Tube Amp for Klipsch Cornwalls - Fisher receiver or something else?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Chiliarches, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Chiliarches

    Chiliarches Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Chicago Suburbs
    Howdy all. I am really enjoying my new Klipsch Cornwall I's and I want to investigate a tube amp to pair with them (since everyone says that big Klipsch love tubes!).

    I am not that familiar with tube amplification, but I know what I like about the inexpensive miniwatt tube amp that I have - a smooth, "holographic" quality that seems more real and "live". I would love to get that sound out of my Cornwalls, but without sacrificing weight or bass "slam" I get with my solid-state amps, which I know is sometimes a weakness of all-tube amplification. I listen to a lot of large orchestral music, so weight and depth to the sound is very important to me. I am mostly indifferent to receivers vs integrateds vs receivers.

    One very well regarded series of tube amplifiers seems to be the old Fisher receivers, which also has a nice "furniture" look when in a wood case.

    Here is my question: would buying a Fisher 400/500 series for $400-$600 and then having it restored (so total would be over $1000) be the most ideal option to get started on the path of tubes for my Cornwalls, given my sound goals? I'd like to spend less if I could. Or are there other tube amps that would be better at that price point? I have found options for both a 400 and a 500C at this point...

    If it makes a difference, I live in the Chicago area, so would have access to techs in the suburbs or the city.

    Thank you for your help!
  2. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    I can't recommend a VTA 120 or 70 highly enough. Build your own kit or buy one already built - Bob Latino is a great guy. A Citation might be nice though I haven't heard one - Jim McShane is the guy for that and tubes in general.
    jasn, Dennis0675, Helom and 1 other person like this.
  3. SteevG

    SteevG Forum Resident

    Chicago, Illinois
    Welcome Chiliarches,

    Costerdock's recommendations are great. Also, if you can get/have the Fisher gear, that is a really good match with the Cornwalls.

    My experience is that the tubes and availability will be key. Being able to buy matched and/or tested tubes instead of the fleabay crapshoot...

    I have Klipsch Quartets with a rebuilt Dynakit ST70 that really rocks and is great for classical (WFMT) and jazz (WDCB) so the combo is legit.

    If you have a trustworthy gear tech that knows Fisher gear and have access to GOOD tubes you can't beat the combo.

    Also make sure your front end gear is up to speed condition wise because the Cornwalls will be very revealing.

    Tubes are key after you get a properly working amp.


    Tubes wear out, so be prepared.
    RDriftwood and costerdock like this.
  4. Paully

    Paully De gustibus non est disputandum

    A dynaco st70 is great, so is a st35 but you will need a stand alone preamp if you go that route versus a tubed receiver. Which isn't a bad thing. Stromberg-Carlson is another option.
    RDriftwood likes this.
  5. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Vintage Fisher and Scott gear are great starting point. It really depends on what you're willing initially invest. I went with a mint 500c but that was almost 4 years ago. They are starting to get a little pricey now and so are Scotts. If you find a really nice vintage amp plan on spending around 1250 for the amp, restoration, and tubes. If you have the equipment you can do the work yourself and come in under a 1000.00.

    Their are also lots of boutique builders. I have a ToolShed Audio amp. It's a small company that builds custom single ended amps. Mine is a 5 watt, tube rectified, EL84, SEP amp. Check them out. He builds amps, preamps, and phono preamps at a lots of price points. Klipsch will be demoing some of the speakers with his PWK Special Edition Amp at CES next year.


    Then they're are the standards. Line Magnetic, Decware and the like. My one warning I'd give you is that lots of new tube amps, don't really sound like tube amps used to.
  6. recstar24

    recstar24 Forum Resident

    Glen Ellyn, IL
    I have nothing to add other than I miss my cornwalls (had to sell them as I underestimated their size to my loving wife who made me get rid of them lol) and when you get all setup please invite me over to listen :)
  7. jcmusic

    jcmusic Forum Resident

    Terrytown, La.
    Scott or Fisher are both great places to start, get in touch with Craig at NOS Valves he is the man when it comes to vintage amps!!!
    SandAndGlass and russk like this.
  8. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    I’ve been running a fisher 400 with cornwalls for about a year now and I love it. I will say it sounds very different from a SS amp. The bass slam and volume isn’t the same. You really will be trading that and getting a better midrange and overall balance. It’s addictive but not bossy.

    For $1,000 you should be about to buy one restored. I’d recommend not getting one with the wood case to save some money. That generally runs the price up $200 to $300.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
    SandAndGlass and RDriftwood like this.
  9. Ntotrar

    Ntotrar Nope

    Mystic valley, Tn.
    Line Magnetic LM-211Ia (EL34 tube). only tube amp I ever owned. My Dad had a Fischer Tube receiver when I was a kid but I don't remember; it was powering a pair of Sound Craftsmen 12" full range.
    noladaoh and Dennis0675 like this.
  10. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    Also good advice. I get confused by their model numbers but I think that one comes up used for about $1,200 to $1,500 every few months.
  11. sberger

    sberger Grumpy geezer who likes dirty records

    How can you resist?

    Urbs, TheVU, Dax_Frost and 8 others like this.
  12. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    He restored my 500c. Top notch work. You've got to spend some serious cash to compete with it. Never forget when I heard a Rogue Sphinx next to it. Those vintage amp builders really new their craft.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  13. Manimal

    Manimal Forum Resident

    Southern US
    Yea, pretty insane fine. I want one:)
  14. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters

    I've never heard an old tubes Fischer amp but hey, they're probably cool. I pair my LM219ia with cornwalls. I LOVE my cornwalls. Paired with the right components they just sound excellent. Can go the Fischer route, see how you like it. The first watt is the most important, and you want an amp that complies by this, to really let your cornwalls do well but they can in fact do so very well.
  15. Chiliarches

    Chiliarches Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Chicago Suburbs
    1. Sure! Just as soon as I get this kitchen remodel done.
    recstar24 likes this.
  16. Chiliarches

    Chiliarches Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Chicago Suburbs
    Thanks for the thoughts so far clarify, I do play my music LOUD. I am intrigued by the possibility of an SET amp, but I don't know that the "concert" level volume I go for in orchestral recordings would be possible...
  17. Ken Clark

    Ken Clark Forum Resident

    Chicago Suburbs
    I used to have Cornwall's and used both a Moth Audio 45SET amp ( 2 WPC) and a Fisher 400. The sound from the SET amp was so wonderful but just not loud enough for my liking. The 28-ish watts from the Fisher was all the power I needed. Eventually my wife nixed the big "ugly" boxes so both got sold off. If I had it to do over again I'd pair Cornwall's with a modern tube amp, maybe Line Magnetic or even a used Manley Stingray which I always liked a lot, or something from Rogue.
  18. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    If you want loud - go with the ST120. Or PP with some power.

    I'm running Cornwalls with two M125s that are tuned down to 60 watts each - it does scary loud - and wonderful 3D soundstage and clear at loud levels. You can feel the artists breath.

    Even tuned down to 30 watts it is crazy loud and really no different from the other settings as I cannot handle what it could really be like if cranked beyond.
    Dennis0675 likes this.
  19. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    I have a theory that volume is something you apply to cover up a shortcoming. Your system isn't giving you what you want so the solution is to turn it up until it does. When my main system was SS, I had a few occasions where the cops were called about noise from three houses down. Since I moved to tubes and cornwalls, I have no desire to come close to that. Well, when I get a little tipsy and put on some Drive-by-truckers I may reach for a gear that isn't there but overall 70 to 75 db sounds very fulfilling.
    grx8, Urbs, billnunan and 2 others like this.
  20. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    At present, I have eight tube amps, including a pair of monoblocks, which count as one, including integrated's, power amps and a Fisher 500-C receiver.

    Figure around $1k, with restoration, plus or minus $200, without the case. You can buy a used case off of eBay, or there is a company that makes new cases for about $200-$300, with your choice of woods.

    Still there are things that you might want to consider. First if all, the Fisher receivers are very complicated and they are vintage. These are two things that do not necessarily belong together. For example, my 500C has nineteen tubes.

    underneath the chassis, looks like this...


    The circuit schematic looks like this...


    See what I mean.

    Now, if you don't need the AM/FM tuner section, which is complicated circuitry, then you needs might be better served with a integrated amp, from that same time period.

    When you bring tubes, of any kind, into the picture, the aggravation factor, increases several fold. Every thing is running peachy keen then one day, your vintage receiver starts making noise, which is usually a sign of a tube that has goon bad.

    The best way to trouble shoot the amp is to have an entire set of replacement tubes on hand, so that you can try swapping them out one by one

    Nice, little vintage integrated amps, like a Fisher X-100 or a Scott 222C are not that complicated. Once professionally rebuilt, they will preform much like new. If these amps were not quality, they sure wouldn't have made it a half century and more.


    Here is a fisher X-100, @Actionpact

    Here is the underside of the chassis.


    Mostly there are wires that connect everything together. The components are simply resistors and capacitors, all of which, are readily available today and are inexpensive.

    Nothing is that complicated. Just like an old car from that era, that most everyday mechanics could fix with a screwdriver and a few wrenches.

    When you stay away from vintage receivers, everything becomes far more simplistic.

    No, you won't have any warranty, but then, you will only have under a grand invested in your integrated amplifier, so you will have plenty of wiggle room when repairs may be needed.

    The Fisher uses larger power tubes than these slightly smaller integrated's, and is rated at 30-WPC.

    These Fisher's use power tubes that are in the EL84 family. My vintage Scott 222C does so as well. These integrated's will put out a little bit less power than the larger power tubes that are found in the Fisher, they put out around 20-22 Watts.

    At the time that I was playing with my 222C, I had recently purchased a pair of vintage Wharfedale W70's speakers from the later 60's. Now these are in decent size cabinets and are a three way speaker, with a 12" woofer. I believe that the midrange is 4" and there is a paper cone tweeter.

    The afternoon that I hooked these all together (instead of the A7's), a friend of mine was over with her child, that I am a caregiver for and we were playing all kinds of different music and mother and daughter were having a good time dancing around.

    I had Pandora One on and we were trying different stations to see how the different types of music sounded with the Scott 222C and the Wharfedale W70's.

    I have to say, that I was impressed! Very impressed, beautiful midrange, and with the 12" woofer's there was a solid bottom end. With the paper cone tweeters, everything was nicely detailed but without any trace of harshness. (BTW, I bought the pair here locally from an estate liquidation for $222 for the PAIR!) Suggest that you keep an eye on the vintage Wharfedale series consisting of the W60's, W70's and the W90's (I now have all three sets). on eBay, they are terrific speakers and they are very inexpensive. They are old, they are not known by the majority of people today. Nobody has the original boxes to ship them in. They are large and heavy. Part of this is because they have sand filled backs. I bought the W60's from a local Florida resident for under $300/pr. and who brought them down to me. Same with the W90's, which I paid $600 delivered. The W90's are the bees knees! The cabinetry is incredible. You could put these in the living room of the White House. The W90's have two of everything innside them that the W70's have. The W70's and W90's are almost always sold for local delivery only, because shipping costs are more than they are worth.

    These speakers were not made in England, they were made in an American plant, intended for the American market, the plant was either in NY or NJ. So, there are a lot of units on the east coast. Living in and around Chicago, there are lots of opportunities to find a pair in top not shape, and at an excellent price. When these things go up for sale on eBay, the seller is just wanting them to go away.

    I mention these F.Y.I.

    Anyway, what also impressed me about these EL84 family tubes, is how much I like them. They sound wonderful. Really, my favorite sounding tube so far.

    And while everybody was dancing, I was turning up the volume and the little EL84 tubes, which are only the size of small signal tubes, never ran out of steam. And, this is with the W70's, which are nowhere as efficient as the A7's or your Cornwall's.

    I think that you would have a better sounding tube amp. One that you could bring in at half, what a Fisher receiver would cost you. You will have the power that you need. Replacement EL84's either new or old stock are some of the lest expensive power tubes that you can buy and they last far longer than the larger EL34 and KT88 power tubes. Both the Fisher's and the Scott's have built in phono preamps that are not too shabby.

    Currently, I have the 222C and a Rogue KT88 based Stereo 100 sidelined, because of too much hum in the circuit. The A7's efficient as they are, really bring out the hum.

    I like my three more powerful Rogue amplifier's but I am finding that I don't need that kind of power. Also, the Monoblocks are running a quad of KT88's in each amplifier. The cost of operation is huge compared to the cost of EL84 type tubes, and they last two or three times as long. The older production tubes seem to last forever. A good many of these used that you find in the marketplace still have their functioning, original tubes.

    Because I was wanting to hear what the Scott and the W70's could do, I mentioned that I was trying different stations on Pandoora One. One of those was a new age beats station, which is not the type of thing that you would expect to sound good on vintage speakers and a small EL84 family based tube amplifier, but the sound was really good and we were playing it fairly loud.

    If the W70's can play as loud as they did, your much more efficient Cornwall's could really nail it, with plenty of reserve power.

    And remember, you need to replace the factory crossovers with ALK Engineering crossovers, the Gentle Slope crossovers are less that $500 and they will do more to upgrade your Cornwall's than anything else, except the use of tube power amplifier's.

    Next... Owning vintage gear and tube gear at that presents daily challenges. I don't have all of these tube amplifier's because I want to collect them. I have them because of reliability issues.

    Having said that. I have found what has turned out to be the perfect power amplifier for the A7's.

    Not that there is anything wrong with the other amplifier's designs.

    PrimaLuna, which, as you already know, make some nice tube gear, which is not typically inexpensive.

    Well, They have discontinued two of their power amplifiers, and have replace them with a newer, and more expensive model, the Prologue Premium at $2,199, which now has the classic PrimaLuna tube cage in the front. Now all of their different amplifier's, share this unique look.

    The now discontinued Prologue Five, which has KT-88's as power tubes, used to retail for $1,799 is now selling for $1,099. These units are new, with factory warranty of one year, to the original owner. They will double the term of that warranty, if you register the product online.

    ProLogue Five Stereo Power Amplifier
    Want the ultimate? Classic Ultralinear all-tube sound, with all the body and glory that you could ask for. For an additional $250 over the EL-34 equipped Prologue Four, you will get an amplifier that has more power, better bass authority, and a little more air on top, but never edgy.

    • Upgraded Solen capacitors made in France. The result is an even better midband and wonderful clarity.
    • Fast Recovery Diodes. Resulting in increased definition and detail, especially when the music becomes complex.
    • KT88 Output Tubes. We use the current production copy of the legendary Genalex KT88. The tube sounds wonderful, withtremendous body and punch, while still giving you the warmth and humanity you'd expect from an all-tube amplifier.

    The ProLogue Five starts with the same basic topology as the award-winning ProLogue Two integrated amplifier. But further improvements are realized from new driver and phase splitter circuitry. The result is no need for any negative feedback. This means even more natural tonality and better overall musicality.

    • Soft-start circuit Extends component and tube life by powering up the amp gently every time you turn it on.
    • Tube plate fuse Protects the amplifier output stage. Other amps may need a trip to the shop if a tube fails. Not this one. Just plug in a new tube and fuse, and go.
    • Adaptive AutoBias. Exclusive to PrimaLuna, this circuit monitors and adjusts bias automatically. Each power tube is monitored to stay in a peak operating range. Improved performance and better sound, with distortion reduced by 40 to 50 percent over conventional designs. No need for matched tubes. No bias adjustments. Ever. It also allows you to experiment with different power tubes. Plug in virtually any power tube. Adaptive AutoBias will automatically adjust itself! In addition to KT88s, you can use 6550, KT90, EL-34, KT77, 6CA7, 6L6GC, KT66, 7581, EL37, and any of their equivalents.
    • Custom designed output transformers Encapsulated low hum, wide bandwidth for great bass and extended highs. Designed by Marcel Croese and one of the most prestigious transformer designers in the USA .
    • Premium parts. Fully vented chassis, chassis-mounted ceramic tube sockets, Nichicon and Solen capacitors. WBT style speaker terminals. Gold plated input jacks.
    • Hand made with the finest point to point wiring, with workmanship equal to or better than any product you can buy at any price, period.
    • Chassis made of finely finished heavy gauge steel, and five step automotive quality finish. Each coat hand rubbed and polished. Removable tube cage included no charge.
    • Toroidal power transformer for low hum, and a front end that is dead quiet.
    • Conservative design parameters: Though PrimaLuna amplifiers are powerful, tubes run well below their maximum ratings
    It puts out 36-WPC and is totally quiet in operation and my unit has the factory KT88's.

    This unit, has more power than you will ever require, with your Cornwall's. This is the best overall amplifier that I have ever used on the A7's.

    Highly efficient speakers do best when powered by tube based power amplifiers, which is the far more important aspect, than a tube preamplifier and a SS power amp, trust me on this. I NEVER run the A7's with anything but tube power (unless I am testing something to see for myself, how it sounds).

    As long as you have something now, that you can take the signal off of the preamp output, where you can control the input selection and adjust the system volume level, you are fine. Run the output of this into the Prologue Five and you will be fine.

    billnunan, Kyhl, action pact and 4 others like this.
  21. Ken Clark

    Ken Clark Forum Resident

    Chicago Suburbs
    Awesome post SandAndGlass and some excellent advice. The first time I took the bottom cover off my Fisher 400 I almost felt dizzy looking at everything going on under there. The only other tube amp I had at the time was the Moth SET which had about 1/1000th of the wiring. After many years and several pieces, I came to the conclusion that for me, vintage gear was not worth the frustration. I know others who have several pieces and when one acts up they rotate something else in its place and get to work fixing the wonky piece. Not for me.
    IanL, Kyhl and SandAndGlass like this.
  22. sberger

    sberger Grumpy geezer who likes dirty records

    Dynaco MKIII's will give you all the power you need plus, are simple to work on, built like tanks, easy to find and not expensive. You'll need a preamp but that's not a big deal. And they sound awesome with Cornwalls.

    billnunan, Kyhl, SandAndGlass and 2 others like this.
  23. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident

    Houston TX
    Flea watt something or other...
    Panama Hotel likes this.
  24. slovell

    slovell Retired Mudshark

    Chesnee, SC, USA
    I've got a Dynaco 70 clone with the VTA board powering my Klipsch KLF-20's with very good results.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  25. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident

    One of the most amazing demos I've ever heard was a Fisher 400 through a pair of Cornies. I really wanted those speakers, but knew I just didn't have an appropriately large room for them, but man oh man, did that sound great. Very lifelike and effortlessly dynamic.

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