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Old 09-29-2006, 06:51 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Question Cool Tube Preamp

Wondering what people think about this...

http://www.takamine.com/index.cfm?fa=elec_cooltube

Thinking of getting a Takamine TAN16C with CTP-1 Cool Tube Preamp in it.

Opinions please...
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  #2  
Old 09-29-2006, 06:54 PM
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Wow you almost made it what...two months with the Ovation? LOL.
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Old 09-29-2006, 08:20 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Well, it will mostly depend on how it sounds and since few of us have used it (me included), it's hard to reach any definitive conclusion. Still, looking at the published features, here are some thoughts:

Good
1. 3-band eq with sweepable mid
2. tuner
3. mute
4. dual source capable (any dual combination of UST, SBT, mag or internal mic)

Not So Good
1. 4 AA batteries with only 24 hours of life (you'll pay for the preamp again within a year or two just in battery costs). Apparently, there's a way to attach external power. Dunno how.
2. Lack of separate eq before blending. That's fatal for an dual source using an internal mic.
3. Lack of specs. I couldn't find any specs published. Perhaps they're on the site, or will be shortly. Maybe never.

The Tube

The addition of a 12AU7 tube running at 3 volts (through only one side of the dual triode tube), along with a "tube blend" control tells me this is a starved plate design (at 3v perhaps the most starved of all) with the tube in a sidechain (it's not in the true audio path). It's there to do one thing - to add distortion to the signal, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still it's only adding distortion.

Starved plate tube preamps have been around for years. They have become popular with beginning home recordists, although their popularity has waned as folks have learned that there is a night and day difference between a starved plate design and a real tube preamp. Plus there is absolutely nothing wrong with solid state preamps. Indeed, many folks have replaced their cheap starved plate tube preamps with solid state ones, and like the change.

A real tube preamp runs at 200v to 300v on the rails. There are few inexpensive ones (under $400 per channel), but most are expensive (over $1,000 per channel). The good ones are sensual, euphonic and sound incredible. Here's an example of one of the good ones:

Pendulum Tube Preamp and DI

Now, I'm not trying to compare Tak's Cool Tube Preamp with Pendulum's Tube Preamp. That would not be fair at all. But I do refer you to the Pendulum to stress my original "tube" point - the starved plate design is a gimic.

BTW: If you watch the video on the Tak site about the Cool Tube Preamp you'll notice that when the tube or magnetic pickup is blended in the volume increases. That's another marketing gimic - make it louder and most will think it sounds better.

That all being said, the preamp overall might sound pretty good, and may eclipse other barn door units out there, which shouldn't be too hard to do.

Last edited by sdelsolray; 09-30-2006 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:07 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray
Well, it will mostly depend on how it sounds and since few of us have used it (me included), it's hard to reach any definitive conclusion. Still, looking at the published features, here are some thoughts:

Good
1. 3-band eq with sweepable mid
2. tuner
3. mute
4. dual source capable (any dual combination of UST, SBT, mag or internal mic)

Not So Good
1. 4 AA batteries with only 24 hours of life (you'll pay for the preamp again within a year or two just in battery costs). Apparently, there's a way to attach external power. Dunno how.
2. Lack of separate eq before blending. That's fatal for an dual source using an internal mic.
3. Lack of specs. I couldn't find any specs published. Perhaps they're on the site, or will be shortly. Maybe never.

The Tube

The addition of a 12AU7 tube running at 3 volts (through only one side of the dual triode tube), along with a "tube blend" control tells me this is a starved plate design (at 3v perhaps the most starved of all) with the tube in a sidechain (it's not in the true audio path). It's there to do one thing - to add distortion to the signal, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still it's only adding distortion.

Starved plate tube preamps have been around for years. They have become popular with beginning home recordists, although their popularity has waned as folks have learned that there is a night and day difference between a starved plate design and a real tube preamp. Plus there is absolutely nothing wrong with solid state preamps. Indeed, many folks have replaced their cheap starved plate tube preamps with solid state ones, and like the change.

A real tube preamp runs at 200v to 300v on the rails. There are few inexpensive ones (under $400 per channel), but most are expensive (over $1,000 per channel). The good ones are sensual, euphonic and sound incredible. Here's an example of one of the good ones:

Pendulum Tube Preamp and DI

Now, I'm not trying to compare Tak's Cool Tube Preamp with Pendulum's Tube Preamp. That would not be fair at all. But I do refer you to the Pendulum to stress my original "tube" point - the starved plate design is a gimic.

BTW: If you watch the video on the Tak site about the Cool Tube Preamp you'll notice that when the tube or magnetic pickup is blended in the volume increases. That's another marketing gimic - make it louder and most will think it sounds better.

That all being said, the preamp overall might sound pretty good, and may eclipse other barn door units out there, which shouldn't be too hard to do.
Thank you for your reply, and you seem to know alot more than i do about this kind of stuff.

Are you saying that blending with the tube only increases the amplitude?

I recorded a small test that i would like you to listen to...

https://home.comcast.net/~bcalvanese/CoolTubeTest.mp3

I set everything flat as far as EQ, and used no effects at all (not even reverb). I played the same chord progresson 3 times... The first was with the cool tube set to 0 (100% UST)... The second was the cool tube half way (50% UST/50% cool tube)... And the third was with the cool tube all the way up (100% cool tube). I played all 3 progressions with a heavy pick to get as much potential quack as possible.

To me... I can tell a big difference between all 3 of them, but i am far from an expert, and probably don't even know what to listening for anyway. I will say though... It sounds very nice at all 3 settings.

I would like to hear what you think, or anyone who knows more than me for that matter.

I am that "beginning home recordes" that you are talking about, but i think it sounds pretty good. I actually got a Fishman Aura because i thought i would need something more, but after hearing this guitar and preamp through my PA and doing the test recording, i returned the Aura.

Thank you for your reply, and i am curiouse to hear what you think of the sound.
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Old 09-30-2006, 10:14 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe F
Wow you almost made it what...two months with the Ovation? LOL.
SSShhhhhhh... I'm trying not to be such an opn book about my compulsiveness...
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  #6  
Old 09-30-2006, 11:51 PM
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Chicago Sandy Chicago Sandy is offline
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I think the 24-hr battery life with 4 AAs is a red herring. I've never gotten more than 16 hrs (and that's generous) playing life out of the AAs in my ES, and you can always cut costs by going to rechargeables. (You'll still spend way less on AAs than you will on strings---assuming you're conscientious about changing strings). Practice good "battery hygiene:" unplug whenever you are not actually playing, and you'll get better battery life.
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  #7  
Old 10-01-2006, 09:08 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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Bob,

According to Mike Markure, the head engineer on the Cool Tube project, the Takamine folks were working on a phantom power/DI box for the Cool Tube which would remove the need for batteries. I don't know what happened to the project, as it was some time ago when Mike mentioned this on the AG mag Gear forum where he occasionally hangs out. (We've had a few Cool Tube discussions over there.) Its possible that the Cool Tube project is now competing for attention with the possibility of onboard Aura models at Takamine. If Ovation is doing a variation of the onboard Aura, the folks at Takamine have to at least be considering it. (They are both Kaman companies.) The onboard Aura has the advantages of longer battery life and possibly better tone (for most tastes) as well. Admittedly, though, I liked the performance of the Cool Tube-equipped Nashville series dread which the manager of a local music store demoed for me. Between the Cool Tube, the onboard EQ and his considerable playing skills, he got some pretty nice sounds from it.


Perhaps if you posted an inquiry on the AG mag Gear forum, Mike would see it and update us on the Cool Tube power box project. You could title the thread something like "Power Box/DI for Takamine Cool Tube?"

Gary

Last edited by guitaniac; 10-01-2006 at 01:19 PM.
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Old 10-01-2006, 11:52 AM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobc
Are you saying that blending with the tube only increases the amplitude?

I recorded a small test that i would like you to listen to...

https://home.comcast.net/~bcalvanese/CoolTubeTest.mp3
No. The examples on the Tak website are at different volumes depending on whether the tube is dialed in or not. Your examples do the same thing - the first has much less amplitude than the third example. The tube is adding distortion, mostly even-ordered harmonics, but some odd-ordered harmonics as well. This is a bit different than adding eq. Still, it is effectively adding some gain. If you listen carefully to your first example and, say, the third example, you'll notice that the transients become very smeared in the third example and there is a bit of harshness added to the sound (odd-ordered harmonics), as well as some pleasing fullness added (even-ordered harmonics). That's what starved plate tube designs do.

I would suggest two things. First, reset the output levels of the three samples so that they are all the same volume and regenerate the .mp3 on that basis. Now listen to the samples several times. Second, do some experiments with the pickup only (no tube) by using the built-in eq. You'll likely find that you can add the fullness to the pickup without smearing the transients and without adding the hash to the signal (which is what the tube, in part, is doing).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobc
I would like to hear what you think, or anyone who knows more than me for that matter.
...
Thank you for your reply, and i am curiouse to hear what you think of the sound.
Generally, it sounds like a UST. Many folks like the UST sound and it certainly has functional advantages (e.g., low feedback). If you like the UST sound, you have a preamp that should help it sound good. You might want to consider adding a second pickup, such as a mag or SBT. That Tak preamp is dual source capable.
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Old 10-01-2006, 01:18 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago Sandy
I think the 24-hr battery life with 4 AAs is a red herring. I've never gotten more than 16 hrs (and that's generous) playing life out of the AAs in my ES, and you can always cut costs by going to rechargeables. (You'll still spend way less on AAs than you will on strings---assuming you're conscientious about changing strings). Practice good "battery hygiene:" unplug whenever you are not actually playing, and you'll get better battery life.
Thanks Sandy.

Yes... I wish guitar strings where as cheap as batteries, and i probably change strings more than i should....
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  #10  
Old 10-01-2006, 01:31 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitaniac
Bob,

According to Mike Markure, the head engineer on the Cool Tube project, the Takamine folks were working on a pantom power/DI box for the Cool Tube which would remove the need for batteries. I don't know what happened to the project, as it was some time ago when Mike mentioned this on the AG mag Gear forum where he occasionally hangs out. (We've had a few Cool Tube discussions over there.) Its possible that the Cool Tube project is now competing for attention with the possibility of onboard Aura models at Takamine. If Ovation is doing a variation of the onboard Aura, the folks at Takamine have to at least be considering it. (They are both Kaman companies.) The onboard Aura has the advantages of longer battery life and possibly better tone (for most tastes) as well. Admittedly, though, I liked the performance of the Cool Tube-equipped Nashville series dread which the manager of a local music store demoed for me. Between the Cool Tube, the onboard EQ and his considerable playing skills, he got some pretty nice sounds from it.


Perhaps if you posted an inquiry on the AG mag Gear forum, Mike would see it and update us on the Cool Tube power box project. You could title the thread something like "Power Box/DI for Takamine Cool Tube?"

Gary
Thanks for the info Gary.

I had an Ovation with the VIP-5 preamp which sounded great. The things i did not like about the Ovation where...

1. The unwound strings did not have much sustain. I don't know if it was the koa top, or the placement of the sound holes, but they just did not ring out like other ones i have played.

2. No pick guard. I strum most of the time, and i would wear the finish right off a guitar without a pick guard.

3. The saddle would be very inconveniant to replace, and is made of a very soft material that gets pretty deep string grooves in a very short period of time.

I love the Ovation sound though. I think this Takamine with the Cool Tube sounds just as good, and it has a pickguard, and i can replace the saddle (if i want), and the unwound strings ring out very nicely.

Thank you for the information too. There is not much info about this preamp on the site, and i will be calling Takamine this week to see if they have more information as well. I'm gonna check out the AG mag forum too.

Thanks again...
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Old 10-01-2006, 01:45 PM
bobc bobc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray
No. The examples on the Tak website are at different volumes depending on whether the tube is dialed in or not. Your examples do the same thing - the first has much less amplitude than the third example. The tube is adding distortion, mostly even-ordered harmonics, but some odd-ordered harmonics as well. This is a bit different than adding eq. Still, it is effectively adding some gain. If you listen carefully to your first example and, say, the third example, you'll notice that the transients become very smeared in the third example and there is a bit of harshness added to the sound (odd-ordered harmonics), as well as some pleasing fullness added (even-ordered harmonics). That's what starved plate tube designs do.

I would suggest two things. First, reset the output levels of the three samples so that they are all the same volume and regenerate the .mp3 on that basis. Now listen to the samples several times. Second, do some experiments with the pickup only (no tube) by using the built-in eq. You'll likely find that you can add the fullness to the pickup without smearing the transients and without adding the hash to the signal (which is what the tube, in part, is doing).



Generally, it sounds like a UST. Many folks like the UST sound and it certainly has functional advantages (e.g., low feedback). If you like the UST sound, you have a preamp that should help it sound good. You might want to consider adding a second pickup, such as a mag or SBT. That Tak preamp is dual source capable.
Thank you for explaining the technicalities of the sound, but i don't have a clue as to most of what you are saying... , but it sounds good, has very little to no quacky'ness (even with no tube added). I am going to do another test keeping the gain at the sam level for all 3 positions, and try to figure out what you mean.

I am in the process of finding out if an L.R. Baggs iBeam will work with the Cool Tube. If it does, i'm gonna install one.

Thanks for you input...
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Old 10-01-2006, 01:55 PM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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Bob,

As sdelsolray pointed out, the Cool Tube preamp is designed to accomodate a second source. If I had your guitar, I'd be very tempted to try a K&K mini-Pure in it - if only to see what all the fuss is about. The legion of devoted mini-Pure advocates can't be too far off base.

For the time being, though, you'll want to experiment with the onboard EQ and the Cool Tube to see what your optimum results can be. Comparing your flat-EQed Ovation recordings to your flat-EQed Takamine recordings, I suspect that you'll need more of an EQ adjustment with the Tak to get the best possible amplified tone.

Have fun with it.
Gary
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Old 10-03-2006, 07:17 AM
Mike Markure Mike Markure is offline
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Hey Bobc

Thanks for the interest in the Takamine and the CTP-1 Cool Tube preamp. I was alerted to your question here by a friend who frequents this group.

For the sake of accuracy I figured I would respond to some of the comments about the CTP-1.

1, The tube is 100% in the signal chain (audio path) at all times
2, We do only use half the tube in this application
3, The tube is not there to add distortion.
4, There are three signals directed through the tube.
5, By their very nature, tubes accentuate "even order harminics" Thats why I chose a tube.
6, By their very nature tubes do not pass DC. Another reason I chose a tube.
7, The preamp could be built using solid state devices. Tubes just work much better for this application.
8, Advancing the Cool Tube knob does increase the output. This is due to the linear introduction of the two additional signals as the knob is advanced. Not a "gimmic". In fact the CTP-2 will compensate for this volume increase. Though it can of course be compensated currently using the volume slider.

I have heard the term "starved plate" before but I am not certain of the correct meaning. Basically it comes down to what exactly you are asking the tube to do. Obvously we are not treating the tube in a "traditional" way. Technology has changed.

GARY

Nice to run into you here. Your posts are always informative and constructive.

I actually looked at the Aura technology about 5 years ago. I met with the guy who developed it. It was very cool. I opted to go a more "low tech" route and developed the Cool Tube.

The Cool tube power supply/DI is done and will come to market early 2007. This will eliminate the need for batteries and be a very usefull DI box.
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Old 10-03-2006, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Markure
Hey Bobc

Thanks for the interest in the Takamine and the CTP-1 Cool Tube preamp. I was alerted to your question here by a friend who frequents this group.

For the sake of accuracy I figured I would respond to some of the comments about the CTP-1.

1, The tube is 100% in the signal chain (audio path) at all times
2, We do only use half the tube in this application
3, The tube is not there to add distortion.
4, There are three signals directed through the tube.
5, By their very nature, tubes accentuate "even order harminics" Thats why I chose a tube.
6, By their very nature tubes do not pass DC. Another reason I chose a tube.
7, The preamp could be built using solid state devices. Tubes just work much better for this application.
8, Advancing the Cool Tube knob does increase the output. This is due to the linear introduction of the two additional signals as the knob is advanced. Not a "gimmic". In fact the CTP-2 will compensate for this volume increase. Though it can of course be compensated currently using the volume slider.

I have heard the term "starved plate" before but I am not certain of the correct meaning. Basically it comes down to what exactly you are asking the tube to do. Obvously we are not treating the tube in a "traditional" way. Technology has changed.

GARY

Nice to run into you here. Your posts are always informative and constructive.

I actually looked at the Aura technology about 5 years ago. I met with the guy who developed it. It was very cool. I opted to go a more "low tech" route and developed the Cool Tube.

The Cool tube power supply/DI is done and will come to market early 2007. This will eliminate the need for batteries and be a very usefull DI box.
Mike

Thank you for taking the time to post, and congratulations on designing such a great sounding preamp. I purchased an Aura along with the guitar because i thought i would need something to enhance the sound, but after plugging it into my PA and hearing it... I returned the Aura because i did not see a real need for it with the CTP-1. I just wanna plug my guitar in and play, and the less i have to hook up and mess with, the better, and this thing is just fine for that...

I am getting a iBeam passive with the adapters needed to use it as the second source as well. If it works, i think this guitar will be everything i need for what i do. I'm just a hobby'est, and the most i would ever do would be an open mic or something along those lines, and even if i was a pro player this guitar and pre would be a good choice (IMO).

Thanks again for taking the time to post here. It's people like you who provide the developement of things that people who love music can be inspired by.
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Old 10-04-2006, 02:27 PM
Mike Markure Mike Markure is offline
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My pleasure Bob. Enjoy your Takamine in good health.
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