Tube Rolling

English: 6N3P vacuum tube

Image via Wikipedia

No, I’m not referring to climbing inside the middle of an old tire and rolling downhill. Sorry to disappoint you all.

This discourse reviews the old fashioned, time honored, highly skilled art of finding exactly the right vacuum tube to place in your excellent analog stereo components to either power them or make them sound better than even live musicians usually do. It requires patience, a finely tuned sense of sound, an appreciation for the beauty and history of an analog (read: no iPods) system, and the ability to bid on ebay or audiogon at the perfect moment on tubes stashed all over the world. It also finds you listening to the same part of the same song about fifty times so that you can compare the differences when something in the system changes. And there are profound differences, believe me. (We’re checking out changes now so, the current selection is  “New World Man. Gotta make sure you like the song!)

In other words, all the audiophiles are doing it. (And if you have to look that word up, you aren’t one. 😛 Just kidding. It’s kindof a snobby “no – I’m – not – a – geek thing.)

Okay, okay, let me back up. I place total responsibility for this on my husband’s very cool shoulders. He already had a very pleasurable stereo system when we met. It made me very happy. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a  very good thing.

Then, while I was pregnant, I began to notice that he was going through a kind of personal birthing process. Little boxes began arriving at our house containing very breakable, very old, very precious little things. Bigger boxes began arriving from places like Hong Kong and Singapore (usually). Then there was the day he drove from Boston’s South Shore to New Jersey and back for a turntable. (Wise choice.) Stuff like that.

It made sense to me, actually. I was building a baby; he was building a different kind of baby. I had read that this happens sometimes to men. It’s a good thing. Nesting.

Then, the assembly of all these parts began. (Bear in mind that this project has taken over seventy percent of our downstairs LOL!) At first, I would waddle by and think, oh nice song. But within about a week, I began to notice differences. “Sweetie, that seemed a little quicker? Is that right?” “Honey, where’s the high end? We lost it? What changed?” “Geoff! That’s it!!!! That’s it!!! Turn it UP!”

Little Baby Bella liked it too. She would dance as much as she could in her cramped quarters according to the music and the quality of the sound. Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Mingus, The Buena Vista Social Club, Rush, and Beck were very popular choices. AC/DC – at a Bruins playoff game – not so much. She did find “Welcome to the Jungle” and Ozzy’s Crazy Train very fun.

So, anyway, anytime you change any piece in your system (including power cords, interconnects, *everything* because you’re only as good as your weakest piece), you re-roll the tubes. And it sounds totally different each time. And Geoff started re-rolling tubes tonight to solve a possible issue we’re having. It’s like another living piece in our family. It grows and changes over time, and we marvel as it does. Plus, tubes are just plain pretty.

FUN. 🙂 I mean, I’m either a total nerd – or very cool. It depends on who you ask. I like it. 🙂 My husband likes it. 🙂 That’s all that matters in this house!

PS Tonight’s culprit is the preamp, not the tubes.


About Shannon Blue Christensen

Storyteller. Author. Editor. Literary Critic. Director. Teacher. Knitter. nascent Musician. Student. Operations and Quality. Marketing. Historian. Lear's Fool. View all posts by Shannon Blue Christensen

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