Adventures of a novice tube roller;Why did I wait?
I own three components that have tubes. Other than the fact that they get real hot and, having auditioned lots of systems,
I know that I like tubes, I never really paid much attention to this thing called tube rolling.
This has been an extraordinary three weeks somewhat on par with the first time I really sat down and started folowing threads here on Audiogon....
First, the reason I started looking closer at my tubes:
About two months ago I started getting a very brief and harsh feedback noise from my Audio Aero Capitole amp as it warmed up. The noise would last for all of two seconds so I thought that I could live with it as I really didn't want to send the amp back in for service. While it is quite new I bought it here on Audiogon so I would be once again at the mercy of having to get service on something out of warrenty.
I began to think that it might be one of the tubes. I sat myself down between my speakers and turned the system on and it came from my right speaker. The next night, I switched all of my tubes and sure enough, the sound moved to my left speaker.
So I spent the next few nights exchanging just a pair of tubes at a time and I gradually isolated the problem to one of my E34 tubes. So, naturally I posted a thread here on Audiogon and I got some suggestions of who to call and some information on which tubes to try.
The amp came with JJ E34 tubes and there were many suggestions, especially for Electro Harmonix and Svetlana. Before going any further I callede Darryl at Digital Systems as he is the Audio Aero repair-guy and I had already had a real good experience with his shop when my Aduio Aero CD player needed a fix. As an aside, Darryl was quite impressed that I was using my amp as a tube tester.
He advised me to try Svetlana.
I called Kevin at www.upscaleaudio and he gave me lots of advice and, while he was unfamiliar with the Audio Aero, he said I couldn't go wrong with Svetlana tubes. I ordered a full set of Svetlana E34 tubes and then I asked Kevin about my JJ KT 88 tubes and the Sovtek 6SN7 tubes in my Capitole amp and he had little praise for any of them. So, on his recommendation I ordered Svetlana KT 88s and Electro Harmonix 6SN7 tubes.
Then, with my curiosity going in full gear, I asked Kevin about the stock McIntosh tubes in my 2102 amp. He said the Svetlana KT88 tubes were excellant but I should get rid of all of the Chinese junk that made up the rest of the tubes.
So, I ordered some NOS Sylvania 12AX7 and Mullard 12AT7 tubes for the McIntosh.
Having noticed that both amps are using KT 88 tubes, that night I tried trading one side of my McIntosh (four tubes) Svetlana tubes for all of the Audio Aero JJ tubes and.....what a difference! I always though my Audio Aero amp was a really good one but the improvement using the Svetlana tubes was so much more than I had expected that I called my wife into the room and she said, "This justifies all of the money you spent on that thing".
The difference in the McIntosh was not as great using the JJ tubes and I don't yet know which tubes I prefer, although I do lean toward the Svetlana tubes in this amp too.
My box of tubes arrived and while I do notice a subtle change with the E34 tubes in the Audio Aero(JJ to Svetlana), there is a definite improvement going from Sovtec to Electro Harmonix in my Audio Aero amp.
The Chinese tubes to the Sylvania and Mullards in the McIntosh are a vast improvement.
The point of all this being that if you own equipment with tubes, take a look at them even if you have invested lots of money in the components because for not so much money you might find yourself even more impressed with your system as a minor change in tubes can really make a difference....for a whole lot sell money that buying even an 'average' interconnect or power cord!
Now, just to throw a bit of humor in here, I noticed that my vintage Fisher tuner has a set of Electro Harmonix 12AX7 tubes so I traded these for the McIntosh Chinese tubes and the tuner lost all of it's life. Terrible sound. So, next I tried putting the Sylvania tubes in the Fisher Tuner, but I must have bumped something because my volumn control quit and now it think it best to leave well-enough alone...