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  1. #1
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    MiniWatt N3 tube rolling

    I got my MiniWatt a few days ago and it is probably still breaking in. I think the HRT Music Streamer II+ with the MiniWatt is a killer combination for desktop music, although I use them as my main system. The mains socket is a bit loose, but other than that, I have no complaints - it is a brilliant amplifier for the money.

    I have a Glow Amp One which is also a single ended low power EL84 based amp. Compared with the Glow, the stock Miniwatt has a slightly brighter but more refined treble, and transients were better. The Miniwatt bass was tighter at low volume, but not as good at higher volume as the Glow. Overall, I felt it was pretty much a draw.

    I had planned to give it a couple of weeks before trying out some different valves/tubes. However, I couldn't stop myself and today I replaced the stock tubes to get an idea of what difference it would make. First I tried a Full Music TJ 12AX7 that I pulled out of my puresound P10 phono amp. It was a really worth while improvement with more 'presence', beautiful tone and better imaging - it was the difference between 'really good' and 'magic'. After that I ordered a TJ 12AX7 as I really think it makes the MiniWatt.

    Then I tried replacing the stock Sovtek EL84 with my favourite EL84s, the Genalex Gold Lion EL84 reissues. I had expected there to be a large difference, but really I can't say I prefer them to the Sovteks. So I shall carry on listening, but I don't think you can go far wrong with the stock MiniWatt output valves, but just get a TJ Full Music input tube as a good value upgrade.
    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  2. #2
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    Oh, goody

    Keep rolling and let us (okay, me) know where you end up!

  3. #3
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    Re: MiniWatt N3 tube rolling


    I think my MiniWatt is still breaking in. I found that changing to the 6 ohm speaker outlet instead of the 8 ohm gave it more get up and go. I looked at the Stereophile test results for my speaker and they showed that it dips to 5 ohms.

    I'm just listening to Kepa Junkera's Bilbao 00:00h, and it is sounding stunning - so much detail via the HRT Streamer II+. With the Glow Amp One it didn't have quite the same treble resolution, but the bass was slightly better. So with the Glow I thought the system sounded like electrostatic speakers in miniature, but the MiniWatt sounds more like electrostatic headphones. My head is needing to adjust to all the detail, and I keep wanting to move my chair further away from the speakers. I am sitting 2.3 meters away from the speakers, and they are 1.3 meters apart - so it isn't really near field listening. I am a big fan of the Tandy LX5s and the Linaeum tweeter, and I have never heard the tweeter sounding so good.



    I will listen for another couple of weeks and then 'downgrade' to the stock MiniWatt valves/tubes. I won't being doing any more tube rolling as I think the TJ 12AUXs and Genalex reissue EL84s are about as good as you can get - the only question is whether it is worth it in the context of the system that the MiniWatt is likely to be used in.

    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  4. #4
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    Mullard reissue

    Were you talking about the Grant Fidelity TJ?

    Any thoughts about this Mullard reissue?

    http://thetubestore.com/mu12ax7.html


  5. #5
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    Telefunken

    How about this: http://tctubes.com/12ax7-ecc83-telefunken-made-smooth-plates.aspx

  6. #6
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    Grant Fidelity


    Socrates7 :"..Were you talking about the Grant Fidelity TJ?.."


    Yes, it looks like Grant Fidelity sell them in the US - I just searched and saw some enthusiastic comments about the TJ there. I got mine from HiFi Collective in the UK. I'd be interested to try the Mullard reissue or Telefunkens if I already had them, or maybe if I had some reservations about the TJ - but it really just sounds very good.

    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  7. #7
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    Create Audio Tube upgrade


    I've just found this tube upgrade for the MiniWatt from Create Audio:


    Create Audio Hi-Fi tubes are made with special nano materials and electron beam welding fixed to control the electron current. The vacuum of the tubes is 10-7 Torr which increases their life span and quality. High performance Hi-Fi tubes from Create Audio.


    So I wonder if that is the ultimate upgrade, and how it would compare with my TJ/Genalex combination. It would be great to find a review of them.

    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  8. #8

    Create Audio tubes

    I've been very happily surprised with my Miniwatt. Currently, I'm using it as my primary amp with a Wavelength Proton, Sonics Anima monitors and good cables and power conditioning. This may seem like overkill for a sub-$400 piece of gear, but I'm enjoying it so much more than the solid state amp it unseated that cost 5x's more.

    If it's this good with stock tubes that cost ten bucks, I'm hoping that my recent (impulse) purchase of Create Audio EL84 tubes and an audiophile fuse will offer discernible differences.

    Anybody have experience with these tubes? I would love to know what I can expect.


    Luxman SQ N100 integrated amp - Sonics Anima monitors - MacBook Pro with Amarra player - Wavelength Proton DAC- Oppo BDP 95 universal player - Art Audio cables

  9. #9
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    Re: Create Audio tubes


    I'll be facinated to hear how you get on. Did you get a Create Audio 12AX7 too? How would they compare with my TJ Full Music 12AX7/Genalex Gold Lion EL84 reissue combo? Is the fuse worth the money?



    I'm using the MiniWatt as my main amp too. I keep meaning to go back to the stock tubes to attempt to do a more careful comparison/review, but can't stop listening to what I've got. Recently I changed the cartridge on my vinyl front end from a Dynavector 10x5 to an Ortofon 2M Blue, as my phono stage didn't have enough gain to work properly with the Dynavector. Apologies to this site, but I haven't listened to anything digital since then as the MiniWatt and my valve phone amp, a Pure Sound P10 have hit it off like a house on fire. I've put a TJ Full Music 12AX7 in the P10 too which maybe helps with getting them to work well together. I've found the MiniWatt has got really clear tuneful bass, apart from all its other positive qualities.



    The most horribly expensive 12AX7 out there would be the EAT cool valve ECC 803S - I'd love to have a bake off session between that, the TJ and the Create Audio. I've been wondering about using EAT cool dampers in the MiniWatt too, if I can't afford their valves/tubes.

    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  10. #10

    Create Audio tubes

    I got the package of all three tubes offered by ALO Audio, the vendor I originally purchased the Miniwatt from. It's 200 bucks, which seems contrary to the entire reasoning behind this amp, but then there's a disease associated with this stuff as we all know.

    Vinyl? Dude, have you noticed where you logged on? You're forgiven of course and I'm sure it's heavenly.

    Me, I'm playing Apple lossless and 24/96 through Amarra on a MacBook Pro and pretty happy. All the reviews warn that you need efficient speakers, so the biggest surprise was that 3.5 watts can drive my Sonics Animas (86 db) to a point that my neighbors will call the police.

    I'll report back with my experience using the new tubes and the higher grade fuse. Hopefully, somebody out there has more to add.
    Luxman SQ N100 integrated amp - Sonics Anima monitors - MacBook Pro with Amarra player - Wavelength Proton DAC- Oppo BDP 95 universal player - Art Audio cables

  11. #11

    Create Audio tubes

    I've been using the new tubes and an audiophile fuse for a couple of weeks now and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Although I haven't done any serious A/B testing, I can report that I could hear a difference immediately after replacing the tubes and fuse. In layman's terms, the sound was fuller and richer.

    I now have $579 invested in the Miniwatt (more if you factor in the power cord that I had on hand) and it still seems like a very good bargain.
    Luxman SQ N100 integrated amp - Sonics Anima monitors - MacBook Pro with Amarra player - Wavelength Proton DAC- Oppo BDP 95 universal player - Art Audio cables

  12. #12

    Update query....

    Greetings Richard,

    Thanks for posting.

    I'm currently looking at the Miniwatt and the Glow One (along with the MP301).

    If you had to keep only one, which would you keep and why? I'd love to hear your comments now that have had both for a while. The Glow one is higher power by rating- do you find this reflected in actual usage?

    Appreciate your relevant thread.

    Thanks!
    UL

  13. #13

    MiniWatt vs. Glow

    UL,

    I believe that some of the early reviews of the original MiniWatt compared it to the Glow, and the reviewers preferred the MiniWatt generally (maybe 6moons?). As for power, it will depend on the speakers, your listening space and listening preferences.

  14. #14

    Miniwatt grunt

    UL,
    If you're worried about what 3.5 watts can do, check out this video of the Miniwatt driving Wilson Watt Puppies http://www.miniwatt.com.hk/video-demo/n3-video.html

    It's really quite a bargain. I upgraded to another EL84 amp, the Luxman SQ N100 and at 8x's the price I begin to understand the audio law of diminishing returns. The Lux is a great amp, but the Miniwatt isn't so far behind.
    Luxman SQ N100 integrated amp - Sonics Anima monitors - MacBook Pro with Amarra player - Wavelength Proton DAC- Oppo BDP 95 universal player - Art Audio cables

  15. #15
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    MiniWatt N3 vs Glow Amp One


    Ultralight: "I'm currently looking at the Miniwatt and the Glow One (along with the MP301).



    Both amps seem sensitve to changing the valves/tubes. I would say the stock MiniWatt is a bit better than the stock Glow Amp One. The MiniWatt is quieter and the treble is more transparent. The MiniWatt comes with higher quality valves than the Glow, and I think many people would be happy with the stock sound. The Glow is really let down by the stock valves, and it is worth replacing them straight away.



    I first changed the Chinese valves in the Glow amp to Russian ones. I bought the Glow from Audiomagus and they were offering an upgrade for about $45 dollars which was pretty good value.



    The next step was changing the Reflektor EL84s to Genelex Gold Lion reissues. The Genelexes are sweeter than the Reflectors and have better resolution. However, on the Glow web site they warn against using these valves with the 2009 and later versions of the Glow:



    "*POWER TUBE INFO: European EL84s differ in design from their Chinese and Russian counterparts in one important respect: On all European manufactured EL84s, pins 1 and 2 are connected together inside the tube envelope. Chinese and Russian EL84s do not internally link the pins 1 and 2 (witht he exception of the Russian made Genalex Gold Lion). Therefore, when a European manufactured EL84 is plugged into the '09 GLOW amp, the additional connection within the tube envelope in the European design is likely to cause premature failure of the tube.



    For the above reason, it is highly recommended that you NOT use European tubes in the 2009 Amp One, as you risk permanent damage to your tubes and possibly the amplifier. All Russian and Chinese manufactured EL84 tubes are compatible with the Amp One, xcept for the Russian manufactured Genalex Gold Lion."



    So with a newer Glow the challenge would be to find the best EL84 that is compatible. Maybe the Create Audio ones that ALO offer as an upgrade for the MiniWatt would be a good choice. Or the platinum matched pair of Sovtek EL84s that the stock MiniWatt has for a little less money. I tried those in the Glow and they sounded pretty similar to the Reflectors to me, and a little less sweet than the Genelexes.



    Looking to upgrade the 6N3s in the input stage I bought a pair of General Electric JAN 5670Ws. These valves were disappointing - the bass was a bit strange and unnatural sounding and the treble was un-dynamic and boring. After a week or two I reverted back to the Russians. A couple of months ago I bought a pair of Raytheon Windmill Getter 5670 tubes, and these were a large improvment and I finally heard what the Glow was capable of. They have much tighter bass than the other valves, and the Glow is more dynamic and detailed.



    The final upgrade for both my Glow and MiniWatt amps was to use EAT Cool Dampers and these improve the resolution further - the sound becomes more 'solid'. Here are the upgraded valves with the dampers fitted:





    The Glow amp no longer sounds warm and valve-like, it is still nice to listen to, but is just a lot more accurate.



    Ultralight: If you had to keep only one, which would you keep and why? I'd love to hear your comments now that have had both for a while. The Glow one is higher power by rating- do you find this reflected in actual usage?"



    They are both great little amps, and I'm very happy to own both. In my system the Glow is better at the moment after the surprisingly large improvment from the Raytheon input valves. On the other hand, for a desktop system the MiniWatt is probably better as it is smaller, has a lower noise floor and wonderful sweet detailed treble.



    The Glow is a bit more expensive to start with and you need to upgrade it to make it achieve its potential, and so really it is a more expensive amp than the MiniWatt. The build quality of the Glow is superb - it has a hand wound output transformer and beautifully down point to point wiring. It looks a lot better inside than my Puresound P10 phono stage which is also built in China. I haven't opened up the MiniWatt to look inside yet, but I don't think it is in quite the same class.

    System (i): (BeagleBone Black/MPD; Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu/Marantz CD7; Gyrodek/SME V/Ortofon 2M Blue/Pure Sound P10; Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Tannoy Autograph Minis
    System (ii): BeagleBone Black/MPD > Chord Hugo > JBL LSR305

  16. #16

    Richard, Wow! What a long

    Richard, Wow! What a long extensive response. I am very grateful for your time. Very detailed post - I'll have to look into the tubes.

    After doing a lot of reading and conversing with a number of people, I believe that I'll pick up the MP301 first and see how that goes. Your comment is very valuable as I'll look at some of the tubes you used and perhaps roll it in the future. Grateful thanks!

    Thanks,
    UL

  17. #17

    Any updates on tube rolling?

    To revive a thread, anyone else done some tube rolling with the N3?

    I will eventually be able to report back on the Psvane tubes (12AX7 and EL84), as well as 12AX7s from Telefunken, and hopefully a few others. Just need to find time to A/B them...

  18. #18

    I would be very interested to

    I would be very interested to hear about the Psvane tubes.

    On my Miniwatt I upgraded the Sovtek EL84 to EL84M (military version) after reading what the vendors were saying (eg Tube Depot). I haven't looked back - these tubes are musical and basically get out of the way.

    You get big sound differences when swapping the 12AX7, which allows for system tuning as you change equipment upstream and downstream. The stock Tungsol re-issue is very good, and I liked it with my tube DAC. But I am now experimenting with a solid state DAC and find the Tungsol too bright on top - a vintage Tungsram sounded very sweet, but went too far the other way. I have currently settled on a platinum grade Mullard re-issue, cryo-treated by Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. This is just right - tight and tuneful bass, open highs without sibilance issues.

    Kirk
    MacMini -> Audiophilleo2 -> MHDT Havana DAC -> Placette remote volume -> Miniwatt N3 -> Tekton Design OB45