How Soon Do You Realize You Don't Like a Piece of Gear?

I've been running all Allnic H3000 for a bit and love it. I decided to try a solid state transimpedance phono, The Grail by Van Den Hul and am coming out unconvinced of the change. The VDH has only been powered on for 24 hours and not fully broken in yet, which is estimated to be around 50-100 "listening hours". 

I don't hate the VDH, but am curious if it's going to grow on me or not. It has the detail, silence and linearity in spades, but my Allnic has the gravity, lushness, depth and ethereal timber I've grown to absolutely love. How soon until I should cut my losses and move back the Allnic and what are your thoughts on break-in time and waiting it out? 


Why change? You obviously prefer the Allnic. The VDH isn't going to suddenly get better to such an extent that it will surpass what you enjoy about the Allnic.

The Allnic is tubes and the VDH is SS. I always prefer tube phono preamps over SS. Cut your losses and dump the VDH. I doubt that it will ever grow on you!

Some things we like, some things we don't.  It's usually obvious as soon as the expectation bias wears off, which can be remarkably fast if we really don't like a change.

It’s unlikely you’ll change your mind over time. But for completeness, wait 50 hours. Then you will know for sure.

The advice given above is very good. The tube sound is very hard to reproduce with solid state gear.

@lewm this is along the lines of what I was thinking. Give it around 3-4 days to fully stabilize, being left on as recommend by VDH. Then moving on if it doesn’t suffice.


I was in all honesty expecting to be moving on from a tube phono, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I had expected much bigger things as I read reviews of the old giant killer rhetoric.

@lak I'm starting to believe this. I was expecting a lot more depth and lushness, but it just can't compete with tubes to be honest. The detail is great, but instruments and voices don't sound as real or natural versus the tubes. 

I have ss phono stage sutherland  20/20 it’s very good.But my icon ps3 phono pre is tube. Tube is hard to beat. So I have best of both world. If you love VDH ss why not keep it and enjoy it.

Lateral move-my guess.

Your present overal setup appears to be at the level where only $ignificant gear expenditure(different table/arm/cart)and drastic room overhaul will make a significant, more convincing "improvement. 

I see you have PL pre/amp. All tube PL EVO in my setup.

@tablejockey I wish it was a lateral move to be honest. More of a downgrade in terms of emotion and connection. Greater detail, but not cohesive and engaging to be honest. I can see why people use these types of descriptors now. Gear really does unlock a different understanding of sound and connection. 


Also, I've done a ton of upgrades since those pictures. P10 is gone and Shunyata Denali now. Primaluna pre has been upgraded to Allnic L7000. Primaluna Power amp has been dumped for Atma-sphere Class D. Bass traps floor to ceiling now. Vast improvements. 

You must give it time to break in. But in all honesty, unless you were looking to have a more analytical sound the move from tubes to solid state was probably not a good move. Also, in terms of sound quality (without regard to the sound family) I always increase the cost by 2x or it is likely to be lateral. 

I would recommend finding a used Audio Research Reference 3 phonostage. I think this would be a significant upgrade on all respects.

The H3000 is a high bar, especially if you’ve rolled the rectifier and tried alternative footers under the power supply. I’ve been running mine for a decade. The best rectifier I’ve found is the Riccardo Kron Anniv 5u4g. Many people like Stillpoints SS ultra footers, the smallish ones. But only under PS, which controls the overall sound to a shocking degree. They open up the highs but do compromise the midbass a bit. I just recently switched from them to CMS footers and the jury is still out.

All that said, I’ve been thinking about bringing in a transimpedance phono stage to supplement the Allnic, not replace it. Given your results, I think I won’t try the Grail. The new Mofi looks interesting.

FWIW, In my opinion, it's not so much a matter of tubes v transistors; it's more to do with current vs voltage drive. I say this because I own one fully ss phonolinepreamp and one that is mostly tubes, albeit with a hybrid input stage.  Both outperformed a high quality current driven phono stage in my system, to my ears of course.  The best voltage driven phono stages are now at a convergence where solid state and tubes ought not to be very different. Oddly, for me the current driven soiid state unit had some of the sterility I formerly associated with solid state, but no longer.  That was the difference for me.  It was also surprising that at full gain, the current driven unit added a bit of transistor hiss to the signal. Neither of the voltage driven units do that, even at the extremes of gain.  This is purely subjective, and based on one example of a "transimpedance" phono stage, albeit an expensive and highly regarded one.

Gear change are motivated by synergy before anything else...

It takes me few minutes to decide to return back a TOP tube amplifier costing way more than my Old Sansui alpha a S.S. design. And the TOP tube amplifier i returned back is not a trash design but one of the best there is at this price universally recognized as such. This is why i decided to upgrade my AKG K340 dedicated headphone amplification with this TOP tube headphone amplifier ( Berning ZOTL) .

But price tags or even improved design as the well done ZOTL does not replace synergy between pieces... Especially for the most picky and hard to drive headphone ever made..

More than that i tried for fun to drive my k340 since from a low cost but very well designed chinese S.S. headphone amplifier with a tube preamplifier (150 bucks for the two) and  they worked better to drive the K340 than the ZOTL because of synergy not because they are better than the ZOTL, they were not better but the vsynergy was way better ...( this  chinese system is used normally only for the K240 sextett (movies) and cannot beat my Sansui alpha with the K340 i used for music)

Is the TOP tube ZOTL amplifier one of the best for headphone i tried as upgrade faulty ?

Not at all , SYNERGY decide...Not price tag not even the design quality by itself but the quality of the coupling ...

By the way the K340 is the only working hybrid ever made with a dual acoustic chamber and when optimized cannot be beaten but it takes me 6 months to learn how to optimize it ...😊

Forget price tags, open your ears and pay attention to synergy...


I'd give the VdH a little time even if the character of these different units is "baked in" to the design. I've had an Allnic H-3000 for quite a while and recall that it took some time to come on song. As @wrm57 mentions, rolling the rectifier makes a significant difference in the unit ---I've tried several and for the voicing of my system, like the old GEC u-52. 

at least run in the Vdh. Normally, i agree with @ghdprentice but i’m not certain you would like the Ref phono 3… it’s holographic but not romantic / lush colored…. and if you go ARC always seek out the SE versions, if available 

Disclaimer i have a ref phono 2 se

I would also keep in mind that the synergy with the cart matters also.

I prefer a tube stage but I have had instances when one cart sounded better with a different stage.

Twice, as I was taking a new piece of equipment out of its box, I had already decided I wouldn’t like it. It may be the way it was packed or its appearance. That situation usually makes me find reasons not to like it. If I get past thst stage, sometimes it is the sound thst is a big turn off.

@wrm57 I've rolled a couple tubes in the power supply, but haven't ventured into the higher cost tubes yet. I'll keep those footers in mind. I had originally thought of putting the VDH in place for the summer due to heat factors, but I guess I should give it a little more time to settle@ghdprentice stated. I don't think that's fair to also claim solid state is always analytical. 


@lewm one thing I will give the VDH is absolutely silent backgrounds and no sharp transients or distortion. This this is a super flat freq response and I believe they show the graphs on the website which is cool. 

@whart you and @wrm57 are the reasons I picked up the Allnic originally. Super happy I did as well. I'll most likely keep it forever. I love this phono. Finding those Jeon 5U4G is a major trial and I've almost given up. I've considered the EML's but I havent decide to pull the trigger yet. 


I guess I really should allow more time to settle in. I'm sure electrons take longer to settle in than I'd like to give it credit @tomic601 and I'm sure newer units aren't run in at the factory or I wouldn't have come off this detached.


@stereo5 I actually have had the opposite experience. I read a little about transimpedance and found it interesting and then this unit came up for sale. Fell for it before I had heard it and had to try it. 48 hours now run in and is definitely improving and becoming more rounded and depth has developed some. We'll see if patience is a virtue after all. 

By a flat frequency response, I think you mean very close adherence to the standard RIAA curve, which is not flat. Close tolerances with respect to RIAA are not an option; it's a requirement.

Breakin is more like 150-200 hours mfg almost always minimize breakin 

I owned a audio store and have done lots of mods capacitors the better quality type 

take around 100 hours to stabilize and brightness goes away then another 100 hours to refine . When you compare make sure Everything including all system cables and power cords are the same ,or it won’t be a honest evaluation .

I use the Isotek breakin cd for everything ,and on track 3 it has a system sweep tune up I use 2-3 x a week electrical fields tend to gravitate or stray from center .these CDs , I just down load to the hard drive , they won a couple awards and worth having around ,put on repeat and helps to quick in breakin .

I have read reviews by so called professional reviewers , comparing 2 items then you read in their notes they used a different interconnect , that is pretty ignorant and to not recognize their blunder.

After I power up my solid state phono/pre, it improves for days if not a week. Amps too.

Try to give it at least 30 days. It may be painful at first but the new sound may grow on you. If not, cut bait. 

Don’t listen to a new piece of equipment besides function check until after it is broken in. This is childish to judge something until then

I love all gear.  The only time I change is when I hear something that I like better.  It is getting harder to find big improvements for me these days. But some lower priced budget items are now coming to the market.  The line magnetics 22wpc tube integrated amp for $4800 comes to mind and the new reveal speakers for $5000 are outstanding compared to many higher priced items. 

I went through the same experience with a Grail and ended up going back to Tubes with a Herron and it was shocking how much better I liked the Herron over the Grail so I understand your point.  Good luck on your decision.


I had the same experience changing power amps.  I believe you will have an initial impression right out of the box.  If you're not  "neutral" right out of the box, break-in won't move you to positive.  Just my experience.  Moving from tubes to SS is difficult for most.  I know it was for me.  Just saying.  

In the end I did move out of tube power amps (because of cost & heat) but ended up adding a tube pre back in the chain.  

Trust your ears!!!  

@cfarrow how long did you allow yours in your system? And there was so little information on The Grail, two or three reviews and one or two Agon threads so it was a blind experience. I may be too far into tubes, but again I'm going to allow it to settle for a few more days. 

 Can anyone explain in layman terms what happens during the run in process?

@testrun that's exactly what I was running from, the summer heat and tubes. My room is small is get overwhelmed with heat very easily. I have class D Atma-sphere's and I absolutely love them, I might just be forced to run tubes on the front end. A Nagra dealer told me to check out the VPS and very low heat as he winked. 

Maybe I am missing something or the right decisions were made for my Audio needs many years ago in relation to Power Amp's and Speakers the choice made back in the 90's still remain today.

Since the 90's the TT used as a Source, along with Tonearm, Cart', have changed from Branded 'Off the Shelve products', to substantially modified Bespoke designs.

The Phonostage and Pre Amp's have changed between Branded SS and Valve Designs, through to what can now be called Bespoke Designs.

The latest Pre Amp Design, is to be a version of a loaned design. My one being produced, t I will refer to as a psuedo-Triode Valve (if comparing to a conventional Triode type).  The Design is Balanced and to be Housed in Densified Wood Casing. If all goes to plan, the Power Amps are to be Balanced Converted later during this year. 

I could not settle with what was on offer from Brands at the monies I was willing to Spend, using a commission build route has served me very well.

Hand Wound Transformers, Boutique Components Selected and the option on how much monies I wanted to spend on the aesthetics, all add up to a lot of valuable electronics not able to be offered by a Brand at a certain price.

Whether it’s a tube audio component or solid state, it does take some time for the component to break in. Once it does the sound of the component will be based on the rest of your system. For example, a bright sounding amplifier may be a nice addition to a more laid back pair of speakers. However, a bright sounding speaker with a bright sounding amplifier will likely offer a sound that is too bright for most listeners. It’s all about synergy.

There is no useful answer to the question; circumstances vary greatly.  There is gear that I found instantly appealing, but, over a longer period of time my annoyance over faults grew to the point that I disliked it.  It does help to take enough time to assess something for its negative attributes.  If you don’t like something at the outset, it is harder to expect familiarity to improve things to the point where one would love it later.  But, it doesn’t hurt to again give it time.  Also, the sound of any component can be optimized in a system by making adjustments.  For example, one can change speaker placement to compensate for a negative change wrought by the new component; again, these experiments take time.

This weekend realized in one LP side that I don’t much like the Rothwell MDX I bought from MD last week. It’s a demo, from the looks well-traveled, so I doubt break in was the issue. Further listening confirmed my initial reaction. Requested a return today. Sometimes you just know.

@larryi time and patience is a new experience for me. Most components and changes have been instantly beneficial and no question headed in the right direction. The VDH was not that, right out of the gate. I guess I anticipated it taking the 1-2 hours to warm up and settled as stated in the manual, but that was not the case. By day 3 of being fully powered and left on, I was starting to understand the benefits of a solid state change. I guess it's been awhile since unboxing a piece of new equipment that took that long to settle in and develop. Even my newest speaker cables installed I saw an improvement, then it got even better over a few more days.  


@wrm57 i guess sometimes you just know huh? It probably depends on mood and last night after a day of food and drinks I just wasn't in the mood and knew it. Sometimes it's better to listen to yourself and just move on or take a break and come back later. The trials of time. 


I would like to circle back as The Grail has, in all honesty, settled in a lot better than I expected or have given it credit for. Depth has improved, timber for horns and strings have really come a long way. I can honestly say I'm pretty pleased with it so far. Detail retrieval is pretty amazing as well. Drawbacks are LP groove noise as it's holding nothing back and I won't say it's bright, but the upper frequencies on some songs are a little pointed and direct and I wish that was relaxed a little more. Also, voices are still slightly recessed. I figured I would give it a full 7 days before placing my Allnic back in place to compare and see where I go from here. In all honesty I could probably live with the VDH now, but I'm not sure if I prefer it to the Allnic in all facets. More patience was definitely needed on my part, but other equipment changes just provided more instantaneous changes so I was expected a step up and then progress from there. But we're in a good place now. 

@j-wall Most systems, that have no means of loudness contouring, are going to sound too bright when turned up. This is what a system with a reasonably flat frequency response is going to do. The problem all of us face is that the correct amplitude curve is a moving target. I depends on the volume you are listening at and the volume the source material was mixed at. Many older records sound lifeless until you turn them up, way up like the early Zappa and Funkadelic records. 

I suspect your older unit was rolling off the top end slightly.  Anyway, you have two choices, l listen at a volume the music sounds right to you or get a preamp with digital EQ capability. Digital signal processing is sonically invisible. It is the DAC's that sound. "Active" systems are going to be the norm eventually, but audiophiles are extraordinarily change resistant.  

@mijostyn I think I was tolled the Allnic did roll off upper frequencies and did have a darker sound to it, so it could definitely be the VDH not rolling things off and is causing a more honest and strident sound. My room is very small and I am very near field so it could definitely be because the detail is a lot more there and I'm closer to sources with less coloration. I'm curious to see is cabling will impact the power supply and settle things in, but that is for another day at a later date. 

Pretty much as soon as I start listening.  And I don’t buy the “run-in” argument.  If I don’t like it from the beginning, it never changes significantly.

30 minutes. In that time, I would have fixed anything that might affect it, where I sit, what I play, what I might have missed, crossed connections, etc.

Yeah, I would do at least 200 hours of burn-in but it probably wouldn't change your overall impression. Personally, I no longer even consider transistor equipment, well, except for tape decks.

If a Reverse RIAA is used between the a cheap CDP and the Phon' .

The CDP can be used on repeat, enabling multiple hours of playtime of the best CD maybe heard, through such a CDP and the Styli is not needing to take a beating as a Burn In ancillary. 

My experience as a Long Term user of Phon's in both SS and Valve, is that it will take a very special SS Phon' to Woo one from a well thought out design for a Valve Input / Output Phon' or Valve Hybrid Phon'.

Through experiencing both SS and Valve Phon's at Bake Off's, the comparisons have revealed to me a few SS Phon;s at very reasonable monies, that I am confident have competed extremely well in a Comparison to SS Phon's costing from £8K - £20K. Longer periods of listening to such devices may have increased my confidence, and suggested there is little to be discovered as a separation to the SQ, maybe just a variant of a end sonic?   

I know confidently that if these Phon's were to be welcomed for a Demo' in the Home System, these would be Phon's that would be very attractive and desired to be maintained as a option for replaying Vinyl. 

There would be no sitting on the fence, if a device should be kept or not, maybe Bake Off's and broad experiences of Audio Equipment harden an individual to their sureness of what is attractive to them.

There would be a Burn In put in place, I am a advocate of such a practice. Not using Burn In as a means to convince myself the device is a keeper, a device is usually immediate with a capability of making a good impression. Burn In is my experience is a method for bringing out a coherence and tidy up to the overall end sonic through the exposing the circuit to an intense period of electrical current running through components and Solder Joints.