What is this thing?

Another mystery object. But I put this in GQ, because I’m sure someone here will know exactly what this thingis. Cropped from a reddit post about tea.

Those tubes remind me of the tubes that used to be in the backs of TVs–when the TV stopped working, you pulled them out and took them to the tube-tester gadget at the drugstore and attempted (usually in vain) to find a tube that worked.


I cannot make out the brand name or model of tubes from the picture.

Little Dot Mk III headphone amplifier.

Little Dot Amp

Google image search of “tube amp little”

Seems to be in very good shape. Is it worth a penny or two for a collector?

Not particularly, there is nothing vintage about them. They’re made and sold today :). Only thing a used one gets you is a discount on the price.

Tube aficianados are still going strong in the audiophile world and just like turntables and vinyl there is still new production to meet the needs of that niche market.

Interesting. Never heard of such a thing, but then I don’t get out much. Even after reading the description at the link in post #3, I’m not clear on why/when you would use it. Explain, someone?

It is designed to work with high-end headphones that need some extra oomph to drive properly. Some of the more expensive headphones out there have a high impedance that makes them more difficult to drive properly without using a seperate, dedicated amplifier( this of course will vary depending on the main amp you are using ). So you hook up your headphone amplifier into whatever audio system you have and plug your headphones into the amp to power them. I use a headphone amp( not this one )for my computer, because my computer is simply incapable of driving my Sennheiser 600 headphones properly on its own.

Now competitors in the cutthroat world of amplifiers, headphone amps included, make all sorts of claims about why theirs sounds better. Much/most of this is highly subjective. And the use of tubes are one of those subjective things.

Note the amazon add I linked to - Delivers a smooth, non-fatiguing sound with no hint of dynamic compression or imaging fuzz. True? Maybe for some people , or with some headphones or maybe marketing hogwash. The audiophile world is always at least some percentage voodoo and seperating fact from fiction from maybe fact or fiction is generally left to the individual( and approximately one billion subjective individual opinions on the web if you care to read them :wink: ).

Thank you **Tamerlane **for that excellent answer.

Further research has yielded this article from the Wall Street Journal.
"The Miracle of a $150 (or Less) Tube Amplifier"
Why you should ditch your Bluetooth speaker for the smooth, sweet and surprisingly affordable sound of a vacuum-tube amplifier

Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of debate on the pros and cons of solid state audio vs. vacuum tube amplifiers over the past 40 years. We’ve even had a number of SDMB threads on it. I’m not in a position to perform thread searches right now; perhaps someone else could do it.

My personal opinion… I think tube amps are pretty to look at, but they’re not any better than solid state when it comes to audio performance. :slight_smile:

They ARE really pretty… :slight_smile:

Are high-end headphones high-impedance or low-impedance? It seems like you would need an amp for a low-impedance load more than a high-impedance load.

depends on what you mean by “better.” transistor amplifiers are far more accurate and consistent. Tubes are neither. even operated in their “linear” region they add distortion. Which is usually lower-order even harmonics, which can make the sound “warmer” or “fatter.” if that’s more pleasing to you, have fun.

objectively, vacuum tubes are garbage. they take forever to warm up, consume tons of power, are incredibly fragile and short lived.

impedance doesn’t say anything about headphone quality. it just give you an indication on how much voltage swing you’ll need to drive them to a particular loudness, and nothing more than that. the more cynical among us (like myself) would say high-end headphones tended to be high impedance specifically so they could con you into also buying a headphone amplifier to go with them.

Yep. Back when there was a bit less competition and Sennheiser and Grado were battling it out for the audiophile markert, one of the arguments for Grado was that they were easier to drive and cheaper per unit for similar quality.

That argment sold me at first. Unfortunately Grado’s design were they rest directly on the ears killed them for me - I’d be in serious pain after twenty minutes. So eventually I migrated to the far more comfortable( for me )Sennheiser design. The main downside( competeing sonic qualities aside )was a massive jump in impedance :smack:. Still, back when I ran them directly from a decent amp I never bothered with a headphone amp. However my computer’s usb ports sadly just won’t do the trick.

What? Cynicism in the audio trade? Are you saying those fancy cables made from a single stretched crytal of silver are somehow less musical that Radio Shack specials? For shame sir, for shame. :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe I didn’t ask it right, but in my experience a high-impedance load requires less power to drive. So why would you need an amplifier to drive the high-impedance load but not one for a low-impedance load?

it’s not about power, but voltage. all else equal*, a 600 ohm speaker is going to take more voltage to drive to the same loudness as a 50 ohm speaker. one of the re-workings of Ohm’s Law is P=V^2/R. The higher R is, the more V you need to reach the same P.

  • it rarely is, but for this example.

Oh, completely agree. I mean, just look at these! I see them more as a work of art than a practical device.

Building a tube amp is on my bucket list.

Being new to SDMB I don’t know whether to be impressed or disappointed that no one responded ‘Flux Capacitor’.

They are very pretty though…

For “audiophile” tube applications, this always amused me:

That’s not a joke. In 2002, AOpen made a motherboard (AOpen AX4B-533) with a tube on it. It had a tube preamp for its onboard audio. Putting a component which had to heat up to actually operate in the case along with everything else whose waste heat you were trying to get rid of … yeah, that’s a good idea. Besides, I wonder how many audiophile types would want to use the onboard audio in the first place. Surely, they would opt for a high-end sound card.

The thing to do these days is to use an external USB DAC.