They work, but some people do not like the result. Some say it makes the music sound sterile and lifeless. Others are very happy with them. The only way to really know is to try some and see(hear). The Hal-O brand that is advertised here on the Audiogon has gotten good comments on several threads in the past. I'm sure others have their favorites, too. I do not use any myself as my system doesn't seem to be very sensitive to microphonics.
Tube rings are like many tweaks: NOT hearing an improvement in the sound creates a "cognitive dissonance", and the more money spent on the tweak, the greater the need to hear an improvement. The only way to accurately gauge whether tube rings really improve the sound quality is by A-B blind testing, and in high-end audio these days, the subjectivists have the upper hand over the objectivists (quite a change from 20 years ago). My personal belief is that if your tube preamp and amp are reasonable well isolated from acoustic and mechanical vibration, there shouldn't be much need for tube rings, since any "microphonics" would buried at a level far below the signal.
I put Hal-Os on an AES AE3 preamp and did not hear a difference. I do, however, have the preamp on a Bright Star Air Mass 3 isolation platform and that did make a differnce when I added it. I don't know if the Hal-Os would have made a difference without the platform since I didn't try that.
Sometimes a tiny bit of microphonics is not all bad (makes music sterile/lifeless with the rings). It may really depend on whether you have a microphonic problem. If not, then you'll may not notice anything with the rings. No different than those with clean AC power to start with find no benefit with AC filters; those with a very stable rack find no benefit with issolation devices; those with a well made CD player find to benefit from a separate jitter device; and so on.
I use Audio Research clear tube rings (the cheapest out there) and the signal seems cleaner and maybe a little sterile. I will take them off soon and listen some more. At the very least they are a tweek to be used when you have found your perfect system and just can not stop yourself from tweeking (like most of us). In other words do not bother unless you are done buying your main components.
Thanks guys...as always, you've been helpful. I don't think I have a microphonics problem, but as Philjolet says, it's something else to play with!!!
I bougth a preamp with clear tube rings that had melted.Ended up having to replace a socket and cleaning all the tubes.
Audio Research installs tube dampers on its products from the factory, and that should tell you something. I've never had a damper melt, just get brittle, and I could always tell by ear when they hardened and needed to be replaced. The classic test is to tap one of your input tubes with the eraser end of a pencil while your system is on - if you can hear the ringing through your speakers (which will always be the case in my experience), put a damper on it.
SD, let me see if I can give the "objective" pro argument for why tube damping devices MAY make a positive difference. You note that if a preamp is well-isolated this should take care of any potential problem. The mechanical aspect can be handled with good rackage and footage. But how can you isolate it acoustically except to place it in another room (too inconvenient)? This question relates to how loudly one wants to play their system. If someone really blasts it with a microphonic tube in a high-gain block, there is little doubt that a small amount of feedback could be induced with audible results around the resonant frequency. But then, why not just select tubes that don't ring in the first place?
Microphonic tube resonances are a real problem and deserve to be dealt with thoroughly. Isolation platforms are very effective, but tube dampers should be used as well; the more damping the better. I am astonished that apparently a number of people feel as though the colorations introduced by tube resonances are beneficial to the sound; I am emphatically in the other camp. Resonance is one of the worst possible additions to the sound if you are looking for accurate musical reproduction, but this thread is actually causing me to wonder whether the "tube sound" that so many people love is partly or mostly due to tube resonance. Certainly there are other differences between tube and SS, but it is fascinating that several people feel that removing tube microphonics removes the "life" from the music. I should add that I like ARC gear better than most other tube gear because it just sounds more accurate and less "tube colored" to me. Maybe it's because the tubes are damped. I would be interested in hearing comments from owners of some of the good-sounding low-power SE triode amps about whether they have ever tested their amps for microphonics using the tap test. I've never owned one but it would be interesting to find out...
Only a little bit microphonic from of my Cary 300SE Signature after tapping by an eraser. I have to put my ear next to the corresponding speaker to sense it.
A tweek offered on one of the tweek sites says to use 2-3 wraps of teflon tape around the tube upper portion. (Midway between middle and top.)
I have tried High hats and the rings. The high hats did something but I did not like it.
The Teflon tweek cost very little and probably does as much.
i cant seem to find anyplace on line that sells tube rings. anyone got a url for me?
I think Galen Carol Audio sells them. Galen is a great guy and a pleasure to deal with. He is at www.gcaudio.com or call 210-805-9927.
Mdomnick, here's a website that has an interesting tube damper. I've never tried them, but they look interesting.
Give us an update on what you ultimately find.
You da man Grandpoobah...thanks for the url...I'm going to order some rings now, and will post my results asap.