Hearing loss and tube amps

I’ve always had hearing issues and of course things decline with age.

At this point I top out around 6k. I can hear the fundamentals of most instruments but loose a lot of the harmonics.

I’ve read that a significant part of “tube sound” is in the way harmonics are presented.

That leads to the question -

If I’m limited in hearing range will I even be able to detect any difference in tube amps?

I am happy with the JDS Element II and not looking for an “upgrade” there, but rather to add an alternative with a tube amp.

Thanks for any insights!

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Hearing sensitivity and loss is unique to each person. There’s no way to say what you will like without trying for yourself. Tubes do indeed soften and smooth high frequencies, so the impact may be lost for you. Instead, you might consider testing brighter headphones with a stronger high range (e.g., Grado, Beyerdynamic), or use an equalizer to see what it does for you.

You might try to visit a local store or get a demo unit from a vendor. Some people also buy used products for testing, and then resell them for a minimal loss.

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Hearing loss varies, and is often frequency specific. I actually have $$ hearing aids available for use, but don’t always use them. I do not use them wearing headphones for listening sessions. Sometimes you can add some equalization to boost a tone, but there are limits to that. You make the best with what you have. I have tubed and solid state amps. I can note the warmth in the tubed ones. Often your hearing may just suffer from an amplification standpoint and you can compensate with increased volume.

Have you ever tried Sennheiser HD800 or HD800S? They are a touch bright and might be a good workaround to compensate for partial hi-frequency hearing loss.

If you listen to speakers and drive them hard, it’s easy to tell a tube amp from solid state. Even at mid frequency. The question you ask, though is probably unique to you.

Thanks guys.

I have done (admittedly unscientific) experiments with sine wave sweep and above 7k or so even if I raise the volume as much as I dare I don’t hear it. I suspect EQ or brighter headphones won’t give back what I just can’t hear.

I know it’s not possible to say how my exact situation will turn out but you have encouraged me to have a go at trying a tube amp.

The Liquid Platinum on sale is tempting although I don’t have any other balanced gear.

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Forging ahead, I ordered the Drop x Cavalli CTH. It’s $175 now so even if I can’t hear a difference it’s worth having a spare amp.

I can run the pre-out of the Element II to the CTH. Not the standard method but the closest I can get to apples-to-apples with what I have.

Will be patient and let the CTH run for at least 50 hours before listening.

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Yes, the CTH’s tube really needs it. 50 hours was about right for me. I hope you enjoy the amp - that it does what you’re hoping it will.


I know a hybrid is not the “tube-iest” choice but all-tube amps get complicated when you don’t know which headphones you will end up with.

It seems that to cover the full range of impedance you need to be well above $500 for all-tube amps. I may end up with something like Woo WA6 but that’s too much to start with.

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I agree entirely, and this was also a significant consideration for me when I decided to get the CTH. Its versatility, at least with dynamic driver headphones, was also appealing. I didn’t have any success pairing it with the Audeze LCD2-C, though, so beware of using it with some planar headphones.

I also got the CTH because it was (and still is) situated at a sweet spot in the market: at $250 (when I got mine), it was an appreciable step up from the Vali 2, and barring a couple of proper tube amps (Valhalla 2 and ZDT Jr.) there wasn’t much to compete with it until you got to the $700+ range, as with the Woo WA6. (If memory serves, the Lyr 3 hadn’t been released when I got my CTH). At $175, it’s a great option!