Why does my new tube amp and preamp sound so bad?

Hi: I am brand new to audiogon but I would appreciate any ideas you folks may have. I am a seasoned audiophile with only SS experience. I have wanted to try the "tube" sound for awhile but have just now been able to afford it so I put together a new tube based system along side of my SS. I purchased a used set of Klipsch La Scalas and restored them and powered them via my Adcom amp and preamp. The speakers sounded excellent, great bass! All right, next step after much internet research, but without hearing, I purchased a new Cary Rocket 88R amp and a AES (Cary)AE-3 DJH preamp. There are no Cary dealers within 200 miles of where I live (I know dumb mistake!)Hooked the system up and it sounds terrible. Well I thought the tubes just needed breaking in. After 100 hours no better. The sound lacks any bass and it is very "tinney". It sounds as if a low frequency roll-off filter is present. I contacted Cary and they said substitute the AE-3 for my Adcom preamp. I did and there was an immediate improvement. Cary had me ship the preamp back and they checked it out and could not find anything wrong. I put it back into the system with the same results. Does anybody have any ideas? Could tube rolling be the answer? I have tried different interconnects which made no difference. With all things being the same the Cary preamp sounds terrrible when compared to the SS Adcom. I am having a hard time believing it is natural that the 15 year old Adcom smokes the Cary. I am a fairly competent electrical engineer and I believe the tube setup (bias) is correct. I would appreciate any help. Thanks, Larry K.
Klipsch La Scalas: I have a feeling they need to be placed closer to wall. If this does not help try moving them around might be the room and not the speakers or gear.
The sound you describe is nothing like my experience with Cary pre-amp and amps - I've owned one pre and three amps.
I do find Klipsches to have that tinny sound, though. If I were you I'd call Cary again and strongly request to speak with Dennis Had. He was very helpful with the only problem I ever had with one of his amps.

In general, the Cary tube sound is warm, round, and full. What you describe reminds me of the Adcom gear I've heard. This is an odd situation.
schipo,how can it be the room when before replacing the adcom with the cary he had great sound,the room hasnt changed only the gear has.

if your lascalas sounded good to you with your adcom ss gear & nothing else has changed in your rig aside from the addition of the cary amp & preamp it could be that you just simply prefer ss over tubes.

i wouldnt even start getting into tube rolling as a way to correct a bad sounding rig, from my experience with tubes all tube rolling will do is drain your cash & add to your frustration,the same goes for cables,both are a tweak.

i too fell in love with the idea of tube gear & klipsch speakers(klipsch horns)& had the exact same experience as you are going thru,weak bass & the more power i put to the speakers the worse it sounded & i used the exact same word(tinny)as you to describe the new sound,I HATED IT!

try it the other way around,try using the cary pre with the adcom amp & see how you like it,i hated tube amps with my k horns but i did like tube preamps with ss amps on the k horns,i still got the flavor of tubes with the BALLS of solid state amplification.

i was running a $500 20 year old mcintosh mc7100 100 wpc ss amp with my k horns before buying a $7,000 mcintosh mc2102 100 wpc tube amp to run them with & what a let down that was,the same as your experience,i asked all the same questions as you & got all the usual answers like my cables were all wrong,the rest of my rig was unresolving,try different tubes,move speakers around,add room treatments,of which none worked.

i wouldnt waste alot of time & cash experimenting trying to correct a sound that you dont like,sell the carry rocket & put the cash into a class a ss amp,you'll be alot happier,i was.

Did you actually play music through the preamp for 100 hours, or did you just leave it on for that period without signal. Coupling caps in preamps need to be broken in with a signal. The performance of tube preamps can be undone with brand new coupling caps.
Hello. A tube amp willnot have the lowend of solid state amp. A tube preamp will not have the lowend of a tube preamp. Where the tubes will do better is in midrange and soundtage, imaging ect. The speakers you mention use compression drivers. These are very effeicnet and may very well be too much for the tube amp. try putting your adcom amp back in and driving it with the tube preamp see if you get additional transparency your after. Why not try Biamping with the adcom for the lows and you cary for the highs. MULLARD Input tubes will level out those hot highs you mention also.
Hi Larry, i also have a Cary pre, slp98, when i first put it into the system i had the same result as you, no bass and thin sounding.Not familiar with your model, but after reading the manual, i realised my pre is phase inverting, the manual recommends reversing the polarity of the speaker cable at the speaker end, done this and solved the problem, now sounds full with good bass.
Hope this helps
If you are encouraged enough to go further with a complete tube system, my advice would be to put aside both preamps and find one with tube rectification. A used Cary SLP90, 94, or, 98 would be an excellent choice if you want to keep it in the Cary family. Do not under estimate the older SLP90. Next step is to spare no expense on the preamp tubes. You also can greatly improve the amp's sound by doing the same with the input tubes. Since you already like the amp, this could be your last step. My experience has been that most modern small signal tubes sound mediocre when compared with the NOS stuff.
Any time a new piece of gear or a change in gear speaker's might have to be reposition into or back towards wall. Also might help spreading them apart or closer together.This is why I made the suggestion. Anyway like chicken soup it couldn't hurt.
The La Scala's (we own them as well) sound completely different depending upon placement. Even when swapping between the two different tube amps that we have, I have to adjust the speakers to optimize the sound. Still, we use an active sub, as 53Hz is not so low. Try moving the speakers around a bit, experiment with the spacing & toe-in. We have not toed ours in at all, for example.

I also think that NOS tubes add a richness and depth that most modern production tubes (especially preamp tubes) cannot match. Tinny and thin is exactly the way I would describe many of the current tubes.

Sounds like the speaker cable switch will make a big improvement as well, as Rob mentioned above.

Best of luck,
I was thinking the same thing as Rob and Howard. You might have a polarity issue. Easy solution to try out.

illenema1@wmconnect.com says

>A tube preamp will not have the lowend of a tube preamp.<

Anybody care to take a shot at this one???

From my experience, I've owned and audition over a dozen tube preamps and about 10 SS preamps. Not all tube preamps are created equal. You'll find that most the tube preamp had lower frequency roll off ( mid to low price range.) Some high end tube preamps goes deeper than SS preamp. i.e. The Audio Research SP 11 MK II, LS-5, SP-8 MK II ( not as deep as the rest on this list) and the vintage HK Citation I. Aside from the frequency extension, the tube preamps all sound much livelier compared to SS preamp. It adds more emotion to listening experience plus the tube preamp sounds more transparent than the SS preamp.

What a bummer. There is no way that adcom should outperform cary; just should not happen. I have had experience with tube pre-amps and tube amps (conrad johnson) and they sounded wonderful through my thiels. Yes it is true tube amps don't have the bass control of ss but they will produce bass and in a lot of cases very satisfying bass. I have no clue as to why you are experiencing what you are other than to let you know it is not normal.Speaker placement isn't the problem and I highly doubt phase is the issue either. Tube rolling is not the solution as someone mentioned more of a tweak than anything else. Have you checked and rechecked your connections. Tube electronics into Klipsch should be a match made in heaven with ss being the lesser. Just my experience and good luck.

You people are wonderful. I will experiment with speaker placement and phase inversion at the speaker input. I am fearful of investing money into tube rolling at this point. As I listen a lot to the blues and jazz, bass is of paramount concern to me. The tubes do sound more transparent in the midrange (no doubt) but the highs are tinny and the bass is weak. It may be that tubes are not for me. We all know how personal a music response can be but Stevie Ray Vaughn says "somin aint right". Thanks again for all you folks help. I might be selling my cary stuff and asking for opinions on new SS gear in the same cost range. Thanks, Larry K.
If the gear checks out okay, then the only thing I can add is a problem with the cables. Are you using long interconnects? More than, say, 15 feet from pre to amp? If the I/C's are both long and capacitive, the problem may be that the output impedance of the AES (which may be two to five times greater than the Adcom) cannot drive the amplifer as well as the Adcom in that particular configuration.

Is the equipment brand new? If so maybe you are experienceing a break-in issue. Let it play for awhile and see if it improves. My CJ premier 350 has taken a fairly long time to break in. I am not familiar enough with Cary to know if their equipment requires a lot of break in time.

Maybe you simply don't like the sound? If everything checks out ok technically speaking, grin and bear it and then the break-in period will be over and you will learn to love it. Oh, the only break-in period I believe in is the one where the listener's ear/brain processor breaks-in, that is gets to the point where the system starts being its very own reference. Amazing what the human brain can do! Good luck.

If you are implying that electronics do not burn-in you would be sorely mistaken.

Yeah, sure they really do burn-in and then go straight on through to burnout. What I am saying to the original poster is that if the components are functioning properly electrically speaking, maybe that is the way they do sound like and maybe they simply are not his cup of tea. What I am also saying is that, once he has assessed that they are functioning properly, he try to live with them a while and give himself and the components a chance.

Understood about straight to burn-out and agree although I hope that is a ways down the road ; good assesment.

So far as bass goes, I never felt Cary was the last word in bass extension to say the least. They have a very rolled off presentation at the frequency extremes with an emphasis on the midrange with is quite full and present. Now the issue about the sound being tinny is a real dilemma. The Cary should eliminate any tendency in that direction, it is the anthesis of tinny sounding so it seems to be an electrical problem/issue, polarity as suggested above or possibly a mismatch with the impedance/capacitance of the cables in conjunction with the output impedance of the pre-amp, just a thought but a real possibility. You may want to check with the manufacturer of both to find out.

So far as tube swapping, this should not be an issue with tinny sound but tubes can have an impact on perceived bass, quietness, dynamics and frequency extension which is dependent on the electrical characteristics of the tubes. Bass control is pretty much the domain of ss and some OTL amps in my experience. Tube amps with transformers generally do not offer this control and I have not heard any Cary amp that does this well. You are used to the ss amp which is almost certainly better in this area of performance. NOS tubes generally have higher voltages with greater quality control than the ones currently being manufactured. There is a reason people are willing to spend big bucks on tubes beyond the plecebo effect that the uninitiated, inexperienced and non-believers might have you believe. Dwindling supply drives the prices up but the demand is still there, for good reason.

Cable matching with a system is a tweak to be sure but you would be amazed at how properly matched cables can affect the overall performance and enjoyment of an otherwise good system. I have heard cables that have had a greater positive impact than some components so don't discount this because some disagree, listen for yourself before taking anyone's word. Good luck and please report back to us as to the problem.

IMO, the bass on my Cary V12i with stock tubes is not quite as you described about the Cary house sound in general. Perhaps this is just my experience, but being very focused on the bass in recordings I listen to, I have been happy with the V12i which is fed by sources run through an SLP-98. I use Spendor 1/2e speakers, also known for their mid-range so maybe I'm the exception and not the rule. I will say that once I upgraded the Chinese EL-34s to Siemens and the Chinese 6SN7s with Sylvanias the bass really opened up. However, before then I was still satisfied with it.

I have heard the V12 Cary although I must say in only one system but that system included Montana KAS speakers which is a very large system. Now it really depends on what one is focusing on when it comes to bass I will admit to that. My focus has always been about control, not output. The single biggest shortcoming in the vast majority of tube based systems in my experience is this area of performance and it is almost universal with virtually all transformer coupled tube amps I've listened to with only a very few exceptions.

My impression with this system was the same, a lot of apparent low bass but it was rolled off and was not controlled, pitch definition was missing as well as separation. This is not to say that the sound isn't appealing but I wouldn't call it accurate bass especially when comparing with live. The dealer loved it, I didn't. I realize when reading these forums that people DO have different objectives, priorities and experiences in this hobby of ours. This is just my .02 cents based on my priorities.

Possibly with your speakers it works well as the Spendors don't go that low and it becomes less of an issue but even at higher bass frequencies an amp that does conrol the bass better is more apparent.