Modern Tubey Sounding Amps

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Barnabas Collins, Apr 27, 2019.

  1. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    NH
    So eventually, I'd like to augment my system with a tubed power amp. What companies make warm, lush, romantic sounding (not looking for neutral) tube midrange magic in the 5-10K range? I've heard the McIntosh MC275 and while it's very nice, I'm not sure it's quite what I'm looking for. See my profile for my current set up. I'm not looking to get rid of anything, just want-in the not too distant future-to add something else. I think I'd like to stay away from vintage amps because I'm not tech savvy and I'd hate to have something crap out on me within 6 months after buying it.
     
    chacha likes this.
  2. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Melody Valve Audio's 101D preamp throws a big bold tone and add to it one of their power amps or power amps from Line Magnetic and you should get a very big rich valve like presentation without the SS glare. This will fit your budget I believe and is a better route than an integrated generally speaking. The preamp has more say on the overall sound and I would probably look to replace the preamp and keep the power amp than the other way around. Speakers that use metal tweeters are generally best avoided - speakers designed for tube amps should be purchased. This is a system synergy issue. You can't put Ferrari tires on a Hummer and expect it to be a Ferrari.

    Melody Valve Audio 101D preamp

    [​IMG]
    If you want to go integrated the Line Magnetic 845 premium which is the new version of my old 219IA I believe is under $10,000. While it is an integrated it can be uses as a power amp as well offering an upgrade path. This is heavy at 62kg but the bottom part is tthe separate power supply so it might be more manageable to move than my 55kg single piece 219ia





    [​IMG]

    Thicker sound also comes from Conrad Johnson, Octave, Sound Master and the Jolida 302B. Generally EL34 more so than KT88 (the higher power push pull tube amps sound a lot more SS like which IMO makes them far less desirable because why put up with tubes if it is going to sound like a SS amp?
     
  3. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
  4. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    Rather than looking at brands first in your information gathering, I would suggest you learn about available tubes. We are talking vacuum tube amps. Most people end up swapping out tubes at some point. If you are looking at NOS tubes, they can be quite expensive and they don't last any where near as long as pre-amplification tubes.
     
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  5. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Location:
    Deep Maryland
    You can also try a tubed buffer. There are several still in production (iFi makes one) and used units from Musical Fidelity are readily available on eBay.

    I won't suggest this would provide the same impact as a genuine tubed amp, but it should give you a taste of tube effects without much money. I found mine to impart an increase in midrange richness that's especially pleasing on piano recordings.
     
    Shiver and mikedifr0923 like this.
  6. GoldprintAudio

    GoldprintAudio Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lexington, NC
    What sort of power requirements do you need for your speakers?
     
  7. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    NH
    They're 8 ohm speakers rated at 91db. I generally don't push the volume beyond the upper 80 dbs when measured with a Radioshack meter in my smallish room.
     
  8. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Without question the warmest, most lush sounding integrated tube amplifier I have heard is the Manley Stingray. It would deliver the goods. Most others are neutral by comparison. However the most lush sounding amplification system has been the Cary Audio SLP-98P preamplifier driving the Cary SA 200.2 solid state power amplifier. Warm, lush, liquid and golden.
    Manley Stingray® II Stereo Integrated Amplifier — Manley Laboratories, Inc.
    SLP-98 Preamplifier with Phono Stage (SLP-98L & SLP-98P) | Cary Audio
    SA-200.2 ES Amplifier | Cary Audio
     
  9. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    conrad-johnson | It just sounds right.

    -Bill
     
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  10. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I think I might be in love.
     
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  11. GoldprintAudio

    GoldprintAudio Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lexington, NC
    Interesting....I've never considered the Stingray to be all that lush myself.

    I certainly do agree with you on the SLP98, 200.2 combo however. The SL98 and 120S MKII combo is also quite warm and lush.
     
  12. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    The (3) times I heard the Manley it was quite liquid sounding- although the speakers could have been a factor- (Sony SS AR1)
     
    HiFi Guy likes this.
  13. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    In my limited experience, whether a tube amp sounds "lush," or like SS can largely depend on its bias level. The sound of my Cayin is completely transformed going from 35 to 40mA.

    I would've swore the first time I owned the CMII, its manual suggested 40mA bias. The manual for my current example suggests 35mA and it does lean more toward a SS sound than my aural memory recalls.
     
  14. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    I tend to think of "lush" and "liquid" as two separate traits. "Liquid" is how I would describe the class A SS amps I've heard. I consider it mostly synonymous with "smooth." When I think of "lush," I think of 2nd order harmonics and what I assume is often referred to as "bloom."
     
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  15. freesole

    freesole Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Really wonder how this sounds compared to the 805ia. It looks beefy! I can attest to the difficulty with moving the 805ia though.. at 47kg (weighted primarily towards the back of the amp / transformers), it is really hard to carry... safely.
     
  16. geodiak

    geodiak Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Rhodes, Greece
    Try Jadis Class A with KT88 or KT150 push pull .
    Warm, lush, golden is synonymous with Jadis.
    And enough power to drive difficult speakers.
     
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  17. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    There are a couple things that I divirge on with my thinking.

    First, is that in general, modern tube amps are not tubey sounding.

    Secondly, with your Focal Sopra N°2 speaker's, I doubt if you are going to get the much of the rich lush tube sound that you appear to be looking for.

    I differ from the general consensus in that I think for a tube tube sound, that a tube power amplifier is more important than a tube preamplifier and I do have them both.

    However, in your case, you might be better served with a tube preamplifier, such as @Richard Austen has suggested, but going with a SS power amplifier.

    With that scenario in mind, your current McIntosh MC452 would probably serve you as well and maybe better than any other choice. Your Focal's will continue to preform as they have been for you, when you feed them plenty of power. Most tube amplifier's are not going to do this for you.

    I personally think that going the route for the Line Magnetic 845 premium, is going to be very costly and is only going to give you 30-Watts per-channel, which I don't think is going to be enough for your Focal's.

    I think that with your present speaker's, you would need something like a Rogue Cronus Magnum with its 100-Watts or a pair of the Rogue M-180 monoblocks.

    I recently sold my Line Magnetic 518iA, which is the previous versions of their 845 powered SET amplifier's.

    This is it with the gold faceplate and the tube cover on. It is only a 18-Watt SET integrated amplifier.

    [​IMG]

    I am one of those people that are of the firm belief that tube amplifiers are best served with high sensitivity horn speakers, which I have.

    I have taken to running the Zu, Omen Definitions with a KT88 based Prima Luna Prologue Five 36-Watt power amp. The other non horn loaded design speaker's I power with SS amps only, as I don't think that tubes bring much to the table with them.
     
  18. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Location:
    Deep Maryland
    I'm drawn to tube amps, but I often use mine for radio (sports, news) while too often sending myself to sleep with piano sonatas. Too much of the tubes' lives would be spent not amplifying a musical signal.
     
  19. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    1) The Cronus, from what I hear, is very modern: i.e: sounds pretty much like SS amps, which negates the OP's quest for tube sound;
    2) Are Zu's really horn-loaded? I was under the impression that they're full'range drivers, but no horns.
    3) Agreed on the tube pre-amp / SS power amp route: the preamp will provide the overall tube flavor, and the SS power amp, provided it's neutral and non-coloring, will magnify it .
     
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  20. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I have an FM tuner in my tube pre/SS power system, and play it a lot. Sometimes I also wonder if I'm wasting valuable tube hours on just radio, but... Pre-amp tubes are not pushed too hard, so the lifespan might not be affected that much. But, even if it is - small signal tubes are readily available and not very expensive. Mine runs two 6SN7's and one 6L6GC.

    I also have a tuner in my reversed, SS pre/tube power system, there I worry about the tubes a bit more - those are EL34 power tubes. But then, in both system it's exclusively one jazz station playing, always - 88.3 Jazz FM, WBGO. And the way FM radio can sound in a well-matched system with good amplification and speakers is rather magical, to tell the truth - well above my initial expectations. So, to me, since it's music, even if from "just" the radio - it's well worth the tubes spent. After all, I work with only reasonably priced tubes, nothing too rare and/or expensive.
     
  21. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I think it is a misnomer that Rogue amplifier's sound like SS amps. They definitely do not. But, they are powerful and they do tend to be more linear than some lower powered tube amps. This is due to the large power supplies and the quality of the amp design and build.

    The Zu's are high sensitivity speaker's and can run beautifully on 36-Watts. The OP's Focal's can not.

    You have the PL Prologue Four, if I remember correctly, it should be more than enough power for your Omen Dirty Weekend's.

    If he is going to successfully power them with a tube amp, he is going to need something that is at least 100-Watts. He is currently running them with a 450-Watt SS McIntosh amp.

    It is not really the Rogue amp at all that is a consideration here for that "tubey" sound.

    First and most importantly, whether SS or tube, they must have plenty of power. Now the Cronus Magnum is going to give them that power and with a tube sound.

    The problem being, is that his Focal's are not not going to sound "tubey", even with a tube amplifier.

    A Rogue Cronus Magnum or their monoblocks will get his about as close as he is going to get.

    Behind my TV are a pair of Rogue M-150 KT88 based monoblock amplifiers, which can deliver 150-Watts each, but I don't use them to power my other pair of front speaker's. I use the Emotive XPA-2 (below and behind the amp on the table in the above photo), which is 250-Watts, and powers the Polk LSiM707's perfectly (these are the speakers that are sitting inside of the Zu's, closest to the TV screen).

    There just is not that much to be gained by running these speaker's off of a tube amplifier. I feel the same about the OP's speaker's. But, if he is bound and determined to do so, then he will need a tube amp with more power than the new Line Magnetic, which is way to expensive anyway to use with his Focal's.

    No, the Zu's are not horn loaded. Sorry for the confusion. I did not understand that I had not made this clear. I meant to with my next sentence "The other non horn loaded design speaker's I power with SS amps only.

    I had originally powered the Zu,s with SS amplification, until I really couldn't stand the brightness any more. I had removed the PrimaLuna Prologue Five from running the vintage Altec A7's, so it was free and I connected it permanently to the Zu's. Which improved them quite a bit. Running Zu's with SS amplification is just asking for listening fatigue.

    Well, while I recommended it. It is not that I think that having a tube preamp and a SS power amp is the best way to get tube sound.

    I don't. I far more prefer a SS preamp and a tube power amplifier for true tube sound.

    But, since he already has a really nice 450-Watt McIntosh power amplifier, and his speakers will benefit from a powerful amp, then adding a tube preamp to the mix might be the a good solid work around, with his Focal's.

    Alternatively, for far less money, he could just buy a quality tube buffer, as member @Ron Stone has already recommended, saying...

    I believe member @indy mike has one in the For Sale area, with different NOS tube options.

    Decware also offers a couple of different options on their tube buffer's.

    The ZBOX - Zen Triode Output Stage, $549.00. They make another model with a gain stage. And, the make a tube EQ.

    [​IMG]

    I think, if the OP wants to experience real tube sound, then he needs a second set of sensitive speaker's, like maybe the Zu, Omen Dirty Weekend's?

    Then add a nice EL34 tube amp in the 30-Watt range, with NOS EL34 power tubes. That would give him exactly the sound that he is looking for. He could do this for under $4k.

    Or, try the Cronus Magnum route.
     
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  22. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I am going to add a little controversy but to be honest I don't see the point of push pull tune amps in general. SET amps tend to sound a lot better. The disadvantage is that they require a HE speaker. Not Focals.

    High power push pull sounds too much like SS which are almost always also push pull. And the ones that are not like the Sugden A21a cost $3500 and run really hot. And you can do better with a SE tube amp like the Audio Note OTO for around the same price.

    I would probably not buy a Prima Luna or a Rogue. Instead I would buy a second hand SS Accuphase or Sugden Masterclass amp or something to not have to deal with the added noise and tube hassles.

    SET and a high efficiency speaker is first choice. If you run LE speakers the SS with a tube preamp and tube CD player like the Audio Note M1 preamp and 2.1CD player with the SS amp will be quite good.

    I recently auditioned the M2 preamp into Roksan SS power amp and it was quite good.

    There are many ways to do this but the bottom line is to consider the whole system and not be in damage control mode trying to fix one aspect of the sound you don't love with band aid solutions.
     
  23. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    If you really wanted a lot of tubeyness you could build an amplifier around the least linear tubes around, such as the old TV vertical deflection types. They were really nonlinear and no one wants them, so cheap. A lot of tubeyness also comes from high impedance power supplies that sag a lot and from transformers with rolloff and distortion.

    Personally I want a clean amplifier, solid state or tube. So I've never done this.
     
  24. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I don't get the impression that the OP wants to design and build a tube amplifier.
     
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  25. Burt

    Burt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kirkwood, MO
    Perhaps some small company will exploit the desire for extreme tubeyness in , er, ahem, hi-fi , by doing this. Since several companies, or rather guys working in their basement build this sort of thing for resale, one could be commissioned, I'm sure. Could be a good market segment, who knows?

    The manley Stingray is mentioned often as particularly tubey by several commentators. It's ironic because I knew David Manley a little and he definitely did not want his early amps to be 'tubey'-he wanted them transparent and succeeded quite well. His early products wre well built and I likd their sound a lot. I met him at AES a couple of times, very nice guy.
     

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