Too Much Tube????

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Sanity Inn, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    Hey gang..

    I've been researching the type of gear I plan to buy but i've realized that most will be vale type,,

    valve mics, valve mic pre and same with compressors...

    Is there a point where there's too much tube in a chain?

    does this creat additional noise?

    thanks for the feedback ..

  2. hawkon

    hawkon Guest

    I'm not the expert but, doesn't that depend on the different valve circuits and what purpose the valve has in the different designs?

    All I know is that valves can be used to achieve excellent clarity or to add that extra "chesty" sound with the use of second and third harmonic distortion.

    So my guess is that the mix can possibly get a bit muddy if you only use valve units and they all are designed to make that fat valve sound...

    I've also read that valve mics should not be used with valve preamps, but here I might be on this ice as I've never used that combination myself... :wink:
  3. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    I think the only real rule to go by is: "If it feels/sounds good, do it."
    If you are using good components, I don't think you should worry about having too much "tube buildup" on your tracks. If you are going for a tight, clear, sterile, modern sound; then you might want to figure in some solid state stuff like API or something. So...what are you going for here?

    BTW: you aren't confusing "tube" with "tOoB" are you? Most of the ART/Behri kind of stuff is tOoB. Just checking
  4. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    Hey guys, thanks

    Tube meaning valve gear,,,,

    basically i plan to work on my own projects for now, acoustic guitar, vocals,,,,

    most other tracks will be midi, vsti or whatever i can use to build my songs, then if i can't get the right feel on virtual tracks, i'll hire out the parts ie, bass, drums, etc,

    as for what type of gear i plan to use in a chain


    Brauner VMA
    Soundelux E47


    DW fearn
    redd 47

    Manley vari MU
    Cranesong SCT 8
    emi Chandler TG1

    again, thanks for responding

  5. Fruition2k

    Fruition2k Active Member

    Jan 1, 2001
    South Florida
    Havent experienced any noise issues in my signal chain....
    i.e. Neumann M269 - REDD47 - LA2A.

    Battle for me is keeping outside noises from getting in, its the most expensive area yet.... dedicated A/C unit - ductwork, soundproofing, and decoupling.

    High end tube sound to me.....depth, dimention, clarity...(when its designed correctly from the start and properly maintained).
  6. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Tubes are to carburateurs as..?

    A key here may be "properly maintained".

    Or maybe more, just plain old knowledge.

    I have a tube mic-pre(Of the rather lesser kind) but, after some use, I sort've remembered that I don't "know" tubes. I had no way of definitively comparing any particular "tube" sound with any similar quality solid-state sound. And worse, I have no reliable way of knowing when some element is going bad - tubes do that, that I know and they can go bad slowly - slowly enough that subtle changes may take place that I don't catch until maybe too late. Even tubes with the same(As ordinarilly tested) specs, can be "different", especially when we're looking for some sort of subtle "magic" in their sound. I don't have any tube test gear or knowledge of how to use it if I did, etc. Even tube makers have a tough time quantifying any particular tubes actual properties in any meaningful(To us subtle sound-chasers) way. Alot of users claim to simply try tube after tube until they find one that "works" to their satisfaction. When it no longer does so, I guess they try, try again? What if a unit has 6 tubes of 3 different types?

    Suffice it to say that I got a garden variety, solid state, mixer and it's own mic pres sound much "better" to me - or at least they always sound the same, which means alot to me. I cannot say the same for my tube pre. Price of the single channel mic pre was MORE than the 4-pre mixer. Is it the tube gear? The tube itself? Or me. I don't know.

    While it's sort've OK to say "if it sounds good, do it" - What if it doesn't? Especially if it seemed to sound OK before and now it doesn't? Is "it"(The sound) the tube itself, or it's adjustment in the piece of gear or..? A key here might be that one has full knowledge of how solid state "sounds", in and of itself. Only then might one accurately judge how tubes add or subtract or change that solid state sound to something, somehow, more pleasing or whatever. If one uses only tube gear(Even of the highest quality) how would they know what they were gaining or losing? Solid state does have consistency going for it - even if it has no "musicality", a completely impossible term to define, without knowledge of both.

    While I slobber over things like the Doug Fern or the Pendulum audio stuff, or an expensive tube microphone, I must say that, for now anyway - until I can hire an engineer for maintenence(All my old engineer friends are retired anyway and don't remember tubes, or their sound differences, any better than I do.), my goal is to put a current-tech, well-reviewed(I don't know otherwise, I can't properly audition any of them, certainly not a/b'ing several at a time.), solid-state system together, THEN maybe add tube pieces so I may have a better chance to actually hear any positive differences. I will not make any initial, expensive jumps to a totally tube system that I am now locked-in-to and woefully unprepared to take best advantage of... I know that I'll have a quite saleable sound, with even casual research and a modest budget.

    I own a 60 pound shortwave radio that has 25 tubes. When I turn it on, it works. How well - compared to when it was new 50 years ago? I don't know. Would it work better if I replaced a tube? ALL the tubes? I don't know. (((An aside here would be that replacing ALL the caps would be a good start - but that's another story.))) I DO know I can't get most of the tubes "new". I also know that replacing all of the tubes, with new, used or NOS tubes(Whether it helps or not), would cost more than a brand new, 2 pound, works GREAT - by ANY definition, shortwave radio that I can buy at a consumer electronics store.

    I also have a 25 year old ham radio transceiver, with a tube final section. I often get compliments about its' excellent audio. I attribute most of them to the fact that I DO NOT use the built-in(39 cent) compressor, and to my fine-quality voice, as much as the tubes themselves, though I wonder? Even so, some of the best ham audio I've heard has come from modern, solid-state radios. I don't know why - though I suspish that their operators haven't found their compressor button yet..?. Still, the tube final is "forgiving", compared to solid state circuitry and, if nothing else, warms the shack a bit on a cold winters night. And, I do believe that if someone were to offer a modern transmitting tube, of the 6146 variety, that EVERY ham radio maker would soon be offering radios with tube finals - and that they would be bought by the thousands - by old hams(Like me), who don't remember as well as they wish they did and by young hams who want to be "cool"(Warm, in this instance) - and only rarely for any actual knowledge of anything that might make tubes better than solid state...

    I'm old. I grew up with tube things - even used them professionally in my early days of broadcasting - where I had engineers to make sure things were OK. I DO remember that just because it was tube operated does not mean that it was wonderful - crap is a constant. I do remember solid state coming in strong and being praised by these same engineers(Who got to use them both - ALOT, for awhile there.) as much because it didn't change over time and that maintenence and calibration was less frequent and easier and it was certainly smaller and ran cooler, though its' "cleanliness" of sound was a very strong suit, as well. Solid state can change over time, but is more likely to just, rather obviously, fail, or even simply to be replaced by something newer, long before it changes much. That said, of course, we end up with the question - "How much change is much?" How critical can we be? What do we do about it even if we DO notice changes? As we strive for superb quality and try tubes as a potential part of that, we should remember that fine tube gear, more like a fine car, is, basically, mechanical(Moving parts) by comparison and that, at least in the past, it took a real expert to make them work well and keep them doing so(Tube testers at the drug store aside - Mom and Dad only cared that their radio "worked", not that it worked superbly...). Again, while solid state needs maintenence too, adding tubes to the mix can - should - MUST - if superb sound is to be acheived and maintained - add complexity of a completely other dimension. Tube gear is NOT maintenence-free, nor is it maintainable at all by someone without pertty darned intimate knowledge, which hasn't been available for many, many years. Of those who made RCA tubes, here in Lancaster, PA or Sylvania in Emporium, PA, most are WAY over 40, many much older and long retired, their companies and technology, gone.

    Even picking the tubes themselves is, today, v-e-r-y risky business! I notice one mic manufacturer offering a "Mullard" tube standard. Are Mullard tubes still made? I have one Mulard. Looks just like the one in the ad --- mine is old... In any event, many manufacturers are offering NOS(New Old Stock) tubes by manufacturers l-o-n-g out of the tube business - in new gear! These tubes were made before many of us were born! How good are they? I don't know. Do you? Does anyone? Tubes DO have lifetimes and just like anything else, no one knows how long. And, the new tubes that are being made. How good are they? I don't know. Do you? I admit, maybe wrongly, that I have fairly high confidence in new solid state components quality - at least the higher quality types, but tubes? I don't know. I just don't know. Even the manuals for tube gear that I have read, say things like - "After 2 years" - or "when it starts to sound bad" - tubes should be replaced. I just don't trust myself to know - at least initially - when my 3000 dollar piece of tube gear is "beginning" to "go bad"... Let alone if I had 3 pieces of tube gear in the system - especially with nothing to compare them too.

    "Tube noise". Tubes are inherently more noisy than most solid state, but... The actual noise should not be much of(If any) problem, perse. The tube "noise", along with it's distortion, is supposed to be the greater part of it's charm - as long as it's not more than "normal tube noise". Do we know what "proper tube noise" is? I don't. And my retired engineer friends don't remember...

    I can't imagine how much fun it would be to have a - what? - 1959 Ferrari - in immaculate condition, in my garage. Wow, just plain...!
    But, given the choice of having ONLY a 1959 Ferrari or ONLY a 2005 Ferrari, to drive daily, I 'd choose the 2005. Matter of fact, I'd feel much better if I could have BOTH, just so I'd be fairly sure one was running while the other was in the shop for it's weekly maintenence. And, maybe somewhat sadly, when push came to checkbook, I'd really get a nice Buick sedan, along with a nice new pickup truck AND a Hummer AND a new Corvette, before I'd get ANY Ferrari - and I'd have money left over to make my garage bigger - and I'd still have pretty much fun - when they weren't all in the shop at once for their respective recalls......

    Tubes, like carburateurs, need maintenence and knowledge - often - to operate superbly. Transistors, like fuel injection, need only to be replaced for a new model once in awhile - not often......

    Teddy G.
  7. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    thanks for making time to post such an extensive response,

    you did open my eyes to the maintenance side of this investment, and i thank you for that ..


  8. issofunky

    issofunky Guest

    No tube (nor ToOB) build up is a problem

    first off, tubes are not noisey,

    transformers are
    older or shoddy capacitors are sometimes.....
    poorly bias tube circuts are noisey
    ...but that's not the tube...its maintenance of your equipment.

    so when you associate hiss and tubes
    ....they you are mis-diagnosing your problem.

    Check out this site,

    (Dead Link Removed)

    a Good tube mic and tube pre or amp
    can be JUST as silent (if not quieter then) some solidstate.

    cheap transistor and shoddy ADC/DAC are WAY noisier and more distorted then a correctly configured and maintained tube schematic.

    socondly, it TOTALLY depends on your goal.

    Listen to NIN downward spiral again.

    ...there is SO much hiss and noise in some of those tracks
    that, in my opinion, the hiss itself BECOMES ANOTHER INSTRUMENT.

    ...then listen to A Sheryl Crow Recording....and realize HOW many gates, compressors, individually patched eqs and mastering tricks went into making that recording dead silent and pristene.
    but there are most likely 30 + tube paths in that recording too...

    Tubes can be your friend...don't be afraid of them
    instead....fear not listening to what your doing
    fear using poor equipment...or good equipment used as a novice.
    and mOst of all...fear missing things...just focus on the end effect.


    Secondly, there are a couple different ways
    to eliminate track hiss, peak rattles,
    low end sputter and other tube or NON-tube related "noise"

    if hiss is your concern,
    start by sampling the stable state noise of the pre,
    invert it 180' and sitting it in a dummy track alongside the track.
    noise cancels itself (provided the his is somewhat consistant)
    I do this when I play around with really old tube pres that I don't want to bother re-cap-ing.....too much time and effort....just sample it for 3 minutes, cut, paste and invert....hiss gone...
    works about 30% of the time.
    yes, I know that its really wasteful of tracks
    ...but I do small productions.

    I also use this trick to ditch finger scrape sounds
    in acoustic guitar tracks, or deep breaths in vox tracks.

    to my ear this WAY better sounding then a gate.

    And in closing,
    the "ToOB" sound (ART MPs, and POD Line 6 sh*t...)
    they all sound the same as the gain on a cheap DOD
    or Boss guitar pedal from the 80's
    ....ART SGX and DIGITECH schlock from the 90's's just another a product for consumers....

    if you want grit...use a SansAmp and get more control on the grit.

    if you want to duplicate the sound of MM's Antichrist Superstar
    get an MP and an AKG D112...and your' 25% of the way there....

    I personally like this sound configuration
    a Wah...then RE-Amp and then ReMic to track

    Take a dyn mic , an SM58 or whatever...
    into a wah then into an amp,
    I like using a VOX AC30 or my Wurlitzer Rotary...Weeeeee

    and THEN Re-Mic that to really clean mic & pre combination)
    ( AT4033 into an API...or such)

    feedback with a pedal to control it

    ....this produces something REALLY similar to what you
    hear on some of Jimi Hendrix stuff.
    ...but on Vocal tracks instead of guitar tracks.

    but...there is no limit to that kind of experimentation....
  9. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    Thanks issofunky

    more food for though , appreciate it

  10. issofunky

    issofunky Guest

    just sharing, what kind engineers have shared with me....

    I'm no pro....but I know when to admit that I don't know....

    and then I ask where to go to find out.
  11. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I.F. - I like your way of eliminating noise via cancelling... Most interesting! Your other comments are much appreciated, as well. Thankx!

    I also agree completely that cheap is cheap, tube or solid state.

    Just to digress on this "tube" subject a bit more(No project at the moment, though I'm hoping..!)

    Unfortunately there are "me too" providers of tube stuff that are NOT always just the cheap providers. And even they are not looking to do anything seriously better(Or even just different) with your sound, perse. Some of those in the highest stratosphere, price-wise, are obviously just jumping on the tube band wagon, looking to do something "better" with your wallet...

    (((By the way S.I., NONE of the gear you suggest seems anything other than VERY fine! I'm NOT criticising ANY of it with these harsh words. There are several pieces of tube gear(One or two of which you mention) that I would dearly LOVE to have. I'm confident it would last a long time, excellent tubes are available, etc. We just have to pay close attention to what we're getting into. Tubes are no panacea - no sure way to a hit record - simply another avenue that may be, at times, useful - maybe even wonderful - if we can afford it.

    It's not a new story. Technology has always jumped into something new, just as a former technology was becoming it's best(Hard to sell lots of something that works perfectly and that everyone already has...). One might take a lesson from the now, possibly complete(?), unavailability of audio tape - as word is that the last remaining large manufacturer(Relatively speaking - Miniscule compared to the output of past makers.) has recently stopped producing same... I cannot afford to base my life's work on things so tenuous - any possible ultimate quality be damned... As early as the mid 70's, tape was a "dead" format - many of the major manufacturers got out by the 80's. Tubes "died" much earlier than that(More than 50 years ago, with the invention of the transistor.) Both tape
    and tubes have been "boutique"(Not household) items, ever since - meaning zero major manufacturer progress or support(Audio cassettes were NEVER "ultimate sound" anything!). Now, we can add film to the list of technological deaths, as Kodak announced, last year, that they would spend no more money on further development of film technology(Though they may sell what they do make for the next 50 years? That's not even close to the same thing.). For the folks who can afford the idiosyncrisies, fine. I just can't, not as my main, day-to-day gear. I no longer rely on tape, tubes or film for anything I've got to do to make a buck - period.

    No. There is nothing to be "scared of" with using any old tech, but mindful, careful, ever-questioning, don't bet your life on it - you bet.

    Even a highly qualified engineer, with the time and knowledge to do what they consider neccessary for some sort of "ultimate" sound, is, no doubt, smart enough to always have currently available alternatives - to get the work out. For me, I will use tube stuff, tape stuff and certainly I'm not throwing out my 4x5 sheet film view camera anytime soon(Though I would have "pitched it in the closet" too, long ago, if I used it for anything other than hobby fun.), but I will use this stuff only in addition to my "latest", even if not so greatest, money-making gear.

  12. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    Thanks Teddy

    more insightfull coments :)

    although" Tubes are no panacea - no sure way to a hit record ""

    that coment may generate some opinions me thinks !!!

    not from me ofcourse, because i haven't been exposed to the gear , sounds and results yet, but er ? weren't a lot of hit songs from the past done on tube gear???

    either way, i appreciate that this thread is becoming more then i expected,, thanks

  13. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest


    thanks for the " new word of the day"

    panacea :A remedy claimed to be curative of all problems or disorders; a cure-all.

  14. issofunky

    issofunky Guest

    a Gun lying on the counter will NEVER shot anyone.

    Gear, tools and possessions will NEVER make you a buck....
    no matter WHAT field you are in.

    A plumber's wrench....all by itself...will NEVER get paid.

    it is the PLUMBER that makes the buck.
    ....he'll use a hammer, a wet rag and blowtorch
    to finish the job if he has to....that's a Pro.

    So don't confusing owning the tools....with DOING THE JOB.

    Having a computer, doesn't make you a technician.
    Having VB.Net Studio...does NOT make you a programmer,
    having a total ProTools Rig and 60 rare mic and pre....

    The ONLY peice of equipment you have that will EVER make you the lump of grey tissue between your ears....

    Jimmy Page Recorded Black Dog
    in the back of a bus using
    what is by today's standard, TRASH.

    and one last thing.....Hits are NOT recorded,

    "Hits" are bought and paid for advertising time

    for corporate sponsored poster personalities....

    you might think I'm talking about Ashlee Simpson,

    Brittney Spears or Avril L.....but I MEAN ALLL Artists

    that you know by name....learned this lesson long ago

    Steven Tyler is like ANY other stock commodity traded on the floor of wall street....he's a stock name...a price tag on a promotional product line...

    Read about how David Bowie went from just another BBS engineer
    to an international superstar....he incorporated his name and sold stock to the richest individuals he could contact at the time....

    Read about Andy Warhol.

    Making money is ITS OWN ART,
    A difficult craft entirely unto itself.

    Agreed, making good music, is hard

    making people pay you money for something that
    they can't eat, can't live in, and can't drive to work in. equally hard, BUT NEVER MINGLE OR MIX UP THE TWO
  15. Sanity Inn

    Sanity Inn Guest

    Hey isso,

    thanks for the coment,,

    although i think you went off topic, i undestand the logic behind what you said about politics in "hit songs' making and its the "ear' not the ' gear' conclusion

    but was only comenting on your coment that valve gear doesn't make for hit records is all,,,

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