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Old 24th January 2013, 05:34 PM   #1
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Default Full Range Amplification - A Revelation

Disclaimer: I really don't want this to turn into a "tubes vs. SS" thread. Please. I recognize that I might have had a similar experience if I had gone with a higher-end SS unit.

Up until yesterday, I had never heard a tube amp. I was driving my dual-EL70 microTowers with a modestly-priced Yamaha 2-ch receiver. I liked it just fine, but I was using a Grant Fidelity B-283 tube buffer to warm up and "analogify" an otherwise purely digital/SS system. I was also using some fairly aggressive soft-EQ to correct frequency response issues that I had assumed were EL70-related.

Yesterday, everything changed.

Based on some advice around here, specifically chrisb's, I decided I really wanted to try a tube amp. I considered all my options; build one, buy an old one, buy a new one...

After a lot of thought (and discussion with some great people over in the tube area of this forum), I decided that buying new was my best option.

I looked at a few amps. I didn't have a huge budget, so this limited my choices. I looked at the Musical Paradise MP-301 MkIII. At $300, the price was right, but I was cautioned that the 6 wpc might leave me wanting more (thanks vinylkid58!). The EL70s are not super-efficient, after all.

Then I stumbled onto what has turned out to be an incredible deal; the Shuguang I-25 (from Grant Fidelity).

It is a 25 wpc, push-pull, auto-biasing, EL34(4) + 12AX7(2) + 12AU7(2). It is thirty some odd pounds of gorgeous, high quality craftsmanship, IMO. Not all Chinese stuff is built to a low standard. I had heard this before, and now I know it is true. Dave (Planet-10); you were right, sir.

Regular price: $750. Sale price: $400 (including shipping). No-brainer.

As I said, yesterday everything changed; the I-25 arrived.

I pulled the Yamaha and the B-283 out of my system and setup the Shuguang. Turned it on, let it heat up for 5 minutes.

Glorious! At half the wattage of the Yamaha, this Shuguang produces more sound, with more authority and "grunt" but simultaneously with far more finesse and beautiful tones.

The lowest octave and highest octave tweaks in my soft-EQ are almost entirely unnecessary now. The amount of bass, in particular, from this amp is just incredible. Those little EL70s are moving whether they like it or not, and it seems like they really like it. My sub-woofer is officially unnecessary.

The mids and highs are... "real". I don't know how else to say it. I get goosebumps. Female vocals (mostly what I listened to last night) take on a dimension that I have never heard before in reproduced music.

I have had the feeling of the singer being in the room with me (even with the Yamaha) but this amp actually puts me in the room with the singer. There is a big difference between these two experiences.

Eric Clapton unplugged, (24/48 FLAC), "Signe"; it was like I had never heard it before. In fact, I quite often skipped this "intro" as I had previously found it to be less than captivating. Last night I was simply gobsmacked. "Really? Had I really missed out on this?"

Then I played some Jewel. My daughter asked, "Who is this?". "Jewel", I said. "Her voice is beautiful!" she said. My daughter has heard the same album many times and never commented. Somehow, Jewel has often been a bit on the "nasal" side for me. I enjoyed her singing, but sometimes wondered how she would sing with Celine Dion's nose Not any longer.

Then onto some Jack Johnson. The guitar and bass just... I dunno... I'm at a loss for words.

This morning, my wife put on some JPOP. Even that sounded good!

What I have learned is that I should never take anything for granted, and that the EL70 drivers are even better than I had realized, and that I am am a tube guy now!

Anyone who likes full range speakers who hasn't at least looked at an amplification change/upgrade; I encourage you to do so.

Finally, I regret to inform you that the I-25 is sold out and will not be re-stocked (GF is liquidating all "heavy" stock due to Ian's battle with cancer, which makes it impossible for him to move and work with the heavy gear). However, the good news is the Psvane TS-66 (basically the same amp, but black) is still available for the same price. $400 (including shipping).

Last edited by cogitech; 24th January 2013 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 24th January 2013, 05:44 PM   #2
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One negative: it is a freakin' space heater!
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:02 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by cogitech View Post
One negative: it is a freakin' space heater!
I bet you can't wait for summer.

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Old 24th January 2013, 06:06 PM   #4
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I bet you can't wait for summer.

jeff
Exactly what I was thinking last night.

We don't have A/C, either, so it'll be interesting when we hit 36C.

(but it's a dry heat )
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:11 PM   #5
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Interesting results. I'm not one for amp voodoo and I've never used a tube amp. But I have heard differences in SS amps and DACs. At least I "think" I've heard differences I'd really like to try tube one day. Kind of low on my list though.

So do you still feel your EL70s need a tweeter with this amp? Or is it good enough now?

I used to use SS amp even when I played guitar. Funny though, that my buddys with 50 watt tube amps could drive cabs just as loud or louder than my SS 200+ watt amps. I dunno what it is, but tube power is very authoritative or something. I know jack about amps or maybe I'd have an explanation.
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:12 PM   #6
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Just hang a pig over the top of it (painlessly dispatched by an expert beforehand, naturally) with an apple in its mouth & rotate with a treadle. Not only music, but exercise and lunch, all at once.
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post
Interesting results. I'm not one for amp voodoo and I've never used a tube amp. But I have heard differences in SS amps and DACs. At least I "think" I've heard differences I'd really like to try tube one day. Kind of low on my list though.

So do you still feel your EL70s need a tweeter with this amp? Or is it good enough now?

I used to use SS amp even when I played guitar. Funny though, that my buddys with 50 watt tube amps could drive cabs just as loud or louder than my SS 200+ watt amps. I dunno what it is, but tube power is very authoritative or something. I know jack about amps or maybe I'd have an explanation.
No tweeters required. Actually, I had removed the makeshift tweeters from my system even before getting the new amp, but I had replaced them with software EQ. The new amp makes soft-EQ largely unnecessary as well. I plan to wait until the amp is fully burned in and then spend some time dialing in a perfect EQ to compensate mostly for room modes and to bring up the highs just slightly (maybe 2 or 3 dB, rather than by 8 or 9 dB, as I did before).

Someone with really good SS gear might not be impressed by tubes, or by this tube amp in particular, but it has really changed things for me...

If you'd really like to try tubes one day, I suspect it might be difficult to find a deal quite this good... $400? Shipped? It's insane! (and you'd be helping a guy pay for his alternative cancer treatment, although I have no idea how him and Rachel are making any money at this price point)

Last edited by cogitech; 24th January 2013 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:26 PM   #8
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Just hang a pig over the top of it (painlessly dispatched by an expert beforehand, naturally) with an apple in its mouth & rotate with a treadle. Not only music, but exercise and lunch, all at once.
How about a snowshoe hare or a roast of moose or deer? I've already dispatched them!
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:32 PM   #9
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AS good as the Alpair 10.2 sounded on my Firstwatt stuff, it was bested by my brothers PP KT88 Ming Da. The lower DF mostly explains the better low end, but tubes do have a certain sound that is difficult, i fpossible, to mimic with SS. Then again, why do so? Enjoy both.
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Old 24th January 2013, 06:33 PM   #10
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I have been wondering how tube amps sound too but have not had a chance to try. In a PM from @Cervelorider, he has said that a low cost TPA3122 digital amp from Jerry's Electronics with some mods with better capacitors sounds the most like a good SET. Not sure if anyone else has similar experience.

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