Best Integrated All-tube Amp?


My question: What are the best (and affordable) integrated tube amps in your opinion? (Not hybrid. All tubes.) Specifically, the best single-ended triode with zero feedback and ideally decent wattage.
So far, my list has only two:

1. Viva Solista. The problem with this one is that it simply gives you 17 wpc. It is way more powerful than most other amps that claim to have more power, but still I doubt it can drive extended low frequency speakers. (Currently I own Triangle Antal but in the future I might upgrade to deeper bass.) Nevertheless, I prefer sensitive speakers
2. McIntosh MA2275. I tested with B&W 800 and sounded awesome. But still it is not single ended (it is push-pull) and as far as I know it has some negative feedback. Plus, it a bit too pricey. (So is the Viva.) But I am still willing to consider.

What is your list, and why?


I love my Jolida 302B (Level 1 upgrade from Parts Connexion). I did a lot of tube rolling and ended up with two 1950's GE 12AX7 tubes, two NOS Phillips PQ 12AT7 tubes, and four NOS Japanese Ratheon EL34 tubes that I liked better than Mullards. The integrated sounds fully extended, balanced, and musical. Perfect for a secondary bedroom system. For the money you will be hard pressed to beat the performance, but of course your mileage may vary.
I agree with Gregc although my tube rolling experience with my 302B so far has been different: JJ Tesla 12AT7s and El34Ls, with Sovtek LPS 12AX7s. For the money I can't believe there is a better value than the gear Jolida is making. I have heard that Prima Luna is also good.

Decent single ended with good wattage and zero feedback? No doubt a tall order and perhaps others can identify units that meet these challenging requirements. Sounds like you're in the market for something with Western Electric 300Bs, correct?
Check out the DeHavilland IOS. I haven't heard it (although I have heard the monoblock version of this amp in my system which sounded so wonderful I ordered a set) and it is not inexpensive but the quality and performance should be top notch. I have heard that they may end up building a less expensive version of this intergrated by going to circuit boards (as a cost cutting measure) as opposed to point to point wiring (which increases the price). I had tried to find a used version of the IOS but to no avail.
In a totally different direction, but immensely satisfyng, is the Aronov Audio LS-960I. A recent one was virtually given away at around $1000-1200 price range, used on Audiogon. The natural and satisfying sound is allied with bass capability as good as it gets in the more affordable tube amp division, or even in comparison to most luxury price tube integrateds I've auditioned.
This allows for a full range speaker which can really do bass, not depending on a sub-woofer. Well done bass can add a thrilling quality to many recordings where you may not even suspect those lower frequencies matter.
I mention this choice even though SET has a devoted following, and a magic of its own.
Thank you all for your prompt suggestions.

Yes, Stevecham, I am looking for a 300B, but I am opened to other suggestions. However, I prefer Electro Harmonix gold pins.

But my main requisites are as follow:

- Single-ended
- Triode
- Class-A (the problem with the McIntosh MA2275) is that it is AB.
- No negative feedback
- Low distorsion
- Ideally point-to-point wiring
- Good bass
- And preferably a well-known brand. I say this because there are so many little companies that come and go, and then you have no good customer service
- And, why not?, remote

Are the Aronov or the Jolida zero-negative feedback?

PS. I am sorry if I sound so picky, but I really like the single ended triode sound and thereĀ“s gotta be something that suit all these characteristics.
Why not hybrids ??
I do think you are being a little too picky in your requirements. I would suggest broadening your search and then audition some of them; you might be surprised of the results and how they might conflict with your prejudices.

I own an Audio Valve Assistent integrated. It's supposedly rated at 20 or 25 W/Ch, but I consider it to be more like 10 because it has a hard time driving anything except very efficient speakers. When mated to an efficient, tube-friendly speaker, though, it sounds excellent. But alas, it's push-pull, so it won't satisfy your stringent requirements.

I also have a Jolida 302b and for the price I cannot recomment an integrated more highly. I have a nice "big system" that sounds great, and adjacent to it sits my "little system" which is powered by the 302b. Many of my friends actually prefer the little system.

The Jolida can drive real-world speakers that the Audio Valve can't. For most people, it would get my recommendation. If, however, you have efficient, tube-friendly speakers, then the Audio Valve will astound you.

I think you're going to have to drop some of your requirements to find something in your price range; just let your ears be the guide rather than the specifications.

I own an Almarro 318, and use it in my video system driving a pair of Diatone single driver loudspeakers in bass reflex cabinets, all sourced from EIFL in Japan.
The amp is truly musical and full range, and very much underrated, using the same output tubes as the Lamm mono amps in Class A single ended mode. When I tried it listening to CD's in this configuration, the resulting detail and musically involving resolution were quite a shock.
I would happily use it in my main rig to drive my Ocellia Tilias, single Phy-Hp driver crossoverless speakers if my custom made 3D Audio 300B ever died on me - at least until I got it fixed! I don't foresee this happening, but I did use it until my 300B arrived, and its performance was right up there with the 47 Labs Gaincard it replaced. At it's current price its a steal.
I listen to everything from Ella to Marilyn Manson.
The Bel Canto SETi40 fills nearly all of your criteria. Uses 2 845 tubes and provides 40 WPC Pure Class A, zero negative feedback and and has a remote. Mark, at Bel Canto provides exceptional Customer Sevice and Bel Canto are an established firm.
Not cheap, but used, it is affordable. Read the reviews on Google.
I am not aware of an integrated amp that meets your requirements (single-ended, triode, 300B-based, class-A, no negative feedback, low distorsion, point-to-point wiring, good bass, and a well-known brand), especially one that is "affordable", whatever you mean by that.

The VAC Avatar is about the only thing that comes close, and I believe it is $3k-$4k used. The VAC Renaissance 70/70 Mk. III amp (not integrated) meets all of those requirements other than being single-ended (it is push-pull), but costs $5k-$6k used and you would need a preamp. The VAC amps do come close to the single-ended sound and avoid the significant disadvantages. Singer in Union Square carries VAC -- ask for Dave Lalin.
I agree with the others - you have way too many requirements. You are making yourself overlook many good options (like the Mc2275). I second the Jolida 302b which is cheap and comes surprisingly close to fantastic sound quality. I have one in my audio room now and it was a shock to me. At its price, you could try it at least.

Don't get hung up on circuit design details (I am an electrical engineer). There is more magic involved that you think and basing your decision on your criteria is doing you a disfavor. Trust your ears instead. If you love the Mc, go with it. Good luck! Arthur
I've owned the Rogue Tempest and loved it. One of those components I wish I still had.
You could be better off--if you are willing--to expand your horizons into monoblocks. You will have more to choose from (Wright, Wellborne, etc.), and you could always use a Placette RVC (remote volume control), and spend considerably less than the MAC you referred to above. Your other option is to get a CD player that can be run directly into your amps, and again, you would have remote.

In any event, I'm sure you know that SET does not sound the same as push/pull. I've heard the Jolida 302B, and owned the 502B, and despite being quite satisfying, they are distinctly, sonically, not SET. We currently own $6K 50W push/pull triode monoblocks, and while they sound absolutely incredible, they do not give you the peeled-open SET midrange like our 4W 2A3 SET amps do. Or the 300B that we previously owned.

If you think that 17W is not enough (why not?), and that the MA2275 is too expensive (what DO you want to spend?), you are unlikely to find the product that meets your requirements unless you spend WAY more money, and are willing to buy from a boutique manufacturer. An integrated, high-watt (for SET), class A 300B for an entry-level price? I just don't see that happening.

One of the most musical sounding amps I've heard is the Audio Mirror 40W 6C33C tube SET monoblocks. They will drive just about any speaker, and the 6C33C tube is both much cheaper and more robust (not bloomy) sounding than the 300B. They are about $2300 brand new. And no, I don't have any affiliation with them.

Good luck!
One more thing, Josep. As you alluded to in your initial post, you might upgrade your Antal's at some point. I'm sure you are aware that any amp, no matter how punchy in the bass department, is going to be challenged to deliver the goods to you with a speaker that cuts off at 50Hz, as do the Antal's. You might want to consider a sub, or doing that speaker upgrade first, or at least simultaneously.

Just a thought.
The two best that I have heard are the Audion PX-25 and the KR Enterprise BSI 18. Both are SETs. I am using the KR in my system and it is, simply, the best amp I have used in my system, and that includes all separate preamp and amp combinations.
I was going to mention Audion as well, as we had a Silver Night MKII (300B) integrated (with only one source input). Audion also makes the Sterling EL34 12W SET with remote. Gorgeous sounding amps, and yet the worst customer service I have ever experienced. If you need to service one--SET amps are not complicated--find a local, reliable tech. That's all I will say.
I am overwhelmed (and humbled) by all your responses. I really appreciate them.

Most of you mention that single-ended amps have their own disadvantages. Which ones are they? I guess class-A circuitry does not last as long as AB, does it happen the same thing with single-ended vs push pull?

You guys are right about the price tag. Though price is a fuzzy line here. I mean, if McIntosh would make a 70wpc single-ended as well designed as the Viva, I would probably be willing to spend over 6-8 grand (used.)Specially if it is integrated (key variable when you live between NYC and Europe.)Plus, switching the voltage at a Mac is rather easy, since the tranformer accepts dual voltage.

Also,about trusting one's ear. Essentially, I must agree on that statement. But it is just too hard to go auditioning all these brands, even in NYC. Dealers just try to push their stuff and have no time for someone who just wants to sample their equipment.

Thanks for your honest feedback,

Single-ended amps tend to have wild output impedences that interact greatly with most speakers, the result being that the frequency response of the speaker can have a number of huge dips and crests, i.e., the sound is not accurate nor faithful to the source. The sound can still be very pleasing, but oftentimes it is not. You don't have to worry as much about this issue with push-pull amps.

You really need to know which single-ended amps go well with which speakers, and as a general rule, you need to use them with speakers that do not dip below 6 Ohms or so (8+ Ohms is better). Single-ended amps tend to be low powered as well, meaning that you need to use them speakers that are extremely efficient (92 db+/watt/meter at a minimum).

Finally, you really need to spend some money to get a good single-ended tube amp (or any tube amp for that matter), as the output transformers in them are critical to their performance and good transformers are extremely expensive. Lamm, Air Tight and to a somewhat lesser extent, Jadis (good, but way overpriced) are examples of excellent (build quality and sound quality) single-ended gear. CAT, VAC and Audio Valve make excellent (build quality and sound quality) push-pull amps.

As for dealers, call Dave Lalin at Singer or Bob Herman at Lyric and tell them what you you are looking for. I think you'll be treated properly.
I was the first person to respond on this thread and I just checked back to see that many other people have provided some useful and helpful information.

I am more familiar with solid state gear and my Jolida 302B is my first experience with a pure tube setup. It has point to point wiring, excellent build quality, and a full range sound that sounds both accurate and emotionally involving to my ears. I have never heard the stock unit, but I am thrilled with my Level 1 mods from Parts Connexion.

I have my 302B partnered up with an Origin Live Ultra TT/OL Silver arm/Shelter 501 II cartridge/Bel Canto Phono1 TT setup, a modded Music Hall CD-25 CD player, and Quad 21L speakers. The system is supremely satisfying (especially as a secondary system). When you look at just the CD player, speakers, and 302B, the system is a sonic bargain. Of course you can get a better sounding system, but the rule of diminishing returns definitely applies.

My Jolida 302B costs far less than my primary system, but it comes extremely close in terms of musical involvement and enjoyment. I wish I knew more technically in regards to the tube knowledge demonstrated by many of the others on this thread. However, I can say that for the money I have not heard a system I like any better than my modded Jolida 302B.

what about the WAVAC?
You may want to look into an Antique Sound Lab Leyla 845DT integrated. I don't have any experience with it, but it seems to fit most of your criteria.
Not many votes for the Viva, well I have just bought a Solista. I heard it at the High End Show in London in April, driving admittedly sensitive Art speakers. The room was fully 30 by 30 ft and a high ceiling, believe me, it was loud enough. Everyone there I spoke to made it the best sound in show, fast detailed, but so musical. No sluggish warm tube sound here. I heartily recommend an audition