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Valves

Marvt74

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I've tried googling but seem to be struggling to find what i'm after. I'm contemplating the purchase of a valve amp, however the only experience of valve ownership was an old WAS HD83 headphone amp and i don't know what it used and it was a fair while ago.

There are however a huge variety of tubes from EL34 to KT88 and many inbetween. I presume that all will have different sound signatures. I've read somewhere (i think) that the EL34's can be a bit muddy with bass sounds but is there anywhere which might give a rough comparison/example of sound signatires of each type of valve for me to make a starting point of what to look at?

I know theres differences between different valves of the same type but i presume these are smaller changes than that of different valves.

 

Valvebloke

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Valves are indeed different (perhaps not as different as transistors though). But an amp's performance, at least insofar as it can be objectively determined, is controlled much, much more by the details of the circuit design and of that design's implementation than it is by the choice of valve (within reason). So a single-ended EL34 amp could be much more different from a triode-connected auto-bias push-pull EL34 amp or a pentode-connected fixed-bias ultralinear EL34 amp than it might be from a single-ended KT66 or KT88 amp. You could make an EL34 amp with clean bass and a KT88 amp with muddy bass or, just as easily, the other way round if you wanted.

Of course people also have subjective opinions about how things sound. But, pretty much by definition, subjectivity is very individual. So one person's subjective views may chime with another's or may not. I'm afraid that even if you do find a list of valves and their sounds it'll almost certainly only reflect the views of the person who wrote it.

VB

 

rabski

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an amp's performance, at least insofar as it can be objectively determined, is controlled much, much more by the details of the circuit design and of that design's implementation than it is by the choice of valveVB
This.

So much this.

Hundreds of pointless threads here stating that one valve sounds different to another.

Almost certainly, in the same circuit different makes of tubes will sound different, but by far and away the biggest change is down to the circuit they are put in.

A classic example is the 300B. Often (usually) cited as being wonderful at reproducing mids and vocals, but with 'loose' bass and ill-defined treble. Listen to Coco's PP 300B design and you'll know what they can do. Loose bass? In your dreams. Massive slam and definition. Subtle? Yes, but with balls of steel.

I currently have two pairs of KT88 monos at Rab Towers and they couldn't be more different. One pair does the 'usual' tube female vocals and jazz stuff. The other blasts the windows out of their frames. Little subtlety, big nuts.

Every tube is the same. As I type this, Dark Side of the Moon is playing through an 845 SE. Subtle? Well, yes a bit, but the main feel is enormous power and bass to rattle the roof tiles.

Tubes do NOT have an individual 'sound'. The circuit sure as hell does, and especially the output transformers.

 

silencio

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Martyn, the web is full with comparisons and stereotypes, but nothing beats hearing the amp in your own system. That is when it starts to become clear. Try to borrow a home demo from the nearest dealer or alternatively consider organizing a bake off at some point of time. Going to Scalford can also answer a lot of questions and provide tons of insights.

 

rockmeister

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all right above, but connect the dots to read

valve amps variously do fall into groups which sound different to other groups.

True, this is due to circuit design but, also true, valve type is an inherent part of that design. It's a tad chicken and egg and MUCH easier to identify valve type than circuit nuance!

So you asked a fair question.

I'll start with a broad generalisation.

Single ended Triode designs, using low power outputs and valves such as a 300B tend toward traditional, warm, euphonic valve sound that suits female vocals, folk, jazz etc.

Push pull circuits, using valves such as the EL34 tend to a cleaner, leaner, tighter sound that might organise complex classical and heavily multi tracked rock better.

However your best approach will be to tell us your musical tastes and hope someone can guess what will work with your allegros.

 

Marvt74

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Musical tastes tend to vary. I'd say it's probably 70% male singer songwriter type stuff. The rest can be an even mix of electronic indie (ala Postal Service) and bits of rock and dance.

I heard a set of Ming Da 845 monos at Keith's last week which gave a lovely warm open sound.

I'd probably be buying used so don't want to waste any dealers time. A bake off could be a good shout but I've only a small mid terrace so can't host too many folks, although Keith has offered to bring his amps round to see how they sound in my room.

 

rabski

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all right above, but connect the dots to readvalve amps variously do fall into groups which sound different to other groups.

True, this is due to circuit design but, also true, valve type is an inherent part of that design. It's a tad chicken and egg and MUCH easier to identify valve type than circuit nuance!

So you asked a fair question.

I'll start with a broad generalisation.

Single ended Triode designs, using low power outputs and valves such as a 300B tend toward traditional, warm, euphonic valve sound that suits female vocals, folk, jazz etc.

Push pull circuits, using valves such as the EL34 tend to a cleaner, leaner, tighter sound that might organise complex classical and heavily multi tracked rock better.

However your best approach will be to tell us your musical tastes and hope someone can guess what will work with your allegros.
Sorry John, but I'm going to disagree on one fundamental point.

The categorisation is normally because certain tubes tend to get used in particular circuit designs, usually for ease of build and cost control. This does not mean that those tubes have a particular 'sound'.

It's true that 300Bs in single-ended circuits tend towards a particular presentation, but that is definitely not because the 300B itself has that 'sound'. It's because the circuit does, and the 300B happens to be a good design fit in that circuit. I mention once again Coco's push-pull 300B design. As many know, I am building something similar (yeah, I know, but home and business come first guys). I have had a pair of these (working and finished - thanks Tel) here for a day and evening, and they are a million miles away from the expected 300B sound. Massive slam, speed and dynamics. Bass so tight it's right up with the very best.

The point is that valve type is not necessarily inherent to a particular design, though it often falls into that category for other reasons. You could equally (and probably more validly) say that output transformers dictate the eventual result to a greater extent that the tubes. I would certainly argue this is true, as similar designs with different OPTs sound far more diverse than similar designs using different tubes.

The only real way to find out what floats your boat is to look at your potential expenditure, do some research, then try to hear as many as possible, in your system, that fit the requirements.

Doesn't matter how much space you have Martyn. In my last temporary house, I hosted my first bake off in a room that could comfortably seat about two people, but I still had about ten people round, with various bits and pieces to experiment with. Just provide a curry or something similar and people will be happy to bring stuff and spend most of their time in the kitchen talking bollocks.

I have learned more from bake offs than from anything else in this hobby. Most importantly, there are a lot of folk here who enjoy socialising and bringing insane stuff to other people's houses simply for the hell of it. It genuinely is a fantastic way to hear a vast range of potential equipment in your own system, and nothing beats that.

 

mmar

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Very true but some amp circuits / designs will happily accept different valves which in my experience have offered different tonal flavours and different presentations , so in that respect the different valves in the same circuit certainly has an influence and probably why valve rolling is so common place and popular

 

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