Tube Power Amp Reviews

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J. Gordon Holt  |  Oct 14, 2021  |  First Published: May 01, 1984  |  3 comments
Although one of the most innovative firms in the audio electronics field, the David Berning Company seems determined to keep as low a profile as possible. The company advertises little, does not actively seek out new dealers, and seems content to let potential customers seek it out, as though to say "Okay, here's my product, take it or leave it." Thus, even though both Stereophile and The Absolute Sound, in a rare outbreak of agreement, a couple of years ago declared Berning's TF-10 to be one of the best preamplifiers available, most serious audiophiles are still unaware of the Berning Company's existence. Perhaps the EA-2100 will change that.
Robert J. Reina  |  Oct 13, 2021  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1997  |  4 comments
The only thing that excites me as much as finding an excitable new affordable component (which I define as below $1000, and the lower the better) is a new "trickle-down" design from a cutting-edge designer. Thankfully, such new "real-world" products are becoming more commonplace in the High End. The process begins when a talented high-end designer releases an expensive, cutting-edge product that is hailed by the audiophile press as a breakthrough, a new "reference."
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 29, 2021  |  2 comments
From my writing chair, I can see about a dozen moderately priced tube and solid state audio amplifiers.

The five stacked next to my desk are First Watt or Pass Labs models designed by Nelson Pass. Across the room is a hybrid tube/class-D Rogue Sphinx V3 integrated. That black Sphinx is standing on its side behind one of the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. Next to the Orangutan is a Schiit Aegir. The most conspicuous amp in the room is my BFF, the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA (footnote 1), which breaks the night's darkness with its tall, bright-emitter 845 triodes. Next to that is Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben KT88/6L6 single-ended speaker and headphone amp.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 16, 2021  |  6 comments
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help your filaments?" asked the audiophile judge of the tube.

"Since I am the truth," respondeth the tube, "I have nothing to say that is not already declared by my sound."

"But I must have the truth, and without bias!" proclaimeth the audiophile.

"What good is a tube without bias?" answereth the tube.

Herb Reichert  |  Apr 07, 2021  |  22 comments
At the end of Gramophone Dreams #46, I was lost in the pristine beauty of Decware's 25th Anniversary Zen Triode amplifier driving the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers. That was an extremely enjoyable system, and I was hoping to keep it intact for another month. My plan was simply to morph into my long-postponed opus on tube rolling using the Zen Triode as well as Ampsandsound's Bigger Ben headphone and loudspeaker amp. Both are single-ended triode, no-feedback designs and therefore perfectly suited for tube-swapping comparisons.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 25, 2021  |  73 comments
I am not a fan of that amp designer who promoted his products by pointing a condescending finger while scolding audiophiles, like errant children, for preferring their records to sound "pleasant" rather than "accurate."

He reminds me of my least favorite teacher, Professor Grausamkeit, who was just like that and said similar things. Every time I smarted back, "Accurate to what?" he'd whack me with a wooden yardstick.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 18, 2020  |  61 comments
VAC's Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc amplifier ($75,000 for a single amp; $150,000/pair mono, as reviewed) is tall, young, and lovely, but unlike the girl from Ipanema, it isn't tan. Nor, at 280lb in its flight case, is it likely to "go walkin'." Getting the pair moved into my listening room required considerable effort—fortunately not mine.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 28, 2020  |  87 comments
Only recently did I learn that successive generations of the Chevrolet Corvette are referred to by the cognoscenti with two-character alpha-numeric identifiers: C1, C2, C3, and so on. I learned this while reading about the most recent version—C8, known to non-cognoscenti as the 2020 Corvette—which happens to be the first version since C2 that impresses me. (I say that as one who used to work for the owner of a C3, a then-middle-aged male who actually boasted, while under the influence, that he and two of his C3-owning friends drove them solely because their juvenile styling attracted juveniles. Rest assured I left his employ within days of that revelation.)
Jim Austin  |  Jan 21, 2020  |  34 comments
This, our February issue, is the first Stereophile issue to arrive during the year 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Audio Research—in my view one of the key events in the history of high-end audio. So it makes sense for this issue to include an Audio Research review—in this case, of the $20,000 Reference 160 S stereo amplifier.
Robert Harley  |  Jan 10, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1994  |  6 comments
At the 1992 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Audio Research showed a line of reference products that represented the pinnacle of founder William Z. Johnson's life work as an amplifier designer. Although the all-tubed, fully balanced preamplifier and tubed monoblock power amplifiers were shown as works-in-progress, it was clear that these were products aimed at advancing the state of the amplifier art with no consideration for cost.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 05, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1976  |  13 comments
We mentioned in the last issue that we were becoming increasingly disturbed by "a certain manic quality that is creeping into this pursuit of sonic perfection." We were referring then to a manufacturer's announcement of the imminent availability of a speaker system weighing over 1000 lb per channel, but we could just as well have been speaking of this behemoth from Audio Research.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 08, 2019  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1967  |  13 comments
It is not at all unusual these days to find manufacturers producing "matched" speakers and amplifiers that are designed specifically for one another. But it is very unusual to find this being done by an amplifier manufacturer who doesn't make loudspeakers. The Futterman H3-A is one of these rarities—an amplifier designed primarily to complement one of the best, and one of the hardest-to-drive loudspeakers on the market: the KLH Model Nine.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 25, 2019  |  4 comments
Products come and go. Some impress more than others, and in our little world, the ones that impress the most wind up in Class A of our semiannual "Recommended Components" feature.

After a product makes it to that list, if Stereophile's reviewers go more than a few years without hearing it again—in a home system or a dealer's showroom or even at an audio show—that product falls off the list, usually quietly. Thus, if a reviewer is maximally knocked out by a piece of playback gear, yet the fates allow neither a purchase nor an extended loan, he or she or someone else on staff must endeavor to borrow it again so it can stay recommended.

Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  100 comments
I had never been alone with a Russian-manufactured 6C33C tube. At least not at night, in the dark. The first night Balanced Audio Technology's VK-56SE tubed amplifier was in my system, I sat on the floor studying the unusual shape and dark orange glow of its four 6C33C-B output tubes. I noticed their brightly lit, cathedral-like innards. My Russian neighbor told me they were used as regulator tubes in MiG jets during the Cold War. I could believe it—their exposed cathodes were the exact color of the Soviet flag. From more than a foot away, I could feel the heat from their high-amperage filaments.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 04, 2019  |  18 comments
I will never forget.

In 1988 I had my first experience with Western Electric 300B tubes. It took place on a quiet, streetlights-and-snow night at my friend Ryoichi's apartment on Riverside Drive, in Manhattan.

I had never heard of the late Japanese amplifier designer Ken Shindo, of Shindo Laboratory. But that evening, Ryo's audio system was all Shindo: a hammertone gray Shindo-restored, grease-bearing Garrard 301 turntable sitting on a Shindo plinth of glossy wood, with a Shindo-modified Ortofon tonearm and SPU cartridge, a Shindo moving-coil step-up transformer, and a Shindo preamplifier with a moving-magnet phono stage.

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