They are not audio bling, but I've tested and heard these from Japan and was impressed compared to most of the blingy junk from Asia, and the designer has very good cred. He also uses his own "R" core transformers. And are very well priced for what you get.
Not just from Asia.
I’ve seen caps and heaters pushed over their max ratings.
Also output transformers that look a million dollars because of the transformer cover/case, but the inside the transformer bobbin is wound like a scrambled mess, instead of nicely layered and interleaved.
See how the middle one takes more room because it’s just a little scrambled.
To get good winding machines to do the first pic cost big money, or you can do it by hand.
Then you have interleaving.
Look at finale audio a sister company of triode labs they have stuff starting at $1500 made in Canada with great parts quality and options including hashimoto, James transforms. Very good build quality and all Canadian and USA parts with a few select out side sources. I've been extremely happy with my F 3008 300b based SET
Recently adopted a barely used Dennis Had "Inspire Fire Bottle" SEP (pentode) amp…astonishing great sounding thing, hand made, relatively inexpensive either new or used at under a grand or so used to around 1500 bucks new. His thing now (he retired from his company Cary Audio) is he builds a few each month and sticks 'em on Ebay, so you have to stay on top of the listings or get lucky like I did. Needs efficient speakers to do its best …look them up as there's a lot of info out there. I did consider a Coincident Dynamo, but the Had amp just seemed too tempting at 12 watts per side, and it's just a dynamic tone bomb that seems like a steal.
I believe you’ve gotten some very solid recommendations for "good" quality amps at a "budget" price.
1 I’d trust George’s opinion regarding the Japanese 300b amp. It seems a well thought out design/implementation.
2 Dennis Had amp used by Wolf. Their current models seem to have improved power supplies/transformers and are built by a known talent.
3 Coincident Dynamo MK II, I’m very familiar with this brand and they are very high quality. Many good reviews and owner feedback comments.
As Wolf mentioned and I strongly agree, you must have a compatible speaker that's easy to drive and efficient. Otherwise you won't appreciate what these types of quality low power amps are capable of.
Glennewdick mentioned the Finale amplifiers. I have not heard them but they have a very solid reputation for sound and built quality. The SET/SEP amps are very simple circuits with few parts, this why they're capable of such pure and natural sound .
The key to their success is a serious effort to build them right, meaning quality transformers and power supplies. The "junk" versions always cut corners in these crucial areas as George noted in his comments about winding transformers.
The better brands mentioned above won't do this as they know the result will be a crap/junk amplifier. My advice is to go in the direction of the serious intentioned amp builders and you will achieve very high sound quality.
Thanks for keeping my head straight, or at least guided away from the cheap "bling" amps. When I cheap out on myself, I oftentimes end up spending more.
@wolf_garcia. Those look great. Saw some mixed reviews. Most of my other gear is Cary, both pre and post Mr. Had's departure from the company. If you are familiar with a general Cary house-sound, do you think Mr. Had carried it over to his craft amps? Inasmuch as some of it would be apples to oranges.
@charles1dad. Some of this interest was reignited by another inquiry I had about tube and shelf-friendly monitors. Just picked up Sophia Princess S.E.T. Model 2 monitors, kind of on impulse. I think they are 88/db. Omegas were recommended, and, so, extremely curious about how the single-drivers work/sound, hedged, and ordered the 3 HO. I think those are 95/96 db.
The Decware Mini Torii looks interesting. Some nice, useful features. I think a couple folks mentioned them, elsewhere, and smaller Decware, particularly with Omega. An acquaintance is a huge fanboy, but I didn't immediately make the connection, because he raves about one of the bigger amps.
Any thoughts on Decware in or around the league discussed above?
Even though I own a Mini Torii, I'd be a bit cautious about recommending it to someone who hasn't heard it. It's got a very distinct sound. At its worst, with some recordings it can sound a bit hollow and dead; at its best it's got a beautiful musical full bodied rich and powerful sound. It all depends on the recording and production of that recording. In reading the Decware forums, I'm not sure that I've seen any posters who owned a Mini Torii and another Decware amp say that they preferred the M.T.
I've played it for many people in my system. Some love it and some don't. Just wanted to put that out there.
I’m not familiar with a Cary "house sound" although I’ve read around 4,612 reviews of Cary stuff over the years…I admit to having simply "rolled the dice" with this amp after buying some relatively efficient (93db) speakers. I get the "mixed reviews" thing but I found mostly positive stuff about these amps when used with the proper speakers, and simply feel Had is hilarious and certainly seems to know what the hell he’s doing…hype from the person making the amp isn’t always the most unbiased source, but in this case he seems to be on to something with this "Pentode Single Ended" design (his description of just that bit is cool…maybe nonsense to some, but cool). I get that it’s often just good luck to stumble upon something that works well with your existing gear, although if the front end of the system is well sorted stuff generally works well. After 5 decades of gear sorting I was actually surprised by how great this little amp sounds. Maybe I’ll stick a premium fuse in it (kidding…that was for Charles1dad…heh heh).
I wish it were not so difficult at times to get possession of the various amps and simply to a direct comparison with one's speaker. Had Inspire vs Dynamo MK II vs Soft Tone Japanese 300b vs Finale amp. I bet all 4 sound terrific yet distinctly different. This would be much fun. No dogs in this bunch. Now about those fuses......
I’ve owned Cary amps and recently sold an Audio note Otto SE that this Finale Audio 300b amp replaced (ok I did have a Luxman Class A amp temporarily while saving funds) the Finale Amp is just so much more musical then the Cary or the Audio Note Uk stuff that I’ve heard. Now I do have the $6000 version of the 300b integrated but I have heard some of the other amps they make and they all seem to just get the music right. you don’t get bling that’s for sure you get good design and great parts quality. I have not heard the Dynamo so I can not comment there but I do recommend giving Frank at Finale/triode labs a ring he is very approachable and a kind soul i’m sure he would recommend something that will suite your needs and budget he also has from time to time show amps and prototypes he sells at a reduced price. I believe there is also an integrated in Audiogon that’s worth looking at for around $1200 if my memory serves.
I suspect that your amplifier sounds terrific with the Hashimoto transformers and high quality chokes on board. This parallel SET amplifier seems very well built and implemented. I own a Canadian built SET as well, the Coincident Frankenstein MK II and am utterly satisfied with it x 8 years.
I have a solution for your quest for an excellent SE amp... it is made my Dennis Had, the founder of Cary Audio. It is far better than Dared and Yaqin amps, no question. I have a Dennis Had EL84 SE amp for sale on this Audio Mart. I upgraded from very efficient single-drivers in my bedroom system to speakers that require more current so I am parting with the amp. You don't know mention the speakers you are driving, but if they are in the range of 94 db or better, this might be the amp for audio nirvana. Dennis's amps are legacy pieces of gear. Just my take.
Strong 2nd on the George Wright stuff. Yes, he passed away, and the finish on some of his stuff is not so hot, but soundwise they're amazing.
If you're buying new, I'd avoid the cheap-ish stuff. SETs only sound as good as their output transformers, and there's no way to do those without $s (other than buying used). Fi, Audio Note, and Cary all make/made wonderful gear, and there are smaller manufacturers (like Final, noted above, and also the late George Wright) who only sold direct on the web, who offer solid products. I recommend buying the DVD with all the back issues of Sound Practices magazine and familiarizing yourself who's who in SET/SEP world.
Hi , if I may and my 2 cents . I have a 2 year old Dennis Had Inspire KT88, with a 9 pin driver . There is a newer octal driver version at a higher price . Mine was $1200 on eBay . Dennis is a great guy and the Inspire is a great little amp that's built like a tank . I have KT77,6L6gc,6550,KT88 and KT120 tubes for it . 5 rectifiers and about 8 E88CC driver tubes including Telefunken and Seimens CCa. It shipped with new production Gold Lion KT88 and GZ34 and 2 budget NOS driver tubes . I've spent at least $2k rolling tubes. It's self biasing and it's bomb proof . I can run the higher voltage Mullard CV 5745 and KT 120's for hours , without issue . I usually use my Zu Omens , but also have Klipsch Heresy II's and KG 1.5's. It isn't powerful enough to run my JBL 4312's. I feed it with a Rogue RP1 with Seimens silver plates or Tektronix Telefunkens . I have budget interconnects , cables and power cords . I'm very happy with the amp and Dennis . I highly recommended them both . In retrospect you could keep the KT88 Gold Lions and the GZ 34. Just pop in an E88CC Telefunken ( $150). And you're good to go. Next would be a Phillips 5R4GY from upscale audio. If you want more power a nos Mullard GZ34 (fx32) and Tung Sol KT 120's . Also sweet are the SED 6L6GC's or the 6550's. Low power an EL34 or KT 66/77 and a 5U4g. If your considering the Dynamo34, as I did ( but didn't audition), ENJOY THE MUSIC, August 2014 , has a nice article on a budget system pairing the Coincident with Tekton speakers . My Inspire paired with the Omens and a 10" sub , work very well. I use a Schiit Bifrost to play Tidal and the clarity is fantastic as well as the soundstage . With the KT 120's classic rock that has pronounced bass like Pink Floyd and Grand Funk Railroad really don't require the sub. It's a really powerful 12 watts . On low power, artists like Sonny Rollins and Dave Brubeck really shine . Especially with NOS Tung Sol 6550's or Psvane KT88 Ti's .Acoustic groups like Peter ,Paul and Mary sound great with any tube combo . It might be a little high for your budget , but if you get one , I bet you won't sell it . My next endeavor is to build a pair of Bob Latino 125 mono blocks , cause I miss my JBL's. I'm going to hook them to the extra pair of outputs on the Rogue and just choose between the Inspire/ Zu, or the Latino/JBL's when I power on . I had an Antique Sound Labs 30 wpc amp after having Dynaco MKIII's and an SCA 35. Although the ASL had no issues , im just not fond of Chinese gear . So I hope I provided you with some help and wish you the best . Regards , Mike.
A couple of things I've realized after a few weeks with the Inspire Fire Bottle: Now I'm chained to high efficiency speakers since (at least for now) I'm so smitten by the performance of the Had amp. I also realized it's not so easy to communicate with Had (2 exchanges so far, but my most recent query about the LP3-A preamp he'd mentioned was a couple of weeks ago and no response yet…if the LP3-A had remote volume I'd buy one) as it's over Ebay messaging only…I get that…also his amps are so rarely on the market they're almost Unobtanium, although maybe there are so few SE amp heads out there it doesn't matter.
Wolf_garcia, I wonder what's your opinion on the ASL amps? Are they audio bling like the Yaqin or Dared or a step above?
Much less expensive than all of the aforementioned amps is the little 5/15 wpc ASL MGsi15DT, the KT88 based SET/SEP amp is great sounding, dead quiet and very fun to listen to. It's basically two different amps in one, when you listen in triode and pentode modes. I had an early version without the bias meter. Mine developed a little problem when listening in Pentode mode as it had a high pitched sound. Replacing the KT88's didn't help and rather than getting it fixed, I sold it.....should have gotten it fixed, probably simple fix - it was a great sounding amp. I don't see them come up for sale that often, but if you do, I'd jump on it, they can be had for less than $500
One of the writers from Listener magazine reviewed it and went on that SEP was sonically better than SET. I once had an early Jeff Korneff 6bq5 that was wired in SEP and it was spectacular with great bass.....
Also, at a cost savings are some of the custom offerings from Jef Larsen and there's a guy in Toms River, NJ building SET amps that look interesting as well. I'd bet that some of these custom amps are every bit as good sounding as some of these commercial amps. Its a labor of love for these people and your not paying for the overhead of the larger companies....just my $.02 - a little more homebrewed looking, but some of them can be quite nice looking too....
Another Dennis Had Inspire Firebottle KT88 amp devotee. I have a small listening room 12 x 14. I have all the volume I need with volume at 10 o'clock. And I'm driving ML Theos! There's a youtube of same from another user with an Inspire amp/ML Theos combo. So much for being an amp only for highly sensitive speakers. It's not my first rodeo with small watt amps, especially those from Asia. I've owned a lot of gear. I'm happy with the Inspire amp and LP2 preamp. I bought both used, some 4 years back. The amp's a tube rollers dream, and musical as all get out. Hard to do better especially for being hand made in the USA, imho.
I have a Yamamoto A09 which is a 300b design,I have also owned the A08 and the A08s at the same time both were sold though recently.The build quality and sound is outstanding on all the Yamamoto amps but they are very hard to come by.
With that said I would look for one of the Dennis had amps,if you have the right speakers.
Whitestix--Right now, for this "project" I have Omega 3 HO (listed at 97.5db) and S.E.T. Sophia Princess Model 2 (listed at 88db). Plus a hodgepodge of other bookshelf/monitor, unlikely to be "tube-friendly" (at least on paper). Not sure how I feel about el84s for my first go-round, just based on preconception from a couple of guitar amps.
Mikirob-agree. the 280/V12 is awesome.
I think, right now, if I was to pull the trigger, I’d be between the Fire Bottle, Dynamo, and still one of the Decwares. I didn’t make it all the way through what seemed like an endless discussion on another forum on the Inspire. 6sl7 in the Dynamo sound like fun. I have a few to play with from rolling around CAD211fe.
I have a lot of tubes hanging around and tried some "still OK after some use" KT150s in the Had amp, but found the supplied GL KT88s sounded better somehow. I have some barely used Sovtek 88s, Tung Sol 6550s and more GL 88s, and I did buy a backup Amperex 6SN7GTB…I've sent another query to Had regarding the LP-3a preamp, and can only guess when or if he'll respond. Ebay messaging…meh...
The fire amp is not going to be biased high enough to run kt150's or even kt120's unless you have the model made for kt150.You could probably change some resistor values and bias the 150's with the proper voltage.
Being a member of a local audio club I have heard almost all of Dennis's amps and I liked the el84 version the best if you have the right speakers,the kt88 is good too.
I'd recommend looking at Don Sachs' custom-built KT88 amp.
Don will custom build to your specs so the price ranges between $2,495 and $3,199.
I have his 6NS7 based preamp and can attest to Don's attention to detail and craftsmanship.
Kdude66: When I bought the Fire Bottle amp, Dennis Had did respond to my question (via Ebay of course) regarding KT150s saying that my December 2016 amp would work fine using 150s. However, the GL KT88s sound so good with the Sonist speakers (and now that a new Morrow cable has spent the seemingly requisite 400 plus hours breaking in) I don’t really care about tube swapping at the moment. Actually I care (deeply), but I just don’t wanna. It’s my understanding that EL84s result in the amp producing around half the power available with other tubes…that might be wrong, but my brain is deluged with the hundreds of pages of discussion I’ve read about this amp so things are getting fuzzy…except in the amp. I just checked out the Don Sachs amps and they’re beautiful, but not Single Ended as per the gist of this conversation, unless I missed something (extremely likely).
I have the 2A3C Dared which is a SET integrated amp. 3 inputs no phono stage..., ran it on klispchorns, then on some avantegarde 3 ways and some zu audio . Its super clean It is really nice and easy to roll tubes. Its my basement system. I on my main system Have a SEP Inspire pre amp by Dennis Had, he was with cary audio before, love his preamp.... Love it, its cleaner than the dared, but cost more and is only a preamp the dared is an integrated. Its feeding into some mono extreme Klauss amplifiers, odyssey. I would go with the fire bottle amp if i didn't like the dunlavys with a little more power on them. I kinda wanna buy one of those amps just to have down the road, but then will have to by a matching pre amp... anybody want a steal of a deal on a dared 2a3c?
If you want inexpensive and fun to get into it, I would recommend two amps. I have both of these and that is what got me started on tubes.
Tube Cube 7 if you have very efficient speakers. It has a better model of tubes than the current miniwatts, so better rolling options if you like.
Aiqin/Oldchen EL34 amp - discussion here - twice the power, nicely built, quite affordable.
georgehifi205-22-2017 7:19pmThey are not audio bling, but I've tested and heard these from Japan and was impressed compared to most of the blingy junk from Asia, and the designer has very good cred. He also uses his own "R" core transformers. And are very well priced for what you get.
Can you provide any more info on your experience with the Softone - sonics, etc.?
@simao. That one is push-pull. I think they do a 300b SET. Anyone with thoughts on that?
@kalali. Nope. Not "budget," for me. Not in the range of what was being discussed or what I initially mentioned (Dared/Yaqin). Completely blew through what I was thinking of spending to test the waters. I’m sure that’s happened to most of us at one time or another? Thought they looked great, and I hedged with a bit more power without going with an 845. Thanks, Kalali. I’m excited to get them set up. Now, if only my speakers will keep up. It never ends, does it?
The Wall PSETs are probably the best sounding amps that I've had through the house. Just really amazing.
But, I got bit by this SET/SEP bug and picked up a used Dennis Had Inspire HO--the one with the big transformers and, I think, rated 17 watts with near-meltdown KT88s. I'm sure there is a ton of tube-rolling fun to be had, but I'm not yet sure what the options are or whether the rectifier needs to swap out with different power tubes. Hopefully, I can contact him through the auction site. It sounds fantastic and has fairly big balls. Picked up an LP27a pre, too, and, with mesh plate 27s, it produces a lovely and hauntingly organic, but very pleasantly colored, midrange. Very happy, so far, with the Inspires.
I wouldn't say these totally carry over a Cary sound, but closer to Cary than maybe ARC.
Thanks, again, folks. I suspect there would have been disappointment with one of the cheap bling amps.
I’m happy for your success with this genre of amplifiers as they are quite terrific with the right speaker match. You did the right thing by spending more to get better quality amplifiers.
It defeats the whole purpose of owning these type of amplifiers if the parts, transformers and power supplies are subpar. You need good part quality for good sound quality.Particularly poor quality output transformers will ruin the entire amplifier experience with lousy sound/performance.