Tube Power Amp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Feb 01, 1999  |  0 comments
Conrad-Johnson is one of audio's "marquee" companies, and charges accordingly. The Premier Twelve tube monoblock power amplifier, rated at 140W, sells for a rather steep $3495 each, meaning that unless you listen in mono, be prepared to lay out almost $7000 just for the amplification link in your audio chain. Apparently, many audiophiles feel the money is well spent: according to Conrad-Johnson, the Twelve has been a consistently strong seller during its approximately five-year production history.
Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1986  |  4 comments
Some audio products deliver truly superb sound of a kind that really makes all the frustrations of building a high-end system worthwhile; they also require exceptional attention and care. The Counterpoint SA-4 is a case in point. With the right speakers, it competes for the title of "Most Transparent Amplifier Available at Any Price." On the other hand, this amplifier steadily loses output power as speaker impedance drops; it must be carefully matched to the right speaker. Then, and only then, can it produce one of the finest musical experiences available.
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.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 23, 2018  |  16 comments
Doshi Audio first crossed my radar at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, where I wrote that the sound of the company's tubed monoblocks and preamp, connected to Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers via Transparent XL cables, "excelled in midrange strength as the system threw an exciting soundstage." After auditions of Doshi-Wilson pairings at many subsequent shows had convinced me that Doshi's products could truly sing, I contacted company owner and product designer Nishith "Nick" Doshi to inquire about reviewing one of his amps.
Corey Greenberg  |  Aug 31, 2004  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1992  |  0 comments
I dig tube amps. When all's said and done, good tube amps seem to sound more like real life than most solid-state gear; even after listening to and enjoying the hell out of musical solid-state designs like the Audio Research D-240 II and the Muse Model One Hundred, once I hook up the big VTL Deluxe 225s again it's just like going home. I could go on about timbral accuracy and clearer midrange textures, but the bottom line is, music just plain sounds better when you shoot it through good tubes, and once most people experience that magic, they're hooked.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 23, 2004  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Most of us have at least some taste for gear that jumps out—for audio components whose sonic and musical distinctions are easy to hear from the start. In audio, unlike in the art of music itself, there's nothing wrong with being obvious.
Jonathan Scull  |  Dec 31, 2009  |  First Published: Jan 31, 2002  |  0 comments
When I first laid eyes on the Paravicini M100A monoblock power amplifiers at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, an audiophile in the room squinted at my badge and cried out, "Hey, J-10, these amps have your name written all over 'em!"
J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 08, 2019  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1967  |  14 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.
Jonathan Scull  |  Jun 05, 2005  |  First Published: Sep 05, 1997  |  0 comments
I'm always eager to fulfill my prime Stereophile directive: "To go where no audiophile has gone before," as JA often quips. As it happens, I've long suffered an itch to audition OTL (output-transformer–less) amplifiers, wondering how eliminating the output transformer might affect the sound. Enter the Graaf GM 200, with nothing but wire between its power tubes and the crossover.
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.

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.

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  |  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.

Herb Reichert  |  Dec 28, 2022  |  24 comments
In my realm, the most sophisticated, intelligent, difficult thing anyone can do is create something mysterious. It could be a poem, a photo, a movie, a song, a symphony, or a piece of painted wood. What's most important is the mystery—and that experiencing the mysterious creation inspires in the observer a desire to probe its hidden realms, to somehow figure it out. Human cultures are founded on mysteries: Mysteries incite art, inspire science, and facilitate dreaming.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 17, 2002  |  2 comments
Not since Sonus Faber's Amati Homage loudspeakers took up residence in my listening room has a piece of audio gear elicited so many "Oohs," "Aahs," and "Wows" from friends as Hovland Company's dramatic-looking, EL34-driven Sapphire power amplifier—especially when it was switched on and glowing orange and blue. It drew unsolicited attention and admiration even when turned off. Not that, on or off, its unusual looks didn't also have their share of detractors. As with Hovland's chrome-façaded, blue-backlit HP-100 preamplifier, some found the Sapphire too shiny, too gaudy, and generally just too much. Me, I'm thumbs-up on the Sapphire's looks—I found myself staring at it incessantly. But anything that draws such intensity of response, whether love or hate, must be doing something right. B&O shouldn't have a monopoly on striking-looking audio gear.

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