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Lookinh for a cheap introduction into tube amps...

Discussion in 'Tube Audio' started by o_rod, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. o_rod

    o_rod Active Member

    Messages:
    106
    Hey gents,

    Never ventured into this area of audiokarma, but I have always been interested in trying a tube amp.

    Price has always been the issue for me but I've started searching for old 50's am/fm radios that used tube amps. One in particular struck me as quite interesting that's local, it has dual speakers and is in working condition. It's an RCA victor RF8 unit.

    Is it possible to strip these types of radios and use the amp as a stand alone amp for other sources? I'd like to use it with my PC and DAC.

    Any info on this type of project would be appreciated, wanted to use search but not 100% sure what to search for...
     
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  2. AdamAnt316

    AdamAnt316 Collector of heavy things Subscriber

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    Most tabletop tube radios, and at least some consoles, had the amplifier integrated with the rest of the chassis (so basically a 'receiver' setup). Many of the larger tubed hi-fi consoles by Magnavox, Voice of Music, RCA, etc. had the amplifier as a separate chassis, but again, this wasn't always the case. Maybe a receiver chassis could be adapted to be a stand-alone amplifier, but it's probably not the sort of thing a beginner ought to do, and I think it's a waste of time and equipment. I'd rather that stuff be kept together, if possible.
    -Adam
     
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  3. grillebilly

    grillebilly Empty Head Subscriber

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  4. GSS61

    GSS61 Super Member

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    An inexpensive way to check out the tube sound is to get a tube preamp/buffer and run your DAC output through it and into your current setup. Most people can tell a difference right away, and in many cases really like it.

    Tube amplifiers for powering loudspeakers can get pricey pretty quickly, so starting out with a lower cost tube preamp is a great way to see if you like the "tube" sound.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  5. Farmhand

    Farmhand Super Member

    Messages:
    1,288
    Location:
    Maine
    I picked up a console for twenty bucks, bartered for some repair work and built a wooden base for the amp section from scrap wood. That's a pretty cheap intro!
     
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  6. FlaCharlie

    FlaCharlie Well-Known Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Gainesville, FL
    First, you really need to specify what you mean by cheap. Give us a price range, otherwise you'll get recommendations for gear that costs $1000 or more. If that's cheap to you, fine, but I suspect your budget is much lower since you mention AM-FM radios.

    Second, forget about the radios. They typically operate directly off the AC line voltage and have no power transformer. That means the chassis is hot (carries wall voltage). These are really dangerous if they are removed from their cases, which are designed to keep you from touching the metal chassis. Also, most of them don't have auxiliary inputs for your sources.

    Assuming you mean really cheap . . . Just as Farmhand suggested, look for an old console stereo and pull the amp from it. It will need to be restored but if you only have $20 - $30 invested in the amp your total cost will be very low. There are lots of threads on here about how to rebuild them and plenty of people who will offer you advice if you choose to DIY. Even if you have to pay someone to restore it, it will be relatively cheap.

    You'll also get suggestions to buy one of the cheap Chinese offerings. Here's a recent thread that discusses that route: http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/in...wing-entry-level-affordable-tube-amps.816007/
     
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  7. o_rod

    o_rod Active Member

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    106
    Awesome, thanks for the reading material, I'll scratch that idea and go hunting for a console. I'm very DIY oriented so I like this idea...
     
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  8. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
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    You won't be disappointed. I was in the same place 2 yrs ago. Was going to jump all over the sub $300 Chi-Fi but after much research ended up with a console pull Magnavox.
     
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  9. Eric n Kc

    Eric n Kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,655
    Hey
    You might try getting a subscription here. $25.00
    You'll see complete consoles, fresh amp pulls, partially rebuilt amps, or plug and play amps.
    Just my .02. Eric
     
  10. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    563
    The vintage units and "console pulls" seem to be very high quality and for the right hobbyists provide great answers to the tube question. I'm not technically skilled and a bit afraid of transformers and the like, and am also a hobbyist looking for value (read cheap). I bought a Chi-Fi tube amp a couple months ago to test the entry level. I have a Gemtune X-1 (EL34 power tubes) in a home office driving Klipsch R-15Ms and love it. The doubters of Chi-Fi make valid points but I've been happy using this unit and really do that tube audio sounds different, and to my ear, better.

    The low power tube thing leads to all sorts of cool aspects of the hobby, including vintage speakers/drivers, open baffle speakers, full-range drivers, and technical stuff that I thought I'd never delve into. It's amazing to me that you can drive LARGE speakers to ear-splitting levels with very low power amplification, and am really enjoying learning about this side of the audio hobby.

    All FWIW...
     
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  11. o_rod

    o_rod Active Member

    Messages:
    106
    What sparked my interest in tube amps was a bit of a fluke. I did a job for AC DC's amp technician who manufactures his own brand of amps, wizard. After mentioning my vintage audio hobby, he showed me his shop and building process of these tube amplifiers that range from a few watts to multiple hundreds. Even though he was on the music production side and not reproduction, he gave me a demo and it was heavenly! I was looking for something new to spark some new enthusiasm and this was definitely it!
     
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  12. Dandy

    Dandy Super Member

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    Many here will recognise that moment. SS is not bad, and has its uses, but for most of us there is no going back. Welcome to your new home. ;)
     
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  13. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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  14. lordgarth

    lordgarth AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
    slightly west of trump
    Magnavox 196 - single ended
    Packard Bell DPA-30 - push pull

    2 great choices
     
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  15. drtool

    drtool It might get loud In Houston Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,199
    Location:
    Houston Texas
    If I had to live with only my 196 for the rest of my life. After all the SS I had. That would not be a problem. I am running La Scallas tho.104 dB Good luck SAM_0642.JPG
     
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  16. Eric n Kc

    Eric n Kc AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    20170928_124038.jpg
    Hey
    I couldn't resist. Gordon W. Went through it. Top to bottom. One of my best power amps. Speakers=Great Plains Audio 604's . Eric
     
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  17. winters860

    winters860 Super Member

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    I've been threatening for, like, a year to buy the JBH Tube single-ended EL34B amp.

    I have no experience with it, but it's available under $300 shipped if you look around, and all the construction details look to be a level or two above the popular Gemtune/Nobsound amps.

    JBH Tube.jpg
     
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  18. DavidTT

    DavidTT AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    563
    That's a nice looking amp for sure.


     

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