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Tube Hi-Fi Amps - worthwhile?

11/11/1997 1:58 PM
Mike D.
Tube Hi-Fi Amps - worthwhile?
Has anyone tried a tube hi-fi amp with run of the mill 2 and 3 way bookshelf speakers like Polk Audio, Cervin Vega, Sansui, etc. Would I notice much of a difference with such pedestrian speakers? I'm presently running a common Kenwood 60 watt/ch receiver. Like many guitar players, I have a very "modest" stereo system (all our money goes to guitars, amps, effects, mixers, microphones, PA, etc). I'd like to dabble with tube hi-fi, maybe pick up an old Dynaco ST70 for 3 or 4 hundred bucks, but I'm not about to shell out $6000 for a pair of Quad ESL63 speakers or anything like that. Most of the hi-fi guys are biased toward classical music and I prefer music with electric guitars, bass and drums. The hi-fi guys also like to spend outrageous amounts of money and I'm looking for a reasonable price/performance ratio.  
What do you think?  
"Go for it, it sounds great, even with your crappy speakers", or,  
"don't waste your time, buy more guitars instead"  
11/11/1997 2:27 PM

The updated Dyna into bookshelf speakers is very worthwhile. Do it. Don't let the cork-sniffing hifi tweekers scare you off.  
As a shell-shocked veteran of the hifi wars...  
My personal preference for hifi is fairly complex. I actually have two stereo setups. One is a pure solid state integrated receiver (!) used for "pedestrian" kinds of things like amplifying the TV when we're watching. The other is a little more involved, for more critical listening (like trying to figure out HOW BB does those bends!). I picked up a pair of Dyna Mark IV's along the way, this being a mono version of the Dyna ST70, and a Dyna SCA35. I run a triamped system, electronic crossovers feeding the 35 into the tweeters and the Mark IV's into the midranges, said midranges and tweeters in D'Appolito configuration, with the bass outputs mixed to a single channel and fed through a 100W solid state driving a pair of Swan 12" woofers for the range from 30 to 200Hz.  
This uses the tubes to best advantage, and gives a little more perceived power - which I never use, because the volume I like keeps decreasing. As you may recognize, this setup contains several heresies from the hifi camp. I don't care - I think the sound is good, and I've fooled a couple of tweeko friends with it.
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11/11/1997 3:11 PM
Steve M.

I have to side with RG on this one, tube stereos are great! I have a PAS-2/Dyna ST-70 that I love. I run it through pretty pedestrian speakers: Advent Prodigy Towers, and the sound us very good. It's not detailed like a $10K "audiophile" system, but then again, it didn't cost me anywhere near $10K :)  
In my workshop I have an Eico HF-85 preamp and HF-86 power amp hooked up to a pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers, it also sounds pretty good, much better than the cheapo Sony reciever that I got for my first stereo.  
The only thing that is lacking is that the bass is a little shy on both my systems, but I don't listen to much techno or rap music, so it isn't really an issue.  
One suggestion I'd make is not to get caught up in all the tweak-o-holic nonsense. There definately is a point of diminishing returns in upgrades and tweaks. You don't have to spend $1,000/foot for interconnects to get good sound, for example. Just learn to listen and appreciate the gear for what it is.  
Just my $.02  
11/11/1997 3:14 PM
you don't have to start out in the hi-fi tweek zone and shell out a lot of $ - If you're willing to look for a bargain and restore it. I have a Harman Kardon A300 concert series thet I picked up at a junk shop for $40. It had one leaky coupling cap and the original tubes(tele 12AX7 & 7408(6V6) test strong. My speakers are homebrew and sound better with the tube amp than they ever did with my Kenwood... I like to think of it as my starter amp. go for it!!
11/11/1997 4:18 PM
Erik M. Wood

GO FOR IT!!!!  
Lemme tell you man, I wouldn't have known that there was any real difference between an old tube HI-FI and my Sherwood/Kenwood/Technics/crappy speaker setup until I tried it. I was blessed by the windfall of a Dynaco ST 70 from some old guy who was leaving his New York apartment of 20+ years. He didn't want to lug it or the matching preamp (PAS 2) and speakers (Karlson kit built thingies from the 40's, the size of my refrigerator) with him to the nursing home, so he just gave them to me. Anyway, I immediately hooked my cd player up to the power amp and my crappy speakers (not the Karlsons), and gave it a dubious try. I was blown away! The punch, dynamics and sweetness of the music which had been lost (presumably by the evil Digital and Transistor demons) came back, and this was from an original *stock* ST 70 (wimpy power supply, old, out of spec components et al.)!  
Anyway, my advice... Do it. You won't be disappointed.  
P.S. Just wait 'til I install the upgrade kit I purchased for the Power amp from Welborne Labs. Then it's gonna really smoke.
11/12/1997 5:56 AM

Do it. Idea -- instead of buying a old,  
used Dynaco for $400 (that probly needs  
$100 worth of repairs in new caps, etc.)  
try the new Jolida powered by EL84s.  
I went into a "high-end" audio shop  
that sold systems that easily cost  
$5,000 and up. Their 1st recommendation  
at a quality tube amp was the Jolida!  
I listened to the Jolida A/Bed with  
another amp that costs $1,600 and I  
preferred the Jolida.  
One thing to remember is that the  
wattage in tube hi-fi amps are MUCH  
different than the solid-state ones  
of today. I listened to a 3, 6, and  
9 watts amps at the above shop that  
I thought were 50 watts! Don't go  
for high wattage tube amps, cause you  
don't need it.  
When I get some money (after I buy some  
more guitars and amps) I would like  
to purchace the Jolida.  
By the way, I have cheap speakers as  
well (Infinity bookshelf), but I know  
the tube hi-fi amp will make them  
sound nice.  
11/22/1997 8:25 PM
Ken Lewellen

Worth while. I use a Home-made tube preamp, a Dynakit Stereo 70 with a pair of wooden Radio shack minimus speakers and a McIntosh MC40 to drive a home-made 15" sub-woofer. I use a solid state electroncic crossover (salvaged from a fire)to strip the lows for the sub woofer amp. The tube amps seem to add a little "life" to this otherwise mundane system.  
Ken Lewellen
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