed one of the volume pots. Even though I previously suggested the Woo Audio, it seems like it's just beyond the reach of your budget and your best options now fall into 1 and 2 above. That's just my personal preference. Plenty of people double attenuate volume. It's just not my style.

If you're able to stretch the budget a little, and if you listen to music at lower volumes, the Glow amp is pretty decent: https://www.glow-audio.com/getglowamp1.html. It's rated at 5 watts. That's pushing the limits, though.
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post #14 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 01:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks again. I think I will take my chances with option 1.

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
Receiver - Yahama HTR 3067
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post #15 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 03:05 PM
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No problem. I don't think you'll go wrong. Lots of people really like that tube buffer, and you can always try different compatible tubes to alter the sound to your liking. We call that tube rolling, and it quickly turns into an obsession. It's fun!
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post #16 of 31 Old 09-16-2019, 04:41 PM
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I do not know whether excellent sound quality and reliability are available at such low cost as I have no experience with Chinese tube components, so I cannot help you in that regard. It would be interesting to test and find out which sounds better, a $500 or so solid-state integrated amplifier versus a similarly priced tube unit, or a Marantz SR5012 AV receiver. For peace of mind, even though I love tubes, for two-channel use exclusively I would be more comfortable trying one or more solid-state integrated amps from NAD, Yamaha, or Cambridge, for example. NAD has a reputation for warmish sonics. For combined stereo and AV use, within a $500 budget, I would buy an AV receiver.

Note that in whatever direction you decide to go, as hodgjy said, the sonics of tube components can often be changed by using different tubes. I have yet to hear a current production "small" tube that I like, preferring new old stock (NOS) ones from the 1940s through 1960s. I do, though, like a few power output tubes made today, such as Tung-Sol KT-120s and Mullard EL34s.

If you try different tubes, use the same type as installed by the manufacturer. That is, don't change a 12AX7 (called ECC83 in Europe) to something else.

Some NOS tubes can be very expensive, but there are many exceptionally nice sounding ones that do not cost much, such as RCA and other U.S. brands. Below is a link to my favorite NOS tube dealer, from whom I have made several purchases. Brent is very helpful. His website is the most informative I have ever found. Also, it says he ships internationally.

Be certain that whatever component you buy can be returned and refunded should you not like it.

http://www.audiotubes.com
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Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.
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post #17 of 31 Old 09-17-2019, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. That's a lot of info. If you have got some spare time, I have a quick question:

Just curious, why do you think mainstream AVR companies like Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer, Marantz are not manufacturing tube amps? I came across vintage Marantz tube amps on ebay, but I guess they have stopped manufacturing such products. I believe there is still considerable demand for tube amps in the market.

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
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post #18 of 31 Old 09-17-2019, 10:52 AM
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I think because they are too expensive to make with the watts people crave these days and the tube supply can't supply the demand. Plus, tubes are notoriously unreliable and noisy, and I don't think they want to deal with that level of customer support.

It's all about cost and reliability. They can make cheaper and more reliable products that are fully solid state, and that lines the shareholders' pockets.
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post #19 of 31 Old 09-17-2019, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgjy View Post



2) Contact Woo Audio and ask them to custom add a pre-amp out to their WA3 https://wooaudio.com/amplifiers/wa3. I did this, and it works great. .

Would the pre out be volume controlled or fixed? If fixed they could be used between the Pre/AVR and an external amp?

Also are the output tubes in use/on when using the pre outs?



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post #20 of 31 Old 09-17-2019, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by thebrieze01 View Post
Would the pre out be volume controlled or fixed? If fixed they could be used between the Pre/AVR and an external amp?

Also are the output tubes in use/on when using the pre outs?



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The volume is variable. And the output tube is the 6080 family (6AS7, 5998, 7236 compatible).
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post #21 of 31 Old 09-17-2019, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HumbertHumbert View Post
Thanks. That's a lot of info. If you have got some spare time, I have a quick question:

Just curious, why do you think mainstream AVR companies like Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer, Marantz are not manufacturing tube amps? I came across vintage Marantz tube amps on ebay, but I guess they have stopped manufacturing such products. I believe there is still considerable demand for tube amps in the market.
I agree that mainstream companies would rather avoid the occasional tube reliability issues. But well-engineered tube components are very reliable and quiet. I owned a Beard 100-watts/channel power amp for 18 years and never replaced a tube. My Audible Illusions preamp, now stored away after about 20 years in my system, did require several new tubes. Together, the AI and Beard were very quiet--a slight hiss was audible at full gain only when my ear was within about two inches from a tweeter. My Cary integrated amp, purchased new in late 2017, is dead quiet at full gain and has not needed any new tubes.

To reply to your question:

Saul Marantz sold his company to Superscope in 1964 and it has changed ownership several times since then. All subsequent owners preferred to focus on solid-state designs. The same applies to other high-volume mainstream manufacturers, like the ones you mentioned. With the exception of low-cost Chinese brands, tube preamps, power amps, and integrated amps have been available for many years from primarily high-end companies only.

Several firms offer both SS and tube amplification products, such as McIntosh, Cary, Luxman, Balanced Audio Technology, Rogue, Quad, and Van Alstine. Conrad-Johnson and Audio Research add SS amps to their tube lineups on occasion. Hybrid tube/SS units are made by PS Audio, Jolida, and Vincent (Jolida has all-tube products as well). There are tube-only brands, including VAC, VTL, Quicksilver, Icon Audio, and PrimaLuna. Accessory-type tube products, particularly phono preamps, are also available. There may be other tube manufacturers that escape my memory at the moment.

Probably the lowest cost all-tube amplifiers from the brands mentioned above are from Jolida and PrimaLuna, which, not coincidentally, are manufactured in China. Quad has products made there, too, but they are not inexpensive. Most of the brands listed here are manufactured in the United States.

In short, there are many companies that make tube components.
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Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.
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post #22 of 31 Old 09-18-2019, 07:52 AM
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In short, there are many companies that make tube components.
There certainly are, and there are some glorious products. But they tend to make them in small batches, often made-to-order, with a very specific target audience in mind. The average consumer who walks into Best Buy is looking at total watts and doesn't want to pay $10,000 for an amplifier, or even $1000 for 5 watts. They'll rage stomp out of the store screaming, "$1000 for 5 watts, what a joke!"

The people who like tubes are already aware that most good tube amps (non-hybrid, and no transformers with fuzzy math) range from 1-25 watts, and they know what types of speakers it takes to make the system work. The average Joe with 87 db speakers wants 100 watts per channel, not the 2 watt per channel speaker that is best matched with 95 db or higher. I'd even venture a guess that the average consumer doesn't even know how to match their speaker sensitivity to their amplifier output; they'll be sorely disappointed with their Adam Jones Pioneer towers are only a whisper when cranked to full volume on a pentode tube amp.

It's a very specialized market and the major manufacturers (Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha etc.) have chosen to sit this one out. Tubes were the technology in the past and manufacturers used them out of necessity. Once solid state emerged, tubes became a niche market.
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Some options to consider

Schiit Saga+ Remote included, and easily deactivate the Tube stage operate in passive mode
https://www.schiit.com/products/saga-2

Decware ZStage (gain stage) - Slightly more expense, but likely much better constructed. Can tweak the body/bass and dynamics by tweaking the gain knob. Also has a switch to operate with different sonic characteristics (laid back/warmth, or linear/detailed)
http://www.decware.com/newsite/zstage.html

Decware ZBox (tube buffer, similar to the Yaqin tube buffer) - Intended for 24/7 operation, nothing to tweak, it just sits there and provides to some warmth with (almost) unity gain
http://www.decware.com/newsite/zbox.htm

The Yaqin Tube buffer mentioned earlier, if you can find it internationally.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HumbertHumbert View Post
I have been contemplating for sometime to upgrade my receiver. I recently bought Quad s1 speakers and I am looking for a warm sounding amp for them. Should be a receiver actually as they would need to do HT duties as well. I am bent on buying Marantz SR 5012 as everyone describes Marantz sound as warm. My question is how can solid state amps have different sound signatures? If not, Yamaha / Denon / Marantz / Onkyo / Pioneer all should have same sound and should differ only in terms of features.

Also, if marantz would sound like just any other SS receiver, would it help if I add a tube preamp? I am looking at - Fosi Audio P1 Tube Mini Hi-Fi Stereo Buffer Preamp 6J1. I am planning to connect it as follows: PC to Schiit DAC via optical -> Tube preamp -> Receiver (to be connected to analog / RCA input of the Receiver)

Please advise.
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post #24 of 31 Old 09-19-2019, 07:17 AM
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Just a heads up about the Schiit gear. They are known for voicing their tube gear very similarly to solid state. I have (and had) plenty of their stuff, and it's quality, but don't expect any of it to be warm and syrupy like tubes are believed to be. In fact, I had their Valhalla headphone amp for a bit, and it was very solid state sounding.
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post #25 of 31 Old 09-19-2019, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by hodgjy View Post
Just a heads up about the Schiit gear. They are known for voicing their tube gear very similarly to solid state. I have (and had) plenty of their stuff, and it's quality, but don't expect any of it to be warm and syrupy like tubes are believed to be. In fact, I had their Valhalla headphone amp for a bit, and it was very solid state sounding.
Nobody should "believe" modern tube components sound "syrupy"--they do not. The last time I heard a syrupy-sounding tube component was an early Conrad-Johnson power amplifier about 35 years ago. C-J abandoned those sonics a very long time ago. I doubt you would find that kind of sound today from any of the brands mentioned in my previous post. The best tube components sound crystal clear and instruments and vocals can sound so real it causes goosebumps.

Music room: Cary SLI-80 tube integrated amplifier, McIntosh MA6500 integrated amplifier, Quad 99 preamp, Quad 909 power amp, Acoustic Research AR9 loudspeakers, Yamaha CD-N500 CD player, Teac UD-503 DSD DAC, Phase Linear 8000II linear-tracking turntable.
Theater room: Panasonic 65S60 plasma television; Yamaha RX-A2020 (preamp section); Adcom GFA-5503 and GFA-5400 amplifiers; Polk LSi25, LSiC, and LSiF/X loudspeaker system; Velodyne FSR-18 servo-subwoofer.
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post #26 of 31 Old 09-19-2019, 04:52 PM
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That's why I said "believed to be." Many people hold on this assumption and are gravely disappointed with their first experience. My tube gear is very clear, but has a more holographic image.
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post #27 of 31 Old 09-20-2019, 02:40 PM - Thread Starter
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I have had some very limited opportunity to listen to tube amps, but the ones I heard (albeit cheap Chinese stuff) were not "crystal clear" and did have some distortion in frequency response. The sonics, especially the midrange, was extremely addictive though. It's somewhat like comparing polks to wharfedales - polks have more clarity while the wharfedales have an apparently clumsy yet more musical appeal.

@thebrieze01 - I did consider schiit and they are dirt cheap in India, but have received loads of feedback that they are not very warm sounding.

Stereo listening - Quad S1 / DAC - Schiit Modi Multibit / Sennheiser HD 598
Front Speakers - KEF Q300
Rear Speakers - KEF Q100
Center - KEF Q600
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post #28 of 31 Old 09-20-2019, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by HumbertHumbert View Post


@thebrieze01 - I did consider schiit and they are dirt cheap in India, but have received loads of feedback that they are not very warm sounding.


I would agree with that. I have heard them at trade shows (probably all SS gear) and the sound was quite harsh and fatiguing. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the tube gear is not voiced warm.
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post #29 of 31 Old 09-21-2019, 11:50 PM
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I tried the Yaqin tube buffer in my system, and the effect was extremely subtle. I had to switch back and forth several times to be able to notice it and pin it down. it also did add a bit of noise, if you put your ear up to the tweeter.


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post #30 of 31 Old 09-22-2019, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebrieze01 View Post
I tried the Yaqin tube buffer in my system, and the effect was extremely subtle. I had to switch back and forth several times to be able to notice it and pin it down. it also did add a bit of noise, if you put your ear up to the tweeter.


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It should tame the higher treble a little bit, distort the mid range a bit, and bloom the bass a little. Also, the sound image will be a little more holographic. Give the tubes some time to burn in. I'd reserve judgement until the tubes have seen 30 hours. In addition, make sure they warm up for at least 30 minutes before you start critiquing the sound.

You can always roll some different compatible tubes in to see how the sound changes.
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