Tubes? Love them, but don't hug them.
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I have owned 2 Audion Sterling integrateds, and they are a nice sounding SET for the used price point. The KT 88's are the way to go on the output tubes, it sounds much better with them than any EL34's in this amp. Amperex on the input tubes, and for the driver tube, Tung-Sol.
The Sterling has pretty good detail and nice transient attack, but channel separation is not too good. Imaging is not it's strong point. I have a suggestion for you with the Druids that may be a better match, and it is also quite affordable... Drop me an e-mail when you get a chance-
Warren, welcome to tubes and congratulations on the Audion Sterling.
Darkmoebius(nice name, huh) uses an Audion Sterling with EL34 and he has a nice collection of tube amps going, taking Terry Cain's advice on using multiple amps to another level...
Well, and if you decide tubes are not for you - i.e. the end of your tube journey - there are always Nelson Pass' First Watt creations, that are made for speakers like yours :)
nah, not yet. Firstly, it is nice to hear from first hand experience regarding the Sterling. It will take more than that to take the wind out of my sails. Also, as little as I know, I have learned that tube synergy is very important and Cobra213 (Phil) knows his tubes and their Definition 1.5 relationship. It is definately a start, and when I get my APL, the sound will change again. Very high class situation I've got here. Since I don't have a tube refferent, I must go by some trusted first hand tympanics to get me started. Who better than a tuber who owns the very speaker I'm purchasing. Can't beat that with a stick, for a start.
Warren, the anticipation seems to be killing you. I am the same way. My wife notices that I can stay up late working on getting a new amp, CDP or whatever the tweak is set-up but that I am usually too tired to fix anything else around the house. I am sure that you will love the sound - it will give you a new perspective/reference and sandbox to play in.
Got your email and have some insight to offer. The Audion Sterling EL-34 is a fantastic first SET at current used prices. It is well made and pretty good looking, especially compared to the cosmetics of the new Audions.
The EL-34 version definetly falls on the warm/rich side, whereas KT-88's make the amp much more neutral and authorative. Different flavors for different moods and music.
The bass is surprisingly good for a SET amp in this price range(used). Not an iron-clad grip, but not loose and flabby either. But, in your case, that won't be much of an issue anyway since your Definitions place very little current demands on an amplifier at 11dB and with four self-powered woofers.
The place where the Sterling (and most SETs) shines is the midrange - it is lush and glorious with EL-34's. But, the amp still manages remarkable detail within that midrange richness. With KT-90's, you chould get plenty midrange "magic" without too much warmth.
The amp does a good job with soundstage width and depth is pretty good. Not the holographic image of 300B's, a more dense structure all it's own.
The highs are slightly subdued with EL-34's - not bad, just not as airy as my 300B monoblocks or PX-25.
One thing I should point out, is that the amp was intended to be used with speakers far less efficient than your 101dB Zu's and my 97dB Cain & Cains. As a result the gain structure is a little less than ideal - you'll be reaching full volume before using 20% of the volume dial. This can sometimes be a problem with late night listening if anyone else is in the house. Thorsten Loesch recommended the 6CG7/6FQ7 as the input tube to reduce the gain and allow a wider use of the volume control. Keep this in mind, just in case. It can save your life (or relationship). If you find the standard 6922 works well, try a Russian 6H23-EB which is a high-end version of the 6922 - enhances focus and detail.
As Bigshutterbug mentioned, go with an NOS Tung-Sol 5687 for the driver tube. Save yourself all the money and time experimenting, this really is about as good as it gets.
Finally, after getting used to the amp, find someone to swap out the stock 50k-ohm Alps Blue Velvet volume pot. That thing is really throwing a blanket over the amp's true potential. There is an simple $50 alternative that simply blows away the Alps - like throwing open heavy curtains on a bright sunny day. Everything improves.
Shoot me an email in a few weeks and I steer you in the direction.
oops, I forgot to ask the Sterling owners. Any ideosyncrasies with the Sterlings? Tube noises? On and off tips as far warmup and extending tube life? When I receive my Definitions I would like to put a serious 100 hours of very loud-hi decibel-- powerful music with strong bass extension.This is the time that I let my rig run riot when my wife and I are at work. Thank god I get home before her. You wouldn't want to see her fact walking into the house with the level that are playing. Now to my question: should I use a 100 solid state watts per integraged amp picked up at Circiut City, rahter than waste the tube life on some very serious tubes. Would running the Sterling for a long time, such as this, have a negative effect on my rig? You thoughts and tips to help me break in my Definition and Sterling would be appreciated..remember I'm still a tube virgin.peace, warren
Are you sick of me yet? I want to thank the audiogoners who went the extra mile, on aside emails, helping with a tube understanding, by sharing their experiences with me. Particulary, Howard (Boa2), Grant (TVAD) and Phil (213Cobra) the audiophool I'm purchasing this baby from. These guys, particulary Phil though, spent extraordinary amount of time composing long provocotive emails trying to explain tubes and their relationship to the Definitions. Also his cogent writing, to me, was some of the best stuff I have ever read about a speaker. It was thee final twig that broke open my credit card. Many guys here, have easy, gentle egos. Boa2 gives me a killer suggestion, and then I tell him what Phil said: Howard comes back with things like, Phils knows a lot, those are great suggestions, etc. Good positve stuff. Has made me, for the first time, feel what a bunch of audiophools can do to help me out, especially when I don't know what the f... I'm doing. Good to take you guys on my tube journey. After some time with my new rig, I'll give you some listening impressions. thank you, warren :)
Good job, the Stering will be a terrific introduction to low(ish) powered SET's. Check and see if your unit can also run EL-34's and KT-88's. That's a cheap way to have three totally different amps in one package.
BTW, your system is incredible. Sitback and enjoy the fun.
Words of wisdom by Terry Cain of Cain & Cain Audio:
"Start a collection of amps.
No one amp will keep a man happy long term. You need a young, firm perhaps not too articulate one you can swing from the ceiling with. And you always need a detailed and refined lower power one, the one you will never ever sell. This amp carves out the essence of tone and artistic intent, but cannot satisfy animal musical behavoir due to power limitation. With music, you cannot have too much fun. Don't let the amps get in the way. If amp -A- is complaining or not keeping up with your musical energy, just grab another and keep swinging."