Author Topic: Valves. The best sounding varieties of all time, vintage and new production  (Read 23570 times)

Offline stevenvalve

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First here is an interesting article    http://www.nutshellhifi.com/library/tinyhistory1.html
Here is an exert.
Seventy years later, vacuum tubes, and especially triodes, continue to be the lowest distortion amplifying elements ever made. No germanium or silicon transistor, JFET, or MOSFET has ever approached the distortion performance of the direct-heated triodes, with indirect-heated triodes following closely behind. In addition to low distortion in the absolute sense, the distortion spectra of triodes is favorable, with a rapid fall-off of the upper harmonics. (This is less true for beam tetrodes, pentodes, or solid-state devices, which are intrinsically less linear and have higher-order distortion curves.)


If you ever want to put a solid-state designer on the spot, ask them which transistors were designed for high-fidelity audio applications ... and are they still on the market, ten or twenty years after they introduced? You can expect a long silence after this question - when a transistor model goes out of production, that's it. Don't expect to find stocks of obsolete transistors, and you can be very sure that nobody wants to collect them or use them in a vintage-sound product.

The sad fact is that solid-state devices have linearity well down on the list of design priorities, with feedback needed to clean up devices that were never primarily intended for audio. The automotive equivalent would be cars modified to use truck diesels ... OK for Soviet Russia maybe, but do you think you'd want to buy something like that if you had a choice? Yet this is the state of affairs in solid-state audio, with the electronic equivalent of an industrial diesel pressed into service in so-called "high-end" electronics.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 05:31:30 PM by stevenvalve »

Offline stevenvalve

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34

Offline bhobba

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The sad fact is that solid-state devices have linearity well down on the list of design priorities, with feedback needed to clean up devices that were never primarily intended for audio. The automotive equivalent would be cars modified to use truck diesels ... OK for Soviet Russia maybe, but do you think you'd want to buy something like that if you had a choice? Yet this is the state of affairs in solid-state audio, with the electronic equivalent of an industrial diesel pressed into service in so-called "high-end" electronics.

True - very true.

Thanks
Bill

Offline data

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34
Very linear when run strapped, as I understand it.

That's why I like them :)

Offline vitavoxdude

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34
:D I look forward to this with considerable interest.  I'd imagine that multiple setups will be required to cover even the most popular valves let alone DHT types  ;)
I am thinking EL34, KT66, KT88, 6L6, EL84,6080 for the usual suspects and 845, 211 etc for the more interesting SET's; there are lots more but that little lot will be a pretty large job requiring considerable dedication.  Driver valves, rectifer valves oh oh oh this looks like a lifetimes work Steve.
V
We all like different things so lets all agree to disagree and if any common ground is found then worship it.  Mine is the KD hence being present on this forum.

Offline stevenvalve

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34
:D I look forward to this with considerable interest.  I'd imagine that multiple setups will be required to cover even the most popular valves let alone DHT types  ;)
I am thinking EL34, KT66, KT88, 6L6, EL84,6080 for the usual suspects and 845, 211 etc for the more interesting SET's; there are lots more but that little lot will be a pretty large job requiring considerable dedication.  Driver valves, rectifer valves oh oh oh this looks like a lifetimes work Steve.
V
Yes it will be full on, but needs to be done. We will also get into my favourites, like the 45s, 145 245s 345s 445s and 50s, 250 250 450, PX4 and PX25s globe and ST types, from the 1920- 30s, also 300B, all the tubes that matter and then some. To many people are buying junk out there, and we may be able to help.

Offline zenelectro

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First here is an interesting article    http://www.nutshellhifi.com/library/tinyhistory1.html
Here is an exert.
Seventy years later, vacuum tubes, and especially triodes, continue to be the lowest distortion amplifying elements ever made. No germanium or silicon transistor, JFET, or MOSFET has ever approached the distortion performance of the direct-heated triodes, with indirect-heated triodes following closely behind. In addition to low distortion in the absolute sense, the distortion spectra of triodes is favorable, with a rapid fall-off of the upper harmonics. (This is less true for beam tetrodes, pentodes, or solid-state devices, which are intrinsically less linear and have higher-order distortion curves.)


If you ever want to put a solid-state designer on the spot, ask them which transistors were designed for high-fidelity audio applications ... and are they still on the market, ten or twenty years after they introduced? You can expect a long silence after this question - when a transistor model goes out of production, that's it. Don't expect to find stocks of obsolete transistors, and you can be very sure that nobody wants to collect them or use them in a vintage-sound product.

The sad fact is that solid-state devices have linearity well down on the list of design priorities, with feedback needed to clean up devices that were never primarily intended for audio. The automotive equivalent would be cars modified to use truck diesels ... OK for Soviet Russia maybe, but do you think you'd want to buy something like that if you had a choice? Yet this is the state of affairs in solid-state audio, with the electronic equivalent of an industrial diesel pressed into service in so-called "high-end" electronics.


Steven

That article is a good laugh! The writer should (and probably does) stick to tubes, not much depth of knowledge on SS there.

This gets floated around the net every now and then, stating the DHT as the most linear device and compare them to a single undegenerated solid state device. SS devices are -never- used in this fashion.
They need to be degenerated (used with a resistor) to allow them to work correctly. This is the simple explanation, there's a lot more to it.

Also comparing tubes to SS as a unity gain follower - generally SS will beat the tube - depending on how the circuit is done.

As an aside, the most linear (lowest distortion) tube measurement I have ever seen was actually a 12AX7 recently. The guy posted a measurement and
dared everyone to try and guess what tube it was. No one got it. Surprised me too. This was at just a few volts OP - I digress.

The real story of SS versus tubes is a lot more complex, involves many different very low level distortions and they are very dependent on
how the devices are used in the circuit.   

Here are some of them:

Thermal distortions
- SS suffer from them. When the junction of a SS device heats up and cools down it has a resulting voltage shift or distortion.
This type of distortion is difficult to measure with sine waves, but is very prevalent with assymetrical or 'random' music signals. It doesn't sound very good at all
- Tubes don't have thermal distortion to my knowledge

Voltage modulated capacitance.
- SS suffer from it. When the device is swinging with voltage, all the capacitances are changing in relation to those voltages. This can also be a nasty one and it is
very dependent on the type of device, how much power supply voltage is on it and how the device is driven. It's a complex mechanism that most designers overlook
to a large degree. This is really common with opamps and one of their problems. With opamps it's called common mode distortion.

- Tubes also dont suffer from this distortion.


- There are others like beta (transistor gain) dynamic changes with current and voltage.
- You could say tubes do tho this with variation of their 'mu' or gain versus current and voltage. Some older and classic compressor designs use this
feature for controlled signal compression. The famous Fairchild 670 tube compressor was a 'variable u' design.

- What else - x over distortion, when SS is run in class AB and one OP device cuts off, they do it in a most non musical and harsh manner with a spray of harmonics.
- Conversely tubes do this much more gracefully.

So as you can see, there's a lot more to the story than a simple transfer function. Depending on how the circuit is set up, degenerated SS will generally beat tubes on transfer function.
They also generally beat tubes when configured as a follower but hidden story is all these other subtle distortions that combine to give SS the sound that most call 'cold' or 'hard' etc etc.

Then you have to factor in that most tube distortions actually sound good - it is part of their sound and warmth.

How much does all this mean in real life - if you use tubes not much.
If you use SS, it can be a real help knowing some of the hidden gremlins that lurk when you are trying to get something to sound 'less SS' without
using tubes - for whatever reason.       

OK big SS rant over - peace, love, tubes forever  :) :) :)

Maybe tubes just have more good vibe cosmic energy and they make us feel happier! How do I measure that?  ;D ;D ;D

Z

Offline zenelectro

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34

For new, Winged C are hard to beat. I'm just getting a batch of the new Tungsol EL34B's (russian) to see if they come close.

For NOS, there are some decent buys out there if you cant afford real Mullards. I'm thinking the Siemens RFT but there are a few
different years of production and they supposedly vary quite a bit.

The other tube many like is the Sylvania 6CA7. But it's not really an EL34, being a Beam power tube as opposed to a Pentode.


I'd love to find a secret stockpile of EL34's, I go through truck loads of them! :)   

 
   

Offline rhlauranna

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Steven,

thanks a ton for your fantastic new thread. Although personally not into valves, you make me very curious, and I very much admire your personal research results. Things like this have long been missing and I am very glad that you will fill especailly this gap.

Unfortunately I am not able to contribute here by own experience. But as we all are following the same aim "best music reproduction" you may please allow some hints and quotes...

so let me quote someone who is owner of a lot of world wide patents, when I first saw and read about his system, and that was not yesterday, but in 1976 (!), I immediately was struck in awe and felt tiny like a dwarf (I still know it as if it were yesterday, already having EMT15 pickup and player, heavily modified but still passive run Klipschorns, Crown DC300A power amp and one of the first Mark Levinson PreAmp at that time !) being only able to ride bicycle between floor and carpet... and I have to admit to a certain extent this feeling has remained to this very day...

anyway, there was (and still is) a lot of inspiration, although in certain areas we choose a different approach, but not without having tested the already reached results, for example

"Everyone who cares about sound needs tone controls." found here:
http://www.burwenaudio.com/index.html

we just went opposite, no control at all, we found out (for us) less is more, we further progressed according to Louis XIV: "Gouverner moins, c'est gouverner mieux", i.e. governing less is governing better, and we are feeling quite comfortable with it...

... but that's what lastly counts and makes real fun, i.e. has brought us further ahead in reaching our aim... not only seeing but personally tasting what is cooking in other people's boiling pot... why? just to get an own impression to not ever to depend on believing what is written elsewhere...

so, on this link there is so much written that I am not able to make it short and to sum it all up in one or two sentences... but those who are interested may scroll up and down and read fully on their own, it is a real pleasure and inspiration.. and where else are we able at all to follow more than 60 years of ongoing scientific research  a n d  results of one single individual?... one may not agree here and/or there and try out other, but everybody is able to make up his own mind...

out of this deep and endless sea of ideas and informations and inspirations and technical steps and, and, and... let me quote

http://www.burwenaudio.com/

and here the following:


"Stereo CDs ... exceed unprocessed SACDs and analog recordings." found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/index.html


and

"During my 60 years of designing circuits I designed a lot of vacuum tube, transistor, and switching power amplifiers and know how each performs.  In the 1950's I designed the lowest distortion vacuum tube amplifier ever, the Krohn-Hite UF-101.  It was rated at 50 Watts, 0.005% total harmonic distortion, 50 dB of negative feedback, and it sold in small quantities as a laboratory instrument for 20 years.  Today I wouldn't take a vacuum tube amplifier as a gift.  Why? What you are really buying is not quality amplification but a high distortion equalizer."

found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/Questions_and_Answers.html

and

"A vacuum tube amplifier should really be regarded as a nice piece of furniture with wires, that glows in the dark." found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/Questions_and_Answers.html


well, to make it absolutely clear: all these hints and quotes are only to be understood not as an attack, but in the sense of stimulating and enriching and inspiring and progressing of our all ongoing struggeling and research and discussion with the one and only aim to come closer to fullfill our all listening dream...

please enjoy reading (and looking)
« Last Edit: May 17, 2012, 08:17:16 PM by rhlauranna »

Offline zenelectro

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rhlauranna

Are you using the Burwen Bobcat software?

I'm interested to try this.


cheers


Offline rhlauranna

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rhlauranna

Are you using the Burwen Bobcat software?

I'm interested to try this.


cheers



I have not tried it personally, but a friend of mine, the whole last year...

and there is still a lot to discover... to be a final judge of it from what I've heard would be unfair, but it sounded o.k. for me, especially when there is something "wrong" in a system or something that one doesn't like - for whatever reason...

from the very beginning we tried to do everything to avoid building something that afterwards needed adjustment, so our point is we are not confronted with the problem to "adjust" something, we always kept the sound "clean" and didn't alter it anyway, and that sounds (for us)...

and going parallel with Doede's multiple tower DACs confirmed us being "right", bringing the purest sound out of our sources, and that was not only an amelioration but simply a quantum leap...

those who are into digital stream have to face that the final music is the result of some more or less good mathematical algorithm... we know, that mathematics are perfect, but the question is: do we really get that or do we have still to be content with some sort of more or less big compromise? at least so far I have some serious doubts that we get it "perfect"...

at the given level of mathematical results to be heard, I would like to propose to use as less algorithms as possible, nevertheless I have to admit that obviously things are getting better as time goes by...

« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 08:14:31 PM by rhlauranna »

Offline rhlauranna

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well, just in case it should not just be known, I am sure for some this might be some sort of heaven:

http://klangfilm.free.fr/index.php?lng=0&music=&type=0&frame=1&item=&title=&dir=&num=

click (for example) on pictures and then (for example) on amplifiers and then on the different types to open up the pictures...

enjoy...

« Last Edit: May 15, 2012, 09:29:42 AM by rhlauranna »

Offline kajak12

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Steven,

thanks a ton for your fantastic new thread. Although personally not into valves, you make me very curious, and I very much admire your personal research results. Things like this have long been missing and I am very glad that you will fill especailly this gap.

Unfortunately I am not able to contribute here by own experience. But as we all are following the same aim "best music reproduction" you may please allow some hints and quotes...

so let me quote someone who is owner of a lot of world wide patents, when I first saw and read about his system, and that was not yesterday, but in 1976 (!), I immediately was struck in awe and felt tiny like a dwarf (I still know it as if it were yesterday, already having EMT15 pickup and player, heavily modified but still passive run Klipschorns, Crown DC300A power amp and one of the first Mark Levinson PreAmp at that time !) being only able to ride bicycle between floor and carpet... and I have to admit to a certain extent this feeling has remained to this very day...

anyway, there was (and still is) a lot of inspiration, although in certain areas we choose a different approach, but not without having tested the already reached results, for example

"Everyone who cares about sound needs tone controls." found here:
http://www.burwenaudio.com/index.html

we just went opposite, no control at all, we found out (for us) less is more, we further progressed according to Louis XIV: "Gouverner moins, c'est gouverner mieux", i.e. governing less is governing better, and we are feeling quite comfortable with it...

... but that's what lastly counts and makes real fun, i.e. has brought us further ahead in reaching our aim... not only seeing but personally tasting what is cooking in other people's boiling pot... why? just to get an own impression to not ever to depend on believing what is written elsewhere...

so, on this link there is so much written that I am not able to make it short and to sum it all up in one or two sentences... but those who are interested may scroll up and down and read fully on their own, it is a real pleasure and inspiration.. and where else are we able at all to follow more than 60 years of ongoing scientific research  a n d  results of one single individual?... one may not agree here and/or there and try out other, but everybody is able to make up his own mind...

out of this deep and endless sea of ideas and informations and inspirations and technical steps and, and, and... let me quote

http://www.burwenaudio.com/

and here the following:


"Stereo CDs ... exceed unprocessed SACDs and analog recordings." found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/index.html


and

"During my 60 years of designing circuits I designed a lot of vacuum tube, transistor, and switching power amplifiers and know how each performs.  In the 1950's I designed the lowest distortion vacuum tube amplifier ever, the Krohn-Hite UF-101.  It was rated at 50 Watts, 0.005% total harmonic distortion, 50 dB of negative feedback, and it sold in small quantities as a laboratory instrument for 20 years.  Today I wouldn't take a vacuum tube amplifier as a gift.  Why? What you are really buying is not quality amplification but a high distortion equalizer."

found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/Questions_and_Answers.html

and

"A vacuum tube amplifier should really be regarded as a nice piece of furniture with wires, that glows in the dark." found here:

http://www.burwenaudio.com/Questions_and_Answers.html


well, to make it absolutely clear: all these hints and quotes are only to be understood not as an attack, but in the sense of stimulating and enriching and inspiring and progressing of our all ongoing struggeling and discussion with the one and only aim to come closer to fullfill our all listening dream...

please enjoy reading (and looking)

If and when i hear a ss amp make music i will buy one as for all the links you posted are for people that have a different perception of music then i do or other tube/valve lovers.
Do you have  any recommendations for ss amps 100w ?
still discovering the link between electronics and audio reproduction.so much to learn and so little time

Offline kajak12

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We will list the greatest sounding valves and the brands for your tube components, and we will cover all valves types.  The ones to buy.
I will start with the EL34

For new, Winged C are hard to beat. I'm just getting a batch of the new Tungsol EL34B's (russian) to see if they come close.

For NOS, there are some decent buys out there if you cant afford real Mullards. I'm thinking the Siemens RFT but there are a few
different years of production and they supposedly vary quite a bit.

The other tube many like is the Sylvania 6CA7. But it's not really an EL34, being a Beam power tube as opposed to a Pentode.


I'd love to find a secret stockpile of EL34's, I go through truck loads of them! :)   

 
   
Winged c very good current production el34 they can stuff up earlier then expected but they don't take your credit card through the roof by doing so.EL34 DD GETTER  phillips miniwatt will last longer but your credit card and marriage are at risk the cream of el34's.
still discovering the link between electronics and audio reproduction.so much to learn and so little time

Offline zenelectro

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If and when i hear a ss amp make music i will buy one as for all the links you posted are for people that have a different perception of music then i do or other tube/valve lovers.
Do you have  any recommendations for ss amps 100w ?


Yes - one with valves in it :)

Offline rhlauranna

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hmmhh, just didn't want to initiate some sort of basic discussion on valves or not, I think we had that already somewhere, I am waiting primarily for Steven's long time research results, because it is that fantastic that he will let us all have part in his experiences... please, Steven, go on with your reports, you made me curious, don't take that really serious here...

but please, allow a few last words to make our position clear: I don't know if it is "music" that we listen to, it should be, yes, but is it? Really ? We only try to reproduce, to reproduce what is given within our sources - and that best way possible... but for reference we take what we hear live, not amplified, but all natural and totally pure: i.e. whistling, handclapping, thunder in a storm, shot of a rifle in two or three meters distance, but as well Anne Sophie Mutter's Stradivari from 1709 in some 7 or 10 meters, or some drums in one meter distance (to get an impression of what dynamic is in reality and what we all do  n o t  get on the sources that we use)...

and if and when you come in your reproduction - for yourself - to the conclusion, that for example the thunder on Andreas Vollenweider's Behind the gardens... sounds like a thunder, then all is o.k., no matter how and with what equipment you have reached your aim... and if you should have forgotten how a thunder sounds in nature, wait till the next one comes and have a new listen to possibly manage to come closer in your reproduction!

of course, everybody listens on his own, but nobody can talk an "original" "smaller" or "larger" or whatever, and this is our aim, to reproduce exactly that original, maybe sometimes it is music... so if you follow the aim of "reproducing" and not only listen to "music" then go and fetch a triangle and touch it, and then compare it with your reproduction, and then you will see, i.e. how far you are away from "your" original or "your" music, i.e. from what "you" have heard. That's why there is no "different perception" for us, because an original is and remains an original for everyone specifically, if you like it or not, although we know that everybody experiences it differently, so that everybody has its own reference of it - and this only changes while getting older... but that is completely different to that what we buy on vinyl, or CD, or DVD, Bluray... this is more or less limited, altered, compressed, manipulated, mixed up, for car pleasently made "crap" with only very few exceptions, as we all know more than we like...

Did you ever ask yourself why nobody claims for some valves and/or other analogue stuff being integrated into High Definition Television reproduction (I am waiting for that to come) ? Why is nobody any longer screaming for good/old analogue TV with valves? Or for superb analogue VHS recordings ? There is a reason. And the reason is, that the industry - at least so far - has not yet found it necessary to develop the suitable products to get the digital audio content reproduced that way  a n d  on that level as they have developed it for video/television. It is a pity. For years now. And that is the reason why we have begun do it for ourselves. Having once seen real HDTV nobody will really tell that this is better than analogue? Or anyone? The only thing is: most HiFi fans cannot/will not imagine that digital audio is on the same quality level than video, and this only because the technical machines are not there, i.e. not yet developped to the full potential, but, yes but, it is there...

we have proven that, but I am not a missionary murmering some mantras for myself, but just hinting, stimulating, indicating, not more, but also not less...

perhaps another quote from one of the most ambitious hard core analogue fans that I know of, TwoGoodEars, may stimulate your further thinking:

"...believe me... I guess Klaus reached the very peak of audio reproduction and, amazingly, being there with Doede's 60 TDA 1543's DAC and Bernd's PSU..." and that with no valves at all...

found here:

http://killerdac.com/forum/index.php?topic=60.720

and if you should like to follow his development in HiFi, please go here and have a look through the different pages:

http://twogoodears.blogspot.de/

and yes, I can recommend SS amps, the ones from Jean Hiraga, for example the ones Tuyen is just working on... things are getting better, right, but these are really good...


« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 07:25:54 AM by rhlauranna »

Offline Jehuty

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EL34 DD GETTER  phillips miniwatt will last longer but your credit card and marriage are at risk the cream of el34's.

Things can get worse soon kajak12, Steve's got some metal base EL34!

Cheers,
William
Not all that matters can be measured, not all that can be measured matters.

Offline hedalfa

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What about nos western electric 300Bs  :P :'( truckload of $$$$ :'(

Offline kajak12

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EL34 DD GETTER  phillips miniwatt will last longer but your credit card and marriage are at risk the cream of el34's.

Things can get worse soon kajak12, Steve's got some metal base EL34!

Cheers,
William
never tried them i am married with a V8 :P
still discovering the link between electronics and audio reproduction.so much to learn and so little time

Offline vitavoxdude

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OK guys, may I suggest we have a basic rating system for the valve review using the usual parameters and a one to ten scaling?  This way it will enable rapid assimilation into the Borg, oops sorry, that is easy comparison for the best value for money etc.  ;D This could grow larger than Ben Hur............................well for Steve at least.  (Why do blokes called Steve - me included become obsessive compulsives with Audio?)!
V ;D
We all like different things so lets all agree to disagree and if any common ground is found then worship it.  Mine is the KD hence being present on this forum.