American-made integrated tube amplifiers


I have been holding out for an American-made integrated tube amp. It seems, however, that all the recent buzz has been about Asian-made products. Obviously, economics has forced many of us to reconsider our equipment budgets. This most often narrows amp selection to foreign manufacturered designs. Is there an affordably priced "made-in-the-USA" integrated tube amp that clearly outperforms and outclasses the current comparative Asian products filling the approx. $1500 price range? A scan through the common publications indicate, not.
ejineffect
Your sentiment is commendable.

I suggest you try the Rogue Cronus at $1795. Beyond that, if you should decide to sell it down the road, you'll find the resale value a Made in the USA component such as this provides in comparison to a Chinese product will more than justify the purchase.
I doubt whether a company in the U.S. (or any Western European country for that matter) could possibly produce a good integrated amp for $1500 retail simply because of the cost of labor and parts, as well as running a business of that scale in this country. Plenty of distributor/companies that are based in the U.S. that outsource products in that range, so I suppose if you are looking to support a US company you'd have to be satisfied with supporting a company that outsources or is a distributor, or pay more towards your support and choose a company charging a fair rate for the price of producing the product here. At least I can't think of any company doing that short of DIY, class T and D and SET stuff. Quicksilver's Mini-Mites are made here by hand and are around $1k/pair. They are excellent amps - fun, punchy and engaging, as well as versatile. I've owned two pairs over the years. Mike Sanders offers excellent customer service as well. You'd just need a preamp to go with them, which you could find used for $500 - Quicksilver's own linestage matches great and comes up used for a bit more than that, but that combination would handily outclass many Asian integrated offerings at the same price. My friend, Ellery, started this similar thread a while back, though not exactly the same question, it is the same general subject. Beyond that There's a good review in Stereophile (FWIW) of the SV-236 hybrid integrated by Vincent for just under $2k...sorry, made in the Fatherland...or rather the company is in Germany...I would bet big $ that they produce the amp in China though.
I'll second the Rogue Cronus...plenty of reviews on line.

Dave
I wonder how the Cronus fares up against Cayin , Prima Luna or Ming Da. At least these makes are mentioned in A-gon forums. Hard to find much discussion on Rogue. Why no hype? I know, I know,...DON'T BELEIVE THE HYPE.
Thanks Jax 2. I took a look at Ellery's thread and found it very informative. The Quicksilver products, at that price, look interesting. I understand your point regarding manufacturing costs completely. Having just watched my little Chinese EL34 int. amp literally go up in smoke, I am just feeling frustrated with the reality that American products if they are manufactured here, are priced 35 - 40% more than products that have to be shipped from the other side of the world. It just seems sad to me that one of the perks we used be able to enjoy as Americans was affordably priced, well-made products. How do we get the trend back in this direction?
Here's why I like Rogue products: American made with excellent build quality, you can call the factory and speak to the people who design and build the products, and you can easily send in your piece for upgrades/mods. Their level of customer service is outstanding and I feel the products represent a great value too. I am a happy owner of a modded Magnum 99 pre and speak to Mark O'Brien frequently about my system and changes I'd like to make. He's more than happy to take whatever time is necessary to answer all my questions, a lot of them not even concerning his products.
I've seen Chinese tube amps go up in smoke as well.

But the fact is that tube amps aren't cheap to make correctly and the US labor costs are horribly high. There are American options that are worthy in the $1500 range but you'll probably have to settle for used components, such as the Manley Stingray, Conrad Johnson CAV-50, VAC Williamson, VTL-IT 85, Cary SLI-80. I can't think of any new ones, other than the Cronus, in this price range. Just a fact of life I guess!

Arthur
used Cary SLI-80. I've owned the hot rod (magnum) Cronus & ARC Vsi55 & IMO they are not even close...
Here's one that straddles the line - Jolida 502B, 302B. Designed in Maryland but manufactured in China.
I used to own the Jolida 502A & I liked it quite a bit. 60W/ch in ultra-linear mode with plenty of gain to drive a reasonably difficult load (one that is 4 Ohms). I used Telefunken 12AX7 & Mullard 12AT7 to very good effect. This amp can be biased for 6550 or KT88 or KT90 (if you can find a matched quad) output tubes.
Not very expensive & just might fit your needs. FWIW.
I will also recommend the Rogue Cronus - recently bought one , albiet with the Magnum upgrade , however, it is a well built, very musical amp - better than the two Chinese amps I've had. I will also agree about Mark O'Brien's service.
Agree with Aball and Ehaller on the Cronus.

Plus you can get the upgrade for the power supply mod which permits the use of the KT90 power tube increasing the rated output power of the Cronus to 90WPC.

Cary SLI-80 is also an option but like Arthur said you have to buy it used.
There are American options that are worthy in the $1500 range but you'll probably have to settle for used components, such as the Manley Stingray, Conrad Johnson CAV-50, VAC Williamson, VTL-IT 85, Cary SLI-80.

Correct me here if I'm wrong, but I assumed Ejineffect was asking about buying American in order to support American companies. I don't see how buying a used amp would accomplish that. Otherwise all good recommendations for sure!
Marco...

If one buys a used American product, it allows the original owner to perhaps upgrade within the same company.

It's not a hard and fast rule of course, as the person selling the used SLI-80 may be upgrading to something European like an Electrocompaniet set-up.

Then...the person who made the amplifier in Norway may buy a Chinese made amp.

Then...the person who made the amp in China can buy some rice.

Then...

Crazy world isn't it?
By the way, I used to import/distribute a line of Chinese high-end audio components, one of which was one of the amplifiers Facten mentioned in comparison to the Rogue.

The manufacturer was, at best, ambivalent about the quality of the products they were turning out. Rather than focus on some sort of core competency and go about maximizing the sonic and build quality of the products therein, there was constant churning of what was already waaayyyy too big of a product line. Their solid state and digital stuff broke far more than it worked. Whenever a component broke down, their reaction was that it was my, or worse, the customer's problem. They built it, put it in the box, and threw it over the wall, and at that point, they felt their obligation to it was over and done with. In their defense, the tube amplifiers they put out were quite reliable, but still a lot was left on the table.

In end, I didn't see much point in continuing on with the venture so I told them it was time for me to end the relationship. Now, I'm part of a new partnership intent on building the type of Made in the USA product that is being sought after here in this thread and I believe we'll become quite successful, but for now, as I said in the first post of this thread, I recommend the Rogue Cronus from my good friend, Mark O'Brien, to you unflinchingly.
Ejineffect said:

"I wonder how the Cronus fares up against Cayin , Prima Luna or Ming Da. At least these makes are mentioned in A-gon forums. Hard to find much discussion on Rogue. Why no hype? I know, I know,...DON'T BELEIVE THE HYPE"

Hummm...a generic search of Rogue, Primaluna, Cayin, under amps/preamps.... turns up more results for Rogue, than the other two combined?

Maybe you are not searching correctly?

Dave
Trelja - that sounds like a great goal. Manufacturing does need to come back here to this country in a big way, and with it a return of pride of workmanship. I only hear good things about Rogue here. I can echo the same kind of recommendation for Mike Sanders stuff, which is bomb-proof. Over the years I've owned five different pairs of his amps, the longest for six years. Not a hiccup from any one of them. When I accidentally broke a speaker terminal Mike took care of it in short order. Another very big thumbs up for Dan Wright of Modwright, whose components I currently use and favor highly. His new amp is outstanding, but unfortunately beyond the budget of the poster or I would have included it as a recommendation. Built by hand in Amboy, WA. He will be working on an integrated project at some point soon, but for now he has only the KWA150 (bridgeable power amp). Disclaimer: Dan is a client of mine. I also like Atmasphere products which are made here, but again, beyond the pricepoint. There's certainly no shortage of U.S. manufacturers of excellent gear, but the big challenge is making it affordable. If you can do that Trelja, my hat's off to you! Another good alternative comes to mind just now, the Portal Audio Panache integrated, which I think is around $2K. I'm not sure if Joe Abrams has those built here or elsewhere. It's a damn fine little integrated if you don't mind not having a remote. What about Odyssey...is Klaus making an integrated. His amps are bargains. Your amp-speaker interface is going to be important, of course, but that's a whole different thread, perhaps.

Ellery - thanks, as always, for the lesson in global economy. Ellery made my head spin with his mastery of that subject when he came over to visit recently. I bow in deference to his far greater knowledge on the subject. So how many used SLI-80's to feed a family of four in China for a week, Ellery? And what impact does it have if those purchases are put on a credit card via PayPal? How many Chinese families could you feed, clothe, shelter for a year and put their kids through Harvard Law on the bonus of an AIG exec...and still have enough left over to buy a Rogue Cronos? Ah, but I digress.
Jax2, as always, thank you for your insights. I agree 100% that it's imperative that we shift production back to these shores.

You'll perhaps be interested to know that while you stated that AtmaSphere suits the bill, but is outside of the pricepoint, they're exactly who we're partnering with in my reference above. We intend to introduce in this year all tube pre and power amplifiers, made right here in the USA for $995 - our integrateds will be a bit higher than that.
"
You'll perhaps be interested to know that while you stated that AtmaSphere suits the bill, but is outside of the pricepoint, they're exactly who we're partnering with in my reference above. We intend to introduce in this year all tube pre and power amplifiers, made right here in the USA for $995 - our integrateds will be a bit higher than that"

You got me interested Bill, can't wait to hear more when the time is right.

Dave
I didn't mention the Portal Panache before as I thought you might be focusing on tube amps, however, I concur with Jax2's recommendation, I have one as part of one of my systems and it is an excellent amp. If Joe is still producing them they are made in the USA
What about Manley Stingray and I think David Belles (Power Modules) made/makes a well respected one. Though not sure the Belles was tubes or not.........
Hey Trelja - Ralph's gotta be a tremendous assett to have on that project. Dude's a true Renaissance man with a great passion for music. That sounds like a product worth waiting for! Tell him I'll see him next year in band camp!

I agree 100% that it's imperative that we shift production back to these shores.

Amen. If we don't, we're doomed and I could see an Eastern dominated world, like Blade Runner portrays so pointedly, in our future. High-end audio is only a pebble on the beach though.

Marco
Depending on your speakers and their sensitivity, you might look at what is available in the Bottlehead line-up. You can get them as kits (with what all report as great instructions) or you can ask them to build one for you (which will cost a little bit more (though every now and then he has sales of some pre-built products which he advertises on his forum on Audioasylum)). I believe I read some time ago there is some work going on to develop a stereo amp and/or perhaps an integrated. You could ask over at the asylum, explain your case, and see if Doc B (the proprietor) would sell you a prototype... If it ran into problems down the road, the trouble-shooting assistance available on the forum is second-to-none, with many people glad to help newbies.

OTOH, the products Trelja refers to sound like potential winners just by knowing who is involved. You will find very few people who say Ralph/Atmasphere's products don't sound top notch, and given how hard we have tried in this thread so far to come up with something, it's obviously a breath of fresh air to the price point.
Cary SLI-80 is a stunner. So is the Manley Stingray. Owned both and a Cayin 88T. No contest- the Cayin did not hang.
Trelja...

Kudos and I wish you the best of luck with your venture. People may scoff at the idea of "affordable" high end gear due to the "dilution" of the "elite" factor. I on the other hand look at it as you bringing the joy of "high end" audio to more people that couldn't otherwise afford it.

Marco...

Blade Runner eh? I was thinking more '5th Element' with the Government Cheese hovercraft showing up at the windows of our itty bitty condos...and more "circus" to go along with the bread.
Decware from Illinois I believe was not mentioned.
Rogue? Serious, do a google search on their reliability issues first. Then decide.
Thanks much for the encouragement, guys!!!

We're definitely stoked, and are going to make a serious run at this thing. I realize I'm a born contrarian, but I believe that $995 gives us a lot of leeway to offer products that can kick some serious butt. I have to admit that with a lot of products boasting things like faceplates that cost multiples of our selling price, we aren't going to be able to offer that. However, I do pledge that our aesthetic is going to be distinct, good looking, anything but ordinary, and above all, cool. That doesn't take money, it just takes love and passion, both of which are obviously free. Make no mistake, the money's being spent on the getting things right on the inside.

The way I have always seen this thing is something akin to the AES/Cary deal. While the new line of products under the UltraViolet Audio name will be both different and different sounding, the intent is to point up towards the AtmaSphere stuff, as well as provide a path for the seriously committed, no matter their finances.

For all the enthusiasm, I do realize that in the grand scheme of things, our venture doesn't amount to much more than something akin to spitting into the ocean. But, hopefully, the tide is turning, and the grassroots mindset to turn things back to some semblance of balance is at hand.

I do want to return to the true matter of this thread. Again, I'm saying, buy the Rogue Cronus.
I am truly grateful to all of you who have responded. You have given me a wealth of possibilities to research. Truth is, it was cheap foreign tube amps that allowed me to get a taste of tube gear. For months, I thought Miles Davis' Blue in Green began with a ridiculous amount of background hiss. It was a little Chinese tube amp that revealed I was hearing brushes. I was amazed and possibly forever hooked on tube gear. I am excited to think about the possibilties of my next acquisiton. I will do my homework and try to meet my personal mission of building a primarily American made system. Not for some overly protectionist reason but, moreso like a hot cup of coffee that can wake you up to an old idea that American engineering can be dammn good! Somehow, it seems American products have gone out of fashion in America. I want to do my little part to change that. Wow! Not sure where all the patriotism just came from. :)
the rogue is spectacular.
Okay, sure thing.
I think Trelja had it correct

"you'll find the resale value a Made in the USA component such as this provides in comparison to a Chinese product will more than justify the purchase."

Jax2 recommendation of Quicksilver is a good one. I've owned Quicksilver, great sound, great prices, great build, great customer service and great resale value.

I bought a Chinese CDP it's value dropped by at least 3/5's in exactly one year !!!!
A used Cary SLI-80 or cj CAV 50 would be my suggestion...audio research makes a great one as well.

Chuck
The Rogue Audio Cronus...Here's another vote. Mine is the centerpiece of an incredibly musical system, which brings out the very best of my large collection of CD's and LP's.