Tubes of course make a difference just like everything else. My experience (30 years) has taught me to replace tubes when they need replacing. Because for what they cost you can just about always get a lot more improvement from just about anything else. Especially considering with tubes you can’t even be sure of ANY improvement! No matter how much you spend. My favorite of all I have tried for example is JJ, one of the cheapest around. The most expensive ones I’ve tried 2 out of 5 failed in 4 months and weren’t even average before that. I know there are guys who will tell you tube rolling is the greatest thing since sliced bread. In 4 amps over 30 years and more sets than I know not one in all of them made me feel it was worth it. The mere fact that its tubes (and not SS) is half the battle. What’s left divides mostly between circuit topology, transformers, and parts quality (caps, diodes, resistors, wire, switches, etc). Hardly any of the "tube" sound you're hearing is the tubes themselves. Its mostly these other things. Its just that tubes are obvious, and audiophiles are anything but subtle.
Don’t expect a lot of agreement on that. But pay attention to those with differing views, to what exactly those views are based on. SOP.
The amp you’re thinking of buying tubes for- does it have a Synergistic Orange fuse? ECT? Quality power cord? Treated with Total Contact? Is it sitting on Cones or the factory feet? All those to me are far higher priorities than tubes.
As a man who owns all tube gear and has for 25+ years, the whole tube arena is not for novices. No insult here because I too, was one of those who learned about tubes the hard way; spending way too much, or not enough, seduced by NOS tubes when in practice I never really tried anything that is current, assuming NOS was just the best. Not always so. NOS tubes can be noisy, fail quicker (heck, a lot of them are older than me and that is saying a lot) and OVERPRICED. And yes, I meant to do all capital letters. Several very smart men who know a lot about tubes have mentored me over the years. Some of the best things they have taught me is where amps are concerned, the small signal tubes have more of an impact than the large power tubes. Not that power tubes cannot make a difference but in a matter of percentages, the smaller signal tubes can make a 50% difference or more compared to power tubes. Before you drop a fortune on NOS tubes, listen to some new production tubes. Jim McShane, a very knowledgeable tube man told me that new production is often better than NOS. I agree. I use several new production tubes that are as good if not better than NOS, and what is better yet, is that they are quiet.
There is so much to know about tubes. Tubes are like cables. There are the believers, non-believers, and also tubes can be tone controls. I would start out with the small signal tubes first, go with current production tubes first, and see what you think before dropping way too much on NOS tubes. As a side note, i own over 800 NOS tubes of various brands, sizes etc. and many times when you look inside my gear you will see a current production 6922 or 12AX7 because those are better. And believe me, I have a lot I could choose from that would be applicable to the equipment and its tube complement.
Sorry to be so long winded but tubes questions are not questions with easy answers. If so I would not own 800 tubes and not have been a student of tubes for 25+ years, No easy answer on this thread, at least IMHO.
wow that's a lot of information thank you.
As for the amp I really couldn't tell you. All I know is it was in my price range and I saw more positive than negative reviews about it. It's all factory stock as far as I know. It was actually found it a crate purchase and the guy I bought it from had no idea what it was so I paid about 300$ for it or something like that and got lucky it is in perfect condition. As far as i have seen they are about 700$. It was the best i could find in my price range and i have an affinity for tube, I realized this playing guitar tube just sounds so much better. Same with records vs cd, I will probably never buy another cd. I just like the sound of records its warm and if you ask me it was meant to be played through a tube amp imo. I don't plan to spend 1000ands and 1000ands I plan on doing the best I can with what I can afford. It just seemed to me as though tubes may be the easiest thing to change and it seemed as though the other preamp was just warmer in the system so i wanted to try replacing the tubes in my new preamp with the same type and see what happens just didn't know if i should change all the tubes or if i was wasting any time. If your curious about the amp here is a link to some info. https://toptubeamplifier.com/yaqin-mc-13s-push-pull-integrated-stereo-tube-amplifier/
. Thanks for all the input!
I would also like to add that tubes / tube changes cannot correct a poorly designed piece of equipment. I have looked at schematics on some pieces of equipment and could not make sense of what I saw. Some tubes were tied into others and some not at all and the values and such of the resistors used were "scary" so again, a tube is not going to correct something that is flawed to begin with. Sort of like trying to put lipstick on a pig, you will still have a pig.
I agree with some of the other posts that yes, tube changes can have an impact. I would be lying if I said no. That said, I am also saying in a veiled politically neutral way that not all pieces of equipment are created equally so what might bring significant changes to one person's gear might not have the slightest affect on another's.
Does that make any sense?
@zkidd I love long winded answers! I read every bit of it and I appreciate it thank you very much for taking the time to explain to me your opinion it's very much appreciated. Perhaps I will just start with the smaller tubes and see how it goes and I won't break the bank I'll take you up on that to start I kinda planned on that anyhow. I did find some used tubes to give a shot I got them cheap and I only bought a pair for the preamp just to see if I could hear a difference. If they don't work out its no sweat I almost expect it with how many times I've been burned already haha. Yes I understand as well that tubes are going to be a journey but i seem to have a tendency for throwing myself into the lions den then going aww what the hell am I doing here haha. But I love the tube sound, I'm drawn to it, its amazing. I don't want the listen to music any other way now just vinyl and tube it is so amazing sounding to me. Even my setup blows anything out of the water I've ever owned and I'm sure it doesn't hold a candle to so much out there but in my price range I'm enjoying it when I can. It has the potential to be much more than it is I thought tubes would be a simple thing to get after first. I could go with my record player stylist or my speakers but tubes just seemed like the easiest starting point mainly because I'll be moving and then I can upgrade speakers. As for the stylist well ingot plenty of question there too haha.
Thanks again for your input.
@zkidd makes perfect sense thanks.
You are welcome. This is why we call it a "community". There is a lot of information and opinions out there. I try to temper mine with experience rather than blind allegiance or romantic notion. This can be a really fun hobby but also painful at times. I would hate to see anyone make the mistakes I made! Fortunately I have a forgiving wife (and one who does not ask a lot of questions!)
@zkidd amen to that haha. Cheers to the forgiving wives!
Here's a significant fact: Modern production tube gear (ARC, CJ. McItosh, VAC ...) ALL come with current production tubes! None use vintage tubes! So I say go ahead and choose from among current production. Vintage tubes can be a crap shoot!
I myself buy and use vintage tube gear - and tubes! Old ARC, Dynaco, Heath, Harmon Kardon, Scott, Sherwood ... New tube gear doesn't turn me on! And I choose to use vintage speakers also: Altec, JBL, Klipsch ... the Big Three of the high-sensitivy group!
Your amplifier uses a similar tube complement as mine other than the AU7s. As for having all your tubes by the same manufacturer, no, it's not necessary, or even recommended. My 4 EL34's are Holland dual D getter dated 1957, 1960(2) and 1961. The small signal tubes I now use are 80's vintage Tesla ECC803S for the 12AX7 slots and 60's vintage Telefunken ECC801S for the 12AT7 slots. I've tried several others but this arrangement is my favorite so far.
Great reply zkidd. I have 25 tubes in my system and none are NOS and for the same reason as zkidd, performance vs. cost, they are way over priced these day, well at least for me. I also replace tubes as needed.
12 tubes total in my system; about $2100 in the lot. All of them are at least forty years old and have been in operation in their current service since 2012; replaced one EL34 in that time and it was over fifty years old.
I find it surprising and interesting that your Yaqin is a pure class A bias circuit as opposed to the more common class AB (particularly in this price range). If this amplifier is well designed and built it should provide very good sound quality. I understand your strong preference for tube amplifoption. There are unquestionably excellent solid state amplifiers yet good quality tube equipment just consistently seems to be more natural and emotionally involving, So I get where you are coming from.
Good advice you’ve been given from zkidd in regard to NOS tubes. They can be quite exceptional but not all of them are and it is certainly circumstances specific. There are without doubt very good sounding and high quality current production tubes available. NOS tubes are "always" superior to current production tubes is not true. Many variables to factor in.
I believe that you will do fine in your tube endeavors and derive much music listening enjoyment. . IMHO there's an unmistakable realism that can be heard/felt with good tube components in the audio signal chain.
The people telling you that vintage tubes are a ripoff and that new production tubes are always better are as wrong as the people saying that vintage tubes are always better.
It all depends on your tastes and your system. There's no one size fits all. Vintage tubes can provide a little tube magic in the right system.
You are probably better off starting with new production tubes until you gain a little knowledge about tubes and where to get them. When you become more familiar with tubes and what you want from them you can venture into vintage tubes. They can make an important difference in your system.
Maybe zkidd can loan you some of his 800 NOS tubes that he doesn't like or use so that you can learn about them without getting ripped off.
I bought my VAC PA 80 80 new in 1994, so would that make it vintage? If so does that also make me vintage?? : ) it still has the original KT88's and 12AU7A/E82CC Golden Dragons and are working fine so far. Not sure what I would use when it's time to replace them. Same goes for my ARC LS15 preamplifier I've heard PSvane make good tubes
Pre-amp tubes like 12au7 and 12ax7 can last 5000-10,000 hours. You can get different sound from different brands or even models with a brand. Orange Globe Amperex are very nice and expensive to replace. Keep them. You can pick up others if you want to compare. Also, the 12 series tubes really should be used in "like" pairs since they are running right and left channels.
The output tubes can be expensive if you want 4 matched tubes. You really should try to have 4 of the same output tubes that are electronically similar as well as same brand.
Like everything else-start reading and looking. Good tube retailers are tubesandmore.com and thetubestore. Tube world is pricey but will teach you a lot. Personally I would say stay away from ebay. Likewise, buying from craigslist can be a deal but without a tube tester you don't know what you are getting.
Nos tubes matched from long standing a Vintage tube services,land Brent Jesse recordings especially for the smaller tubes ,the nos vintage tubes were built
night and day better with far more rigorous inspections. For the larger tubes
upscale audio buys the higher selected bunch then cryo treats them ,which for sure makes a improvement in several ways , NASA started this , now all racing teams, gunsmiths anything precision for it brings all its molecules much tighter
and they permanently stay thst way they sound better and lsdt linger solder joints
it helps balance the most ,these tubes are then mstched and runin for 3 days before you buy them ,for $10 more per tube we’ll worth it , to replace the el34
the Gold lion kt77 is a noticable upgrade myself and 3 friends have been very happy with this choice ,and the small tubes with nos tubes you can Taylor the sound , Brent Jesse recordings gives a rundown of each brands sonic character
@zkidd - Great post. Thank you. what have you found to be the best new production tubes? I agree on your comments on the small signal tubes. I have been fooling around with 12AX7's in the V1 in my phono preamp and my fav so far is the RCA Command 5751.
I've had the same amp and it was very nice for the price.
I even heard a Primaluna EL34 based tube integrated (about 5 times more expensive) and I believe it wasnt better.
As it has 2x35W it can drive many speakers, but if you like rock o similar music, I would suggest 93 Db or more efficient speakers with a tube-friendly impedance curve.
The tubes I liked the most on it were 12AX7 Psvane TII and new production 12AU7 Tungsol.
Yeah I have heard many people like this amp. Prior to coming upon it I had been searching for vintage amp's but didn't really find anything worth buying, so I started doing my research and found this model in high regard. I honestly didn't think I'd find one in my price range because even used ebay they are more than I wanted to pay. Some how some way I got really lucky with some guy on craigslist who had a brand new one. He said he bought a crate of random stuff on an auction and it was in there. He didn't know what it was but I got him down to about 350$ for it and it works perfect, it's flawless the only thing wrong was a crack in one of the cheap plastic tube protectors.
I still have some things I need to do to optimize my sound but otherwise it's the best sounding system I've ever heard or owned but then I'm still a newbie. Everyone says that I'll get addicted and want better this and that but I think I'm a tad more of a music lover than an audiophile. I know the sound I want and I know I can attain it with this setup minus my speakers the speakers are okay but I want better ones. I plane on doing speakers, tubes and stylus. I've heard a major deal more clarity from better styluses so that's a must I think mine is a flat sounding and could be brighter. Tubes is a whole new world for me so it will be my first time experimenting with tube rolling. I am convinced I can improve the sound because I had another preamp with some tubes that many people rave about and it sounded really good, I attribute it to the tubes so i want to start with my preamp tubes and move slowly from there. I'll follow @zkidd
s advice and get myself some new tubes he makes a good point. I was thinking the tungsol would be my first try, I found a place that has them nearby so I'll probably pick up a pair to try out in the preamp first. Then in my power amp second I wanna experiment with it a bit.
Ah, tubes. An area as dangerous as cables. I see from reading some of the replies that at least person believes that I prefer new production over NOS. Not always the case. What I am stating is that there is almost a prejudice that new production can in no way compare to NOS. I have been most pleased with the Gold Lion re-production of the small signal tubes. And before people jump all over me I also know that the original Genelex company did not always make small signal tubes in some of the sizes currently offered. That said, where I am most satisfied with the Gold Lion re-issues is that they are quiet, and to my ears, give me at least 90% of what several NOS tubes do. For instance, the Gold Lion re-issue 6922 tubes give me the same sonic qualities that I have heard with some older (70's) Amperex 6922 tubes. The Gold Lions are not inexpensive though one can shop and find decent prices. Many reputable sellers offer warranties on the tubes as well. I have also had some good luck with the TungSol re-issues and though I hate to use the name TungSol as I know it is just a Russian tube with the TungSol name, I again find the tubes to be pleasing to listen to, quiet, and pretty darn reliable. I have dropped some serious money on NOS tubes only to hear tube rush, microphonics and other issues. Some reputable sellers like Brent Jesse and Vintage Tube Services do their very best to try and eliminate those issues, but the fact remains that many NOS tubes are from the 1940's. I have read numerous times about the Sylvania 6SN7WGT metal base tube as one of the best 6SN7 out there. I did find a pair from a man who I have dealt with in the past. He sells good tubes and he actually loaned me a pair before purchase. Thank God he did that for the tubes were horribly microphonic and frankly, un-listenable. I think how horrible it would have been to drop the $300 (cheap at the time) for the pair.
So, like so many things in audio, it is synergy, opinion, and what works for you. My main point again is this: if one does not have a perspective on tubes and tube performance, just don't jump on the NOS bandwagon because a tube is NOS. Try new production, see what you think, and then perhaps try a pair of NOS tubes. One just might be surprised...
As long as I am being long winded and opining away, I would like to add one more thing and it is this: where a lot of people recommend going with NOS tubes for their or others tubed gear, how people are actually running NOS power tubes? Who out there is using a gob of GE 6550 tubes, a gaggle of Gold Lion KT88 or a multitude of Mulland EL34s? If there are as many of those who as compared to those using the small NOS signal tubes I would be amazed. So for the sake of argument, those of us who are not made of money or have a time machine, we have had to make due with current production 6550, KT88, EL 34, 6L6 tubes and so on. Does anyone feel like they are suffering as a result? I am just saying that as a group if we are willing to use current production power tubes, where and when then does it matter where the NOS tubes come in and current production moves out? Small signal, rectifier, etc? I just know I cannot afford let alone find an octet of original Gold Lion tubes that my amps once used so it is necessary for me to use current production and I still enjoy what I am hearing.
End of the sermon...
OKay - I lied. I am back. And this is not about tubes so relax:
gguy767, you said something interesting to me in one of your posts. You wrote this:
"I think I'm a tad more of a music lover than an audiophile."
Interesting as I said. What is your definition of an audiophile and what makes an audiophile less of a music lover? I love to drive. I have some nice cars that make driving much more fun. Does that make me less of a lover of driving because I have an object that allows me to accelerate more quickly, corner better, stop better etc? Does owning a piece of equipment that allows me to enjoy the music better move me out of the category of music lover and into some murky area of "audiophile"?
Curious I am....
gguy767- Everyone says that I’ll get addicted and want better this and that but I think I’m a tad more of a music lover than an audiophile
. Good. So you want to know the very best bang for the buck, after moving things around to get the best speaker placement possible, is a tube of Total Contact.This stuff will transform your system in a way you can hardly even imagine. All the other stuff you’re talking about will make a difference. For sure. But you could spend thousands and not get to where one $300 tube of TC will get you. No set of tubes ever made at any price will get you anywhere even close. Probably no speaker or amp for that matter.
Search around for mahgister and his thread on his system. Its a very budget level system and he’s outside the US so no Total Contact but the point is the same: its way better and more cost effective to tweak what you have than to buy more expensive components.
Other top contenders, all of which are much more cost effective than tubes or components: BDR Cones, Synergistic Research Orange Fuse, ECT, HFT and PHT.
I didn’t see anything in your comments about speaker cables, interconnects, or power cords. If you are still using the cheap freebie patch cords and rubber power cords they ship with components then those should be the first to go. After that, don’t even think about tubes or components until you’ve done the list above. Start with TC, you will see what I mean.
That's just my opinion, of course audiophiles love music, no doubt about that but they also love the tech, the speakers, the look, the hunt for quality audio... which do they love more though? The actual music that made the hair stand on the back of their neck the first time they heard it or the beauty of an amazing sounding system? I didn't say you can't be or have both, I'm just one notch over on the spectrum to music lover is all, I'm not going to buy the Bugatti. When that hair stood up on my neck it was on an inferior quality audio system to what we can get these days and I love that over just a quality sounding stereo any day. I think an audiophile and a music lover are like separate hobbiests in a way. An audiophile is on a constant mission for sound quality improvement and a music lover is on a constant mission for that new song that's going to move them. I also think the two meld together nicely. One is on a mission to hear that music with high fidelity and is constantly upgrading and tweaking to get that sought after high fidelity, the other can hear it on a crappy chinese 1997 boombox and never think twice about it and love it just the same. I like to drive too but I don't need a expensive sports car to have just as much fun. Some people want a Bugatti I'm good with a Corvette big difference there the Bugatti would smoke a Corvette and make it look stupid but I wouldn't be any less happy with my Corvette that's how i feel about this hobby. It doesn't mean i have any less respect for anyone! I myself am 40% audiophile and 60% music lover. I want my music to sound good but not Bugatti price good corvettes price good is good enough for me and I say this not being a rich man, but even if I was.. you wouldn't find me so into the hobby of High Fidelity that I drop 25,000 on a set of speakers it's just how i feel about it. I think what i have now sounds better than anything I've ever heard in my life tbh. That said it doesn't mean I won't change my opinion at some point but currently this is me. I mean people don't call them selves audiophiles for a reason and generally people aren't willing to spend 100$ for a radio let alone 25,000 on just a set of speakers. Most people don't even have the 100$ and probably don't even think twice about audio quality.