• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Take the blind challenge! 300B SET vs. Straight Wire with Gain

Choose ALL of the statements that apply.

  • I prefer #1 (over 3)

    Votes: 20 45.5%
  • I prefer #2 (over 5)

    Votes: 7 15.9%
  • I prefer #3 (over 1)

    Votes: 9 20.5%
  • I prefer #4 (over 6)

    Votes: 22 50.0%
  • I prefer #5 (over 2)

    Votes: 18 40.9%
  • I prefer #6 (over 4)

    Votes: 13 29.5%
  • I hear no difference between 1 and 3

    Votes: 14 31.8%
  • I hear no difference between 2 and 5

    Votes: 18 40.9%
  • I hear no difference between 4 and 6

    Votes: 9 20.5%

  • Total voters
    44
  • Poll closed .

Thomas_A

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 20, 2019
Messages
3,532
Likes
2,566
Location
Sweden
OP
G

GXAlan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
4,040
Likes
6,310
So this means I preferred the wire over the SET (?).
Yes

I reckon @JSmith may be a hero for getting it on earbuds.
Yes! Picking the 300B set all the time isn’t bad. It’s more that @JSmith could hear *a* difference consistently. @JSmith might not prefer it with real speakers or with other music, etc.

I can repeat the tests through a speaker but then I get into the issue of which speaker (electrically)
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,354
Likes
37,412
Location
South Holland
So this means I preferred the wire over the SET (?).
It means you preferred not clearly rolled off treble and low distortion over higher distortion and rolled off treble.

What you heard is not 'typical' SET sound as that is generally more speaker dependent but instead to measurably and even audible degraded sound.
 
Last edited:

Steve Dallas

Major Contributor
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
1,232
Likes
2,965
Location
A Whole Other Country
Interesting test and results.

The first musical selection has no low bass and no high treble, so we are left to listen for distortion. Humans have been proven to be remarkably poor at detecting distortion until it reaches moderately high levels. Through speakers, I could not hear a difference. Through IEMs, I thought one track sounded slightly woolier than the other, but ABX testing with foobar's comparator plugin proved I could not reliably choose that track, so I voted no difference.

The second selection is also limited in FR, posing the same challenges. I also voted no difference on this track for the same reasons.

The third selection is more full spectrum and offers more clues. Again, I could not hear a difference through speakers, but I could through IEMs. This time I intended to choose the brighter track, but I made a mistake when voting. So, my vote shows I chose the SET, but I intended to choose straight wire. As a 50 year-old, I tend to like more information above 10KHz. In any case, I did not have a strong preference for either track.

I listened at normal levels at ~72dB average on speakers and a comfortable level on IEMs. Listening louder may have revealed details I missed such as power supply hum, etc.

It would be interesting to re-run this test with three full spectrum tracks to offer listeners more opportunites to spot the differences. I would never consider tracks one or two for auditioning any equipment. When I have participated in group audio tests in the past, listeners recommended tracks, then voted on which ones to include in an attempt to make each selection as meaningful as possible.
 
Last edited:

Thomas_A

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 20, 2019
Messages
3,532
Likes
2,566
Location
Sweden
It means you preferred not clearly rolled off treble and low distortion over higher distortion and rolled off treble.

What you heard is not 'typical' SET sound as that is generally more speaker dependent but instead to measurably and even audible degraded sound.
Probably so. I am not sure what the lesson is in the end. Just testing my JND levels? By principle, I don't like sources, preamps or amps that drops in the 10-20 kHz range (which can be seen quite often). Even if each separately would be inaudible against wire, they could well add up to audible degradation when combined.
 

Martin

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 23, 2018
Messages
1,935
Likes
5,705
Location
Cape Coral, FL
Wow - I was 3 for 3 preferring the Topping D90 over the 300b tube amp. Not surprising as I have replaced my Audio Experience balanced A2 tube preamp with a Benchmark HPA-4 and stopped using my 300b PSET monoblocks in favor of my ICEpower based monoblocks based solely upon listening preference. Good to know that I have discerning ears.

Martin
 

DanielT

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
4,914
Likes
4,903
Location
Sweden - Слава Україні
Thanks for your initiative GXAlan!:D

Topping D90 for me, fairly clear preferences.I chose the ones I thought had the cleanest sound.
Except for Group B: "2 vs 5" where I chose: I hear no difference between 2 and 5. There was so little information in that song that could reveal that, I think.
Maybe I could hear a difference. Possibly an afterthought, which I don't trust now that I know which was which. In any case, there were none of the options in Group B that I preferred one over the other.:)
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,354
Likes
37,412
Location
South Holland
Interesting, as for me it was the exact opposite.
I had no problems hearing the treble roll-off in 2-5 and had harder time with the other 2 (wrt to roll-off). In those I heard poorer sound quality (grittier/rougher sound) but not so much the rolled-off treble, yet not in 2-5. There the sibilance was the give away. Perhaps I am more sensitive than others in that sibilance frequency range.
 

Verig

Active Member
Joined
May 4, 2023
Messages
238
Likes
152
Ah, 300B. I really enjoy those glowing energy leeches. So wrong, so good.
Too bad you can't hear how they drive speakers in this test. It would make things rather more obvious.
I was very happy to see measurements with proper explanation. I'm also very interested in how people vote after hearing this amount of distortion. I know measuring is the thing here but a dash of listening and subjectivity doesn't hurt once in a while.
 

DanielT

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
4,914
Likes
4,903
Location
Sweden - Слава Україні
Interesting, as for me it was the exact opposite.
I had no problems hearing the treble roll-off in 2-5 and had harder time with the other 2 (wrt to roll-off). In those I heard poorer sound quality (grittier/rougher sound) but not so much the rolled-off treble, yet not in 2-5. There the sibilance was the give away. Perhaps I am more sensitive than others in that sibilance frequency range.
When does it start to roll off? I hear up to around 14 kHz. There is perhaps a graph in the thread that shows how the FR looks regarding Group B. Alternatives 2 and 5 that is.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,354
Likes
37,412
Location
South Holland
orange trace (measurement GXAlan):

index.php


As you can see the FR changes to a tilt in the treble when he connected his speakers.

Verified by pkane:
index.php
 

IPunchCholla

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
1,132
Likes
1,424
Thanks again for setting up!

Now that I can elaborate without spoiling the fun, some of it depended on familiarity. I don't listen to prog rock or mainstream jazz so found the third pair hardest (the first pair had a tell) and the second pair easiest (I do listen to spoken word stuff, like Laurie Anderson or La Dispute). The opposite of the group as a whole, where most differentiated the third (jazz) pair and fewest differentiated the second (spoken word).

I used two pairs of (non-cheap) headphones (wireless Air Pods Max and wired Sony Z1R) to hear everything. The Sonys gave the bass definition and AirPods the treble (for the first and second listening choices respectively) to hear the relevant distortion. The AirPods were best to hear the noise (both choices). For the third pair I found both noise and distortion were masked so differentiated via treble roll-off. So while I already knew the answers and couldn't do it blind again I don't think I would have differentiated the third pair with the treble-adjusted files that I listened to later.

I reckon @JSmith may be a hero for getting it on earbuds. Also, I did get why some would prefer the tube sound especially on the second pair (where it had more 'warmth and character' but less 'clarity'). For those of you with high SINAD gear who didn't differentiate (as opposed to preference) at least the first two—wasn't the hum unmistakable?

And finally, yes a taste of 300B SET sound but not the whole picture. Hopefully someone can do that next.
I decided to listen using speakers, as that is my preferred way of listening. I picked the Topping for the first and second, but the SET for the third. I really tried to pick based on preference for the track I was listening to rather than by listening for any particular tell. I honestly could barely tell a difference for preference and I wouldn’t say I heard hum in either.
 

charleski

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 15, 2019
Messages
1,098
Likes
2,244
Location
Manchester UK
I think the one really useful aspect of this is that it explodes the 300B myth. There is so much rubbish talked about tubes and the 300B in particular that I’m sure some have been hoodwinked into spending lots of money on an expensive 300B amp to hear what the fuss is about. Anything that can prevent such a waste is a social good.

Personally, I tried ABXing these tracks and gave up as I was just guessing a lot of the time. I have a tube headphone amp that I wrote about a while ago (the XCans, SINAD a bit below 60) and still fire it up from time to time. I’m still pretty sure I’d fail any attempt to distinguish it from my Heresy blind, but my predominant subjective impression after listening for an hour or so is just a vague sense of irritation, especially with classical music. But my subjective feel of the music varies so much from day-to-day that I long ago decided that electronics have a minimal impact on the number of magical pixies dancing around my head.
 

DanielT

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
4,914
Likes
4,903
Location
Sweden - Слава Україні
orange trace (measurement GXAlan):

index.php


As you can see the FR changes to a tilt in the treble when he connected his speakers.

Verified by pkane:
index.php
I should have heard that deviation. Weird. Maybe I concentrated too much on the bass lines, or I'm bad at detecting differences. If it's the latter, it has its advantages. Then I don't have to spend any money on HiFi because it is then wasted money, heh heh. :)

Strange that I rather quickly took a liking to the other options in groups A and C. Maybe just chance played a part.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
16,354
Likes
37,412
Location
South Holland
I did not perceive A and C as clearly rolled off in the treble but rather heard 'less smooth' sound.
In B the give away was sibilance level. This is in the 6-8kHz range and sharpness of sound (8-12kHz) range. Whether or not one has tinnitus in that part of the frequency range can even mean a difference in sensitivity.
Might also have to do with the used transducers and how that reacts with the room/ears whether or not that 'stands out'.
Taste can also play a role.

I listened with low distortion gear and headphones that have no peaking and low distortion at 'active levels' and while being 'relaxed' and with about 30 years of 'critical listening' experience (looking out for distortion and FR anomalies and hate it when not close to perfection).

Sometimes I am baffled by what others hear and I don't or vice versa.

Then I don't have to spend any money on HiFi because it is then wasted money, heh heh. :)

About wasting money..

One should spend on audio what one can afford and likes (in all aspects). In those cases I never see it as wasting money. Placebo or not does not really matter. It does matter from a value or reality/science standpoint though and dislike 'obvious snake oil' but.... if a buyer gets more enjoyment then it might be worth it to them. People should be warned for 'wasting' money but in the end have to weigh for themselves if something is worth the money to them.
 

Thomas_A

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 20, 2019
Messages
3,532
Likes
2,566
Location
Sweden
When does it start to roll off? I hear up to around 14 kHz. There is perhaps a graph in the thread that shows how the FR looks regarding Group B. Alternatives 2 and 5 that is.
I also have limit around 15 kHz and at age 55 I guess that is quite good. The thing is that music is another thing from pure tones due to masking so it is always harder. For the frequency corrected files made by @solderdude I could no longer hear anything in the treble. It was rather the bass tones that had a different timbre.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,505
Likes
6,670
I have listened to various 300b.
What people are talking about is a sparkle at highs.

Strangely that sparkle is not as irritating as it would be in a speaker with pronounced highs for example (I would rather listen to a nice chainsaw than such a speaker).
Is just a hint of liveness and no,does not add to sibilance,the opposite,it's like iron it.Clipping?That strange FR?I have no idea.
 

DanielT

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
4,914
Likes
4,903
Location
Sweden - Слава Україні
I did not perceive A and C as clearly rolled off in the treble but rather heard 'less smooth' sound.
In B the give away was sibilance level. This is in the 6-8kHz range and sharpness of sound (8-12kHz) range. Whether or not one has tinnitus in that part of the frequency range can even mean a difference in sensitivity.
Might also have to do with the used transducers and how that reacts with the room/ears whether or not that 'stands out'.
Taste can also play a role.

I listened with low distortion gear and headphones that have no peaking and low distortion at 'active levels' and while being 'relaxed' and with about 30 years of 'critical listening' experience (looking out for distortion and FR anomalies and hate it when not close to perfection).

Sometimes I am baffled by what others hear and I don't or vice versa.



About wasting money..

One should spend on audio what one can afford and likes (in all aspects). In those cases I never see it as wasting money. Placebo or not does not really matter. It does matter from a value or reality/science standpoint though and dislike 'obvious snake oil' but.... if a buyer gets more enjoyment then it might be worth it to them. People should be warned for 'wasting' money but in the end have to weigh for themselves if something is worth the money to them.
Tinnitus, actually maybe. Sometimes I hear a persistent beeping, but at a low level. But it comes and goes. Mostly no beeping sound at all. I will talk to my doctor about it.:oops:
But no ringing in the ears when I did the test.

When testing I used these:

Plus headphones: Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless

Speaking of HiFi and what you, or at least I, should spend HiFi money on. I have long since stopped caring about DACs. It is not on the world map that I would hear any difference between my Topping E30 and any SOTA DAC (if they were level-matched). I have tested a few amplifiers. It's been fun buying and selling used.:)
The only really lasting impression of them has been that it is nice to have decent power and that old amplifier can have a mechanically humming transformer that can have a rather annoying sound. For mg it is audible and sometimes, for the amplifiers that have it, annoying. For example, an old NAD 3020 was completely hopeless with such a transformer hum. It didn't last long at my house.

Otherwise, I don't know if I've heard any direct differences between the amplifiers I've tested. In principle, I have always disconnected the amplifiers, via HP-LP filters and run them with speakers together with a subwoofer, so the amplifiers have not had to work with the lowest frequencies. It may have made it easier (for the low powered amplifiers) to keep up well.
If I may brag a little. I've gotten pretty good at packing boxes of amps and sending them off. A skill that ...well.. I don't really know what I'm going to use it for.:)

Speakers there, I'd eat my hat if I took some pretty different of my speakers and blind tested them and I couldn't hear a difference. In any case, 100% sure if I throw in the worst ones I have in the test.
 
Last edited:

Axo1989

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 9, 2022
Messages
3,005
Likes
3,061
Location
Sydney
I decided to listen using speakers, as that is my preferred way of listening. I picked the Topping for the first and second, but the SET for the third. I really tried to pick based on preference for the track I was listening to rather than by listening for any particular tell. I honestly could barely tell a difference for preference and I wouldn’t say I heard hum in either.

I tried speakers initially as that would be normal for me also, but it was late and I couldn't turn it up (also we are renovating and things aren't in their correct places). I agree/expect harder to differentiate that way.
 

Axo1989

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 9, 2022
Messages
3,005
Likes
3,061
Location
Sydney
I think the one really useful aspect of this is that it explodes the 300B myth. There is so much rubbish talked about tubes and the 300B in particular that I’m sure some have been hoodwinked into spending lots of money on an expensive 300B amp to hear what the fuss is about. Anything that can prevent such a waste is a social good. ...

I'm not sure how you conclude this. We heard from the OP (who shared a fun journey of analytic discovery) and others that we aren't getting the dynamic treble effect of the 300B SET amp with these comparison files, and we even got graphs to demonstrate. Some other differences, yes.
 
Top Bottom