Would you add a valve amp to an AVR?

Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Is it even possible?

At some point I'm going to look at adding a stereo slave amp to my AVR to improve music performance, but just throwing ideas around, would you add a valve amp. I'm just thinking back to my childhood days and how good those little one box record players could sound, and those big old radiogram things that where more of a piece of furniture than hifi. For what they were those old things sounded fantastic and I'm wandering if anything like that could be reproduced in a system like mine.

We need to bear in mind that its a HT system too, so not sure if it would really work for movies, but its an interesting thought, for me anyway.

Anyone have any thoughts of their own, or even tried it :clap:


Distinguished Member
It's certainly something you can try,but be very sure before you buy.

The combination of a receiver and a valve amp is not exactly a match made in heaven,and will result in the marriage of 2 very different types of sound,and amplifier.

I've had a number of tubed and solid state amps and preamps,but this is not a combination I would easily recommend.


Active Member

I've just posted on the Onkyo PR-SC886 thread that HiFi World mag (July issue) has just reviewed the Onkyo pre-processor (admittedly not an AVR) in conjunction with a pair of Quad II-eighty valve amps for HiDef 2 channel audio playback from bluray and SACD.

As alexs2 says, you can try it but you're likely to be combining two very different beasts with different characteristics so you may not be getting the best out of your valve amps if your AVR isn't a high end model.


IWC Dopplel

Distinguished Member
I have considered dusting off an old Quad II and seeing how it drives the centre......

I love the sound of good valve amps, they can sound soft and warm in the same way solid state amps can sound hard and harsh.

The problem with valve amps will be drive and watts. They get expensive the more power you need and usually worse in sonic performance too...

Now a full range 4.1 horn system with an underground concrete bass horn would be very interesting :devil:

Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Hmm, sound like it might be like putting salt and pepper on your rice pudding. Its no good if it works of 2 channel music but then totally destroys movie playback. Might be a bit difficult to pull this one off eh.

Sounds Good

Active Member

I used to have a Unison Research Unico DM Hybrid valve amp connected to an Arcam AVP700, I used this in conjuction with the P1000. (Unico for Front L+R and P1000 for the rest in a 7.1 system)

The sound in stereo was excellent, a lovely sounding amp, however when watching movies the sound was far too different, it just didn't sound right! I considered adding their Teatro 8 channel hybrid but I'd have 1 channel not in use, don't know why they did this model.

I used this setup for around 5 months and I ended up selling everything and lost a few quid.

I now use a Parasound Halo A52 and Parasound Halo P7, great for stereo and HT.

I wouldn't recommend using a valve amp in an HT setup in conjunction with a solid state amp.

I hope this helps.

Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Hi jlam, thats probably exactly what I needed to hear.I suppose I kind knew I could get good music that way, but was unsure about the HT implications.

I think youve summed it up nicely,


Member 639844

Former Advertiser
Just had another stupid thought. Is there any kind of way you could add a valve amp to a system and use it for 2 channel music, but use only the AVR for movies. I assume this would mean connecting your front speakers to both amps and somehow disconnecting one or the other as required. Is there any know conventional method of doing this, changing wire for the source isnt really practical.

motile rod 2

Active Member
Hehe, check sig!!

Yes, it can work very well for music, I love the sound of my set up but there are a few things to bear in mind. You're going to need to get a powerful unit no less than 30wpc, most likely a push-pull class AB with powerful output valves such as KT88's. If you're going to use it for films then it can still work very well but the crossover of your sub needs to be as high as your sub can do - with a low power output and the monstrous LFE's of HD soundtracks you could quite literally kill a valve amp. For example I don't use a sub but bi amp with a 300watt into 4ohm solid state amp for the low frequencies, and my 50watt ARC amp takes over for the high frequencies. It really does sound very good with films and absolutely wonderful for music. But it is a £3000 amp so you really should be looking at the better more powerful class AB valve amps to do what you're suggesting properly.

Which amps should you be looking at? Forget about integrated amps, you don't want to faff about with volume controls all the time so look at power amps. AFAIK, there aren't any integrated valve amps with a HT pass through, though there valve pre amps with this very useful function, namely Audio Research SP16 or SP17 and Audio Analogue's bellini preamp. For power amps:

Icon audio MB90 monoblocks - 100wpc - £1,799 new. I've not heard these but they look very nice on paper and the more expensive triode models are very well reviewed. They may have cheaper less powerful models though, have a look at there website for more.

Anything by audio research. Their least powerful valve amps are 50wpc and go up to 600wpc. Anything from them will be suitable, it's just a matter of price. I bought my vs55 for £1,250 2nd hand from a hifi dealer, though you get more for your money from ebay. I think there's a vt60 going for less than a grand at the moment.

World designs do a 35wpc kt88 push pull amp for £899 if you build it yourself or £1199 for a built and tested unit. Not tried it but it's a potential and relatively cheap.

As mentioned above, I'm sure quad eighty's will also work very well but I'm not sure how much they cost, though I'd imagine it's at least £2,000/pr.

With regard to switching between to amps, as long as you're using banana plugs, it's pretty simple and hassle free. I do it almost everyday, though not because the valve-solid state combo doesn't always work (it always sounds better), it's only to preserve valve life as I don't want to waste it watching tv!

Don't worry about about being unconventional, if done sensibly it can work very well!
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Active Member
Im going through something similar, i own the mb90 monoblocks with matching la3 pre amp which i use as a second system for music only with a chord dac64 & sonos, for movies im using an integraded (pioneer lx70), i was going to sell of the dac64 & la3 preamp along with my integraded, then buy a 5 channel power amp, an mc12 or a similar processor, use its dacs and connect the mono blocks. Been toying with this for months cant decide...

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