Bob Carver 180 Mono-blocks perform superbly

Is anyone in the Audiogon community using the Bob Carver 180 mono-blocks? I just placed a new pair in my system and I am really amazed at their performance. I am using them with the PS Audio PWD/PWT, First Sound MK-III and Tyler Acoustics D1 speakers. The price to performance ratio is outstanding. The Bob Carver 180's are producing an extremely clean, clear and open sound-stage. I can safely say they will compete with mono-blocks costing much more.
Give us some details, Mang.
Cost per pair?
Negative feedback?
Any notable parts?
Other equipment you've owned (for comparison).

Just saying "They're really keen!" isn't enough...
I gots a pair with the original vintage output transformers that Bob no longer has. One of the best soundstaging and imaging amps I've heard, better than my AtmaSphere M60, but not as smooth as the M60. Bass and dynamics is one of the best I've heard. It has two negative feedback setting (around 9dB and 21dB, the latter sounds better IMO). Runs barely warm. Bob is a great guy to deal with.
One odd thing, Bob Carver always made it quite clear he is not a tube amp person. Who would have guessed.
If you follow vintage tube amp listings on ebay, Bob Carver shows up on occasion with hand built tube amp listings. Some of them have been fairly simple offerings but with unique circuit designs which he describes in detail. Others much more complex and high power. He goes into great detail about the design and construction - even describing how he hand winds the transformers.

The ones I have seen are no reserve auctions that have drawn a great deal of interest and bidding.
Negative feedback, transformers? Ummm, no thanks. I'll stick with my BK Butler designed and built TDB-5150. BK's designs are revolutionary and the build quality is superb.

I have owned Parasound JC-1 mono-blocks and still own the Ayon Triton and the Bob Carver 180s in "my system" perform way better than the other gear I have owned. The 180's retail for $7400. They provide a large open, clear and dynamic sound-stage, yet the mids are smooth and liquidity. I'm hearing more detail in familiar recordings with no harshness or grain. You can make out the layers of music in recordings. My friends are blown away by the improvement. The 180's have a circuit that extends the life of the power tubes and the power tubes have a one year warranty. The amps themselves have a seven year warranty and are built like tanks. You can listen in a classic mode or a more contemporary mode by flicking a switch. The new LLC has been set up in Lexington Kentucky and I'm in Louisville so it makes it convenient if repairs were ever needed. All in all I believe Bob has really designed an incredible set of mono-blocks. I love tubes and the 180's are for sure sweet. They normally come in a cherry color but I had mine made in gloss black to match my other components.

12-30-11: Hifihvn
One odd thing, Bob Carver always made it quite clear he is not a tube amp person. Who would have guessed.
Really? Here's an excerpt from a 1990 Stereophile interview:

Atkinson: One of them, of course, was the C19 tube preamp. That's the second tube product we've seen from you, the first being the Silver Seven power amplifier. Does this represent a new-found passion, or have you always been interested in tubes?

Carver: I started designing amplifiers when I was in the 7th grade. Transistors hadn't arrived on the scene, so all my early work was designing vacuum-tube amplifiers. My first passion is vacuum-tube amplifiers, I grew up with vacuum-tube amplifiers. I love vacuum-tube amplifiers, I love them to pieces. I had a fantasy amplifier that I carried around in my mind all of these years; I dreamed about it, on and off, through my military career, through my children being born, through being married. I even purchased some Acrosound A-450 output transformers in the early '60s; I've carried those transformers with me all through my life, waiting some day for the moment to arrive to put them to use. The Silver Seven is that Fantasy Island amplifier, but I never really had the time to do it until now. The basic topology of the circuitry, however, was really hatched years ago.

A secondary reason for the development of the Silver Seven was that I really did want to endow an amplifier with everything that I could possibly think of, or anybody else could possibly think of, that would make it a wonderful, wonderful amplifier. And that included the silver wire and the Wondersolder, the gold connections inside...
Guys, I can tell you that the 180's are really nice mono-blocks. Based on my conversation with Tony and Bob they have really pushed the envelope with these. Also, I believe they will be at CES this year.

12-30-11: Rlwainwright
Negative feedback, transformers? Ummm, no thanks. I'll stick with my BK Butler designed and built TDB-5150. BK's designs are revolutionary and the build quality is superb.


Hardly a fair comparison when the Butlers cost over 2-1/2 times as much as the Bob Carvers.

The Butler is no doubt a stupendous design. His guitar pedal effects are legendary and I have a friend who used to work for him and holds his abilities in awe.

Still, that doesn't mean Carver's new tube amps should be dismissed because they have user-selectable feedback levels, which are probably relatively low (especially the 11dB setting) compared to many amps.
Classic mode, the feedback is approximately 20 dB, a value used by most vintage amplifiers and Contemporary mode, feedback is limited to about 11 dB. I personally prefer the classic. For my system they were not just a little jump but significant and the other amps I have used are not slouches by any means. I was able to park them before I get the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC upgrade board. I would love to hear the Butlers I bet their awesome.
Johnnyb53, apparently you don't read the articles and how many times he stated he is not a tube person (since he dumped tubes for transistors). He never had a tube amp from about '93, til recent. Oh yes, from what I remember in his interviews, he prefers solid state at home. Not too long ago, he found some left over transformers from back then (about '90) and started making the big amps again, and selling them on Ebay for $17-18k.

You prefer solid state amps. It seems your lost again. You seem always say how great your Onkyo is, and your new solid state acquirement.
We all have our personal preferences in regards to solid state or tubes, etc.; that's what makes this hobby so much fun. All I can say is I have owned many amps and have heard a bunch more and I love the 180's! They are the best I have placed in "my system".
01-02-12: Thankful
We all have our personal preferences in regards to solid state or tubes, etc

I agree. I just can't figure out why a person who apparently likes solid state (E.g. Johnnyb53) posts on tube amp threads.

I still wonder if Bob Carver is doing it for the money now (some people are saying that's the reason) , since he made so many statements in favor of solid state. I prefer tube amps mostly myself, and on occasion use solid state. I also wonder if it sounds like his Silver Seven...

I'm glad people are enjoying the 180.
I'm a tube guy mainly but have owned and heard some great ss gear. I was told that Bob is making amps again with his partners because he was bored with retirement,as were they. Can't comment on his finances but if I were betting I would say money has nothing to do with it. If I had the skills of a Bob Carver I would never retire.
I have been following Bob Carver's listings of his amps on eBay over the last year. He has totally redesigned his legendary Silver Seven amps. He calls the new beasts the Silver 900. They deliver 900 wpc of tube power, nearly double the power of the original Silver Seven. The original Silver Seven amps delivered 500 wpc. On one of his posts on eBay he mentioned that he makes amps now when he has the time. He says that he has a day job and that he is not retired.

Link to Bob Carver New Big Ass Amps

01-02-12: Mitch4t
I have been following Bob Carver's listings of his amps on eBay over the last year. He has totally redesigned his legendary Silver Seven amps. He calls the new beasts the Silver 900. They deliver 900 wpc of tube power, nearly double the power of the original Silver Seven. The original Silver Seven amps delivered 500 wpc....

Hey, Snohomish, WA (shipped-from location) is just up the road from me. I could save myself $360 by picking them up in person. Yippee. :-)
The Silver 900's are beast.

What type of speaker would you need this much power for?
The Apogee Scintilla comes to mind for the Siver 900. They're Bobs favorite speakers. In personal communication, Bob has always stated he likes the sound of tubes over SS. The Cherry 180 is a special amp. Does things I would not have imagined tubes would do well, like lightening dynamics and extended tight bass and ability to drive 1 ohm load.
Below is an email conversation that I had with Bob Carver asking why the Silver 900's only come single ended with no XLR option.

Dear mitch4t,

Hi '4t,

No XLR connections on my amplifiers! I get great sound with a single ended vintage RCA input. The amplifier itself is fully balanced from input to output. Balanced connectors are useful for preventing hum and noise pickup during extra long runs, as in pro applications. As for home audio installations I think great sound comes from single ended vintage connections.

Thanks for writing.

All the Best,

Bob Carver
- audioshopper Click "respond" to reply through Messages, or go to your email to reply
From: mitch4t
To: audioshopper
Subject: mitch4t has sent a question about item #180535475192, ending on Jul-29-10 16:57:47 PDT - Stereo Pair Monoblock Tube Amplifiers Amps Carver
Sent Date: Jul-23-10 20:09:12 PDT

Dear audioshopper,

Are xlr connections an option on your amps? Are they a fully balanced design? I have a preamp with balanced connections and single ended connections. I prefer to use the balanced connections when possible.
- mitch4t

Dracule - totally agree with your statement. The 180's are amazing tube amps. I love what they have done for my system.

There are some clips of Bob Carver on Youtube talking about his amps (ss vs tube etc.). Very informative information.

The Cherry 180 is a special amp. Does things I would not have imagined tubes would do well, like lightening dynamics and extended tight bass and ability to drive 1 ohm load.

01-04-12: Thankful

The Cherry 180 is a special amp. Does things I would not have imagined tubes would do well, like lightening dynamics and extended tight bass and ability to drive 1 ohm load.
There are tube amps that have high power, speed, extended bandwidth and tight bass (e.g., the VTL Siegfried Reference), but they're really expensive, hot and huge. It looks like one of the breakthroughs on these Bob Carvers is bringing this performance profile to more more affordable levels and reasonable size. No small feat.
According to the Bob Farinelli they really pushed the envelope with the 180's and 305's. I can attest to the fact that these are some of the best sounding mono-blocks tube amps I have heard at any price. They will be in my system for a long time.
"It looks like one of the breakthroughs on these Bob Carvers is bringing this performance profile to more more affordable levels and reasonable size. No small feat."

It is about time that a tech savvy individual has been able to bring a product to market with a great cost to performance ratio. We need more of that in order to allow people with shallow pockets to delve into the market. I am starting to see trends in other products where a manufacturer develops an introductory product incorporating lots of technology based on their top of the line products. Good news.

Audioquest4life - Great observation, I believe some of what has been occurring in the audio world is border line insanity. As I talk and correspond with folks like yourself I'm finding frustration with over the top high pricing. As folks like Bob push the envelope and price fairly the competition will have to take notice and follow suit. Like most people I have to pull every trick in the book to raise money for this hobby. So when something of this quality comes along I feel better about the purchase. The competition had better take notice of these type of trends. I'll repeat again that I believe the 180's will compete with much more expensive mono-blocks.
Thankful, for a point of reference, what tube amps have you own that you are comparing to Bob Carver 180?
Ayon Triton, MAC, and VTL. The MAC and VTL belonged to a friend I work with. All the other comparisons would include ss.
if you don't have big bucks the best buy out there is the Pure class A Zero feedback Spirit 3 Integrated retail $5200
but $4500 deliverd is possible and 60wpc pure class A pentode ,or 40wpc Triode is more than enough for most people not going deaf.The unit is almost 80 lbs transformers are huge by Any standard and are superb
from Lundahl of Sweden and the new MK3 is Totally redesigned with Austrian-German Build quality better than Any even at $10k makes Prima luna look Bad .
Check out the video review at Great new site.
Thanks Husk01!!!
The reviewer rates them in the top 10% of all tube amps he has ever heard (which means at any price)!! I knew they were special the first time I heard them.
My Cherry 180 is more transparent than my AtmaSphere M60 which is saying a lot, but my 180 has the vintage transformer and Vcap coupling caps with better binding posts, RCA connector, and captive PC cord that the standard 180s lack. It's all around best top 5 amps I've heard.
What is the sound difference in the 180 compared to 305's?
Basically just the power rating. Very similar sonic signature according to to Bob and Tony. Not sure how much different beneath the hood.
A slight correction would be Bob said "flea powered tube amplifiers" were not his cup of tea. The Silver Seven amplifiers he created at Carver were tubed but produced over 300 watts.
Agreed. Dismissal of an amp because of negative feedback is a gross misunderstanding and overly simplistic understanding of circuit design as is dismissal of an amp due to transformers. OTL is a valid approach obviously, but at what cost? The sound into real speakers will tell the story and the ear will be the judge.
The best amps I have heard are tubes, and use some feedback. True there are many feedback designs un-listenable, just as many zero feedback designs have their own set of issues, and to my ears lack musical believability. Jallen
01-09-12: Husk01
Check out the video review at Great new site.
indeed! thank you for this info & the link.
Thankful, reading the thread and your tube amplifier comparisons. Are you still happy with the 180s? Is there any new likes or dislikes to report?
Sorry for the delayed response. Life has been happening big time. I love these amps more than ever. I don't have anything negative to say about them. I believe to date they are some of the finest mono-blocks ever made and the value is stunning.
I live here in Kentucky and bought a pair of Bob Carver Cherry 180M amplifiers.

These are the best amps that I have ever had, I won't try and describe the sound they make. I was never good at trying to describe what "bright", "warm", and all the other terms that reviews use to describe a speakers sound. I do know what sounds good to my ears and what doesn't. Besides, I am sure the "sound" will change depending on what speakers, Pre-amp, tubes, and source choices are. What I will tell you is that before these amps I was using a pair of Jolida 1000P stereo tube amps, and before that I had used McIntosh MC-2105, Jeff Rowland model 3 mono amps, NAD 272 Stereo amp, Magnum Audio Stereo Amp, and I am sure there was some others in there as well.

Of course along with all these other amps I also had many other Pre-amps, sources, and speakers so it would be hard to give you a true A to B comparison.

So let me tell you about the Bob Carver Cherry 180M mono blocks, they are truly hand built, point to point wired, and solidly put together in an attractive case that is painted Cherry Red with Black transformer covers and Gold name plates. I was able to go to Lexington and tour the small facility where they hand build these amps. So yes, $7k might sound like a lot of money for a pair of amps but when you honestly consider that these are Hand Built with point to point wiring by Kentuckians in Kentucky and not some sweat shop in some foreign country with slave labor you will understand that these are actually a bargin. I am not saying that parts inside the Amp are not from china, I believe some of the tubes are Chinese as are resistors etc. because this is a manufacturing company they have to get parts where they can at a reasonable cost and it is impossible to source a parts from America. These amps are made so well that I would venture a guess that they will still be working 50 years from now.

So that takes care of the build quality, as for sound. Well with these I have a full range of sound, from low wall shaking bass when playing Daft Punk via the Turntable or the highs of a woman's voice like on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. And with all thats going on in the music with Pink Floyd's The Wall it all becomes clear and precise. At least I think that how I should have described it. I sure some one will correct me if I get it wrong. So let's say you just want to Rock, spin some Iron Maiden The Final Frontier and prepare to just enjoy metal the way it was intended. The soundstage is huge with depth and the amp is dead quiet, thanks to a volume control built into the amps. Plenty of power available too with 200 watts per channel.

I have had my amps for about six months now and have not been disappointed one bit, of course I did change out the factory 12AT7 and 12AX7 tubes with new production Tung-Sol 12AT7 and new production Electro Harmonix 12AX7 tubes. But that's part of tube ownership, tube rolling. So is the heat that these produce, however they do not produce as much heat as my previous Jolida Tube Amps. And even my favorite Solid State Jeff Rowland put out a lot of heat under load.

So, I would recommend looking in to the Bob Carver Cherry 180M amps if you are wanting to get into tube amps. To get anything better you would probably have to spend well over 20k on VAC or something similar. Hey I would be surprised if these are the last amps you buy, so it you spread the cost out over 20 years the cost is quite low (That was a joke).

My System is:

Leben HiFi RS28CX Tube Pre-Amp with Tube MM phono stage and outboard Tube rectified power supply.
Bob Carver Cherry 180M Tube Mono Blocks
Janton A&V 803 Real Full range loudspeakers
Pro-Ject Xtension turntable with 12" Evo Carbon Fiber Tone Arm
Ortofon 2M Bronze Cartridge
Denon 3800BDCI Blu-ray player
Jadis JS-1 Tube D.A.C.
AppleTV 3rd Gen
Playstation 3
Core Audio Component Rack
Core Audio Amp Isolation Stands
Tice Power Block
Luminous Audio interconnect
Wireworld Silver HDMI
Luminous Audio Speaker Cable
50" Plasma Hitachi
Zaphodbeeblebrox, I have a question for you could you PM me?
Has anyone had any reliability problems with these amps or can comment?
I thought I had a problem. It turned out to be one of my DIY power cables had a loose connection.

I did ship the amp back to Kentucky were it was run in for some time, tested, and I was promptly contacted. I subsequently found the cable problem and the amp was returned.

All in all the issue, or the lack of an issue, was communicated and handled very well. The VTA 180s have turned out to be an incredible fit in my system.
Could you find out what kind of capacitors he uses. For that price, I want premium well known capacitors
I was more interested in construction quality and the lack of using printed wire boards and crimped connectors. Also, I wasn't interested in paying for fancy casework. Mine are handsomely finished in black.

In voicing audio components using the most expensive parts may not meet the designers goal.

Your seeing the MSRP. You should contact Underwood HiFi soon regarding price and your capacitor question. He mentioned a possible price increase but I'm not sure when.
Using the most expensive parts does not meet the bottom line, which is profit. I've owned carver products that used engineering tricks to sound good, but used cheap parts that don't stand the test of time.
The only other Carver product I've owned was a pair of Phase linear 400's in the early seventies for PA use. This was in the infancy of solid state but those amps took a hell of a lot of abuse with no problems until they were eventually sold over nine years later.

I don't have any experience with Carver's later gear. I'm told he still maintains Carver service for all his products.

I was skeptical until I did the research and talked to other owners. This circuit was designed by Carver and Tim de Paravicini. Whatever engineering tricks they used to come up with this level of performance is impressive to me. He partnered with Bob Farinelli to produce the amps and with Tony Ferrero to manufacture. I'm told Carver himself was involved in the design but not the manufacture.

I spent twenty-two years servicing engineering printing, plotting, and copying equipment. I know shit manufacturing when I see it. The by hand assembly work in my amplifiers is very well done. The product carries a seven year transferable warrantee and one year on tubes.

I owned a Phase Linear 4000 preamp, it was quad, and I thought it sounded good, but that was compared to "midfi" and not "high end". Once I compared it to "high end", I discovered it sounded kind of "tinney" and when I looked inside, the parts were cheap.

The question I asked in regard to the capacitors was very specific, "What kind of capacitors does he use"?
I realize this is an old thread. What's up with the IEC on these units? They appear to accept only two pronged cords,or am I mistaken?
The new Carver tube amps only have two pins on their IEC power connection, but any standard 15 amp IEC power cable can be used. Apparently they are a floating ground design.
Thanks, Bill!