Tube or Trasistor


Hello friends
Hope you all had a good New Year!!
I live on the far south coast of Australia, the nearest hi fi shop, is a three hours drive!!, so can some one give me advice??, as I have found the sound on a lot of music to be a bit harsh, below is My gear!!
1. Once Analog TT, loaded with a loaded Denon/Zu 103 cartridge
2. JLTI phono stage, with power supply, (sold state), made in Switzerland by Allen wright
3. PS Audio, pre-amp with build in DAC
4.Pair of PS Tube Mono Blocks, these are highly regarderd, running KT 88's output tubes, made in Hong Kong, silver point to point wiring!!
5. Pair of Zu Soul MK 2 speakers
Friends, some modern recordings sound great, but as I have mint collection of music, some sound harsh!!
My last system, sounded great, in the bass region, but was lacking in the top end, just a bit!!
My last system was, below, please don't ask why I don't have it any more, very personal!!
1. Well tempered Labs Classic, with a Dyavector 17 D 3
2. A local made Tube pre amp, with phono stage, made by a person in Canberrra, I don't have his name!!, This system is approx 20 years old??
3. Bedini class A transistor amp, around 100wps
4. Shahinian Arc Speakers!!
Although i has been nearly twenty years, since the last time I heard this system, I don't remember, this system sounding "harsh"!!
The only thing I can think off, is the pre amp was" tubed", and the amp was solid state, now it is the otherway around, the phono stage, and pre amp are solid state!!, whilst the mono blocks, are tubed!!
Am I missing something here??, Before I change my system, with a cost I can't really afford, can some one give me advice?? Thanks in advance
David Spry
Australia


Dfc1b742 2146 4dcb bc58 f88d04cbafe0daveyonthecoast
Well I would say if only some of your music is harsh your system is telling it like it is(true to the original signal).If everything sounds harsh then I would look to the speakers and room acoustics...
davey it looks like a pretty well sorted system to me, one question though. On 4 I assume you mean PS Audio tubed monos but then you say "made in Hong Kong  silver point to point wiring". Can you provide more info on the amps. All in all I would concur with freediver your sound is probably pretty accurate. How new is the system? Silver point to point wiring might need some break-in time if new. Also you don't mention the cabling you're using in your system.
Room acoustics can contribute to this a great deal. I'm going to give you a free experiment. It is not the final solution but try it and listen.

First, speaker placement and toe-in. Some speakers sound best with no toe-in at all, some direct to your ears, so experiment. Give them plenty of space to the sides.

Second, try throwing some soft absorbent materials around on the floor near your speakers. Blankets and pillows work find. Do not neglect the area behind and between the speakers.

Try this before going out to buy new gear.

Best,

E
I’d like to have more info on the amps, as well. Input tubes(ie: phase splitter and driver) can make a major difference in your presentation. Especially, the thin, uninvolving presentation, that will result from tubes at the end of their lifespan. Then again: it may just be a matter of taste, and warmer tubes(ie: British), in those positions, might be your answer. Here’s someone knowledgeable in Australia, that I’ve dealt with, a few times(through ebay), that may be able to help, or just fun to contact: https://www.ebay.com/usr/angst46?_trksid=p2053788.m1543.l2754
Davey,

Were your old Shahinians speakers omni-directional? If I recall correctly, those speakers did not have tweeters that were pointed directly at the listener, but pointed the tweeters off-axis to provide a more diffused type of sound. If that is correct, it is possible that you simply have a preference for a more diffused, less direct, type of sound. I believe the Zu speakers have a super-tweeter that is pointed directly forward, toward the listener, correct? If you play material that is already "hot" on the high-frequency end of the spectrum, it could just sound harsh to you on the Zu speakers relative to the Shahinian speakers you remember.

As Eric said, speaker placement and room treatment may help tame the harsh high-end if you choose to go that route.
Presuming the system sits in the same room as the old one did, and that’s a HUGE if...  If the room is different, all bets are off. But playing along, two components jump out at me that would possibly lead to what you noticed in a big way:
1. Zu loudspeakers vs the Shahians
2. Once Analog TT with Denon cartridge vs the Well Tempered with Dynavector
I did hear Sean Casey of Zu on a podcast the other day talk about how he hates the sound of KT88 tubes. Your amp might not be the best match for the Soul.

With that said, I agree with the poster above... try pointing your speakers straight out with no toe in.
I'd side with Reubent on this one; my recollection of Shahinian speakers was that they would sound less bright than traditional speakers due to their omni-directional design.  I agree with the suggestions about speaker placement and room treatments before you make any changes.
The tubes man! I dislike kt88 tubes. Also, tube preamp is the way to go with ss amp. 
Try a different set of tubes first. Then try a tube pre. 
I currently run Zu Omen Def. Though a vastly different speaker than the Zu Soul the Zu sound is still there.
I also prefer a sound that won’t tear your head off and don’t like picking music to suit my system. Here is what I have found the past two years of ownership. ( personal bias included of course) 

1) I like tubes better than solid state with these speakers. Tube type and quality, I like the Mullard el 34 or Nos Tesla el34, RFT. Amps that have worked well for me. Quicksilver, Unison S6, Luxman SQ 38u, Allnic t1500 but all needed tube rolling.
2) Placement is critical. They need room to breath, near field didn’t  work for me. Toe in, speaker height all extremely important and listening chair below tweeter axis. If you have a lively room you need to settle it down.
3) The Zu mission speaker cables work well with them, with Interconnects I liked copper better than silver.



When set up and synergy is dialed in these speakers will at times startle you but it will be a journey.




I would say. Start studying acoustics at the internet. Can you place a picture of your livingroom? It's a waste of money to buy more equipment if the acoustical conditions are not oke. Even than it will stay difficult to advise you.
On vacuum tubes—then and now…

I returned from draft duty in early ’54, and from that time on I’ve been absorbed with high fidelity audio. Of course, the early years meant embracing vacuum tubes. Transistors weren’t ready for prime time, so tubes were the only option. And I soon learned that tube technology was far from perfect. Tubes suffered high incidence of failure, and their abundant heat cooked adjacent parts. But those faults could become my gain if I learned radio/TV repair, so I built (from kits) a tube tester, audio oscillator, oscilloscope, bought a multimeter, and began my career in the industry.

Tubes reflect their Neo-Victorian vintage (1904); they’re just not high precision parts. Why not? Well, to start, the tube manufacturers identify vacuum tube operating parameters only by listing “average” or “typical” characteristics. They never specify tubes by providing precise min./max. limits, as with solid-state devices, so tubes lack uniformity from their git-go. That’s why tubes of the same type often differ so widely. Further, all tubes exhibit random long term drift when put into service; plate current falls and grid bias shifts. These changes reflect a persistent degradation that begins at initial turn-on and ultimately ends in cathode depletion failure—barring other common modes of premature demise. (E.g.: open filaments, vacuum leaks, gassing, microphonics, atypical distortion, excessive hum/noise). So vacuum tubes are not a wise choice when stable circuit performance is a serious design goal. Regardless, for some 70 years tubes were all that we had. Circuit design creativity got pretty stale toward the end of that era, largely because tubes were just too big (and too inefficient) to use more than the functional minimum. But innovation revived with the debut of complementary solid state technology in the mid-to-latter ’70s.

Early angst: In 1963 I bought a hi-end Fisher FM-200B tuner, one of the top signal seekers of the day, but its RF/IF stages exhibited incessant drift due to tube aging. I had to perform tedious realignments annually. And my 1962 Marantz 8B stereo power amplifier needed quarterly output stage re-biasing to hold IM distortion inside 0.5%, plus I had to install four new EL34s every two years. Indeed, I got so anxious to dump vacuum tubes that I built my own solid state power amps in the mid-’70s, as soon as PNP silicon power transistors became affordable. Free at last!

Vacuum tube commerce has collapsed in the 40+ year lapse since my escape. All of the principal domestic, British, Dutch, and German producers are now either defunct (like Tung-Sol Electric, my employer from ’57 - ’60), or they’ve long since ceased making tubes. The entire world market for (receiving-type) tubes is now confined to a small coterie of audio and guitar buffs, and served only by obscure Russian and Chinese suppliers with no previous market recognition. (There are other minor sources in former Soviet bloc countries.) The quality and reliability of the tubes made by those arcane foreign suppliers is a subject worthy of concern. And those sources will persist only as long as there’s viable demand, so the outlook for assured access to replacement stock seems dicey. Further, this situation prevails at a time when every instrumented means of evaluating audio quality validates the measurable superiority of modern solid state design. Tube boosters reply that “my ears are more accurate than your instruments”, but their faith is mired in groupthink. There’s no credible A/B/X aural evidence to support the “tubes sound better” cult. Tubes were marching to the casket 40 years ago. Don’t consort with zombies.
^ and yet EVERY great guitarist today,from Jazz Standards to Metal continue to play through TUBES!!!
SRV in concert,TUBES...
Carlos Santanna,TUBES...
Clapton,TUBES...
Peter Frampton TUBES...
BB King-Buddy Guy and Albert King,TUBES...I could go on and on...
Bet you can't name 3 great guitarists and their Solid State stacks...
As duly noted: "The entire world market for (receiving-type) tubes is now confined to a small coterie of audio and guitar buffs..."

Guitar amplifiers are often (intentionally) over-driven into clipping overload, where their predominant even order harmonic distortion is deemed a desirable aural characteristic. Producing this even-order harmonic distortion is the intended objective, and it's easily accomplished with a vacuum tube output stage circuit.
vtv, Yes solid state has many benefits over tubes but the amp or preamp with the lowest distortion does not always sound best.  Some people prefer the sound of amps or preamps that include tubes in their circuits.  So why buy a more accurate solid state device if you enjoy listening to a tubed device more?  Knowing that your system has lower distortion and that transistors are less likely to go bad doesn't seem like adequate compensation to me.

Recordings come nowhere near replicating live music.  So even if you could put together a system that introduced very little distortion, you would still be a long way from the sound heard in the studio.  Every format and system sounds different, so it's a matter of choosing which variation on the original event you prefer.  
vtvmtodvm


Tubes reflect their Neo-Victorian vintage ... they’re just not high precision parts ... Tube boosters reply that “my ears are more accurate than your instruments”, but their faith is mired in groupthink. There’s no credible A/B/X aural evidence to support the “tubes sound better” cult. Tubes were marching to the casket 40 years ago. Don’t consort with zombies.
I don't think you accurately describe the opinions of tube users, and your notion that they comprise a "cult" of "zombies" is absurd. The suggestion that a preference for tubes should be substantiated by an a/b/x test is just plain silly and if tubes were marching to the casket 40 years ago, companies such as Audio Research would never have flourished.

The quality and reliability of the tubes made by those arcane foreign suppliers is a subject worthy of concern.
That's silly. It's obviously of no concern to you because you don't use tubes. And it clearly is not an issue for those who do choose to use tubes.

vacuum tubes are not a wise choice when stable circuit performance is a serious design goal
Really? How do you account for the many high quality and rock-stable vacuum tube products now being manufactured?

It looks like the facts and the market contradict your claims about the very nature of tubes.
Regarding "How do you account for the many high quality and rock-stable vacuum tube products now being manufactured?"---

The point is that there are NOT many vacuum tube products now being manufactured. World-wide, receiving-type vacuum tube products now comprise near-negligible numbers. It's purely limited to some hi-end audiophile products and guitar amplifiers, and that specialty market is simply infinitesimal. This state accounts for the fact that ALL of the traditional large corporate tube suppliers exited the business decades ago. Currently, tube production is limited to a small group of foreign opportunists who are sufficiently agile to extract profit by virtue of low cost manufacture and high selling price. This is characteristic of the last phase of life in a dying industry. Hey, it's dead technology; may it RIP.
 
vtvmtodvm
The point is that there are NOT many vacuum tube products now being manufactured. World-wide, receiving-type vacuum tube products now comprise near-negligible numbers. It's purely limited to some hi-end audiophile products and guitar amplifiers, and that specialty market is simply infinitesimal.
Not exactly. This is a an audiophile forum. By definition, the world of audio enthusiasts is pretty small compared to the world of consumer electronics in general. Within the world of high-end audio, vacuum tube technology looms rather large. It's like the LP - many users use tubes even though the solid state alternative exists.

Currently, tube production is limited to a small group of foreign opportunists who are sufficiently agile to extract profit by virtue of low cost manufacture and high selling price.
Oh no, this is mistaken. Please check your facts. Domestic tube manufacturing lives. And to call tube manufacturers "opportunists" is really unwarranted. Making tubes is a legitimate business, even if it disturbs you.

Hey, it's dead technology
With apologies to Mark Twain, rumors of the death of vacuum tubes are greatly exaggerated.
cleeds---when I last attempted to determine the remaining manufacturers of (receiving type) vacuum tubes some 18 months ago, there were zero based in the USA. That's fact. You now indicate that "Domestic tube manufacturing lives." WHERE does it live? Who has entered the business? Do appreciate that I'm talking about manufacturing. That excludes domestic importers that do some tube matching and then resell, often using a private brand label.

It's true that tube usage within the world-wide sphere of the consumer electronics market is insignificant. It's also true that tube usage within the audio equipment market is but a tiny fraction of the net business. It's of significance only to an isolated group of select consumers and sellers with needs that might never get served if it was not for the guitar people. That does not look like a healthy forecast for the future, so stock up now!  
I have had a number of different amps and pres, both SS and tube, and I keep coming back to tubes....  my McCormack DNA 125 was a fantastic amp,  one of the few amps I regret selling.  

As long as your amps and preamps take common tubes, they will always be available thanks to musicians.   
oddiofyl---Don't depend on that! The medium income for full time professional musicians isn't a lot more than the medium household income for the U.S. population as a whole: About $59,500 annually. Distinguished full time members of civic symphony orchestras rarely earn salaries exceeding $100,000/year. Few musicians are rock stars, and few can pay the premium for tube equipment. Tube gear pricing is prohibitive for most consumers, and the replacement costs are endless. Tubes just "don't compute".
Hi davey,

While not familar with all your equipment. My suggestion would be to look at a good tubed Phono Stage. The JLTI equipment I've heard can be a little forward and harsh sounding. A good Tubed Pre. could also help. Also look at different Interconnects & Speaker Cables, helped tame some brightness in one of my set ups.

Good luck.
The median income for musicians or anyone has nothing whatsoever to do with the continuing production of tubes. Sure it's a specialist market but demand continues to grow not decline. And tubes themselves, particularly current production tubes, are not especially expensive. And there is a wealth of affordable tubed gear out there as well as a robust secondhand market.
Tubes reflect their Neo-Victorian vintage (1904); they’re just not high precision parts. Why not? Well, to start, the tube manufacturers identify vacuum tube operating parameters only by listing “average” or “typical” characteristics.
That's funny! Obviously you've not tried to put together an amp from solid state devices or you would know they have quite a bit of variance too.

The point is that there are NOT many vacuum tube products now being manufactured.
Interesting fact: in the US, there are more manufacturers of tube-based audio products than there were in 1956....
Few musicians are rock stars, and few can pay the premium for tube equipment. Tube gear pricing is prohibitive for most consumers, and the replacement costs are endless.
 The above statement is false. The guitar amp market plays a huge role in the production of tubes worldwide. The ex-Vice prez of Fender is a personal friend...
cleeds---when I last attempted to determine the remaining manufacturers of (receiving type) vacuum tubes some 18 months ago, there were zero based in the USA. That's fact.
What is a fact is that you missed a few:
located in Nevada, RCH Labs.
(You may have also missed Korg, who has a new tube technology._
Western Electric is making tubes in Georgia. 
atmosphere--- Let's slow down here and try to work together. I could have expressed myself better on some points, so...

On tubes vs. solid state specifications: Yes, all active devices do have variances, and, having built numerous of my own preamps, power amplifiers, voltage regulated supplies, and unity gain buffers, I'm well aware of those pesky variables. But there's a critical distinction between electron tubes and solid state devices. The classic tube manufacturers (RCA/GE/Sylvania/Tung-Sol/Raytheon/Mullard/Amperex/Telefunken, et al) did not ever test or deliver their products with absolute min/max control limits. Instead, they simply stated "typical" performance criteria. Check any receiving-type tube data sheet, and you will see that no guaranteed min/max performance control is applied, other than for the usual destructive ("do not exceed") limitations.

Solid-state devices are entirely different---there are lots of guaranteed min/max limits provided for many operating parameters, and they're all listed on the related data sheet. So, in comparison, there is really an important difference between the way tubes and solid-state devices are made---and sold. Tubes come with uncontrolled performance variables, whereas solid-state devices vary, but only within specified limits. That's a real distinction.

Regarding audio products using vacuum tubes: Yes, there are now many small companies making products that use tubes. In the '50s and '60s there were many LARGE and small companies making products with tubes. Solid-state never got traction until the mid-70s. And the small companies of today that supply tube audio products import virtually all of the tubes that they need.

Re. the guitar market, yes, agreed. It represents the dominant demand for receiving type vacuum tubes. The audiophile market alone would probably be insufficient to justify viable vacuum tube business. Of course, the guitar + audiophile market in sum is just a tiny blip in the overall sphere of consumer electronics, so we'll never see the return of the big corporate tube producers like those that I reference above.

Re. domestic tube manufacturing: Hey, right! Welcome to RCH Labs. Hope that they do well! They started up in late 2016 and they're making 6L6 output tubes. Looks dicey to me. Korg doesn't actually make any conventional receiving tubes, just some experimental nuvistors, an extension of the old RCA technology. The Western Electric tube facility is actually in Kansas City rather than GA; the latter is corporate home.  My information is that there is no true commercial production ongoing at this time. I could be wrong.
There will always be common octal tubes like EL34, KT88, 6L6, and EL84.  There will also be 12A*7 tubes in ample supply.
No wonder poor old davey has'nt got back, the threads disintegrated into median wages for USA etc.

ADD anyone?
Tubes come with uncontrolled performance variables, whereas solid-state devices vary, but only within specified limits. That's a real distinction.
Not really! When you say 'solid state devices vary', you mean that they vary from completely nonfunctional out of the tape or bag or whatever they come in, to completely exceeding their specs so you can't find a match for them, right? I don't see that as particularly distinctive!

These days there are a lot of counterfeit Chinese semiconductors out there that don't meet important specs in any way, in addition if you look at all the obsolete semiconductors out there that you have to pay a premium for on ebay if you can find them at all (there are far more obsolete devices than there are that are in production), tubes can look pretty attractive; you can still find competent new 6SN7s and the like.

We're rarely had to match tubes to get them to work in our circuits, but when we involved semiconductors, we've had to build jigs to test them so as to sort out the devices that simply weren't going to work at all.

So I find this bit of your argument as simply a non-starter.

I get that for whatever reason you don't like tubes. I don't have a problem with that. We can cut with all the technical stuff since when it comes down to it, it does not matter. If you look at it from an economic standpoint, then you really see what is going on:

Tubes are still here after being 'obsolete' for longer than when they were the only game in town! Normally, when a new technology succeeds the prior art, the prior art becomes a museum piece. But apparently people want tubes and keep them going. The simple fact that the Chinese built a new factory to get into the tube game should tell you something- tubes aren't obsolete because they do things transistors so far can't (with the possible exception of the Static Induction Transistor, sorry, obsolete, n.l.a.), which is to be so linear that building a low distortion circuit with them is easy.

More to the point, tubes don't make the kinds of distortion to which our ears are finely tuned. Transistors do! This is why the tubes/transistor debate has been around far longer than the internet and won't be going away anytime soon.

Solid-state cannot compete with tubes. Even a table radio with a 4" speaker & tubes sounds better than transistor radios. A 4" speaker only produces voices, but the voices sound real with tubes. I can hear the difference in another room.

Most vintage tube amps & receivers sound better than tubes. I use a lowly Allied 333 (same as Pioneer SX-34). Stock sounded good, but I upgraded all coupling capacitors. I placed certain select tubes in & rebuilt the power supply to outperform the original with regard to AC ripple. The soundstage is clear & open extending far beyond the speaker ends. I just have not been able to duplicate that with SS amps & SS receivers.

I used to rebuild Fisher tube receivers & amplifiers. I shipped to the USA & abroad. I was told I rebuilt the best sounding Fishers ever! I guess so.

Anyways, applied the same mods to the Allied 333. One great detail about this simple receiver is a very simple & uncomplicated audio path from preamp to main amp. That makes a difference too. So, you do not have to spend much to enjoy high-end tube audio.

Thanks To All
I have replaced, my tube mono blocks, with transistor mono blocks, one thing I have noticed, is more control in the "Bass", however the harsh sound is still there, do you think, replacing the solid state pre amp and phono with tubes??, I don't want to softener, the bass, any idea??
David
One common source of harshness is the higher ordered harmonic distortion (in trace amounts) which is normal with most solid state gear.

It is why there are still tube amps being made; we should have had hover cars by now, this being the 21st century but instead tubes are still here :)

So it is possible that a tube preamp could be helpful. Hopefully it can be auditioned prior to purchase.
Hi davey, what Mono Blocks did you get? Is the harshness just with Phono? Do you run digital? Noticed you have a built in Dac. Guess it's a process of elimination. Also as I peviously mentioned, cables can make some difference in certain cases. Realise you're a bit isolated but can you borrow any gear to trial?
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