Cryo Tube Contraversy

Cryo Tube Controversy – The Chilling Truth

A number of years ago we started to see more and more about cryo “treatment” of vacuum tubes. We read through all the marketing and tried to figure out how this could improve a vacuum tube. Our reaction was that it really didn’t seem logical that freezing a vacuum tube could improve it. We had concerns that the glass where the pins pass through would become compromised due to different rates of expansion and contraction of glass and metal. As well, it seemed odd that stronger steel could make a tube sound better. But to be thorough, we had carefully tested sets of matched tubes sent out to be treated so we could try it for ourselves. Our plan was to have two sets of tubes that had identical measurements. One set would be cryogenically treated and the other not. Doing this would allow us to do a comparison between the two sets and make the results less subjective.

The tubes were sent to a company that at the time was the premier provider of cryo treatments.  After several weeks they were returned. A visual inspection showed they didn’t appear altered or damaged. After testing we found the measurements were not any better or worse, they remained the same. So far so good. Next was listening time. We set up a blind comparison test by having one person install the tubes but not allow the listeners to see which set was used. Our listening panel was a mix of audiophiles and studio engineers so we were confident subtle improvements would be noticed. Our results were very interesting yet anti-climatic. After several comparisons, we discovered that none of our listeners could hear any difference between the tube sets, let alone an improvement.  No one could tell if or when a set was changed.  If we could not hear an improvement, and we could not measure an improvement, we found it difficult to justify selling these “treated” tubes.

Cryogenic Treated Vacuum Tubes.
Cryogenic Treated Vacuum Tubes.

Since this time our friend Phil Taylor at Effectrode has written about his own thoughts on cyrogenic treatment of audio tubes.  He’s been very kind and allowed us to reprint his article here.

21 Responses

  1. Dan Lilley
    Dan Lilley at |

    Thank you so much for applying some basic scientific procedure to examine this issue. The audio industry, sadly IMO, is rife with misinformation, false claims, conjecture and delusion. Your approach helps to clear the air and I applaud you for it.

    A dedicated tube aficionado and satisfied customer,

    Dan Lilley
    Raleigh, NC

    Reply
    1. luisranger
      luisranger at |

      I use electro harmonix cryogenical tubes since 2009 i try the same brand tubes without cryogenical tratment and i hear too much diference sonicaly vs regular tubes and my system has the same cryogenically tubes since 2009 i audition my system weekens 4 to 5 hrs tops and i know this year i retube my system but the longevity of this tubes is very evident so tubestore you are wasting your time to discredit a cryoset.com that i see but the high end is bloodout because some many company try to discredit another everything can sale some tweaks and gimmics that i call democracy, but i ask tubestore what in the world is selling tubes in mark up prices example electro harmonix tubes, sovtek, tung sol etc why you try to markdown the prices they will get atractive to back the customers like me and everybody in this industry that’s my own opinion sorry this is the true.

      Reply
  2. mario
    mario at |

    I’ve been using cryogenic tubes in my hi end audio gear and will never use anything else. Most people’s ears aren’t as sensitive as our eyes so it’s no wonder that people can’t hear the difference. If your transformers, capacitors, speaker cables, etc can’t handle the detail of cryogenic treatment, it’s a waste of money.

    Putting hi end spark plugs in a pinto won’t be the same as putting it into a Ferrarri. My suggestion to the consumer, only buy cryogenic products that offer a money back guarantee. If u don’t hear the difference, send them back….stop trusting blogs and so called reviews that can be biased depending on who it’s written by.

    Reply
    1. Peter Joseph
      Peter Joseph at |

      I totally agree. I have applied this in auto racing engines,rifle target barrels
      Nasa did not develop it for nothing. In truth it not only tightens the molecular
      Structure the tighter the more efficient the electrons can flow.longer wearing
      As well as more so sonicly true.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous
      Anonymous at |

      “A Pinto!” What’s that?!? 🙂 You reveal your age.

      Reply
  3. mario
    mario at |

    PS – I can smell an attempt to “discredit” the competition by his article, sorry tubestore.com, you’ve lost a long time customer. There are so many articles by NASA, the Navy, MIT, etc. regarding the use of cryogenic treatment in sensitive passive sonar/listening devices that anyone can educate themselves.

    read up on the Bybee filters that were originally developed for the Navy and submarine sonar equipment. These filters are cryogenic treated to reduce quantum noise and increase sensitivity.

    Reply
    1. David
      David at |

      I agree because cryo treatment helps with microphonics and noise which a tube tester cannot test. The hearing test may have been done with guitar amplifiers for all we know. A true test would be with a pair of top of the line Sennheiser headphones and with a tube amp such as the Valhalla tube amp with hi res audio tracks. You can definitely hear the difference between tubes. I would take this article with a grain of salt.

      Reply
  4. Me
    Me at |

    mario’s imagined feelings were hurt. A little sensitive and defensive I’d say. If he wasn’t aware of the cryo stuff, he probably wouldn’t have heard any noticeable difference either. I doubt he could hear deep down into the sub-atomic natural noise floor. If so, he needs to be wired for sonar. Maybe has a leaky cap in his rumble filter.

    Reply
  5. Glitch Magnet
    Glitch Magnet at |

    How do I tell if my amp has too much quantum noise? I simply MUST reduce that awful quantum noise in my audio amp!!!

    And, I’ll bet putting high-end spark plugs in a Pinto would be precisely the same as putting them into a Ferrari.

    Reply
  6. roger fisher
    roger fisher at |

    Being a guitar player sense the late 60s I have had a great deal of experience with tubes. Older old style tubes were better than newer tubes for awhile, but the tube industry has gotten better by leaps & bounds plus manufactures of modern guitar equipment have tweaked there equipment to newer tubes. Now to me old style tubes just sound different not necessarily better. Now sense audiophiles are still using a lot of old style equipment NOS tubes may work better & also there may be some different frequency’s that come through with cryo treated tubes in audio equip but I doubt it. But as for guitar amps, i do not hear any difference. It is easy to be brainwashed by info or because you spent a fortune on something & cannot accept that you spent a lot of money for nothing. If you are happy with you sound be happy with it. No sense in causing strife over it. WAR- “We Are Right”

    Reply
    1. Anonymous
      Anonymous at |

      Is this Heart’s Roger Fisher??
      If so, I believe everything you say!! Lol

      Reply
  7. Bill
    Bill at |

    Really? People say they can “hear” a difference in cryo-treated tubes? Maybe if the tubes are manufactured in a cryo-type environment, ie – Blade Runner..”I just do eyes!”, they may perform better and work more effectively for ultra-sensitive equipment like SONAR, or WARP drive engines !! Yes WARP drive – call NASA !!
    For guitar amps – cranked, ain’t no one gonna tell me they hear 847 MHz now when they could not hear it before, or 15.5KHz – wow what have my ears been missing !!!
    Please NOS is about as good as you’re gonna get till they’re gone – then trust these guys to find you the next best thing.
    Hell they live in a tube !!
    Peace – be good to each other folks !!!

    Reply
  8. Les lammers
    Les lammers at |

    I have used them and don’t notice a difference with new production tubes in audio amps. I have no interest in cryo’ed NOS. No, I’m not deaf. Cryo may work well for knives etc. but I’m not sure about tubes,

    Reply
  9. audioisbadformyhealth
    audioisbadformyhealth at |

    The tubestore.com findings have nothing to do with mocking a competitor since cryogenically treating tubes is not exclusive to one or a couple of competitors. Tubestore.com could offer cryogenically treated tubes if they wanted to, and profit from it as well. It’s great that thetubestore.com actually cares enough about its customers to keep what they offer for sale, as honest as possible. There is a huge tube seller out west, that is very well known and respected by many, that now offers cryogenically treated tubes for sale. If cryogenically treated tubes are a scam, then that seller out west is risking their reputation just to get $8.00 more per tube. They don’t just sell tubes, they sell audio equipment as well. So if people find out that cryogenically treating tubes has no positive effect or no effect at all on tubes, that dealer is also risking losing its customer base. So how is it that two legitimate websites(thetubestore.com and the one out west) have such a different take on whether cryogenically treating tubes, actually improves their sound? What am I saying???? This is audio. This happens all the time. Silly me.

    Reply
  10. Mike Joyner
    Mike Joyner at |

    I find it amusing the counter arguments and accusations against this blind test from a store/distributor who would only profit or at least broaden its product offerings if such marketing claims held up. Going to the extent of throwing in sonar technology to the argument? Pretty sure any modern sonar sensor is feeding a solid state preamp. Much like saying attributes for a good sensor for photographs are the same for machine vision. Semiconductors do benefit from cooler operating temps. Convoluted thinking.

    Please change that man’s brandy to a good ol Kentucky bourbon… Please

    Want to improve vacuum tube performance for an audiophile? Trying operating the amp with everything cooled right? Last I knew tubes run best hot for guitar tone. Theoretically you could reduce the noise floor by cooling entire circuit. Thermal shot noise in passives, fet leakage or in my specialty, dark current in image sensors benefit from operating in a reduced temperature environment.

    Reply
  11. David
    David at |

    Telefunken does cryo treat their new line of tubes.

    Reply
  12. Kevin
    Kevin at |

    Cryotreatment for tubes will have a very slight audible difference inside a HiFi Tube amplifier where subtleties are especially audible at higher frequencies in music listening. In a guitar amp I don’t see any reason to do cryotreatment for tubes other than what some people say about them “lasting longer”, of course I have no idea if that is true, but if you have a collectors NOS tube like a 1960’s Telefunken or a Siemens CCa you might want to do anything to make them last longer. Instead of wondering if cryotreatment makes tubes sound better or -different- (different is usually the case since “better” is subjective in the deliberately euphonic world of tubes) we might want to ask ourselves if cryotreatment really does make them last longer. I don’t have the answer to that.

    Reply
  13. Jambone
    Jambone at |

    I exclusively use cryo treated tubes in my submarine and spaceship.

    Reply
  14. Mike G.
    Mike G. at |

    I have 2 sets of EH EL34,s, one set of 8 cryo’d, one set of 8 not. After all the comments, posts,etc., all I can tell you is that to me, the cryo’d set sound clearer,have more detail across the audio spectrum, and have far less noise. They took about 100 hours to get the performance they were capable of, certain tubes, as you know, take longer than others to reach maximum sonics.For $8.00 more per tube, the benefits I hear are worth It, no question. You spend the big bucks on the gear,speakers, cables,etc.,I feel cryo’d tubes provide an audible upgrade for a small price,at least in my system.

    Reply
  15. Jim
    Jim at |

    Funny:……… Once a belief always a belief. Even if you hand them a white piece of paper when they believe it is blue. It will be blue.

    Reply
  16. Robert Wood
    Robert Wood at |

    Once mild carbon steel ( 650°F, the ferrite lattice will be blended back to its normal state, the tempering (hardening) is removed. I don’t know what the actual temperatures the steel parts are subjected to, but steel doesn’t start turning red until approx. 1,000°F.

    I don’t think I would spend the extra money having my tubes’ ferrous parts “hardened”, only to fire up the amps and have the hardening process reversed while ‘jamming’ on some Pink Floyd….

    Reply

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