The VALVE THREAD reboot!

SallyB

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Possibly with good reason, the last valve thread fizzled out a few years back. It’s been suggested a new thread might be better.

Having now had my own valve amp for 6 months or so, I wondered whether it was worth seeing if there is any interest in trying to reboot the old thread.

So if you have or have had any valve equipment or just curious as to why the heck anyone would want one, then this is the place to post.

Perhaps tell us what you have (I will, just shy of being the first ☺️!), or have had or what you’re interested in, or if you have any questions or knowledge you want to share. Why not tell us about your journey to or even away from valves?

I know there are four of us on here! If that’s it, we’ll I tried!😀
 

Revolutions

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Due to owning 3 valve guitar amps, always been curious. Would be nice to have a setup with a small valve amp at some point.

I have been looking at the Ear 834P clones as a little treat to see what it does for my vinyl. Would love to hear about anyone’s thoughts on the Ear, or any recommendations for affordable similar preamps.
 

Gray

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In my museum loft there are a couple of reel to reel tape recorders with valves.
Not sure if it's still up there, but there was also a portable radio that had valves and ran on a 67 volt battery 🤔 (try buying one of those now).

Possibly more like hi-fi, there is definitely a valve pre-amp up there - a Chinese made prototype sent to the UK for evaluation.

Personally I'd always prefer to stick to solid state - can only really think of valves as being a backwards step.
But good luck to anyone that, for whatever reason, prefers valves 👍
 
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skinnypuppy71

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Own a Primaluna dialogue hp premium, sounds very good indeed, not as mushy and warm sounding as some would have you believe, I bought it from a friend nearly two years ago, I went round for a listen to his new Gato amplifier, I knew he had the primaluna previously, I had listened to it a few times, I asked him where it was, he said I'm just going to put it on the bay, I said "and you didn't think of asking me if I wanted it " oh are you interested......how much ? I asked, to you £1700 with the standard el34's plus a full set of kt120's and upgraded pre valves.....I almost chewed his arm off . so , went back home and set about selling my astronomy gear to pay for it. It's been fantastic so far and was no problem driving my previous pmc twenty 21, in fact they sounded very good together, only problem so far, is that it gets very warm in my room now in the summer months....I'm going to need a amplifier for the summer now, hope the wife understands 🤣🤣
 

SallyB

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My journey into valves was a long one. I suppose I’d been curious for about 20 years, but had always gone for solid state integrateds. When money became less of an issue, I started to think about a system that would be my Hifi resting place. I had no idea what one sounded like, only that I loved how they looked and glowed!

I’d admired the look of Lebens for a long time (certainly not everyone’s cup of tea) and was surprised to find a dealer near me. I’d intended to audition one and a Line Magnetic at home, but logistics made this difficult, so the rest of my system went to the dealers instead. I listened to two Lebens and was smitten. I can’t say whether I was taken with a so-called classic valve sound, only something so completely beguiling that I had not heard its like before or since! A few months later it was joined by a pair of Graham speakers - a lovely match for my space. My only question was “how long do valves last?”; the answer from the dealer being “4 minutes or 40 years!”. The only problem was whether it could be afforded as the price had gone up since I’d been looking!

I would never say it couldn’t be bettered by a solid state, even a cheaper one, plus it weighs a ton, can cook a meal on top and requires its own power station, but I love it!!
 
I think, in this day of convenience, valve amps are the last thing most people will aspire to.
All that added palaver and expense.
Having to bias valves, unless you own the likes of PrimaLuna, and new valves are not exactly cheap so it's not something you would want to do on a budget.
The only valve amp I have owned was a Tom Evans Audio Linear A power amp.
 
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jjbomber

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My journey into valves was a long one. I suppose I’d been curious for about 20 years, but had always gone for solid state integrateds. When money became less of an issue, I started to think about a system that would be my Hifi resting place. I had no idea what one sounded like, only that I loved how they looked and glowed!
Exactly that for me. it was an itch I had to scratch. Then the McIntosh trade in came around, so the Naim Uniti went and the McIntosh came in. Ironically I wasn't that impressed with the look in the photos, but in the flesh with the valves glowing, it's like Leonardo Da Vinci has touched it up. With the HiFi Rose streaming to it, it's not only a live sound but a live light show as well.
The valves are supposed to last 10,000 hours, so I hope to live that long. No idea how much replacements cost, and don't really care. If they need replacing, so be it. The odds on me dying are 100% and I can't take it with me. I'm loving it so far.
 

SallyB

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I think, in this day of convenience, valve amps are the last thing most people will aspire to.
All that added palaver and expense.
Having to bias valves, unless you own the likes of PrimaLuna, and new valves are not exactly cheap so it's not something you would want to do on a budget.
The only valve amp I have owned was a Tom Evans Audio Linear A power amp.
Lots of amps with auto bias, even mine! Anyway, in any pastime, for some people, there is a satisfaction in being able to tinker 😀
 
Lots of amps with auto bias, even mine! Anyway, in any pastime, for some people, there is a satisfaction in being able to tinker 😀
Interesting, haven't really followed valve amp development that intently. Last time I looked very few had auto bias, this certainly helps.
To me tinkering means tube rolling and most decent tubes are not cheap.
My old amp had eight EL84's in .......
 

My2Cents

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The old 'tube vs solid state' debate.

This video on YouTube from Audioholics is interesting (it's NOT about "which sounds best", so don't be put off by the title).
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT1iqlPMAnA


Many folks here are about 'digital' 'bit perfect' 'trying to keep the sound as close to the originally recorded sound as possible' no?
Well obviously tube amps don't do any of that. Due to their inherent properties they always color and alter the sound. They are basically one big tone control that can be 'tinkered with' at a high cost to the user (tubes are $35 - $300 a piece now).
Ironically, tube amp. manufacturers have tried to emulate solid state characteristics over the years by designing out the inherent flaws of tubes! e.g. by going to A/B push pull and by using more tubes to achieve enough power to drive large speakers before the tubes start to distort.
Many, like McIntosh, are now offering hybrid amps so that they can achieve the kind of power output necessary to drive large speakers without producing distortion. And then there is the output transformers required (critical to the design) which need to be big, heavy and expensive!
It's a measurable fact that tube amps are highly reactive (which changes the tonal balance of the input signal as the power output changes), they add noise and distortion and are less reliable than SS amps.
I love tubes for guitar amplification, but that's exactly because of the grit, grind and harmonic distortion they produce when pushed, I'm not sure that I want that in my music 'reproduction' system.
 
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SallyB

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Valve amps have never appealed to me, run too hot, limited valve lifespan, sound too rolled off....
Interesting, haven't really followed valve amp development that intently. Last time I looked very few had auto bias, this certainly helps.
To me tinkering means tube rolling and most decent tubes are not cheap.
My old amp had eight EL84's in .......
Like everything in Hifi, there are cheap and mega expensive valves!😀
 

SallyB

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Jan 18, 2022
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The old 'tube vs solid state' debate.

This video on YouTube from Audioholics is interesting (it's NOT about "which sounds best", so don't be put off by the title).
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT1iqlPMAnA


Many folks here are about 'digital' 'bit perfect' 'trying to keep the sound as close to the originally recorded sound as possible' no?
Well obviously tube amps don't do any of that. Due to their inherent properties they always color and alter the sound. They are basically one big tone control that can be 'tinkered with' at a high cost to the user (tubes are $35 - $300 a piece now).
Ironically, tube amp. manufacturers have tried to emulate solid state characteristics over the years by designing out the inherent flaws of tubes! e.g. by going to A/B push pull and by using more tubes to achieve enough power to drive large speakers before the tubes start to distort.
Many, like McIntosh, are now offering hybrid amps so that they can achieve the kind of power output necessary to drive large speakers without producing distortion. And then there is the output transformers required (critical to the design) which need to be big, heavy and expensive!
It's a measurable fact that tube amps are highly reactive (which changes the tonal balance of the input signal as the power output changes), they add noise and distortion and are less reliable than SS amps.
I love tubes for guitar amplification, but that's exactly because of the grit, grind and harmonic distortion they produce when pushed, I'm not sure that I want that in my music 'reproduction' system.
Will watch thanks! The last Darko podcast on harmonic distortion is worth a listen for those who have not seen it/heard it.
 

Amormusic

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I've been through a lot of amps, but this one will stay.

To despatch the above comment around running cost, at current prices it's somewhere between 4-5 pence per hour in use, which is perfectly acceptable. As it's fully rebuilt there's little to go wrong for a long while, I'll just need to replace the valves every once in a while.

As for the sound, it's amazing. Valves produce a magic quality that no solid state amp I've heard can reproduce. The closest being a Sugden class A amp.

I've been to lots of shows and bake-offs and have also owned a lot of amps, but the very best sounding systems (to my ears) have always been valve based. Some of the systems have been very expensive too. That said, I did hear an amazing Jeff Rowland class D amp on the end of my speakers at the last bake-off I went too that someone had brought along, but at c£10k rrp that's way beyond my budget.

Whenever I get home from a show or bake-off having heard a load of new stuff, I put on some tunes, grin like an complete idiot at how great it sounds, and feel that I'm missing out on nothing at all.

If you've never heard a good valve amp, you should try to wrap your ears around one. They really are special amps if partnered with suitable kit and speakers.

EDIT : @SallyB I too have mine partnered with Graham Audio speakers.
 
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I’ve never heard enough valve amps to know if they all display that sound characteristic. The one I bought I would not have described as rolled off.
Also, like Class A amps, they need time to warm up before they perform at their best, usually around 20 minutes or so. Life's too short.

And subjectively, they are ugly with the sticky up valves. That is just for my taste.
 

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