Tube amplifier for home stereo

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kcannon1
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Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by kcannon1 »

I have long been a tube amp fan for my guitar amplification and am ready to go this route for my music listening. Lot of choices, but since I mostly listen to Blues/Rock/Country, I am asking if going with a single ended or push-pull is a better fit for those music styles?

On a side note, I am capable of building an amp after decades of working as an electronics tech so getting something like an Elekit might save me a lot of money when I figure out the best design for me.

Thanks!
Call_Me_Op
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by Call_Me_Op »

A single-ended output is probably class-A, which should have lower distortion. Then again, I know people who purchase tube amplifiers BECAUSE they like the distortion characteristics.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by TomatoTomahto »

OP, what is your current (hah! see what I did there?) amplifier? Long ago, I fell in love with tube amps, but I no longer use them. I find that having a surplus of clean solid state power works well for me. I’m partial to Anthem amplifiers, but they are pricey (although no pricier than many tube amps).
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by bob60014 »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:52 am OP, what is your current (hah! see what I did there?) amplifier? Long ago, I fell in love with tube amps, but I no longer use them. ......
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kcannon1
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by kcannon1 »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:52 am OP, what is your current (hah! see what I did there?) amplifier? Long ago, I fell in love with tube amps, but I no longer use them. I find that having a surplus of clean solid state power works well for me. I’m partial to Anthem amplifiers, but they are pricey (although no pricier than many tube amps).
A Sony of some sort, from the late 80's and nothing fancy at that. We are moving soon so a lot of things are packed up. The tube amp will be for the new place we are heading to. I am just old school that way and plus my guitar playing has always been thru a tube amp once I got introduced to tube guitar amps.
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kcannon1
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by kcannon1 »

Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am A single-ended output is probably class-A, which should have lower distortion. Then again, I know people who purchase tube amplifiers BECAUSE they like the distortion characteristics.
Yes, the crossover distortion is a thing for push-pull amps but tubes in general aren't low distortion compared to solid state. That being said, a lot of that distortion is highly unlikely to be perceived by most folks ears. For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
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sleepysurf
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by sleepysurf »

Another option is to pair a tube preamp with a solid state amp. That will still provide some "tube goodness" but typically longer tube lifetime (thus lower long term cost). Kinda like having a lower "tube E.R." :D
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jabberwockOG
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by jabberwockOG »

kcannon1 wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:21 am
Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am
For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
Especially when tubed with vintage Mullard, RCA, Telefunken 1950s-60's tubes.
jharkin
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by jharkin »

I would go with a push-pull design. Most single ended gear is really high end single ended triode ("SET") deigns using very expensive, somewhat rare and low power tubes - like 300b's, 2A3s, etc ... 2-10 watts are common power ratings and such gear has to be paired with very sensitive (90dB/watt+) speakers to get any kind of volume. Usually this is popular with extreme audiophiles that listen to a lot of classical.

Note also that contrary to the above, high end SET amplifies are often deisgned with little or no negative feedback circuits and have significantly more distortion that push-pull designs. But the distortion is all even order (mostly second harmonic) and sounds better to the human ear than odd order distortion in transistors. Its this distortion that gives tubes the "warm" sound characteristic.

For rock/pop I would stick to pull-pull designs. Lots of gear out there using pull pull circuits with inexpensive tubes that are popular from guitar amps like EL34s, 6L6s, KT66/88s, etc will easily deliver 20-50watts per channel and be a lot more forgiving of speaker selection and let you crank the volume on rock tracks. I personally have an old vintage Mac 240 (6L6, 40wpc) and a Scott 340 receiver (7591s, 30wpc). Tons of vintage gear out there (Mac, Marantz, Scott, Fisher, Eico, etc), and new stuff (CJ, Mac, etc)......

.... But it you are handy with electronics and want a fun DIY project the all time classic choice is some flavor of the Dynaco ST70. It would not suprise me if there are more ST-70s and clones out there than all other tube amps combined.
JDave
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by JDave »

There's a reason why people used to spend a fortune on Klipschorns - and some still do.
https://www.lbtechreviews.com/test/spea ... klipschorn
10 watts per channel is plenty for these extremely efficient monsters.
OldBallCoach
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by OldBallCoach »

If you have the ability to swing em McIntosh makes the most amazing products. Tube amps are their jam and the quality is legend. You can find some used as well as new. I have an old two channel 150w amp that powers a pair of JBL L100 speakers and it is as close to pure old sound as your soul can take IMHO..I think based on prices they may be a good investment as well...
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Listen to amps in various configurations. Perhaps research first, then head to Guitar Center or the like and set up amps with either your guitar or just pull one off their racks. Pay attention to what tubes are being used. From this kind of research, pick the one you like.

I'm a EE and guitar player and do tend to do my own work, but it's headed more towards guitar modification than doing amp stuff. But I've paid attention to various amps and have owned a bunch of them, both tube and solid state....and for that matter combination amps that have both. I'm sure you could close your eyes and with about 1/10 of a second of someone playing, identify a Marshal. Or a Fender. Why? Because all amps are going to have some distortion to start with and if you're twisting any of the knobs on the amp, you're adding your own desired distortion. Distortion is what's making the amp sound how you want it to sound. From turning the tone way down to play Jazz with an old archtop on the neck pickup to running a Marshal at a 10 to induce plenty of breakup. Heck...the Peavey engineers thought the 5150 that they built to Eddy's specs thought it was a piece of crap sounding amp until a visit and testing by Eddy. Sure, for playing Jazz, it is indeed a piece of crap, but for 90's metal, it does just fine.

Don't throw out the idea of a tube preamp followed by a solid state drive. I sort of look at distortion like I do good drinking water. A pure, no distortion amp is like distilled water. It won't hurt you to drink it and has nothing but water in it but it doesn't taste as good. Well, that distortion is like the stuff in good water. How do you find what YOU like? Again....go listen to various amps and see what you actually do like. You might be surprised what that is. When you do, go ahead and build it.
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wfrobinette
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by wfrobinette »

jabberwockOG wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:18 am
kcannon1 wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:21 am
Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am
For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
Especially when tubed with vintage Mullard, RCA, Telefunken 1950s-60's tubes.
And that's an expensive rabbit hole. Been there and done that. I'd add GE, Sylvania, RFT, Some pre-war yugo's, Amperex, Mazda, Raytheon, Siemens, Tung-sol. Move to hifi and now you have to match pairs of preamp tubes.

There are some pretty decent tubes being made today as well. I've had some high-end boutique amp builders tell me to stop blowing $$$ on tube rolling and buy JJ's, Tung-sol or ruby's and be done with it. I did and couldn't be happier.
Last edited by wfrobinette on Tue Jan 11, 2022 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
wfrobinette
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by wfrobinette »

OldBallCoach wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 12:12 pm If you have the ability to swing em McIntosh makes the most amazing products. Tube amps are their jam and the quality is legend. You can find some used as well as new. I have an old two channel 150w amp that powers a pair of JBL L100 speakers and it is as close to pure old sound as your soul can take IMHO..I think based on prices they may be a good investment as well...
I agree on the Macs and JBLs but I went with solid state over tubes. These things are built like tanks and will last a lifetime. Quality through and through.

They've been building excellent warm sounding solid state power amps since the 50's. Still building them by hand in NY.

MC250 is a wonderful amp that will pump out nearly 70 wats a side if it is at spec.
MC2300 is extremely tube like when driven. It powered live sound for many in the 1970's. Geroge Jones, Grateful dead and others. The best live sound system ever built used MC2300's with a couple of MC350's thrown in and all JBL speakers.

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Everything they make amp wise is fantastic.

For home stereo I use an C52>MC452 bought used a year or so ago. I don't do vinyl but it does some pretty warm sounding digital sources.

Used is the way to go and when a new model comes out the last version will flood the market. I got my mint MC452 at 50% the cost of a MC462 almost the same specs but the 462 has another db or so in headroom. The 452 already has plenty of headroom for anything you want to put through it.
Northern Flicker
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by Northern Flicker »

kcannon1 wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:21 am
Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am A single-ended output is probably class-A, which should have lower distortion. Then again, I know people who purchase tube amplifiers BECAUSE they like the distortion characteristics.
Yes, the crossover distortion is a thing for push-pull amps but tubes in general aren't low distortion compared to solid state. That being said, a lot of that distortion is highly unlikely to be perceived by most folks ears. For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
Tubes color the sound, period. They may do it in a pleasing manner, but they are not low distortion as you noted. How they color the sound depends substantially on which output tubes are used in the amp design. This makes tube amps very sensitive to matching well with speakers-- not all speakers will sound good with the particular sound coloration of a given tube, and there of course also are efficiency considerations.

With guitar amps, tubes are prized for their distortion when the tubes are in overdrive mode (clipping). This is not the range in which you will operate high fidelity equipment, so don't assume you will prefer the high fidelity sound of whatever tubes you like for your guitar amp.

I would think a guitarist would want very clean solid state home audio amps to be able to hear the tonal style of a guitarist on a recording without further coloring the sound beyond what the guitarist chose for his or her guitar. Do you want to hear the tone Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton selected for a recorded track, or do you want to hear it further colored by the tubes of your amp?

Tube amps usually have transformer taps on the output to match the output impedance of the amp to the impedance of the speaker load. This means that tube amps will have a very low damping factor compared to modern solid state amps. If you want deep bass extension that is firm and well defined, then you want a solid state amp with a high damping factor. (This is not an issue with a guitar amp because the range does not extend into the bass region).

I find tube amps really sparkle when listening to classic jazz recordings that were produced with the expectation of listening to them with a tube amp. Tubes color the sound too much to be optimal for classical music or even some classic rock, and may sometimes lack the firm bass extension for 1970's progressive rock.
Last edited by Northern Flicker on Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My postings are my opinion, and never should be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any particular investment.
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jabberwockOG
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by jabberwockOG »

wfrobinette wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 4:08 pm
jabberwockOG wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:18 am
kcannon1 wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:21 am
Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am
For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
Especially when tubed with vintage Mullard, RCA, Telefunken 1950s-60's tubes.
And that's an expensive rabbit hole. Been there and done that. I'd add GE, Sylvania, RFT, Some pre-war yugo's, Amperex, Mazda, Raytheon, Siemens, Tung-sol. Move to hifi and now you have to match pairs of preamp tubes.

There are some pretty decent tubes being made today as well. I've had some high-end boutique amp builders tell me to stop blowing $$$ on tube rolling and buy JJ's, Tung-sol or ruby's and be done with it. I did and couldn't be happier.

I use modern tubes for power stage as well, but like to experiment with various vintage tubes for V1, V2,V3. I tend to be a gear nerd to make up for my limited musicianship.
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windaar
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by windaar »

If you have the $$ for McIntosh go for it. There are other less expensive sonic options. I had a Dynaco ST-70 that sounded as good as anything I've ever heard. I'd hear details in records that I'd never heard before. Lush arrangements such as Buddy Miles's "Them Changes" were transformed into something cosmic. There are Chinese versions of the ST-70 for a couple of hundred bucks that sound really good. As well the 70s Marantz solid state amps are worth considering, they were bottom-heavy to mimic tube warmth. Just remember that the speakers are the hugest variable and that (IMHO) vintage 3-ways with a 12" or 15' woofer are needed for the tubes to punch right.
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wfrobinette
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by wfrobinette »

jabberwockOG wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:42 pm
wfrobinette wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 4:08 pm
jabberwockOG wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:18 am
kcannon1 wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:21 am
Call_Me_Op wrote: Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:36 am
For my ears, a tube guitar amp is a lot more musical, and louder!, than a similar output power solid state guitar amp. Plus I just flat out dig tubes.
Especially when tubed with vintage Mullard, RCA, Telefunken 1950s-60's tubes.
And that's an expensive rabbit hole. Been there and done that. I'd add GE, Sylvania, RFT, Some pre-war yugo's, Amperex, Mazda, Raytheon, Siemens, Tung-sol. Move to hifi and now you have to match pairs of preamp tubes.

There are some pretty decent tubes being made today as well. I've had some high-end boutique amp builders tell me to stop blowing $$$ on tube rolling and buy JJ's, Tung-sol or ruby's and be done with it. I did and couldn't be happier.

I use modern tubes for power stage as well, but like to experiment with various vintage tubes for V1, V2,V3. I tend to be a gear nerd to make up for my limited musicianship.
Me too!
rebellovw
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by rebellovw »

For my HIFI amps - I built two VTA M125 Monoblocks - these are a kit from Vacuum Tube Audio (Tubes4Hifi) - based on Dynaco but with heavy Haybeor hardware/trannies.

Great kits, great instructions - mine have been working perfectly since 2010.

These were designed by Bob Latino who has since retired but the kits are still available. I can't vouch for Roy the guy that took over - but the kits are so well documented and since you have experience with tube amps - you shouldn't have any issues. I'd have reservations if this was your first time at building a kit as for me Bob was a wonderful means of support.

Anyhow - I love these two amps - and they are very configurable - at the moment - I'm running 4 KT88 Gold Lions in each one - but in the past - I've run them with only two output tubes per amp.

Good luck.
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Re: Tube amplifier for home stereo

Post by Northern Flicker »

My view is that audio enthusiasts tend to overrate the sound quality of vintage solid state amps.

Early solid state components were very noisy, and the amps were high distortion. But the distortion was random, so they sounded almost nothing like tubes. In the mid-70's, solid state components improved, and good quality solid state amps became possible. Up to this point, the era of the amp was the main driver of the sound quality of a hi fidelity brand solid state amp, not the brand itself. This was just an artifact of the progression of quality of components available.

In the late 70's discrete components with faster switching speeds became available, and the period roughly 1978-1981 was the period of so-called high speed amps-- solid state amps with a high slew rate. Some of these tended to be a bit bright in sound rendition, but some were well executed.

The 80's was a race to the bottom with respect to quality, with output stages on STK packs and other integrated circuits. By the late 80's, amp manufacturers figured out that consumers want amps with discrete components, and the better quality post-1990 discrete solid state amps easily surpass earlier era solid state amps. Solid state components were by then a mature technology, and amp designs were well worked out.

All that said, with solid state amps, once amplifier quality reaches a certain level, the amp is often the component in the audio path with the least impact on sound quality.
My postings are my opinion, and never should be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any particular investment.
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