Aesthetix Calypso, Audio Research Ref2 could be within your budget, BAT 31SE.
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Before doing "luck of the draw" gear swaps, why don't you measure your system's frequency response? Bass "slam and extension" and "lean-ness" should be easily able to be measured.
Measure your system both with and without the preamp, and compare the differences that you see in the chart.
That will give a much more clear picture, and pave the way for fixing what you don't like about it
Ecclectique - I am running the stock tubes in the Chennin. I will have to check when I get home but I think they are Electro Harmonix (sp). I have followed the Supra threads a little and it seemed like lately people were just using stock tubes as they feel Micks voicing is good. I would be thrilled if all I need to do is change a couple 6sn7s. I will see what I can come up with as far as tubes go before I give up on the Supra as it is fantastic in so many ways. Any suggestions on tubes much appreciated. Thanks
Hi Braro. Regarding the voice of the EH6sn7: Yes, it does seem like the general conscensus over in the Supratek thread however, I do not concur with the analogy and just don't buy into it. I can guarantee you that many other supratek owners do not buy it into it either,particularly the user that are privy to the diverse flavours of the 6sn7 family and have a collection of the better nos tubes to roll. Yes sir,I will certainly agree with the fact that the eh 6sn7 is clearly a superior sounding tube than the crappy sounding sovtek 6sn7 that Mick was originally supplying with his preamps. However,that said: literally any 6sn7 type will stomp the sovtek... mine went straight into the trash can about an hour after I received the preamp as I didn't have the heart to pawn them off to someone else. After reading the favourable comments regarding the EH6sn7 I bought a new matched pair and gave them a whirl. Used them for about 40 hours of seat time....Sorry gang...nope, nyet,nadda, just not in the same league as the nos Kenrad vt-231,tung-sol round plates or even the inexpensive RCA grey glass 6sn7gt, nope.. not even close for that matter. Yeah I know, those examples can be rather pricey and I am sure many won't want to pony up the cash for them. Sure, many will head over to the Fleabay crapshoot and take their chances at acquiring a good low noise pair that are supposedly closely matched. Franky,I don't like your odds there unless you know what you are looking at and own a tube tester. Far to many recylcled noisey rejects, duds and tired pulls floating around over there! Find a good dealer that will allow you a rebate and pony up for a pair or at least work with a friend or acquaintance with some knowledge about nos tubes and a calibrated tube tester.I am certain many have done just that and formed an opinion by comparison [or would that be an uninformed opinion]. Like any other company making vacuum tube equipment,the designers hands are tied behind their backs. The reality to this dilema is: to offer tubes that are currently being manufactured in quantity and "voice" their stuff as best they can with the tubes that currently available. Not to mention other considerable liabilities like reliabilty, rejection rates,quality control etc,etc,etc. How many companies do you think are offering nos tubes as an option with their gear? None that I can think of, wonder why? To be candid here: Most any tube design can be voiced for any tube in a given tube family. It would make no sense whatsoever to do otherwise from any marketable business platform. These companies have NO other alternative and must choose an "available equivalent" to work with. However, you are just kidding yourself if you think you can't kick it up to a whole higher level by employing nos tubes in their circuit toplology. Yup,the EH 6sn7 is WAY superior to the sovtek.... far more even handed tonally, it's also a very quiet tube and void of the noise and microphonic tendencies that many nos 6sn7's are prone to. The EH example is very well focused and does possess a certain sparkle up top. All good things here however,that said: The best of the current production tubes are still a far cry from some of the better nos examples. In my gear.... the cortese, the syrah, a home brew line stage preamp,as well as a host of amplifiers employing the octal 6sn7, the eh 6sn7's flavour is still rather lean in the midbass/lower midband in most every application, particularly in high gain stages. Furthermore, when compared to the nos tubes mention above, the eh6sn7 is rather dry sounding, somewhat shallow in the depth retrieval department, whereby the sound field is focused slightly forward from the plane of the speakers. Hey,some may actually preferr this artifact, however the depth of the stage is focused more toward the centre. You will get a reasonable facsimilee of depth preception in the middle of the soundfield but will not hear the same depth perspective in the same focus at the back corners of the soundfield...almost like a triangle per sey with the point aiming down the middle between the speakers. Try quiet pair of Kenrad Black vt-231 and it's immediately obvious as to what I am alluding to. A huge soundfield,incredible depth retrieval that's layered all the way back to each corner of the stage.It posses's a bass response that is "far and away" the best in the 6sn7 family, those with a speaker system that will capture the bottom octave will surely agree as the Kenrad will capture that bass power in that same layered depth perpective as the rest of the soundfield. The 1952 Sylvania "Bad Boy" comes close but still can't match the majesty of the Kenrad black in the bass. Extremely liquid and coherent with a transparency from top to bottom. Percussive instruments seem to float in the soundfield, tiny instruments that are struck[triangles,bells etc] will pop and decay in space,seperate and above the louder power instruments playing together. Hey...I getting carried away here gang. Braro... try some Kenrads, tungsol round [plate versions] or the very least a pair of NOS RCA grey glass examples first and save yourself a boatload of cash and aggrevation. Best of luck!
Wow! Ecclectique you really know your stuff. You have described EXACTLY what my system sounds like with the EH tubes. I could not have described it better myself. I will definately pick up the tubes you have suggested. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with this issue for a couple of years now and am very excited at the possibility of fixxing this issue without more gear changes.
I Agree with Ecclectique, Changing 6SN7 tubes is a BIG difference, bigger than changing cables!
I recently went all around tube rolling 6 different pairs:
RCA grey plate is good and will let you know what you are missing but not the best, Sylvania Crome tops are kinda aggressive, I have some flat plates with some brand I forgot which are horrible even if they are NOS....watch out!
I agree that Kenrads are great for bottom end especially. The Tungsol round plates are overvalued according to a few tube experts I know. The RCA VT231s are another good suggestion. You can get used ones on ebay for low cost, decide what sounds best and then buy NOS later if something floats your boat. Cheers,
The 6SN7 is such a great tube and there are so many flavors among the old NOS tubes. Be aware that this is definitely one of those where passions and opinions run high and there are definitely flavors of the month.
Here's a few sites that I have enjoyed to build on the excellent suggestions above:
Plus you can order a reprint or two from Charlie at Vacuum Tube Valley
Hi Braro. Yes sir, the grey glass RCA vt-231 is a fine example of one of the better sounding nos 6sn7's and hopefully will demonstrate what I was trying to describe in my last post. Paulfolbrecht....Congratulations and well done sir! If they are the black glass bottles... you are now the owner of a rare pair of Tung-sol 6sn7's roundplates relabelled for Pope! Many believe the tung-sol round is the best overall tube of the 6sn7 family .
Hey Ckorody. Nice post, haven't had the chance to read through it and digest it all but it should give the supratek crowd a little insight and direction into how they might find the right voice and synergy in their systems. The supratek preamps are a very high resolution, high gain preamplifier and choosing the right 6sn7 can have a profound effect in ones system. In my books: tonal balance is the main ingredient in any high resolution rig. Get the "tone thing" right and the other pieces in the puzzle become so much easier to put into perspective. There are so just many more flavours to be found in the 6sn7 family of dual triodes, far more diverse than any other tube type. Using the wrong spice can spoil a very fine meal. In my own experience, and as I mentioned in my previous post, the current crop of new 6sn7's are a far cry from a many of the better nos examples. That said: and not to complicate things even more here, there are also quite a few nos examples that are down right crappy in the supratek's as well. When employed in the Supratek, I am not a big fan of the Sylvania 6sn7 family nor the much sought after Rca redbase 5692. Go figure! the RCA 5692 is "far and away" the best of the best in my MFA Luminescence and the majority of nos Sylvania versions are superb in the Lumi as well. By contrast here, in the Supratek most of the sylvania examples can seem to be more extended up top but also tend to highlight this area in the mix. They can be a liabilty in many applications. When ones speaker system isn't tightly balanced "tone wise" in a given room, the utter clarity and resolution of the supratek will only serve as a magnifying glass, highlight and ultimately distort the perspective of the portrait. Braro: You have a very fine system to work with sir. The good thing here is the tonal balance aberration in your room is much simpler to to work with and far easier to get dialed in. The vast majority of rooms that many people have to deal with have the exact opposite effect, whereby too many of us have a big bump or boost in the upper bass/lower mid area. Usually a far more difficult exorcise to correct. Best of luck!
I got the RCA 6SN7GT VT-231s. Ahhh much better. These tubes have transformed my system. Ecclectique the RCAs did exactly what you said they would. After a few hrs I do not hear any negative attributes. Only improvements pretty much across the board. The biggest improvement I hear so far is in the upper bass/lower mids but to my delight the bottom octave is being rendered with more weight also. The presentation is overall lush and sweet but at the same time detailed and powerful. This is probably the best change I have made to my system with room treatment as a possible tie. I am going to pick up the Ken Rads and give them a whirl also but Im quite happy with the RCAs. Thanks again everyone.
Well after some more hrs and different music with the RCAs I have come to the conclusion that they are superior to the EH in all areas except 1. Acoustic bass lacks focus at the bottom of the register with the RCAs. The bass does have more weight but unfortunately its not controlled. So what to do? I suppose the Ken-Rads may be the panacea but the longer Im in this hobby the more I realize I may never get the "right" sound and that everything is a compromise. I really dont want to just keep spending money and hope I find the right combination. BUMMER. I suppose I could just listen to music that doesnt have acoustic bass :) HA.
Braro, you haven't mentioned what rectifier tube you are using. They make a huge difference in extracting the best from all of the other tubes in the Supratek.
The Sovtek 5AR4 is junk. For $40 you can step up to the Bendix 6106. You'll find better tone top to bottom, and better bass as well. For real bass punch, a Philips Miniwatt GZ34 will shock you.
Also, if you're running the stock Sovtek 5881, replace with the Sovtek KT-66. Again another $40. Big pay off.
Those two additions will help your RCAs show their stuff.
John, I use WE 350B's as regulators. They are expensive, but they are the best. GEC KT-66's are also quite expensive, but are not in the same league as the 350B's.
And to answer your question about my source, I use a Forsell Air Reference Transport and an extremely modified Audio Note DAC 1.2.
Jtgofish is correct. Van den Hul The First Ultimates will definitely give a rich, organic sound. They are a little loose in the bass and can induce a little hum. If the bass was tighter and the IC's were hum-free, they would be my interconnects of choice. In your system they may be just what the doctor ordered.
Hey gang, got the KT 66s and the Bendix 6106 coming. I should have them by Friday and will report back with results. On a side note a buddy brought over his TT which he got at either a garage sale or Goodwill or something for $5.00 and has what appears to be a lamp cord for power cord. I can not believe how good this thing sounds. The images and sound stage in general with vinyl are so much bigger on my sytem. So now Im looking for a good entrylevel TT. Im thinking VPI Scout maybee. What do you guys think? Also will I need to roll tubes in the phono stage? Oh I also notice the phono stage sounds different depending on what flavor of 6SN7 I have in the pre. Should this be happening or is something wrong? I thought the phono stage and line stage were seperate.