1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Tube breakdance - DB659 and VTBP-201

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by msquared, Dec 29, 2006.


  1. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I recently picked up an Aguilar DB659, which means I now have a decent amount of sonic ground I can cover along with the Demeter VTBP-201 I already had. Now that I have these, I'm kind of interested in swapping the tubes for some others and seeing what I can do (if anything) to make them sound nicer. It's not that I dislike the sound of either, but I'm a tinkerer and have had fantastic luck in the past doing tube swaps with other gear. I don't have any idea what tubes either preamp has in it or what condition they're in, so it certainly can't hurt.

    Has anyone done anything like this with these two preamps in particular? If so, what tubes would you recommend?

    I've been doing some searching and found Tom's tube swapping post which is a good starting point. I am hoping to get a decent assortment to play with, but there are more types out there than I'm willing to buy so any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. im kind of interested in this as well, my guitar practice amp (a vox vr15) has a 12ax7 in the preamp section and i've been wondering what the effects of switching the valve would be.


    also, what other tubes can work in place of a 12ax7? i assume along the lines of a 12ay, etc etc etc, but what all can do it?
     
  3. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    If you're just getting into it stick with tubes of the same type. Do some searches for "tube substitution" or similar terms. The Aggie has (2) 12AX7. This is a fun tube to roll for me as I have played around quite a bit with them in the HiFi.

    I've always had most success using older production 12AX7 (5751, 7025, ECC83 etc...) than the new production. Various Amperex, Telefunken, RCA and others have always sounded better to me for my purposes.

    I'm less willing to use some favorite tubes for the bass rig as they can be expensive and I can get my tone with tubes that are not top choices for HiFi. I still occasionally run the old 350B power tubes in my B-15 for recording for their midrange quality.

    To me, a $40 pair of excellent vintage 12AX7 is a good investment rather than buy a half dozen $10 tubes trying to get satisfaction. I've had great luck with tube life and the sound is invariably good in my experience. I have so many Tele ECC83 around I don't even know where all of them are at the moment. I once owned a Paragon 12 preamp that took (8) 12AX7, so I have leftovers in just about everything I can.

    KC has a pretty strong vintage HiFi scene, so you might be able to find a local dealer that stocks vintage tubes.
     
  4. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    Oh - forgot to mention that you can often find lots of 12AX7 types in mixed lots of used ones on ebay. I've been able to do this fairly cheaply and sample various tubes. A few might be bad in the lot, but I bought cheaply enough for it to still make sense.
     
  5. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Congrats on your new Aggie, and good luck in your tube testing. Can you describe the present differences in tone between your Aggie and your Demeter?
     
  6. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I've been messing with the two of them in depth for about an hour and a half now with the XLR out going into the board. I've been listening with headphones so I can just switch back and forth between the pres and get pretty much the same volume and environment.

    And in the spirit of staying on topic, remember that the following involves whatever tubes were shipped with the units.

    With the signal taken pre-EQ from both of them there was a very subtle difference in what I heard. The Aguilar was more in line with what I consider to be a "tube" sound, but they were pretty close in terms of absolute results. If I recorded something with the same exact levels, went upstairs and did something else for an hour, and then came back down to a blind listening test I could probably pick out one or the other by listening to only one of them. Adding instruments to a mix and attempting same? I doubt it.

    There are some things related to the EQ in particular that should probably wait until I've spent more than an hour jumping back and forth between the two, but in a nutshell, taking the signal post-EQ with each EQ zeroed showed that the Demeter is more hifi and the Aguilar is more colored. No surprise there, but I was skeptical that I'd really like the Aguilar and in the end I was quite pleased at how they differ.

    I found that I couldn't get the Aguilar as clean as the Demeter, period. No matter how clean I got it, there was always that haze of "booty" with the Aguilar which reared its head more and more as I turned up the Volume knob, finally going into overdrive land when that knob is cranked. It reminds me a lot of the SWR Interstellar Overdrive (though if memory serves, the IOD has a wider range of clean vs booty) and I wish I had one to A/B with the Aguilar. I have a feeling that they would sonically overlap on a level similar to the Demeter and Avalon U5 did. The booty wasn't so much a low end boost as far as I could tell, rather it seemed more like the signal had coloration at certain frequencies which made me take more notice of them than I normally would in the overall picture. It sounds very nice in the cans and I can't wait to amplify it in a place larger than my basement. Between the two preamps I see this one really shining on a rock gig regardless of which cabinet I'm running through.

    In that Bass Player review for the Kern it mentions the "Demeter shimmer" and that's something that the Aguilar lacks. I hate using phrases like that to describe sounds but that's really the best way to put it. It's almost as hi-fi/pristine as the U5 was, but it has a subtle coloring which makes it a touch more pleasing to the ears. It almost seems like whatever tube distortion the Aguilar is doing, the Demeter is doing the same thing but hyping different frequencies and doing it less obviously. The coloration that the Demeter has is way more reined in than the coloration that the Aguilar has, and it almost makes me want to tangent off into a massive Jedi/Sith comparison but then someone would come up with a way to wedgie me over the Internet.

    As I've put the Demeter up against various pieces of my own and others' equipment, it becomes more and more evident why people covet it. And I'd like to thank j-raj for not liking it and sending it back. :) I can see myself choosing it and the Acme B2 over the Aguilar to do something more "chaste" like a jazz or acoustic gig. I think that in the end it'll mostly stay in my recording rack since the Aguilar can be dialed in to come close to the cleanliness of the Demeter, and what subtle differences there are at that point would be lost when you add other instruments, a room, gig energy, etc. But again, that opinion doesn't take into account the flexibility of each unit's EQ. I don't know offhand what points or what slopes each unit's channels use but obviously that could really sway things if you're not relying on a soundcreature.

    Anyway... amp GAS is cured for at least a week. Bravo, Aguilar!
     
  7. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny

    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    here's a thread/post i did a long time ago w/ my old Demeter preamp:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=714592#post714592

     
  8. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    msquared, thanks for your comparisons, very imformative. :) While I don't own a Demeter VTBP-201, I do own a Demeter HBP-1. The Aguilar DB680 is a very interesting preamp to me; it looks like it has some very nice eq features. I'd love to try one someday.

    I'd like to say your comparisons sound a bit similar to my comparisons between my HBP-1 and my Read Custom Purity preamps, -although I'm sure my Purity lacks the eq options and available grit of your DB680. To my ears, my Demeter is more pristine, the Purity has more tubey-ness.

    Best regards,
    -Art
     
  9. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    thanks for the review on the two. very informative.
     
  10. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Thanks for reposting that, joker. That's exactly what I was looking for.

    Interesting that you liked the Amperex so much. When I did this a couple years ago with an SWR SM-900 that I had, I bought an Amperex tube just on a whim thinking that I'd prefer one of the other tubes I bought instead. But the Amperex really made that head shine in a way that the others (even the GE 5751) couldn't. The difference was quite noteworthy and made me see very clearly why people consider that head to be sterile sometimes. It sure wasn't after the tube swap.
     
  11. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny

    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    yea, great tube, but freakin' expensive!

    and yea, i finally manned up and read thru your review, and dang! pretty good. like i was looking over your shoulder. :D
     
  12. Big String

    Big String Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2000
    Northwest Indiana
    My DB659 came with Sovtek 12ax7 .... sounded like poo.
    I rolled some NOS Telefunken Black Smooth Plates into it and man O man ... talk about juciy yummy tone now and much more t-i-g-h-t. My Demeter 201s also sounded superb with the same tubes in it. Lots depends on what else is in your signal chain too, and I mean your bass, strings, and cab mostly. Do a search you'll find a lot on this.
     
  13. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    I really liked the sound of the VTBP-201S with the JAN Philips 12AXWA tubes -- seemed balanced and punchy, especially with the right EQing.

    I believe that the DB659 is even more responsive to tube changes than the Demeter is.

    Check out this thread (post #86 gave a synopsis of his findings).
    It's a Tom Bowlus investigation into how different preamps respond to different tubes -- very illuminating!
     
  14. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    ;)

    I kind of wanted to solicit opinions beyond what is already out there, especially since his focused more specifically on preamps that I don't actually own and didn't cover one or two tubes that I was thinking of trying.
     
  15. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    Oops! My bad. :meh:

    You might want to PM Tom B (if he doesn't chime in fairly soon).
    I know he's happy with the current tone of his 659, but I'm not positive which tubes he's settled on in it.
     
  16. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    NOS ribbed Telefunkens. :cool:

    And while I did most of the testing in my Kern, I would hope that my prior tube comments might be of some help.

    Tom.
     
  17. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    "Ribbed for her pleasure," got it! ;)

    Like I said earlier, your thread and conclusions were a good starting point.

    There does seem to be some disagreement on various websites as to whether a given tube has the same effect in one piece of audio gear as it might in another though, and while I recognize that we're talking about the same type of gear here, there are definitely differences between preamps (or someone would just build one preamp and that'd be the end of it).

    So before spending the money on tubes, I figured it was worth it to try to narrow the scope a bit, if for no other reason than to confirm/deny that particular point of contention.

    With that in mind, did you find that the effect of a given tube in the Kern had the same effect in (for instance) your DB659 and that this change was consistent with all of the tube swaps you did?
     
  18. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    The Kern and the 659 are both fairly responsive to tube swapping, and I would say that in general, the types of differences I hear from tube to tube in one translates fairly well to the other. That said, some preamps (like my Eden Navigator), are apparently not very responsive to tube changes, and would not make a good correlation.

    Tom.
     
  19. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    Tom's response was with regards to the tubes in his DB659.
    [Wasn't sure if you realized that (from your response).]
     
  20. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Yes, thank you. :)
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.