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Best "taste of tube sound" for the money for first-timer


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I'm looking for advice for the best way to see if tubes would give me a "lush, rich, less fatiguing" sound without losing the sense of "being there" that I get from my Cornwalls. I listen to rock, jazz, & some classical in 2 channel mode. Thanks.

An inexpensive integrated would give you a taste of tubes. Not much of a monetary outlay required. Then you could decide whether to continue spending vast amounts of capital for separates, NOS and/or higher end tubes, etc. [:D]

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Here's one suggestion: More than one Cornwall owner drives them with a restored Scott integrated amp, and loves the combination. Garymd's sounds wonderful, just right for kind of music you listen to. Of course, Scotts are vintage 40-plus year-old equipment, so you'd need to have one restored. Although he's very backlogged, Craig is a super-helpful artisan in such things: http://www.nosvalves.com/

A glance at his queue page shows how busy he is. Give him a shout, and at least get his advice on where and what to look for in the way of a used 222 or 299 that you can put in the queue.

Larry

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Here is what I would do, after having owned a dozen different tube amps. ---- Buy a used 300b SET amp on Audiogon. Get a quality amp that is well known such as Welborne. Expect to pay around $1200 for it, give or take a $100. - If you don't care for it or want to upgrade later, which you probably will, you will be able to get all of your money back on the used market. They don't make Welborne amps any more and they usually have a short lifespan on Audiogon.

You could also shop for a 2A3 amp if you prefer Jazz, female vocals and don't have to have the volume greater than 95db or so (peaks). Many great amps for 2A3 - Welborne, Wright etc.

You could buy one of these amps and live happily ever after ; Many do - But, if you decide to change amps, you can get your money back.

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I ran a Peach 2 with a Mac 2105 SS amp unitl I could find/afford a set of VRDS. The tube Pre added a great deal of warmth to the Mac SS but the final addition of tube Monoblocs was an OMG upgrade. Start with a nice tube pre and buy the amps later. I highly recomend finding a used Peach which works well with just about anything.

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Using a tube pre is a great idea. The only caveat I would mention is to make sure the SS amp has a high enough input impedance (50k ohms or more) or the tube pre has a lower output impedance. If they don't match well, the bass will be rolled off.

This is because most tube preamps have a high output impedance, and want a high input impedance to load correctly... Just so you know ahead of time.

Bruce

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I ran a Peach 2 with a Mac 2105 SS amp unitl I could find/afford a set of VRD[:D]S. The tube Pre added a great deal of warmth to the Mac SS but the final addition of tube Monoblocs was an OMG upgrade. Start with a nice tube pre and buy the amps later. I highly recomend finding a used Peach which works well with just about anything.

I'm currently running a BBX into an Outlaw Audio 2150 SS receiver. I'm switching between this and a little Jolida integrated. I prefer not having the SS in the chain however, it's easy to tell it still there. But it is an improvement over just running the 2150 by itself.

Glad to hear your VRD's were jaw dropping. Have a pair of them on order! [:D] [:D]

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Using a tube pre is a great idea. The only caveat I would mention is to make sure the SS amp has a high enough input impedance (50k ohms or more) or the tube pre has a lower output impedance. If they don't match well, the bass will be rolled off.

This is because most tube preamps have a high output impedance, and want a high input impedance to load correctly... Just so you know ahead of time.

Bruce

True.

If anyone is experiencing this problem (tube pre with an SS amp) I have a Margules ADE which acts as an excellant buffer. Just put it between teh pream and power amp. Mint condition with box and manual. $100.

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I'm looking for advice for the best way to see if tubes would give me a "lush, rich, less fatiguing" sound without losing the sense of "being there" that I get from my Cornwalls.

Forget just dipping your toe in the water, just jump right on in, clothes and all. There is no turning back. Buy the best piece of tube gear you can afford, you'll save yourself the cost of a future up-grade. For first timers a good integrated amp is hard to beat for the price/performance ratio but it wont be as good as separates. I'd go with something that has 2 EL-34s per side. That's a good amount of power and a nice sweet sound.

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Right after buying my Cornwalls I picked up a Scott 299a second version from craigslist and immediately shipped it to Craig @ NOS valves for a rebuild. While the 299 was being repaired i used a Yamaha CR1020, until it took a dump, and then a Yamaha RX-V800. The 299 came back a couple weeks ago and I hooked it up the same day it arrived. I have never had tubes before, and not knowing what to expect, I started with a CD and the first thing i noticed was the incredible detail and clarity. I was hearing things I've never heard before. Moving to the turntable, I was enjoying albums I've been listening to for years, but now the overall sound was much improved and again great detail and clarity. If there's a problem on the source, you hear it. Good recordings sound fantastic. I was noticing however, distortion and a harshness in the HF on some sources. So I started to experiment with speaker placement. I had the Cornwalls placed in the corners and toed in so the horns were firing directly at my listening chair. They were backed into the corners similar to how a K-horn would be placed. After much experimenting, I ended up keeping them at the same angles to my listening chair, but pulling them forward approximately 32" from the deepest part of the corner. The difference is amazing! The harshness is gone as is the HF distortion and now there is more warmth. I always thought the Cornwalls were great for acoustic instruments and voice, but now I find them to be extremely flexible at various types of music. "Extremes" CD "Pornagrafitti" on track 7 starts with distorted guitar and then has some nice drum work. Playing that track at loud volume the only distortion heard is the guitar and the drums sound great. It's not harsh at all, very detailed and clear. Then I put on Norah Jones album on track 3 "Painters Song". It starts with acoustic guitar and later enters Norah's voice. Totally different than the "Extreme" CD, and sounds incredible. Very intimate and yes, she sounds like she is standing in the room singing at me. That's a credit to the Cornwalls, the Scott 299, and the record; CD's don't do intimate very well, they make everything sound like a big presentation.

When I first started looking at the Scott 299, I was concerned at the whopping 17 WPC output. That concern has been put to rest. My room isn't too big, and volume is not a problem. In fact, at loud volumes it has an effortless sound to it. Hard to explain, it just sounds like its reproducing the music and isn't breaking a sweat.

Bottom line, I highly recommend the Scott 299. You get a lot for your money. Pre-amp, amp, and a great phono section. Understand though that they are around fifty years old. If you find one that is all original, it will need some work. Buy it knowing that and you'll be fine. I also highly recommend NOS Valves. Great work and Craig is easy to deal with.

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Mark is mostly right but there are exceptions of course.

Radford and Leak amps from the 50's-60's are not overly romantic. The Marantz 8B and Mac 240 are not either.

Most late 70's and early 80's amps from ARC and C-J don't sound too different than the ones from the 50's which they are based upon. ARC started the business by modifying Dynacos and copying and trying to improve the design of most vintage 12ax7 based preamps (Marantz, Dyna etc). To my ears, they sound worse than the originals.

Many of the modern tube gear sound like solid state to me and cost too much so why bother anyway.

For first tube setup, I'd recommend something not too expensive with upgrade potential like the Dyna pre/power or Scott integrated amps and leave the expensive stuff for collectors or to someone with more experience.

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If your amp section range is in the 1500-2000 dollar range a set of used VRD monoblocs are the ticket. Opinions vary but they must be considered at anything near this price point. Paired with a Peach pre you would have 2500-3000 invested. If this is dooable I strongly reccomend that you consider it.

I will go out on a limb and say that this combo is pretty much upgrade proof in my highly biased opinion.

The search for the VRDs may be a lengthy one but they do eventually pop up.

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