Author Topic: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity  (Read 1072 times)

Offline henrylr

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Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« on: December 15, 2021, 12:51:26 PM »
I've read the warnings about Audilbe Illusions preamps being very hard on tubes. I've also read that the M3A had significant changes. Is the M3A easier on tubes such that other brands can have longevity similar to the Sovtek, Russian 6H23N & 6N1P, 7DJ8 and E288Cc?

Thanks

Offline tmazz

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2021, 07:14:03 PM »
Audible Illusions preamps have gotten what I consider an undeserved bad rep for tube life over the years.

I bought a Modulus 3 for my son about 12 years ago. OK, I damn near stole it. I found one in a thrift  store with a $115 price tag on it. The tubes lit up and I figured at that price I could pay to repair anything that was wrong with it and still be way ahead of the game. Turns out it worked perfectly and has ever since. They just had no idea what they had, and far be it from me to educate them.

With us moving as a family and they my son moving out on his own I would say over the 12 years it has had about 6 or 7 years worth of regular use. and with all that usage I have replaced two tubes in all that time.

The thing you had to keep in mind with the AI Modulus preamps is that the button that is labels as the power switch does not actually shut down the unit, it just puts it in a standby mode. it it left plugged in , even with the power switch in the off position, tube tubes are running 24/7, which of course puts a lot of run time on those tubes, only a small fraction of which is being used to actually play music. So if you think about it, if you were to play your system for 4 hours every single day without fail you would be running the tube 24 hour to produce 4 hours of music or burning them for 5 extra hours for every hour you listen to them.  So most people looked at how often they had to change tubes as a function of listening time and said that the tubes in an AI pre lasted 1/6th as long as  when in reality the issue was really that they were running the tubes 6 time more than they needed to.

With this in mind the answer is fairly simple. Rather than using the power switch, which left the tubes running I just started pulling the plug we the unit was not in use. (You could also plug the AI into something with a power switch build into it like a power line conditioner.) Doing With the AC input cut off from the AI power supply the tubes shut down when not in use and mine have lasted just as long as other tube preamp.

Performance wise I think is a a very nice preamp. The only thing I don't like about it is the dual mono volume controls. I just find it a bit bothersome to have to adjust 2 controls to change volume and to have to be concerned with upsetting the L/R balance every time I do. It is a minor nuisance, and other than that I think it is a great sound per $ piece, especially for that you can get one on the used market.

Just to give you a point of reference, my main system uses an Audio Research SP-9 preamp which I bought new in 1988 and I am still very happy with. The AI has a slightly different character to it, but I would say they are definitely in the same league as far as overall sound quality goes.
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Offline Nick B

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2021, 09:36:42 PM »
Many years ago, probably at least 30, I heard Audible Illusions gear at a shop in so. California. I’m pretty sure the shop was called Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica.
It was a simple setup using a turntable. I can’t specifically recall the brand of turntable, arm or cartridge, but I know the speakers were Spica TC 50s. It all sounded quite good. I was curious and it looks like AI is operating in Florida. I also looked up Optimal Enchantment and they are still going after 40 years…
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Offline Emil

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2021, 05:40:53 AM »
From the horses mouth :D

http://www.audibleillusions.com/technical/#p_tube_lifeHow long will the tubes in my preamp last?

The Russian “mil-spec” tubes currently installed in our preamplifiers should last 2-3000 hours or 1-2 years of normal use. However, we are aware that tube filaments are very fragile and susceptible to rough handling. For this reason, and not to inconvenience our customers, we include a spare tube with every new preamplifier shipped.  FAQ

Be aware, from what I've read, their customer service can be quite slow.

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Offline rollo

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2021, 08:26:50 AM »
  I owned one. Yes the older models were hard on tubes. Andy at Vintage tube service told me he no longer sells NOS tubes for that preamp since it eats them up to quickly. Sovteks seemed to last the longest.

charles
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Offline tmazz

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2021, 03:59:33 PM »
All I can say is that I have gotten much longer than 1 - 2 years tube life by disconnecting the power when the pre was not playing.

FWIW I am using Audio Research branded 6922 (6DJ8) tubes. They are marked as being made in West Germany, but I do not know by whom. ARC tested, burned and culled tubes, but never actually manufactured tubes themselves.
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Offline Nick B

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2021, 06:38:22 PM »
I am trying to understand why AI would design it this way. Are there other companies that keep their tubes on as well?
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Offline tmazz

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2021, 10:23:24 PM »
There are a lot of people out there that advocate the advantage of maintaining thermal stability by keeping your equipment powered up full time. Of course most of them own solid state gear, whose components do not really have time sensitive lives.

I had an Audio Alchemy DAC in the 90s that if it was shut down for as little as a half hour Had to be powered up 24 hours a day for a week or two before it sounded good again. I ran that AA as the main DAC in my system for a good 8 - 10 years and I think I could count on one hand the number of times it was powered down. Given that there were no wear items in the DAC and it pull a minuscule amount of power at idle there was no reason not to run it round the clock.

Now of course with tube circuits it's a different story. AI claims that while the standby mode does not shut the tubes off completely it does lower the operating voltages around the tube as to reduce the wear and tear on the tubes during non-playing hours. I have not seen any of the schematics for these amps so I really can't comment one way or another as to whether the circuit really does reduce tube wear or not. But there is a large body of people out there that swear the preamps eat tubes for lunch and I have gotten very reasonable tube lives out of them by pulling the plug when it is not in use. Whose right, who knows?

AI claims that the pre will sound better if you do it their way and I know there are a lot of people out there who agree and are willing to put  up with the shortened tube life in exchange for better sound. And keep in mind that the amp runs very nicely on current production 6DJ8 tubes that can be found for about $25 each and since they only have 4 tubes it is not a big financial hit to retube the unit once a year. And in this hobby $100 is not looked at as a large amount of money. In a time where those MoFI UHQR record sets go for $125 and he can't press them fast enough, $100 a year would seem to be a small investment that most hard core audiophiles would gladly make if it got them an increase in SQ.Heck, how many people swap out cables on a regular basis  that cost many multiples of the cost of an AI Modulus retubing.

Remember, it's all about the music........

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Offline steve

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2021, 07:55:12 AM »
"The only thing I don't like about it is the dual mono volume controls."

I can sympathize. However, if ultimate sonic quality is to be attained, no remotes nor a single volume control with a balance control. No shortcuts. Besides, someone(s) has to design the ultimate. 

cheers

steve
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Offline rollo

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2021, 08:18:14 AM »
All I can say is that I have gotten much longer than 1 - 2 years tube life by disconnecting the power when the pre was not playing.

FWIW I am using Audio Research branded 6922 (6DJ8) tubes. They are marked as being made in West Germany, but I do not know by whom. ARC tested, burned and culled tubes, but never actually manufactured tubes themselves.

  A good suggestion.

charles
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Offline tmazz

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2021, 09:37:44 AM »
"The only thing I don't like about it is the dual mono volume controls."

I can sympathize. However, if ultimate sonic quality is to be attained, no remotes nor a single volume control with a balance control. No shortcuts. Besides, someone(s) has to design the ultimate. 

cheers

steve

You are 100% correct from a SQ perspective, but that doesn't make dual volume controls any less of a PITAS to use. It is just up to each of us to decide where the line between SQ and convenience lies. And this applies not only to dual control's but many other area of the hobby as well, like tubes vs solid state or LPs vs CDs vs streaming. Some folks are quite willing to give up a certain amount of SQ in exchange for ease of sue while others prioritize sound above all else.  There are no right answers, just what works for each individual.

Every decision we make in this hobby involves some kind of compromise.  Every improvement cost you something whether it is time, money, size, weight, space, heat, convenience, or something else you always end up giving up something to get something. There is simply no free lunch. And for me one of the interesting parts of the hobby, and a forum like this is seeing how different people balance all of those factors to put together a system that works for them.
Remember, it's all about the music........

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• McIntosh MC 275
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Offline Nick B

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2021, 08:02:48 PM »
"The only thing I don't like about it is the dual mono volume controls."

I can sympathize. However, if ultimate sonic quality is to be attained, no remotes nor a single volume control with a balance control. No shortcuts. Besides, someone(s) has to design the ultimate. 

cheers

steve

You are 100% correct from a SQ perspective, but that doesn't make dual volume controls any less of a PITAS to use. It is just up to each of us to decide where the line between SQ and convenience lies. And this applies not only to dual control's but many other area of the hobby as well, like tubes vs solid state or LPs vs CDs vs streaming. Some folks are quite willing to give up a certain amount of SQ in exchange for ease of sue while others prioritize sound above all else.  There are no right answers, just what works for each individual.

Every decision we make in this hobby involves some kind of compromise.  Every improvement cost you something whether it is time, money, size, weight, space, heat, convenience, or something else you always end up giving up something to get something. There is simply no free lunch. And for me one of the interesting parts of the hobby, and a forum like this is seeing how different people balance all of those factors to put together a system that works for them.

The dual mono volume just reminded me of the remote control Joule Electra LA 100 preamp I had years ago. The channels never tracked uniformly and it was a pain. I’ll always sacrifice a bit of SQ for consistent performance and ease of use.
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Offline henrylr

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2021, 08:12:00 AM »
Thanks for all the replies. FWIW, some AI M3A owners say that some brands of 7DJ8 tubes have lasted up to 5 and 10 years. They say it it becuase the heater voltage is 7V. I don't know if they are unplugging or leaving it on 24/7.

Offline S Clark

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2021, 07:14:04 PM »
I would NEVER leave a tube glowing 24/7.   Never. 
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Offline tmazz

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Re: Audible Illusions M3A tube longevity
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2021, 09:38:07 PM »
I would NEVER leave a tube glowing 24/7.   Never.

I agree, that's why I pulled the plug on the AI when it was not in use.
Remember, it's all about the music........

• Nola Boxers
• Sunfire True SW Super Jr (2)
• McIntosh MC 275
• ARC SP-9
• VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SDS/SME IV/Soundsmith Carmen Mk II ES
• Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC/Rasp Pi Roon Endpoint
• DigiBuss/TWL PC&USB/MIT Cables