Manufacturers don't get it. make tubes visible.

After all of this time, why don't manufacturers get it? Everyone I talk to who owns tube gear wants to see, at the very least, the power tubes while the gear is operational. Many want to see the preamp tubes as well. So why do so many great manufacturers still bury the tubes inside of the gear? Are they afraid we will electrocute ourselves? And, if this is true, who is going to miss a few deranged audiophiles anyway, not to mention their wayward offspring and badly trained pets? Interestingly, large transmitting tubes which pose, by far, the greatest danger, are almost always out in the wind.
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It's not the audiophiles. We would be no loss. It's the little ones who are curious and want to touch everything.
I do agree I hate to see tubes hidden.
Tubes are generally more prone to microphonics when they are exposed. For this reason alone, they should be inside the chassis.
Maybe your favorite manufacturer doesn't expose tubes but there are many that do. Cary, Audio Research, Quicksilver, Wavelength, Fi, to name a few. If you include used or older items that list grows to include VTL, and C-J.
Well I have the opposite problem. While I don't have an issue looking at exposed tubes (it does not excite me either though), my wife does. She never complains about the $$$ I spend, so I do try to make some aesthetic accomodations. I have tubes in my system, but carefully hidden. :)

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For those that enjoy the glow of the 'fire-bottles', what is it about seeing the tubes that you enjoy? Does it beckon back to our caveman ancestry of sitting around the fire?

Just curious.....
The phallic splendor. The blue stray electrons breaking free of their appointed paths. The red hot filaments beconing with their oh so subtle light, in a darkened room. The myriad reflections of light on glass and chrome. Who the hell knows? I paid for the damn things; I want to see them.
And if they are a bit more microphonic, as Raquel so correctly points out, or if the sound of ambulance sirens approaching my house breaks the spell of the music from time to time, I can have more children and if the cat gets too close, the pound is only a mile away.
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Bill, Audiofeil, e-mailed me off board and told me to get a lava light......and, by implication, a life.
When properly executed, exposed tubes are beautiful to look at especially on power amp. Jadis, BAT, Cary to name a few.

But some are just plain ugly. New ARC Ref 610 for one. I much prefer the old Ref 300/600 with hidden tubes and big meters in front. VTL previous generation was ugly as well, new one is not much better either.

For pre amp, design gets even more tricky. The new Cary SLP-5 is just ugly. I don't need to look at tiny glowing bottles that are sticking out from middle of no where.
I like to see the tubes, too. Check out Atma-sphere if you like to see lots of big glowing power tubes. I really prefer the look of some tubes that glow a bright white - I think those are the ones that have direct heated thoriated cathodes, maybe 845s, 300s - I'm not sure, can someone help me out here? I remember this look on some Art Audio Carissas - just beautiful. I wish someone would make 6AS7 tubes like this so I could outfit my Atma-spheres with them. And maybe throw a little neon in so they would have a bluish tint, too. That would be heaven. Why is this? I don't know, but I think people are generally attracted to bright sparkly lights, especially against a dark background - the stars and moon in the night sky, sparkly jewelry, candles, the aforementioned campfire, blue LEDs against a black anodized or polished aluminum chassis. As a kid, the coolest thing in the world was an airplane dashboard full of lights and switches. I don't really know why, though.
I agree about the Cary pre amp. It looks like a solid state preamp with a bunch of tubes stuck on the top for no reason. To each his own.
That subtle glow under the cover, near and present but not quite available suggestion of firm warmth and smooth roundness, thats why they do it. Else, with some equipment, if you just see them things flung out at you its Holy Moly go put something on it.
I thinkthe manufacturer may be protecting potential burning of a child or yourself .Some companys think that you will tube roll and they consider that an alteration or mod. They frown upon this because they think they have selected the best tube unless they tell you to roll.
I suspect this thread finally gets to the heart of the matter: It's the fetish, not the sound. Same in the car world. Although sequential shifters are faster, more fool proof, and the standard in F1 racing, many car enthusiasts insist on manual transmissions.

The main reason for having the tubes are covered with a cage or not exposed at all is fear of lawsuits. Under state and federal laws the manufacturer of a product is liable for any personal injury resulting from a defect in manufacture or improper design. Most products will have warnings indicating the user of the risk of injury from electrical shock, burn, blades, ect. On the other hand, most tube amps and pre-amps have removable cages that you can remove at your own risk.
I'm designing a new line of gear, and was going in the direction you laid out, Marty.

However, the initial solid state and hybrid integrated amplifiers look good enough that I have made the decision to put the tubes INSIDE the preamplifier.

For one, I want to establish the "family flavor" ala the same look and feel across the board. Secondly, our existing preamplifier product has the tubes sticking out about 1/3 of the way, through a clear acrylic plate replete with blue LEDs. While some may like the look, I personally find it cheesy, and want to execute a more simplistic, classical, restrained, and ultimately, elegant aesthetic.

In my mind, this decision will probably necessitate moving to an entirely different preamplifier topology, but from what I have heard from some of our other products, the end result should actually wreak improvements for us sonically.

Of course, all of this is purely my own opinion...

Any thoughts on whether I'm headed down the wrong path?

As far as the lava light goes, just go with it and enjoy yourself!
Most tube gear, except perhaps hybrid linestages (with just a few teeny little tubes), have the tubes proudly displayed.

I don't care that much myself about looks, but, if it good looks help with sales, that can more than pay for cosmetics. The stuff I like sells in such small numbers that any increase in sales would dramatically lower the unit cost of production.

My monobloc amp is narrow in profile and has an input/driver tube up front, two 2aes directly behind followed by the output transformer, then the rectifier, then the power transformer. Because I have placed the amps between the speaker and want to minimize the length of the speaker cables, and because the power switch is on the back of the amp, I have the amp turned around so the backside faces forward. None of the tubes would be visible except for the fact that I am using huge EML 2a3s so the tops of those tubes are visible. I don't care, but my dealer was appalled by the fact that my amps are showing their asses.
I like to see the tubes exposed in the power amp. It is not critical in the preamp. jmcgrogan2 nails it pretty close, it does possess that relaxing warm feeling like sitting by the campfire. A chrome chassis that reflects the light from the tubes is the best. My VAC preamp is totally sealed, not even a vent slot to peer through and the Manley preamp has a mesh wire covering that you can glimpse some tube glow. My VAC PHI 110 has the tubes encased in glass which looks pretty fetching. Given a choice between two power amps that were sonically similar and one was encased and the other had exposed tubes, I would choose the amp with tubes showing.
Joe, as a designer, I believe that your gear should be an extension of your own unique aestetic, both sonically and cosmetically. If that means that the tubes should be inside the gear, great. We all know that there is plenty of butt ugly gear of both varieties. If your Appolonian sensibility dictates clean lines, go for it. I will be looking forward to seeing what you have wrought.
Rhljazz's VAC Phi 110/110 amp is the Halle Berry of tube amps. Easy on the eyes.
11-27-07: Tvad
Rhljazz's VAC Phi 110/110 amp is the Halle Berry of tube amps. Easy on the eyes.

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The PHI series is more like Rosie O'Donnell to me.....butt ugly.

As far as the VAC current line goes, I think the Standard Musicbloc 160's are the easiest on the eyes. The 160's look like home stereo equipment to me, where the PHI series look like they were built for someone living in a laboratory. Sorry Kevin.

Ha! I owned a Phi 110/110, and presently own Musicblock 160s.

You are correct that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I love the glow of my tubes and the look of two mono blocks with there tubes proudly displayed, not mention the real reason... the sound.
I do agree some of the amps are ugly.

No lava lamp for me !
I dont want or need to see tubes to know they are there, I dont care for the exposed tube look and would but a closed unit if I had a choice.
Actually tubes are a very useful tool for creative arts. I forget the name of the guy who finds mercury tubes and builds amps with tubes placed in what appear to be a random pattern around an antique meat grinder.
Joe why not just angle the tubes so that they form a an oval peak. Start low and reach an acme. It would be very cool if you could have them project further as they climb. No I think it would be grotesque. How about a diagonal strip of tubes on a mirror polished chrome /Steel top. or an X patter put a optical blue light under a simple strip of plexglass as the tube cage with just the tube tops poking thru holes in the plexiglass.Well I willkeep thinking,eventually should I livbe a long life about one thousand years statistically I'll come across something. Good Luck honestly just watch out for sticking right in the front angled upward they would look like a miniature male process ready for action.
Furthermore...the chassis ought to be glass, so you can see and gloat over all those expensive capacitors and resistors. Hopefully they don't glow.
Tubes are generally more prone to microphonics when they are exposed. For this reason alone, they should be inside the chassis.

Raquel your comment makes the mistake of assuming that audiophiles care primarily about the sound quality. Remember this is the same demographic that has a tendency to shun DBX testing - as the saying goes "seeing is believing" rather than "hearing is believing".

A fairer statement is that the sound has a lot to do with this hobby but it is far from being only about the 'technical' nature of the sound, like Don says

It's the fetish, not the sound. Same in the car world.

and there is absolutely no doubt about it...aestehtic consideratoins play a major roll and for some audiophiles it clearly dominates their perception of good or bad sound.
Tubes do look really cool and retro like - they are always guarenteed to elicit comments from anyone if they are visible, which leads to an enjoyable conversation about audio gear & music, often leading to greater anticipation and listening enjoyment. Also tubes can sound extremely good and no doubt sound "perceptively better" when on display, as a little microphonics never hurt anyone once they can see the glow.

"Perceptively better" is the same effect you get at a fine restaurant where a well dressed reverant waiter, the aesthetic food presentation and ritualistic behaviours can enhance the enjoyment of the food...and actually make it taste better...yes really!

Clearly the mind is strongly influenced by preconceived notions, visual and other cues, which is understandably why the rigor of DBX testing spoils things for many people - it takes away the magic.
Thanks for the input!

The preamp will actually look like the A100 Linear and brand new A150 Linear (the new A150 Linear and CD120T are my first products!!!) integrated amplifiers featured on my webpage

The idea is to offer products that I feel put forth the right sonics and aesthetic, all between $995 and $1995. There are enough unobtainable components in this hobby; I want to reach out to people who yearn for good looking, good sounding, well built, reliable products they can afford.

There will be two CD players (already available), two solid state/hybrid integrateds (already available), the aforementioned tube preamplifier, two tube integrateds, a tube power amplifier, and a solid state mono/stereo (bridgeable) power amplifier. I have a few other component ideas, but this is enough to lay out where I'm trying to go.

All of the products will be available in either silver or anodized black aluminum. The pre/integrated amplifiers will all feature the same faceplate. Likewise, the power amplifiers will have their own faceplate.

I like the idea of a tube integrated/power amps on this chassis. For the record, the tubes WILL be on the outside. Picture a transformer cover on top, in the rear - tubes in front of that, shown off in all their glory.

Any thoughts on the look, thumbs up or down?
I've never thought about "seeing" the tubes, but all the mono block amps that I've owned sat fully exposed in all their naked glory, tubes bared, with no cages or protection.
You don't seem to notice them after awhile, but it's nice to see them just to remind you that they are there performing their magic.
My Cary SLI50 sits next to my Plasma TV and I had the unfortunate need for a Cox Cable person to come by and he asked "so what's the thing with all the glass bottles on it?" He seemed genuinely amazed when told it was an amplifier. I pulled all the tubes out this weekend and cleaned/polished the chrome chassis. I love the reflections of the tubes off the chrome chassis in a dark room. Nice and soothing like having a log burning in the fireplace (which I don't have).
I also agree with most others here to keep the tubes visible. I remember Roger Modjeski of Music Reference once writing about his tube amp philosophy - keep the transformers in the back and the tubes in the front for better ventilation. And his amps have always been known for their long tube life....I personally hate it when tube manufacturers hide a portion or half of the tube into the chassis. I like to see the whole tube exposed. (not to be construed as a political statement, sexual preference, double entandre, or anything other than my preference on tube amp aestethics).
Well Manley gets it!
Another vote added to this old thread in favor of tubes being easy to see. Especially with power tubes, seems to me there is a safety advantage to visibility (if this hasn't already been mentioned). Can't beat the looks with the room lights down, either.
Wow thats so sad!!
I think it depends on how it is done. I've seen some Dared tube preamps and I swear they show all the different tubes but to me with all that shiny gold and chrome it looks kind of blah looking. I've also seen some Yaqin tube buffers or tube phono preamps that have the tubes exposed but they don't look so great to me.

I then got a Response Audio BellaMax tube preamp in a nice wood case but the tubes are hidden and have no problems with the aesthetics.

One good thing to me about not having tubes exposed is it potentially make it so that a person won't tube roll as much. I put a tube cage on my Jolida amp so I wouldn't be tempted to keep tube rolling. Now I really like the look of the cage on it. To each is their own I guess.
Wow, this was a moronic post when I started it seven years ago and is even more moronic now. Give it a rest.