Advice on selecting a tube amp

Sold all of the Sunfire and Martin Logan system when we retired and moved from a huge condo to a 46' sailboat. I'm missing the music.
I am an audio analyst by trade and tend to pick my music apart.

I've got about $1500 to spend and a pair of Sunfire CRM2s. They are small enough for the boat and love the ribbon's imaging capabilities. 90Db sensitivity and 8 ohms.

I'm not physically able to do the modding and such, so I am looking for reliability. Researching the Music Angel turned daunting when I read about the amount of work some of the guys needed to make them perform. Hands shake a bit too much.

I don't listen to loud music much anymore, except a little Pink Floyd. Mostly instrumental Jazz and some Hawaiian slack key.
I want to make the move to tubes and prefer to buy one which I will keep. I'm in over my head, but I like it like that.

I need and really appreciate any suggestions you guys would share.
I lived on a 45 ft. sailboat for a year, I know your situation. You want solid state, high-reliability, and good build quality. And you certainly don't want to spend stupid money on it.

You might take a look at the Emotiva Mini-X integrated amp, it will *easily* drive those Sunfires to very high levels. They also have some nicely built, reasonably priced separates (USP-1, XSP-1, XPA-100, etc.) if you want to go that way. 5 year warrantys, too. Visit

Hi Nicknac,
You specifically requested tube amplifiers, so here are a few well regarded
and reasonably priced.
1. Quicksilver Audio.
2. Line Magnetic Audio.
3. Coincident Audio, they have a new el34 SET amplifier called the Dynamo
and is said to sound very good.
4. Jolida Audio.
These can at least get you quest started. I think you'll love a good tube
amplifier given your musical preferences. All of these mentioned brands
have very satisfied customers.
I just picked up a Yaqin MC-30L tube amplifier. For under $650 it is a fantastic value in my opinion. It might sink your boat as it weighs around 45 lbs.

Seems like solid state would be a better fit for a boat. The Rega Brio is well reviewed and is small.
RL, Appreciate the reply. We bought a fairly nice boat/yacht. Swan 46. I have the standard boat stereo but it doesn't do justice to the music. I had considered a solid state Levinson or such.
We live aboard full time and I want a truly exceptional system. I figured it's time to try a tube system. It's a small warm place that should be a decent listening environment.
Iv'e heard some jaw dropping things, always from a tube amp. Listening to Yo-Yo-Ma and hearing the horse hair and rosin dragging across the the strings and the resonance of the cello was amazing.
Charles1dad, thanks for the input. I will look into them. I appreciate your suggestions.
I am really wondering about what sounds the best. I am really new to this. I've read a couple of places which state that I should be looking at at an SET amp. Most of the SET amps have very low outputs, even as low as 1.5-2.5 Watts.
So my the heart of my current question is, What is the minimum that I should be looking at to drive a 90Db speaker? If I am approaching this right, is wattage the place to start, considering my music choices and speakers?
RLWainwright, I checked out the Emotiva Mini-X at your suggestion. Glad I did. I have been looking for something to put in our stateroom and this seems a good fit. I am considering matching it with a pair of Revel ceiling speakers.
There was an old system installed in there as original equipment(1985.) As you can imagine it was pretty bad. Something which might have come out of an old Pontiac.
There are 8" teak grated ports already stained and varnished to match the interior. Hard to find something which fits into that footprint.
Any other good suggestions?
I've seen Yaquin gear all over. There are a lot of them out there. That say a lot about reliability and performance.

It's a great price, but I do have $1500 budget. If I dont spend it..., well I do have a wife.
There are so many out there and I'm not familiar with any of them so I appreciate your endorsement.
Is there something a you might consider a bit better or is this the brand and model you would go with?? If you had $1500 bucks to blow, would you upgrade?
Regarding the SET amplifiers it depends.
Speaker load 'ease' drivability, room size and typical listening levels. I'd guess 6-10 watts as a minimum to manage 90 db sensitivity and an 8 ohm load would be a good starting point. At your stated price range there are more choices with integrated push pull tube amplifiers. The Coincident Dynamo is an 8 watt el34 SET for $1300.00 . And is
said to use very good transformers. What volume levels do you usually listen to?
I have not heard a lot of gear, but I would spend $600 on my Yaqin before I spent $2,500 on a Krell S-300i that I have always loved and almost purchased recently. The guy that recommended the Yaqin prefers it to a $4,500 Pathos that he sells. The only downside to the Yaqin in my opinion is the jerky control of the volume with the remote at low volumes. The motor control could use a bit more fine motor control.
I sometimes read and listen at the same time. The music is usually medium to low, Almost background with favorite parts turned up a bit. Nothing LOUD.

I had been looking on ebay and found a few things I had been considering. There is so much there it's easy to get lost.
1) YAQIN MS-650B 845 x 2 Vacuum Tube Hi-end Tube Integrated Amplifier silver

2) STEREO TUBE AMPLIFIER INSPIRE by DENNIS HAD KT88 TUBE SINGLE ENDED AMPLIFIER Had was the head designer for Carey. I had read a lot of favorable things about Carey. This is hand built by Had.
Coincident Dynamo, Price starting at $999.00.
SPecs and reviews look very good. One reviewer mentioned it was hard wired. Is that the same as point to point?
Sorry for the nub like questions
Hi Nicknac,
I don't mind the questions at all, that's how we learn and develop some sense of organization. Hard wired= point to point, the 999.00 ptice was the introductory price (may or may not still be in effect).
With Dennis Had (Cary) or Israel Blume (Coincident) you'll be in very good hands. I'm more familiar with Coincident and can say that their products are simply top quality in built, sound and customer support. I have no reason to doubt the Dennis Had amplifiers, word of mouth is very good.

You actually have quite a few choices in your range when you factor in the Chinese products. Some of these are better than others, Line Magnetic (Chinese) is said to be one of the premium level amongst them.
Given uour type of music and the listening levels I believe that a SET amplifier is a very viable option to consider. I wish I knew more about your speakers as that's really a major factor in determining a successful match. SET amps are very simple circuits and easy to maintain (fewer tubes to worry about). The key is having good quality transformers and well designed power supply. This is where I'm most confident with Coincident's track record (high quality transformers and part selection).

Take the time to learn about the different brands mentioned and get a basic understanding of SET vs push pull tube amplifiers. I'm partial to SET amps but either type is capable of providing excellent music reproduction.

You can't go wrong with Quicksilver. Amazing sound and built like a tank.

What pre-amp do you plan on using?
Thanks for the info guys.

Quicksilver looks very interesting. I like their philosophy of keeping it simple and the small mono approach makes them easy to fit into my limited space. They don't discuss anything specific about their build quality but I want to assume I wont be needing to upgrade caps etc.
Quicksilver is in Stockton Ca. I am currently in the bay area and it's an easy drive to check them out. Favoring the minis but will also consider the mids. I do wish their amps were just a little industrial looking. There are a lot of beautifully crafted products out there and it is a factor, especially with the wife.

The Dennis HAD amp is tempting but I read some criticisms about his selection of low cost/quality transformers. Others state, It's Had, trust him. I don't know what to think except I'm aware of the importance of quality transformers.

Speakers, I have limited room. I had been set on Totem acoustics but realized that even their smallest offering was too large. I would have to start discarding spare parts (True).
I am a fan of the ESDs and really like the imaging ability of ribbon speakers. For me it's a huge part of the music. They are notoriously current hungry of course. The Sunfire CRM-2s are ribbon and dual long throw 4.5" in an 8" tall package. I couldn't find anything else with these capabilities in such a small package. Very open to suggestions and opinions on this.

If I had to pick right now it would probably be the Coincident Dynamo. Its a nice balance of all my limiting factors. Luckily, I don't need to make an immediate decision.
Nick, I hadn't decided what to do about a preamp yet. I know it's a looming and important question but I'm still researching. As mentioned space is all important. I am trying to reconcile the separates/integrated/monobloc approaches. How much sound quality to gain vs how much space and complexity? Right now because of space, an integrated SET approach with quality build and remote control would be very appealing. I guess you are all helping me at least quantify whats important to me.
I appreciate any thoughts anyone might share on the subject.
Mike Sanders of Quicksilver makes good quality and very reliable components. I used his full function preamp for 15 years! I'm pretty familiar with his power amps as well. I've had Coincident components for over 4 years and they are at a higher level of sound quality and better parts (no knock against Quicksilver). Honestly you'd be happy with either one.
Two other tube amp brand that warrant consideration would be Primaluna and Rogue.

I am a very happy Rogue owner (Stereo 90 Super Magnum). And Primaluna is pretty consistently praised. You wouldn't have many worries powering 90dB speakers with anything from these companies.

If you want to buy just one and be done, then I'd recommend finding amps you can audition. Best of all would be to hear them in your set-up. Dealer loaners and online dealers with good return policies do make this possible.
I bought one of Dennis Had's amps. It's a KT150 SET.
I have been researching all the brands listed here and learned a lot. Thanks for all the advice, suggestions and information. Much appreciated.

Now for a PreAmp to mate with it.
Any suggestions?
Perhaps you can find some examples of the Musical Fidelity amps that used "canned tubes"? Might be more practical for your situation.
Oh, c'mon! You only live once and it sounds like you have lived well :-) Your search ends here; pricy, but beautiful, and for sound, little out there that's better. (No affiliation)

Living on a houseboat with Jadis gear. How cool is that?
Note that some amps will recreate Gabby Pahinui well but seem somewhat reticent when playing Beamer Brothers.
Wolf, I wonder why that is? Current loads? frequency distribution?
I usually put it down to the recording. Some always sound good and some not much.

Like thos guys but as long as Hapa sounds great! Oh and Pink Floyd and Yo-Yo Ma
Hey Nicknac, please tell me about your boat and what it's like living on it.

Are you married? If yes, how did you manage to get wifey to share the adventure??

Where is your boat docked? Do you take it out much? Do you know how to sail it, or did you hire a charter captain?

I assume there's an onboard generator?

Is this something I should be thinking about?? I'm almost 61 years old and a survivalist at heart. Living on a boat in the middle of the ocean sounds like a good place to be to avoid urban sprawl and robbers. :)

Cheers and Happy Holidays
I have Quicksilver midmonos paired with the Sunfire CRM2s and am very happy with this combo.I like to listen loud,unlike yourself so the midmonos might be overkill,the minis would probably work well for you.The Sunfires are easy to drive,never dipping below 4ohms.Best of luck as you search!
First figure out what tube you like by auditioning different amps, el34, kt-88s etc. then you have to find one that matches the impedance of you source. Then each year buy and sell your old one on Audiogon and buy a new one from Audiogon and keep the economy going. You'll never be completely satisfied anyway so don't worry about it.
The oceans are full of junk from "urban sprawl" and weather is getting more extreme from climate change...enjoy!
Nicknac, Tubes and tube socketts are not friends of moisture, esspecially if it's salt air.
I know from experience being on a boat space is a premium, your speakers are good quality in a small package and efficient at 90db.
This Cambridge Audio who make good quality gear have a CDP + DAB radio, SD card, I-Pod, MP3 and USB inputs as well and is a 30w amplifier all in one compact package with remote just made for your speakers and a boat. Plus it has subwoofer line out on the back, if you can find a compact active sub for more bass, as your speakers have limited low frequency response

Cheers George
Hey Nicknac I told my wife about the boat. She thought your transition sounded really cool. Really! So ... I hope you tell me how it's working out for you.

Happy Holidays,

Hi Guys, A lot of responses since I last checked.

Electronics and saltwater. As a retired navy sonar chief I realize I am in for a battle. Tubes are a new angle so it will be interesting.
I bought a Dennis Had, KT150 Inspire amp. We traded a few emails about the conditions and which would suite our needs the best. This is supposed to be a tough little amp.

The boat is a 1985, 46' Nautor Swan sailboat. A legendary yacht. Built in Finaland, All teak inside. Check out google pictures.
My wife and I have never owned a home. After being stationed in many places and traveling a lot we were looking for a house but never found one we liked. Faced with semi retirement we decided on a boat. It's a solid and fast, ocean crosser. We will travel mainly from Canada BC, South Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii and points between. Currently in San Francisco.
We just need some very good sound to go with it.

Now if only I could decide on a music format. I think Musical fidelity's M1 Clic is our next purchase.
And dont get me started on cables!!
Nicknac, I checked the Nautor web site. Wow!!!!

I realize these are really dumb questions, so I apologize in advance. (1) How much does it cost to get into a Swan? (2) How long does it take to learn how to sail and navigate? (3) Does the boat come with air condition and heat? (4) How long does fuel and water last? (5) Does the boat come with a babe? (6) Where will the stereo go? (7) How many sleeping rooms on the boat? (8) Do you shower with fresh water or sea water?

:) :) :)

This OP gets 3 happy faces. Never gave out that many happy faces before.

Happy Holidays,

You and your wife I'm certain are going to have a fabulous time with that lifestyle, what a fine way to enjoy life! Of course you two need good sound to complete this beautiful picture.
Have loads of fun,
Thanks CD, We worked kind of hard for all this and the boat life is a bit austere and not for all.
I wanted to thank you for all the patient advice. This is a great forum because of guys like you.
I am really looking forward to building on the equipment we have.
Hehehe Bruce, Yes the Swans are something else. hardly a day goes by without someone stopping by to admire her. We shopped hard for three years before we found the right one, for the right price. She was in South Carolina, we were in Honolulu.
Heat yes, AC, only if I add it. We carry 130 gallons of water, 100 gallons of fuel. Enough to get us from San Francisco to Honolulu.
I brought the babe to the boat. Wife will always be a babe as she agreed to the boat life!
We wash dishes and shower with sea water during long distance crossings. Rinse with fresh. A water maker is on thee list of new systems to add. make about 20 gallons an hour. Run it an hour a day.
Sailing takes an afternoon to learn, a lifetime to master. Its fun and easy to learn. Navigation and such takes a bit more. I am a retired navy chief so I have some background on all of this.
There is a teak bookcase and entertainment center in the salon (living room) which I am modifying to accommodate the new system.
We are heading to Victoria BC next in the late spring.