What can tubes do for you?

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Clave
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What can tubes do for you?

Post by Clave » Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:27 pm

Paraphrasing the UPS slogan here. I'm mulling over my audio future, trying to decide if I might be best served by an all SS approach. Given that one can now have the solid state virtues of power and control without the dry, mechanical of yesteryear, what do tubes (in the pre-amp) bring to the table that you can't get any other way?

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bobneill
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What can tubes do...

Post by bobneill » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:02 pm

I had a guy here yesterday who brought his Cary SLI80 integrated amp with him. Push-pull, 40 watts triode mode, 80 watts ultralinear. He was looking for speakers and insisted that his amp was to be the constant. We ran it on JMR Bliss Silvers, Abscissas, and Offrandes and on Tocaro 40's. He kept complaining (politely) about the lack of "dynamics." He seemed to like the presentation, which to my fairly objective ears was a bit foggy and withholding of most of the interesting information. But he would have none of my ss amps (Blue Circle, Crimson) because the sonic image was "too flat." I didn't hear that but what I hear doesn't matter here. What matters is that some people want the "roundedness" he called it and fullness of some tube amps more than they miss the realistic presentation of sonic detail. They want a mellow cello not one made out of steel strings and wood. These are the folks who will prefer the FtTH2 to the forthcoming 1022 based integrated, who prefer the 200 series hybrids to the new 1022 and "N" series all solid state amps.

What tubes will do for you is suspend the sonic detail in an attractive, slightly opaque 'musical' cloud. They will soften the edges of violins and clarinets and capture (or create an analog of) the fullness we hear in a concert hall, that in real life is created by thousands of cubic feet of air, a huge venue, and lots of people with clothes on. Though I expect naked people will have roughly the same effect. Those who don't prefer tubes have come to prefer the immediacy and directness of an all solid state presentation that, in the very best amps, can render the quality of instrumental and vocal timbre superbly; but these voices will not float in on a lovely cloud of air. That really bummed out my customer.

You really do have to choose because compromises, while inoffensive, won't excite or seduce you much: a bit of fullness, a bit of detail, a trace of air. The Blue Circle hybrid amps are the best I've ever heard at making this compromise acceptable. But they're not as lovely as an SET and not as exciting as a 1022, NSP, or NSL.

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bobneill
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Tube preamp, solid state amp

Post by bobneill » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:07 pm

Sorry, I missed that point. But a tube preamp and solid state amp will end up giving you the compromise I wrote about. It will soften and aerate the clarity of the amp.

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Oh gees..here we go again

Post by masluck » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:22 pm

I just don't get it...ALL..that is ALL (in capital letters) stereos are illusion engines. There is nothing live or real about any of this stuff. I have a friend who is a recording engineer. I presented this ever present argument (tube vs. solid state), offered by the ever present Mr. Neill and he just laughed. Even the dead guy music Mr. Neill listens to has been softened, clouded, beaten up, etc. by the recording process. Also, most of the music my friend records and guys he knows in the industry, almost always have tube based mic preamps in all capacities of the recording chain. So, unless you can guarantee that your beloved symphony is recording with 100% solid state (and of course, god forbid any signal processing..bwah bwah...death to the infidels!!! :shock: in the signal processing chain), you cannot assure that what you are passing through Gil Buts wonderful circuits represent the truest fidelity of the original thing. Can we just support that notion, and all agree that we all hear differently? As we age, we lose our hearing....maybe solid state will be where I will be eventually headed.....

Mark

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Clave
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Post by Clave » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:30 pm

Interesting observations. I understand your line of thought, but I think we're on slippery turf when it comes to "realistic." No stereo will ever sound real if the reference is an actual person playing an instrument in front of you. You can recreate some of the elements, but not all. Tubes may editorialize a bit, but I'm not sure that most of what they're filtering is that worth hearing, since a lot of damage to the music is done by the recording process itself, plus the playback process. In my experience, some tubed gear has the ability to create the feeling, artificial or not, of a person playing an instrument in front of you. The illusion can be a real trip, as I imagine you've experienced with the Audio Note stuff.

For me, personally, dynamics and speed are top priority, provided they don't come at the expense of harmonic "rightness." The "it's like they're in the room" effect I can take or leave, cool as it is.

As for the SLI-80, I had one for a little while and thought it was . . . well, I didn't have it for very long. To be fair, this was largely because it was melting the shelf above it in the enclosed stereo cabinet.

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Post by Chowder_head » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:29 am

We don't hear live music, or even the live studio version of live music. We hear recorded music: what's on the record, tape or disc, not the actual presentation.

The mind has to do the transfer from the medium back to the stage. That's why we don't all agree, except when we hear crap recordings!

I mostly agree with Bob's characterization of the differences between tubes and SS (at least with amps that have transistor output stages). But the aspects of tube sound that he labels as somewhat negatively (with reference to his go to system), i would relabel with more positive labels, like enchanting and captivating! (I am an SET fan).

What sound you like to hear is partly in your brain and partly in your experience. On the latter point, I would urge any of you within "driving distance" (also in the brain), to visit Bob and hear the differences between his three fine systems (Audio Note (UK), BC/JMR and Crimson/Tocaro) and decide for yourselves. These are three of the "best, and more affordable" systems out there. (I did not say "budget"). The sound in his living room from all three is superb.

Such an experience could well change your mind.

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Masluck

Post by bobneill » Wed Oct 29, 2014 10:24 am

You are hyping up what I said but as it's obvious I'll leave it alone.

But accusing me of hanging out in Composer Cemetery?!!!!

Take Mac's advice and come to Amherst for a concert of Gubalduina, Pendercki, Schinttke, Vasks, Ad

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Post by bjh » Fri Oct 31, 2014 7:58 pm

It's Halloween, maybe the Aliens will bring back the original Bob tonight, maybe not/ we'll have to wait and see Ooowwwwww HA HA HA HA

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The Old Bob Neill

Post by bobneill » Tue Nov 04, 2014 11:33 am

Which "Old Bob Neill" do you want?

Early 1980's: Meridian actives with Linn LP12?

Mid 1980's: All Linn system with Sarahs and Isobariks?

Late 1980's: Sonic Frontiers front end, then Naim front end, Krell KRC 3, Krell KSA50S, Isobariks?

Later 1980's: Naim CDS2, BC3 Despina, Krell, B&W 805's? (divorce, small apartment).

1990's: Audio Note transports and dacs, BC3, BC2's...AG3000, AG8000 and Audio Note M6, Audio Note 2A3 Neiros, Harbeth M40's, Audio Note E/SPe's?

2000's: Audio Note transport and dacs, BC501ob LOC, Audio Note OTO, Resolution Audio Cantata, FtTH, FtTH2, Crimson 710/640's, BC NSP, Audio Note OTO Signature, BC3000II GZpz/BC204KQ, and forthcoming 1022 based integrated. AN E/SPe's and K/SPes, JMR Bliss Silvers, Abscissas, Offrandes, Orfeos, Tocaros?

Choose which Bob Neill you prefer. Time marches on, tastes change, And as I said above, if you're as lucky as I am (being a dealer), you don't have to choose as much as other folks do. Currently I have an all Audio Note tube based system, A Blue Circle/Jean Marie Reynaud hybrid based system, and an all solid state Crimson/Tocaro system. On any given day, each one persuades me it's The One. I think I've pretty much zoned in on the virtues and shortcomings of each. No need to be offended if I don't find some other folks' opinions on one of these options definitive. And don't get all pissy if on any given day I speak on behalf of one or t'other.

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Clave
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Post by Clave » Tue Nov 04, 2014 10:16 pm

Did the Krell cause the divorce, or is that just a correlation? :?

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Post by Raven » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:38 am

I was fascinated by the comments from the folks attending TAVES this year. Saturday morning a husband and wife in their mid 40's sat down in our room and they both were over the moon pleased with the sound. Top comment "Finally a system that doesn't shout at you" In walks another couple, one minute later, same age group. They sit down and immediately they both state quite loudly that the system is shouting at them and was unbearable.

Then there was the constant questions of "is this a tube system?' or "is this a SS system?". I made a point to ask them what they thought it was. Almost a 50/50 split. Certainly Blue Circle SS gear has a certain warmth to it but the point is everyone has their own take on what they hear. It's like food. You can have the worlds best chef cook me salmon. I still won't like it. My wife loves salmon.

Heard the same mixed reactions from rooms either side of ours. There is certainly a wide range of preference out there.

The only room that had the perfect set up was R2R Audio. The owner would not let you leave his room until you agreed his setup was the best in the world at any price. He was the most intense guy I've ever met in audio.

BJH: There is no original Bob. All dealers are aliens. It's a job requirement ;-)

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