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|29th December 2007, 01:42||#1|
Tecon Model 55 single ended tube amplifier
Tecon Audio is a Palmdale California company comprised of Audiophiles, Engineers, Muscians, Producers and Music lovers....
Their exstensive line of vacuum tube integrated and specialty amps is the largest "affordable" high-end selection I've ever seen There are some intersting models in particular the model 55, a single ended EL34 amplifier with a USB DAC for playback using a PC-soundcard seen below.
And the reasoning behind this meeting of "old" and new technologies has now begun to find its way inot the PC-world. And this is not the first time. AOpen launched a line of motherboards with an on-board Audiophile grade tube sound-stage. It was no gimmick, they used Vishay resistors, REL and Multicap capacitors, Cardas and Kimber cable and a Sovtek tube, unfortunately it cost more to build the audio section then it did the cost of all the other devices combined on the board. The PC-Enthusiast just wasn't ready for High End...
I am proposing to launch a special section here at [M] (once my backlog is caught up) the section would essentially discuss the role of the vacuum tube in the digital world. While these two technologies seem worlds apart combined they resolve some basic issues with Digital to analog conversion and vice versa.
Sadly most people have never been exposed to true high end, one reason is the cost which is insanely prohibitive for most systems, and secondly knowing where and what to look for. Insofar as the cost, manufacturers will spare no expense to build the ultimate component and Audiophiles with the means will gladly pay to own the very best "sounding" hardware. The amplifier is the heart of the system and integrated vacuum tube amps have become very popular.
A company known as Audio Note (known for many tube based designs) manufactures what is widely considered to be one of the most musical tube integrated amps. The Onkagu rated at a mere 25W per channel will cost you $79k (yes that's $79,000). Where speakers are concerned the Magico Ultimate Horns sell for $229k and are not the most expensive but may be the epitomy of the Horn driver (seen below).
Unlike PC-hardware, Audiophile gear cannot be benchmarked, measured nor quantified on paper with terms such as Harmonic distortion. In fact the amp above probably produces something on the order of 1.0% THD compared to a mass produced Onkyo amplifier which looks much better on paper at 0.08% THD but no self-respecting Audiophile would be in a thousand yards of an Onkyo or Yamaha amplifier without being in violation of a restraining order.
My first High End system cost me about $15k and that was considered a budget system. The source was a Meridian 208 CD-transport / DAC with Preamp a far cry from what I have today, a Plextor DVD/CD-RW as heard through an on-board DAC and AudioEngine A5 powered speakers (below the Meridian 208).
The solid state pre-owned Krell KSA-250 stereo amplifier, seen below with it's cover removed from this AudioKarma forum thread
While my system sounded great something was amiss. Even with the high quality DACs in the Meridian 208, I began experiencing headaches when listenting to music over an extended period of time. While the entire planet was praising the compact disc and cd-player as the best things since sliced bread and the push-up bra, the sound could become unlistenable on High End gear. Then somone placed a vacuum tube in a DAC. In high end the cd-player is seperated into the transport locking mechanism/laser and DAC/op-amp etc. Of course just like the components above not all DAC/transports are built the same, and ranging in price from $750 for a CAL Sigma D/A converter to the Zanden 5000 Mk.IV/Signature D/A converter & 2000 Premium CD transport costing $27,970 and $15,470 respectively. When manufacturers began placing vacuum tubes in DACs they had discovered an ad hoc method for ameliorating digital harshness and that is still true today. Even the Ipod is at home in several tube docking stations now on the market such as Rockridgesound below;
The Tecon Model 55 single-ended tube integrated with its ability to amplify your PC-sound card, will now allow us to hear the myriad of digital music stations on-line and other sources of music through a quality amp. All one need do is find speakers. This isn't for everyone, but if you love music this may be your chance to hear High End and through your PC. Something that was never possible before. I plan on the first article revolving around this amp and the spekaers I find to mate with it. I am also currently working on a review for two pairs of powered speakers from AudioEngine the AudioEngine A5 seen below and their A2's.
I would love to hear your feedback and comments
Last edited by Liquid3D : 29th December 2007 at 04:49.
|30th December 2007, 17:00||#2|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Hi-end audio is indeed not explored enough by most pc-enthousiast, heck most people don't know that there is difference in audio quality between cheap solid-state amplifiers and high-end gear.
Firsty you got the speakers, without quality speakers you won't notice much difference between amplifier quality. Then you got the envirement and usage, how much people out there really 'listen' to music/audio. If I listen to music, it's either in my car (with much ambient noise from traffic), or at home while other habitants are problabe doing something too (which produces lots of background noise). I could enjoy high-end audio, but my exposure would be very limited in time, plus any normal amplifier + set of speakers produces acceptable audio quality with a not too bad noise ratio. Together with me, most people will not really need it, then I also don't see the point in spending a tremendious amount of money while you can get acceptable quality nearly for free.
Like you said, it's pure for audio enthousiasts, it would be cool to see you write about such products but only 1% or less of our readers will ever spend much money on quality stuff, the price is way to high considering the difference.
As for me, I'm using onboard DAC with a stereo Technics SU-V303 amplifier and a pair of cheap speakers, I found all for free
|31st December 2007, 12:38||#4|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Hmm, well, maybe your right, just like with watercooling there is a market while not many of today's computer users actually use it. Decent priced stuff, heck I'm interested too.
When testing audio rigs, maybe you could start with testing a different range of speakers. Following CD's should be ideal, but there is way more out there from what I've been told (can't remember exactly): click
You can also produce charts while testing speakers, via an audio spectrum analyzer. Those devices will test the speakers over the whole audio spectrum that can be heard by mankind, cheap speakers could have a range of frequency's where they just produce noticeable less amount of sound.
For gamers, I think quality headphones could be of more interest, it's a common tool at LAN party's, even at home it could replace decent audio setups.
One questions remains, what sound card will you be using? Audigy?
|31st December 2007, 18:41||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2004
Hardcore PC users and highend audio buyers are of two entirely different breeds. This kind of highend audio equipment has always been the "passion" of the wealthy enthusiasts. When I use the word "passion", I don't mean passion of audio equipment ..... it is the passion of making more money as a result the passion of owning materials that ownership is less than 1% of the people in his kingdom.
Often times, owners of this highend audio equipment are at the age their hearing loss prevent them from truly listen to the true tunes.
A product review can only be found in the elite magazines ...... most CEOs don't browse internet, they are too busy.
Opteron 165 (2) @2.85 1.42 vcore AMD Stock HSF + Chill Vent II
|1st January 2008, 09:36||#7|
Join Date: Mar 2004
If the users can tolerate vaccum tube drifting characteristic ..... I enjoyed "guess who is talking on air" during SSB tuning in from time to time when temperature changes.
Opteron 165 (2) @2.85 1.42 vcore AMD Stock HSF + Chill Vent II
Last edited by Sidney : 2nd January 2008 at 17:49.
|1st January 2008, 10:12||#8|
I know why Audio is becoming more and more a niche section (also stated in one of the CES articles, Audio being a very small part now when it once was big).
While every other technology gets cheaper and better over time, highend audio hasn't improved much and still costs a whole lot of money because you need to optimize every part of the chain and the prices haven't changed much. The best thing to stay affordable are some decent headphones.
Which brings me to another point, even the best gear doesn't help when most MP3s are encoded in only 192 KBPS MP3s.
|2nd January 2008, 05:45||#9|
Your absolutely correct Rutar. One of the largest arguments is that people with really high end systems spend more on their gear then the recording studio who Mastered the source they are playing.
My cousin and I have just fiinished a project in which we had some software analyse the 192Kbps MP3 sampling rate and discovered the MP3 software compresses by leaving out large amounts of data throughout the spectrum based upon certain criteria such as 22KHz or 18Hz. However MP3 does much more it removes large amounts of data (sound) well within the 20Hz ~ 20KHz frequency range. There are vast holes in the music based upon a specific criteria. I can explain more if you like.
If you read the very best Audio mags they don't use instruments to measure, they use their ears. This is the only way you can discover if the gear is imaging and producing listenable sound. No test gear can acuurately measure or even detect where three dimensional images are in respect to the listener.
Take a few seconds to educate yourself on the art of listenting. Few people even know what imaging is let alone ever heard a system whch becomes transparaent. Steve Guttenberg writesan intersting blog:
Last edited by Liquid3D : 2nd January 2008 at 10:06.
|2nd January 2008, 09:54||#10|
Here's a few quotes I'd like to share with you which summarizes my feelings on this subject. Note how he brings up the Watts per dollar formula which is how many of us judge a "good" PSU.
And this quote by the same writer, speaks to some of the comments made about the Elitism which does exist in some circles so that you know I am not in total disagreement. Also this quote speaks to the changes that have occurred in vaccum tube technology, for those whom think it hasn't changed. Remeber the product I chose is a Single Ended Triode or SET.
One reason I wandered away from my involvement in High End was due to the fact Audiophile grade recordings in which imaging and timbre stood out and complimented the hardware, were VERY limted. CowBoy Junkies Trinity Sessions are found in so many High End reviews so the writer down't sound too Classical. You think the CowBoy Junkies got wealthy from royalties off Audiophiles who all rushed out to buy it. I saw the band live and liked the recordings better, but the experience of being there can't compare. I snuck into the threatre on the Smith College Campus when they were setting up and gave her flowers. I then asked if she wanted to come over after and listen to herself on my High End system. That is a true story. She laughed, I was serious.
Last edited by Liquid3D : 2nd January 2008 at 10:05.
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