Budget Chinese Tube amps - any good?

In the midst of searching for a budget tube amp. Lots of chinese made models keep popping up. The price on these amps are often really low and would give someone like me a chance to try the tube sound for cheap.

Do you guys have any good experiences with them?

Reason I'm asking is that I hear many conflicting experiences online on each amp. Some say their amps are really good, some say they are really bad - each model might have 5 good reviews and 5 bad reviews. I guess this is par for course with audio, where subjectivity is the rule of the game. However, chinese amps tend to have the largest disparity of opinions.

The models I've read up on so far are: Mingda amps, Miniwatt N3, Yaqin amps etc.
Best of luck when you need service, you'll need it.
You get what you pay for. If you are on a tight budget look for quality used amps from companies like ARC, Conrad-Johnson, Manley, VTL, Rogue. What alls these amps have in common is a solid track record of performance spanning decades. Built in the US, broad dealer network, service/support when required and if you own a tube amp the day will come when you need some level of service/support.

Your money, your call. For my money I want gear that has a solid track record. This is not the case with most auido products made in China.
Unsound is right. I see from your previous posts you are on a tight budget, but you want to try tubes. Why don't you look for a clean Dynaco ST70? If you don't like it you can always get your money back. Those little 3.5 watt amps you have been looking at require special speakers. Been there done that. Probably won't do it again.
I started with Dynaco tubes in 1962; they are still good especially if upgraded with modern parts. Why Quicksilver isn't more popular is a mystery to me; it is very good quality at a reasonable price. They often appear on here at good prices; buy one, you will know what you have and can get it repaired if necessary. They use good parts and have point to point wiring; which is a big advantage and hard to find these days.
I tried an inexpensive chinese SET amp, out of curiosity. The build quality was poor, but it worked. I suppose I got a taste for the proverbial SET midrange sound. It was not good enough to keep, no real highs or lows, so I quickly reverted to my high-power American-made tube amp. The preceding posters all gave you excellent advice, especially for someone new to tubes.

There is gear built in China, but designed elsewhere and subject to European, American or Japanese standards of quality control, which represents good value. But if you had to choose between new Cayin or used AR...
I'm sure it varies by brand, just like things built elsewhere. Eastern Electric has a good reputation, as does Opera, and a variety of NA assembled brands designed and built by Chinese owners.
Maybe you could query specific brands you are interested in.

My wife was 'made in China'. She's very high quality, albeit not cheap.
F the Chinese. Buy American, used if you have to.
12-01-11: Paul_graham
F the Chinese. Buy American, used if you have to.

Paul - What if you're German or something? Still buy American?
don't do it. a buddy of mine tried one (dared) & it was noisy as hell the whole time & needed a replacement volume control shortly thereafter. for around $1K or less you can find a nice hard-wired tube amp built here. this may piss off some folks but i am trying my best not to contribute to this whole 'going to hell in a chinese handbasket' thing. I'm w/ya Paul....
The only good budget amps are used amps that weren't budget when they were new. If you want new you're looking at $1700 to get something that won't catch fire while you're at work. You'd be best off at your local salon doing A/B comparisons with tube and solid state. There's nothing better than forming a relationship with your local salon as well. In the long run, you might end up saving yourself a lot of headaches by doing that.
I actually was the importer for one of the Chinese brands mentioned above for several years. Obviously, there are a lot of stories to be told about that.

In general, I would say that if you are going to buy one Chinese high-end audio product, it would likely best be a low cost tube amplifier. In my opinion, as soon as you hit midlevel, you're far better off buying something made elsewhere. The poor resale of Chinese components is reflective, among other things, of the ZERO pride of ownership that comes with the territory.

As I currently own both products, I'll echo the Dynaco and Quicksilver recommendations. You can also do very well (IOW - a lot better than the Chinese kit) by looking into used products from the likes of ARC, Cary, Jadis, Manley, VAC, and VTL.
There are three PrimaLuna integrateds for sale on Audiogon right now starting at $1,000. One of these might be a good way to get your first experience with tubes.
On your budget a Dynaco ST 70 by Will Vincent or Bob Latino is where you should be looking.
or the nice quicksilver GLA listed now....
Rogue - usa made is another good choice
There is a used pair of Quicksilver Mini-Mite up for sale right now for $725, they might last another 30 years (except for tubes). If 25 watts are enough, these are killer and at the price, forgetaboutit
Does anybody know what speakers this amp is for?
There are good importers such as Pacific valve and Grant Fidelity that will service what they sell. I have not tried a power amp but I had a Doge 8 pre that I would happily put up against anything at any price. I was also able to have it serviced in the u.s. I would not buy a chinese made amp from a chinese seller as that would seem to be a problem if you did need service.
Cayin A-50T is a great budget integrated amp.
I second the Pacific Valve recommendation. Vic is a straight up guy. I asked him how the new Doge Clarity preamp compared with the Doge 8 which I have. He suggested that I keep my Doge since the loss from it's sale would not be worth the upgrade. 30 day audition and free shipping.
the various modded ST-70's are indeed where you should be lookinga as Markwatkiss said.
I own a JAS Audio Bravo 2.3 SE integrated SET amp running 6C33-B triodes in Class A @ 18 wpc.the 2.3 SE retails for close to two grand. this amp is heavy and well made.it has a very low noise floor and very good bass response for a SET amp. it does a good job driving my Silverline Audio Sonata III's and it sounds excellent.i used to own a TAD 60 push pull tube amp and it was very heavy and well made and sounded nice for a budget amplifier. i have only owned two Chinese tube amps but both were well made. caveat emptor
The Ming Da Mc7R is a great preamp with some unbelievable sound. Thes one has been modified and am really impressed at the different sounds that come out of the speakers now. This does not belong to me, but I have the unmodded model and dp plan to have it modded. Great value for a good sounding preamp without mods.
There are many reasons to avoid products from China, but the blnket statements about them all being crap is absolute rubbish.

I've owned a plethora of Chinese heat from company's like Eastern Electric, Jasmine and Prima Luna and there are some FANTASTIC pieces coming from that country. One of the best amps I've owner was the $4500 Shuguang S845 Mk which was outstanding.

Yes, crap comes out of China, perobably more crap than any other country, but that doesn't mean they ONLY export crap. I'd rather own a jasmine or shuguang integrated than any similarly priced American piece.

If you boycott China for political reasons that's perfectly acceptable, but claiming its all junk is ludicrous.
I'll throw in my 2 cents, and suggest that if you want to buy domestic, one of the best values out there today are hand-made tube amplifiers by people such as Jim Nicholls and Lance Cochrane. I own a Jimmy Nicholls creation, an 8 EL34 output push/pull, and it has given me nothing but listening pleasure. If I have any questions Jim is right there with helpful advice. His amps are also auto-bias, and overbuilt to last. Mine weighs 85 lbs.
I have an el34 based amp on order from Jim as well but mine is only 4 el34' with 6sn7' I purchased mine based soley on reviews I've read. Jim's amps also come with a lifetime warranty and are very reasonably priced. The only down side is the 2-3 month wait as this is a side hobby of sorts for Jim.
I currently have the TAD 1000 monoblocks which I happen to like but I'm just looking to simplify / downsize without suffering a loss of sound quality and I don't think that will be the case with Jim's amp
We used to make a guitar amplifier for a guitar amp company in town. One time they sent some parts to us to evaluate- they were Chinese imports. One of the parts was an electrolytic capacitor, rated 47uf @ 450Volts.

Now this might be a part you would use in a power supply of an amplifier. It looked a little odd though. Most tubular style filter caps have the negative end made out of metal, with the negative lead welded to that, and the other end will have a black rubber cap and the lead for the plus connection coming out of the middle of that. This part was weird because it had a black rubber plug at *both* ends. It was marked as Nichicon, a well-known manufacturer of electrolytic caps. We decided to take the cap apart.

What we found inside was another, smaller cap with a name that I could not pronounce, marked 22uf @ 400Volts. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had installed this in a power supply? Not only was it under-rated, but there is a good chance that the part we found within would not even spec up to its ratings either!

There is by no means an isolated incident. IMO the biggest issue that you run into with Chinese-built electronics will be the high voltage power supplies.
Another recommendation for Pacific Valve. They're great guys that will give you excellent support. The Eastern Electric M88 tube integrated is fantastic also, and a great value. And Bill the importer is a guy you can count on for support also.

That's the thing with buying Chinese stuff, you need a good American go-between to give you support if needed.
I recently ordered some speakers from Stereo Unlimited in Walnut Creek. These folks recommend a Jolida amp to go with the speakers. They mod the amp and they say they will help out if anything should go wrong. This seems to be a pretty good option...to get a relatively low price, and also some local support...I'm probabably going to go for it..not 100% sure yet
Maybe I lucked out, but I bought a 50WPC Yaqin MC-10T EL34 amp and was really surprised by the fidelity. It was certainly better than my old modified Dynaco 70 and I even preferred it to my Dynaco Mark IIIs. The output transformers are beefy too, almost the same size of a Dynaco Mark III.

Build quality is pretty high with a nicely made chassis. But based on my capacitor replacement experience, working on them is difficult. Components are located underneath the circuit board, which required the removal of a dozen screws, a coupled of wire clips, and some tie-downs to get at.

Regarding sound quality - what started off as very good, got even better once I replaced the four Shuguang 12AT7s with a pair of Mullards and a pair of US-made Tungsols. I now use the amp to drive the tweeters in my bi-amp system, where a Threshold S/500 does the heavy-duty work.

Full-range sound quality is very fast and detailed, and doesn't sound sloppy/spongey like some vintage tube amps. What really surprised me is the treble detail and clarity - clean and effortless without a hint of glare or stridency. Again, much better than I expected for under $500.

I'll have to see about long-term quality - my main concerns are the Chinese tube sockets since replacing them looks like a tough job. With that in mind, I don't plan to do a lot of tube-swapping.
purchased a cayin integrated S.E.T. 300b 10w/pc .great sound and value superb craftmanship,,point to point wiring ,probably my last amp ,heard a few others for twice the price ,,cayin won hands down ,,anyway just my opinion,mated with the outstanding sounding speakers made by louis of omega speakers in norwalk ct..
I bought a new factory modded/upgraded Jolida JD502p power amp some months ago and it's working out really well...it was amazingly inexpensive. It's a powerful sweet sounding amp (with the XLR inputs that I wanted) for about half the cost of what a comparable amp by ANY other brand, Chinese or domestic, offers, as well as being a great vehicle for my endless tube rolling fetish.
My old Cayin TA-30 from Paul at BizzyBee was my first and only tube amp. Great sound and a kissin' cousin (if not outright fraternal twin) to the Prima Luna which came out around the same time. Paul, sadly, is gone and so are his products but the Prima Luna marches on in many variations. One look underneath and you be hard pressed to tell the difference. Kind of like the Mini Watt controversy as to who owns the rights to the same thing being made at two different factories.

You can get some really good quality product from Chinese makes xenophobia aside. Check out what Pacific Valve imports after it's been modded to their specs. The stuff will look the same as what you can get from Chinese exporters but it's not the same internally. That, and PV backs up their stuff with warranty.

Like what Wolf says about Jolida: great product. Jolida has always gotten great reviews and have been around a very long time. In fact, I am considering getting one instead of a Luxman to satisfy my EL-84 itch to see if what they say about that El-84 sound and Jolida is true. $650 vs. $2400 makes it very tempting.

All the best,
Ive had a Jolida 102-B for about 8 years that I use for a back up for my seperates.I have it playing now.My power amp is going in for repairs.The Jolida is stock except tubes,and it sounds very good! Very musical!Heavy little thing!Never regreted buying it.The first one they sent me had shipping damage,I called them and they sent out a replacement right away.I was surprised that it arrived damaged as it was packaged very well with fitted foam and heavy double boxed.
I remain surprised the travails of Jolida, which Forbes illustrated back in 2005 http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2005/0905/088.html never became the sort of watershed article on this subject.

Michael Allen literally went to the ends of the earth to keep Jolida, a brand I've always been a fan of, afloat. Additional trouble of the business sort, which is at least as common as the mostly nonexistent quality over there, loomed down the road, came to a head a couple of years ago. I find it amazing he made it through in both cases, which serves as a testament to his intestinal fortitude. Obviously, such herculean efforts would represent the exception, not the rule.

Despite the reputation for quality (that one still makes me laugh) and lofty (for Chinese) pricing of the company I represented, they never budged from their throw over the wall mentality. Once a component left their factory, regardless of whether it worked or not, the countless problems their gear encountered was the problem of whoever's hands it landed in.

I'll never forget the turntable motors that ran the wrong way, and how that must have been the fault of the unlucky folks who purchased those units, through their own malicious/stupid actions. A half dozen unrelated people across North America all happened to disassemble their turntable motors, and intentionally or unknowingly wire them so that they would rotate their platters in the opposite direction. Really?!?

That gives me pause, as far as turntables are concerned. But there does seem to be enough outlets stateside that sell Jolida, among them VTV, Quest For Sound, NewTube, USATubeAudio, SpearitSound, and others. I believe one offers cap upgrades (VTV) as well. But then if I do get it, then off to Brent Jesse for some '70s Mazda NOS tubes and whatever else he recommends in my price range.

I'm getting so close to talking myself into this with funds so tight. Damn.

All the best,
Ive had a Jolida 102-B for about 8 years that I use for a back up for my seperates.I have it playing now.My power amp is going in for repairs.The Jolida is stock except tubes,and it sounds very good! Very musical!Heavy little thing!Never regreted buying it.The first one they sent me had shipping damage,I called them and they sent out a replacement right away.I was surprised that it arrived damaged as it was packaged very well with fitted foam and heavy double boxed.
Nonoise, I believe Jolida represents an incredibly sound purchase. Unlike most Chinese gear, you have support, and won't get crushed if the day comes to move it. As things are, I have a delightful Chinese integrated for sale here on Audiogon at just over 25% of its original cost, and it's attracted just about zero interest.

No one's going to represent Jolida as the best obtainable sound. But the level of performance you will get will far exceed the ratio of its cost in comparison with the better gear available. Though I live happily with Dynaco, Jadis, and Quicksilver products, I could also live happily with a Jolida tube amplifier.
M&C - I'll add another vote for the Maryland, USA-based
JoLida. I have a 502B integrated bought new 12 year old.
This piece was my introduction to tubes and I liked it very
much from the beginning. Over time, I switched to KT88s and
some better small tubes; upgraded the power cord; lastly,
had it upgraded at the factory a few years ago. Price for
mods was very reasonable and yielded an additional
improvement to the sound. For me, this amp was something I
could grow with. Only reason not using it day to day now is
because I went to mono-blocks (also Chinese) for more power.
The Totem Forests not that efficient. Am toying with
getting a pair of the much more efficient Tekton Lores just
so I can run the Jolida. Not sure how a 2nd set of speakers
will go over domestically, however. Hopefully you'll be
able to visit a shop that carries the brand and get a listen
(and a look). Good luck.

Nonoise - do it, do it.
Trelja & Ghosthouse,

Nothing like testimonial from credible and sound sources such as yourselves.
That Forbes article on the trials and tribulations of Michael Allen made me wince. Lesser men would have folded. He saw something in that product and persevered. And your cost/enjoyment ratio explanation strikes an inner chord.

You two are like little devils on my shoulder urging me on. Shame on you. :-)

All the best,
I spoke to Michael Allen on the phone a couple of times when calling Jolida about my amp...minor questions regarding KT120s and like that...and it appears that Maryland Jolida is doing very well in spite of what might be a long, drawn out litigation with the "other Jolida"...all the Jolida guys are accessable, helpful people, including Allen, who often answers the phone and doesn't mind chatting about this stuff.
When buying some gear, the who you purchase from perhaps as important as the what. Solid product and a great person to deal with, Stephen from Quest for Sound. There SQ-88 integrated is great, and Steve is tops.
I have had 2 Jolida integrateds, the 502 and the 801. Although both had been modified by Response audio. I liked them both and don't remember having any issues with them. I would certainly buy Jolida products again.
Disclaimer- I don't have golden ears and absolutely not the depth of experience of many here. Do consider the TNT Audio review of the JoLida 502. They don't accept advertising.

Nonoise - prefer the role of unfallen angel. Good luck in your choice.

Point taken. Unfallen angel it is. :-)

All the best,
Beware of anybody claiming to have "golden" ears...they're more likely to be guilded tin.
I always find the responses to these threads to be completely ridiculous. Yes, there is crap coming out of China, but there are a lot of SOLID companies with very good sounding equipment. Melody for example is designed in Austria and built in China--I just sold their $2k introductory amp (which kicked the crap out of a Music Reference RM-9, VAC PA100/100 and Decware Torii 3 IMO) to buy their $6k flagship integrated.

There are plenty of other GREAT Chinese options as well, Prima Luna, Cayin, Jasmine, Eastern Electric--these companies do NOT suck!
I was about to post my rant and realized that Gopher's post exactly mirrors my opinion.
And guess what? Those who went to the CA Audio Show this past weekend...the room with TRI triode electronics driving Acoustic Zen speakers hosted by Robert Lee. The TRI amps are made in China, and in my opinion that setup is one of the best if not the absolute best of the show.
Cayin and Melody are not "Ming Da cheap and thus filled with counterfeit components like *Rudycon* caps", but they are a lot better in terms of build quality and circuit considerations for safety and reliability.
Agree with Kentaja's comments about track record. Plus, the Chinese stuff is made with slave labor, and the mark-up must be enormous.
If a well made Chinese based amp isn't expensive, you can assume the markup isn't enormous. Besides...our great country was built on slave labor so there's a tradition there (joking, but still a truth albeit a sad one). Apparently, unlike MAC and others, Michael Allen (Jolida) started a new factory a while back with much higher wages and far better working conditions than nearly any other Chinese factory, all to insure production of a higher quality product at a reasonable price.