of the Triode Guild
Anything worthwhile is worth eating, is an obvious truism about life, and, Music, Dont Just Listen To it, Eat It, is The Triode Guilds new slogan. Our passions are our nourishment, have been, always will be. Feeding our bodies is cool, but if we dont feed our souls we die of spiritual malnutrition or become a twisted evil violent animal. Music is food for the soul and the quality of food we eat is important, because WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Eat junk food or music, and our soul turns to junk. Eat quality food and music and our soul will fly...but you know these truths to be self evident.
Does that mean that we are cannibals at heart? Yes, humans were cannibals for most of our existence, and we stopped eating each other about 25,000 years ago, probably because human flesh causes really wicked flatulence. Of course the thing that shocked the Spanish Conquistadors, when they swooped down over Mexico in the 16th century, was how widespread Aztec cannibalism was, with hundreds of thousands of humans ritually slaughtered and eaten every year.
has also infiltrated the language of love, because what is the highest
expression of love....." Sweetheart, would you like me to eat you?"
Forgive this intrusion into your puritanical soul, but humans have always
connected the nourishment of their body with the nourishment of their
soul...so.... Music Dont Just Listen To It, Eat It...and
make sure you only eat the highest quality stuff possible.
IT NATURALLY FOLLOWS
So it naturally follows that we educate ourselves about the difference between junk and healthy food so we can make the right choices, and be healthy and happy dogs. In the same way, thirty years ago, few Americans had diet consciousness, today, few Americans have an understanding that the quality of the music they are consuming is very un-nourishing because of the audio electronics they are using. It was as shocking thirty years ago to claim that a fried food, steak and potato diet were lethal, as it is for me to claim today that your music diet is a junk food diet because of the audio equipment you use....forward march and discover why those who know the real gourmet taste of music; why those who demand the highest quality music nourishment are flocking to tube electronics.
In 1984, and with great anxiety I published my first book, UNDERSTANDING TUBE ELECTRONICS, A Study in Natural Harmonics Audio, as a way for my company, New York Audio Laboratories, to communicate about its products and my passion about music and audio design. In 1984 most believed that there was no future for tube electronics and should I change the name of my book to Understanding Obsolete Audio. This book was written without the aid of a PC, because they didnt exist back then, and sold for $6.99. I was amazed that over ten thousands books were sold, telling me just how horny musicmaniacs were for information about tube circuits. (Who has the last laugh now?)
I soon realized that this book was much too technical, and most couldnt understand the articles devoted to how tube circuits work, but it became a classic, My view of the audio arts hasnt changed much in twenty years.
This, the new Understanding Tube Electronics II, has the benefit of another sixteen years of this pilgrims exploration of the perimeter of the audio arts. I like the idea of this book being FREE which is made possible by the single most dynamic force in the current audio revolution, the Internet, which has caused a massive political and artistic shift in all aspects of the music business. We, the musicmaniacs of the world, not the audio magazines, and not the retailers, and not even the audio companies, are using cyberspace to create the expansion of music imagination.
Not long ago audio magazines were the only authority on audio gear. According to the orthodoxy, only the audio critics of these magazines had the skill to advise us on what was state of the art, ( I am now one of those authorities, though a rebellious one). This was the time when an audio review could make or break a company, and I can remember the trembling as I waited for reviews to come out on New York Audio Labs products...thank God in Her Mercy, we always got great reviews, and they are reprinted for you on our web site. But all of that is changed now because power has shifted from the few to the many, and you are the many.
(PAUSE: As far as I know I am the only audio reviewer/critic/keeper of the bro ha ha, that was a manufacturer of audio gear. This means I have been on both sides of the equation, and that gives me a unique perspective on the audio arts)
Today we see gifted amateur audio artisans shredding the perimeter of the audio arts, and....this is the most important...there is a diversity of opinion about the audio arts being transmitted over the Internet that most never knew existed, and we are discovering this creatively in every nook and cranny of the world. Each of us can access thousands of web sites all over the world, discover cool stuff in chat rooms, check out lots audio webzines, and most importantly WE THE MUSICMANIACS of the world can share our experiences and help our bros, as they help us. We have literally organized ourselves into audio tribes, with each tribe dedicated to a unique audio passion, and that is a good thing.
So. before I explain why there is a tube audio revolution going down all over the world, first lets explore why it is so important to have the highest quality music diet of pleasure.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: THIS SECTION IS MY STANDARD PREACHING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSICAL ECSTASY , AND IF YOU ARE ALREADY A MUSICMANIAC YOU CAN PROCEED TO THE NEXT SECTION. IF NOT GET DOWN WITH THIS ANCIENT WISDOM.
WHY IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT THE AUDIO ARTS
I love writing about motorcycles, cigars, cars, guns, safes, and concrete bricks, because it is so easy to write about what is concrete. This is the kind of stuff we can go over to and kick, or measure. We can walk around it and photograph it. I can hold a cigar in my hand, and roll it between my fingers. I can sit on my motorcycle. I can measure how accurate my rifle is, and I can even compete against other men and figure out my score. There are no winning scores or measurement in art, because illusions and ecstasy only exist in our soul.
Damn the audio arts. How do you hold music in your hand or roll it around in your fingers? Can you taste it, or touch it? Can you jump on its back and ride it around, or measure it, or compete with it? The very nature of this sports is playing with something that has no material existence, because it only exists in our imagination, and it is this fact that explains the power of music...because it has no physical form, it is only about imagination, and mysterious dimensions of being. But, and this is the biggest butt you have ever experienced...if YOU have imagination, there is no limit to your experience of musical ecstasy.
Which brings me to the hot paradox of audio gear: measuring audio gear or looking at it can not reveal its true nature, i.e. its ability to affect your imagination, and transport us into deep states of ecstasy. No one can really teach us to be open to the mysterious dimension of life, which I call ecstasy because...For Those Who Dont Know, No Explanation Is Possible, And For Those Who Know, No Explanation Is Necessary: if music is not a passion, and you are not prepared to surrender to its force, it is now time to turn on your TV, or go bowling.
I have been writing about tube audio technology for over twenty years and that means I have been attempting to make the connection between machines and the most profound and "non verbal" aspect of our humanity, which I call musical ecstasy (as opposed to the ecstasy of a football game). Here is a quote to help you understand my dilemma at expressing the inexpressible:
"Writing about music--about what it is, and what it means---is akin to describing the act of love. Somehow, the reduction of the experience to an unblushingly detailed exposition of how, where, when, and why, and who does what to whom, from prelude to resolution, loses everything in translation.....
To achieve good and accurate writing about music is as rare an accomplishment as expert wine-tasting, lion taming, diamond-cutting, truffle-finding and deer tracking. Only the intuitive, the pure, the sensual, and the intrepid need apply".
THE ART OF BEING A MAN
Not too long along we were tree dwelling shit-hurling apes, who decided to get down...get down out of trees and onto the ground, and this may have been the biggest mistake our species ever made...but there is no turning back now. No one knows why cave men, long before they learned how to speak or think, figured out how to make rhythmic symbolic sounds, and musical instruments, but the evidence is clear. We were making music long before we learned how to speak, and this means we created the music brain long before we created the speaking/thinking brain, and this progression of development of the brain must never be forgotten: music first, thought/language second.
I have been a rebel since I jumped out of my crib, and because of that have been at odds with most, most of the time, about the meaning of machines in mens lives. Most look at a car and see a big hunk of steel. Most look at a baseball glove and see of construction of leather. Most look at a motorcycle and see death about to happen. Most look at a Winchester rifle and see only the steel and wood. Most look at audio equipment and see black boxes with lots of knobs that need to be hidden out of sight. Most people are blind and deaf.
The reason I proudly wear the moniker, Gizmo, is because since I was a small boy, it was obvious, that things can be endowed with spirit by their creators and because of this endowment these things can a profound effect on our lives. A gizmo is a thing that is endowed with spirit. This is because there is an art to being a man, and this process of making beautiful things began almost 40,000 years ago when cave men first started to create art on cave walls, for one very good reason...it enhanced our ability to survive. Art is essential form of male nourishment...as it is for women, except most women are not sensitive or emotional enough to appreciate the beauty of a V-8 motor or a tube amplifier....but I have faith that this will change soon.
We are not that far from those shit-hurling tree dwelling apes and each of us has a responsibility to make our lives into a work of art, or we tend to act like our ancestors. My specialty is the art that men create to give their lives meaning, and that means my job is to convince you to engage yourself in a process that is often at odds with modern American culture, that simply doesnt have the time or inclination to look at you as a unique work of art. This process is too messy, emotional, complex, filled with paradoxes, and cant be condensed into a sound bite...and it is very difficult to squeeze a human being into a nice neat tight labeled box.
The path I am asking you to explore treats you as a very high IQ man, who is complex, capable of embracing paradox, searching for his own truth, and.... courageous enough to endure the pain of ascension. You are a work of art.
This is not the strategy that the audio industry follows because they are terrified of upsetting you with the truth about these audio gizmos. This is also not a common strategy in a culture that only cares about you as an economic unit and as a consumer. So why do I pick this strategy? It has worked for me for the last 20 years, and I am one of you, and we are all members of an expanding tribes of hundreds of thousands of men, all over the world, who are now sharing our search for musical ecstasy, and connected in cyberspace.
Yet, we are, and each man is, faced with the nitty gritty reality of life that the only meaning it will ever have is the meaning we create, and that means we must make our lives into a work of art, and all art is a paradox. This is where you may want to jump ship, because, if you are looking for a Guru to tell you what to do, or what exactly what type of audio gear to buy, you will be grandly disappointed by me. The only thing I want to accomplish, and lets get clear about what my intention is....MUSIC, JUST DONT LISTEN TO IT, EAT IT. I want you to take the best pleasure in the world much more seriously, because nothing is more serious than musical pleasure.
The audio arts is an absolutely essential tool for male survival because only it gives us the ability to maximize and intensify our musical creativity in our home....which is all about of making our homes a PLEASURE PALACE ( Honey, will you take out the garbage?) No other machines can provide so many different forms of emotional, spiritual and physical pleasure, that no language can possibly describe.
But unlike others in the audio field, I offer you no simple solutions to how you should achieve the highest possible pleasure. On the other hand, I feel no embarrassment in telling you that I want you to get as high as possible on music. I want you to get out of being "normal" and experience completely "non-normal" realms of musical ecstasy. I literally want you to have multi-music orgasms in your living room every night. You are a unique work of art, and that means you must struggle to express this truth, because that is the challenge facing every man, and if you love three headed bald women with tattoos...or 1950s accordion polkas....thats cool.
Fortunately for us all, there is tube electronics, which is the most glorious technological paradox of the age of the transistors and absolutely the best transportation into higher dimension of musical pleasure. Tube electronics new popularity is directly related to more men wanting more intense multi-dimensional pleasure in music, and nothing is more spiritual than that.
NOT BIG MACS
So let me get to the point, and cut the mustard very quickly. I believe that the quality of 99.99999% of Americans music life is extremely low because their music systems are fast food 99 cent hamburgers. I believe there is a growing, percentage of the population that is truly passionate about music, but dont have a clue that the major limitation of their pleasure is the kind of audio equipment they have in their home, which is all transistor gear produced by a Japanese megacorps. This equipment was never designed to create high quality music pleasure, in spite of the marketing claims.
If you are completely happy with this lower level of pleasure there is no need to continue to read the rest of this exciting and sometimes upsetting book. If you are happy with a bottle of $1.20 New Jersey Burgundy, it makes no sense to explore the pleasure of fine French wines. On the other hand if music is a central modality of your well being, then continue, because what follows is an exploration that will jogulate your gray matter, seem like a very extreme view of audio technology, but will soon open the possibility of heretofore unimagined dimensions of musical pleasure.
I am talking about boundary dissolution...the Journey to the Nth Dimension of Music Hyper Space™....I am talking about a psychedelic music experience without any drugs or artificial stimulants. I am talking about the most common musical experience...ecstasy. And you will soon discover my view that the reason America is having a drug crisis and consuming billions of dollars of illegal drugs is because this is the only thing that will make mediocre sound systems sound any good...
Am I mad? Let me assure you that by spending some time surfing the web you will quickly discover that I am not, you are not, we are not alone, in our search for the highest musical high possible, and if you are on that path, sooner or later you will encounter tube electronics.
All of the topics cover in this book are also covered in great detail on the Triode Guild web site.
ARE YOU A GIFTED LISTENER?
We are not all created equal in terms of our aptitudes, thank God in Her infinite wisdom. And it is often the case that this is very confusing when it comes to evaluating of our musical gifts. Some of us are born with dynamic performance gifts and we will be compelled to play an instrument or compose...and we will have no choice...whether we do it for fun or as a profession doesnt matter...it is compelling. Other will work in recording studios, and dedicate themselves to the process of encoding music. Others will become audio artists who are dedicated to the process of decoding music, but by far the largest group of the musically gifted is the group of gifted listeners, like you. These are the people who passionately care about music quality....and now let me pause because when it comes to passion, it is important to be cool.
Now I will use, my often used quote by Aaron Copland about the gift and art of listening.....
"Listening is a talent, and like any other talent or gift, we possess it in varying degrees. I have found among music-lovers a marked tendency to underestimate and mistrust this talent, rather than to overestimate it. The reasons for these feelings of inferiority are difficult to determine. Since there is no reliable way of measuring the gift of listening, there is no reliable way of reassuring those misjudge themselves......The gifted listener.... without theories and without preconceived notion of what music ought to be, he lends himself as a sentient human being to the power of music. What often surprises me is the basically primal nature of this relationship. From self-observation and from observing audience reaction I would be inclined to say that we all listen on an elementary plane of musical consciousness. I was startled to find this curious phrase in Santayana concerning music: "the most abstract of arts," he remarks, "serves the dumbest emotions." Yes, I like this idea that we respond to music from a primal and almost brutish level- dumbly, as it were, for on that level we are firmly grounded....That is fundamentally the way we all hear music-gifted and ungifted alike-and all the analytical, historical, textural material on or about the music heard, interesting though it may be, cannot---and I venture to say should not---alter that fundamental relationship."
This is an important message from Aaron, and I ask you to spend time thinking about it. I also suggest you read the article MUSICAL TABOOS on the Triode Guild web site.
THE WHOLEY MUSIC DUDE:
YOU ARE THE WARRIOR/ARTIST/EXPLORER
Lets cut to the chase: life is short and then we die, and depending on how we lived our lives, we come back in a new form, and if you dont want to come back as a solider in the Siberian Army, you had better live a righteous life. That says it all. In spite of the fact that I have lived ten previous lives, and am now 234 years old, the fact for all is that life is a mystery and a very short one at that. There is simply not enough time to take it all in. It should be obvious then the only proper attitudes towards this fact of life is: live it to the max, and that means tremble in the tremendum of creation, shake, rate and roll in its mystery and get down as deep as you can possibly get into exploring the one ultimate mystery of life...your soul. Do we agree on this?
Now here comes my musical metaphor cunning: Check out your collection of CDs and records. Wow, what a fantastic collection of diverse music genres, styles and artists; each reflecting a facet of your multi-faceted personality. Your music collection, looked at from this point of view, is a music kaleidoscope of your soul; each facet is reflecting off of each other facet, creating a fantastically complicated harmonic pattern that is you. Isnt each music genres as equally valid as others? Arent the ballads as important as the hard rock or the country as valid, for you, as the jazz? That is the same for you, and all that I am asking you to do is see your complex truth in music.
The Wholey Man is the whole man who accepts ALL of the dimension of his being, from the darkest to the lightest, and this quote gives insight into why music is such an effective definer of our whole-osity...
" Mattheson was a major composer and friend of Handel, and he wrote in 1713 that everything could be portrayed in music: "Love, jealousy, hatred, gentleness, impatience, lust, indifference, fear, vengeance, fortitude, timidity, magnanimity, horror, dignity, baseness, splendor, indigence, pride, humility, joy, laughter, weeping, mirth, pain, happiness, despair, storm, tranquillity, even heaven and earth, sea and hell...together with all of the action in which men participate".
I want to suggest that the above is an accurate description of all of the emotions that every man experiences during the course of a week and, in our modern world, it is only in our music lives that these feelings are freely expressed. Our wholeliness is our ability to experience the whole range of our emotions and that is why the wholey man must create his own music world, because without it we are not fully what we really are.
You can paint, sculpt, create rose gardens, but chances are you have chosen music as your creative expression and are creating a sacred music space in your living room. You are, in the best tradition of the artist, taking the pains and trouble to carefully create exactly the mysterious world of music you need to dwell in. And you are doing that so you can be more of what you are...a charger in business, a dynamo on the football field, a doer of deals, a builder of bridges, a chopper of meat or wood. The most ancient wisdom about being an effective warrior is..... charge our batteries with heavy artistic current before going into battle. Why do warriors beat drums before and during the battle?
Music is much more than pleasure, it is our high octane fuel. It is the bullet proof armor to protect us from the violent assaults we must endure every day. It is the best way to thicken our skin between 9 and 5.
IT IS ALL RELATIVE...TO WHAT?
99% of the population in America doesnt know what 99% of the population knows in Japan, because most of you have never had the RELATIVE experience of hearing tube electronics and comparing their music making ability to the universal solid state sound that is in your living room, and Sony has no intention of turning you on to what is happening all over Japan. So the reality for America is...only one type of sound exists because Mr. Nice Guy has no first hand experience with the gourmet sound of tubes. For example: if you lived in a country that only had rice for food, and never tasted a nice thick juice sirloin steak, you would think rice was it.....was the ultimate flavor....but all that you need is just one small taste of steak and then your perspective on rice would radically change...BECAUSE INHERENTLY EXISTENCE IS A RELATIVE EXPERIENCE, which explains why my friend Lang goes to Havana once a year to smoke the finest Cuban cigars...so he can have a perspective on the cigars he buys at his local NYC humidor.
This "artistic relativity" also explain my long track record of insane research and development with totally radical "reference audio systems" (see Triodzilla on Triode Guild Web Site) because I am always searching for the ultimate reference point; a point from which I can judge the RELATIVE value of every circuit. None of these devices are ever meant for commercial production, are absolutely necessary to judge the value of commercial products. There can be no absolute valuation when it comes to art and engineering. And I am suggesting that this is the value of shredding the perimeter of the audio arts....of exploring the plus ultra of one of kind audio systems....it is the only way to delve deep into what is possible, and to fathom the limits of the art.....but most importantly it is the only way to judge the quality of what you are producing for the masses.
THE TOOLS OF MUSICAL ECSTASY
INTRODUCTION TO TUBE AUDIO
MUSIC TASTES BEST WITH TUBES.
To understand the renaissance of tube electronics all over the world, which is the most interesting paradoxes of the current music revolution, you must understand what is unique about tube circuitry and why they are superior to transistor/solid state electronics at reproducing music. The simplest explanation of why tubes are exploding in popularity is because humans, and especially music lovers, are horny hedonists...once they experience the heightened pleasure of music with tube electronics, they cant go back and then they start email their friends. More and more of us want peak music experiences; musical ecstasy, and no longer believe that the transistor Big Macs of audio equipment are gourmet feasts. In short, to understand tube electronics you have to understand the new generation of music connoisseurs who will settle for nothing but the best musical high. And nothing creates music with more emotional authenticity, harmonic juice and killer thrills than tubes. MUSIC TASTES BEST WITH TUBES,AND WHO CAN ARGUE WITH TASTE?
The supercharger of this expanded tube awareness are the music surfers on the Internet, which is literally breaking down the wall of ignorance that has been the foundation of the audio industry. For twenty years I have been a gadfly, a pariah, ranting that the strategy of treating the music loving public as low IQ consumers is a formula for disaster. Zipity, Do, Dah, along comes the Internet and music surfers are able to discover the truth, from their fellow music maniacs, and what is being discovered is that TUBES RULE....especially in Japan. A world wide community of tube maniacs now exists and it exists for only one reason...music passion coupled to intelligence always equals...listen to music with tube gear...especially in the age of digital audio.
My task now is to fill your head with information, but it is meaningless until you have the direct experience of listening to your favorite music with tube gear...so read on and fill your head...but only trust your ears.... the tube audio revolution is all about the primacy of profound music pleasure over marketing hype..especially all of that "perfect, distortionless" transistor gear.
Why are more musicmaniacs ...both consumers, professional musicians and recording engineers returning to the type of audio equipment that existed before the dark age of transistor audio came down in the early 1960s.?
1. EXPERIENCE IS A HIERARCHY/CONNOISSEURS LIKE THE TOPS: It doesnt matter the pursuit or the tribal longing, where ever we find communities or tribes, we always find the hierarchy of passion; from the tippy tippy top of the experiential hierarchy commanded by the most passionate, to the base which is populated by the most tepid. This is as true for motorcycles, fly fishing, cars, as it is for wine, cigars or music...you name it...if men are involved there is a hierarchy. For example, amongst the millions in the new generation of cigar smokers, a small percentage feel passionately about cigars, like my friend Lange, who will only smoke the finest, and that usually means he spends more in a day on cigars than I spend on food. Or, my friend Ted Tyne will only drive perfectly restored 1941 Indian motorcycles, and would sooner commit Hari Kari than drive a Honda. My audio bro, Abe Puchall, to maintain his spiritual balance must drive perfectly restored 1960s Mercedes Benzs, and is artistically insulted by modern jelly bean cars that have no soul. And a growing community of men all over the world feel passionately about the quality of music they experience, and because these music connoisseurs deeply care about the music quality that enters their ears, body and soul, they have no choice...they use tube electronics because they can not tolerate the taste of cheap spread.
As we meander down this road I will explore how the digital music revolution is a force majeur, a paradoxical engine, in the renaissance of tube equipment....but let me now give you just a clue....it is all about the dialectics of culture, like...Big Macs created the health food revolution. The most advanced, and musically dysfunctional form of audio technology, digital audio, is creating the renaissance of oldest form of audio circuits, tube gear.
TUBES ARE TECHNICALLY SUPERIOR TO TRANSISTORS FOR REPRODUCING MUSIC:. This is a subject that I will also go into much greater detail, and to convince you I have created an appendix of articles (Be sure to read Eric Barbour article which appeared in the IEEE Magazine) on this subject by some of the smartest people in the audio business, but let me now spend a nanosecond on this subject. For 99.9% of modern consumer electronic circuits, like dishwashers and food blenders, transistors, are superior to tubes, and they are cheaper than dirt. But for one purpose transistors are inferior, and that is the reproduction and processing of music. This is because there is an immutable law of physics when it comes to transistors that is diametrically opposed to the laws of music reproduction, and it is all about KING TONE. Music and music reproduction is all about tone...tone is the fundamental law of music, and transistors can never reproduce natural musical tone...which brings us to why there are NO SOLID STATE GUITAR AMPLIFIERS. Transistors always, because of their intrinsic electrical nature, create an unnatural tone, and nothing can alter this fact of electrical life, and because of that never in the course of audio history has any guitar player used a solid state amplifier.
The first Understanding Tube Electronics, is subtitled A Study in Natural Harmonics Audio, for a good reason, and this is the nitty gritty of tubes advantage...only tubes can reproduce the natural harmonics of real music. This was never planned, but happens to be one of those amazing electrical facts of life, and you can read more about in the Eric Barbour article. On the other hand all transistors add a bundle of odd order harmonics that never appear in music that gives music a glassy unnatural and constricted sound. For thirty years, and at a cost of billions of dollars, the electronics industry has tried to develop solid state devices that minimize this adverse affect, but have never been able to reach the goal of equaling tubes natural ability to get tone right.
Who are the people most sensitive to this issue? Another paradox: in the land of the transistor, Japan; the place where almost everyone works for companies that are manufacturing transistor equipment, TUBES RULE. Japan is the worlds center of tube audio gear, because Japanese musical lovers, are extremely sensitive to tonal quality. This is a country of enormous artistic sophistication, and this tribe of Samurai music connoisseurs often own five, or six different complete tube audio systems.
It is a source of enormous satisfaction that I see more and more advertisements for solid state amplifiers that scream...OUR TRANSISTOR AMP DOESNT SOUND LIKE A TRANSISTOR AMP. WAZOO!,...the music facts of life have finally caught up with them. Enough of the music loving public now knows that all transistor amps have a very unmusical coloration, and it is important to claim that "We Have Licked the Transistor Sound Problem"...A Rose will always be a Rose, and a transistor will always be a transistor.
Can you hear the difference between the tone of transistor gear and tube gear? Can you discern the difference between Wild Irish Rose and Chateau Mouton Rothchild? Does musical quality matter to you? Does the quality of your harmonic nourishment matter?
"LISTENING TO MUSIC WITH SOLID STATE AMPLIFIER IS EXACTLY LIKE MAKING LOVE WITH A "TRUCK STOP" RUBBER CONDOM": Because I always worry if I am effectively communicating I like to share the wisdom that has been bestowed upon me from the Triode Guild website...gifts from my musicmaniac bros from around the world. I wish I was the first to use this expression. I have to give credit to an Italian audiomaniac who emailed this brilliant insight. As you know Italian men are very very sensitive lovers and passionate about their music, and I think this insight hits the mark. If you have never compared the sound of a tube amplifier to a solid state amplifier dont fret, just make love to the person you love, with and without a condom, and you will immediately appreciate the vast difference..... even if you are not Italian or are tone deaf or consider yourself a gifted listener. What the modern tube electronics revolution is all about....is MORE PLEASURE. It is all about really getting into those tiny squiggley mysterious juicy musical crevices. Some people call this the ability to experience the soul of music, while others say music tastes better with tubes. Of course if you cant tell the difference, or if you are not artistically sensitive, spiritually undeveloped, or are just a plain good old fashioned American meat head, by all means, continue to enjoy your solid state gear, and make love with a truck stop condom.
THE FOUNDATION OF ROCK AND ROLL IS TUBE ELECTRONICS: While this is not really an explanation of why tubes sound better, it will help you understand why there is a new generation of tube audio lovers.
If you accept my argument that there would be no rock and roll without the electric guitar, and there would be no electric guitar without the tube amplifier, then you will have to accept that tubes are the artistic foundation of rock and roll. Let me slow down and get a little deeper into this subject. The sound of the electric guitar is the integration of the guitar and the harmonics, tone, dynamics and distortion of the tube amp; they are inseparable, in the same way the quality of wood is inseparable from the sound of a violin. Talk to any musician and he will confirm the unique quality of tube amplifiers because no matter what band he plays in, it has a tube amp. Now follow this....the universe of professional and amateur musicians in America, (all over the world) is expanding at the rate that the universe is expanding which means every year "tube consciousness" is expanding because musicians get the advantage of tube circuits.
The best thing that ever happened to tube gear is the expansion of the worlds community of musicians. Musicians are tubes best friend because they know the sound of real musical instruments; they live by their ears, and they can instantly recognize that only tubes can reproduce the natural harmonics of real music, while solid state devices add a glassy unnatural harmonic to the music.
Because musicians know the taste of the real thing, and everyone knows a musician or has a friend who is a musician more men are taking the tube taste test, and never going back to their Big Macs. And thank God for all the young American rock and rollers who are buying those "Made In China $269 Guitar Tube Amplifiers" who are growing up and are completely comfortable with the glorious gizmos that glow in the dark...no explanation necessary here.
TUBE CIRCUITS ARE SIMPLER AND THAT MATTERS A GREAT DEAL MUSICALLY: Let me give you an advanced education in audio engineering in less than one minute: think of a music signal passing through a piece of electronics as light passing through magnifying lenses...both are being amplified. When I use the expression LESS IS MORE (which I have for twenty years) when referring to audio circuit it is because when light passes through a lens it is distorted, and the more lenses it passes through the more it is distorted...fact of life. The less electrical devices a music signal passes through the better, and unfortunately transistors circuits must always be complicated with lots of parts, and lots of feedback to correct their inherent non-linearitieis. Just think of the major boast of an IC.."Hundreds of Transistors" in one chip. Some of my most favorite amplifiers only have five or six parts in the signal path as opposed to hundreds that are in all solid state amps. This also explains the great limitation of all digital audio. Without a doubt, digital audio circuits are the most complicated audio circuits ever created. Why are tubes circuits so simple? Tubes are inherently linear electrical devices, and all of the circuitry and parts that is needed to correct transistors inherently nonlinear operation and their musical flaws arent needed. I will discuss this latter, but tube connoisseurs have the benefit of being able to detect very minute differences in the tonal quality of different tubes, wire and circuits, because the circuits simplicity doesnt mask the subtle beauty of music.
TUBES ARE THE BEST WAY TO MAKE DIGITAL AUDIO SOUND EDIBLE: This is the juiciest paradox of the audio arts, but first let me jogulate your gray matter with what is happening in the professional recording studios, and now in the home recording studios of the world....TUBE MICROPHONES RULE, and for a good reason. Tube microphones have always been considered the ultimate type of microphones, with the classic tube microphones from the 1950s selling for up to $15,000 each. The pros in the industry know that digital recording may be very convenient, and may have much lower noise floors than analog, but the digital recording/audio is not an advancement in sound quality. Digital audio has a strange hard metallic sound that is completely unnatural in terms of tone, which is why we are about to get a new digital format, which claims to correct this problem. This makes voices sound very unnatural and robs the music of its organic tonal juice. Tube microphones to the rescue. It is a strangosity to assert that the most ancient electronic devices are necessary to save the most advanced electrical circuits from artistic disaster, but it is true. Use a conventional microphone and you get dismal results. This is exactly like needing to put a turbocharger, and 102 octane gas in an improperly designed motor to get it to work right...and that is exactly the nature of digital audio..it requires special handling to sound half-way decent and that means the best quality tube mics.
How popular have tube microphones become? With the explosion of home digital recording there are tube microphones now available under $400 so that Mr. Recording Studio in a closet with a computer , can imitate the big professional recording studios. Every year more and more tube microphones are coming on the market....but dont trust me, ask any friend of yours who is a musician.
And the same is especially true in your home. The best way to restore the nature flavor of music to digital audio is with a tube amplifier, and I have so much confidence in this paradox that all I ask of you is to try it. Borrow a tube amp that will work with your speakers and put this to the test. You will be amazed at how the aural matrix in your listening room because wider, deeper, more dynamic and how the music once again has that rich juicy taste you love.
TUBE COFFERS ARE FULL AGAIN: Thank you Mikhail Gorbachev: Tubes are once again plentiful. Not since the early 1950s have tubes been so plentiful...because of your demand....but also because of strange twist of the dialectics of history. Neither the Soviet Union nor China, who were preoccupied with the Communist revolution, never made it into the solid state revolution, and all during the Cold War Soviet Bloc tube factories were pumping out tubes for tube television, radio, all sorts of industrial and military equipment. As soon as Gorby ended the cold war, these tube factories wanted Western hard currency, so what did they do? American entrepreneurs rush to the now defunct Soviet Union and put down American moola to have our favorite tubes made, The liberated Communists, now capitalist pigs, respond to our demand for the gourmet music feast and convert their production over to manufacturing the kinds of tubes that you and I and every musician want. Today, the supply of tubes is so large that prices are dropping, while production is expanding. Want to buy a tube guitar amp for $269? No problem Mr. Teenage American who wants to grow up and be Keith Richards....China and Russia will help you realize your dream of becoming a rock star and screwing super models...the beauty of the American dream.
On the Triode Guild web site you can read my articles about the directly heated triode (DHT) tube revolution, which is all about the renaissance of manufacturing tubes that were originally made in the 1930s and are still used in radio transmitters. Most of these tubes were no longer being made in America, but their production continued in China and the Soviet Union. The revival of using these ancient DHT tubes began in Japan in the 1970s, and migrated back to America, where it is now big time today. Again this was made possible because the largest countries in the world, China and the Soviet Union, never made into the "modern solid state consumer electronic age". If you have any concern about running out of tubes I will gladly direct you to where you can buy three or four thousand of your favorites.
Heres a true tube tale about how our desire for having the best musical high can turn a company around: In the early 1980s the word circulating in the audio business was that soon tube gear would be completely obsolete because all tube manufacturing in America was ceasing, and no where else in the world tubes were being made...expect in the Evil Empire. That great American company, Western Electric, had just decided to stop making tubes. Extinction of the high quality stuff loomed. What happened to those who predicted doom, gloom and extinction of tubes? Our incessant demand for the high quality spread even forced Western Electric to reopen tube production four years ago!
TUBE GEAR DOESNT GET OBSOLETE: The other night I was talking to one of those tube dudes who eats tube gear and he was telling me that he was restoring these 50 year old tube amplifiers that were made by Altec Lansing, that originally sold for $150, and he had turned down an offer for $10,000. Why do Mc Intosh tube amplifier which sold new for $275 now sell for $12,000. Does that explain why Mc Intosh, after being out of the tube amplifier business for a decade went back into it?
What is the meaning of this? Unlike your computer or video games, when you buy a tube amplifier you neednt worry that next month a new model will appear that will obsolete your current objet damour.
It is also a source of great deal of pride that all of tube products that New York Audio Laboratories manufactured in the 1980s are almost impossible to find on the used market....music lovers buy them, and it is a marriage for life. Golly, Miss Molly, I created classics.
TUBE GEARS EXPANDED AURAL MATRIX: This is an extremely frustrating subject for solid state tribe, but it is well known by all, that tube amplifiers create a much wider, deeper aural matrix, or what you might call a sound stage. The music spreads out wider and deeper and is more three dimensional. No one knows why this is true, though engineering types like to suggest that it is the simplicity of tube circuits and their inherent linearity that yields this advantage. My experiments tend to confirm this: simpler circuits have a much wider, deeper aural matrix which is very sensual.
NEW TUBE DESIGNS: Not only are the classics being remanufactured but smart tube entrepreneurs all over the world are now inventing new tubes...or I should say, are modifying the classics to create new types of tubes. With better quality material available and computers this is the first time since the early 1950s that new tubes have appeared, and we can expect tube innovation to continue because we want to get higher and higher and higher, musically.
COMPUTER CIRCUIT MODELING: Today if you are going to design a tube circuit, you sit down at your computer and model the circuit with one of the many different tube circuit design programs that are available. This level of technical sophistication wasnt available to even the largest electronics company fifty years ago. What has been discovered? It appears that the masters got it pretty much right, but with computer analysis these great classic circuits can be refined.
In the same way the amateur "hot-rod" and "custom motorcycle" artisan supercharges the auto industry, and inspires innovation, the same is true for the thousands of amateur tube artisans who use their computers to design variations on classic circuits, which are appearing all over the web....and you see the them...and you want them...and that is a good thing.....because the hornier you are....the happier we are.
BEAUTY IS AN ART: The now eternal Japanese master of tube circuits, Nobu Shishido, gave me an interesting insight into why tube gear is enjoying a renaissance all over the world by commenting on his fellow Japanese audiomaniacs passion for beauty. Nobu said that tube gears was doubly powerful because not only did it create music magic, but it was physically beautiful: it was a unique form of sculpture that glowed. Japanese men love gazing at the beauty of tube gear. Nobu said that this was correct; that there should be an integration in art where the beholder, the beauty of music and the amplifier should merge. The last amplifiers Nobu created, before he ascended to Triode Heaven, the WAVAC amplifiers fully express this vision of integrated beauty ( see pictures at www.wavac.com).
Of course Nobu is right. Our community of music connoisseurs believes that a musical instrument is beautiful because it makes a beautiful sound, and because it is a beautiful object. Tube gear, unlike their solid counterparts, are works of art that enhance the experience of music because they have a special beauty related to the fact a tube is a hand made work of art. Their work is producing beautiful music and they are beautiful machines, in the same way a1941 Indian motorcycle or a 1960 Mercedes Benz is a beautiful machine whose work is beautified by their soul.
Do you get my drift? Machines can have soul, and tube gear is heavily endowed with soul and solid state stuff are just big metal boxes....and remember I am biased just like a tube amplifier.
TUBE GEAR IS HI-IQ AUDIO: Let me jogulate your audio metacontext again by returning to Japan, the country which has the largest population of music lovers who also have a sophisticated understanding of audio circuits because they work for companies that manufacturer transistor Big Macs for export. These men know there is no such thing as a perfect piece of audio gear, and that the type of distortion measurements used to describe audio equipment is a completely bogus marketing ploy, and that no one has ever, let me repeat this, no one has ever measured the quality of music signal produced by any piece of audio gear! (Check article on Triode Guild Web Site: Outing Audio Engineers) All of the marketing hype that is created to convince you that solid state stuff is technically superior has the intellectual integrity of perfume advertising,. My favorite taunt is: Explain why the man who is designing the new $169 Sony receiver, at the end of day goes home and listens to music with his 1960s American tube gear?
You might say that I am "outing" the audio industry who has kept this dirty little secret in a very tightly locked closet because the fundamental marketing premise of the audio business is DONT TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT HOW AUDIO CIRCUITS WORK...all audio technology is a paradox. This shouldnt surprise you because cigarette companies dont want you to know the truth about what their products contain, or fast food companies dont want you to know the contents of their products. And I am not suggesting that their is an evil conspiracy here, only that most audio equipment is sold to low IQ music dead heads, so low IQ marketing is appropriate. For those who care, knowing matters, and that is, again, why tube gear consciousness is expanding. Did you believe that textured polyester fabric was "feels better than silk, and.... you can throw into your washing machine"?
TUBE GEAR IS TUNEABLE: Lets look at the Concert Grand Steinway in the Ambient Sound recording studio. Obviously it is a state of the art instrument. It is the ultimate expression of the piano art. So why does the piano tuner spend two days tuning the Steinway to the particular taste of each pianist who uses it for their recording session? Why cant we tune it and forget it? Why do you love one kind of women and not another? Or why do you prefer the taste of one cigar over another? Why is the essential definition of our being our unique and subtle preferences in all aspects of our lives, and especially in all of the arts...and the music we love? Now we have another explanation of why tube gear is preferred by the musicmaniac...it is tuneable, just like the Steinway. Let me say this more precisely: you can make subtle changes in tonality of tube gear by simply changing brands of tubes, which anyone can do in minutes. For example, if you amplifier uses 6550 output tubes, you have a choice of five or six different brands of tubes and they all sound different, and by changing the brand (which takes about two minutes) you alter the tone of your entire music system, and you alter your experience of music. This is enormously cool, and it gives us a range of personal self-expression that is so important to any connoisseur...like changing the carburetors of your Harley-Davidson, or choosing among the ten different brands of Scotch whiskey, or deciding which cigar to smoke or which guitar among your collection to play. A subtle soul, like yours, requires exploration of subtly.
TUBE GEAR IS MORE RELIABLE: I often get e-mails like this, from what appears to be a great grandfather...."Hi, Dr. Gizmo, I just wanted you to know that I have been listening to the same tube amplifier for 30 years and I havent even changed the tubes once!"
There is a good reason why both the US military and Soviet military use tube gear. There is a good reason why radio stations still use tube gear. BUT LET ME HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH THIS CAVEAT: Dont use your Porsche for plowing fields, or it will need repairs every day. Tube amplifiers must be used with the right speakers. (Read SPEAKERMANIA section on Triode Guild web site) I am now once again confronting the LOW IQ mentality of the audio industry. Think about your amp and your speakers as lovers...they have to be well matched. One of the advantages of crudity of solid state amplifiers is that they can be connected to almost any speakers. That doesnt mean that they will sound any good, but they will keep on playing and playing; droning on in their dismal state of disharmonic discombobularity. On the other hand if you play your tube amp with the wrong speakers the output tubes, like your Porsche plowing fields, will prematurely age, and you will have to replace them very often, which you should not do, if you do right. Even though it takes about two minutes to replace tubes, you shouldnt have to do this more than once every three or four years of very hard use...if you use the right speakers.
If you use your Ferrari properly and if you change the oil regularly you will have years of outstanding performance. If you would rather not get involved drive your Dodge mini van.
Which brings me to the subject of service.... because snafus happen and nothing is ever perfect, which also may explain the resurgence of tube electronics. Because tube circuits are so simple any serviceman armed with a schematic of the circuit can fix it anywhere in the world, or in any village in the Amazon. When you look at transistor circuits you note just how complicated they are which means that they are more difficult to repair if anything goes wrong. A transistor circuit may also use some exotic integrated circuit that is difficult to obtain while tube circuit never contain anything more than common resistors or capacitors available in any mail order parts catalog like Mouser or Digi-Key.
Let me remind you that I am the man who manufactured the worlds most sophisticated and complex tube amplifier, the Futterman OTL-1, so I know.
Did you get the point.....use tube gear properly and you will have years of reliable pleasure...abuse it and you will be pissed.
TRUST ME, THERE IS NOTHING NEW IN AUDIO CIRCUITS: In a world of audio designers, who like all artists, have ego, this is very difficult to swallow, yet is true. Today the audio arts is all about interpreting the classics. The only truly new tube circuit created in the last twenty years was created by David Berning, which I describe on the Triode Guild web site. Sitting in my book shelf are literally Tube Circuit Encyclopedias that are printed in Japanese for Japanese audiomaniacs. These books contain hundreds of different tube circuit schematics from 1920-1955. Want to design a new tube amp? Just go into the books and pick a circuit. Let me suggest why this is a powerful good thing, and why " Revolutionary New Breakthrough in Circuit Design" isnt.
In a sense, all tube circuit have not only had eight decades of "test of time" but over this time a folklore has developed that has been passed from generation to generation by tube fanatics. So instead of having to start at the beginning, tube designers get the benefit of this collective wisdom...in exactly the same way that someone who is building a violin has the benefits of hundreds of years of tradition. This has been amplified by the Internet that gives every tube circuit designer instant access and feedback from other designers all over the world. As I mentioned previously every piece of audio gear has its own unique personality, is never neutral, never perfect, and years of refinement benefits each of us. On the other hand, invent a new type of solid state circuit and it must go through a refinement process that will take years, and that is the major problem that has facing all solid state designers...after forty years of working at it, they are almost getting their act together.
Are you ready for another one of those paradoxes: One of the most popular types of tube amplifier circuits today, and a trend that began in Japan twenty years ago, is the SINGLE-ENDED AMPLIFIER CIRCUIT, which was not only the most popular circuit for the first twenty years of the audio arts, it was the only type of amplifier circuit that existed before the more modern push/pull circuit began to become popular in the 1940s. Why are these ancient circuit so popular with the most sophisticated music lovers all over the world?.....Answer: When the music quality of these circuits are put to the ultimate test....listening...there is a consensus among a growing group of music connoisseurs that some of these ancient circuit are superior to the most modern. Does this make sense? Answer this question? Does it make sense that a 1937 Bugatti, a 1941 Indian Motorcycle, or a 1948 Ford Woody station wagon can define the high point of the art of vehicle design? Does it make any sense that a painting created in Italy in the 16th century can be considered the ultimate masterpiece? Is it possible that the audio arts are just like all of the other arts? Think about all of the music classics from the past! Dont try and make sense out of this, try to resonate with the truth about art...which is not designed to make sense, but is designed to make our hearts beat faster.
TUBE GEAR MAKES WOMEN HORNY: This is one of the great mysteries of tube gear, and I have speculated on this subject for decades. I have discussed this phenomenon with hundreds of men, women and dogs, and all agree with me. I am still unsure if it is the profound pleasure of the musical beauty that women respond to, or the beauty of the equipment, or some other mysterious undefined dimension that incendiates the fires burning in a womens loins for ecstatic union. Why do I mention this? It is a responsible warning for men who have taken a vow of celibacy, like myself, and dont want to be sexually harassed by women. My advice is DONT BUY TUBE GEAR if women can easily take sexual advantage of you. It may not be worth the hassles and the terrible shame. Of course, on the other hand, if your soul has been forged in the fire of truth, and your are strong, you have nothing to fear.
DONT TRUST ME or ANYONE OVER THIRTY/SURF THE WEB: While it is true that I am Americas most beloved and respected Thermionic Techno-Shaman, and an old audio dog who has a great nose for music, and a connoisseur of the subtle flavors of harmonics, but dont trust me, or anyone else...seek your own power and wisdom....check out these other tube web sites, and get the vibe of our expanding tribe of tube dudes who love the taste of music.
LISTEN TO TUBE GEAR NAKED: Dont try this strategy in dealers showrooms. Take tube gear into your home and spend time listening to it with your whole body. Open to its mystery. Surrender to its magic
THE ART OF TUBE AUDIO
A vacuum tube is a beautiful object on two fronts...it is a work of art and it amplifies in a beautiful way. One of the great advantages of tubes is that there are so many subtle variations in the construction of each different model. You will note on the Triode Guild web site my speculations on different brands one type of tube, the 300B, which was originally designed in 1938 by Western Electric, and today is not only produced by Western Electric, at their re-started tube manufacturing facility in Kansas City, but by at least eight different companies in China, Russia, and Czechoslovakia. Each one of these different brands of the 300B can be used in any amplifier that is designed for the 300B tube, yet each brand has its own unique subtle aroma, flavor and tone, and that is no different than the guitarist having twenty different brands of strings to choose from or the saxophonist choosing among scores of different brands of reeds. Your musical soul needs freedom of expressions.
Why do different brands of tube sound different? The primary reason is that each is constructed in slightly different manner, using different components and materials. The sound of the tube is very dependent on its mechanical components and the illustration The Soul of the Tube indicates the various components in a tubes mechanical construction...if it is pentode design.
Because of the intense tube mania in Japan, many of the tubes made before WW II are considered classic works of art and are priced at absurd high levels. Want to talk about Japanese cool? The coolest dude only uses tubes made in America before 1940? Why is this true? According to the folklore, the materials used in those classic tubes made during this era have a unique tonal quality. Does this give you an insight into the durability of tubes? Use them properly (which is a discussion which will follow) and you can expect decades of care-free use.
This "tuneability" is not only true for amplifiers but is also true for tube line stages and phono preamps. Again, the tube mania is akin to fine wine collectors: 1950s "smooth plate" Telefunken 12AX7 tubes now sell for $150 each, while "garden variety" of the same tube can be purchased for $5.
Why is this such an important advantage? It is because of the nature of your musical consciousness...it is always evolving...in exactly the same way that a musician or a composers art is always evolving. The sound you love today may not be the sound you love tomorrow, and with tube circuits you can continually retune your gear to what reflects your current vibe...so you can get even down deeper into your truth, For example: On Monday, I like the sound of Western Electric tubes, and on Wednesday I like the sound of KR tubes...I pick the tubes to suit my mood...which is why the average guitarist has three or four guitars...he plays the one that suits his mood. With tube circuits, in only a few minutes you can change tubes, which is obviously something you can not do with transistor gear.
THE PRICE YOU PAY FOR THE WAY YOU WANT TO SWAY
I often have this nightmare: I am the Avenger and I look just like Arnold Schwarzeneger and I have an Uzi machine guns in each of my holsters. I go to the door of audio companies that use the word "Perfect" and "No Distortion" in their marketing, and I kick the door down and barge into the presidents office, whip out my Uzi and turn this deceiver of the public into bloody Swiss cheese, and then I go to all of the high end audio companies that "omit" important information that every consumer should know....you know.... it is called integrity...and I whip out my Uzi and say...."Start telling the consumers the whole truth and treat them with intelligence...give them the information about all of the comprises that are inherent in every machine...or I will be back".
Okay, I admit it, I just may a little twisted, neurotic, and deranged when it comes to this issue, but over the last twenty five years I have talked to too many abused music lovers that were ripped off because they were either lied to or didnt know the whole truth about the equipment they were buying.
Like every other machine made on the face of this earth by humans, including the space shuttle and the Stealth Fighters, tube gear is filled with compromises. No gizmo is ever perfect, and the art of designing great audio gear and especially tube gear, is knowing what comprises creates the greatest magic. Audio designing is exactly like gourmet cooking.
And it is impossible to consider buying any audio gear without considering the room you will listen to, the type of music you like, what your budget is, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the type of loudspeakers that your tube amplifier will be connected to.
There are many choices of tube gear because there are big differences in the music personality of each type of circuit, the types of tubes it uses, and their power rating...BUT EVERYTHING COMES AT A PRICE, and that is true for motorcycles, race cars as well as tube amplifiers.
PUSH/PULL VS. SINGLE-ENDED AMPLIFIERS
These are terms which describe how a amplifier circuit works. More or less, for the first fifty of the ninety years of the audio arts, in which there were only tube circuits because transistors didnt exist (transistors were invented in 1954, but didnt become commercial until the early 1960s), the most prevalent tube amp circuit was single-ended. This type of circuit means the music signal enters the amplifier and leaves the amplifier intact, it is not divided. These were, (and still are) very inefficient circuits which had many electrical limitations and were very low in power and super-duper ultra simple. In the late 1940s as pentode push/pull circuits were invented, that offered greater efficiency, the world shifted to push/pull
A push/pull amplifier, right after the input, has a phase splitter which divides the music signal in half ( positive and negative phase) and then latter on at the output of the circuit at the output transformer the two halves of the music signal is combined again. One side of this type of amplifier circuit pushes and the other pulls, and if they could do that in perfect symmetry everything comes together again almost perfectly. For many reasons this more efficient, and that means more power is available, but as the old nursery rhyme warns...Once Humpty Dumpty is broken into pieces it is very difficult to put him back together again.
Between 1950 and 1990 America went push/pull crazy and completely rejected all types of single-ended amplifiers. When the transistor craze hit in the early 1960s, transistor push pull amplifiers dominated. Japanese audiomaniacs sent one way first-class tickets to our glorious single-ended and push/pull tube amplifier and offered love, affection, respect and they left our shores, never to return, which explains why so many of these classic American tube amplifiers appear in Japanese audio magazines.
Both single-ended and push/pull amplifiers have their unique benefits, limitations, and glories, and anyone who tells you one is inherently better than the other needs new batteries for their hearing aid. There are many articles on the Triode Guild Web site about this controversy, which all leads to the following...it is all about execution and artification.....both can sound like a turd and both can sound magical, it depends on how the circuit is executed.
On the other hand we must deal with your artistic priorities and the soul of your speakers. Push/pull amplifiers generally will mate better with lower efficiency speakers which you should try to avoid for any type of tube amplifier.
Generally speaking push/pull amplifiers have better bass and high frequency response, but do not have a midrange magic that is available in single-ended amps, which are anemic in the low end and roll of in the highs. Push/pull amplifiers tend to us pentode tubes, and single-ended amplifiers tend to us directly heated triodes...and these different type of tubes have different tonal personalities.
The power to cost ratio also comes into play...watt for watt push/pull amplifiers are more cost effective in producing horespower and if you need over 40 watts, forget single-ended., unless your are Mr. Rich Guy.
As Guildmeister of the Triode Guild I recommend that every musicmaniac own one of each so the unique music magic of each can be enjoyed.
THE OUTPUT TRANSFORMER (OPT)
Most tube amplifiers have output transformers because without them there would be no music amplification. This arises out of the fact that speakers are low impedance electrical loads (between 4 and 16 ohms) and tubes are generally very high impedance electrical devices (between 3,000 and 10,000 ohms) and IF they were directly connected together...FRIED TOAST, and then nada. In effect the output transformer is a matching device that transforms the high voltage (300-1200 Volt) high impedance tubes produce to a low voltage, low impedance output that can effectively drive a low impedance loudspeaker.
Tubes are voltage amplification devices and in the transformation process output transformers convert the high voltage swings of output tubes to lower voltage swings that are appropriate to loudspeakers....hence the name transformer.
Single-ended and push/pull transformers are very different types of designs, though they perform the same task. You will also see that output transformers usually have multiple speaker terminals marked, 4, 8 or 16 ohm. This permits you to connect your speaker to the OPT connections that will give you the lowest distortion and greatest efficiency.
The quality of the OPT is very critical to the performance of the tube amplifier, and not all of them are created equal.
OTL amplifiers are a special category of tube amplifiers that use no output transformer. My first audio company, New York Audio Laboratories, was the first company to commercially perfect the first OTL circuit patented by Julius Futterman. The saga of this amplifier is available on our web site, in both the chapters in the first Understanding Tube Electronics, and The Search For Musical Ecstasy.
Today there are many different types of OTL amplifiers, and their advantage, if they are used with the proper speakers, is that they create a completely unique form of musical beauty. Designers and manufacturers of these type of circuits claim that the output transformer "chokes" off the natural dynamics and tone of tubes.
OTL amplifiers are relatively complicated and expensive, but are a completely unique experience and I strongly suggest you experience them, but remember these amplifier circuits are the most demanding of proper speaker load. Articles on The Triode Guild web site explore this subject.
DIFFERENT TYPES and BRANDS OF TUBES
HAVE DIFFERENT TONAL QUALITIES:
Directly heated triode (DHT) tubes, like the 300B, 211, 845, 211 and 805 which were original introduced in the 1930s have seen a powerful resurgence all over the world primarily because our Japanese audiomaniac bros, from purely empirical listening, and searching for the ultimate in tone, began to realize that these tubes, in spite of antique origins, had a very special tone. And they are right. Here we are once again at the paradox of single-ended circuits which were the first type of ultra-simple amplifier circuits, which appeared at the dawn of the audio arts. These 1930s tubes are most often enjoyed in 1930s circuits.
Now here comes the compromise: DHT used in single-ended circuits are very inefficient and produce low power, and these type of single-ended circuits do not produce the same dynamic bass quality of push/pull amplifiers. This also explains why so many of the more modern circuit, the push/pull circuit, are now using DHT tubes, so that the magic of their tone and better bass response can be achieved.
Many of the now popular DHT tube were never used in consumer music systems back in the 1930s but were either used in movie theater amplifiers, or, as radio station transmitting tubes or in military application, which should give you an idea just how industrial and reliable these tubes are. I recently bought some RCA 211 tubes that were stamped 1942 JAN. These tubes were and are still used in Air Force bombers as transmitting tubes. The original Western Electric 300Bs and the new versions of this tube claim 30,000 useful hours of operation.
Pentodes are more modern tubes and first began to appear in the 1930s, but really didnt become popular until after WW II. The 6L6, EL 34 became the standard pentode in guitar amplifiers in the late 1950s. The tiny EL84 became the most popular output tube in table radios and receivers. The big powerful 6550/KT88 became the standard tube of high end audio because it was so efficient, and that is the key to understanding the popularity of the modern pentodes: efficiency...you get more horsepower for the buck with these tubes, and that is a good thing if you need power. The foundation for the golden age of hi-fi which started in the 1960s was a tube amplifier that had one or two pairs of EL 34 or 6550 outputs tubes creating between 30 and 70 watts. These amplifiers sound fantastic, were reliable and simple circuits and produced more than enough music horsepower...and they are all living in Japan now because the Japanese audiomaniacs have paid top dollar for them.
There is a price paid for this pentode efficiency, and it is a relative one, and that is tonal quality,..... and the audio artists who designs with these tubes will never admit it. Pentodes do not have the ultimate tonal refinement of directly heated triode tubes, on the other hand they sound much better than transistor amps, and if you need horsepower, and dont want to deplete your IRA account with the more expensive high powered directly heated triode amplifiers this is the way to do.
And this is important: If you need 100, 150 or 200 watts of tube power, there is only one reasonable strategy: you must use a push/pull 6550 pentode amplifier. By their intrinsic electrical nature it is almost impossible to design a DHT amplifier with many output tubes, so in a sense there is a " power wall" for directly heated triodes that doesnt exist for pentode amplifiers.
But be warned...more power, means more complexity, and that is as true for your drag racer as it is for your computer.
POSITIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
The subject of feedback has been very controversial over the last few years because of the resurgence of single-ended amplifiers that use directly heated triode tubes, which generally do not use any feedback ......because they are so linear they dont need it. Devotees of these circuits assert that feedback muddles the sound. This was very upsetting to the those who designed push/pull pentode amplifiers that always used lots of feedback.
To simplify what feedback does....a portion of the music signal is taken from the output stage and feedback into the input stage, in an inverse way, to correct a number of the inherent "non-linearities" of the pentode circuit. It not only corrects these errors it creates a higher "dampening factor" which permits the amplifier to control bass response better, which may seem like great benefits.
But I return to the eternal law of audio design....everything has a cost. Those who love ultra simple single-ended circuits with DHTs claim that feedback muddles the sound and compresses the aural matrix because all feedback occurs after the fact and is always out of "time sync" with the music that is being played. These aficionados pay a price, and the price is a flabby bass response compared to high feedback amplifiers.
Many single-ended amplifiers now come with a variable feedback control so you can control the amount of feedback used in the circuit and as you adjust the feedback you can hear how the music changes character.
Most pentode push/pull amplifiers must have feedback to work properly.
THE REFINEMENT/POWER CONTINUUM
This continuum is as true for football players, and racing cars, as it is for tube amplifiers...all things being equal. Want something fast and light, then dont pick something big, bulky and powerful...everything is a compromise so.... know what you want and need....do you need a quarterback or guard?
All things being equal a small lower powered amplifier will be more refined in its tonality and expression, than a large one, and there are many reasons for this. A thousand pound sports car with 500 hp will go around the track much easier than a 2000 LB sports car with 1000 hp even though the horsepower to weight ratio is equal, and that should be as obvious to you as the Porsche Spyder on your nose.
But never forget that you can not separate your amplifier from your speaker and room and a fantastically refined 5 watt amplifier will do you no good if your speakers are inefficient and your room is gigantic. Yet consider this...a five watt amplifier connected to 100db efficient speakers will player louder, and be more dynamic, than a 200 watt amplifier on speakers that are 84 db efficient!. Do you get my drift sailor?
BE VERY SIMPLE
LESS IS MORE IN AUDIO CIRCUITS
I am repeating this because it is so important. Audio circuits work best that are simple. This is easy to understand if you think of a music signal as a beam of light traveling through a lens....the more lenses it travels through the more distorted it gets.
I started to promote this concept in the early 1980s, and you will read about it in the reproduction of my book, UNDERSTANDING TUBE ELECTRONICS I, and not only havent I changed by mind about this, but the whole world of high quality electronics has finally caught up....and I didnt make this up. This is also a truth for audio cables, where simple cables sound much better than complicated ones.
This is a very easy notion to embrace for the Japanese audio designer who has a very different ego than his American counterpart, and doesnt need to prove that he can create newer and better circuits of greater complexity.
My advice to all is keep your audio system simple. Simple, high quality circuits used with simple high quality speakers will always sound best.
BE VERY STIFF
Here is another subject that is locked in the audio closet, and it has to do with the stiffness of power supply design, which is a measure of its quality.
What is an amplifier? An amplifier is a modulated power supply...think of the circuitry as the brain and the power supply as the muscle that produces all the power in your amplifier. The power supply does all of the work, and that is usually the part of the amplifier that is given the least amount of attention. Why ? Because it is the most expensive part of the amplifier, and customers are usually impressed more by those big beautiful face plates and tubes and dont know about the importance of power supply stiffness.
This is why a tube amplifier that is only 20 watts that has a stiff power supply will sound more powerful than a 100 watt amplifier with a teeny-weeny power supply. Most manufacturers believe that you believe that a "100 watts per channel" will automatically be more dynamic than a 20 watt amplifier, and that is NOT true.
Many of my articles on the Triode Guild web site discuss power supply design and you will note how this is an important consideration in all of our products.
BE VERY SIMPLE, BE VERY STIFF
Again not only is this one of my favorite T-shirts (see our store) but is one of the best slogans for describing a righteous philosophy of audio design and living a life.
ASCEND TO MICRO-POWER
Beside being another one of our really cool T-shirts, this is an expression that I created a number of years ago to describe a paradox and one that is very un-American and very Japanese, and it is related to my comments about the benefit of simple circuits, which gives me an opportunity to once again talk about cigar aficionados. I recently read that a gentlemen in England discovered a cigar stash in the basement of his castle...it was a box of Havana cigars that were made almost one hundred years ago and they were in perfect shape. Now remember there are men who spend thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine that is one hundred years old. I think each cigar sold for $500 each.
Which gives you an insight into the notion of micro-powered tube amps that use vintage tubes from around 1925 and produce less than one watt of power...but the one watt they produced is a perfection of tonality. To listen to these tubes requires very large, very expensive and very efficient loudspeakers. For tube connoisseurs the idea is that these micro-powered amplifiers are completely unique.... like those one hundred year old cigars and one hundred year old bottles of wine, and Japanese magazines regularly feature articles about these tubes, which were made in America when there were no talkies! Yikes!
THE MIDRANGE IS KING
This is where we find the real musical juice. This is the love tunnel of music, and just ask yourself what your favorite part of the female body is...not that you dont want the whole thing, but in art there is always an epicenter of ecstasy, and the midrange is it for music. This is the region that is the King of Music, because without this there is nothing to music. Throw away the highs and lows and if you have a glorious midrange you have heaven. This is where tubes reign supreme and where transistor circuits go into the crapper. Tubes circuits are able to create the natural vibrancy and tone of the real musics midrange and transistors are not, and that is true for even the cheapest tube circuit.
This is especially apparent on voices, the piano and string instruments where there is a natural lushness to the tone that we find in the real thing. Part of this is the authenticity of midrange dynamics which will often catch you off guard in the same way that real music does.
I discovered the expression "Tone Is King", which refers to the artistic primacy of the midrange, in Japan and they are right about this single aspect of music being the foundation for the experience of musical ecstasy, and this is also the hardest aspect for digital audio to get right.
If you cant get this arena of music you have nothing, and if you get this right and the highs and lows of music are mediocre you will still have the essential magic you need.
Why is this so important to understand? Because when you walk into an audio store it is very easy to be impressed by the bass response or the brilliant high notes, and it is easy to distracted about the midrange...so here is an extremely valuable "insider" tip. Listen to a voice recording with absolutely no musical instrument accompaniment, and just listen to the quality of the voice...it all of its nakedness, because the human voice is an instrument of the midrange. No test is as revealing as the naked human voice for revealing the ultimate tonal quality, meaning midrange quality of electronics.
As you know the divorce rate in America is above 50% and that should tell us just how hard it is for American men to get their mating habits right, ( I have been married three times) and the same is true for speakers mating. (Note: this is also true for fly fishing where the fly line must mate properly with the rod, and with target shooting where the cartridge must mate properly with the rifle, and with high performance engines with the carburetors, cam shafts, etc, must all mate properly) This topic is also why "Dr. GIZMO, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE" are all over the mens room of speaker companies. This is another one of those product categories that has taken the lowest IQ road, with the result that most dont know the joy of ecstatic speaker mating.
Am I boring you with the truth? The truth...again... is that an amplifier and a speaker is one organic circuit and must be considered as a whole, and are not two independent components...they are like a Martini...you cant separate the Vermouth from the Gin. An amplifier and a speaker must be happy mating or you will be getting a music divorce. Articles by Scott Frankland on the Triode Guild web site goes into this in more detail.
Heres the worlds shortest history of what is wrong with todays speakers....before the transistor speakers were much higher in efficiency because tube amplifiers were low powered, but, back then, to get any kind of bass response you needed gigantic speakers. Along comes the transistor and acoustic suspension speaker, which means very inefficient small loudspeakers that can produce great bass response...if they have tons of horsepower...from a transistor amp. These speakers were very inefficient because that is the only way you can get low bass response from a small box. Down the tube goes musical quality and up the ladder goes bass, more bass, and more bass. As you know bass is the favorite fish for American sportsmen..too. By now all the really cool high efficiency speakers in America have been bought up by Japanese audiomaniacs, and then tube amplifiers come back in style and they are used with the type of speakers that are designed for 1 million watt solid state amplifiers, and, though they sound better than their solid state brothers from across the aisle, no one has a clue just how great these amplifiers are because they are not using the right speakers....(This true story was taught to me on my first trip to Japan in 1984 when I heard these American speakers from our golden past for the first time with very low powered tube amplifiers)
The speakers designed for transistor amplifiers, by and large, and contrary to what speaker manufacturers claim, are not "ideal" for tube amplifiers. This means they should be right for a tube amp and that means as high in efficiency as possible; as close to 90 db efficiency as possible and they should never be below 8 ohms, The ideal speaker would be 16 ohm speakers, and these are rare in America and common in Japan. They are rare in America because speaker manufacturers are stupid, not because there is a technical impediment. This truth has been known since the dawn of the audio arts, and every tube amplifier designer and manufacturer knows this truth to be self-evident...but isnt discussing it because they dont want to frighten away sales from the sales of transistor loudspeakers.
Are you ready for paradox number one zillion? JBL Speakers, which is a division of the billion dollar Harmon International Company makes very high efficiency loudspeakers for the Japanese market and will not sell them here, because they dont believe Americans are into this level of refinement. There are many European speaker company that makes speakers just for the Japanese market, including my favorite, Tannoy, and for the first time, because we are finally ready for them, these Tannoys will be available in America.
If you are not going to use your tube amplifiers with the proper speakers dont bother buying them. Why buy a beautiful expensive lens and use it with junk film...it makes no sense. This may be upsetting, but consider that the art of creating musical ecstasy in your home is the art of mating.
In closing...be sure to read the SPEAKERMANIA section of the Triode Guild web site and....
The reason why high efficiency matters so much, is because your output tubes will last for years and years and years...ten years...if you use them with high efficiency loudspeakers...because they will never been strained, and they will always be lower in distortion and sound more natural.
Remember when a tube is used improperly so it is badly distorting it sounds almost as bad as a transistor when a transistor is doing its best...if you know what I mean, digity do?
THE BASS OF BASS RESPONSE
Does this statement mean the fish of fish response, the low notes of fish response, the fish of low notes, or the low notes of the low notes? Perhaps this explains why bass response is so confusing. Of course you want the best bass response possible, and you want thunderous low notes that will bring out the cave man in you. Except...there is nothing more difficult to achieve and NOT screw up the rest of the music spectrum for many good reason. A major reason is that a room can only "load" with so much bass response, and if you overload it all of the music sounds muddy and incoherent. The advice I give is Less Bass is Better than More Bass, which is totally confusing to fisherman but understood by those who know music.
TUBE LINE STAGES AND PHONO PREAMPS
Tubes are especially good at amplifying small signal which emerge from your CD, FM tuner, tape recorder or vinyl playback system.
A line stage usually has various input switching controls so that you can plug in a number of different sources. Again here we have the virtue of simplicity, linearity, and natural harmonic devices.
A phono preamp is different than a line stage in that it has the circuitry for playing vinyl records. There is an alchemy between tube phono preamps and vinyl that is recognized all over the world by music maniacs. I suggest you take time and check out my VINYLVILLE USA web site which is devoted to vinyl playback.
CARE AND FEEDING OF TUBES
1. Once a week recite a poem to your tube gear or put a vase of flowers near to show your respect.
2. Use a virgin pregnant peacock feather duster to keep dust off it.
3. Every six months using some alcohol on a rag to clean the tubes, while the amplifier is off.
4. Be sure to keep all of your tube gear in a place where there is excellent ventilation. I prefer a spot where every can see them. Unlike transistor gear tube gear is meant to be shown off.
5. Some amplifiers will require periodic adjustment:
BIAS: Bias means how much voltage is flowing through a tube, and if you amplifier requires this adjust, and most dont there will be instruction with your amplifier.
BALANCE: In a push/pull amplifier it is important that the "push" and the "pull" side of the amplifiers be in balance, and if your amplifiers have adjustments for this, the instructions will explain how to do this.
6. If something goes wrong with your tube gear, dont try and fix it yourself, because there are high voltages inside. Be sure to take it to an authorized repair center.
THE JAPANESE AUDIOMANIAC
Let me make this simple: The Hells Angels is to Harley-Davidson, as the Japanese Audiomaniac is to tube audio.
Because YOU have a strong ego this will not be problem, but just in case let me start off slowly.....American men are very cool; American men are GENERALLY SPEAKING, AND ON AVERAGE... the coolest dudes in the Universe, but there are other cultures of dudes who are more advanced than us in certain "niche areas" and we can gain power by learning from them...but you already know that. When it comes to fine food and wine our French brothers are more advanced than us. When it comes to fine tailored clothes, custom made shotguns and snootiness our English brothers are more advanced than us. When it comes to Pizza, opera, and ultra-cool sports cars and painting frescoes our Italian brothers are more advanced than us...and now I am getting to the point...when it comes to the audio arts our Japanese brothers are totally out there on the edge. And the expression I use...Music, just dont listen to it, eat it, was inspired by how deeply these Japanese men are into music as nourishment.
Look at Japan from this perspective: the genius of this culture has made the modern music revolution possible. Literally every home in America has a sound system made in Japan, and the production and design of low price "Big Mac" audio electronics is one of Japans major industry which means hundreds of thousands are employed in it. The corollary is that there is an enormous pool of technically sophisticated men in Japan whose passion and hobby is music/audio...and these are men who are responsible for the vitality of the Japanese audio arts. A simple comparison between American and Japanese audio magazines are instructive: the Japanese have many technically sophisticated magazines that would completely baffle Americans who havent got a clue about circuits.
There was a time after WW II where America also had a technically sophisticated music loving population. It was the men who returned to civilian life after WW II who served in the Army/Navy Signal Corp. These men were trained to understand electronics, which at that time were only tubes. These are the men who were responsible for the explosion of the American audio industry right after WW II. These are the men who could read a schematic and could repair their own audio gear, but slowly as the consumer electronic industry shifted to Japan they disappeared in America, while in Japan this community of men grew.
But it is the Japanese tradition of art that is most responsible for the advanced state of the audio arts in Japan, and this is obviously a whole-istic tradition...Japan loves and admires its history and traditions. Japan is a culture which embraces its past, where in America, anything over 20 years old is worthy of scorn. For the Japanese connoisseur, newer is not necessarily better. In fact, the Japanese music connoisseur, is just that, he knows quality, and that includes the sound of Stradivarius violins, old music boxes, wind up Victrolas, classic tube gear, new tube gear, you name....this is the hunt for beauty. What separates the Japanese music lover from his American counterpart is his breadth of embrace and intensity. Here we have the capacity to appreciate the beauty of each distinctive audio art form from each epoch (from 1910 right up to the present), in the same way the connoisseur of modern art appreciates the many different epochs including art deco, impressionism, de Stilje, cubism, post modernism, pop...you name...each has its own unique beauty.
And I agree completely. What is more thrilling than riding down Main Street USA in a perfectly restored 1948 Woody Station Wagon. What could be more thrilling that listening to an original Carouso Palaggci on a wind up Victrola?
It is typical in this artistic tribe to find the love of all forms of vinyl records, including 78, 45, and modern stereo. In the living room we find 19th century music boxes, wind up Victrolas, radios from the 1930s, and a fantastic collection of both classic and modern tube gear, and at least two or three different sets of speakers...we are talking about the serious pursuit of all forms of musical beauty.
Again because this point is worth repeating...this man is too artistically sensitive and technically sophisticated to be sucked into "new is better", and again, I remind you that the violins created in Italy before 1800, the Steinway pianos of the 1930s, and the Fender Guitars of the early 1960s have never been surpassed. For the Japanese audiomaniac, clearly tube circuits, which were the mother and father of all modern electronics, have not been surpassed. And how do we prove this. In the same way we prove that Mona Lisas smile is timeless.
Japanese taste in audio equipment is also very different than Americans, and much of that is due to the difference in the English and American languages. The Japanese language is more percussive and has a wider dynamic range, while the "classic" English language is very tight jawed and controlled. It is immediately apparent, when listening to classic Japanese music, that there is a love of dynamic range...first, we hear a tiny flute , and then crash.... a gigantic drum. This probably explains why the Japanese love horn loudspeakers which are the only loudspeakers that can reproduce the natural dynamics of real music at low distortion. The expression that they use is ..."We Love to Hear the Music Breathe". This quality is almost completely absent in the type of loudspeakers that Americans have preferred until now.
The expression you hear used, most often, amongst this tribe of music maniacs is TONE IS KING, and they are right, and it shouldnt surprise you that this is the admonition of every music teacher to his student. A concern about tone is almost totally absent in the American audio press, for a good reason....most dont yet understand tonal quality....strange as that seems. This is area of music reproduction where our Japanese bros are true connoisseurs, and because of that demand the finest Alnico speaker magnets, very high quality output transformers, vintage tubes and circuits of great refinement, all in the service of their need for tonal refinement.
I agree with this criticism that is voiced by Japanese audiomaniacs of the American scene...most Americans are more interested in brute power, not refinement... in loudness, not tone. Of course this criticism doesnt apply to you, but it is an accurate description of the average American music lover who isnt very musically refined. This is the difference between a 48 ounce sizzling steak sitting on your plate versus six pieces of perfectly sculptured Sushi; raw tuna fish sitting on your plate. Viva La Difference.
If this is difficult to understand let me give you another way to understand our Japanese brothers..... and his passion for tubes.
Lets surf to some cigar web sites and chat rooms, and check out the thousands of different varieties of cigars available because cigar lovers love to explore the subtle variations of flavor of different blends, types of tobacco and construction. A cigar aficionado is an explorer, a subtle explorer of the soul of tobacco, and would look at the taste of cigarette tobacco as a totally synthetic experience, for people who are not into the flavor of tobacco but are nervous wrecks enjoying their addiction. You will also note that the cigar aficionado enjoys different cigars at different times of the day, and is always ready to explore something new and exotic...but sooner or later this man settles into his groove of what he likes....but it took time to arrive at this place...and who knows...... soon it may all change. This man is fully aware of the great masters, most of whom are Cuban, and will often sneak into this country for a cigar orgy. Of course this man has read all of the books on cigars, subscribes to cigar magazines, and has a huge collection of cigar gizmos, from humidor to lighters to cutters, and a complimentary supply of fine brandies and liquors. All of the above is the meaning of artistic and spiritual commitment. This commitment makes it possible for this cigar aficionado to have a very compelling dialogue with his fellow aficionados about cigars, which I call "Male Cigar Bonding" which is an essential dimension of the pleasure of cigar connoisseurship. This also explains why there are so many new cigar bars in America...men like to hang with their fellow tribesmen.
You can understand this analog, I hope, because what I just described is the Japanese audiomaniacs passion for tubes, and his complete intellectual, spiritual and artistic involvement with them. This can not be separated from his passion for the highest quality musical feast in his home, where he can explore their ability to create subtle variations in tone. In fact Japanese audiomaniacs taught me to talk differently about audio circuits. When I use "aroma" and "flavor" to describe circuits, all that I am doing is adopting the Japanese audiomaniacs capacity to experience the subtle differences in the music produced by different types of tubes and circuits, and this subtly matters a great deal to him. He also lives in a world of heavy duty "Male Tube Bonding" where he has many different groups of like minded tube maniacs to interact with, and he will go to special bars and coffee shops which are tribal gathering places. (Check this web site: www.sukura.com)
This again explains why there is such a great deal of difference between American and Japanese audio magazines. Have you ever seen an article in an America magazine comparing the subtle difference in tone of one type of tube, say a 300B, and its many variations, staring with the 1920s and continuing to its modern 1990s form? This is important tribal information, like comparing the flavor of a 1954 to a 1990 Monte Cristo or Upman cigar. How can you be a heavy wholey dude if you arent aware of these differences.....which is as important as knowing who did what in the 1937 World Series....if you are into baseball?
And that is the point....name your passion, and men are the same all over the world. When you love something you care about the details. Japanese audiomaniac live in a world of music passion, and this passion for quality is just beginning to emerge in America, and expanding our tube culture.
It is not my job now to give a course in Japanese art, which I hope you will explore on your own, so again try to understand the Japanese audiomaniacs passion for creating music in the home is pursued with the same passion as his love Haiku poetry, calligraphy, Bonsai, flower arrangements, lacquers, pottery, or water colors.
In America where too much is not enough, and size is the only thing that matters, it is very difficult to understand this very different path, but American men are expanding their vision and opening themselves to more mysterious dimensions of being beyond the 60 yard football pass that scores a touchdown in the last sixty seconds of a game, and a wet T-Shirt on a perfect 10.
LET US REJOICE IN THE MUSICAL GARDEN OF EDEN
Never in the course of human history has there been this potential of concrescent musical pleasure. We are each faced with unparalleled choices, yet the sad truth is that for a majority of the population there is ignorance about the Musical Garden of Eden that is right around the corner.
The good news is that because of the Internet, power has shifted back to the tribes of music lovers who are ready to share their experience and wisdom with new pilgrims who are searching for musical ecstasy: Pilgrims on the path, helping their fellow pilgrims.
The old bogus ways of the audio industry are over, with the wall of ignorance being smashed. Take your audio system seriously, because they are your tools for creating musical ecstasy in your home, and that means you have the responsibility of educating yourself.
Before you make any decisions spend time surfing the web. Find out for yourself why the tube revolution has become so intense. Spend time in chat rooms. Check out The Triode Guild web site. Spend time in audio dealers showrooms, listening and comparing. Find audiomaniacs in your neighborhood and check out what they are into. Go slow, listen with your whole being, and remember this is all about experiencing and expressing the greatest pleasures in the world...the music universe trembling in your soul.
MORE INFO ON TUBES
Go to Svetlanas web site, www.svetlana.com and read the technical articles on their site which explains the operaiton of a tube, and be sure to check Eric Barbours article that appeared in the IEEE Journal.
e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
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