I have been lurking this forum for a while now...
About 2 months ago, a friend lent me an old SE 84C he is not using any more
(he is into WAVAC stuff now...).
I could not believe what I heard with my
Prame 100 db horn speakers.
Soon after that my Manley Lab Stingray 2x50
watt stereo push pull of 8 EL 84 was collecting dust (I have sold it since: too
bad, it looked really great in the dark).
I could not believe the dynamics I
heard from such a feeble amp: much more dynamics than with the 2x50 watts Manley
using the same tubes (I am talking microdynamics here). Compared to the SE84C,
the Manley sounded almost constipated, unliberated.
BUT the SE84C was
clipping at times, especially on bass heavy content (Prame speakers have twin 30
cm woofers), such as hammond organ or electric piano (any time the bass lasted
more than a brief time). I had to turn it down constantly to prevent clipping.
To alleviate the problem, I bought the CSP (with the SE 84C still on loan
from my friend).
I found that the clipping was now less of a problem and
the CSP brought more finesse (with the right driver: an RCA 5U4B), but less
"punch" and "weight" or "impact" to the sound.
You see I am a dynamics nut:
there is nothing more dynamic that live music, and this is why you get so
involved in a live concert: you are not going to listen while reading or
watching TV or working if you are in front of a live band.
You CANNOT reach
THE concert level dynamic range, EVER: you can only approach it . Just listen
to a live drum solo ! The cymbal crash, the bass drum kick hits you in the chest
and YET, it is not fatiguing (unless through a bad PA sound system).
range is best when it is all the way up !
Just think of the "contrast" knob
on your PC monitor or TV set: Everybody turns it all the way up, because the
constrast is never as good as what you see in reality. So if there was a
"dynamic range level" knob on your amplifier , what would you do ? Turn it all
the way up, of course ! That's when the music begins to grab you , when you
have got to leave everything and do nothing but LISTEN ! That is why I got
into high efficiency horns in the first place, then into SET after that: once
you have heard SET amps on high efficiency speakers , you cannot go back to
I turns out that two months later (in fact, just today) I found
(by accident) the solution to the CSP "finesse" vs "weight" dilemma: turn both
volume pots all the way up, and turn the Ah Tjoeb volume output all the way
down, then adjust volume with the Ah Tjoeb. This also works with the Taboo.
Last thursday, I got the Taboo. That first day I thought the 84SEC was
better and that I was going to turn back the Taboo.
I took more than 10
hours for the dynamics, bass and medium to come out. After a week it is
still improving. I had to roll tubes to make a fair comparison with the
SE 84C: RCA 5U4B, Valvo EL 84 (the CSP has all Siemens tubes, and RCA 5U4G
rectifier for better dynamics).
Well, what is the verdict ?
week of listening, I turned back the SE 84C to my friend with many thanks for
the long term loan ! No more clipping, my friend, more punch, more bass, and
no trade off: just as much finesse, but more dynamics ! Remember that
"dynamic range" knob, the aural equivalent of your "contrast" knob ? Well,
only one amp has it in the world: the Decware Taboo. I am talking about the two
little knobs in front of the driver tube: they make a lot of difference to me :
as you turn them up , the dynamic range increases, and the music is more
"upfront" and involving. Of course, since I am a dynamics nut, I always turn
them all the way up !
What about the "lucid" switch ? I hear less of a
change with this switch than with the "dynamic constrast" knobs. But I do
prefer the "lucid" position, for three reasons:
1) Even more dynamic range,
and this time, macro dynamic range (from low to high sound level) => you get
more involved, music grabs your hears even more. Voices seem to be more
"there" with the "lucid" switch on.
2) More space: the soundstage seems to
expand in all directions, including towards you: you feel more immersed in it,
rather than in front of it.
3) More finesse and harmonic texture: at first
it feels you have turned on the "reverb" switch on a guitar amplifier. Except
that too much reverb is fatiguing , because it adds something that was not there
in the first place. Here it's different: you seem to hear more of the natural
reverberant sounds that you did not hear before. You hear this best on a good
piano recording: you hear more of the resonance inside the piano, all the piano
strings that were not hit but resonate because they are close to the string
that was played.
Also you hear more of the reverberant sound in the room,
and this is heard especially on good "live" recorded concerts. this gives you a
more "3D" sound. Turning back the switch to normal the aural scene appears more
"flat", like a curved screen in front of you, rather than a bubble including
To conclude :
The taboo is definitely better than the
already excellent SE84 C : you get more power, bass with more muscle, more
punch, no clipping, a more "alive" sound, and, with the lucid switch, you get
more 3D magic, more space, and more harmonic texture, in a world, you get lost
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