04 October, 2010

W3H1: WHAT is vintage tube sound?

W3H1: WHAT is vintage tube sound?

Editor's Note: This is the start of a new feature. Rest assured, W3H1 is not the newest virus, it's about the Why's, What's, Where's and How's of HiFi. Each capsule is short and addresses one specific issue. Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy it.

Stereophile and Me
Although I have had this idea for a long time, the impetus for implementation came today when I read a post in R33 by our gentle-soul-poet pilotrol. In his invaluable Fisher and Pilot 古董同好會 ~ Vintage Amplifier thread, he cited a Stereophile article on the Fisher 500-C, in which the critics examined the vintage integrated amp with modern critical eyes and gave it a high mark. Make sure you read also the follow-ups, especially In Modern Dress, where it was used to drive the inefficient Sonus Faber Cremona! In case you are interested, there are TONS more of informative articles on the Fisher receivers (a good one in 6moons).

I shall relate a personal experience to you. Some years ago, we paid a visit to our friend Gary aka "Kondo san", who was at the time using a ML6 (something like that) preamp + FM professional amp to drive his JBL K2-9800. We happened to have my Fisher X-101-C (above right) integrated amp with me. We asked to hook it up, and all of us (except maybe the host) thought it completely trounced the modern ss setup. This integrated amp is quite similar to the 500-C, also using 7591. My sample is in excellent shape. It's superbly quiet even through my highly efficient Tannoy Canterbury and many friends have marveled at its performance.

All this to say, as has been said before by many others, a piece of good vintage tube gear in good electrical condition sounds surprisingly up to date and has a heart of gold. Unfortunately, we hear too may out-of-spec samples and, even more unfortunately, many "vintage lovers" like that kind of sound. The common term 古墓派 is aptly used to refer to them. Many tube "experts" belong to this type.

I am not sure Stereophile still does this kind of thing with regularity, but vintage gears still feature in the magazine often enough through writers like the excellent Art Dudley. In this aspect, Stereophile is not alone:

HiFi News has a regular feature that examines a piece of properly restored vintage gear in each issue.

HiFi World has always been eclectic and possessed a heavy vintage bend, long before the others. Its Second-Hand Buying Tips deals with vintage. The Features section also has some interesting overviews on old gears, like Garrad.

The HiFi World Buying Guide (less so HiFi News Hot 100), unlike many other Recommended Components list, contains many old gears, but not as old as what we term vintage. A fun read though.

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