The Audio Research clear tube damper rings have worked well in several units I have tried them in and are inexpensive.They seem to add greater clarity overall with better bass slam and texture.Results may vary with different components. I use them in my ARC gear with good results. I tried them in some Dynaco gear and the results were dramatic. They took a PAS pre amp and a ST 70 to a new level. This may be that the circuit boards are so flimsy in those units and they really need help in this area. Look for them at the Audio Research web site under retail price list, then go to the price listing for tubes. You can spend alot more,and I have not tried the ones you mentioned but if these don't do what you are looking for you are not out much green stuff. They seem to sell very quickly any time I have seen them listed here.
There was a little bit of chatter about a month ago on this forum. This is what I use to good and cheap effect.
I use the Pearl Tube Coolers on some of my small-signal tubes (as well as all of my power tubes), but I can tell you that though they seem to be effective at the job they're named for, they should not be looked upon as damping devices, and will in many cases add their own resonances to those of the tube itself. Sometimes they will shift a tube's inherent resonance in frequency, but will not absorb it, even with their woven synthetic jackets underneath the finned metal heat sink and the "rubber bands" around the exterior. Sometimes they seem to vibrate in sympathy with a particular resonant mode, and actually extend the vibration longer in time after the initial stimulus. Sometimes they do none of the above, and many times (in certain applications) none of this will seem to make an audible difference anyway. But with critical tubes in hi-gain blocks, another type of device is probably the way to go. BTW, I have found that I have no real way of knowing whether or not the Tube Coolers are actually extending the life of my tubes, but they do seem capable of rapidly acquiring and dissipating a high degree (ha!) of heat. The only other downside I have found is on the power tubes only, the very high temperatures involved will bake the "rubber bands" into a hardened state, rendering them useless when you have to change tubesets, so stocking up in advance is a good idea (try Michael Percy Audio).
Top hats work well, but because you use a tube damper don't expect an improvement, and you may go backwards.
I had a guy grind me for an answer...will he like "X" tube damper?
First of all, in some positions, depending on the job of the tube, you may not hear a single difference in any way shape or form.
If it's the front end tube of a preamp or poweramp, you will hear a difference, but it depends on the tube in question. If the tube is already pretty tight, you may want to leave it. A smidge of microphony can be a good thing, and lead to a sense of "air" for right or wrong reasons.
There's nothing wrong with that. So the answer is nobody can tell you what to expect. We have more on that in our tube FAQ on our website
I tend to agree with Upscale on this. I use Top Hats and find them to be excellent on the principal tubes in my preamp, DACs and amps, but I note that along with better focus their effect can also be to rob a little of the euphonic sonic "glow" of some tubes which you may like. The ARC dampers are pretty cheap, I'd suggest them as a good place to start.
Upscale's comment about covers it. OTOH, for a couple of bucks, you can pick up three "O" rings for each tube at your local Home Depot. Get 'em slightly undersized and slip 'em on. Vary the number and position and listen. I've found them effective, sometimes not. As for Hats, Pearls and Sox, I've tried them all with varying or no success and, frankly, I don't think they're worth the expense. As for Herbie's, no experience with them, but they look interesting.
Hi. The above link to Herbie's Audio Lab is no longer valid. Herbie's new website address is:
Herbie's Audio Lab
Herbie's Audio Lab Ultrasonic tube dampers
I concur with Gino. Silicone O-rings are dirt cheap and may be all you need. If you're not satisfied with the results, you can then move on to the more involved/expensive solutions. Upscaleaudio is also correct that a little bit of microphony can be a good thing, and is probably one of the reasons we all like tubes.
"...a little bit of microphony can be a good thing, and is probably one of the reasons we all like tubes"
Re-reading my post from eight years ago in light of the above-referenced comment, I feel compelled to say that for precisely that reason, among others, I don't use tubes anymore (for hifi that is -- guitar amps, always). After several years I grew tired of usually being able to "hear the tubes" to some degree when listening to recorded music, especially at realistic volumes. And I found that tubes are no longer necessary (in addition to putting up with their waste heat, replacement costs, inconvenient and occasionally catastrophic failures, and higher noise) in order to get lively, flowing, open, naturally consonant sound, including musically convincing bass. On top of its inherent advantages over tubes, good solid-state achieved parity in those regards a while ago IMO.
wow Zaikesman! you're a voice from the past!! :-) several of the people like you seemed to have left this forum some time ago & it feels lonely here....
good to see a post from you....
I think you're right BW, I should've put an exclamation point or two after the phrase "eight years ago"!! But I got posted-out on audio a while back and have mostly sworn it off since. However it's nice to get a welcome wagon rather than flamed for daring to diss the holy tube (which I'll always love even if I don't use 'em anymore), so thanks dude :-)
So Zaikesman, would you care to name some names as far as the SS gear you hinted at? Sorry, don't mean to hijack this thread but I am always very interested in tube-like SS gear I should listen to. Have not used tube dampers yet but this thread has got me thinking again.
I have been trying to build my own DIY tube dampers, and im getting a ring of softish urethane to make a good and removable damper.
I also apoligize for the brief hijack.Welcome back Z,good to hear,Bob
I'm sure urethane can work, but make sure it's of a formulation that will withstand the temperatures of a hot tube. I received a used preamp once with urethane dampers and they were a sticky mess. No idea how long they'd been in use, but they weren't doing much damping by the time they got to me. I stick with silicone just because I know it's one material that will stand the heat.
Hi Kats, not saying that tubes are never worth it or that SS sounds tube-like, just that to my ear the flaws I often perceived which made much SS a musical compromise, seem to have been proven largely solvable by this point. (And I know one leading long-time manufacturer of both tube and SS amps feels this is the case.) So IMO abiding tube disadvantages isn't imperative to get sound that's not constipated and synthetic sounding.
Has anyone experienced that dampers (Pearl, Silicone rings, Herbies etc) helped extend the life of their tubes? So far I've just placed Silicone rings on my preamp and power tubes. I've noticed no sonic difference with or without them in place the systems I've used my tube amp in. My experience with tube amps are limited though.
I'm just thinking now about using dampers from either Pearl or Herbie's Audio Lab to help with the heat and possibly prolonging the life of the tubes. Thanks
Herbies are the only ones I found, having tried all others, pearl, ensemble, silicone, etc. that actually improved the sound, more open detailed and smoother. Most tube dampers actually degrade the sound noticeably. Difficult to say if tube dampers extend the life of tubes, I mean, how would one determine that? IMO the main thing is to improve the sound, if possible.
I always thought the Pearls looked neat, especially on power tubes. But to my knowledge it never extended tube life at all, never altered the sound and those rings holding them dried out.
I've used the silicone rings on small tubes in a phono stage as an overkill reaction to my quest to reduce harmonics, but then I always bought LN tubes in the first place. I never thought they hurt anything though, unless of course you have micro-phonic tubes and like the sound.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. I'll keep the Herbie's dampers in mind. You really tried a lot of dampers. I never would have thought dampers could degrade the sound. Good to know.
With my tube life question. I was thinking that someone possibly may have had tubes w/o a damper for a bit and after the tubes died when they got a new replacement set and used dampers with them they noticed they lasted a bit longer.
I look at them as an insurance policy. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate microphonics which is a form of noise, not signal. Audio research seems to provide dampers with installed tubes and provide them with low noise tube replacement for the prime slot in the low level phono section only which makes sense to me as the most important application.
Jedinite I like the Herbie's ability to be tightened or loosened by opening or closing the partial ring which changes the sound as well as moving them up or down the tube.
I don't think there's a darn thing dampers can do to extend the life of tubes. Yeah I suspect vibration can shorten the life of tubes (just as vibration can shorten the life of light bulbs), but we're not talking about guitar combo amps here so the type of vibration we're getting is not severe.
In my experience what tube dampers can do is reduce sonic smear and overhang, for want of more precise terms, in some contexts, by reducing acoustic breakthrough. Some people might hear that as a reduction of liveliness, but it's an artificial, detail obscuring "liveliness." That kind of distortion -- the zinging, ringing "liveliness" of acoustic breakthrough via microphonic tubes -- can be good in guitar amps where distortion and coloration of the signal is the goal (though I use tube dampers in my guitar amps), but I for one try to keep it out of my hifi chain. And since all tubes are microphonic to some extent, tube dampers can help.
I'm among those who quite like the Herbie's dampers and haven't found any thing else to be effective -- no point in using, say plain silicone o-rings, to me they don't do a thing. I having tried the brass things that go on top of the tubes but I have friends with ears I trust who like them. But of course none of these solutions can make a badly microphonic tube that's howling into one that's useful.
I'm partial to ARC's O ring dampers for small signal tubes. The do the job and are re-useable.
No tube damper will turn a sows ear into a silk purse.....