If it is of concern to you, be aware that the Modulus is unfortunately known to be a tube eater.
39 responses Add your response
I've owned numerous Modulus preamps including a M3, 3 - M3a's, a L-1 and a L-2. I have never had tube issues with any of them. If you ignore the advice of AI and others about certain NOS tubes, yes, you will have an issue but this is your on fault for putting those tubes in them. Use regular, graded, low noise Electro Harmonix or Russian type III tubes and you're fine.
I just changed a set of tubes in a M3A that I know had been in it for over 2 years with no trouble until just recently when one became noisy until warmed up an hour or so. (This preamp was one of the first M3a's built in 1995. It does not have the stepped volume controls. It is by far my favorite of the bunch.)
I am not familiar with the Klyne and to be honest, have never read anything about it one way or the other so I'm not getting into the which is better (better is in the ears of the listener anyway.)
I can say that the Modulus 3 series has a wonderful reputation and is a great sounding preamp, especially for the money. There's not but so many ways you can design a tube preamp. AI's design is definitely one of the best still. It's designed for sonic purity and that is certainly not everyones cup of tea. It doesn't sound particularly tubey. Not using a cathode follower is tough on certain tubes but as I have found, no more so than some other high dollar preamps I've had around and compared it to. Is it perfect-no. Is it going to get in the way of musical enjoyment-absolutely not.
Unfortunately customer service at AI has been very poor in the past. I had to wait around 7 months for my Modulus to be fixed. Only problem was a bad soldering job on one of the RCA inputs. Plainly seen once the cover was open. I am not alone in a long line of dissatisfied customers. My dealer was so upset by multiple service problems, he later dropped the AI. But the preamp is very good value for the money, I admit.
When purchasing a unit at the level an AI3, you should not have to be advised not to put NOS tubes in it, period ! That is the main reason why AI units loose so much of their value after only a few years when purchased new.
That's unfortunate because they are fine sounding machines.Like you said,if someone does'nt care about anything but tank built tubes to go with it,fine ! But .... Have a look at this:
The Audible Illusions Modulus L1 (this is the one I own) is identical to the line stage sonics of the Modulus 3A, minus the fact the Modulus L1 does not have a phono section. It was mentioned above that Audible Illusions preamps eat tubes. I think this is because the tubes are constantly on even when the preamp power switch is turned off. This no doubt contributes to excellent sonics from the get-go.
I like my Audible Illusions pre a great deal and I'm just now getting around to tube swapping. I read that Audio Research makes tube rings for the 6922 tubes. Stereophile mentioned the use of these rings do not produce suttle improvements but major differences in most all areas of the Audible Illusions preamp.
Elevick the newer AI units use two gain controls (one per channel) and one master volume. This is very handy when it comes to setting the proper gain for your particular amp. Once set you only need to adjust the one volume control from there on.
Audible Illusions have their own recommendations regarding tube selection.
Curiously, they only recommend russian tubes with a certain reserve for everything else stating that the owner must look for rugged tubes.
Some research on the net will provide a lot of info, including remarks on tube eating characteristics of the AI in official reviews in well known magazines (Soundstage) pertaining to the tube eating problem starting from the higher gain and now the on/off and constant voltage.
Just got off the phone to Audible Illusions and it turns out that the tube filaments are always lit because it actually lengthens the life of the tubes avoiding intial voltage rush. Yes they are recommending a specific Sovetek tube and they sell for $110.00 per pair. I intend on purchasing them myself.
Great ! In my experience, they're the only manufacturer which,in my knowledge and experience, have such a design for supposedly preserving the tubes.
I have VAC and Conrad Johnson preamps, both start on mute and necessitate a few minutes warm up and stabilizing with signaling on the machine. Different design ? And I can use any brand of tubes on them without restriction and tried a lot. And I never burned a set until know although I admit I roll a lot ! And I've never read, on Audiogon or elsewhere,or experienced that all tube preamps are tube eaters with AI beeing the exception. Never ! I don't read any complaints that a specific unit is generally known to shorten tube life except.....well of course !
Please educate me. Although I've read a lot on the present subject just by typing the brand's name with "tube problem" in Google, I would like to read the info you've got on other audio manufacturers having similar problems with similar reputation.
I've got no experience with the Klyne 6L, but I can highly recommend the AI mod3a. Ive been using the AI product for many years *(with no problems) starting with the mod3, then the mod3a, and now I use the mod3b. My preference has been to use the Russian tubes... The tube eating stories are very dated.
I agree with Stickman451, that the Hovland would best the AI easily but at what price. Additionally Hovland is out of business; Art on the other hand is just slow.
Michael Femer's review from Stereophile Magazine stated he was thrilled with the Modulus 3A right out of the box and stated the 3A offers the highest level of performance at a bargain price. Further he states that the 3A is clearly one of the finest-sounding, best-built, full function preamplifiers in the world and reviews from around the world would reflect that.
I thought I would mention this only because this review is what motivated me to buy the Modulus L1, same exact line-stage as the 3A, minus the phono stage.
Yes he did..........in 1996 !!!! At a time when tube prices were much more affordable and burning three pairs of NOS tubes in a year was not a concern for most tube lovers !
For me, a concern that Methodology has to know about before making a choice. Just to be aware. There is a lot of competition out there in the tube preamplification market, in the used as much as the new. A lot more than there was in 1996. Especially at the AI Modulus level. And Michael Fremer rated it 13 yrs ago. And he did rate a lot since then. Curiously, a lot of them are also very fine units.
I've had the M3 and M3A for about 13 years combined. Only retubed the M3A once to improve the midrange. Installed Amperex Bugle Boys and they made a tremendous improvement. Blows away the standard Sovtek's by a significant margin. Not sure you can beat the value this preamp delivers at the prices here on the 'gon.
Absolutely NO WAY to know what will work best for your whole system. Check the specs and go from there. Looks like the AI is winning here hands down so that's something. For my money I went a different route -- passive TVC -- and haven't looked back. Value is off the charts -- but you need to make sure the impedance match will work.
Compared to the other active pre's I've had, there's no contest for transparency and the 'you are there' experience. FWIW
I have owned a Modulus 2D and a Modulus 3A. I had NOS Siemens-Haske in the 2D
tor 3 years, and switched them to the 3A for the the past year when I upgraded. They STILL sound great and test strong.
From my own personal experience, I think this tube eating thing is overblown. I mean, it gives the impresion that NOS tubes will last 5 minutes in a Modulus and then explode. I can attest to the fact that if the tubes are strong from the beginning there is a good chance they will
Andr, do you have any personal experience using a Modulus?
A couple of listening sessions at a local dealer plus one of my best buddies at the local audiophile club association in 2005 and 2006 had one. Heard it many times. Fine playing machine. I particularly loved its soundstage and overall 90's sonic presentation. He had the tube burning problem so he got rid of it before his NOS collection was wasted furthermore on it. Combined with all the litterature available on the subject, even one written in Soundstage by a reviewer, has fairly convinced me there is problem there. Good for you guys if you did not witness any of it.
The local dealer liquidated the line two years ago, although not due to reliability problem, anyways he won't say, but too much competition for AI in the same store. Modwright, Hovland (now out) and Chinese tube gear were too much for AI to survive.
Joe's tube Lore, although written in 1999, was quite clear and offensive on the matter. I fell on other comments about the AI problem, a few months ago, from a well known tube dealer which I'm looking for to add it here. Quite virulent. So 1+1+1+1 equals something. I'm kinda a zero problem, all reliability of an audiophile. This is a pricey hobby. There is a lot of choice out there, at all price levels. I prefer to leave aside a fine playing unit if there is a tiny little bit of controversy about it. Especially if it is openly documented by a lot of different sources.
Like I said, AI is the only one, the only one, which has openly been targeted by a lot of people, ranging from reviewers, tube dealers (of course)and users about tube life problems. I don't know about the exact source of the problem. That's the first time I hear it is because the tubes are still lit when the unit is powered off. Now seriously, please tell me if you know about any other tube preamp manufacturer that have such a design in their products. How come ?
AI Modulus Preamps Are Not Hard On Tubes... To date we have mfg.many thousands of these units and, to the best of our knowledge, premature tube failure has not been a problem. The problem is some "tube rollers" continue to substitute old-style 6DJ8 type tubes in our preamps. These tubes were OK for TV sets and RF applications but not designed for audio purposes. Thus the small plates and weak mica insulators resulting in excess microphonics and noise. However there do exist some NOS brands that are acceptable and exhibit good life; Tungsram is one brand that comes to mind.
Be advised that our tube preamps are open-loop/no-feedback designs. The advantage of eliminating negative feedback is well known. The downside is that the tube we select must be well constructed, have low-noise and good life. In our 30 years experience the best tubes we found that meet our criteria are those mfg.in Russia. In the early 1980's we did use some 6DJ8 tubes produced in the 70's that were well made but, when the supply of good tubes ran out, in 1987 we discovered Russian tubes. Primarily used for their military communications, including transmitters in MIG jets, these tubes were designed for low-noise spec.and reliability. All of our preamps since 1988 have Russian tubes installed.
Regarding our filament-on design, based on his experience with tube equipment in the recording industry, my boss had learned that the main contribution to tube failure was thermal shock to a cold tube. For that reason most recording studios left their tube equipment on. Of course, leaving tubes on does cause premature plate degeneration but he experimented with leaving the filaments on but with some current flowing on the plates. This design has proven to be a big success in prolonging tube life in our circuits.
Unfortunately this circuit design will not prolong the life of old-style, poorly made tubes. Suggest you tube rollers experiment with preamps employing negative feedback and cathode followers. Regards, Jerry/AI's Tech,
This post is a little late but Aesthetix had issues with their 12AX7's in the Calypso preamp. It ate them for lunch and I should know. I spent enough on replacement tubes. However, it you finally got a good pair, it was wonderful. Jim White is a very good designer and easy to talk. I think he builds excellent equipment but it does have quirks.
They're other preamps that eat tubes so to speak. Andr, Aesthetix didn't mention it being hard on tubes or requiring certain tubes.
The AI's in my personal experience are not tube eaters. That's all I can say and it is from personal experience. People jump on these bandwagons for whatever reason.
Andr, sorry, but what you tell is not experience in my book. You need to own one, live with it and then you can talk all you want. People have all kinds of reasons for selling and dealers have all kinds of reasons for dropping lines (usually something to do with profit margin.)
As for not putting NOS tubes in it, it is on the AI websight and a competent dealer would tell you. I would think they should have experience.
As for sound, that's up to each individual to make the call.
A lot of the preamps people bring up in comparison are not there to me. Try comparing side by side, not on memory of what you think something sounded like. It's the only way to know for sure. I've found a lot of other things bring about sound change.
Also, one last comment, Art and his crew have always been excellent with me. Art shipped my L2 to me so it arrived Christmas day! Try that with another manufacturer.
They are a small company and as such, are slower. However, patience is a virtue. They've been around long enough to see a bunch of other companies drop out and to me, they must be doing something right.
Wahwah, thankyou. Although I have owned my Audible Illusions preamp for a short period time & leave the preamp powered up most of the time, I have not experienced any tube failure yet.
Reviews are important but the real test of any preamp is to listen to it in your own system and draw your own conclusions. Since the Audible Illusions preamp purchase, friends & family that are very familiar with the previous sonics of my system have noticed a remarkable improvement overall in sound quality. In fact the Audible Illusions makes all previous preamps sound broken. I won't go into a lengthy description of the obvious improvements but it is safe to say I'm in it for the long haul.
I owned the AI M3A for around two years. I never had a problem with the stock Sovteks or a pair of NOS Tungsram. What I didn't like was the high gain and stepped attenuators. Too much tweaking involved. The sound with good vinyl was amazing though. For someone who listens primarily to vinyl I think that they are a great value.
People who own things will rarely accept that it may not be the best buy because they love it, and defend it because they chose it. It is a normal self esteem and pride behavior well known in all of us. I will not myself accept easily my gear beeing downgraded. But that's the price of objectivity. To accept others will make different choices than my own and be totally right about them. Hiding facts on a thing because I own one is a no no for me, sorry gentlemen !
That beeing said, it is unfeasible to make clear headed choices between audio units,as numerous as they are, if the condition is to own one or live with one for awhile in order to have sufficient experience to have an opinion. Even companies who have a policy of loaning equipment and taking it back if not satisfied will not accept if you keep it more than a week.
I've heard the AI several times, a couple of hours each time, and it was quite sufficient for me to make my own opinion about it. How ? Simply because I have the chance to compare a lot of preamps on the same basic system at the audio association. And it was brought many times to the club. And I said AI was fine sounding because I had the opportunity of comparing with many other preamps. And I could easily hear the differences. A very good unit at its price level. And yes, it has competition in it's group and it is a matter of taste. But if you want me to admit it is comparable to a VAC Standard LE or a Conrad Johnson Premier 16 LS2, well you are simply and respectfully out of your minds.
Again, the AI is well documented to be a hard machine on tubes. Just have a look on the web or even here on Audiogon, there was multiple discussions on the subject and that's a fact. If you can't accept it and won't look at the info, you may deny it but the info will still be there ! Some say it is because it has a lot of gain, some others will say it is because the tubes stay lit in order to preserve the tubes, some others say the preamp generates vibrations harmful to a lot of NOS tubes....All sorts of possibilities, to a unique and same problem ! Do your own search ! In conclusion, at the best, you will be told only very specific tubes (russians) will fit in them. People who like to try some other tubes to better tune a unit to their taste are taking a chance and AI DOES warn them accordingly. At worst,you will burn out precious NOS tubes if unaware ! Hey, what's wrong with that ! Did I say AI was dishonest, NO ! Did I say it was a bad unit ? NO !
I was just answering, informing somebody, who didn't say he had knowledge of this unit to be aware of the problem. If the matter is of no concern to him, I'm sure he will enjoy the unit as much as aybody who cherishes AI. But to hide the facts, to deny others their testemonies and experiences because you never witnessed it or simply because you are defending your choice, is wrong in my book.
It's unfortunate you continue to imply there's is a design flaw in our circuit design by reguritating old comments that our preamps are "hard on tubes". Considering the thousands of preamps we have produced over the past 25 years I'm aware of the complaints documented by various "tube rollers" their old tubes just won't last in our no-feedback design. Needless to say it's also a well-documented fact that many AI owners have experienced excellent tube life even some owners who don't use Russian tubes. Apparently these people were lucky to find some well-made tubes.
Bottom Line, If there was a design flaw in our design then "every" preamp we make would cause premature tube failure. Regards, Jerry AI tech.
Where did I say it was a design flaw ? Did you read completely my posts ? You chose a design. On purpose. People buy it as it is. By choice. So what ? In which manner am I shaking all heavens here ?
If you are aware of complaints then you admit info has been written about the subject, isn't it ? I'm not implying anything. I'm repeating "complaints" you already know about. Why not simply say ; Yes, we know...And you did. That is OK. The truth is the truth.
What is a "tube roller" to you ? Someone who turns the tubes in the unit almost every week or simply somebody who desires a change in the signature of the unit until the next set ?
Yes I've read your 10 posts and from the 1st, in which you make the statement that "unfortunately the AI is known to be a tube eater". It's my belief that you are attempting to convince readers that there is a technical problem with our design.
I also suggest you re-read my posts in which I have attempted to, constructively, address your concerns.
Regarding the popular term "tube roller", I have no problem with a person installing a particular tube in our preamp in an attempt to "voice the sound". Our objection are those who ignore our advice and plug in old-style tubes that soon become noisy then complain that our preamp is hard on tubes.
Try plugging old 6DJ8 type tubes in another modern tube preamp design like Audio Research etc. and you will soon discover they become noisy. I also know that, for the same reason, some tube mfgs. have abandoned this tube in favor of the Russian 6H30 tube or now use another tube type like the 12AX7. AI has continued to use frame grid tubes because we feel our design has proven its reliability providing the user understand that not all NOS tubes will last in a modern-day, open-loop, no cathode follower design like the Modulus. Regards, Jerry/AI's Tech.
Well, sorry for the misinterpretation or the bad choice of words but to convince people to look elsewhere is not and was not my intention. I also repeated many times it should not be a concern for people who do not mind using russian tubes on a continuous basis.
I did acknowledge your responses and they were constructive and said it was courageous of yours. But I retain one of your last sentences because it was the only concern of my intervention on this thread : "AI has continued to use frame grid tubes because we feel our design has proven its reliability providing the user understand that not all NOS tubes will last in a modern-day, open-loop, no cathode follower design like the Modulus." Now if this is not a statement people who want to use NOS tubes should look elsewhere, I don't know what else could be said !
Now I would like you to put yourself in a prospective customer, of used or new gear,not as knowledgeable as a electro technician, who is trying to make a choice between many units he heard, most of the time not enough, sometimes in a hurry because the deal is passing by and he has to decide quickly. The type of scenario a lot of audiophiles have passed through, including me, a realistic and very actual scenario. Is there a lot of info, in audio magazines, reviews, or from a dealer very specifically saying : you must not install NOS tubes in this unit. Of course, it will be written in the instruction manual (when it is). Do you know a lot of people who read the instruction manual BEFORE buying a piece of gear or any other apparel ? I don't !! And the proof, a lot of people ask questions on Audiogon and look for help and info to make the best with their investment. Furthermore, some complain, in private directly to you, or publicly here and everywhere else for everyone to see.
So what happens to an audiophile, less experienced, who wants to have the possibility of rolling tubes because he heard himself the effect at a friend's place, read about it, or just happens to be not satisfied because the gear he just bought doesn't sound as good as he thought in his system. Should he know that AI is NOT the type of gear he should get if rolling could be his intention ? Is the dealer considerate enough to mention it to his customer ? Openly, knowing he could loose the sale ? And you Jerry, as a representative of your employer, would you openly disclose it to potential buyers ? If yes is your answer, well your kinda unique and honest person !! Would you say the same of all your dealers ? Of all your customers selling their gear on the used market ?
Jerry, you were kind enough to intervene in this thread, and respectfully bring some enlightment on the matter. Hopefully, these exchanges will educate people asking for info.
My technician asked that I review this Audiogon thread and make a comment. I advised him to try avoiding a "pissing contest" and reply to the principal's question; Which preamp is best synergy for my system?
Both preamps represent excellent examples of preamplifier design. One is solid-state the other tube. Take your pick, Vanilla or Chocolate...
However considering his associated equipment, I'm inclined to suggest he consider the Klyne rather than our M3A. It's a wonderful preamp, well-designed with a proven track record of reliability. With the Klyne preamp this system should provide many years of musical enjoyment.
Many thanks to the Modulus owners who commented on tube reliability. However my advice is to "stay on target" and answer the question trying to avoid as much here-say as possible. Good Listening, A.Ferris/Audible Illusions
The Klyne is an extremely musical preamp, and not just a matter of what one likes if ones reference is live music. If you have ever heard a live triangle, and you then play a recording of one on a Klyne, the Klyne will sound the most true to life. It surpassed my ARC SP-11 by far in that one respect, although I owned it back around 85-88, along with the '11 and the CAT. It's quite low in noise and extremely pure-sounding, meaning distortion. I've heard very few preamps since then that mimic live instruments as well as the Klyne, including my CAT, AI, Jadis, and a few others. I wonder if Klyne managed to cure it of its non-dimensionality, a problem back then, but, perhaps, not now. The Modulus is also quite low in noise. Lower noise will generally render a purer sound due to the lack of "fog" surrounding the air around an instrument.