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Which Tube Integrated Amp?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by SMDEE, Jan 6, 2021.

  1. SMDEE

    SMDEE Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    I want to improve the sound quality from my system by using an integrated tube amp but I am not sure which one to choose. With my speakers, I am not sure if I can get away with a Class A amplifier or need a push-pull example. I am open to both new and used gear but am overwhelmed by the number of options available and my lack of experience with tube amplification. The only brick and mortar store in my area has nothing in my (low) price range ($3,000-$4,000) so I need some guidance. Here's a deep dive into my modest gear, my listening preferences, and what I hope to gain.

    Gear:
    Rotel RA-1572 (being replaced with the tube amp)
    Dynaudio Special 40
    Pair of Sumiko subs connected to the speaker-level inputs
    Bluesound Node 2i (via digital Coax and analog outputs, I switch back and forth)
    Dedicated Audio PC (via USB)
    Thorens TD-166 with a ProJect Tube Box S2 (stock tubes)
    Homemade Mogami interconnects, BJC speaker cables

    Room:
    My room is a dedicated 2-channel listening room (spare bedroom) that is 12.5' x 15' x 9'. A very large and thick rug is the only acoustic treatmen but I am about to add something like a GIK kit soon to control the excessive echo. Bass is...well..a mess. I measured a deep null at ~45HZ and big peak at ~57Hz. Both are clearly audible even to untrained ears. I will address bass issues also with GIK Acoustics.

    Music:
    My music listening consists largely of jazz and classical with some occassional blues. I stray elsewhere from time to time including classic rock, folk, and even Mystikal but that only constitutes about 10% of my listening.

    Likes/Dislikes:
    Certainly, I wish all parts of reproduced music were perfect but since I have to give to get, I can gladly sacrifice deep bass, visceral drum kicks, and top-end detail for smooth strings and human voices. I also enjoy an enveloping soundstage and stable image. I cannot listen to bright or sibilant sounds. I will gladly trade some detail for warmth and smoothness. Honestly, that is the thing I like most about the Special 40s. Everything, even terrible recordings like both the CD and the LP "Ella and Louis by Ella Fitzgerald", sound listenable. On other systems, Armstrong's voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Anyhow, I actually like the sound character of my system. Jon Faddis' trumpet on Groovin High sounds terrific.

    Goals:
    I want more of the things I like about my system. I hope for a larger, deeper soundstage, slightly better separation of instruments, and slightly more warm and lifelike voices. A little more excitement in the presentation would be welcomed but not required. Part of this purchase is intended to better the sound I hear. The other part, honestly, is to play with and experience new gear.

    I like my speakers pretty well but I am lukewarm on the Rotel. I like the tone but it sounds a bit strained. My budget is $3,000-$4,000 but I may also buy a DAC in the $1,000 range if the Node 2i sounds disappointing. I like to tinker with electronics so biasing tubes and the like is not a concern. The only tube gear that I heard with the Special 40s was a Rogue Chronos Magnum II which I did not like at all (too forward and the highs were very grainy) and $15,000 ARC pre-amp and amp that sounded outstanding. The sound was big (considering the Special 40s' size), smooth, rythmic, and enveloping. I can't afford that ARC combo but I hope to climb toward that with this purchase. All suggestions regarding integrated tube amp makes and models are welcome. If you have a suggestion for new speakers using my existing electronics, fire away. Thanks in advance for your help. I appreciate it.
     
    chipcalzada likes this.
  2. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, ID, USA
    Wow, your system and plans are not (low) price range! For $3000-$4000 you should get an EXCELLENT new amp (and I'd suggest reserving maybe $1000 for new cabling). I can't speak from experience though ... but there's the tube integrated that's apparently made in the same factory as Line Magnetic amps? Don't recall the price.

    POSSIBLY a tube pre + SS power amp (or even all tube)? I don't know the 'flavor' of Schitt gear really, but thinking a Freya+ preamp and Aegir amp (or two run as mono amps) MIGHT be good. The Aegir is lower powered but IIUC gives a very sweet sound. They're $1700 total.

    Dynaudio Special Forty loudspeaker Measurements showed low sensitivity 84.4dB but if you don't need high volume, should be OK (in your medium sized room). The impedance stays above 5 ohms and phase is benign at the lowest impedance, so ... should be OK?

    The Aegir is around 30Wpc or so into 5 ohms ... Peak SPL calculator shows 94dB (with parameters as shown). This is plenty loud IMHO, I listen to a nearfield setup with 7' distance (plus sub) and 8Wpc 300B tube amps, peaks measured around 82dB (C-weighted), average around 77dB. I think I'm only using about 4W max from my amps, maybe less.

    [​IMG]

    I recommend Analysis Plus cables ... $300 or so for Oval 12 speaker cable, their ICs and power cords also seem excellent to me (<$150 for power cords and ICs). So maybe another $700 or so for those ... <$3000 total. Maybe get two Aegirs and run balanced connections between pre and amps? With AP balanced cables this would probably be pushing the budget or at least maxing it out!

    Not to say that Cardas or other cables (Wireworld? others?) would be just as good, and might flavor things in a pleasing way to you. AP cables to me are very resolving, and 'show you what your gear sounds like' as stated by Alan at AudioWaves who turned me onto AP Oval 9 speaker cables many years ago (when they were $400 for a 12' pair, not $900!). I recently got AP power cables for my 300B amps ... can't say for sure but my system has never sounded better (see my other posts about all this). I have all AP cables now in the tube amp based system.

    The BJCs and etc. are well-regarded though, some swear by them.

    PS/edit: you can then roll tubes in the Freya+ to get the flavor just right. Mullards? or other mellow tubes might just be the ticket. Or maybe things are sweet enough with stock or Gold Lion tubes (always a good choice IMHO). This is from an old site which no longer seems available, but IMHO various other tube types would likely follow these 'flavors'. I use NOS Siemens triple mica 12AT7s as drivers in my 300B amps, for example, they gave a nice shot of higher resolution to the sound.

    [​IMG]

    NOS 6SN7s might be expensive tho! 6SN7 TUBES IN STOCK

    PPS:
    "Goals:
    I want more of the things I like about my system. I hope for a larger, deeper soundstage, slightly better separation of instruments, and slightly more warm and lifelike voices. A little more excitement in the presentation would be welcomed but not required. Part of this purchase is intended to better the sound I hear. The other part, honestly, is to play with and experience new gear."

    YESSSSSSSSS !!!! I'd say you can and will certainly get there! and more! Good luck!

    PPPS: set things up according to Cardas ... Cardas Room Setup Guide I use Room Setup: Listening Room Relationships Expressed in Golden Ratio in my nearfield setup, 7' between speakers ... I live in "soundstage city" (to quote 'Sam Tellig').
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2021
    trd likes this.
  3. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    Some speakers really work well with tube amps. Dynaudio? Not one of them. I mean sure, it'll work and even sound really good. But better with solid state. Maybe a tube pre and a solid state amp?
     
  4. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, ID, USA
    Muzishare X7 - an affordable hand-wired KT88 integrated made at the Line Magnetic factory is the amp I was thinking of. Seems like ordering one is taking a pretty big chance in several areas though.

    I bet an Aegir or two with a Freya+ preamp would work really well. :winkgrin: I’d suggest getting two, running in balanced mode, if that is within your budget. (PS: with all that and AP cables, I get about $3500 depending on cable lengths ... :winkgrin: :angel: :cool: that leaves $500 for rolling tubes!)
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2021
  5. THEBARN117

    THEBARN117 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Allen county ohio
    Don Sachs, it’s a no brainer
     
    hi_watt likes this.
  6. Noel Patterson

    Noel Patterson Six pack of stout, and a stick of sensi

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I'd second a solid state amp with lots of oomph! Dyns will play fine with moderate power, but really shine with lots of power. Like mentioned above, if you want some tubey-ness added, perhaps a beefy solid state amp and a tube preamp would be best.
     
    displayname and Rick58 like this.
  7. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, ID, USA
    OK so sub a Parasound A23+ for the pair of Aegirs. Same price, balanced connections, 200Wpc ... :D
     
    Noel Patterson likes this.
  8. Noel Patterson

    Noel Patterson Six pack of stout, and a stick of sensi

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Now we're cooking! :laugh:
     
    Rick58 likes this.
  9. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    You could look at what I am running right now and reviewing. An Audio Note M1 Phono preamp (tube) and Wyred4Sound mAmp monoblock power amps (250 watts per channel 8 ohms, 430w 4 ohms).

    If you do not need the phono stage - the M1 comes in line only version for several hundred less.

    Dynaudio needs a fair chunk of power.

    If you don't play too loud - the Audio Note Cobra would be an option as it comes with remote control and a built-in DAC which will likely beat most if not all $1k DACs.

    The Cobra is around 25 watts per channel is a class A push-pull. It just won the best buy of the year 2020 in Hi-Fi Review. This will save you from spending more buying a DAC. It drives the 83dB sensitive Rogers LS-3/5a with no issue.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. LostArk

    LostArk Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    Look at the Mc MA352. Tube pre and solid state power. Sounds quite close to a full stack of Mc tube separates, based on my auditioning.
     
  11. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, ID, USA
    Nice, but $6500 ...?
     
  12. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Location:
    Westfield, IN USA
    Rogue Cronus Magnum III if you must go tubes. That said, stick with solid state for the Dyns.
     
  13. LostArk

    LostArk Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    Some wiggle room w/ a reputable dealer. Worth it to stretch the budget just a little imo. It's just so much better, imo, than anything $4k or less MSRP.
     
  14. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, ID, USA
    Fish17 https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/members/fish17.115142/ has the Freya+ and A 23 (not the + which is supposed to be ... improved?). Haven't seen him on here lately though. He has KEF Q150 speakers tho which are different beasts than yours. A bit more efficient I think (or maybe not!) ... but still, seems the combo worked for him, maybe he's lost in bliss too deeply to post about it!
     
  15. Helom

    Helom Forum member

    Location:
    U.S.
    The CMII does indeed produce some grain when breaking-in, and with the OEM tubes. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the CMIII, however, especially now that they redesigned the grounding scheme, which admittedly, was terrible in the II...IME. You can find other tube amps that do some things better, but on balance, I think you’d be hard-pressed to beat the CMIII for a full tube amp at your price point.
     
    TheIncredibleHoke and Rick58 like this.
  16. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    For $3K you can get the Rogue Audio CMIII. And you basically only roll the middle tube, a 12AU7. Easy peasy. I ended up with an RCA Clear Top with my Maggies. You a bit of research and buy some used tubes until you find something you like. You can roll the other tubes, but the middle one is the one that does the most. So, stick with just the middle tube.
     
    TheIncredibleHoke and Rick58 like this.
  17. jonwoody

    jonwoody Tragically Unhip

    Location:
    Washington DC
    Rick58 likes this.
  18. tIANcI

    tIANcI Wondering when the hifi madness will end

    Location:
    Malaysia
    Look into the Line Magnetic LM 805ia. It’s very good for the price esp when you tube roll. Stay away from certain very very popular US brand that’s made in China. It ain’t that tubey sounding no matter what the manufacturer says non-stop on YouTube.

    The Freya+ and a good SS power amp (XTZ Edge, wait for the newer A2-400) is really worth looking into. Swap the tubes for Sylvania 6SN7GTA. You won’t go wrong with that set up.
     
    Rick58 likes this.
  19. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
    I'll add Mastersound to the mix. I have a similar sized room, and my Rosso Fiorentino speakers are powered by the 20 watt Class A single ended Duventi amp. Retail is right at $4K. No issues pushing louder than I'd listen. Volume knob normally stays at about 1/3. I haven't really even attempted to go much above 50% because that becomes uncomfortably loud for me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
    Rick58 likes this.
  20. chipcalzada

    chipcalzada Forum Resident

    I use an 80wpc integrated tube amp with my Dyn's and they sound great. Older models are notoriously power-hungry but the newer iterations such as the S40's can be used with tube and SS amplification both yielding excellent results. Can't go wrong with Line Magnetic, but perhaps the push-pull models since they fit your budget more.
     
    Rick58 likes this.
  21. DiggyGun

    DiggyGun Well-Known Member

    Location:
    UK
    A consideration could be the Icon Audio range
     
    Rick58 likes this.
  22. SMDEE

    SMDEE Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    All,
    I should have mentioned that I do not listen to music nearly as loud as I used to. Moderate volumes are fine for me. Anyhow, I appreciate the feedback. I know ignoring the SS amp recommendations will frustrate many of you but I like to experiment and learn almost as much as I like listening to music. Honestly, my current system doesn't sound terrible so if the tube amp doesn't work out, I will sell it and start searching for a better SS amp with valve pre-amp. As with most things in life, the journey can be at least as fun as the destination.

    @Rick58 - You are right about the Cardas method for speaker placement. It made a big difference in my system.

    @THEBARN117 - Looks like Don Sachs is overloaded with work. He is not taking orders at this time.

    @Richard Austen - The Cobra looks interesting. I will check it out.

    I am going to dig deeper on the Line Magnetic and Mastersound offerings and maybe the Rogue Chronos Magnum III (but it needs to be much better than the II I heard). I am interested in the Raven Audio Blackhawk, too. I may lightly poke around for other push-pull tube amps in my price range. Feel free to send more recommendations. The more info I have, the better.
     
    Rick58 likes this.
  23. nht2.9

    nht2.9 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Illinois
    I have a VPI 299D integrated amp. They made 100 of them and I believe you can get one at a discount. Retail is $4000 but I got may much cheaper. Google and you will fine very good reviews of the amp. Reviews put it ahead of Prima Luma. I believe the only circuit boards are where the tubes connect. While Prima has more circuit boards. The VPI is almost all point to point wiring. I used solid state for 40 years. But now I am tube all the way and will never us a s again.
     
  24. ggergm

    ggergm Sir Guy

    Location:
    Minnesota
    I've been running a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium HP integrated for maybe four years. Somewhere around there. I love it. It's 70 wpc with the standard EL-34 tubes and very reliable, especially if a tube goes out. I've had that happen twice. Protection came on. There was a red light beside the bad tube. I replaced it (the replacement doesn't even need to be a matching tube). The amp worked just fine. It also sounds really good. Back when it was new, maybe 5 years ago, Stereophile rated it Class A. Now it's yesterday's tuna fish but that also means it's come down $500 in price. Upscale Audio has it for for $3,899. (Upscale Audio and PrimaLuna are the same company, with Upscale Audio the store side of the business.)

    The Dialogue Premium HP has been very agreeable to tube rolling, if you want to get into that game. Right now I'm running mine with KT-150 power tubes. It's gone up to 100 wpc. I love the bass. These are really good tubes.

    Upscale Audio has a 60 day return window. You'd just have to pay return shipping, which even with this heavy an amp should be under $50 for FedEx Ground. You say you don't have a lot of experience with tube amplification, @SMDEE . $50 is cheap for an education.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
    Rick58 likes this.
  25. ggergm

    ggergm Sir Guy

    Location:
    Minnesota

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