Posted - 04/22/2009 : 18:08:56
The "Vintage Tube Collection"
"Vintage Tube Collection": The CDSoundMaster Vintage Tube Collection
Over 70 Programs within one Nebula Commercial Library!
Tube Audio Comparisons:
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Audio Samples From The Hardware:
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So, what is it about 'that tube sound' that everyone is always talking about?
There is a lot beyond the science and numbers of good sound. Overdriving a signal, or subtly resetting and restaging volume levels can activate the special overtones and harmonic qualities of different tubes to produce the richest, purest sound that exists. Beyond the technical representation of RMS, 1st and 2nd order harmonics, dB's, and transients, comes the interaction of the mind, the ears, the spirit, and the music. We have selected the range of tubes that are sonic building blocks for you to use to make the best mixes that you can.
This collection is a near-perfect represenation of natural sound passing through an all-tube analog device making use of the most important sonic characteristics of the "12" series dual triode vacuum tube; specifically, the 12au7. Several specific vintage tubes, known as "NOS" or "New Old Stock" were collected, tested, and selected for this very special release. These tubes are among the elite of the very last existing versions of certain specialty designs. In fact, the only tubes that are considered more valuable or collectible than those in this collection have become so expensive due to their scarcisty, that one could easily spend more for the tubes than the gear they are designed for! Tubes were selected based not only upon their manufacturing brand, but also for the specific product line, for the specific years and dates of origin, for the specific factories that they were created in, down to every precise detail of construction of identifying parts, and for their current test-result readings to assure the maximum integrity in sound. The tubes for this collection are from the 12au7 family of dual triodes, which are prefered for their high end audiophile reproduction abilities.
The Mullard Short Plate, small halo getter: Blackburn Plant, 1962.
The Mullard Long Plate, D-shaped getter, Blackburn Plant, 1957.
The Radiotechnique Long Plate, 1958.
The Amperex Bugle Boy Short Plate, halo getter, Heerlen, Holland Plant, 1964.
The Brimar BVA 13D5 Long Plate, 1964.
The JJ/Tesla, Short Plate, Current production, Russia, under new QC from U.S. owner.
The Amperex Bugle Boy Long Plate, D-shaped getter, Heerlen, Holland, 1957.
A hand-selected modern-day Russian 12ax7
For all of the programs in this entire collection, the aesthetic qualities of the actual tube itself play just as large a role as the settings themselves in determining best uses. At clean settings, these tubes all exhibit a hifi polishing quality that has made them the perfect compliment to the most stringent listening environment. When placed under greater gain settings, we see what has made them the absolute choices for elite musical equipment set-ups. One of the valuable aspects of this collection, beyond the range of tubes and range of settings, is that the medium to heavy setting programs are intentionally rounded off to give the qualities of a tube mid-range equalizer, without the use of any extraneous circuitry. The absolute natural reaction of analog science to music is the kind of frequency shaping that takes place with the best sounding harmonic content suppliment that our ears can respond to! Each tube has slightly unique reactions to frequency, so each program and type of tube will be explained here for your best choices of use in content.
The Source + Plus is our completely custom design that was used for sampling this collection. It allows for the reproduction of sound at the absolute purest quality, with a range of adjustment and control all the way to a level of full overdrive and distortion yet in a very hifi, full, round character. This allows for the inclusion of all of the tube's personality to shine through. No longer is the evaluation of these tubes limited to extremely controlled listening environments where only the most discerning ears will truly appreciate the subtle differences and qualities. At different bias settings, and different control levels, one can hear all of the many strengths and weaknesses, providing a great reference for each tube's best use in recording, mixing, and mastering. An important element of the construction of this proprietary design of the hardware, is that it acts upon both sides of the dual triode tube at the same time, in a cascading serial mode, with absolute control of the stage 1 input gain, the relative output of stage 1 into stage 2, with unique control of stage 1 output and stage two input. These two stages reach the output gain at the same time, so they can be activated at any level of gain at either stage, before this is increased at the output gain stage of triode #2 AND output gain master. This means that when I have dialed every setting in for each program, it is not just being turned on at a pre-determined set level. It is dialing in the absolute best sounding performance of each tube. If a tube begins to react earlier to certain settings than another tube, then the settings have been chosen specifically for tha tube to sound its best.
These tubes have been compared and tested under a great range of content and settings in the analog world in order to best classify their usefulness. There is definitely a reason that the Bugle Boy brand by Amperex and the Mullard classic vintage tubes rise to the top of nearly every single audiophile list of favorites. This is sometimes immediately followed by the Radiotechnique, Brimar, and a select few others, matched only by the JJ/Tesla as a modern manufacturing that meets the sonic goals of these amazing classics on its own merits.
The Amperex Bugle Boy Short Plate and Long Plate both share many of the same desirable characteristics, but are unique designs. The most outstanding characteristics of this tube is the combination of all elements one looks for in a tube. The high end, mids, lows, separation, harmonics, sense of space in sound reproduction, dynamics, sustain, stereo width, and microphonics. For these tubes, the low frequencies are reproduced at a quality that can be trusted. They can be very musical at all frequencies when adjusted in a device like the one used for this collection. The mid range is very balanced and subtly forward sounding at a rate of increase correllating to the increase in harmonics that is spectacular on full mixes, bus groups, and individual instrument and track tuning as well. The high end is very sweet sounding, and is best described as accurate but not edgy or bright. It is very wide and clean and not fuzzy or indistinguished, yet it is not glassy or dull. When the tube is pushed harder, it remains full and round before sounding noticeably distorted.
Some settings of the Short Plate Bugle Boy are extremely unique in that when pushed fairly hard, it gains a very natural increase in volume from around 50Hz-100Hz and another one centered at 500Hz, with a slight decrease around 2.5kHz. This is only at very specific extreme settings specified on program BB_SP_H1_9K.
The long and short plate Mullard's are known as the favorite of the warm sounding tube. Considering that the audio world most widely labels 'that tube sound' as 'warming up tracks', it is hard to resist considering these two of the greatest tubes in the world. At the top of the food chain of tubes based upon sound characteristics are the "12" series. The most popular is the 12ax7 because of its wide use in guitar amps and distortion pedals. For absolute pure sound in hifi preamplification, the 12au7 is considered the best. The 12au7 can replace the 12ax7 in any cab./pedal scenario as well, and usually is credited with better tone and roundness/fullness in signal before distortion. The Mullard covers the complete gamut from almost perfect linearity used for final mastering, to absolute shredding with lengthened, beautifully textured harmonics and ringing overtones that bring instruments to life. They are perhaps slightly behind the Bugle Boy in absolute sound stage separation of instruments, and overall extended sounding highs. But, they make up for these characteristics immediately with an up-front quality for individual instruments, vocals, and dimensional stereo sound that is built by combining the type of harmonics with the frequency shifts that happen on a very subtle level. Words like silky, velvety, warm, rich, and musical are all descriptors that I believe hold true for the Mullards. I'd say these two were my absolute favorite in all instances if I didn't have to rule out the Amperex in the process! Truly, the two Bugle Boy's and two Mullards are an absolute perfect match for each other.
The Brimar 13D5 is an excellent example of lively sound without unwanted brightness. It is able to exhibit some characteristics of higher gain without overt artifacts. It is smooth but not as personality-driven as the Mullard and not as overwhelmingly impactful as the Amperex. At moderate settings, it begins to stand out as an excellent tone-shaper, adding fullness to low mids from as wide a "Q" as 50Hz to 2kHz, while remaining exceptionally flat in the sub-lows. Even at extreme settings and mid and low bias settings, the Brimar holds on to a nice volume increase curve from 100Hz to 1kHz. If you have a thin, brittle, or harsh sounding source that should be filling out the mids and low end, you may want to try some of these programs out. More specifics are found in each program. The quality of this tube is not a second choice to the Amperex of Mullard, in that the frequencies or tonal qualities do not cheapen the sound or bring undesirable results. Trust me, there are plenty of tubes that fall into that category and they are not in this collection!
The Radiotechnique is described as a French Mullard. It is, in fact, from a Mullard plant located in France, but they had specific designs of their own from month to month, year to year. The 1958 long plate is one of the absolute most sought after from this plant, only two others being considered worthy of this year; the '56 and the '65 short plates. This is an extremely linear tube with subtle personality all the way into high gain. At moderate settings it has a wonderful character of smoothness and roundness. It provides a slight scoop around 2kHz or so, with a slight rise in upper frequencies, with more volume at around 500Hz or so at more heavy settings. Overall, this tube is great for general experimenting on tracks where you want to add nice harmonics and a beautful rounded tone without making a huge change in frequencies.
The JJ/Tesla is an excellent, tight, punchy, yet smooth sounding tube with excellent response to sharp, quick transients. It is fantastic on percussive material and can be pushed hard for harmonics without major loss to frequencies. It gains a fairly common frequency curve when pushed into overdrive, with a rise in wide "Q" from around 75Hz to 1kHz, with a median around 500Hz or so.
The 12ax7 is an excellent sounding tube, most likely hand-selected Sovtek. It is added here for fun, so I will focus notes on the true main attractions. I do encourage you to try some settings and find some favorites as I have. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using this program all over the place if you like the sound. If they all miraculously disappeared tomorrow, I'm sure the price would jump. But, there is a reason they come stock on 90% of current beyond the bulk pricing, as they run linear when so-desired and do not leave a huge sonic imprint of their own, mostly moving out of the way of the equipment to produce its own signature sound.
The "Clean" tube settings are marked by a "C" in the program name, and are 3 Kernel programs, meaning that 3 distortion Kernels are used for 3 levels of streaming harmonics.
These are the best programs to use for the most critical source material where the least change in frequency response is desired. The following four programs are the most flat frequency responses that offer a great deal of pleasant harmonic content and character without making major changes to frequencies:
In technical use, these tubes would have been rated for their ability to change as little frequency and to read as low in distortion as possible under clean running conditions. For our intentions of hearing as much of their pleasing affects on the signal, it is the most helpful to get as much harmonic content from these programs as possible, while still remaining relatively flat in response.
For this purpose, the programs above have also been ordered by how much harmonic content is generated at their maximum input and drive settings. The Bugly Boy Short Plate providing the most harmonic content while still nearly flat, and the RTQ remaining almost completely distortion free at its heaviest level at this setting.
These along with all other "C" or "Clean" setting programs are your best choice for mixing and mastering with a flat frequency response.
Low gain settings
Each tube has at least one low gain program, which includes an "L" next to the number of Kernels in the program. These programs represent an extremely similar frequency response to their clean setting equivalents. There is variation in how much each tube produces in harmonics, and this will be covered in each program's description.
Medium gain settings
All of the tubes included begin to exhibit much more individual personality at their Medium gain settings. You can recognize these programs under each tube with the designation "M" just before the number of Kernels in the program. Outstanding differences in frequencies and harmonics are discussed in each programs.
Heavy gain settings
This is where the most diversity and audible change of tube character takes place. Every program of every tube is a variation that gives the best traits at every setting measurable within Nebula. Keep in mind that absolute full gain overdrive is possible in 3 combination stages with the actual hardware, but this goes beyond what Nebula is currently created to represent. I've been careful with every setting to make sure that you are getting the absolute authentic tube sound as far as it can be pushed! Each individual frequency response and harmonic character will be discussed in each program note.
Low Bias and Medium Bias
Changing the bias runs the tubes at a different power structure, giving a completely different range of color, harmonics, and frequency balance. These are extremely unique sounding settings and are amazing for changing the tone of your recordings in a manner that even the most beautiful sounding eq circuits just cannot compete with. These are all described in particular with each program to follow.
The Programs: Full Details
Amperex 1957 Bugle Boy Long Plate
BB_LP_C_3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_L 5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_M 7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_H LB 9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_H1 9K - Heavy Gain1, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_H2 9K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_LP_H4 9K - Heavy Gain4, 9 Distortion Kernels
Amperex Bugle Boy 1962 Short Plate
BB_SP_Clean 3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_L5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_M 7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H LB 9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H MB 9K - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H1 9K - Heavy Gain1, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H2 9K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
BB_SP_H4 9K - Heavy Gain4, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mullard 1957 Long Plate
Mul_LP_C3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_L5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_M7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H LB 9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H MB 9K - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H1 9K - Heavy Gain1, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H2 9K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_LP_H4 9K - Heavy Gain4, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mullard 1962 Short Plate
Mul_SP_C3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_L 5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_L 7K - Low Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_M_ LMB9K - Medium Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_M_MB9K - Medium Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_H_LB9K - High Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_H17K - Heavy Gain1, 7 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_H29K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mul_SP_H39K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
Mullard_SP_XFO - Heavy Gain, 9 Distortion Kernels, dual input and output transformers + op-amps
RTQ_LP_C3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_L5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_M7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_H LB9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_H MB9K - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_H7K - Heavy Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_H27K - Heavy Gain2, 7 Distortion Kernels
RTQ_LP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
Brimar BVA 13D5 1964
Brimar_LP_C3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_C5K - Clean, 5 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_M 7 - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H LB7k - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H MB7k - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H1 7k - Heavy Gain1, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H2 7k - Heavy Gain2, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H3 7k - Heavy Gain3, 7 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H4 9k - Heavy Gain4, 9 Distortion Kernels
Brimar_LP_H5 9k - Heavy Gain5, 9 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_C 3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_L 5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_M 7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_H LB 9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_H MB 9K - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_H1 9K - Heavy Gain1, 9 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_H2 9K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
JJ_SP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_C 3K - Clean, 3 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_L 5K - Low Gain, 5 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_M 7K - Medium Gain, 7 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H LB 9K - Heavy Gain, Low Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H MB 9K - Heavy Gain, Medium Bias, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H 9K - Heavy Gain, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H2 9K - Heavy Gain2, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H3 9K - Heavy Gain3, 9 Distortion Kernels
12AX7_SP_H4 9K - Heavy Gain4, 9 Distortion Kernels
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