I want to add the 845 tube as well in the line up- Thanks
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Tickfight, this may sound like a cop out of an answer, but this is like trying to describe the differences between skate, mackerel, albacore, and tilapia to someone who has not tasted fish. I don't mean that in a patronizing way. Rather, you are asking a question that ultimately you are the only one who can answer, and to even begin to describe the differences in a manner that will resonate with you would require a point of reference on your part.
Most of these tubes will be in amplifiers that will need to be paired with a high efficiency speaker. You have mentioned in other threads that you are buying a pair of VS DB-99's, or that you might look for a pair of AG Duo's. Have you decided? In any event, you will need an amplifier that mates well with the speakers, and one that satisfies your listening preferences. You may not have realized it, but there is little anyone could say in response to your question that would bring you closer to understanding 1) how the various tubes differ; and 2) which would be the best one for you. At some point, you'll have to either jump in, or at least go somewhere to audition different types of equipment. It's not people don't want to help. I'm just not sure that they can. Perhaps if you got more specific with your request:
Types of music you listen to?
Will you be listening critically or having music on in the background?
Size of the room?
Type of sound you're looking for?
Integrated or Separates?
Then you could begin to make some headway into this. Just my opinion, of course. Only trying to help.
Yea you are right. I am shooting in the dark a bit. I asumed there was a destinct sound to the tubes i.e. 211 is balanced but less bass, 300 more base and extention but gives up midrange some etc. I have alwayed used SS but the majority of audiogoners agree that SET's are more musical.
I have decided on the 99's. Have found a good price. In answer to your questions:
Types of music you listen to? Accoustic, Classical, jazz. Most everything accept rap, pop and hard rock
Will you be listening critically or having music on in the background? Critically
Size of the room? 15 x 17 x 8 with room treatments
Which speakers? DB 99
What volumes? low to loud- full range when I want it.
Type of sound you're looking for? Musical, detailed, great soundstage. Emotionally involving being # 1.
Integrated or Separates? Seperates- plan to use CD player and run directly into amps.
Budget? Outside of speakers $3,000 on amps- looking for used or dealer demo.
Hope this helps-
That definitely helps, Tickfight. I can certainly convey my impressions of the 2A3 and the 300B, having owned both. I am not familiar with the sound of the 211 or the 845. The other power tubes I have either owned or heard extensively are the KT88, EL34, 6550, 6C33C, PX25--all in a push/pull format, except the PX25 (SET).
With your musical tastes, room size, and speaker choice, I would highly recommend SET amps. You have sufficient bass response from your active woofers, so no worries about the bass extension of the amps. As well, the 99dB speakers can be powered by very low wattage. The only choice really is what type of midrange sound you want.
I find the 2A3 to be an honest sounding tube. It is accurate, detailed, airy, without any frequency exaggeration. From the listening position, it begs you to find fault with it. I feel that if there's something more I want from a 2A3 amp, it's a matter of personal preference, not an issue of musical accuracy. The 300B has a more bloomy sounding midrange, almost milky to my ear. It has an incredibly blissful sound, and sounds good no matter where you are in the room, or in the house. I've come to believe it to sound falsely lush and holographic, not at all as a measure of good or bad, but simply exuding an effect that sounds more an attribute of the tube than of the music itself. It is seductive and inviting, but IMO it is exaggeratedly so. For some, it can be just the ticket. It's hard to listen to a 300B and not feel like you're getting a sonic massage.
I did actually hear one 845 tube amp, and wasn't enamored with it. It ran exceptionally hot as well. If I'm not mistaken, I think that NOS tube rolling for that type can run in the thousands of $$$.
If you can listen to some different amps, that would be best. Some manufacturers offer trial periods, and for $3K, you can certainly find some excellent products out there. I'm sure some others can chime in--or search the archives--as to the many options available. Again, with your preferences in music, I think you will find yourself closest to the music with SET amps. Just my opinion, of course.
I thought I'd add my impressions of the 2A3 vs 300B into the mix. In my system the 2A3 had a soundstage that filled the entire front wall (small room). It went well beyond the speakers. I didn't find this quality pleasing because I listen to a lot of cello, either solo or duet with piano. With the 2A3 the cello appeared to be much larger than was reasonable. Small jazz groups had some of this exageration as well whereas with a symphony orchestra it was fun but still not what I've experienced at the seats that I usually purchase.
The 300B by comparison had a soundstage that was more from speaker to speaker (perhaps a bit beyond). For me, the cello was more pleasing.
Finally, for those times that you just feel like you want to get visceral with the volume, the difference between 3.5 watts and 8 watts can make all the difference.
Perhaps others can verify or counter my impressions. They're my impressions for my system in my room and may not be the same for others.
My personal favorite is the type 45 tube. It puts out 2 watts per channel. I would describe it as having a very rich timbral quality. I also use a tube preamp (with 6SN7 tubes), finding that I much prefer that to going directly to the amp. I'd describe the preamp as adding richness as well (others might describe it differently). A very nice preamp with 12au7's had a refined almost sweet sound but I preferred the 6SN7's (though I could easily live with either but not without one of them).
Good luck, you've got a lot of fun ahead of you with tubes.
That's really interesting, Danner. I've not had that same experience with respect to the soundstage of the 2A3 and 300B amps. I have found, however, that as I change amps--even now, between our 2A3 and 6C33C versions--I need to move the speakers in order to accommodate the soundstaging characteristics/capabilities of each respective amp. In other words, with a slight shift in speaker spacing and angle, the image size & focus becomes defined. However, in my experience, the 2A3 soundstage has always been appropriate in dimension.
Based on your response, Tickfight, I realize that I may have been unclear about the bloomy effect of the 300B. It definitely is not a bad thing. It's more a matter of preference. My wife says our 2A3 amps are the most honest she's ever heard, and yet she prefers to listen to a 300B. She thinks that there is something a bit dressed up in the midrange--like bracing a Victorian skirt--but it has an aesthetic and sensory appeal that she prefers. And many people do prefer it because it's seductiveness is inescapable. I hope that helps a bit.
You can certainly pay some big bucks for NOS 300B tubes, but in the case of the Western Electric's, you are also getting a 40,000-hr life span. There are less expensive alternatives with the 300B which are also said to be excellent: AVVT, Sophia, KR, etc. The NOS 2A3 types range from around $100-300 pr, except for the rare single-plate RCA types, which are found for ~$500. This is a factor to consider as well, given that for some of us, NOS tubes bring the amp/music to an entirely new level.
There are a few 45-based tube amps on the market, and they certainly have their ardent fans as well. Perhaps yet another to add to your list of considerations, Tickfight.
You will have to play around with the amp direct vs. preamp configuration. I would agree completely with Danner in that a preamp can add a richness to the sound. At the same time, I hear it as another layer (potentially) in the way. It seems to come down to whether or not you feel connected enough to the music, and if sans preamp the system is dynamic enough for your tastes. With your speakers, Tickfight, I suspect that it will.
Enjoy, and Happy Mother's Day!
One other thing I'll mention--as if you don't have enough to think about already, Tickfight:
There is a company (Audio Mirror) whose DAC & preamp are getting some attention here, and in addition they build 40W 6C33C-based SET mono blocks that I found to be outstanding when I heard them. The 6C33C is a Russian military tube that is widely available, and a quad runs about $100 or so. They have a tonal purity and palpability throughout the frequency range that is exemplary. You might want to consider those as well, given that they are $2290 a pair. I have no affiliation with the company. I just happen to like the amps immensely, and a 40W SET is a rare gem in this hobby.
Have fun in your quest!