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Tubes ...


Tusker

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With the Korg Triton Extreme, which is in most respects an evolutionary keyboard, I think we've crossed a threshold.

 

This is the first time I've seen a major synth manufacturer turn toward a real tube for tone. Something our guitarist brethren have been fiddling with for ages. Something we haven't seen since the age of electromechanical keyboards (B3, rhodes, etc.)

 

Is this just another small blind alley, or an important realization? I personally found the (rather limited) tube tones more interesting than cosm models and special effects of the other manufacturers. Yes, even more musical than the Electro's overdrive which I love.

 

So I am ready to learn something new ...

 

Any of you using tubes for tone? What are you using and how? Is there a tube device that responds smoothly to midi for gain?

 

Best,

 

Jerry

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I'm a big fan of using tubes for their tone.

 

I have an excellent tube pre-amp that I use constantly - it's a Groove Tubes VIPre - and I just love it to death. It features eight tube stages when using the instrument input... :eek::thu:

 

Besides being a staple in the signal path of every acoustic instrument/vocal that I record, it's really great for warming up sterile digital samples, and running the Mini through it is pretty much a religious experience. :cool:

 

As my friend EveAnna Manley would say: "Tubes Rule"! :D

 

dB

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My Hammond A100 is all-tube.

It goes into a Pro3T, which has an AX7 preamp tube.

The low-rotor sim feeds into a Marshall Major 200w tube amp. My JP8000 also goes into the Marshall.

 

When I play electric guitar it's into either that Marshall stack or a Rivera-designed Fender Princeton ReverbII all-tube amp.

 

Nope, tubes are NOT a blind alley. They are not always the optimum solution (for example, my digital MK80 and QS71 go straight into the solid-state PA) but for many applications tubes work magic on tone.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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I put together a Paia Tube Head preamp to use for my E-Mu B-3. Using it alone, I can overdrive the B-3 sound into a nice distortion. Kind of like a Deep Purple sound. Not as good, of course, but usable. But when I work it into the band's mix, I've noticed that when I have the overdrive up enough to just start pushing the sound, the B-3 sound sounds more mechanical, like it's really tone wheels creating the sound rather than a rompler, and like a real Leslie is turning around instead of zero's and one's pumping through the speaker. Granted, it'll never fool a purist, and maybe I'm just imagining things. But since I've been using the preamp, I've noticed the E-Mu B-3 cutting through in a much better way. (I don't notice the effect when playing it alone.)

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Hi, I am from nuestro foro. I have a question, i once read a review about some tube pre amp. And all the guys said, "yeah it sounds better with a XXXxxxXX valve" and then others said the same but diferentes model of tube. How do you know that a valve sounds better than other?
Rebuilding My Self
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Quite a few times, I've recorded a Rhodes sound or a synth sound by splitting it at the mixer, sending one line thru a tube amp (a guitar amp, usually), setting the amp to taste, miking it, and recording that in parallel with the clean signal. Then, you balance the two tracks as needed at the mixing stage.

 

A tip: If you need a big drum sound, do the same with drums! Send a rough mix of the drums through a mixer group, and send *that* to the amp. Mixed fairly low with the 'natural' drum tracks, it adds roughness and 'anger' to the drum sound.

 

Also, just because it has tubes, it doesn't necessarly sounds good. I'd love to have some big Mesa Boogie at home, but I can't justify the expense (I very rarely record acoustic instruments at my place) - and the sound of cheap tube preamps doesn't satisfty me.

When I record in a decent studio, I usually enjoy using all the tube goodies they have! :)

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I just got a speakeasy classic pre amp. Uses a 12au7, and I have used it once. Running a V5 into the preamp and on to a motion sound stack pro3t/low pro [has a 12ax7 preamp in the pro3t]. It adds depth, presence and balls - low and high volume alike. If I had not heard it for myself I would not have believed it. Really shines in a band setting. Made me a tube fan for sure.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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Short answer: You listen to it.

 

Originally posted by Dr. Teeth:

How do you know that a valve sounds better than other?

Listen to lots of amps and find out what type preamp tubes and power amp tubes they use. Whichever amps sound best to you - get those tubes!

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Listening to lots of amps is good advice for picking an amp. But I don't think it's a good way to pick a tube type.

 

In fact, unless you're designing tube circuitry, you shouldn't even worry about the tube type. (In the Golden Age of HiFI, the purists worried about the interstage and output transformers as much or more than the tubes.)

 

My advice is to listen a lot and buy the amp/preamp/keyboard that delivers the sound you like.

Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
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One can also obsess about which brand of tubes to buy. Hammond folks tend to avoid Chinese and to a lesser extend Soviet built tubes. This is hard to do since they are not being made in the west much anymore. Even Groove Tubes and Goff branded tubes may come from China. Chinese tubes tend to die faster, be less evenly matched, and not have as much gain as the best American tubes.

 

The holy grail is NOS (new old stock) Tung-sol power and preamp tubes. Also look for NOS RCAs.

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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Very interesting. Would you expect similar results from putting a signal through a guitar amp head to a PA, as you would from a tube pre-amp? Or to put it another way, how much of the sonic signature is the tubes versus the device?

 

I noticed a tendency to get a lot of bottom, and a tendency to punch the attack (i.e. natural compression) when increasing gain. I find this attractive.

 

However it would be nice to be able to control these effects. One could do it with eq and the envelopes in the instrument, but I'm wondering if there are pre-amp specific techniques. Or is it a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, typically?

 

Jerry

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in search for a tubes-in-synth-path solution, i've cut down to these four choices:

 

Speakeasy Stereo Tube Pre (great reviews in KBD)

SPL Charisma 2

EHX LBP 2ube (affordable, but it works on 300V like high end stuff)

Manley Dual Tube D.I. (output is mic level so it needs another pre though)

 

does anyone have some experience with those? any thoughts/comments?

 

i find SPL Charisma tube designs very tempting because they have two unique features. first, when you raise input gain to have more drive, it attenuates output accordingly, so there's no jump in level usually associated with tube drive.

 

Another thing is, they have a "charisma" parameter which is sort of a soft/hard knee control. it governs how soon you enter really hard distortion while rising input signal.

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Originally posted by Jerry Aiyathurai:

Very interesting. Would you expect similar results from putting a signal through a guitar amp head to a PA, as you would from a tube pre-amp?

Many guitar amps use tubes in the output stage. The difference between a tube and transistor output stage is that the tubes provide much lower damping to the speakers. A typical transistor output stage has a feed back circuit attached to the output stage so the looking backwards impedance is very close to zero.

 

This leaves the speakers free to resonate with the tube output stage. They are in effect acting as a sounding board for the electric guitar.

 

All tube pre-amps do by contrast is give you some compression and second harmonic distortion plus they probably limit the slew rate and may reduce the current out of your synths driver stage. All these things can be useful but its a very different order thing.

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I currently use the Speakeasy "Keyboard" model for acoustic and electric piano sounds. I think that it greatly improves the sound, I really like the clarity and warmth that it gives the sound, and it also improves the way that it cuts through a mix (at least in a live situation, I have never recorded with it).
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Last week, I had the pleasure of testing the Motion Sound KBR-3D, which has a tube stage in the leslie speaker. Turned an innocent, harmless rompler into something that would bite you. Even at low levels, the "firmness" of the sound came through.

 

I talked to someone who does a lot of studio installation. He suggested the Millenia TD-1 as something that had flexibility (tube and solid state paths available, as well as a send/return type feature into an amp head if you want). Looks like a multi-purpose (mic/instrument) pre. It has one tube. The other product he mentioned is a Groovetubes Brick, which has 3 tubes. Along with the speakeasy product, I should audition them, but I'm wondering if anyone has used this gear or would make additional recommendations.

 

Jerry

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For those who don't know about the Speakeasy preamps, here's the poop on why people love them so much:

 

1. Tube plate voltages are suitably high, 100V or better, not starved as in some designs.

 

2. True high fidelity output transformer. This is the secret weapon.

 

3. Point to point hand wired construction. Nothing to go wrong!

 

4. Super personalized service from the company founder, who will go beyond the call of duty to make sure you are satisfied.

 

5. The sound is THE BOMB.

 

The tube front end is modelled on the Fender mid-60's twin reverb preamp, and the transformer back end is modelled on the output stage of the Hammond organ's AO-28 preamp.

 

The only bad thing about a Speakeasy is that it can hum if you set up your gain structure wrong. This is because the tube heater voltages are AC instead of DC. If you need it ultra quiet for studio use, the new line of Platinum preamps use DC to clean up the problem. Again, when I set up my gain structure correctly it is plenty clean for live use.

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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