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Tube integrated or tube separates?

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jjptkd

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:29 am

Tube integrated or tube separates?

I've been kicking around the idea, for quite some time now, of trying out a tube amp on my Klipsch speakers. Is there any advantage to having separates or are integrated units just as good? It would seem that better deals can be had with integrated models but that also leads me to believe that they might be inferior, much like solid state receivers vs preamp / amplifier combos or is it totally different with tubes? I missed my chance at a few weeks old Onix SP-3 integrated (kicking myself now) rated at 38 watts per channel with an extra $90 set of tubes for $700. I'm just curious how something like that would compare to one of the Carverfest or Bob's "baby cherry" 20 watt tube amp? Any input would be appreciated, thanks!
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treitz3

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:13 am

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

In my experience, it's a hit or miss with either and both can sound absolutely wonderful. It depends on a lot of different factors. I have heard some really good integrated tube amps that sound just as good as separates and vise-versa. Of course, this depends on the tubes used, the load carried and the volume levels one normally listens at, along with compatibility with other components in the chain. Please allow me to list some pros and cons of each, sound aside.

Some of the pros with regards to the integrated are with just plain keeping it simple. You lose those extra component(s) within the chain. One less pair of IC's to worry about as well, keeping the signal in a more pure [unaltered] state. Less of a chance for interference from things surrounding the unit, such as EMI because you have one less power cord and 1 less pair of IC's to deal with. More rack space. Less isolation costs because you only have to isolate 1 unit from vibrations, which is extremely important when it comes to microphonics.

Some of the drawbacks are customizing the sound to your liking. You are kinda limited to modding that unit or rolling tubes. The only other way to help shape the reproduction to your liking is the swapping out of the PC, SC or the IC's from the source(s). If you aren't anal or too picky with your reproduction and you just want to sit back and enjoy the music, then this should not be of any concern. You can do wonders to an integrated by just the rolling of the tubes, both input and power. Another drawback, at least to me, is that you are limited in what integrated units that come with a remote. I know it's not a big deal for some but for me a volume control from the listening position is vital. So, if a remote control is something you feel you must have, your choices are limited with regards to choices of the tubed integrated units offered to you. Another drawback is the amount of inputs and outputs, many integrated units don't offer you as many so be sure to check for compatibility before you purchase. If you do decide that you want a phono-pre and the current integrated you have doesn't have an input? With separates, you just replace the pre, not the entire integrated. This becomes important when you have stockpiled a selection of tubes for your integrated but the new integrated uses different tubes. Lastly, if the unit breaks down for any reason? You have no sound.

Some of the pros with regards to the separates are a fully customizable sound. You have no limits with what you can do with said system. Everything is swappable, upgradeable and if you ever do decide to go with an SS amp, you have that option. Basically, you aren't limited whatsoever. If something breaks or stops working, most of the time, you can just slap in something that's in a closet or from the garage rig [for instance] to at least get sound back until you can get whatever is damaged repaired.

But, it comes with a price. More components and more PC's, IC's can raise the noise floor and possibly introduce more interference. You have to spend more on the isolation of two or more units, instead of just one. Loss of one more shelf. Typically, separates run at a higher overall cost than an integrated.
In search of accurate reproduction of music. Real sound is my reference and while perfection may not be attainable? If I chase it, I might just catch excellence.

The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to a good analogue reproduction.

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jjptkd

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:29 am

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

Thanks Treitz! I've been doing a lot of reading this morning on said subject and it seems that this is another heavily debated issue, you bring up some good points though. It looks like it would end up costing about the same for me either way as I've pretty much concluded that I'd want an external DAC if I went with an integrated where as I wouldn't need one if I used my Decco as a preamplifier for a separate tube amp.
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F1nut

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:12 pm

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

much like solid state receivers vs preamp / amplifier combos or is it totally different with tubes?


Don't confuse integrated amps with receivers, they are not even close.

It looks like it would end up costing about the same for me either way as I've pretty much concluded that I'd want an external DAC if I went with an integrated


Integrated amps do not have DAC's and neither do pre amps. I think you are confused as to what is what.
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angelod307

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:12 pm

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

and ofcourse remember that it only takes one tube in the chain to get into that tube sound. this message was bobfather approved,carverfest 2010.
CarverFest: I just go for the arts and crafts
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PDR

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:22 pm

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

The other thing you might want to look at if your going to try out one or the other is the way they are
put together. I have a integrated that I like and listened to for a few yrs, I was happy with it.
I just bought another that is point to point wired, uses better parts and components, it is by far a better amp......and it cost 40% less than my first.
It was designed locally up here in Canada, and there were only a few...60....made.
Just took a lot of looking....and it turned up in my own back yard.
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F1nut

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:40 pm

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

angelod307 wrote:and ofcourse remember that it only takes one tube in the chain to get into that tube sound. this message was bobfather approved,carverfest 2010.


I can't agree with that, too many variables.
Political Correctness...defined

A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.



In a recent press conference, President Obama remarked, "If I had a city, it would look just like Detroit."
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Chauss

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:51 pm

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

angelod307 wrote:and ofcourse remember that it only takes one tube in the chain to get into that tube sound. this message was bobfather approved,carverfest 2010.


I don't know about that....took me 16 tubes just for amplification and another 4 for pre amplification- 20 total tubes gives me "that tube sound" :D
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treitz3

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:55 pm

4 tubes gave me that tube sound. Dodd ELP.......... 'nuff said.
In search of accurate reproduction of music. Real sound is my reference and while perfection may not be attainable? If I chase it, I might just catch excellence.

The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to a good analogue reproduction.

Robert R. - "Did you see my North Korea analogy? I should have named it Carversite.kim"
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Chauss

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:01 pm

Re:

treitz3 wrote:4 tubes gave me that tube sound. Dodd ELP.......... 'nuff said.


DAMN.....guess I should have talked to you before buying all my tube gear... :oops:
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Good sound—like good music, good wine and good fellowship—is meant to be shared.
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Snoop65

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Post Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:21 pm

Re: Re:

Chauss wrote:
treitz3 wrote:4 tubes gave me that tube sound. Dodd ELP.......... 'nuff said.


DAMN.....guess I should have talked to you before buying all my tube gear... :oops:


With your VTL and Conrad-Johnson? I think you're ok. \:D/ \:D/ \:D/
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angelod307

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Post Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:20 am

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

i was hooked with my sonic frontier as it was compared next to the ct27 at that time. now knowing that it was not a prime pre from bob. now that was my first carver pre to my two 55's ,35 and 15. well the sonic frontier blew it away. one tube. as i was talking about it , the one tube, that was what bob stated, and i agreed. now just because it may take more tubes for some over others, well, to each his own and how much is just right. i know many that have that same issue apply in other area's of life.
CarverFest: I just go for the arts and crafts
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angelod307

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Post Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:25 am

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

i will be the first to say though that the jolida with the tubes rolled, with the sonic pre hooked up to the carver tube amp really wowwed me more than i would have thought possible. and as i think about it bob may have stated that one tube gives a high percentage of what we are after in tubes. not quoting him, like one tube gives you 85-90-95% of what we love about them. so yes, there are more variables one must consider.
CarverFest: I just go for the arts and crafts
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tinpan

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Post Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:50 am

Re: Tube integrated or tube separates?

Is there any advantage to having separates or are integrated units just as good?


Ha ha, what a question. I can give you my thoughts, they will be different from others, but they may help you sort through some of this.

Before I got into tube amps, you would have never convinced me to spend more than $500 on an amp. I grew up on my Phase Linear amp and Lascala speakers. Then I got my TFM 15cbs and CF-3 speakers. Carver amps and Klipsch speakers, what could possibly be better.

My first foray into tube amps was the Bottle Heads. To be honest with you, they looked cool as hell, but the sound was very disappointing. I hooked these up to my Hereseys and they sounded like mud. So I bought some Cain & Cain Abbeys and they sounded better. Better interconnects and voila better sound.

Notice, I have yet to break the $500 barrier on amps. I like high effinciency ( damn I can't spell this morning).

What changed my mind was when my buddy, Matt, took me to Deja Vu Audio in McLean VA. There I listened to Audio Note, Synthesis, Deja Vu and a few other amps and speaker combos. I got to listen to EL 84, 2A3 and 300b tube amps.

I really like the Ongaku amp Vu had, unfortunately I didn't have the $125,000 he wanted for that amp. lol.

The next amp I liked was the Meishu. It was a 300b tube integrated amp. It was also $ 7,000. As much as I liked the sound, I still couldn't justify spending that much on an amp. Although, I still think about getting one. The next amp I liked was the Synthesis 2A3 mono block amp, it was $5,000. I could justify that. So I started saving my money.

In the mean time I saw a Sophia Electric baby amp that was recommended to me and I bought that. It was a big improvement over the Bottleheads and it sounded great on my KG4 speakers. Finally I was hearing that sound I was looking for and liked. Plus, it gave me something to play with while I was focused on my bigger goal.

About a year later I found out a local, now new buddy Digital Pete, was building Audio Kit amps. We talked about all of the Audio Note Kit amps and it became apparent to me I wanted the Interstage Mono Blocks, with a separate preamp and phono stage. This was exactly what I wanted but it was in the $ 8 k range.

What I decided to do was to have Pete build me an Audio Note Kit 1, it's an integrated amp, with all of the signature upgrades to see if I liked the sound before I committed to a big dollar build

Image
Here is the underside of the amp. I used AN Copper Foil caps, Black Gate caps and Tantelum resistors. Those upgrades added $600 to the price of the amps bringing the cost to just under $3K. As you can see an integrated amp doesn't mean it has to be cheap. I used it as an opportunity to see if I liked the sound before i spent more money building something I may not necessarily like. It is also very complex, you are adding all of the function of a preamp in the same chassis as an amp. I know Pete bitched about building this, but the sound was extraordinary.

Being a fan of high efficiency speakers like Klipsch, you may want to explore SET amps over push pull. I would highly encourage you to find a local source to go and listen to some set ups before you buy something.

As you can see, I did end up breaking the $500 threshold for an amp. I'm not spending money just to spend money, there is a reason. And ..uh... yes the Interstage Mono Blocks are worth the extra money, but that is another conversation for another day.

=; Incidently, I also look to see where my money ends up. I hate buying things where my money ends up in China. With Audio Notes, the chassis, circuit boards and transformers are manufactured in Canada. The chips and other electronics come from England and the product is assembled in the USA. Very little of this money ends up in China, which means I am supporting local jobs. I buy New Balance shoes and Texas Jeans for that same reason.
Tinpan

HT - Sunfire TG IV, Sunfire Cinema Grand Sig. 400 x 5, Oppo 93, Klipsch LaScala (3), Cornwalls (2), SW-12, Sony 60" LCD

2 channel - AN L2 Pre-amp, AN Interstage Mono Blocks 300b PSE, AN 2.1 DAC, Oppo DV-981HD, Lowther PM4a/Azurahorn/SentryIV

2 channel - AN L3 Signature Line stage, AN Interstage Mono Blocks 300b PSE, AN Sig. DAC 3.1 , AN Sig. Phono Stage, Sota Comet TT, Altec A5's

2 channel - empty, Klipschorns

2 channel - Audio Note Kit 1 300b SET, Audio Note DAC 2.1, Altec A4's

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