Been playing with valve amps

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi and General Audio' started by Dev, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    As some of you may know, I recently borrowed Bottleneck's Basie preamp with a view to buying it. For a number of reasons I did not buy it, but after returning it I felt my system had lost something in detail, life, whatever. Now Chris doesn't want to sell, but this has only made me look at other options, specially after getting some very good pointers from Chris and Dean (SCIDB). They've both convinced me that for around a thousand pounds there are great amps to be had:) (especially second hand).

    I've arranged to demo 3-4 valve amps. A couple of WAD (6550 and 300Bs), Sideshowbob's Leak ST20 (because I liked it at my bake-off last year) and Rogue Audio Tempest from the Emporium.

    The first one is the WAD 6550. I only played a couple of tracks and was hooked. My other pair of ears (my daughter:)) told me that she heard new notes on familiar tracks. Treble is just great. I always thought smooth treble equated to laid back sound. Today I learnt just how wrong I was.

    Then the downside:(. The bass is lumpy. There doesn't seem to be the level of control that XA/200s have. This is exactly what Nick from the Emporium predicted. His advice was to keep the XA/200s for bass duties but replace the XA/2 with a good valve. To match the gain he suggested using a valve pre with 2 pre outs and a pot to adjust the output. I'm not keen on so many boxes.

    So at the moment I have a 6550 to listen to with much, much better mid and highs but lumpy bass. I'm now unsure on whether or not to demo the 300B from WAD. I expect this will have even better sound but it's even lower powered than the 6550, so will struggle at high volumes. The Tannoys need some serious juice:). The next one on the list is the Rogue Tempest.

    What I really want is Merlin's Mac, it seems to have enough juice to drive my Tannoys but he just won't give it to me:).

    Any other advice guys?
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  2. Dev

    penance Arrogant Cock

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    Dev,
    Remember the WAd 6550 can be highly modded, Annex may be able to help there.
     
    penance, Jun 21, 2005
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  3. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    Modded? but, it's a kit!!! Oh, actually that makes it easier:). Details please Anex. Although I'm not sure I have the patience for modding.
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  4. Dev

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Were you running the WAD 6550 as an integrated amp, or as a power amp?

    I dont get on with the passive pre's they use in WAD integrateds. They are really just power amps with an alps pot and a selector. Ive had better sounds from the power amps with a different pre (according to my taste of course)

    The Rogue will be interesting because it has an active preamp stage. I havent heard it and its by another manufacturer but the specifications look decent. Its also 6550 and 90w p/ch so it should make an interesting comparison.

    You'll be able to hear and see what you think.

    You can get great value from cattylink and audiogon. Ive just bought from Audiogon, but of course things can get busted when they travel so far, and theres a voltage conversion to be done (he says feeling a little sick as he types it)

    Another good place is audiophilecandy's classifieds. Theres a few things on there I nearly bought.

    Personally I think you're doing exactly the right thing by borowing loads of stuff to see what you like.

    I think also theres a valve amp out there somewhere that you'll like enough not to feel the need to bi-amp, but where is it? :D

    Keeping the xa200s and a valve power and a valve pre does look like an expensive way of doing things.

    Good luck

    chris
     
    bottleneck, Jun 21, 2005
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  5. Dev

    Lt Cdr Data om

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    suggest you change speakers then if you are going valve and they don't like them, by and large with few exceptions, valve bass is different to transistor amp, plummier, perhaps deeper, more overhang, slower but tuneful.
     
    Lt Cdr Data, Jun 21, 2005
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  6. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    NEVER!, just need a proper amp:)
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  7. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    Int.

    According to Nick, it doesn't, it has an attenuator, just like the WAD:). (which, I must admit, is an excellent amp for the money, passive pre notwithstanding:)). Also the Rogue only has about half the output you're quoting. Having said that Nick has said there are other amps on the Emporium which might be more fitting (just like you and Dean suggested). Ah, almost forgot, the Rogue can be run purely as a power, it has inputs for an external pre.
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  8. Dev

    NRG

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    As LCD stated. You won't get the same bass from a valve amp. vs SS.
     
    NRG, Jun 21, 2005
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  9. Dev

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Hi!

    I got the power rating from here

    http://www.rogueaudio.com/Products_Tempest.htm

    Perhaps Im wrong?

    Looks like a decent one to try all the same.

    Nicks always got good stuff in. Its slightly dearer than the classifieds, but you can try it out which is invaluable, and youve got some come-back if it goes wrong etc..

    I bet he will reccomend these:

    AUDIO INNOVATIONS 2nd Audio MONOBLOCKS, BOXED 1000

    He reccomended them to me, saying they'd be tweaked to the hilt with posh bits.

    You'd need a pre.
     
    bottleneck, Jun 21, 2005
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  10. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    Yes I agree with you and LCD but only up to a point. There are some very powerful valve amps around, I just can't afford them:).

    Chris,

    Those specs are for the latest with KT88s, the one on Emporium site is 2 years old and has different valves. I'll double check though.

    Yes, Nick did recommend the AI amps, but I'm trying to reduce the box count. Also these are massive!!!
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  11. Dev

    blakeaudio

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    dev, you have a pm.
     
    blakeaudio, Jun 21, 2005
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  12. Dev

    NRG

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    Power is not the problem. Lower current delivery, higher damping factor and the use of O/P TX's all conspire against it. Is the WAD OPTX switchable to 4 Ohm? If so that may help drive a little.
     
    NRG, Jun 21, 2005
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  13. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    No, this particular one is their demo amp and is 8 Ohm only, but the standard WADs have taps for 4 and 8 I believe.
     
    Dev, Jun 21, 2005
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  14. Dev

    Anex Thermionic

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    Yes, the 6550 is a gem, you won't believe where you can get to with it, you won't miss SS bass at all if you decide to go with it. You could mod any valve amp if you wanted to though, its just the WAD is very easy to do as its designed to go together easily.
    Stuff to do would be change the coupling, zobel and feedback caps, I REALLY like the Mundorf silvers, if you want music they do it in spades but you don't loose too much elsewhere (and what you do you won't miss), some nice ECF input tubes, rebuild the bridge rectifier (circuit is on WAD forum, its easy), replace the PSU caps with black gates, change signal resistors to vishays, get a panasonic pot in in shunt with some more vishays (not as complicated as it sounds), KT88s instead of 6550, silver wire the inside. Off the top of my head. I'm sure theres a few other bits and pieces too. Its all easy to do, probably about £300 of bits but theres no need to do it all together, do it in the order I listed, you should have fun finding out what does what and what bits you like best etc. You don't need any knowledge to do any of it really, its just paint by numbers but if you get stuck the WAD forum is really useful for getting help.

    EDIT: I've not seen any WADs with different optx taps unless they've changed them recently? AFAIK you get 8ohm as standard but you can have 4 if you spec when ordering
     
    Anex, Jun 21, 2005
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  15. Dev

    SCIDB Moderator

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    SCIDB, Jun 21, 2005
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  16. Dev

    SCIDB Moderator

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    Hi Dev,

    The bass performance on a number of valve amps will be different. One option is to change speakers but it is worth trying to get an amp to suit your current speakers.

    The WAD 6550 can be tweaked as Anex has mentioned.

    Which WAD 300B are you going to try? I have heard the WAD 300B single ended monoblocks at Chris's house. They had good drive and control. There is also a push pull version which is worth trying as these may give you the bass control you like with your speakers. The downside is that will need a pre amp with these amps.

    There is a new and cheaper 300B amp from WAD but I doubt it will be better than the monoblocks.

    A 300B amp done well can give you the sound you want. When we had a bake off at Chris's a couple years ago with loads of valve amps. The Best performers were my Border Patrol and the Wad 300B monos. These drove the speakers very well.

    It is worth trying the 300B amp because you tried Sideshowbob's and that isn't a very powerful amp on paper.

    It will be interesting to see how you get on with these other amps.

    SCIDB
     
    SCIDB, Jun 22, 2005
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  17. Dev

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Dean its the 300B push pull - so Im sure you're right it should have plenty of power.

    Im struggling to think of anything else thats 20w+ thats worth a stab for £1,000.

    Those audio innovations monoblocks would be great Im sure, but no pre.

    I think I would do what I have done in the end, and buy from Audiogon. The strong pound and weak dollar works in our favour right now.

    Its up to you though Dev.

    I agree that valve bass sounds different, and you just get used to it. I think when you go back to SS bass after having lived with valves, it just doesnt sound quite right anymore. Thats my experience, but its not the same for everyone.

    I was also wondering about a solution for you like Julians - his SPT monoblocks are 100w per channel. Youve got valves driving class A mosfet power.

    The bass is like solid state, but the mid band is quite valvey. Its not a valve amp but you get some of the characteristics. If you're not sold on valves by the end of all this it might be a great bet.
     
    bottleneck, Jun 22, 2005
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  18. Dev

    Dev Moderator

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    I understand the standard is 4 Ohms but 8 Ohm can be specified at the time of the order, but you are right, there are no selectable taps.
     
    Dev, Jun 22, 2005
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  19. Dev

    jonjin

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    Just out of curiosity what was demoed? I can't believe I missed a bake-off in the traditional sense with valves! :D

    JJ
     
    jonjin, Jun 22, 2005
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  20. Dev

    SCIDB Moderator

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    SCIDB, Jun 22, 2005
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