Home Stereo Stuff
"Transistors make sense. Tubes make music ."
92 years after Lee DeForest invented the first electronic amplifying device,
there are more manufacturers of tube amps then at any time in history.
While transistors have the advantage in some areas such as operating voltage,
tubes are simply a better music amplifying device. For those listeners
who care, and who can hear the difference, tubes are not just a preference
but a necessity. Once one hears their favorite music reproduced with good
tube equipment, there can be no going back to solid state.
What's a tube? How's
it work? Why is it better?
Vacuum tubes are amplification
devices. You have to amplify the signal coming from a guitar or CD player
in order to play it through a speaker. A basic triode tube works
like a valve by using a metal grid to control the flow of power going
between 2 plates, the cathode and plate(anode). The power goes from cathode
to anode, and the power from the anode is what drives the speaker. The
power from a cathode comes from electrons given off when the cathode is
heated. Usually there’s a little heater right next to the cathode, or the
cathode can be the heater itself. If you put a positive (opposite) charge
on the anode, the electrons are attracted to it. But the electrons won’t
become music until you attach a signal source to the grid, which will control
the flow of electrons to the anode(plate) depending on the music signal.
Then you have a “more power” version of the music signal coming off the
anode! Since a few hundred volts are needed to attract those electrons,
you need a transformer to convert the high voltage to something a speaker
can handle, like 10 volts or so.
That tubes sound better
is not so much a matter of “if” as “why”. Some say it’s because tubes produce
harmonics like real instruments do. Harmonics are the overtones that make
a piano sound different from a violin or trumpet. Tubes produce overtones
that are even (2nd, 4th, 6th) just like musical instruments. Transistors
produce odd overtones (3rd, 5th, 7th), which aren’t “musical”. Some say
that tube amps don’t have the same perfect frequency response of transistor
amps, and tend to lessen high frequencies while producing a “fat” or “wooly”
bass sound which is pleasing to the ear. Well, some do and some don’t.
The transformer is usually the cause of this, but a properly designed and
built tube amp will have a fine frequency response.
Personally, I think
it has something to do with the difference between squeezing music through
a microscopic silicon junction, and passing it over a grid in a cloud of
electrons. As the legendary designer William Johnson of Audio Research
said, “...we find that tubes are simply a better conductor than a semiconductor.”
Listen for yourself and you be the judge.
Pictures of my home
brewed mono block vacuum tube amplifier in total darkness, extended exposure
time with the digital camera (14 seconds exposure time)
I ordered this vacuum
tube amplifier DIY kit off the Internet from Doc. B, took about 6 weeks
for the parts to arrive, everything needed to be special ordered.
I had to built the vacuum tube amplifier from scratch, everything needed
to be made, the wooden base, the connectors, painting the transformers,
and etc.... took me about 1 1/2 week to build the two mono block
vacuum tube amplifiers. Mono block = 1 amplifier per channel.
An exposure time of
3 seconds on the digital camera with low light condition reveals the amplifier
with the glowing light.
A close up of the glowing
tube. I think it is kind of cool looking, besides sounding
good, it looks like a nuclear reactor ready to blow.....
My Counterpoint SA5.1
vacuum tube pre-amplifier, this is very well known vacuum tube pre-amplifier.
I think the original selling price of this unit is something like $3000.
Everything is vacuum tube based, including the power supply, which is a
separately contained unit. (I am borrowing this unit from Philip
This is how it looks when
I listen to music with my vacuum tube amplifiers at night. With the
light off in the room all I see is the warm glow of the vacuum tube amplifiers
on top of the speakers. My stereo equipment includes B&W 500
series front speakers, B&W center, Hitachi 50" ultravision projection
TV, JBL Sub woofer.
Counterpoint tube Pre-amplifier
with tube power supply, Hitachi hi-fi VCR, Panasonic AC-310 DVD player,
Sony 925 AC-3, DTS receiver, Pioneer LD player.
My TEAC RWH-500 reference
model CD recorder, yes I duplicate my own CDs from the originals.
I also have a optical toslink box hooked up from the PC to record any MP3
files digitally to this CDR without going through any D/A converter.
My Technics Sl-PG480A
CD player, this is a single disc CD player, the only reason I have this
CD player is that it has an optical toslink output, which I use to hook
directly up to my TEAC CDRW drive to record CDs with. Since when
you digital optical toslink hook up you bypass all the D/A converters and
avoid all interference, theoretically the music quality is much better.
My NAD 5100 monitor
series single disc CD player, this is a very good sounding CD player.
I currently have it setup at the office hooked up with my mono block vacuum
My Bogan DB-110 vacuum
tube mono block amplifiers
These AMPs were made
sometime in 1955, it is old, but it sound great! It uses the 6V6GT
My ELAC 50H turntable
(Vinyl record player)
A pair of "Leak" Sandwich
These English speakers
are seldom seen here in the States. The cones are styrofoam, laminated
with thin aluminum. Hence the ' sandwich '. Straight-forward 2-way air-suspension
design. The cone tweeter is attached to the grille frame, and is nestled
in a soft-foam lined cavity in the front baffle.
I have always dreamed
of owning a pair of the B&W 801 series speakers. I would be happy
with just the Matrix series, but the Nautilus series wouldn't hurt either.
Around $12,000 for the pair
And of course I would
need the right vacuum tube amplifier to push those speakers, so a Mcintosh
is the obvious choice.
Anywhere from $2000-$4000
for the pair
And of course I will
definitely need the right CD player. Like a Krell unit....
Anywhere from $2000-$7000