Best EL-34 Amps?

Looking for votes/recommendations on the best available EL-34 mono-blocks... I have tired many different amplifiers over the years including 300B's, SET's, EL-84's, 6550's, all manner of solid state (nasty!) and haven't found anything that bests' my VTL-125MB. However, they ain't as young as they used to be and I have always wondered if the magical pair of EL-34 mono-blocks are out there and have just slipped my attention. They must be very quiet, since I use extremely sensitive Klipschorns (104db)...any noise is ruthlessly revealed...
aes sixpacs are amazing at $2500 for the pair. they are the tube amps that go me into tube amps as it were. i'm moved on to 45 SET's, but those little sixpacs are just fabulous for the money.

Cary V12 Monoblocks
There are a pair of VAC PA90c amps listed for 2895.00. VAC makes great amps plus they are gorgeus. I have no personal experience with the PA90 to know how quiet it is.

Other el34 amps I can think of are Manley Snappers and Retro 250's which are overkill powerwise with your speakers.
Jadis JA-30s or JA80s with EL-34s, if you like the older Jadis sound. A little light in the bass perhaps when you use that tube type, but a glorious midrange. Very refined and natural (non-electronic sounding) amplifiers, among the best I've heard.
LOL, with your stuff, and your experience, I'd suggest that you not upset your cart. It is tough enuf to match amps and speakers - when your happy, enjoy the time you can spend listening to music, not amps. If you think its time to just spend more money, consider alternative sources. :-)
I would keep VTLs and consult Bob Backert about the posibilities for mods or restoration.

Jadis is very nice too, but to sweet for my system and taste.
If that is what you seek......, very highly recommended.

All around best IMO.*
Of caurse I am being bias towards my own modify Consonance Cyber 800 mono-blocks (Siemans NOS El34s and Amperex NOS Bugle-Boys 6922s). So far, I have not heard anything that would change my mind (with B.B mods that is) and yes, I have looked.
Air Tight ATM-3 monoblocks
I agree, El 34's are one of my favorite tubes. I still use a Conrad Johnson MV 55 in my bedroom system. Previously owned Cary SLM 100 monoblocks, these ran KT 88's and 6550's as well, preferred the EL 34's in triode mode. I would think the Cary's would be more of a sideways move. Air Tight, VAC and Jadis could be possible replacements.

Still, I would stick with your VTL's and possibly look at some mods if you're wanting a bit more out of those amps.
Not familiar with Mr. Brackert; tell me more please....

I would seek out a Jadis integrated, and tube it using JJ E34L output tubes. They are the best sounding EL34 amplifiers I've ever encountered. Depending on your budget, buy the best one you can afford, be it the Orchestra Reference, DA30, DA50S, DA60, or DA88S.

As my friend Russ (Rcprince) said, it will be lightweight in the bass if you run the EL34 tubes. But, I have found the solution to the problem is to use old American 5751 tubes in the driver positions instead of 12AX7. With Sylvania Triple Mica Grey or Black Plates, the low frequencies of my DA60 are thunderous.

As for power amplifiers, I would consider AES SixPacs, Cary V12, or Manley Snappers.
I second the Manley Snapper Monoblocks
tel. 215 355 0529
Also search the Audiogon files for keyword - Bob Backert or RHB dezign.

None. The El-34 is the WORST sounding audio output tube ever made. There is no way to make it sound like anything but a freight train. It has no redeeming sound qualities. I suggest trying a 6L6, 6BQ5, or a 45 output to hear the music instead of headache creating NOISE.
hi mint604:

what is it that you specifically object to about the el 34 ?

some of the older conrad johnson amps use them,quicksilver amps use them and other tube amps use them as well.
Mint604, you must have never listened to a good set of El34's....bummer...
Mint604. A rather profound statement sir! Care to elaborate a little bit.
The El-34 (6CS7) began life in the mid-fifties as being the highest power pentode. It was designed for use in Walt Disney "Fantasia" film. It trickled down to consumer use and was sold to sucker "hi-fi" enthusiasts in the late 50's who could then boast to own a 50 watt amplifier
(compared to other amps at the time which had only 25 watts). The problem with this pentode is that they need much higher voltages and more elaborate circuitry than other output tubes (6l6, 7591 at 325 volts). At over 450 volts this caused the chassis to get very hot and all the componets to change values and become introduce noise. I owned a Marantz 8B that had a dull and lifeless sound due to the 6SC7's, it was noisy and had a compressed sound, unsable with horns. I have a pair of pro Altec amps that also use these tubes and the sound is the same as the Marantz. I have yet to hear any El-34 amp that sounds good and enjoyable. The El-34 should be classified with the 6550 as being higher powered but "non-hi-fidelity"
>> 09-17-08: Kgturner
>> aes sixpacs are amazing at $2500 for the pair. they are
>> the tube amps that go me into tube amps as it were. i'm
>> moved on to 45 SET's, but those little sixpacs are just
>> fabulous for the money.

Indeed! I 2nd the excellent choice of AES Sixpac. I own an upgraded pair (that are up for sale if Stickman451 or anyone else is interested) & I can say that running the EL34 pentodes in triode mode as in the Sixpac creates some very good music.
I've moved onto a more powerful amp because I'm using an Apogee Scintilla speaker that needs an amp that is stable down to 1 Ohms.
Like Kgturner wrote - for the money these are very beautiful sounding amps & for their diminutive size they pump out a sizeable amount of bass.
Mint604- Not sure you can generalize from a sample of 2 (one of which is many years old). Have you heard any modern designs. Hard to imagine anyone calling the ARS Sonum EL-34 amp dull or lifeless, for example.
has anyone owned the quicksilver mid monos or consonance m 400 monos ?

if so, how would you describe these amps ?
I have listened to the Quickie mid mono's extensively including last week at Audioconection in NJ and my characterization would be that they are open and transparent with excellent pace and timing.
I have not listened to any new EL-34 amps and have no desire to, BUT I am certain that Sol Marantz and the Altec engineers had a far greater understanding on how to design tube circuits and still they could not get the harshness out of the EL-34's. Indeed all that tube is good for is in public address and guitar amps.
hi mint604:

if you believe the el34 is inherently harsh, what output tubes do you consider, spectrally balanced ?

also, how do you explain some of the older cj amps, which used el34s were very warm sounding ?

perhaps the output tube is one of many factors responsible for the performance of an amplifier.
Conrad-Johnson MV60.....list (years ago) was about $2800. It can be had for around $1700 (SE version which listed for $3800) now on AgoN and you can pick it up yourself (NYC location).

Good luck.
You are one fanny guy and God in your own mind.


Mrtennis, Consonance tube amplifiers in general are extremely good products, from the standpoint of both build and sound quality. Unlike their CD players and solid state or hybrid amplification, I can think of no particular reason not to consider these tube amplifiers, as their track record has been enough to make me feel comfortable.

The sole area of concern I have for the generation of tube amplifiers you are considering is that the bias resistor values seem to be all over the place. By that, I mean, the schematic specifies a certain value, but I've seen three different values present in the various amplifiers that have crossed my path. It seemed as if they were trying to figure it out on the fly. And, 2 of the 3 values, including the schematic, are not the optimal setting, one of them clearly being more than a little bit wrong. What are the downsides of that? Well, in the worst instance, there was a more than noticeable hum. And, in the most minor, the amplifier just ran hotter than it should. Of course, I didn't have the product long enough to know if tube life would be compromised, but we did make sure to retrofit the amp so that it was now correct.

The M400 monoblocks, while quite nice, have been eclipsed sonically by some of their more recent designs. By that, I mean, the refinement, detail, and clarity have been improved, in that tired old "lifting the veils" audiophile cliche. I'll put it this way, that misty/hashy quality is reduced to great extent. However, not at the expense of musicality.

In fact, I find the Cyber 800, which my friend Mariusz (Mrjstark) owns, are without a doubt the best push-pull tube monoblocks they've produced. They have a nice mix of richness/musicality with the clarity and detail that modern amplification must possess. I'll leave power out of the equation, as I'm not sure it is or is not important to you, but they are plenty powerful. One thing I want to throw out there is that the Cyber 800 ARE NOT compatible with 6500/KT88/KT90 (or, JJ's version of the KT77 for that matter), despite some the bad information put out there.

On a more affordable plane, though the Chinese high-end audio companies have completely lost that advantage over the past 2 - 3 years, the 15th Anniversary products (integrated and stereoblock) are the first which I feel offer the realization of putting it all together in a package that doesn't require the commitment of both size and money that their Cyber monoblocks demand. They combine pure Class A operation, large power supply, and superior transformers (supposedly, amorphous, but I've yet to verify it 1000%) which make the Cyber 800 special, with superior coupling caps (AuriCaps, instead of the Cyber 800's Solens), tube rectification (normally, to me a tradeoff of bass for that beautiful midrange, but no tradeoff in this instance), and the owner's (who is the designer) improvements circuitwise (he's really been studying up on the classic American hifi components over the past year or two). On several levels, they are the best tube products Consonance has ever put out.

Regarding the Quicksilver amplifiers, I am certainly a fan. When you buy a product, you're buying a company (that should be a caveat for those considering Consonance), and Quicksilver has certainly earned their sterling reputation. Quicksilver amplifiers are quite nice to begin with, but some owners like to tweak them a bit to really bring them forward. After all, Mike Sanders is building them to an incredible price, which he should be given a tip of the hat for. But, they have a bit more inside of them waiting to come out. The overriding thing is that Quicksilver products certainly earn my recommendation without any hesitation.

But, to answer your question specifically and succinctly, if it were me, I'd probably choose the Quicksilver mid monos over the Consonance M400 monos.

DISCLAIMER: I am the importer/distributor for all Opera Audio/Consonance components in the USA and Canada. And, of course, all of this, beyond the Consonance repair history, which I have statistical information on, is my opinion.
Hello Joe and great to hear your input on this thread.
Of course your description of Consonance Cyber Series and Quicksilver Audio amps is spot on.
In fact, at yesterday's "NY RAVE" (a NY Audiophile monthly meeting) Quicksilver was on the menu as well as Music Reference EL34 based amp (modded), some very nice vintage gear among many others. Audio Physics Virgo, SP Tech Minis, AAD 2001 monitors were speakers of choice in three different setups. Michael Fremer, John Rutan of Audio Connections and Tommy of Digital Amplifier Company were guests and add their knowledge and charisma to the mix.

Music Reference as well as Quicksilver are very nice amps to say the least. Quicksilver being a champ of power while Music Reference had many qualities of the older tube amp qualities ( it was a Special Edition with mods so its stock characteristics were somewhat diminished).

Since my own Consonance Cyber 800 are also modify, I can not be certain how would they stock up to Quicksilver or Music Reference in their stock form.
What I can say is confirmation of Joe's statement that Cyber 800 are probably the best push-pull amp in Consonance line-up.

As to Mrtennis search for amp to suit his preferences (which is reach in color, warmth and typical roll-of in frequencies extremes), I would suggest an older design from CJ stable. That would (in my opinion) be a good starting point. Then you would still have the options to fine-tune the sound to your taste with tube rolling and caps choices.

Jadis EL34 integrated amp is also great and it can be purchased from Jadis directly for less then 3K (demo).
Build, looks and performance is first class.

The design / execution matters more than the tube used.
Good and bad designs exist with all outputs and topologies.
Mr Magfan- Exactly! One of the most successful tube amps ever(the Dynaco ST-70) used EL-34's. The excellently designed and executed output transformers made that amp. They can actually sound quite a bit like music with some minor upgrades/tweeks, and the right tubes. Mr Stickman- I would have to second(third or fourth as the case may be) the suggestion of the AES Sixpacs. Dennis Had is an excellent designer(I'm using a pair of modded SLM-100's to drive my mains) and did a really good job on the Sixpacs. A review: (
Thanks for the kind words, Mariusz! I wish I was with you guys yesterday, as John Rutan is a good friend of mine, and a real honest to God good guy.

I'm happy to hear you were able to hear the Music Reference. Those amplifiers are pretty shocking in how musical they are, aren't they? If it was the one using the EL84 output tubes, the tone on that amplifier makes me wonder why we audiophiles jump through hoops searching for more.

And, you are spot on with the Jadis. Possibly the most eye opening midrange I've encountered was when I retubed my JOR with JJ E34L tubes. I was so taken with it, I then came to own a Jadis DA30 and DA60. The DA60 being perhaps the finest tube amplifier from top to bottom I've ever been around. Along with my loudspeakers, I believe that amplifier is a lifetime purchase.

One mistatement I made about Consonance was regarding the 15th Anniversary products. Intead of "On several levels, they are the best tube products Consonance has ever put out.", I meant to say best PUSH-PULL tube products. Though it certainly has its limitations in terms of power and low frequency performance, the Cyber 300B PSE is the best tube amplifier in their stable in my opinion.
Mint- I think you've revealed your true colors w your last statement!
hi joe:

thanks for your timely observations. i am looking into a cj mv55 and a dynaco stereo 70. they may offer a bit more of a euphonic character than either the quicksilver amps or the consonance amps.

i am somewhat disappointed with many tube amps in current production. they don't present a classic tube sound, like the older mcintosh, conrad johnson and audio research amps.

the exception is the wavelength amps, which are very expensive but lean more to the vintage than modern tube sound.
Mrtennis, based on most of what I read from you over time, I would think these two products would suit you very well.

I am currently playing with my own Dynaco ST70 right now that I just built over the summer. It's an incredible product to say the least. Especially, in light of the pricing.

Replacing the stock Sovtek 7199 with a pair of RCA yielded more of an improvement than I've ever witnessed with any other tube component. This change alone raised the letter grade I put on the amp from a C- to a solid B (borderline B+).

For less than $1000, you get an amplifier that isn't the last word in low frequency response, but otherwise pretty much sounds as good as anything else produced today. In fact, I probably prefer its midrange to any Consonance push-pull tube amplifier. I need a bit more time with it before I can say that with 100% confidence, but I probably won't be able to fit it in until after RMAF2008.

I haven't experimented with rectifier tubes yet, but, from having a very weak one in there initially, which caused my readings to be way off when I checked the various voltages through the amplifier, this tube is of critical importance as well. So, I will seek out a good older tube to replace the EH 5AR4 and see how much the amp can put out in bone stock form before making the mods I intend to down the road. Overall, it's been an incredibly fun and illuminating project for me.
same on this side of the fance.
I am in the mid-process of restoring my Scott 299B integrated amp. Since I am quite bussy with the other stuff, I just might have one of NY Rave members do the work for me.
All in all, it is hard to beat for $280 used and another $100-$200 for restoration and mods. It came with some very nice NOS tubes already.....It sounds very, very sweet.
IMO it is not the last word in resolution or bottom end but mids are very seductive to say the least.

MrT. let us know what did you end up getting.

I highley recommend the Air Tight ATM-1 amp. There's one for sale right now on Audiogon for $2700.(With the Mullard rectifier tubes and Seimens EL 34s). If I had the money, I would buy it now.
These Cayin 860 monoblocks are worth considering. Shameless plug warning....

If you love the luscious, warm, rich, textured sound that only tubes can optimally deliver, explore this Cayin line of gear. These were voiced to match the classic sound of the famous Marantz 9 power amps.

These 860 mono amps are hand-built and feature point-to-point wiring. Each of these monsters weighs in at over 40 pounds. This is classic, heavy-duty tube gear. 70 Watts (Ultralinear) or switchable to 38 Watts in Triode mode.

Can operate with EL34, KT 88 or 6550 driver tubes to fit your needs.

I purchased these new early last year (2007) and have had significant upgrades ($1200) done after consulting with Sonic Craft (Sonicraft caps, Cardas caps, Mundorf & Blackgate caps, precision resistors, discrete ultrafast/quiet diodes, Cardas wiring, +++). Have orignial tubes (EH and Cayin) plus upgraded set of NOS Mullard tubes, and new reissued octet set of all new EL34 Mullards. Many more details and pictures available.

They are really sweet amps. I run them with my Modwright LS 36.5 and Merlin VSM-MMs. The Cayin gear is super quality bang for the dollar (point to point wiring, solid chassis, massive transformers, etc).

You can find out more details at Acoustic Sounds website as they sell them and had them in one of their demo rooms with Harbeth speakers. I recently posted these for sale on AA and AC.
Kenreau, have your tried KT88s in the Cayin. I wonder because I have a Music Reference RM9 Special Edition which was oringinally equipped with NOS Siemens EL34s but I bought RAM Labs KT88s and thought it was much better with my Merlins. I know Bobby likes the EL34 tube, but I sometimes don't know how much of the tube sound is the tube versus the circuit it is impelemented in. In the Music Reference the amp was significantly more dynamic, with better bass and more detail in the midrange. I'm not sure that would be true for all EL34/KT88 implementations but it is in my amp. As an aside, in many ways the Music Reference RM 10 which uses EL84s was the best of the lot through the midrange, but not quite emough power and drive for my speakers.
Hi Pubul57, I have not tried any of the other tube variants in my Cayins. I am now curious though. I stuck with the EL34s given their reputation and BobbyP's recommendations. Interesting comment on the EL84 lacking power. In my Cayins I get ~38 watts triode and 70 watts ul. I can switch it on the fly and the sound difference is very subtle. I had expected a more significant change between the two, but it is fairly close. I'll usually go ul for HT movies and triode for dedicated listening.
The RM10 is 35 watts and it is enough power on its own terms, but when you put the 160 watt RM9 in the difference in power makes a difference that is preferable - I was attributing it to the power difference and the fact that it looses no wattage as the impedance dips (which should not be much of an issue with the Merlins). But give the price of the RM10 with the EL84s I would say the EL84 is a very nice sounding tube in a well designed amp - great midrange tonality and I think more resolved than the EL34. There is another member who is doing the EL34/KT88 comparison with his RM9 as well (and Merlin speakers) and I'll let you know what his impressions are when he has some time for the comparison. I won't speak for Bobby other than to say he proabably likes the EL34 for its midrange beauty and his speakers don't depend as much a lot of bass drive and control from the amp to produce well defined, controlled bass (why they work so well with tubes in general).
well, i've heard the manley snappers and a few integrateds.

but i must say that "under the radar" EL-34 amps are those sold by Synthesis (Italy) called: The Theatre

they are 70watt Class A monos.

i think they sound fantastic. there was a pair available here not too long ago for a steal of a price.

no one knows them so they are pretty rare here in the US. they are semi-common in Canada.

they sound much like drawn butter (that's my friend's quote, not mine). liquid smooth.
Those RM-10's sure don't last long when they're put up for sale here. Roger has been able to get roughly twice as much power out of the EL-84 versus other designs using that tube. My speakers were voiced with an Atmasphere S30, so the RM-10's power output should not be a problem. If I can ever grab a used RM-10 I'd love to hear what it can do in my system.
If they were voiced with the S30, no doubt they will be driven wonderfully by the RM10s, but as much as I love my RM9s, it is hard to beat an OTL with OTL friendly speakers, but very nice for a high quality change of pace (which is why I keep the RM9SE) - both Music Reference and Atma-sphere are made by superb designers. Are your speakers sensitive enough for Music Reference's 5 watt SETs? If so that too would be worth trying, never heard anything by Roger Modjeski that didn't sound great, was well built, and would prove to be ultra-reliable.
i auditioned a synthesis 25 watt amp, using 6l6gc output tubes. even after replacing the 6l6 tubes with nos 5881, i would hardly call their performance liquid. i recently acquired a dyna stereo 70. that amp has liquidity.
synergy and personal preference are an interesting thing of course.

whatever sounds best to your ears, obviously, is what you should go for.

our opinions do not matter in the end.

needless to say, a 25 watt synthesis integrated is not exactly the same thing as the 70 watt class a mono's that they also sell.

oh well.
it's a stereo 70 that rings the bell. i am auditioning it. it has the classic tube sound, in stock mode.
i will be comparing it against a consonance m400.

i have given up on the cyber 800, conrad johnson, quicksilver and music reference.
There you go......Vintage has potential and some followers, myself included. Depending on the taste of caurse, one can successfuly build the system around classics like Dyna, H.H.Scott, Fisher etc.
Good for you Mrtennis.......finaly a step forward...., :) and back in time.

Hello.. I am quiet surprise we have the same taste. I still use and play my VTL 225 Deluxe Mono Block. However, I am using a BAT VK 31SE Pre- amp. Previously I paired it with my VTL DeLuxe Pre-amp for almost 10 years but since I switched to a BAT, I prefer it ten times with this pairing. And yes you're right. My VTL's are are really old. I wish I could have the chance to modify this. I talked to Luke Manley in person. He does not approve of this. He said he built it this way., I am currently using a B&W 803D. I also have the old Logans SL3's.
Hm. How does a stock Marantz 8B compare with all of these newer EL-34 amps?
Electra Fidelity has a new EL-34 amp coming out that is the
best SET amp I have ever heard, no exaggeration. 85lb tank with
huge Electra Print transformers, hard wired, and utilizes Jack
Elliano's new class A3 circuit which produces incredibly low
distortion. Listening to the prototype right now- shocking bass,
clarity, separation, etc while maintaining all the SET magic.
Forcing me to part with Coincident Frankensteins which I thought were the
best. This amp and a 300b version will be at the Newport beach
show. Just kinda wish they were not showing with 87db Fritz speakers.
I always appreciate learning about great components on Audiogon.
That is how I found Vaughn speakers and Lightspeed attenuator.
Those considering SET amps need to hear this amp.
VTL Tiny triodes and may I say irrespective of price. IMHO they are an absolute audio bargain for the money if you have efficient speakers (which I dont)

Quicksilver Mid Mono's EL34 mono blocks are great sounding amps. I've been using the KT66 Gold Lion tube currently. Would like to hear a RM-10 someday as I've read this is a great match with Vandersteen. All the best...