Budget Tube Integrated? + Tube related questions

Hi Gurus,

I'm building my first hifi for a new apartment I will be moving into. The system will go into the living room (about 11 by 11ft) and will be used for music mostly and TV/movies occasionally.

I'm keen on a Tube integrated, as I would love a natural, warm sound. I love Jazz and I hear that tubes and vinyl are a match made in heaven (looking to build a vinyl setup in the near future but for now just an Airport Express with lossless files).

Unfortunately my budget is about 500-600 for the amp, and so far only Jolida's offerings seem to be in the ballpark (excluding Chinese amps like Qinpu - are these any good by the way?) Cheaper tubes also tend to have lower outputs, around 20w into 8ohms for the Jolida FX10.

Is it absolutely necessary to get high sensitivity speakers in such a case? Or would these amps be ok driving regular budget bookshelves (like the Wharfedale Diamonds or PSB Alpha/Image, Paradigm monitors etc.)? Since my room is pretty tiny, I was wondering if it'd be ok?

Or should I totally forgo tubes at this price range? Some have suggested that tubes in the below 1000 mark generally aren't worth the bother.

Also I'll be running the setup for several hours a day - including background listening. Is this detrimental for a tube setup? Do I have to replace tubes frequently with such usage?
In a room that small, I think the Jolida 102b and PSB speakers would be just fine as I have used that combination in my home office in the past and it was very engaging. I ran the little Dared VP-20 mono amps for a time as well and they worked equally good for the room.

Tubes do wear out over time and the output tubes start becoming a concern as they approach 2000 hours of use. Fortunately, the cost of tubes are relatively inexpensive for most common type tube amps.

Go for it.
I use the Jolida FX10 in a 10" x 10" office with a pair of 87 db efficiency JohnBlue JB3 speakers and really like the combination in that room. I'm very impressed with the FX10, the soundstage and texture of the music with the JB3's is very enjoyable, sometimes even startlingly lifelike, and the FX10 has been trouble free playing several hours a day for almost two years.

I've tried several combinations of output tubes and can't comment on the longevity of the stock Electro-Harmonix tubes but as Montytx said, there are some good current production 12ax7's and EL84's available at reasonable prices. I substituted a set of Russian military 6pi14pi-ev tubes for the stock EL84's, described as a long-life tube and usually available for less then $40 for a set, and they've been rock solid.
Stick with quality and value, get a used Cayin.
Look at the Vista Audio I84, great sound, good volume and not expensive
Sure the lower powered amps will 'work' with less efficient speakers . The question is how 'well' would you like them to work together ?
Unless you already have the speakers , it is possible to get more efficient speakers for the same price as the ones that you have eluded to above .
You are on the right track with a tube amp and seem to have done some research into the subject . Now do the same for the speakers .

Good luck
I am in the same situation i have a pair of system audio 86db into 4 ohm trying to match with a tube amp, but careful
i have the feeling that will be a hard task.
I am currently using a Jolida FX 10 in my office system (14X16) and it has been excellent with my Tekton 4.5 speakers (you should consider them for about $300.00, used,less). They blow away the Psbs and Wharfdale in the same price-range. I get a wall-to-wall sound-stage if it has it in the recording. This little combo is oh-so-right, you can't go wrong.
PS, like Sfar I also tube rolled a bit and can vouch that Russian mil spec tubes like his, or my 7189s seriously out-perform the stock tubes by a wide margin in every area. I also like the new Gold Lion EL 84s, also have Ei, they too, are better than the stock tubes. I'm running The Tubestore Northern Electric 12AX7s per their suggestion, they are very good. Good hunting...
In a small room, one thing to consider: Tube Amp = HEAT!
Are you in Singapore?
You are definitely on the right track, but be warned that tubes + vinyl requires more resources for general maintenance. It might be worth trying to stretch up a bit on the budget to get something higher powered with a good onboard phono amp like a rogue. Another route to consider would be a vintage receiver like a good kenwood or sansui which can usually be had for around $400 and usually have phono inputs.
Thanks for all the replies so far gents. Pls do keep them coming.
I managed to audition some amps and speakers today.

First audition - tried a solid state Marantz PM6004 from a Naim CDP into Wharfedale 10.6 floor standers. It was technically really good to my amateur ears but the sound wasn't musical at all. I really didn't enjoy them, although on a technical level it was a small Wow.

2nd audition - From my Macbook air (lossless) into Cambridge Audio DacMagic via USB into Cambridge Audio 350 integrated into Dali Ikon 5 / Dali Zensor 5 / Cambridge Audio S30 bookshelves.

The Ikons were detailed and airy/open BUT were quite bright and annoying to my ears. The Zensor was fuller and more weighted and preferred it to the Ikons. The Cambridge S30 bookshelves definitely amazed me for the price. Granted they didn't sound as big as the floor standers but imaging was more precise and texture of instruments was excellent.

This setup was slightly more musical than the previous audition, but the next audition - with tubes - really blew me away.

3rd audition - Tried Mordaunt Short Carnival 6 floor standers from a Pioneer iPhone/iPod dock (lossless from my iPhone 4S) into a Sansui 10w tube amp / TS Audio (hand built 15w tube integrated from Thailand)

The Sansui was awesome. Couldn't drive the speakers to deafening levels but the tone of instruments was absolutely correct. However there was a constant hum/noise in the background. (Dealer said the power was not clean and the cord was a regular cheap type and it was due to this).

The TS Audio 15w tubes were absolutely wonderful! They could drive the Mordaunts to really loud levels and there was no noise or hum in the background. Most importantly, the music was ... musical. I really enjoyed listening to this setup.

However I just can't seem to find information on these two amps online. The dealer didn't provide me with the model number and the store had many people buzzing around so I left before I could find out, unfortunately.

I took a picture of these two amps. The Sansui is the black and red amp with 2 tubes popping out. The TS Audio is the larger one in front. Link here: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/37/ampsk.jpg/

Unfortunately, there weren't any more budget tube amps that I could audition. Dealers only had more pricey 5000-10,000 level amps for auditioning =(
What is the better pre amp to use with a mark levinston
ml 23
I bught carver c11, too much bass even when turned off. Toshiba same thing.
I am using rotel rc980bx , I am thinking about rotel rc 995
if any have one to sell please let me know.