Options for entering the tube world

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Go Mifune, Oct 1, 2020.

  1. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    I'm looking to get into tubes for a home 2 channel hi fi system. An amp I had for 30 years went out on me and in this next iteration I want to be able to both hear some of what I think is a "tube sound" as well as to have the fun of doing some tube rolling to play around with hearing how different tubes affect the overall experience. I'm relatively restricted by dollars, looking to spend only around $1500 for an amp/preamp be they separate or integrated. There are such an infinite number of options and equally many opinions, I realize. Here are a few things I was looking at.

    1) Schiit - Valhalla (all tube headphone amp/preamp) --> Aegir (amp)
    >>>> Does anyone have thoughts or experience with using a headphone amp as a preamp for a traditional 2 channel system?

    2) Willsenton R8 integrated amplifier

    3) Boyuurange A50 MkIII (300B tubes, but only 6 watts per channel)

    I'm currently only running a small pair of Epos M5 bookshelf speakers, but I'm looking to find a used pair of Klipsch Fortes, Heresy, or similar in the near future.

    Does anyone have any thoughts, advice, or experience with these or similar pieces?

    Thank you in advance for our input.
     
  2. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    I can really only add amplifiers to your list of possibilities and I am a SET guy but Epos won't cut it so you will need the Klipsch speakers in all likelyhood.

    I tend to like EL84 based amplifiers if you are on a budget - have a look at the KingKo KA 101 pro which is $1200 and is now sold through Big Ear Audio a US importer / dealer I reviewed it for dagogo. The US importer is here Kingko Audio KA101 Pro Headphone/Speaker Vacuum Tube Amplifier | Big Ear

    You might also want to have a look at the Synthesis Soprano - also an EL84 which has an MM phono stage and a DAC built in - and it is stylish being Italian. Should be in budget.

    It's an interesting amplifier - I may try and get one in -

    The Kingko has the advantage of valve rectification and a headphone output but the Soprano has remote control, a phono stage and on board DAC so it's a little about what you need.

    If you are fairly new to tubes I would try to get something like the above two because they do not need to be biased - and EL84 tubes tend to last longer and are cheap to replace when you do need to replace them

    Still I think the Soprano has a nice blend of style and function for sane money and so if you don't need a headphone amp this hybrid is pretty nice mix of everything.
     
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  3. wownflutter

    wownflutter Nocturnal Member

    Location:
    Indiana
    If that is your budget, your really should stick to used amps in my opinion. You could get a nice integrated in that price range.
     
  4. Lowrider75

    Lowrider75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
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  5. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Thanks for such a great response. One of the things that I find challenging is that in the cases of these boutique amps, I'm really stuck comparing reviews and often by reviewers who have great experience but not necessarily with the pieces that other reviewers have heard. That Kingko looks super interesting, too. There seem to be lots of well made small production pieces. I have no idea how people make decisions on such things without the ability to test drive next to one another. I'm also at least a little confused by tube selection. I've been told by one tube dealer that every type of tube has great options. Another said 300B will give the best tube sound hands down.

    Would you have any suggestions, in a more general sense, as to how one should go about the process of making a decision such as this? I'm not so much concerned about the "extras" (headphones, DAC, phono) as I'm willing to go with separate pieces for those if need be. It seems with any price point there are those who will feel that cheaper options are better or that if you spend just a bit more you can get a gem. And of course the used market, which I''m not opposed to playing in, opens its own can of worms. But how do I even go about comparing the Kingko, the Willsenton, and the Boyuurange, for example. Your review of this Kingko piece is well written and convincing. I'll admit I've seen similarly convincing reviews of the amps I've mentioned though and of course plenty of other reviewer choices.
     
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  6. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    The guys at Schiit (who have been super responsive) said that the Valhalla works well as a pre-amp. In fact I've read some reviews that talk about it that way and have talked to lots of people who use it that way. Schiit did say that they felt their dedicated preamps are a better option if that is the primary purpose. The reason I was leaning that way is that the Valhalla is all tube as opposed to the Saga+ (a real preamp) which only has a tube buffer. Their all tube preamp is more than 2x those two choices.

    I'm really open to used gear, but as I'm struggling to find the right new choices, used seems even more difficult as it is complicated by not only picking something you think fits, but also finding it. Do you have any recommendations of things I should investigate further and keep an eye out for?
     
  7. AP1

    AP1 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    TX
    Line Magnetic LM-216IA will work with almost any speakers in $3000 range. If you want to save big - buy directly from China. Total price will likely be just above $1000 including shipping.
     
  8. magoo6

    magoo6 Well-Known Member

    Another vote for Line Magnetic, but first off, decide on the speakers if you can, that way you'll know whether you need 2.5w, 15w, or 40w of push pull power. If 2.5w is going to cut it, Decware, or there's a LM with EL84's too, 15w Leben, or LM also do EL34/KT88 push pulls with 30w upwards. There is something special about the little EL84 though

    If you're on the hunt for tube friendly speakers, try & hear a pair of Omegas if you can, I can let you know in a week if they work with the 3w LM I mentioned above, but 9w was plenty for mine. Lovely speakers and very tube friendly.

    ps; a warranty can come in handy on rare occasions, and those come with using your local dealer, not grey imports.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  9. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Even before Covid it was becoming difficult for people (in the west) to audition gear side by side so this does become difficult as most people just take gambles on things - the reality is that most stuff is pretty good these days - even surround sound receivers offer quite respectable sound - my $450 surround receiver is much better than my $2,000 receiver in the mid 1990s.

    The dealer who said 300B is the best hands down is hands down absolutely wrong. I'll explain why in a moment but Tube amps typically fall into two types. Push Pull and SET. Push Pull has more power (usually) and operates like a Solid State amplifier. Many tube fans feel (and remember this is subjective) that SET amplifiers sound better than Push Pull - SET amplifiers are the most linear amplifier type and there is no feedback (or much lower feedback) than Push Pull amplifiers.

    The Push Pull EL84 tube types are felt to sound more like a SET amplifier but with the slight power advantage of push pull. (12 watts isn't much though but it is 50% more powerful than an 8 watt amp so as a percentage they are powerhouses).

    As for tubes - the 300B is the most abundant of the tubes typically used in SET amplifiers - and because there are so many 300B tubes available manufacturers make 300B tube amplifiers. But the mistake is believing that 300B is the best because there are more of them out there. In the SET world the common tube types are 300B, 2a3, 45, 211 and 845. The latter two offer the most power. 18-30watts. The 300B amps are usually 8 watts, the 2a3 is usually 3-4 watts and the 45 is usually 1-2 watts.

    My dealer in Hong Kong (Elephant Holdings) sells Audio Note and these guys make most of these amplifiers so I can hear their 300B, 2a3, 45, and 211 back to back to back to back in the same system with the same preamp and speakers etc. 4 people could sit and listen to all 4 and each person could very clearly like on over the other. The 300B is often described as a "lady" amplifier here in Hong Kong. Elegant, pretty, beautiful, sultry - female vocals. Arguably the one to beat. But the 2a3 gets maybe 85% of that but can rock - has more bass and treble is more linear has superior dynamics and drive and is more upfront than laid back. The 45 is wonderful - something in between but so low powered it makes it tough to find a speaker. And the 211 Jinro/Ongaku gives you sort of the best of the 2a3 with more of the 300B and is fuller bodied and richer but it costs a LOT more. The owner of Audio Note told me that his preference is 211, 45, 2a3 and a distant fourth the 300B - and he arguably makes the best 300B amp I have ever heard in the Meishu Tonmeister - I could live with that amp forever as my final amp I am quite sure. Still - I prefered the 2a3 over the 300B monoblocks so I bought the 2a3 - there is a pretty vocal fanbase of the 2a3 which is regarded as a favorite in the SET world. Mine are Parallel single ended which means they use two tubes per channel to get more power. So 7-8 watts instead of 3.5.

    Having said all that my point is - all the tube types typically have their strengths and weaknesses and it really depends on the designer and quality of the internal parts. I auditioned an EL34 Jolida amp for $1500 and an EL34 Antique Sound Labs for $1500. Same tubes, same price - the Jolida sound thick - warm a bit veiled and muddy but it sounded like what people think of when they buy a tube amp. Sounded nice. The ASL amp was lean, crisp open fast - it sounded more like a SS amplifier - it was pretty good but I thought what's the point of buying it when it sounded more like a Bryston.
     
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  10. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    I'm really sort of hell bent on finding some klipsch speakers but I'll have to do so second hand to be able to afford. I'm thinking the Forte, though they could be a bit big for my current space. The Omegas look nice but are out of my price range. I did see a pair of Tekton Double Impacts used near me for $1700. I've never heard them but know they get rave reviews. This seems like a good price based on what I've seen, though I haven't researched much. It is a good chunk above what I hoped to spend but maybe something to consider.

    I'm not clear and maybe you can help - with something like the klipsch or double impacts which are 99 db sensitivity, will a small wattage amp like 6-7 watts be enough? That's what people seem to say. I've never run such efficient speakers before so I'm not clear.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
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  11. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Honestly I could read you writing about tubes all day. I guess I'll have to track down some of your writing - is there anywhere in particular to do so? Seriously, thank you so much. I love learning this stuff and appreciate the time you are taking. I'll obviously be giving that Kingko you recommended an extra long look. It really seems to check all the boxes and your thorough writing has me convinced you know what you're talking about. I'm hoping to get a pair of high sensitivity speakers. As I mentioned above, I'm thinking of Klipsch Fortes, but the Tekton Double Impacts turned up used near me and are tempting to me as well. Both may be somewhat large for my space, I'll admit. I think that amp would be more than enough power for anything that sensitive, though.
     
  12. Jim Hodgson

    Jim Hodgson Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York City
    Of course some reviewers do have a wealth of experience. The rest claim they do. And a good percentage of them live complicated lives. I don’t mean to include, much less offend, anyone here; but I do mean to say that selecting a tube amplifier based on the juxtaposition of different reviews and the perception of different reviewers is a pretty dicey way to proceed.

    Yes—for so long as the decision is perceived to include “an infinite number of options,” this is really not decision-making territory. It’s certainly not striking distance.

    I know that nobody ever wants to hear this kind of thing, but I would suggest some research and study on how tubes operate, on how amplifiers full of tubes operate, on the advantages and disadvantages of different amplifier topologies, and on the related issue of how loudspeakers react to amplifiers and vice-versa. Because when you’re no longer surfing manufacturers’ websites and reading gear reviews, and when you can’t read the name on the faceplate from across the room, that’s what you’re left with. And it’s hugely beneficial to be able to navigate this world in a way that has nothing to do with commerce. Just in general, we become very powerful whenever/wherever we can replace our consumer helplessness with the ability to investigate and assess critically. And I can’t think of a realm in which that’s more true than in the Wizard of Oz world of audio.

    At the same time, I would also suggest finding someone(s) local to you who has some experience with all this. I promise it won’t take long before you’ve identified someone who’s willing to pass on what he knows, loan you an amplifier or two or ten to try out in your system, and help you make some good, specific, personalized decisions. People who genuinely love this stuff tend to own a lot of it. And they also tend to want to get others interested in it, too. Many times I’ve realized that much of what I’m listening to at my place belongs to someone else, and that most of my own gear is who-knows-where. Because this isn’t so much about owning the gear as it is about utilizing the gear to connect really deeply to something much more substantial.

    I think that with a bit of exposure, you’ll discover that your enlightened tube dealer who encouraged you to keep an open mind about tube types was spot on. You’ll realize that broad statements about the sonic character of various output tubes are mostly a distraction. You’ll wonder why very few people ever discuss the character of input and driver tubes or the quality of output transformers—as in, treat them as the most important thing. And you’ll come to find—probably pretty quickly—that you have just as much expertise as any reviewer, and that you know infinitely more than he or she does about your sonic tastes and preferences. By that point, you’ll have heard various amplifiers with your Fortes or Heresies and will have decided pretty narrowly on what sort of tube amplifier they need in order for the combination to appeal maximally to you.

    With all that, hopefully you don’t go from infinite possibilities to zero possibilities. (It can happen!) But, if you get stuck, I think there are a few safe ways to go. If I had a pair of high-sensitivity Klipsch speakers with 12” or 15” woofers, and I wanted to drive those in grand style, I’d wait, save, go to whatever lengths necessary to double my budget, and then search out the best Marantz 10B I could find. At that point, you could wave goodbye to us all, confident that you just made the most righteous of all audio moves. And if that were truly too big a financial stretch, then I would work equally hard to find the best restored/upgraded Dynaco MKIIIs or ST70 I could—and probably live equally happily ever after. (BTW, the key here is that any of these amplifiers has a set of output transformers that would shame all but the best of modern production. And that’s what I think should be the primary decision-driver.)

    So if happily-ever-after is best case scenario, worst case is that you’ll enjoy one of these amps for however long, learn a lot from it, and sell it for at least as much as you paid for it. With no downside financial risk—the type you’d take on in a big way with one of those amazon options BTW—there’s really no pressure on this decision whatsoever. That frees you up to get in the game, start to experience what it has to offer, learn through the process, and end up with an amplifier to which no review could have led you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
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  13. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Funny enough, there is an old ST70 for sale near me. If I was more comfortable working on things I'd get it, but it looks pretty old and I don't know what I'd be getting myself into.
     
  14. Lowrider75

    Lowrider75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
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  15. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident


    No experience with the specific equipment you're talking about but looking at the impedance/phase curves and the sensitivity measurements of your speakers -- Epos M5 loudspeaker Measurements -- I'd say low watt tube amps or single ended tube amps with relatively high output impedances aren't going to be a dream match with your speakers.

    Speakers with relatively flat (and relatively high) impedances and that present a relatively flat resistive load to the amps are better matches for tube amps than a speaker like that with a minimum impedance of 3.6 ohms, multiple impedance swings between 4 ohms and 14 ohms, a phase angle that swings from -45 degrees to +35 degrees or so, and a 4 ohm nominal impedance.

    With those speakers you're likely to be better off with a tube amp with a beefy power supply, decent output power, and a low output impedance into a 4 ohm load which are not typical characteristics of low watt single ended tube amps.

    If you're looking for speakers to go along with tube amps, look for relatively flat impedance curves, relatively high minimum impedances, relatively flat phase angles. This may be a little more technical than you're looking for, but I think can be a helpful guide to tube amp/speaker matching -- DHTRob - Tubefriendly loudspeakers?
     
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  16. Jim Hodgson

    Jim Hodgson Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York City
    Sorry for the typo: of course I meant 8B. (If you were to buy a 10B by mistake, you’d end up with a legendary FM tuner instead.)
     
  17. Jim Hodgson

    Jim Hodgson Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York City
    Oh, that’s why I said “restored/upgraded.” There’s at least one issue with a stock ST70 that would want immediate attention in 2020. And beyond that, the ST70 has been so popular for decades that it’s probably a mistake to reject all of the fine and thoughtful redesign ideas that have been applied to its first stage (in particular).

    Yes, they do come up for sale all the time—an easy find. Anything from the builder of that linked amplifier would be lovely. Or, it doesn’t have to cost so much. I found a gorgeous ST70 listed on US Audio Mart about a year and a half ago for $375. It had been fully upgraded with all the premium options from one of the numerous companies that specialize in Dynaco mods. Another lovely amplifier that I think could bring a lot of happiness for a long time.

    And when, if ever, it came time to upgrade, you could double the price and list it back on US Audio Mart. Or, you could do what I suggested in my earlier post and start loaning it to people looking to step into this. That way, you’d improve the state of things for everyone well beyond what that $375 or $750 represents.

    All of this would hold true for the MKIII monos, too—but with less of the “and when, if ever, it came time to upgrade” element. I would predict that, by the time you had reached the level of a pair of optimized MKIIIs, odds are high that there would be a weaker link somewhere else in your system.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
  18. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    As a first time tube owner, I would recommend just getting a tube preamp and pairing it up with a good SS amp. That will give the OP some taste for tubes without all of the downsides associated with running a tube power amp.
     
  19. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Thanks for this. I have heard a lot of tube amps and a lot of speakers over the years even though I never owned any. Still, this single thread, your response and others, has taught me more details on this subject than I had ever known. I have always liked how my M5s sounded, but as I look to rebuild a system and turn to the idea of tubes, I also figured I'd have to get new speakers. I just don't have them yet. There are a couple of interesting pairs locally at the moment, a pair of Klipsch Fortes and a pair of Tekton Double Impacts. I've not heard the latter. I have always liked the Klipsch sound when I've heard it. One of my favorite listens was a pair of Klipschorns with a pair of monoblocked McIntosh amps. I probably should have left the Epos out of the discussion since I really am not considering keeping them or at least not for my primary system.
     
  20. Bananajack

    Bananajack Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    Most things were said, but:
    A) 300B sound like Heaven ... err, if you have the budget for a really good amp. And a pair of Western Electric 300B. 10K+.
    Otherwise they sound sweetish, a bit boring and definitely cannot rock.
    B) Tube Rolling isn’t going to be cheap. Because simply the really good NOS cost real money. Per piece. Differences in sound
    are HUGE. The 11 Telefunken NOS in my Integrated (Vintage) cost a lot more than your budget. Ouch - wasn’t planned that way.
    C) What are you mainly listening to? EL84 can rock - they come from guitar amps, made to rock. EL34 are nicer and polite. KT88 are
    a bit harsh, and so on. But at first they don’t count, because ...
    D) The Preamp Tubes make the sound. Really. That’s where you shape where you want to be. The Power Amp tubes are a principal
    decision - but probably the last ones you change, if ever.

    Just for the NOS (can be used) tube rolling list:
    Telefunken - neutral, perfectly clear
    Siemens - bit more treble, analytical
    Valvo - adds the juice, dynamic fun
    Mullard - can be heaven, can be hell (Philips). Depends where and when produced. 1960s from Blackburn is great. They have
    a yellow shield (label)? Pay with an arm or a leg, they are worth it.
    Brimar, Mazda (not the car), Marconi and old Tesla can be considered. Maybe I forgot one or two ...

    Everything else is not as good as those (I hear some guys steaming already). Had RCAs from 1950 (new) and they were a bit muddy
    and veiled. Panasonic are cheap and not bad, same for Philips, JAN-Philips and so on. Stay far away from Chinese and Russian tubes.

    So what to do?
    There were two top tips above
    1) Tube Preamp with SS Power Amp is an excellent solution, as you get the feel. And the SS amp can drive big speakers, where cheap
    tube power amps might have a problem.
    2) If sth else, then please a push pull amp. SET are wonderful when paired with an active subwoofer, otherwise you reach the end of
    their capabilities very fast.

    Stay away from vintage tube amps in the beginning. If not completely refurbished they will have any issues. If completely refurbed they can make more than happy though. Think about a ‘The Fisher’ then ... later. After making your experiences.
     
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  21. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Yet another amazing response. Thank you so much. A few things that may help you help me.

    I listen to everything. Really. Everyone says it, but I do. I’m a house head, I DJ minimal techno, I play weird world music, I like folk/singer-songwriter stuff, I grew up in the 70s with straight up rock, I listen to classical, and avant-garde jazz, and opera.

    I hate harsh highs. There is a chirpiness to a lot of sounds that people rave about that drives me nuts. I’ve found the tubes I have heard have that top end rolloff that really mellows that out for me. I like when my bass thumps at times, but I need musical bass. I can’t stand when bass gets muddy which I’ll admit I’ve heard at times in tube systems I’ve heard. I think mids may be most important in defining the sound, but I feel like I’ve had less flat out bad experiences in the mids. I do like a big soundstage and imaging. It also may be worth noting I’m getting this system to be primarily driven by a turntable. Right now I’m leaning towards Klipsch speakers; likely the Fortes, but I’ve been considering a pair of newer Heresy if I can find them used. I looked at the Wharfdale Linton which are gorgeous but reviews seem a little flat.

    From reading alone, the EL34 has seemed like a good tube for what I like though it seems that in each tube there are variations that may fit my tastes. I’m well aware that rolling tubes may cost me a pretty penny, but it does seem with some effort there are some decent prices. I love hearing the value of the pre- tubes though because that could shift my approach some.

    So far I’ve been looking at mostly integrated amps including several Chinese amps. I will go back to where I started, though, which was the Schiit Aegir with a Valhalla headphone amp (all tube and can work as a preamp) or even the Freya+ which is an all tube full pre-amp. I know Schiit gear gets mixed reviews so I’m not sure that’s the right answer. When it comes to looking at normal tube pre-amps and SS amps, it seems to open a whole other can of worms for me as to the right mix there. As a semi-novice it seems that the Chinese amps give me a bit of the best of both worlds.

    Any recommendations or thoughts based on some added info?
     
  22. Bananajack

    Bananajack Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Singapore
    House Music? Well, EL 84 are a good choice then. KT 120 or 150 even better (personally I don’t
    like KT 88, but many do).

    Must it be Klipsch? I know, sometimes it MUST be it ... maybe consider some old Tannoy though.
    Tannoy DMT10 or higher ... or Small Red Monitors (you can regulate the treble).

    Schiit should be capable as a Preamp. But I never tried with mine. For the price Schiit is pretty good.

    I started with a Chinese Amp as well, small and beautiful. Sold within 2 months though. You heard
    the potential of tubes, but it was just small and underpowered. 6 Watts or so are not enough and
    it couldn’t handle bigger woofers. Damping factors are not good in tube amps.

    What makes the sound are mainly the tubes and the output transformers. Some sound quite okay I
    heard, but can’t give you any advice. Maybe this Kingko mentioned above.

    Everything made in China in this household broke in the last 4 months and had to be serviced.
    All warranty except my Creek CDP. So don’t ask me about China stuff ... if you find something
    really refurbished from a good seller and know somebody who could repair (just in case), vintage
    tube amps would sound fuller, warmer and not muddy (that’s often the old capacitors).
     
  23. Go Mifune

    Go Mifune Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    By no means has to be Klipsch. There were a pair of Fortes available locally which interested me. There are also a pair of Double Impacts locally, used. I'll keep an eye out for the Tannoys as well. I've heard several Klipsch speakers before, though not the Fortes yet. They've always sounded great to me. Hence the interest. Have not heard the Tannoys but always hear great things about the brand.

    Good to know on the EL84. An amp was recommended here with them. When I read about them, I couldn't tell if they were going to be too sharp for my tastes.
     
  24. _rod_serling_

    _rod_serling_ Forum Resident

    Location:
    florida
    I picked up a Cayin A50t a few weeks ago and run it with Klipsch Epic CF3's . It is a chinese amp and it replaced a cheaper chinese amp I had been using. it is a very quiet amp. I am running a Tavish vintage as my phono. I did use the built in phono for about a week but it just wasn't doing it for me. Though i believe it could definitely be upgraded with better 12ax7's. I only had a set or 2 to test with . It is within your price range and sounds very good with the Klipsch. I actually toe the speakers in at me and they are about 7-8 feet from me and it is not harsh. And I just have to say again, its really quiet - even more quiet than my rogue cronus magnum in the other room with my other set of epic's lol.
     
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  25. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    So rethinking this some I think considering this would be a first first tube amplifier (and one good enough to be your last amplifier) I would also add my Audio Note OTO Phono SE to your list - second hand it would run $1900-$2300(the latter price with phono).

    I have had mine since 2003. They have been making the OTO for 28 years or so. It too is EL84 and auto-bias and is built quite well and is relatively easy - it doesn't look cool or anything but I would be remiss not to recommend it as it is approaching 30 years which makes it both a vintage amp and a current amp.

    It has a more valve sound to it so it is warmer and more natural than the KingKo or Soprano. The OTO leans more to the classic stereotype - full bodied rich a little veiled but has lots of ambiance and bigger tonality. The nearly the same price on the used market SORO is more of a rocker - up front modern and vibrant - people tend to like one over the other. Both are single ended pentode. If you are willing to buy used - a New OTO Phono SE is over $4,000 and the SORO is $5,000 but second hand they do come up in that $1800 - $2400 range.

    There are tons of OTO videos over the years on youtube. I think - as others have noted - that your money will go further second hand. But I think the Single Ended topology tends to sound better than push pull. It's funny but back in the day I compared the OTO directly to an ST-70 and Bryston Separates.

    They also make an OTO in Push Pull configuration that you might find down in the $1200 range - but IMO SE sounds better.

     

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