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Valve Amps

Discussion in 'Hi Fi Systems & Separates' started by Paul Williams, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi

    Anyone recently bought , or is using a current production valve amp?

    I'm looking to get an integrated unit pushing out arround 20 watts into 8 ohms and under £1k and would like some informaed opinions. I would also like to stick with non-costly tubes so no 300B's, even KT88's or 66's are out, so really its going to be EL's.

    Alternatively anyone know of a good valve forum to pick up on these topics :smashin:

    Paul
  2. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi

    Anyone recently bought , or is using a current production valve amp?

    I'm looking to get an integrated unit pushing out arround 20 watts into 8 ohms and under £1k and would like some informed opinions. I would also like to stick with non-costly tubes so no 300B's, even KT88's or 66's are out, so really its going to be EL's.

    Alternatively anyone know of a good valve forum to pick up on these topics :smashin:

    Paul
  3. marck

    marck Member

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    Hi,

    I am not using a valve amp currently, but have heard the Prim Luna Prologue(version 1) - it was extremely good (£800). The new version is meant to be better and still only £999 - all the reviews are extremely positive too.

    Take a look at the absolutesounds website
    Cheers
    Marc.
  4. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi marck

    Yes this one is on the map as it were, but the '2' uses costly valves (well more than I would pay) so is out, the '1' is fine as it uses EL34's but I suspect it will be too powerful for my needs at 35 watts. Will probably audition this in a few weeks. Quite interested in the Audio Note stuff at 8 watts, or the Audion's 12 watts, but would value some users views on the more practical aspects.

    thanks

    Paul
  5. jookster

    jookster Guest

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    Why does it have to be current production?
  6. Antpink

    Antpink Member

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    Hi - I'm currently running Audio Space (made in HK) pre with 2 x monblock power amps (which use 4xEL34 power tubes) = extremely happy with these, but more power and budget than you are looking at. The point is to look to see if anyone imports these or has similar kit from this side of the world - it's well made (no problems in 4 years, have only changed tubes) and is likely to be very competitively priced.

    Check this out....cheap valve amp
  7. Antpink

    Antpink Member

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  8. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi jookster

    Just didn't want people waxing lyrical about their old Radford’s and how they’ve never heard the equal. I would be quite happy to use ‘recent’ production models, but I don’t want to collect antiques, unless they only cost a few pounds have a full compliment of parts available and stunning sound quality.

    Paul
  9. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle Member

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    Gary,

    For a start, KT88 or 66's aren't necessarily superior to EL34/84 or 6L6's, they just have different characteristics. For example, KT66's may have better dynamic range than 6L6's, but tend to sound less involving in the mid-band. It all depends on your aural preferences, power requirements and budget.

    EL34's tend to have decent power output, and sound lovely considering how cheap they are (matched quad of svetlana or sovtek valves should cost less than £80).

    The pre-amp sections of the amps in this price range tend to consist of 12AX7/ECC83 and 12AU7 valves, all of which sound great, are very long lasting and cheap (<£15 each).

    Given that your power requirements are pretty low, there is a very wide range of equipment to choose from. Here is a list of some integrated's I was looking at recently:

    Afford Valve Co EL-34/84 40wpc £750
    Shanling STP-80 50wpc £1,295
    Icon Audio Stereo 40i 40wpc £900
    Amplifon WL25 25wpc £795
    Pathos Classic 1 (Hybrid) 70wpc £1,000
    PrimaLuna Prologue 1 or 2 30wpc £900
    Consonance M100 plus (EL-34 version) ?wpc £1,150
    CR Developments Romulus V3 35wpc £1,400

    The Icon and PrimaLuna amps come highly recommended and are excellent vfm. Of course, you should do some listening and make up your own mind! There is a 300B version of the Consonance available for £1,500 (if you do decide that spending £250 on fancy light bulbs is OK ;) )

    DT

    I went for the Romulus because it had oodles of power, lovely round bass and excellent mid-range & top-end. Its also made in Blighty, unlike the others listed here, most of which are made in China.
  10. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    Hi Paul....the list of amps given by DT is very comprehensive in the sub £1k bracket,and you will find that the market in that range is currently dominated by Chinese amps.
    Most of these(like the Icon,Shanling,Consonance etc) are attracting very good reviews,and actually have very decent construction standards internally,with nice wire routing,and point-to-point wiring.

    The currently available new valves are also of better quality than a few years ago,and sound quality has if anything improved,although NOS(or New Old Stock...original and expensive) tubes are often better,and can be considered as an upgrade after any purchase.

    They do,as DT also notes,have very different sound qualities,with EL34s often sounding smoother and warmer,and the KTs having a more defined sound if that's the right word.

    Don't be put of by the assumed cost of KT66s or KT88s,as the new production valves from companies like Chelmer Valve and Golden Dragon are not stunningly expensive,and can be had for the same price as premium EL34s.

    I've owned the following:
    Tube Technology Genesis 100W monoblocs
    Lumley ST70
    Quad IIs

    And currently have a pair of World Audio 300Bs...your comments about the tubes for those are right....very expensive at approx £120 per tube,but the sound quality is another level again.

    Reliability of all of the amps I've had has been excellent,with only the expected tube changes at suitable intervals,and you can expect small signal valves to last for up to 10 000 hrs in some cases,and output tubes will vary according to how hard they are loaded,but several thousand hours should not be unreasonable.

    You may wish to look at www.worldaudiodesign.com for a valve related bulletin board,and Zerogain may be of some use also.
    As with any such place,you will find some very opiniated stuff,and the best way you will have of deciding is to listen to as many of these as possible in your own home....one good tip is to feel the weight....much of the expense,and quality of low frequency output etc in a valve amp is in the output transformers.

    The coupling capacitors,reservoir capacitors and other componentry also make a huge difference,but dont expect Black Gates etc at this price level!
  11. jookster

    jookster Guest

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    Well I suggest a Leak Stereo 20. Classic design, fairly cheap - around £300. Easy to maintain - it really doesn't go wrong. Parts available, valves available. I can`t compare it to the new valve amps suggested on here, but it is a fine amp all the same.
  12. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    It is a fine amp,and to many people's ears,better than things like the Quad II,but whilst parts are available,and certainly the valves are,if and when things do go wrong,the costs can be moderate,if you wish to maintain the originality of the amp,which is where most of it's value lies.

    I would also say,that any amp of that age,unless recently overhauled,will almost certainly benefit from having one,given the aging of components such as electrolytic caps,and older carbon resistors,which may go out of range quite easily.
    You would also need to be very careful to ensure that any work done on it was done to a suitable standard by a recognised engineer,as there are a lot of pretty awful examples around(Quads/Radfords included) being sold to the uninitiated.
  13. jookster

    jookster Guest

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    The Leak Stereo 20 is easy to maintain yourself if you are handy with a soldering iron. The schematics are available on the web.

    Out of interest Alexs2 how do you think it compares to newer amps, like the new ones mentioned here?
  14. SKA.face

    SKA.face Guest

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    I would also add the Copland CTA 402 S/H,was £1,600 when new,is built like a tank,sounds sublime with vocals,jazz etc,low maintenance costs,matches superbly with SF and Spender SP100 speakers.
  15. Londondecca

    Londondecca Member

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    What is the rest of the system and why valves.
  16. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi Londondecca

    Currently I'm using an SME20/2 Turntable, Dynavector 10x5 cartridge, TAG McLaren PPA20 phono-stage, (JPS Ultra Conductor interconnect) Exposure 2010s amp (IXOS 6002 bi-wired cables) and Revolver R33's.

    Prior to getting lured to the dark side (home cinema) I was using Audio Research SP9mkII, and EAR 509mkII mono-blocks (the alternative side of tube amplification)! Whilst the 2010 is very good its to far toward the PRaT side of reproduction and cannot provide the inner musical detail I like. Plus when it sounds at its best, its far to loud in my 18x11 foot listening room. I would rather change the amp than the speakers at this stage, although a less efficient set of speakers would go a long way to resolving the problem.

    Oh and the £1k limit is the retail element - I expect to get something ex-dem or S/H with a suitable saving. (spent all the money on the turntable) :smashin:
    Paul
  17. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    Hi there...yes it is easy if you're OK with soldering,but many aren't,and a poorly done job will hurt the resale value badly,hence my warnings about the bad ones around currently.

    I think that compared to older amps like the Quads,Leaks and Radfords,a lot of the newer amps can sound sharper and faster,but some may also lack a little of the depth and warmth that were attributes of some of the vintage amps.
    There is no doubt that some of the older amps had very good output transfomers,and the weight of these is a testament to that,but I do think that a lot of the new amps,like the Consonances,Icon(Ming Da) etc are very good indeed,and for many,an excellent entry point into valve amps,without having to stump up thousands of pounds.....easy to see why the Chinese have cleaned up that end of the market.
  18. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    What an excellent set of components!....I assume you don't have the EARs now....a pity!

    You may find Edenlake's version of the 300B P/P amp that Icon also sell to be worth a look,at £1150 per pair.
    It's made by Mei-Xing,and you will find the looks etc identical to the pricier Icon offering.
    I know its a 300B,but at the price,well worth a look,and well made.

    There are other amps on that site also,from the same manufacturer,incl EL34s(all v.similar but cheaper than Icon's).
  19. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley AVF Reviewer

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    A word of caution on the Audio Note's - they really are gaspingly underpowered (I speak as a former Meishu owner and Oto SE user) to the extent that you will be looking as a necessity at speakers over 90db/w sensitivity. The Prima Luna is a thus far the best valve amp I have heard for under a grand and I wouldn't get too excited about the cost of KT66's as with care you can get 7 odd years out of them. The ECC82 in my Audio Note CD2 managed 6 and a bit years and that spent nearly a year on constantly whilst doing voicing work.
  20. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi Alexis2 - no the EAR's were use as an exchange for the Home Cinema set-up and now grace the owner of the hi-fi shops home tri-amp system (they're for the bass units). Of course when I let them go they were no longer produced, little did I know they'd reappear in anniversary guise retailing for around the £5k mark.

    Tons of fun - the R33's are 89db/watt and the previous 100 watt amps were used to drive 81db/watt speakers and had so much reserve headroom it was frightening. The thing that has always struck me in the past and this applies to both old and new tube gear is the ability to deliver emotion and dynamics at low volume. The only solid-state unit I've know to approach this standard was the Sugden A21's. Of course I can't claim a wealth of knowledge or experience as I rarely change my gear – the Exposure is probably going to be the shortest product that has been in my system as its now only three weeks old from new.

    As for the Prima Luna 2 the price list I got from Absolute/Pistol Music lists a single KT88 @ £140, Matched Pair @ £288 and a Quartet @ £599 :eek: - wonder how many of those they'll sell to £999 amp users?

    Paul
  21. Londondecca

    Londondecca Member

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    It is interesting you mentioning the Sugden's as I was going to recommend them as an option. Would you still consider them?
  22. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    Its true that tube amps,watt for watt,seem to have a lot more reserve than solid state amps of the same wattage,but it usually has a lot to do with the way the approach overload or clipping.
    For sheer grunt,I've heard little to match an old set of KMA Krells or Levinson 20.5s,but they can be a little less than subtle at times,even if they never run out of power or control....tubed amps have a much more graceful quality,and are much better in the midband,especialy SETs,although they have their own set of problems.

    The prices you've been quoted for KT88s are a bit OTT,as you can easily get matched quads of KT88s(the retro shaped ones) from Golden Dragon for £125....the prices you have been given would be nearer the mark for original GEC KT88s.

    Regards....Alex.
  23. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Alex - as the amp has auto bias built in I would have probably plumped for a set of Sovteks at £88! I do remember a conversation with Tim de Paravacini about replacement tubes for the 509's. His response was "PL509's, 519's, 40KG6 any make you like, it won't make a jot of diffence to the sound because I've designed the amp correctly, and any of the internal components are available from the RS catalogue". Mind you, I've noticed some of his more recent products even have his own logo on the tubes so perhaps he is 'marketing' with a bit more panache these days!

    Londondecca - now the SE version of the A21 has been launched I can see some S/H A21a's surfacing, so its a real option - and they run as hot as some tube amps :) so I'll feel right at home.

    Paul
  24. G a f f e r

    G a f f e r Moderator

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    There are three well reviewed amps that are all similar class AB (ultralinear) EL34, 40Wpc valve intergrated's. They are all made in China but modified in the UK:

    icon audio 40i (the non 'triode switchable' base one) £800 - chinese valves
    Prima Luna Analogue 1 £900 - chinese valves, but soft start and auto-biasing
    Affordable Valve Co. Silver Series EL34 £700 - revalved in UK with svetlana valves for the power amp section and GEC valves for the pre amp section

    I've used the latter for 3 years and still going strong....complete re-valve (all 8) = £50 :thumbsup: , which I still haven't needed to do yet :clap:

    All sound comparable, all under £1000, all well reviewed.
  25. theo cupier

    theo cupier Member

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    Has anyone heard of Xindak as a valve amp manufacturer? They're another of the Chinese manufacturers and they make a range of products from SACD, power blocks to integrated amps and pre-amps.

    Someone mentioned the XA3200S pre-amp to me quite favourably (wish I could remember who!) as featured here: http://www.xindak.com/en/products/productinfo.asp?id=12 but I know nothing about valve amps so can't understand what to look for in one. Yes I know you can't tell too much from paper but since these are only available on import, there isn't a chance to try before you buy... Other than this big risk, are there any particular dangersto be aware of if importing something like this from Hong Kong?
  26. Paul Williams

    Paul Williams Member

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    Hi Gaffer74 - yes the Prima Luna's do seem to be top of te pops at the moment, I do have a reasonably close dealer (60 miles away) so may go and listen soon, then hope some S/H or Ex-dem units start to become available. The Icon Audio was first on my list due to the Triode switching option (2 amps for the price of 1?) for the 40i and is now even available in KT66 or 88 form. I also quite like the look of the little EL84 based Stereo 20. As for the Affordable Valve Co - I find their whole advertising ethos very off putting, with the messy adds and so on and can't seem to get past this element of the product.

    Also under consideration is the Jolida range, which the distibutor has offered on a sale or return basis as there are no dealers (anywhere)!!!!

    Paul
  27. 2morex

    2morex Guest

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    I have a jolida 302b which is EL34 based and must say it is very musical, soundstage is tremendous! I have paired it with a pair of Ruark Prologues and it beats any solid state setups that I have owned for 1/2 the clams. I am thinking about ditching the chinese tubes for electro-harmonix, "they" say it will bring further refinement. Total tube replacement here in the States is less than $100. If you guys can get one I'd grab it quickly.
  28. G a f f e r

    G a f f e r Moderator

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    Paul - I COMPLETELY agree (it makes me squirm when I see how bitter he appears on his site) ---- BUT, This amp really sounds excellent, it's one of the few that has been revalved in the uk with imo better valves, and still costs £100 cheaper (I got mine for even less, £600, the price 3 years ago).
    Plus, if you ring him up, the owner of AVC is actually a really nice bloke who takes his time to patiently answer all your questions, is very knowlegable and pleasant....makes a refreshing change from taking to most manufacturers/retailers. It seems like it's a completely different person (might well be someone else who did the website).
    Finally, read the testamonials from previous custumers on his site. It's this that finally swung it for me when my only other choice was icon audio - they had NO worthwhile info on their site, no magazine reviews at the time and their only selling point was "point to point wiring" which the avc also has. I would rather trust other customers opinions than the retailers so the testomonials mattered to me.

    Plus, you don't stop buying a eg Sony product because the Dixons stafff you spoke to was a monkey :D

    Overall, I think the sound out of these three is comparable, so I suspect they all sound very very similar (it might boil down to aesthetics in the end).
  29. fama

    fama Member

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    I have the CAYIN MT12 valve amp
    which looks and sounds gorgeous and costs
    pocket money in hifi terms
    I bought off AUDIOGON
    I believe chinese-hifi.co.uk
    may sell these.
  30. alexs2

    alexs2 Senior Moderator

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    I tend to concur with that....the entire advertising thrust is very much one of "ours is better than anyone else's",and I feel that a product speaks best for itself via reviews and word of mouth.

    There is some correspondence on Zerogain which also runs along those lines,but not from me!

    I don't think there is anything wrong with the product as such,just that the advertising is offputting.

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