I use Herbie's Tube Dampers on all of my tube gear. I wouldn't say it's a profound difference, but well worth the asking price. It's a pretty cheap tweek that works well...IMHO.
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I would say it would depend on a lot of things. What was the piece of equipment the dampers were used in? What kind of damper was employed? There are many kinds now. From silicone rings to brass rings with a ground wire.
I've used silicone rings and Herbie's tube dampers on the preamp tubes of my amp and I had the same results as Lowrider.
"I have heard one person say that they heard a reduction in openness and soundstage when using a damper. Any opinions of this?"
Results may vary on each system; I haven't heard, that but I know from experience that postion of the damper on the glass tube will produce a different effect. Herbie recommends placement 1/3 down the tube.
Why not google Herbie's audio lab... there is a Q & A section.
Yep, I added some Audio Research rubber band-like tube dampers to my Manley Steelhead phono preamp and I heard a tightening of the sound, especially in the bass, and improvement in dynamics. It didn't make the difference other tweaks such as Audio Prism cables or Kemp Elektroniks plugs made, but still a very cost-effective tweak.
I am using a Joule Electra OBS-1 which has 6 tubes in the preamp part and more in the power supply but I wouldn't think that they would affect sound (I could be wrong).
I think of old Fender Teles with microphonic bridge pickups- the microphonics add a nice part of the tone but once it gets loud they screech and are a problem.
Maybe damping a tube (even if it is not noticably microphonic) could take something away from the sound.
And yes,I know, tubes are not electric guitar pickups.
My experience in my Jadis tubed preamps (using Tubesox, Top Hats, Vintage Tube Service's brass dampers (the best of the ones I tried) and Mapleshade dampers) has been that the better tube dampers take away a little bit of that tube warmth but give a bit more focus and clarity to the sound. This would be consistent with lowering the tube microphonics, getting rid of a small amount of distortion. Given the commparatively inexpensive choices available to you with the Herbies and Audio Research dampers, you might just want to experiment and see if you like the sound better with or without.
My experience is that tube dampers are essential. They can improve low level resolution, microdynamics, and allow higher volumes before distortion limits the volume at which you're comfortable. One thing I've found is that it's important to damp the tubes, but not to add mass that can store vibrational energy and then release it. Specifically, I recommend avoiding those tube damping rings that ARC supplies with their preamp tubes. Substituting Herbies Ultrasonic tube dampers on my ARC REF3 preamp eliminated a smearing quality compared with the ARC o-ring dampers. I mentioned this to ARC when I ordered tube replacements.
I do use very thin o-rings on the brass bases of my Kronzilla T1610 tubes. I find that four of these (1/16" thick and 3-1/2" diameter) made a surprising improvement in the sound, with instruments sounding more like solid and independent sources. Interestingly, when I tried putting those thin o-rings (rated to 450F) on the glass of the tubes, they start to smear the sound. For the glass envelopes, I use three Herbies tube dampers per tube.
There's lots of different types of dampers out there. I'd appreciate the input of those who have compared the Herbies dampers with other designs. One more thing, I've found that damping speaker cables also provides improvements.
Lowrider, yes I have the Herbies dampers for components with the larger, softer contact material. I find using about 4 or 5 per speaker cable cleans up the sound, not to the degree of the tube dampers, but audibly nonetheless. I've only heard them applied to speaker cables in my system, and I expect their impact will vary depending on the system at hand. If you hold your speaker cable while the music is playing, do you feel any vibration?
" If you hold your speaker cable while the music is playing, do you feel any vibration?"
No, I dont feel any vibration in the cable, but I wonder if Steve (Herbie) is right about vibration on the connectors, especially a RCA on a IC?
Every Herbie's tweek I have used has resulted in a noticeably improved performance. The tube dampers being the most jaw-dropping improvement.
I found this article in Stereophile about Audio Research tube dampers? I've tried to locate a seller online, but haven't had any luck. The AR website isn't very helpful.
Anyone know where to find these or have any experience with them?
For those who have bottom getters like the RCA smoked glass VT-231 and Sylvania 6SN7GT and are using Herbies tube dampers, you might try moving the damper all the way down the glass to where the damper just touches the base. I recently found that a second Herbies damper attached directly to the tube base was quite efficacious.