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Old 15th January 2013, 03:37 PM   #1
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Default TooB NooB: Options?

I have been considering building a tube amp for quite some time. Yesterday I finally started finding all the parts and prices for a Tubelab SSE.

It is basically going to be about $600 when all is said and done, and I don't even know if I am going to like it.

I know I like "tube warmth" because I currently use a Grant Fidelity B-283 (Yaqin CD-2) cathode follower between my DAC and my SS amp. I like it, even in it's stock form (I have not modded it).

Ideally, I'd like to hear a Tubelab SSE before spending the time and money building one. In fact, I'd like to hear any half decent tube amp before committing to building one.

I suppose I could buy a relatively affordable tube amp and see how I like it...or maybe post on Craigs List asking to borrow someone's tube amp for an afternoon? (stupid?)

One other option which might satisfy my need to tweak and also bring my more tube enjoyment would be to do a few mods on my B-283.

What would you all suggest I do?
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:44 PM   #2
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in the "olden days" I would recommend buy a Dynaco 70 since that amplifier could be had for $100-$200. These days, however, vintage amplifiers have gone up tremendously in value - that same old '70 will now fetch ~$400 or more.

Another option is to try to find (via Ebay or whatever) a Magnavox - or whatever brand - console amplifier. I still have fond memories of a little single-ended 6BQ5/EL84 amplifier I once pulled out from a roadside trashed console. With only 3-5Ws of power, it was a nice sounding unit though obviously limited in power and frequency response.

Needless to say, you probably won't be disappointed with the Tubelab amp.
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:54 PM   #3
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Thanks for your feedback. The issue of buying something older like that is it might not be running optimally (old caps, etc.) and might give me the wrong impression. I'd have nothing to compare it to, either, so I wouldn't really know if I was getting all the tube goodness that I should be (and I wouldn't have a clue how to fix it even if I could tell it was running rough).

I have looked at several very low-end, low wattage chinese tube amps on evil-bay (Music Angel, etc.) However I do not think this would be a proper introduction to tubes either. That's $200 that would be better spent on proper OPTs for the SSE.

Last edited by cogitech; 15th January 2013 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:55 PM   #4
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Synergy with the speaker system you are using is a prime consideration when considering switching to a tube amplifier.

Relatively efficient speakers with relatively constant () impedance across the audio range tend to work better than low efficiency systems with complex, lossy cross-overs particularly in the case of low power SE amps.

The SSE is a good design and a good place to start with the right speaker.
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Old 15th January 2013, 04:57 PM   #5
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It is a weird conundrum; I am budget conscious, so DIY is my best option, but before I decide that I really want to DIY, I'll need to spend money on a pre-built amp.

Either that or just dive right in and have my first real tube experience be the amp that I build.
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Old 15th January 2013, 05:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinkr View Post
Synergy with the speaker system you are using is a prime consideration when considering switching to a tube amplifier.

Relatively efficient speakers with relatively constant () impedance across the audio range tend to work better than low efficiency systems with complex, lossy cross-overs particularly in the case of low power SE amps.

The SSE is a good design and a good place to start with the right speaker.
I'm a full range listener. Currently dual-EL70 microTowers (simple series connection for 8ohms). Eventually Aplair 10.2 in Woden Design "Silbury" boxes or Bob Brines' M10-A10.

So, not massively efficient drivers, but light enough loads I think (and my SPL requirements are not extreme).
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Old 17th January 2013, 06:52 PM   #7
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rebuilding a vintage amplifier is a great way to learn tube stuff. That's how I cut my teeth with this hobby, restoring/modifying an old Dynaco 70. The transformers and tube sockets are likely good on those old units, so its a matter of replacing cheaper capacitors/resistors and possibly some tubes.
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Old 17th January 2013, 07:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kstagger View Post
rebuilding a vintage amplifier is a great way to learn tube stuff. That's how I cut my teeth with this hobby, restoring/modifying an old Dynaco 70. The transformers and tube sockets are likely good on those old units, so its a matter of replacing cheaper capacitors/resistors and possibly some tubes.
You're a gambler, aren't you?

Used Dynaco 70 go for around $400, I have virtually no electronics experience, and I have never heard a tube amp. Sounds like a long shot to me.

I have been back-peddling on this whole idea once again.

I think I will likely just buy a value-oriented tube amp in working condition (or new) and see how I get on with it. If I feel I need something more/better/whatever, then maybe I will DIY.

I do appreciate all the feedback and ideas though...
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Old 17th January 2013, 07:03 PM   #9
GoatGuy is offline GoatGuy  United States
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Build it!

There's very little more satisfying early-in-the-game than just building something that has a great reputation, that doesn't cost too much, and that has a list of parts'n'pieces that you can actually find, acquire, stockpile, and eventually use to make the device.

Further, if you "like it", one of the easiest things in the world later on will be to use the small amp as a driver for a much bigger one. The small amp would then be considered the ultimate "headphone amp". The "much bigger one" need not be very complicated at all it turns out. So long as your output transformer has a center tap on its secondary (a nice thing to have), or split secondaries (8+8 = 16, 8 = 8, 8|8 = 4 ohms), then it can trivially be hooked up to a 4-some of 6550s or EL34s in a separate enclosure, 1/3 biased in push-pull mode, with a separate high-voltage supply and output transformer. Easy to bump up, actually. Could use 8 tubes as well, 2 in parallel for both halves of the left+right channel amplifiers. With no trouble at all, you'd be pumping out 75 watts per channel of sweet tube goodness.

Ah, tubes... noobs 'n' toobs are just a great mix.

WATCH OUT for the high voltages though. When we "old timers" say they can be lethal ... trust ... lethal means DEATH. DEATH without appeal to the reset-button, to try it again. DEAD. So, please ... go in to this with open eyes and GREAT high-voltage fiddling skilz.

Old GoatGuy
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Old 17th January 2013, 07:05 PM   #10
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That's why I originally suggested an old Magnavox amplifier. They may look cruddy, but at least they are cheap and easy to fix. For a few $$$ it would be easy to recap one.

Kevin
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