I've used several different tube dampers over the past 30 years or so. I am currently using the Herbies and find them to be pretty effective and I like what they do.
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Herbie's Audio Lab is a manufacturer, HAL-O is a model they make. So they're all good.
I have tried every model of ring-and-bumper-type tube damper Steve Herbelin makes or used to make and they all work very well indeed. Sadly, I have not found a cheaper Herbie's model that outperforms a more expensive one. The better ones really do work better IME.
I use Pearl Tube Coolers. They give both a cooling and damping effect. Reasonably priced, easy to use, but they can break fairly easily. I tried Golden Dragon dampers and was very disappointed. Kept falling off the shoulders of my 300B tubes.
Art, dampers are purported to lessen some noise- a lot of tubes, particularly smaller signal tubes, are prone to microphonics- they make noise with vibration.
I'm wondering how would I change the tone with placement of the tube dampers on the tube. I'm trying to get more warmth. I have a new Rogue Athena pre and its just a little bright due to the 6h30 super tubes. I have the old plastic Herbie's and they're pretty good. I need to get 8 dampers for my EL34's and at least 4 dampers for the 6H30's. I heard its too late to turn in the old dampers for the new ones. Shucks!
What I hear from the use of tube dampers is a slight reduction in high-frequency microphonic noise (vibration) from the tubes themselves. Sonically this comes across as a lessening of harmonics that might be perceived as 'air', 'tizz' or venue atmospherics at the very top of the frequency range. Its not music but rather amplified tube noise.
Dampening may, at first, seem to cause a loss of air surrounding an instrument - I sense this most pronouncedly on top-end strings - almost as the very top is cut off. Further listening reveals - to me anyway - a quieter presentation with a bit more musical information because actually there is less non-musical 'hash'.
I believe you can over-dampen with either too many dampers on a given tube or too many dampers overall. Here the result is a slight deadening or removal of top-end 'life' or sparkle.
I've used the CJ supplied dampers on the 6H30 in the ACT2 and the ARC dampers for the same tube in the Ref Phono 2. I'd stick with what the manufacturer provides - at least for the result they intend for their units. Otherwise, the Herbie dampers work very very well. In my Atma-Sphere MP1 I use them to good effect on two of the four 12AT7s in the phono section and on two of the five 6SN7s (per channel) in the linestage. That seems to strike the best balance between noise reduction and retaining a slight top-end liveliness.
I don't think dampers are a solution to increase warmth or the change tonal balance of a given piece of gear. Bottom line is: its easy to experiment, so let your ear be the guide to what sounds most realistic to you.
Ultra-rx gives the best extension of both top and bottom.
I find that they work very well for power tubes as well. Worth every dollar spent. Sometimes u dont know the potential of the tubes you are using until you have tried a few of the herbie lab tube dampers.
Hey, one tube damper is cheaper than any exotic cables!
The orange ones are silicone O-rings. You can get a bag of 100 for like $8 at McMaster. They will work, but most people think they don't work as well as some of these more expensive ones. They can handle heat up to like 600 degrees, so they won't melt, and no residue. I bought a bag and gave to a friend to try on his Manley amp. He compared them and ended up tossing them out for Herbie's. I've not done too much comparison as I used them all. I used the O-rings in places where Herbie's are too bulky.
I've used both Herbie's and the orange silicone o-rings; both were an improvement over no dampers, but I could tell no difference between the two. Of course, that could mean my system isn't resolving enough, or that none of my tubes were microphonic enough to benefit from any advantage the Herbie's might have. One thing was clear to me; from a cost/benefit standpoint, the orange silicone o-rings are hard to beat.