You are here

Log in or register to post comments
walls
walls's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 3 2007 - 5:55am
Tube amp ?

I have been thinking about a "budget" 2 channel rig and would like to use a tube amp. I was wondering just how much power the amp has to have to drive a nice little set of bookshelf speakers? I have come across a couple small amps but they have 5 watts or less per channel.
Thoughts??
Recommendations??

Thanks all!!

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Tube amp ?

5 watts is a little light for all but background listening even if your bookshelf speakers are Triangles.

Check out the 40 watt/ch Jolida JD 202 all tube or the 50 watt/ch hybrid JD 1701. Jolida

If you like what you see call Walt Liederman at Underwood HiFi for current pricing.

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hi Walls,
It depends on what your needs are, but if you're looking to just get your feet wet, I think the best deal out there at the moment, would be a YAQIN MC-10L Push-Pull Stereo Integrated Tube Amplifier. This will give you about 40 wpc. It uses the EL34B for power tubes, it's dependable and will cost less than $400. So if you decide tubes aren't for you, you won't loose much out of pocket when you sell it. You can spend a lot more for a starter tube amp, but may end up with just a little more of an amp. You may even feel this is all you'll ever need for a budget system. Just a thought.
Bob

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Tube amp ?

These units are all 220v. DHL freight is rediculous. I have asked about 120 v USA units. We'll see what their response is.

They are also doing 220V Jolida units with high DHL freight costs. This makes me wonder if they are coming in directly from China and not local NYC inventory.

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?

If you have a small room, 15 watts can sound plenty loud. However, your amp choice and speaker choice should be made together. I would suggest speakers that stay above 5 ohms and are at least 87db sensitive since you are starting from scratch.

I agree with Jim's suggestion regarding Jolida. I have two of their amps and have had one of them modified by the guys at Jolida. Excellent service and very reasonably priced. Both are very nicely voiced.

walls
walls's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 3 2007 - 5:55am
Re: Tube amp ?

Thanks for the replies! Im not sure what I plan on getting speaker wise yet. I think I want to audition the bookshelves that APERION has to offer but am open to suggestions! Right now I have a full home theater set-up with PSB speakers so I may even try a pair of the Image 1B's.
I recently aquired a Little Dot headphone tube amp and like what I hear so I thought maybe it was time for a tube 2-channel rig. I used the Little Dot as a pre-amp into my home theater rig and LOVE what I was hearing but am afraid of damaging the Little Dot.
The amp has inputs and outputs so I plugged my CD player into the input and then plugged the outputs into my recievers cd input. I left the volume on the Little Dot at about half way and played some CD's. The sound was much "warmer" than what my Sony 4ES normally does with CD's....I liked it a lot! I have a couple of questions about this if you all can help..

1. I know the amp is normally for headphone use but it also states that it can be used as a pre-amp. Is there a risk of damaging the amp like this?

2. Should I leave my Sennheisers plugged into the headphone jack so there is a load on the amp?

3. Did I hook it up properly?

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Tube amp ?

Answers:

1-No
2-? If it is transformer coupled I do not think there is a need to keep your cans plugged in.
3-Yes

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:
These units are all 220v. DHL freight is rediculous. I have asked about 120 v USA units. We'll see what their response is.

They are also doing 220V Jolida units with high DHL freight costs. This makes me wonder if they are coming in directly from China and not local NYC inventory.

Hello Jim,

I think you might have your facts mixed up. All these units are NOT 220v and they are NOT shipped DHL at ridiculous costs. You are confusing these with the ones sold in Hong Kong.
The model I pointed

walls
walls's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 3 2007 - 5:55am
Re: Tube amp ?

OK well the Jolida's are a little over my budget so I am thinking about ordering the YAQIN MC-10L off E-Bay. If I stay under $500 for the amp that leaves me around $500 for speakers. So that leads me to the next question.....

What speakers mate well with the YAQIN MC-10L in the $500 range?

Would it be better for me to ask in the speaker section??

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hello Walls,
There is a wide range of speakers that will perform very well with that amp for under $500. It just depends on what your needs are. Try to find a speaker that doesn't drop to low in the impedance in the lower frequencies. I've used a host of different speakers with this type of amp with good results. One of my favorite speakers with this type of amp is the Acoustic Energy EVO 1, so long as I use it in the nearfield only. Do research and ask many questions, you'll find a lot of good suggestions from many people here. I think the best advice is always from someone who has used the product in question, so long as they have similar tastes as yourself.
Later,
Bob

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:

I feel this amp, along with Cayin, Ming-Da, Primaluna, Meixing etc. are in one boat (companies owned by Spark), while ASL, Jolida etc. are also-rans. The dealers I knew that carried Jolida, all dropped them because of quality issues.

Bob,

This is most interesting to read...you are certainly well read on the subject.
I live in Baltimore, MD...just a 30 minute drive from the Jolita headquarters. Neither of the 2 audiophile shops, here in Baltimore, carry Jolida. ??? Jolida does have more to chose from at prices in and below my price range but if there is a question as to quality...
These dealers do carry several other brands but Cayin is the only manufacturer that has a model I can afford (the A-50T) that along with the CD-50T makes a nice set-up...from what I've read. One of the dealers is recommending the Magnapan MG 12 speakers as a match. Do you have any other suggestions as to other speaker?
Thanks.

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?

I spent some time over the Winter playing around with some tube gear. The Cayin A-50T was one of the amps I had for a few months. The Cayin was clearly a cut above similarly priced tube amps in terms of build quality.

When I first hooked it up and biased the output tubes I was not impressed at all with the sound. It had a lot going for it, but was simply too bright and fatiguing. My first thoughts were that surely THIS isn't what all the hubbub is about? After about 25 hours of running time it still pretty much sucked. Big sound, huge stage and blistering hot with any source.

I'll edit my 3 months with the Cayin with what ultimately proved the most beneficial. The stock output tubes hold this otherwise nice sounding amp back. I swapped several small signal tubes with very little change in the sound. However, swapping the output tubes with some far less strident ones made a very nice sounding amp out of the Cayin.

I still prefer the voicing of the Jolida amps over the Cayin. But, I can see how others would prefer the Cayin...depending on what their sonic priorities are. And, it certainly looked the business.

As for Jolida, I've had a few minor annoyances with quality issues. The important stuff seems to be quite well made, but some of the little stuff is just silly in its lack of quality. Things like loose coupling screws and binding post nuts. I've had to remove the bottom plate on both of my Jolida amps and tighten stuff that should never have been loose in the first place. Like I said, minor stuff that wasn't a big deal to me, but probably would be to someone whose eyes get wide at the thought of opening up a piece of gear.

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hello Mike,
I'm no expert on tube amps, I just know what I know and I'll never tell you anything more than that. I should have been clearer about the Jolida products. Monty gives a fair assement, it's all the "nickel & dime" stuff that could have had more attention when it was assemabled. All the little stuff Monty mentioned bugs me when I'm paying money for something, but to some it might not matter. The one big difference, and very important to me, is how much noise comes out of the amp (hiss & hum etc.). I owned a pair of Klipschorns for 17 years, every tube amp, I ever tried over the years was too noisey for me, and I was 20' away from the speakers. The only tube amps that were dead quite, even with my ear up to the horn, were the Spark Amps. I see a lot of people use Maggies with tube amps and like it. You'd have to try it for yourself. I always used a good solid state amp that was stable into low impedances, for my maggies. It's a fact Mike that most combinations of a tube amp and speaker are going to give you a certain listening curve. You just have to find the sound that pleases you the most. Some of my speakers sound awful with a tube amp, and yet outstanding with solid state. JA will try a lot of times in his reviews to let you know what speaker might, and might work well with a certain type of amp. I never heard the Cayin amp you refered to, but it seems very popular. I have a Cayin TA-30, I bought it from Paul at Bizzy Bee brand new for $550 delivered to the door. I put a link here for the review, please check it out.
http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/cayin_ta_30.htm
You'll notice from the picture that this is now being sold as the Primaluna 1 with the "adaptive-auto-bias". This is one of my many all time best buys. Your budget is much higher than mine, I won't pay over $1K for an amp. I'm sure you'll find just the right combination of amp & speaker. For instance,I had a pair of NHT Classic Three's that sounded great with the EL34B tube, and "Ho-Hum" with the KT88. Yet with my Quad 21L's it's just the opposite. They're both good amp, and both good speakers...go figure...that's the hobby.
I hope I didn't bore you, or come off like a know-it-all.
Later,
Bob

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hello Monty,
I agree with you. Most of it is the little details on the products that could have gotten more attention. I felt like some of this stuff was made on a Friday right before Happy Hour started. But I never owned a Jolida or Antique Sound Lab, that wasn't full of noise over the Klipschorns.
I don't know you from this board until now, so I don't know what speakers you use. Please tell me the combination you used when you had the Cayin in your system? Do you listen in the near, mid or farfield? What source material do/did you use?
What EL34 tube were you using?
Thanks,
Bob

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?

I have my stuff situated in a small office that places me in the nearfield and use only standmount speakers. I used PSB 400i and Dynaudio 52SE speakers with the Cayin. These speakers are more similar than they are different and relatively easy to drive with any decent amp that works with 4 ohm speakers, though the PSBs are slightly more sensitive and average around 6 ohm compared to the linear 4 ohm of the Dynaudios, 88db vs 86db respectively. Even in the nearfield, idle noise from any of the amplifiers isn't an issue. Given the sensitivity of horn speakers, I can see where that might be a major concern in your situation. Never-the-less, with my ear near the baffles, neither the Jolidas or the Cayin produced substantial power supply noise. Both my Muse and Rotel amps have higher idle noise than any of my tube amps. Go figure.

My primary sources are a Marantz 67SE player, Rotel tuner and NAD turntable and I use any number of cable combinations from Kimber, Tara Labs, Audioquest or Nordost.

Music wise, my tastes are about as wide open as can be imagined. I listened to exceptionally well recorded music to very average and just about every genre. I'm talking heavily synthesized to chamber and orchestral...everything.

I have quite a number of tubes that I'm familiar with and already knew to go for the Ei 6CA7 fat bottles to address the outputs after changing the small signal tubes proved mostly useless in addressing the stridency of the Cayin. The Cayin tubes are labeled as Cayin, though I'm almost certain they are Chinese even though the stock preamp and driver tubes are Russian.

Interestingly, I wasn't able to sub a 5751 tube for the 12AX7 in the Cayin. Apparently, the Cayin doesn't have a lot of gain to begin with and the 5751 wasn't a very good match in this amp. Considering the Primaluna runs around 12db of gain and the Cayin is built in the same plant, I reckoned it probably has about the same and needed the higher mu 12AX7.

Anyway, the Cayin responded to the better output tubes rather well and the stridency issue was relieved to the point of being a non issue. In the end, I settled in with a pair of late 40's, Tung-Sol black glass, 12AU7s and Tung-Sol reissue ECC803S with the Ei output tubes mentioned earlier and Tara Labs Decade cables.

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:
However, swapping the output tubes with some far less strident ones made a very nice sounding amp out of the Cayin.

What type of output tubes did you install?


Quote:
I still prefer the voicing of the Jolida amps over the Cayin. But, I can see how others would prefer the Cayin...depending on what their sonic priorities are. And, it certainly looked the business.

From everything I've read, so far, it seems as though valve amps vary more in their sound characteristics than do SS amps. I'd have to give a listen to any of these amps before buying.


Quote:
As for Jolida, I've had a few minor annoyances with quality issues. The important stuff seems to be quite well made, but some of the little stuff is just silly in its lack of quality. Things like loose coupling screws and binding post nuts. I've had to remove the bottom plate on both of my Jolida amps and tighten stuff that should never have been loose in the first place. Like I said, minor stuff that wasn't a big deal to me, but probably would be to someone whose eyes get wide at the thought of opening up a piece of gear.

I can tighten a screw and swap a tube...it's the overall sound quality that I'm concerned about.

Thanks, Monty, for your input.

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:

The one big difference, and very important to me, is how much noise comes out of the amp (hiss & hum etc.)

This is, also, one of my concerns. The only tube gear I own are some 1940's and early '50's radios...I certainly don't want that kind of sound coming from a modern day set-up.


Quote:
It's a fact Mike that most combinations of a tube amp and speaker are going to give you a certain listening curve. You just have to find the sound that pleases you the most.

So, it's a matter of plug-and-play to find the combination. To be expected.


Quote:
I have a Cayin TA-30, I bought it from Paul at Bizzy Bee brand new for $550 delivered to the door. I put a link here for the review, please check it out.
http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/cayin_ta_30.htm
Your budget is much higher than mine, I won't pay over $1K for an amp.

The TA-30 looks nice..and is affordable, too. The $1,300 for the A-50T was stretching my budget so if I can get something under $1k that would be great. (This was one of the attractions of Jolida - several models that are $1k and under.


Quote:
They're both good amp, and both good speakers...go figure...that's the hobby.
I hope I didn't bore you, or come off like a know-it-all.
Later,
Bob

No, Bob, you weren't boring at all. And you're insight is most appreciated. "...that's the hobby" is most certainly correct. Kind of like test driving cars.

Thanks, again, for the insight.

Mike

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:
What type of output tubes did you install?

The Ei 6CA7 fat bottles.

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hello Monty,
It seems we have some things in common. I also listen in the nearfield (9'x12' room with the speakers on the long wall sitting 6' away from them.) I listen to a very wide range of music, but I prefer more of a full range speaker. Small floorstanders and monitors seem to spend a equal amount of time in my room.
Your post was very interesting and informative you have much more experience rolling tubes than I do. I was so surprised to hear you say you prefered one amp over the other with the Dynaudio 52SE. I wouldn't have thought for a second that either amp would have sounded good. I myself don't feel that either of those amps have very good output transformers into 4 ohm loads, at least in my experience.
You are correct, the Cayin tubes are Chinese, they are made by Shuguang, I really like this tube a lot, but everyone has different preferences. The Ei tubes always give me problems with microphionics, but many people love these tubes. I've read so many good things about those Dynaudio 52SE speakers, I hope I get a chance to hear them someday.
You're also right when you speak of the low gain of the amps, it seems a lot of todays integrated tube amps, are nothing but a power amp with a volume control.
Later,
Bob

Music
Music's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 19 2007 - 10:39am
Re: Tube amp ?

Hello Mike,
Good luck in your hunt for a tube amp, and I hope you you have as fun playing with it as I do.
I think the best part of having a tube amp is to be able to change it's sound, for better or worse, by swapping out tubes. If you look at most tube amps there are a hand full of parts that make up the whole amp. Take a look at a SS design, and I'm completly lost. In a tube amp you seem to know what ever part is doing, or so it seems. On a SS design about the only thing you can swap out is the power cord, if you think that makes a difference in sound. With most tube amps you can play to your heart's content with the sound.
I hope you've noticed that I've never said one tube amp sounded better than another, I just say most sound different from one another. You might prefer what I don't.
The last thing I'll tell you is this: Any tube amp is ONLY as good as it's output transformers. It doesn't matter how good the stuff in front is if the trainnes are no good.
Later,
Bob

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?

I think the Dynaudios do surprisingly well because their impedance is remarkably linear. In general, tube amps can have a problem with 4 ohm speakers because of the variance in the speaker's impedance plot related to the frequency sweep and the amps usually high output impedance. I'm not sure what the Cayin's output impedance was, but the bass was one of it's strong points and the treble wasn't truncated to any apprecialbe degree...for a tube amp.

I'm not all that familiar with Ei tubes in general and have no particular love or hate for them. The 6CA7 seems to fall between the Mullards and the Heerlen tubes as far as warmth goes. The only tubes I am nutty about are Valvos. I do like those German tubes. In fact, I can happily live with those cheap Russian milspec tubes that sell for 10% of most NOS stuff. Most that I've tried are very nice sounding tubes. And, you get the bonus of the "blue glow" in a lot of them.

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:

I still prefer the voicing of the Jolida amps over the Cayin. But, I can see how others would prefer the Cayin...

As for Jolida, I've had a few minor annoyances with quality issues. The important stuff seems to be quite well made...

Well, I located a Jolida dealer about 45 minutes from home so I stopped there yesterday and had a listen to the JD 202, that Jim mentioned, the JD 302B and the JD 502B. All sounded good and each model had it's own "characteristics" but I had a preference for the 502...only because it had more bass extension. The dealer made mention that if the output tubes, in the 302, are replaced with the same outputs found in the 502 the sound characteristic will be "extremely close". But at the price of the outputs you might as well buy the 502. Also, he pointed out that the output tubes(KT88) that come in the 502 are very sensitive and have a reliability issue and swapping them out for 6550's (?) will make the amp more reliable.

This weekend I'm going to hear the Cayin A-50T, at a different dealer. Unfortunately these dealers don't carry the same brand speakers so I'll be comparing apples to oranges. Guess it will be a matter of which one tastes better.

I also checked out the Yaqin amps, that you mentioned Bob. They are impressive looking with some unique features and the wattage output per $ make them a great buy. I'll deffinately keep them in mind.

The one question I have is: Why don't any of these tube amps have a phono input? After all, valves and vinyl were, at one time, the only way to listen to music. Go figure.

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Tube amp ?

I feel for you, Mike. It's hard to properly evaluate stuff with different speakers, rooms and acoustics. However, you can put together something nice with whatever you choose. I do think speakers and amps have to be decided on a complimentary basis when you are dealing with valve amps and unless you opt for some partaticularly demanding speakers, you'll get the goods with either.

Both respond well to tube rolling and can pretty much be flavored to your liking if you avoid hard to drive speakers.

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?


Quote:
I feel for you, Mike. It's hard to properly evaluate stuff with different speakers, rooms and acoustics. However, you can put together something nice with whatever you choose. I do think speakers and amps have to be decided on a complimentary basis when you are dealing with valve amps and unless you opt for some partaticularly demanding speakers, you'll get the goods with either.

Both respond well to tube rolling and can pretty much be flavored to your liking if you avoid hard to drive speakers.

Well, over the weekend I went and listened to the Cayin A-50T & CD-50T via a variety of speakers. Yes there was a difference in sound, compared to the Jolida's - not better, just different. The dealer that carries the Cayin had a much wider selection of speakers, that I could afford, than did the Jolita dealer.
The Jolida 202 amp and JD 100 cdp would leave me a good bit more $$$ to chose nicer speakers so I may end up buying the electronics and speakers from separate dealers. The down side to this, as you surely have figured out, is the inability of hearing the whoe system before buying.
Decisions, decisions.

tony3d
tony3d's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 16 2006 - 7:39pm
Re: Tube amp ?

Have you checked out this site http://www.wooaudio.com/products/wa5.html. Their excellent amps are built in the U.S. and sound superb! I bought their WA6 headphone amp to power my AKG K701's, and the sound is pure audio bliss. Top notch craftmanship and excellent support from Jack. Look at their WA5 300B amp. For $2950 it's a steal. The Woo is a class act!

59mga
59mga's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: Jun 21 2006 - 6:52am
Re: Tube amp ?

These certainly are some impressive looking devices. But...$3,000 is out of my price range. The Woo Audio 4 looked nice and was affordable. However, is 3.5 watts enough power to drive a set of speakers? And the power cord isn't included!
How am I supposed to check it out?

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading