Tube Talk

If you can find old sylvania, kenrad or raytheon V-231’s those are quite special. The Kenrads a bit microphonic potentially. Raytheon may be the best of the bunch.

To go with my reasonably priced (< US$150) transparent/clean/quiet Topping E30 DAC and transparent/clean/powerful Topping L30 amp I want to plug in a reasonably priced tube pre-amplifier; that is I want to connect the RCA outputs of my E30 into the pre-amp, then RCA outputs of the pre-amp into my L30.

Where do I find such a reasonably priced tube pre-amplifier?

Ideally this will stack nicely on top of my red E30 and L30.

To frame this, I already own a ridiculously powerful xDuoo TA-01B hybrid tube DAC/amp and would buy the <US$100 xDuoo MT-602 if I wanted a tube pre-amp and a powerful amp to plug into my E30. What I (think I) want is just the tube section of the MT-602 because I think it will sound better than my TA-01B due to the E30 and L30 being a better DAC and amp.

Based on my research here and elsewhere, I am getting the distinct impression that such a product doesn’t exist, but I’m hoping you can help show me what I’m missing.

What I think I do not want is exactly what matches the obvious search, because I don’t want a volume pot or bass and treble controls because I’m sure those are solid state. I just want to add tubes.

For example, FX AUDIO NE5532


Nobsound HiFi 6J2


I love when tubes glimmer a blueish tint.


Sounds like Schiit Vali is what you’re looking for: Schiit Audio: Audio Products Designed and Built in California

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I haven’t seen any info on what portions of the Vali 2+ are in use with pre-amp mode - tube only, tube + ss, neither.

Have you been able to determine which it is?


Thanks for the suggestion, but the Vali is a hybrid single tube headphone amplifier with a preamp output, like the cheaper MT-601 or double tube MT-602, but which costs more than each of the E30, L30, TA-01B, MT-601 and MT-602.
I’m looking for just a tube pre-amplifier; so no amplifier, headphone output, volume knob or gain switch, just RCA in, tube(s) and RCA out.

Little Bear used to have a couple but they were not great (I tried two).

The other ones I have seen are 10 times the price (minimum) of the hybrid headphone amps with line out functionality.

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Thanks, @SenyorC. This matches my observations so far that there are good budget tube amps, dac/amps and phono pre-amps, but no budget “real” tube pre-amps.

I remain a mix of confused by and skeptical of the budget “buffers” which seem like exactly what I want, except for the volume and sometimes tone dials and LED lit tubes, even when these have a power supply which might be adequate to power tubes.

Just piling on to responses here late to help if you haven’t made a decision yet, or if someone else stumbles on this thread and could use the input.

Take this with a grain of salt because it’s just my own subjective experience BUT - I had a VC and Rad-0 at the same time while I had a Pendant and a Schiit Mjolnir 2. I thought the Rad-0 and VC were similar sounding, but that the Rad-0 had more bite which I enjoyed, and I didn’t hear enough difference between the Pendant and MJ2 to justify keeping both. I ended up selling the VC and the Pendant. Since then I picked up the new Ampsandsound FORGE sold on and I think it’s so good that I’m selling the MJ2 and have invested in good tubes for the FORGE, which ended up bringing something I already liked to an even higher level.

Reading this thread and some comments on the Pendant have me wondering if I just didn’t find the right tubes for it, but alas water under the bridge now and I couldn’t be happier with the FORGE, to the point that now I’m wanting to give the VC a second shot now that I have the FORGE that I’m loving, instead of the Pendant that never shined as bright as it has for others on this forum.

All this to say, I’ve found tube amps to be a crapshoot and you kind of have to dip your toe in the water to play with it a bit and figure out what you like, because I do find it to be quite finnicky and super personal. I probably would have been better served starting with a LaFigaro or a Valhalla and learning what tube types I liked and why before jumping but I went full on instead. I went straight for a TOTL amp that everyone loves and wasn’t blown away, but I’ve since learned that maybe I didn’t do it right. Luckily, my second go round was much more succesful.


As someone that has rolled just about every tube possible in the Pendant SE, I can totally see why many have moved on from that amp. The Pendant requires careful pairing with the DAC, and quite a bit of tube rolling knowledge to get the most out of it no doubt. I honestly would not have kept it and been as happy with it, had I not rolled a bunch of different tubes, to find the ones that sound the best. I personally would not recommend the Pendant to someone who is not willing to do some tube rolling, as the stock new production tubes really don’t do the amp justice at all. This amp is very responsive to tube rolling from all 3 tube types - input, power, and rectifier, and with the right tubes can hang with the big boys for sure.

My VC sound so amazingly lifelike with the tubes I have in my Pendant, to the point where I feel like I can reach out and touch the musicians. Of important note, is it did not sound like that at all with the majority of tubes I tried, including the stock tubes. The good thing is, that the tubes I have finally settled on are very affordable and readily available.

In your case with the Rad O, I think the Forge is a better pairing anyway no matter what tubes used. If I was a planar guy, I would probably go with the Forge as well.

You made a good point about going with a more budget friendly tube amp first to learn how to tube roll, as that is what I have done owning the Valhalla 2, Bottlehead Crack, Lyr 3, and Liquid Platinum, which helped out big time. Had I not learned all that tube knowledge prior to getting the Pendant, I would not have been as happy with the amp as I am now.

Lastly, from all the reading I have done, seems like all the other amps made by AmpsandSound are a bit easier to get great sound from, regardless of the tubes used.


People tend to think of the amplifier and headphones as separate things but the amp, headphone cable and electronics inside the headphone (yes, the headphone driver is a piece of electronics) form a single electrical circuit.

Different parts of a circuit can interact. So the headphone driver and the amp can effect each other.

If you change anything then you’ve created a different electrical circuit.

Pure tube amps have more interactions between the amp and headphone driver parts of the circuit which creates the opportunities/frustrations of tube rolling and output tap selections.

Edit: See Grover’s post below for more information on interactions.


This is spot on except tubes do not interact ‘more.’ They simply have different load lines than transistors. This may cause more intense FR variation but it isn’t inherently more, just different.


Had a tube die on me today, so sad, the few hours i managed to get with it proved it was a very worthwhile addition. Just stopped working, i can hear a tiny rattle in the base, i assume old age finally got to it, maybe that and the stress of being shipped. Bye bye sweet rectifier tube… :cry:


Bless me father for… (Catholics will get this)

My last post was for putting a ZMF on an SS.

Is anyone tube rolling with the A&S KO? I’d love some help. BTW, my teeth cutting tube amp was Liquid Platinum. Nice amp.

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Hi everyone, I haven’t been on here in a really long time, my chronic health issues are getting worse, hence my absence. I did want to come on and say why I have been absent and to wish all of you who celebrate it, a Happy Thanksgiving :turkey:

On a separate note for tube fans, Tubemonger is going to have a Black Friday sale

*I also posted this on the other tube thread


Hi @jb77 I just want to say hang in there budy. Hopefully better times will be just around the corner. All the best.


Hoping that you experience better health in 2022. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well all the other HiFi enthusiasts on this great forum! :blush: