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Old Jul 16, 2009, 02:46 PM   #1
Mister G
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iTunes through Vacuum Tube Amp

I just saw a new hot product article in HomeToys.com on a new stereo vacuum tube amplifier from neuhaus laboratories. Anybody have any thoughts on using vacuum tube amps with digital files.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 02:56 PM   #2
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Check out head-fi.org; they have entire forums and articles related to digital sound and various amps.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 05:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Mister G View Post
I just saw a new hot product article in HomeToys.com on a new stereo vacuum tube amplifier from neuhaus laboratories. Anybody have any thoughts on using vacuum tube amps with digital files.
Yes. Works fine. In fact it's the "best" way to go. Opinions differ about "best" or not but I certainly think so.

You don't need a special tube amp for an iPod. If you like that sound I'd go for a more mainstream tube amp. There are a lot of them available at evey price point. iPods connect up and work fine with 1960's vintage stereo gear.

But you have to watch it. there are a lot of "rip off" amps that are taking advantage of unknowing consumers that are being sold a "tube amps" that just have one $10 tube in the pre-amp section and are really just cheap low quality junk.

If you buy one. Buy something that has been in production for at least 10 years and has developed a reputation. There is no reason to buy "the latest" as the golden age was decades ago. The most sought after gear is mostly vintage "made in USA"

Last edited by ChrisA; Jul 16, 2009 at 06:56 PM.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 08:43 PM   #4
Halvdan
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Tubes in modern consumer grade audio products are pointless.

Debate, go.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 09:04 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Halvdan View Post
Tubes in modern consumer grade audio products are pointless.

Debate, go.
For real...

I went to their website:

http://www.neuhauslabs.com/

You can at least hook up analog sources to it. Reasonable for an integrated tube amp - $800.

I would go with at least a real good CD player, or maybe a cheaper one with a separate D/A converter.

I understand that some audiophiles listen to their iPods through high-end stereo equipment but use "Apple Lossless" for encoding their CD's.

Using tube equipment for listening to "lossy" audio files would be a total waste, though...
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 09:58 PM   #6
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Tubes for digital

I have a friend who hooked up his Mac though a DAC to a tube amp and it sounds awesome. The depth and clarity is comparable to vinyl albums. he has the amp hooked up to some old ADS speakers. This neuhaus amp looks interesting because I can hook up to the computer through the USB or Apple Airport Express through the toslink and send my iTunes music through the Wifi. The price of $795 seems good compared to other tube amps. If I buy one I will let you know if it sound good or not.
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Old Jul 16, 2009, 11:18 PM   #7
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I just don't get it, the whole "audiophile" fetish for tube systems...

If you're feeling the need to color/distort the sound, chances are you're listening to bad recordings in the first place...

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Old Jul 17, 2009, 02:53 AM   #8
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I laughed when i saw "hot" and "new" in proximity with tube amps. I mean realllllly? How low tech can you get? This is hardly new tech.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 08:16 AM   #9
Jolly Jimmy
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I laughed when i saw "hot" and "new" in proximity with tube amps. I mean realllllly? How low tech can you get? This is hardly new tech.
I believe it was referring to the product itself, not the technology. Besides, tube technology is hardly outdated.

OP, you never know with all-in-one units such as this, the tube section could be great but the D/A convertion terrible, so unless you can get some reliable reviews on the overall quality, I'll agree with ChrisA and say to stick with reputable brands.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 10:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Halvdan View Post
Tubes in modern consumer grade audio products are pointless.

Debate, go.
Agreed. I would focus on getting room treatment, quality convertors, and some good powered monitors.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 10:46 AM   #11
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I just don't get it, the whole "audiophile" fetish for tube systems...

If you're feeling the need to color/distort the sound, chances are you're listening to bad recordings in the first place...

Transistors color and distort the sound too. THere are no perfect amps. All amps imprit the music with a sound. The difference is the way the sound is distorted.

Technically, the non-linear effect of a tube amp is to add mostly second harmonics to the sound. Transisters because of the different shape of their gain curve add mostly 3rd and 5th higher (odd) harmonic content.

Second harmonics sound like if you were to play note an octave above. For example on a piano play a "C" and the next "C" key above. These two notes played together sound good to our ears. So the distortion products are not objectionable. Transister's distortion products are just noise. Yes lower amplitude noise but you hear it.

The Tube "sound" can be seen and measured. It's not vodo science like when some nuts talk about "oxigen free copper" speaker cables or other bunk. This is easy to see on an osciloscope. and you can calculate the distortion products on paper even before you build the amp using only modest enginerring skills and grapical techniques. So the sound is real and at the 4% level harmonic distortion level. Yes 4% is very small when you convert to dB but you can hear it.

Back to my statement the all amps distort. Don't read the specs. They use low amplitude test tones to get those very low numbers. The distortion in the real world happens during transients like percusion hits and the attack phase of some loud notes. All music has a very wide dynamic range. It's the peaks that distort. Those 1% THD numbers tell you an average. S you transiser amp adds "transistor noise" and the tube amp adds "tube noise". It is a matter of which kind of noise sounds best.

Back to this amp. It might be great. But it's new and has zero reputation. Also it is build with tubes that are not well known. With tube amps, all the magic happens inside the tube and the exact make and brand of tube does matter. Also you can buy a tube amp of this quality for 1/2 the price. I read the web site and I notice all the marketing talk is aimed at peole who don't know audio. They are not wrong but have made statements without backing them up as if they were fact and leave out important details and specs. It may be a great product, well designed an all but their marketing is not aimed at people who would know audio.

With a Mac you don't need digital input because the Mac' analog is quite good. I doubt this internal D/A converter is beter. On a PC, Yes many times the internal audio is very poor.

A good introduction to tube amps is to buy a Dynaco ST35 for about $350. Then you will have a standard design tube amp with a 50 year old history that is well known. Just plug your iPod or Airport express into that. Save you money for speakers.

The rule of thumb with audio is to spend about as much money on each speaker a you spent on the amp. Basically you need to spend about $1000 on speakers before upgrading the amp to tubes makes sense.

Last edited by ChrisA; Jul 17, 2009 at 11:05 AM.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 03:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ChrisA View Post
...snip...
Even though my statement seemed uninformed, I am aware of what you are saying here. Thing is, though, that I find it to make more sense going for a high end solid state system, built to distort and compress as little as possible, as opposed to a tube system, which will inherently introduce quite a bit of coloration. After all, most quality audio material is recorded, produced, mixed and mastered to sound good on systems that are as flat as possible (which is also to make it sound usable on a wide range of systems).

I will admit that I was being quite inaccurate, my comment was more coined on the idea of "i-pod" tube systems and the like of consumer grade listening systems.

Bottom line would be, anyways, that whatever sounds good to you is good. I just find it kind of amusing how some people seem to think that their tube systems, made to bring tube characteristics into the mix, is going to be "cleaner" and truer to the recording, whilst the recording is actually made and processed to sound good as is (i.e on a flat system).

Meh. :-)

Loving tubes for recording equipment, though.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 04:52 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ChrisA View Post
...
Bottom line is that tube amps:

A. Distort more.

B. Have very little to no damping, and thus very poor control over the driver(s).

The output of a tube amplifier will always be vastly different than the source material because that is the entire point of tube amplifiers. That's what gives them the "warmer" sound. A good class A or AB solid state amp on the other hand, will always produce a signal much closer to the original source input, and do so with much more control over the load.

Tubes belong on the other side of the process, in instruments and instrument amplifiers.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 04:54 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by ChrisA View Post
...
Bottom line is that tube amps:

A. Distort more.

B. Have very little to no damping, and thus very poor control over the driver(s), causing more distortion as the drivers flail about.

The output of a tube amplifier will always be vastly different than the source material because that is the entire point of tube amplifiers. That's what gives them the "warmer" sound. A good class A or AB solid state amp on the other hand, will always produce a signal much closer to the original source input, and do so with much more control over the load.
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Old Jul 17, 2009, 05:33 PM   #15
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I know what real, live music being played in the living room sounds like as I hear it in the living room daily. (Even it it is just a pentatonic scale played up and down 50 times). It sounds nothing like a recording being played on my stereo. The artists that are recorded are 100 times better players but there is absolutely zero chance I could mistake a live person and the stereo. I can hear the difference even from another room in the house. I suspect this would still be true even if I could afford a better stereo.

I've given up on the entire concept that a stereo is even intended to reproduce music "as if the musicians were here". No. it's for playing records. Most recorded music was never heard live, even if it was a recording of a live concert. It was made with a dozen mics and mixed down to two tracks. No human has a dozen ears and could never hear music like it is recorded. recorded music is like a movie soundtrack. It is sound that never occurred in real life. Nothing wrong with this - it sounds better than it would otherwise.

But once you get past the idea that stereo is intended to sound "real" then it does not mater if your system colors it.

You are right about records being mixed to sound good on typical systems. I've read stories about Neil Young burnning a CD (or before a tape) so he could go out in the parking lot and listen to his own music inside his pickup truck in the parking lot. He figured that is where it had to sound good. I'm sure he is not the only recording artist to do this.
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Old Jul 18, 2009, 03:37 AM   #16
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meh, audiophiles. I had the bug, then realized it was all crap. Sure, there's a little extra "sheen" to the sound, but what matters more is the music itself.

Especially now, with discussion boards singling out the good and bad HT systems, there's a really early point of diminishing returns. You can find very very good speakers in the $400/pr. range and up, and solid amplifier/receivers for $200+.

In fact, you'll probably get an even better sound by buying bass traps and stacking them around the corners of your listening room. Are you prepared to do all that for pristine sound? Personally I'll take the 95%, and save the $5k.
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Old Jul 27, 2009, 03:08 PM   #17
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meh, audiophiles. I had the bug, then realized it was all crap. Sure, there's a little extra "sheen" to the sound, but what matters more is the music itself.

Especially now, with discussion boards singling out the good and bad HT systems, there's a really early point of diminishing returns. You can find very very good speakers in the $400/pr. range and up, and solid amplifier/receivers for $200+.

In fact, you'll probably get an even better sound by buying bass traps and stacking them around the corners of your listening room. Are you prepared to do all that for pristine sound? Personally I'll take the 95%, and save the $5k.
I'm not sure that the audiophile bug is crap. Sure, dropping thousands of dollars on a power cord or interconnects is absolutely insane and even if I could afford to do so, I wouldn't. But spending a bit more than the normal consumer gear does get you a noticable improvement in sound. You are dead on about the law of diminishing returns though.
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Old Jul 27, 2009, 03:37 PM   #18
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I definitely agree with you. There's such a big difference between faithful reproduction and actually replicating the experience of live music. A great microphone, preamp, flawless recording, and perfect playback system, still is completely different than being there. I think so much of it has to do with room resonances, which are just not captured/reproduced well by stereo equipment, regardless of price.

This reminds me of Alvin Lucier's "I am sitting in a room". He recorded himself speaking, then played back the tape while re-recording it, and repeated that like 7 or 8 times (all in the same room). By the end, all you hear are the resonant frequencies of the room, the speech is completely unrecognizable.
http://www.ubu.com/sound/lucier.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisA View Post
I know what real, live music being played in the living room sounds like as I hear it in the living room daily. (Even it it is just a pentatonic scale played up and down 50 times). It sounds nothing like a recording being played on my stereo. The artists that are recorded are 100 times better players but there is absolutely zero chance I could mistake a live person and the stereo. I can hear the difference even from another room in the house. I suspect this would still be true even if I could afford a better stereo.

I've given up on the entire concept that a stereo is even intended to reproduce music "as if the musicians were here". No. it's for playing records. Most recorded music was never heard live, even if it was a recording of a live concert. It was made with a dozen mics and mixed down to two tracks. No human has a dozen ears and could never hear music like it is recorded. recorded music is like a movie soundtrack. It is sound that never occurred in real life. Nothing wrong with this - it sounds better than it would otherwise.

But once you get past the idea that stereo is intended to sound "real" then it does not mater if your system colors it.

You are right about records being mixed to sound good on typical systems. I've read stories about Neil Young burnning a CD (or before a tape) so he could go out in the parking lot and listen to his own music inside his pickup truck in the parking lot. He figured that is where it had to sound good. I'm sure he is not the only recording artist to do this.
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 12:29 AM   #19
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T-2 Tube amp

I decide to break down and buy the T-2 Tube amplifier. I have it hooked up to my MacBook and play my songs from iTunes and I have to say it sounds great. I have some old jazz from Gene Ammons and compared it to my albums and to be honest the digital sounds better now that it is going through tubes. I don't know if tubes is great technology or what but it just makes the music sound better. My next test is to hook up the amp to Airport Express and stream my music through wifi throughout my house.
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 08:41 AM   #20
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wait a minuite; a lovely expensive tube amp with low bitrate mp3's?

I hope you've got some well encoded music or the whole thing is pointless..
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 11:43 AM   #21
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I'm not sure that the audiophile bug is crap. Sure, dropping thousands of dollars on a power cord or interconnects is absolutely insane and even if I could afford to do so, I wouldn't. But spending a bit more than the normal consumer gear does get you a noticable improvement in sound. You are dead on about the law of diminishing returns though.
Those $600 a foot, pure gold core cables definitely sound better than your coat hangers!
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 01:28 PM   #22
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I decide to break down and buy the T-2 Tube amplifier. I have it hooked up to my MacBook and play my songs from iTunes and I have to say it sounds great. I have some old jazz from Gene Ammons and compared it to my albums and to be honest the digital sounds better now that it is going through tubes. I don't know if tubes is great technology or what but it just makes the music sound better. My next test is to hook up the amp to Airport Express and stream my music through wifi throughout my house.
Okay, now try listening to your albums through your tube amp...
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Old Jul 28, 2009, 11:29 PM   #23
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gkarris, you took the words right out of my mouth. I hooked up my Rega P2 turntable to the neuhaus T-2 amp with a Rega phono pre amp and the music is awesome. i then compared the same songs from vinyl to high bit rate digital and to be honest they both sounded great. I was expecting the vinyl to sound good but what surprised me was the quality of the digital stuff. Sure is a lot easier playing 1,000 songs off iTunes and controlling it with my iphone remote than changing albums every 5-6 songs.
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Old Jul 29, 2009, 12:05 PM   #24
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Agreed. I would focus on getting room treatment, quality convertors, and some good powered monitors.
i think we've agreed on this before brother Joesph. +1
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Old Jul 30, 2009, 02:07 AM   #25
lord patton
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Diminishing returns: definitely.

$2000 on a system: good.
$5000 on a system: better
$25,000 on a system: not much better

The biggest problem with "audiophilia" is the toll it takes on your time and attention. Are you listening to music as much as you are auditioning gear?

I've railed on these boards a couple of times about a certain audiophile I know who has a $100,000 system and writes articles for various audio mags on the side. He spends zero time listening to music, but know the language and can talk like he knows something important.

Here's the funny thing, back in the day this unnamed person listened to a wonderful variety of music. The Pixies, Metallica, U2, Faith No More, Dylan, Digital Underground, Tribe Called Quest, The Allman Brothers.

Then I went to his place a year or so ago. To audition the system, he presented me with a carrying case of his finest SACDs. What was it? Getz and Gilberto, Ella and Louis, Kind of Blue, etc.

Now that's fine music, but it's not *his* music. You know what it is? The canonized, standarized, agreed-upon reference discs that rich white dudes use to convince themselves they're smart enough to notice the difference in the equipment they were special enough to buy. He wasn't using it as music, he was using it as test equipment. Sad.

Sorry, I don't know if anyone cared about that rant.

As for the tube amp, how would you know if you don't try? It might sound better, a phrase whose only real meaning can be, "you enjoy it more that way."
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