Quicksilver MS190 power amplifier Amplifier Comparisons

Sidebar 1: Amplifier Comparisons

Comparing the Quicksilver MS190 with the Berning 2100 that I also review in this issue was rather difficult because they sound so different. If you like "tube sound," you are more likely to be happy with the Quicksilver, because it embodies more of what are generally conceded to be the positive (and, by tube detractors, negative) attributes of good tubed components. If you like solid-state bass and tube midrange, the Berning approaches this rare amalgam more closely than any other amplifier we have tested. For the best "tube highs," choose between the Paoli S.O.B. and the Conrad-Johnson Premier One, although the Quicksilver comes remarkably close to the Premier One at the high end, and at a much lower price.

Of these two, the Berning is tighter and more controlled at the low end and is, overall, probably the more neutral-sounding of the two. The Quicksilver is warmer through the midbass and sweeter-sounding at the high end, and thus fares better with electrostatics. The Berning, despite its somewhat softer-than-solid-state high end, really does much better than the Quicksilver with most dynamic speaker systems. In fact, with many dynamics, certain aspects of the Berning's sound (its aliveness and depth) were preferred to the sound of our current favorite solid-state amp, the Electron Kinetics Eagle 7A.

This description should not serve to minimize the uniqueness of each product. With, electrostatics, or with a dynamic speaker which "likes" its midbass warmth and soft high end, the Quicksilver's remarkable depth presentation and other™ wise lush sound could make a wonderful music system. Likewise with the Berning: its combination of tight low end and remarkable aliveness will work perfectly in some systems. Both of these are superb-sounding amplifiers, but both have definite "earmarks" which are going to make loudspeaker choice exceedingly important if one is to achieve the best sound either is capable of. If you're going at things the other way around—starting with the speakers, and seeking the ideal amplifier for them—these two should certainly be on your list of possibly state-of-the-art amplifiers to try with those speakers.—J. Gordon Holt

Quicksilver Audio
7475 Murray Drive, Suite 17
Stockton, CA 95210
(209) 957-6640

tonykaz's picture

I hadn't realised how few were made, now I realize that not many more than 85, hmm.

It's ultra rare, I wonder what closets are hiding them and how many survive.

It'd be nice to have Mr.JA do his standard testing on one of these.

Back in it's day it was the darling of the reviewing press and one of my local Acoustat Dealers that had an exclusive on the brand : Audio Threshold & Tom Houghton .

Mr.Holt reports this amp should do well with the Thiel CS3 ! I don't think so , I was a dealer for Thiel and can report that no Tube Amp could handle the impressively low impedance and Currant demands of the Big Thiels.

Tony in sunny Florida

Ortofan's picture

... instead you could choose a Class A rated amp from either Conrad-Johnson or Audio Research?

tonykaz's picture

I hardly ever agree on Reviewer Rating Classes

I've been a Full-Line Conrad-Johnson Dealer and have owned numerous Audio Research Amplifiers & Pre's.

Quicksilver was exciting to me because of it's Peer reputation !, but I was never tempted enough to pay Full Retail for any of their products.

I was also Tim de Paravicini's EAR importer for a short time in the 1980s.


Tube gear has lost most of it's excitement for me ( except for a few Schiit, Bottlehead, Audible Illusion and Woo pieces.) Even then, only if I can source a generous supply of outstanding Russian Tubes.

Still, I'm confident that a person can perk-up any Tube piece ( the older the better ) with carefully selected capacitors, silver re-wiring and superb Russian Glass.

I'd purchase an old Quicksilver for Re-Sale in Japan, not for personal use.

Tony in Florida ( my birth name is Anton but I'm not the Anton that is ranting about me lately )

Jack L's picture


YES, rather than "great minds think alike", I would put it as "great ears hear alike" !

I am addicted to triode sound since day sooo many years back. So much more detail, more transient fast & more soothingly delicate vs tetrode/pentode which sound too 'tuby' to me.

Why? As I said in many Stereophile forums before, triode is the only active device with true linear signal transfer curves. No kinks or 'knees' along the transfer curves to limit the music swing like tetrodes/pentrodes,& all bipolar junction devices, ie. transistors, FETs & op-amps. So triode sounds better. This is physics.

That's why ALL my power amps are built/upgraded with triode-ended power stage.

I was crazy enough to have the output power tubes of my 2 antique AM radios converted to triode by strapping their screen grids to their plates. So detailled clean sound instead of typical old radio muddy tube sound. They provide me background music while I am working on my DIY audios behind my workbench.

Listening is believing

Jack L

JRT's picture

This two channel stereo amplifier uses a quad of EL34 in the push pull output stage on each channel (eight EL34 in total). With the amplifier rated at 95W per channel, those EL34 ouput tubes are certainly not strapped for triode operation. The modular replaceable board that was discussed in the article was a driver stage, and was not the output stage. JGH stated a preference for the triode variant of that modular replaceable driver stage. Your comment was focused on your own personal preference for triode output stages and made no mention on the driver stage, which seems incongruous to the subject line of your comment about JGH's preference in driver boards, "the sound with the triode boards (which I preferred)". Again, the triode boards were driver stage, not output stage, and my point here is only to bring that to your attention, and not to criticize your personal preferences.

JRT's picture

Mesa Engineering (maybe better known for Mesa Boogie guitar amplifiers) used to offer a Baron power amplifier and Tigris integrated amplifier, which had reconfigurable output stages (triode, pentode, etc.).

Here are links to Stereophile's reviews:

Mesa Tigris:

Mesa Baron:

Jack L's picture


Thanks for pointing it out.

But the principle is the same, driver stage or power stage irrespective. Triode, being truly linear, always sounds better than tetrode or pentode.

Of course, sound improvement of triode output stage over pentode stage, e.g EL34, is even much more obvious than driver stages.

FYI, All my design/built phonostages & linestages are always ALL triodes. Never ever pentodes which got too much gain & are more noisy than triodes, period. JGH got golden ears indeed.

Listening is believing

Jack L