Tube rolling (aka substitution) is a time-honored tradition - a rite of passage for any real tube-o-phile. In practice, it allows fine-tuning the sound of tube gear to suit individual preferences. Tube rolling is to tube gear as spices are to food. Without either, it is impossible for flavor to blossom to its full potential. In this case, the process is rather painless. It takes about 60 seconds to pop the cover off the unit in order to access the tubes. Oh, be sure to power the player off and disconnect it from its AC outlet before proceeding. A star screwdriver bit is most helpful in removing the four retaining screws. Lift the stock tubes straight up so as to avoid bending the pins. Then drop in one of the following two choices.
My top two recommendations are the Russian Sovtek 6922 and the Amperex Bugle Boy 6922/E88CC premiums available through Richardson Electronics. The Sovtek’s sound is sexy, full-bodied, vintage-tube like. The lower midrange clearly shines through, and I prefer that to the brightness of the stock tubes. Unfortunately, the Sovtek is not the smoothest sounding tube put on the face of the earth by the Tube Gods. Harmonic overtones are slightly grainy in texture, lacking a bit of sheen and polish. For about double the price, you could have it all by opting for the Amperex Bugle Boys, at about $27 per tube. Tubes may be purchased from stock and online through the Richardson online electronics catalog at: http://catalog.rell.com. Matched pairs are available, selected for low noise and distortion after a 24-hour aging process.
In this day and age of instant gratification, these boogie woogie Bugle Boys deliver velvet in a bottle. Harmonic textures are sweet and finely layered. The sound is nicely balanced, top-to-bottom, without the upper octave emphasis I so dislike about non-pedigreed 6922 types. You will instantly delight in the suaveness of the midrange. The sense of focus and finesse these tubes elicit is well worth the added expense.
Outfitted with the Amperex Bugle Boys, the Tjoeb ’99 has become my reference in the under $1,500 price point. It is generally agreed that space, the final frontier, is where digital is most lacking relative to good old analog. Even expensive mass-market CD players are clueless when it comes to convincingly palpable soundstage. This the Tjoeb does with ease. It is able to sketch a believable 3-D soundstage with precision and focus. There’s plenty of low-level detail, although this is not an analytical player. Some audiophile players are forever trumpeting detail to the point of distraction. With the Tjoeb, the inclination is to simply… enjoy the music. It’s difficult to believe that so much musical magic is possible form such an unassuming, non-glitzy package. But the truth is that the Tjoeb ’99 maxes out on our value for the money scale: a very strong buy recommendation for this Dutch treat.
Web Site: www.hifi-notes.com
Yet Another Follow Up: The AH! Tjoeb '99 CD Player
Great news for US audiophiles: Enjoy the Music.com has been informed that Upscale Audio in California (Tel.: 909 -931-9686) has been appointed as the exclusive North American contact and distributor for the AH! Tjoeb '99 CD Player. The retail pricing has not changed, remaining at $450 for the base machine. The upgrades are also unchanged: $50 for the Supercrystal, and $20 each for the Noise Killer and digital out. For more information check out: www.upscaleaudio.com. If you previously had any misgivings or concerns about transacting business overseas, you can now deal directly with Kevin Deal, the US importer.
My mouth is still wide open over the resolution and sheer musicality of this giant-killer of a CD player. I have continued to investigate tube substitutions for the stock 6922 dual triodes, including several 7308 types. To date, the clear winner is still the Amperex Bugle Boy, at about $27 per tube. Tubes may be purchased from stock and online through the Richardson online electronics catalog at: http://catalog.rell.com.