300B Amps - Are they really the best?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by zeitlos, Sep 3, 2022.

  1. zeitlos

    zeitlos Music was my first love Thread Starter

    Location:
    Germany
    I have a Unison Simply Italy powering my Unison Max 2 speakers. A deadly good combination. Actually there’s nothing I could miss. Dynamics are great, rhythm, emotions.

    However, from time to time I wonder if there’s a possible step up out there. My dealer, who’s in the business for almost 40 years (and though offering much more expensive amps) won’t stop praising the Simply Italy. Having one I fully understand why.

    Are 300b amps still superior (soundwise)? What is it that makes them so good?

    And: ist it possible to get a really gods 300b amp for not more than 5000 Euro (currently = Dollar)?
     
  2. AP1

    AP1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    TX
    For Unison Max 2 recommended power starts from 10W. This is all you can realistically get from BEST 300B SET amplifier. There are few 300B push-pull amps on the market delivering close to 40W, but with them you won't use most benefits of that tube.
     
    zeitlos likes this.
  3. zeitlos

    zeitlos Music was my first love Thread Starter

    Location:
    Germany
    Thank you for your answer! Where did you obtain this information? Interesting.

    The Unison Max 2 were developed using the Simply Italy. My Dealer is the developer. This amp has 2x8 Watt (on paper 2x12). So I am surprised.

    They have 96db (mine should be a bit more since my dealer has developed a new board for it (sorry, don’t know what „Weiche“ is in English)). I really thought that less than 10 Watt should work with them. Hope I am right :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
  4. theflattire

    theflattire Forum Resident

    Location:
    Honolulu
    With 96db you should be ok. My 2A3s @ 3.5wpc drive 96db more than enough for my small room. I was driving 88db speakers with 2A3 SETs in a room with a high ceiling to uncomfortable volumes.
    The only words I can describe SETs is transparent and smooth. I may try 300bs, maybe next year as I just got a new amp.
    I ran pushpull and going to SETs was like lifting the proverbial veil...
    Audition and see if you like it!
    See AudioNote Kit. Their 300b integrated kit is about $2500.
     
  5. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    300b amps deliver a beautiful midrange, expansive soundstage, and warm sound (upper bass bump up). But, compared to some other small triodes, like the 2a3 or 45, the sound is a bit soggy and polite (not as dynamic). What is “best” is a matter of taste. Because it delivers substantially more power than a 2a3 or 45, it is a popular choice for SET amps. But, the best I heard from this tube, for my taste, was a 300b pushpull amp made by Western Electric that had been reconditioned (very expensive).

    I haven’t recently heard an under 5000 Euro 300b amp, except the Elekit amp (way under that price) and I was surprised by how decent it sounded.
     
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  6. Old Shatterhand

    Old Shatterhand Teckel fool

    Location:
    Germany
    My 300b doesn't sound soggy and polite nor does it have an upper bass bump.;)
     
  7. blue_lu

    blue_lu Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Germany
    Look for used Thivan labs Amps. I have one. They still fly somewgat under the radar and can be had for good prices. Build quality is excellent.
     
    zeitlos likes this.
  8. jcmusic

    jcmusic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Terrytown, La.
    I had a 300B amp for four years, it sounded Lush and Laid back. My 45 amp has more detail more life and more dynamics...
     
    Tim 2, jonwoody, hagtech and 2 others like this.
  9. jusbe

    jusbe Modern Melomaniac

    Location:
    Auckland, NZ.
    @zeitlos most 300B amps are under-resourced for best sound reproduction, or for a sonic signature that isn't overly romantic.

    They enjoy a really good, stuff power supply for great sound, and you can also get great results using pentode drivers, interstage transformers and/or vintage European postal tubes in the first gain stage as opposed to the ubiquitous 6SN7.

    They will usually still sound less 'resolute' and as easily insightful as a well designed 2A3 or 45 amp, but they don't have to be mushy or soft, and there are new 300B variants like those from Elrog who provide a very different flavour of 300B sound.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
  10. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    I agree with Jusbe that a lot of 300b have inadequate driver tubes, as well as other cost saving compromises. It is expensive to build stiff power supplies employing chokes, use interstate transformers, and use a large air-gapped output transformer. On top of that, the 300b tubes are expensive. Add it up, and more corners have to be cut to get to a particular price point with 300b tubes than with some other tubes.
     
  11. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Location:
    Toronto
    There is no "best". It's all a question of taste + system matching.
     
  12. 5-String

    5-String μηδὲν ἄγαν

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    I do not know about generic 300B tube amps, but the great SET 300B amps sound very pure and truer to the source.
    This has always surprised me because many of them do not measure well. Yet, tonally they sound closer to the real sound of instruments and the purity of human voice than any other amp design that I have heard.
    You have to keep the levels low at approximately 20% of their final output to avoid high levels of distortion. And your speakers need to moderately efficient, although my Cary drives my inefficient Harbeth just fine.
    IMO the combination of a SET design with the 300B tube is unparalleled in the audio universe.
     
  13. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    I have had a 300b amp for about a month. My former amps were push pull and either EL34 or 6L6 . The Western Electric 300b tubes are pricey but this amp has such great tone and a natural sound to it I don't care that they are $1500. It's rendering of vocals is spooky realistic . Mushy and soft is the last thing I would call this amp. It's very transparent and quick, nothing about it's presentation makes you think its only 8 watts. Bass is great for it's modest output , it's low frequency output is surprisingly deep and tight. Crystalline upper registers, the thought that often pops in my head is clarity.

    There were no corners cut with this amp. It has CTC vintage power supply and Hitachi Fine Met Output transformers . It uses big iron, no puny transformers here. This is absolutely the best sounding amp I've owned to date. It begs to be listened to, I have been up many late nights the past few weeks. I don't expect to ever need to "upgrade" , this amp has it all within the context of my system and my budget. If anything a more sensitive, larger speaker is in my future.
     
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  14. zeitlos

    zeitlos Music was my first love Thread Starter

    Location:
    Germany
    @Strat-Mangler: I'll take that as a prerequisite :)

    Thanks for all the informative replies! I really appreciate it!

    It gives me a chance to learn a lot. I see, as always it‘s not as easy as one would wish. My dealer, who‘s a real expert, takes the stand that 300B are really, really good, but the amp also has to be very, very good. Which probably makes it expensive, right?
    So 5000 Euro/Dollar, which I set myself as my personal limit, seems to be just an illusion…
     
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  15. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    There are $800 amps using 300b and $80,000 amps using them too. Unfortunately most are custom and or there is no opportunity to demo so it is a real leap of faith. I went into this thinking my budget for a low power SET would be around $4k. I was originally looking at Decware but wanted something more custom. I ended up stumbling upon Toolshed Amps.

    I spoke to a Matt Formanek of Toolshed back in '17. I saw one of his amps and called him. I believe it was a SEP design and 4 watts. After talking about my system, he more or less talked me out of that amp. I appreciated his honesty, he could have easily sold me that amp. I probably would have loved it, but I took his advice and passed.

    Fast forward , last year. I called him again interested in a different amp he was building. That was a little more than I had budgeted. He then told me about the 300b he built and it piqued my interest. He quoted me $5500 and I said let's do it ! Once he began work on my amp we discussed options and I ended up doing the Fine Met trannies and some cap upgrades, Mundorf SIO and Jupiter caps. . Also had stepped Khozmo attenuators instead of wiper style pots.

    In the end it cost the same as a CJ or McIntosh which is apples to oranges, I know, but I don't think Connie J would build me an amp quite like this. It truly is heirloom quality inside and out . Worth every penny.
     
  16. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    Among the common low-powered triodes with similar requirement—2a3,45, 300b—I generally prefer the 45, but it’s output is puny. The 300b can be used in more systems. I own a 45 pushpull amp (Deja Vu Audio), a parallel SET 2a3 amp (Audio Note Kageki), and a pushpull 349 amp (amp re-built from vintage parts by Aldo D’ Urso in Italy).. Of these amps, my favorite is the 349 amp. My all time favorites are amps I could never own — a custom built OTL that delivered stunning dynamics and vividness without being harsh or tiring; my next favorite is a Western Electric 59a (pushpull 252 tube which is similar to a 300b). The point is that I am not wedded to any particular topology or tube type—amps of all type can sound very good.

    For more practical tube amps, I like some pushpull EL 84, 6L6 and KT 66 amps. I am less enamored with higher powered pentodes like KT 88, KT 120 or KT 150s.
     
  17. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
  18. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
  19. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    A few weeks ago Matt called me about a project we spoke about a few months ago, I am having him build me a preamp using the 101d tube and 80 rectifier. Here it is, not quite finished [​IMG]
     
  20. Oddiofyl

    Oddiofyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    The Best, that's a word that is thrown around a lot on forums. In this hobby I am quickly humbled by other's systems. Many are way beyond my means. My previous amps were quite good, I will confidently say that Quicksilver Mid Monos are great amps and probably one of the best values in HiFi for the money. I really didn't NEED to upgrade.... This amp is in a different league though , and it is definitely the Best Fit for me .
     
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  21. nutsfortubes

    nutsfortubes I never met a transistor I liked.

    Location:
    New Jersey
    You can’t beat Sun 300B for the money. I would buy this in a second if the boss would let me.
    Sun-audio 300B Stereo Tube Amp
    PS I have been using a assemblage ST-300B since 1997 and for chamber music jazz and acoustic and vocals it can’t be beat. At that price you can also pickup some WE300 B tubes.
     
    zeitlos likes this.
  22. JonathanKasper

    JonathanKasper Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I’ve heard some great thinks about the Feliks Arioso 300B.

    ARIOSO 300B | Feliks Audio
     
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  23. Neonknight1

    Neonknight1 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Olympia
    One of the more interesting SET amps I have owned is the Audio Mirror Reflections. I have owned amps from Cary, Art Audio, and Electraprint over the years, but the Audio Mirror is remarkably neutral sounding in comparison. The 6c33c tube is a nice one, and Vlad has worked out a circuit that is pretty forgiving of the peculiarities of that tube. The choice of 6SN7 and 6SL7 also for a lot of range in terms of voicing the amp. Uses toroidal transformers for the outputs which is unusual, and is not the heaviest amp for its size. Tubs run hot hot hot. But very nice sound and an upgrade in power output to where you have a larger pool of speakers that are compatible with it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
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  24. zeitlos

    zeitlos Music was my first love Thread Starter

    Location:
    Germany
    I have this one on my list. However, I keep trying to find some user reports on internet forums and haven‘t been successful so far.
     
  25. AP1

    AP1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    TX
    Max 2

    Amplifier: from 10 to 200 Watt RMS or more – without clipping
     
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