Solid State and Tube Listener Challenge

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by sheltie dave, Feb 20, 2010.

  1. Thunderchief

    Thunderchief New Member

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    Back in the 90's I participated in a blind listening comparison between McIntosh MC-275 (75 Watts/ch Tube) and MC-2100 (105 Watts/ch Transistor) amps using a Dynaco tube pre-amp and AR-3a speakers. None of the participants with Golden Ears could tell the difference. Both amps offered fantastic sound.
     
  2. sheltie dave

    sheltie dave Addicted Member

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    Thunderchief, none of the Golden Ears could hear the difference because of the use of AR3s as speakers. It is well neigh impossible to discern differences when you use speakers that cannot complete a bass kick drum in six periods. Might as well rub a coat of vaseline on any discerning speakers, in order to replicate the bloated, pregnant overhang of bass notes the AR3 puts out...

    There is a reason to use a pair of speakers that are efficient, have extended frequency response, can do dynamic scale well, and are accurate. If you don't have all of these attributes, you are foisting a skewed testing process with known bias that only serves to muddy the waters.
     
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  3. Thunderchief

    Thunderchief New Member

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    sheltie dave, my please note my comment was based on the AR-3a NOT the AR-3. None the less you have spoke unkindly about the described test . Why not be more positive in your remarks and offer your views on speakers that you do recommend based on your actual listening experience?

    For instance, if I could have afforded better sounding speakers at the time, and had the space for them, I would have used Bozak Concert Grands for the test. I was fortunate to have heard the combination of the Concert Grands and MC-275 at an audio show in NYC many years ago. I have never heard higher quality music reproduction since then.
     
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  4. sheltie dave

    sheltie dave Addicted Member

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    Thunderchief, speakers are just like optics and computer guidance systems on a jet fighter or bomber. The ability for the jet to function well pivot entirely off these two platforms. Given that pilots are superb across the board, if everything else is up to snuff, but not the guidance/optics, you can forget about a good run. I saw the same thing serving on a sub...if the final filter in a chain is not tightly calibrated, then everything falls apart.

    The same thing holds true with AR3s and AR3As, which i merely abbreviated out of convenience to AR3s. Their resolution is rather poor in this day and age, a quality noted in vigorous fashion by our beloved Zilch, and also by Peter B.( http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?showtopic=5322&page=1 ) when he did a workup and prep for his Stereophile review of them a few years back. If you want me to be positive about my remarks, I would say it is positively unfair to subject people to a listening test when you use a speaker that muddies the waters and has a pronounced rolloff, both of which the AR3 and AR3A exhibit. They also have pronounced cabinet issues and crossover/attenuator issues, and their fan club will then savage you when they bring out chants of unfairness because of the age and declination of their drivers. Zilch was fond of pointing out AR never widely published frequency response charts of their speaker in operation, only the individual drivers. Hmmm, what's up with that. He thought it was obvious.

    I don't wish to go down that rabbit hole, as Zilch did, because he ended up getting banned from the classic human speaker site for presenting in vigorous scientific fashion what was going on with the AR3/3A speakers. He was stoned figuratively and summarily escorted off the site for publishing the measured truth. Please don't start doing the same here - they are fun speakers and do great for many people - but they do not do critical listening tests in any adequate scientific fashion, because they are limited.

    Feel free to read all of this thread, and you will glean the speakers used. I'm not trying to sell or push anything we have listened to; they all were merely part of the process. I also have not hidden anything - the events were totally open to anyone on AK who chose to attend and RSVPed. The local and regional people that came all heard what went down, on music they wanted to hear, and I don't think anyone left grinding an axe like we see from a number of folks(at times) here. Maybe the axes would be present if we set out to declare winners and losers, but we never sought to go there.

    There are any number of well thought out and partly/fully realized speaker systems that can do most/all of the attributes I cited in Post #122. Multiple people have posted about the speakers in play for our listening sessions that spawned this thread, and they do suffice/excel for meeting these attributes. The purpose of this thread is not to generate speaker recommendations, establish the veracity of blind or double blind testing, or the superiority of any one amp or type of amp(s) or topology - it is to establish whether the average listener can readily distinguish differences when we can change out one component in a system of high enough quality. Since amps are the favorite battleground, that was the first(and primary) cohort we tested. The answer was a resounding YES!, there are differences.

    We have gone further, and conducted like testing among preamps, cd players, and turntables to a small extent, and have proved to our own satisfaction that there are differences in all the signal chain components, ONCE THE CHAIN IS OF SUFFICIENT QUALITY.

    We are not a stereo store, nor do we have unlimited funds to buy and demo all kinds of exotics. We also don't have a 5,000 sqft house, so we deal with a large but modest group of gear that has had their days as A or B rated status with the audio rags, set up in a plastered midcentury house. This allows us to represent what we hear as similar to many of the AKers here - a modest, space limited dwelling is still capable of supporting a very good to near excellent audio listening environment with known limitations. If we hear differences here, you can as well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2015
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  5. Thunderchief

    Thunderchief New Member

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    sheltie dave - Thank you for your input and discussion. I had purchased my AR-3a Speakers new back in the 70's and as you can tell from my posts I am very pleased with them. So much so that I re-built the crossovers and controls earlier this year with good results which I had mentioned in a different discussion on this website. I will add a link here and hope that you will listen to and enjoy the result. The speakers are being driven by a Mac 4100 100 W/c Receiver. I offer this in with good intention and camaraderie.
     
  6. sheltie dave

    sheltie dave Addicted Member

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    Thunderchief, thanks for taking my comments in the right fashion. I was not trying to disparage you or your well loved AR3As, and I am very happy you have had the chance to own and treasure them all these years. We all deserve the chance to enjoy a system so richly rewarding. If you have the opportunity, you should try to make one of our next sessions, and we can even put our set of AR3s into play for you!
     
  7. gregswaim

    gregswaim Neutral Organic Sound

    Great idea! I have 2 systems: 1 SS for analog, and 1 tubed for digital. Everyone will hear things a bit differently so there's no right or wrong here. The A/B comparisons should be interesting and fun. :)

    -Greg
     
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  8. datafone

    datafone Super Member

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    The Mac MC-2100 uses transformers on the output, don't they?
     
  9. Northwinds

    Northwinds Huh? Turn what down? Subscriber

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    Dynamics is the tell all with tube vs SS. When you feel the deep rolling thunder of a tom tom roll or the crash of a cymbal that makes you blink like your standing next to the kit, therein is the difference. Both types have their positives which is why they are still around in this age of digital everything. Long live analog
     
  10. audiomagnate

    audiomagnate AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yes
     
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  11. twiiii

    twiiii Super Member

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    See how the most common speaker sensitivity today is around 90 db and a point source type speaker, why not se one of them? And show folks what happens when you try to power a speaker with inadequate capabilities. Thats like testing tires on a Porsche when the majority drives SUV's. Come on guys get a grip on things. And lets face it Klipschorn is a terrible speaker for imaging with its time shifted drivers. If you want a true speaker that's efficient for the test, you need to find a pair Tannoy's with the big 15 inch Coaxes or a pair of UREI 813's that can produce a square wave using Altec or JBL Coaxes. .
     
  12. sheltie dave

    sheltie dave Addicted Member

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    Twiiii, I have a better idea. Why don't you do it? Then you can draw up your paradigms, establish your testing guides, and entertain about twenty folks at your house. I find it strange that you want to change things around, and throw in confounding testing, six years after this event happened. You still can make it over though, as we have informal listening sessions every month, and formal events around once a quarter.

    I have already addressed the driver, crossover, and time delay issues with my KHorns, and most everyone that visits enjoys them thoroughly. We also have the Altec 604s with the Markwart xovers, and Thiel 3.6s, so we don't worry too much about not having time and phase aligned speakers at either end of the spectrum.

    Our main goal was to see if most folks could discern the differences between various amps using the Porsche, and we found out that not all amps sound the same. We actually found it it was quite easy to tell the difference between seven widely divergent amps without a great deal of effort, when working with gear of sufficient resolution.
     
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  13. Aaron Hayman

    Aaron Hayman New Member

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    I'm not really the audiophile that most of you on here are, but I'm a serious music collector and have a very good ear for the subtitles of sound. Years ago a friend of mine who's really handy got into rebuilding tube amps (instrument amps as well as stereo gear) kept going on about the superiority of tube audio. I of course knew that stuff sounds great for guitar amps where some distortion is the goal, but hi fi...? I figured that the greater noise as compared with solid state would be annoying. He did a test though at my place running one channel of the audio (from an LP) through the Luxman receiver I had (admittedly not the very best in solid state, but not bad) and the other channel though a Dynaco tube amp that he restored (from the 60s, I believe). We equalized the volume of each source and did an A/B comparison and to my surprise (I really didn't know!) the tube easily won out. It didn't just sound better but had a much different character. It was as if even that single channel was stereo as there was so much depth. I felt that it allowed me to hear more of the ambience of the room the instruments were recorded in (or at least more of the ambience that the recording engineer was trying to suggest).

    Tubes really do have a special character, I'm convinced. That being said, I never picked up a tube amp for my stereo because I always found other things to spend money on; the Marantz 2270 receiver was a major upgrade over the Luxman I had and I don't really love the idea of high maintenance equipment. I don't want to be replacing tubes every few years and don't won't to worry about turning off the stereo the second whatever I have playing is finished. This is the same reason that I'll never buy a turntable that doesn't have automatic shutoff. I don't mind cuing up an LP, but no matter how great the turntable sounds, I don't want to run to pull the needle off of the record as soon as the side is finished playing...
     
  14. michaelhigh

    michaelhigh mind's eye music

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    Why wasn't I invited? I would've brought the guacamole! (hehe)

    That was before I knew you, Dave, I believe. I say we do a double blind test to see who recognizes the difference between redbook and high def.

    Or cables! Or a discussion of digital versus analog! Or horns versus cones!

    We could stretch it out over a week!
     
  15. michaelhigh

    michaelhigh mind's eye music

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    Oh yeah, last time I was at Dave's we listened to tube amps that were really magical, compared to what I'd been enjoying at home (Sansui 8080db and Klipschorns). I had reservations about his speakers till he explained that his son had reconnected them wrong awhile back. When that problem was rectified, I heard sound unlike any I'd heard at Dave's in years, including expensive gear on loan especially shipped in for our events.

    A simple Sony ES CD player, Klipsch towers, good cables, and good music added up to a great experience.

    And I had some orange sody too! Yeah!
     
  16. Vincentz

    Vincentz Marantz Maniac

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    Wow! I can't believe that I haven't seen this thread before now.
    Big fan of all audio gear, especially tubes with horns! :music:
    Thanks for your post and opinions dave sheltie!! I recognize and respect the work that can go into putting something like this together. Even though in the end, I'm sure it is fun, informative and you met a lot of great friends with the same cool interests. What a geat read through. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
  17. MSchott

    MSchott New Member

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    Interesting conversation. There are so many variables and tastes that there will never be a consensus. A few months ago I switched from an Adcom preamp and Denon 200W SS power amp to a Jolida JD502B tube integrated. Went from 200 to 60 watts. Warmth is a term used to be describe the tube sound and I would agree. There's more distortion which for lack of my ability to express this in technical terms sounds more realistic IMO. Also, at louder volumes the sound is far less strident on the Jolida than the Denon.

    It's good to note that at the time I made the switch I was using Snell Type EIII speakers but now have Paradigm Studio 100's. Neither use horns of course.
     
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  18. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Here is a blind test with some industry heavyweights as the listeners with a bunch of pricey SS amps versus an old $100 Radford tube amp. There is a reason tubes have not only stuck around but are seemingly dominant in the upper levels of the audiophile spectrum.

    The good news is that most SS sounds the same in blind tests once you get to a certain price level. Say a Rotel pre/pro for $3k. It's doubtful most will be able to tell that apart from most any other SS at many multiples of that price unless the speakers are truly shockingly low impedance. Indeed, the differences even when they are there never seem to me to be worth the many multiples of the price they're asking. The exception is SE solid state and pure class A SS which for me tend to sound better.

    Anyway, this was an interesting blind session http://www.stereophile.com/reference/70/#jGljFr6GJJpGR8Sj.97
     
  19. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse Active Member

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    I would like to attach some modern speakers to my vintage Electrohome 1962 Montega console SET tube receiver. But it only has female RCA outputs.
    Are there adapters to screw onto speaker wire, like banana plugs, except RCAs? I can't find any on teh internets. :dunno:
     
  20. sheltie dave

    sheltie dave Addicted Member

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    Dr, all rca plugs have a + and a - tab or connector, that you need to solder the speaker wire to. Easy peasy. Or, you can dive into the amp, clip the two terminals off the rca outputs, and do the same on the inside of the amp. Or you can get the wire capscrews, and do it that way inside the amp.

    RGA, on the modded Klipschorns, Altec Model 19s, and Fulton Js, there is a very large difference in sound between the Bryston 3BST, Mark Levinson #29, Krell, and Monarchy Audio SM70 Pro that we have listened to in demos. I believe Nelson Pass has pretty much proved, without doubt, that different topologies and parts sourcing can dramatically change the sound, even with solid state, via his DIY offerings. It is all about having a system with enough (twitchy) resolution that you can clearly see and hear the differences.

    If you drop down vis a vis the resolution, you can still have just as much fun listening to the music, but you won't be living in the land of high audiophile nirvana, where you can immediately hear any change in your system.

    The older some of us get here in St. Louis, the more inclined we are to get away from the fringes of ultra fi audiophile twitchiness; working back into systems that are just fun to play and listen to the music. That said, there definitely are systems that will tell you whenever you make a change, whether it is liable to be tube or SS, and whether it is to your liking and a good or bad change. The key to understanding this is having a palette of sound colors at hand, so you can hear firsthand, and in real time, and in short order, that indeed there are differences.
     
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