Classic el34 tube amps versus current models


does anyone have direct listening experience on how the classic el34 tube amps of my youth (marantz 8b, dynaco stereo 70', conrad johnson mv45) compare sonically to the current el34 amps? i have seen some of theses older units for sale and have considered buyin one. i am in the market for a 2k -3k amp and saw an old marantz 8b in that price range.

i am a sucker for midrange and soundstage and listen to alot of female vocals. my speakers are original rogers ls3/5a and proac tablettes, both of which love the el34s.  i am inbetween amps right now, buthave recovered from a financial setback so i am back in the market
meiatflask
I really enjoy the sound of the EL34's. A company that I am very familiar with that does an outstanding job designing great amplifiers is Sophia Electric. I know there are cheaper amps that use that tube but Sophia Electric really gets it right. 

Jim

" i am a sucker for midrange and soundstage and listen to alot of female vocals. my speakers are original rogers ls3/5a and proac tablettes, both of which love the el34s."

If that's what you want, a newer amp would probably be a better choice. This may sound like an odd recommendation, but if you come across a good used Pass Aleph, you might want to consider that as well. I know its not tubes, but the Alephs are unique. 
A pair of Quicksilver V-4 mono amps is a consideration. I have run them with El-34 and KT-77 tubes. Great midrange
I’ve used these with with Spendor LS3/5a’s and they are outstanding. Quicksilver makes great gear within your budget!
http://quicksilveraudio.com/products/midmono.html
Quicksilver Mid mono and Mini Monos has been our choice for many years Spendor LS 3/5As , Proac Tabs as well as Vandersteen 1 Cis
superb.
Its the transformers that make a great tube amp what it is.
 They are Made in USA well engineered hard wired, soft turn ons and run for many years issue free.
 JohnnyR
Audio Connection

 
  
Not to change directions of the conversation, but a friend suggested that if I like el34 amps, I should consider 300b single ended.  Any comments on the 300b versus the el34? 
You will find a single ended amp to be more lush. To really appreciate one though, you need a loudspeaker that has enough efficiency that you won't run it over about 20% of full power (if you don't, you won't experience everything that SETs have to offer, as the distortion begins to climb).

The reason that EL34s work so well is not so much the tube, but the fact that its a lot easier to build a good output transformer when you don't have to make a lot of power. IMO the amps that feature ultra-linear operation seem to sound the best. The Dynaco ST-70 and Marantz 8B are such examples.

Meiatflask,

I own
a 40 watt push pull el34 and an 8 watt 300b SET amplifier.
With the SET your speaker "must" be compatable meaning higher sensitivity and certainly easy load impedance. If you have the right speaker match the 300b is the superior sounding choice in my opinion.


To be very clear, there are excellent sounding el 34 amplifiers. This group has a hierarchy as does every amplifier type. All things considered if we’re comparing very high quality examples of both with good speaker matching for each I prefer the 300b. The 300b SET has been the very best sounding
amplifier in my system and is easily the most emotionally engaging so far. It goes straight and deep into the heart and soul of music.It is more natural and pure with superior musical flow and nuance.


This type of amplifier must have high quality output transformers and very well designed and robust power supplies to hear this genre at its best.Otherwise an excellent el 34 amp will outperform a mediocre 300b amp.

Charles

meiatflasck

More people should be " suckers " for midrange. All to often when a system doesn't have a really good midrange people know they are missing something and go for a subwoofer... criminal. 


Charles1dad-

Thanks for your comments on SET amps.Given an under 3K budget, I suspect that I am in the mediocre range of 300b amps. 

Leaning toward used for best value, what are the EL34s amps that you consider excellent that I should consider.  I have seen classic Marantz 8b in the ~3K range, which is why I asked my original question:  (ignoring the investment aspect) are there current 3K El34 amps better than the old 8b?
meiatflasck

Japanese Triode makes a really nice sounding and looking 300B integrated, even comes with a remote and mm phono stage. You can find out more at:  http://www.twinaudiovideo.com

The model is TRV-A300SE R

If you go this route you should plan on a good speaker ahead of time. I have not fallen in love with many single driver speakers and I think a lot of speakers that claim super duper efficiency are not all that efficient. Might take a little research and some money. 
Good luck


" Not to change directions of the conversation, but a friend suggested that if I like el34 amps, I should consider 300b single ended.  Any comments on the 300b versus the el34?"

These products are not generic sounding. All 300b amps will sound different from each other, as will all el34 amps. Another big consideration when trying to choose between the 2 is usually power related. Generally speaking, the average el34 amp is more powerful than the average 300b amp.

If you really want a 300b amp a good compromise might be to get a 300b push pull wired for triod operation. My VAC 30/30 is like this. So far, its been able to power any speaker I've tried with it.

For an EL34 amp, a Music Reference RM9 Mk.2 was listed on Audiogon just yesterday with an asking price of $2250 I believe. It is a far better amp than the Marantz 8b and Dynaco ST70. Dick Olsher did a great review of it in Stereophile when it was new, which can be found via a Google search. 125w/channel from 4 EL34’s per, and the tubes last a long time in the amp, a high priority of designer Roger Modjeski.

i hear really good things about these guys they build kits and pre assembled amps and  preamps  based on the Dynaco ST series.


http://www.tubes4hifi.com/home.html


The top line Jolida line has many upgraded capacitors,resistors and  in amplifiers 
the transformers,power supplies are the heart of any quality power amp, or integrated . And these 3502 with specific letter I forgot retail $2300 for ,el-34, 60wpc.
and 80wpc with the kt150 tube which is very dynamic but still has the soul of  most a el-34 tube but with added punch.
Meiatflask, 
It can become somewhat complex when comparing different types of amplifiers due to the multiple variables involved. Yet at times one can make general statements that have merit based on observation and experience, they just aren’t absolute proclamations.

I’d prefer the 300b even as a push pull over an el 34 simply because I believe that it is Intrinsically the better sounding tube. There is a used Audio Space Reference 3.1 for sale on Audiogon that is a 20 watt push pull 300b amplifier for 3 K USD. I say this amplifier with appropriate speakers will provide enormous musical joy.
Charles
I still have my ST 70 as well as PL 7 monos. Over the years, I've own several more modern el 34 based designs as well. The Dyna generally has a bit looser, fatter bottom end than the others.   Beyond that, I'd say that characterizing sonic differences between any of these amps is almost entirely dependent on the speaker match.
Hello Meiatflask,
I would agree with charles1dad that SET amps generally do all the things you said you want better than EL34 amps. Line Magnetic is getting amazing reviews for their amps, and there's one based on the 845 tube for sale within your budget here: http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649217914-mint-line-magnetic-518ia-set-tube-amp-845-one-owner-gol...

However, if you really want to stay with the EL34, and get the best of the classic sound without its weaknesses, I would second whoever above recommended the Music Reference RM9. I've seen a couple listed on A'gon within your price. I used to own one so I can attest to their musicality. Nevertheless, any true triode amp will outperform it. Just my opinion, of courses, and it goes without saying that YMMV.
A used Line Magnetic 845 SET or the Audio Space Reference 3.1 300b push pull I pointed out yesterday, either would be wonderful choices for 3 K USD. No question about it. True high quality amplifiers. 
Charles 
Used Manley Snapper mono blocks - right in your price range - excellent sounding - just my 2 cents.
I love EL34s. Many years ago I had 2 100WPC EL34 tube amps, model RM-9, made by Roger Mojeski. I had each modified so all the (if memory serves) 8 tube sockets was switchable to triode operation, thus reducing the amps output to 50WPC. My intention was to bridge each amp for mono and use them in triode mode (each amp @100W/mono) w/my Vandersteen 4's mid- and upper-range inputs.

The bridging plan never happened, but I did use one of the amps in stereo mode extensively, comparing triode to standard sound. Let me tell you, those EL34's, run in triode mode, were a revelation. I've never heard anything so "real," tangible and tactile as that.

I also tried KT88's (I think that's the model #) tubes in this amp, and that was interesting: they sounded a little stronger & more impactful, but a touch less "real," than EL34's in standard operation; and they sounded weak and strangled in triode operation (that experiment didn't last long).

I still have the amps and all the tubes in storage.
Suggest you give primaluna HP a listen eith 8 EL34's.  Next up for me will be the KT150 tube which has received rave reviews. 

Mani-2, Roger Modjeski himself agrees with you about SET amps! He makes a number of different models of them, for use with high-sensitivity loudspeakers. But for use with low-sensitivity designs, including the OP’s LS3/5a and Tablettes, SET’s are often not the best choice.

Modjeski designs his amps for specific tubes. The RM-9 was for EL34’s, the RM-200 for KT88’s. The RM-9 creates 100w/ch from a quad of EL34’s per (the Mk.2 version 125w/ch), the RM-200 100w/ch from only a pair of KT88’s per! And that power is achieved not by running the tubes hard (which is common amongst other designers and companies, and which decreases tube life), but rather by creative engineering. And unlike every other tube amp ever made, the RM-200’s power output increases as the loudspeaker impedance drops! The exact opposite is the case in all other tube amps, including the RM-9.

I am on my third Primaluna amp and have used EL34, KT88, KT77, KT120, 6550s and KT150s. Favorites are the 150s in triode mode, great mids, and EL34s. These two are keepers. Eyed many a 300b amp. Thanks gentlemen for this post. Learning so much on Agon from real world experience, Sincerely appreciate your time!

Thank you bdp24. Some very interesting details.
Desktopguy, 
I can relate to your el 34 in triode mode experience. My el 34 is switchable and I preferred the triode sound with my speakers.  If was this enlightening discovery that led to curiosity regarding true DHT  (directly heated triode) tubes. 

I took the chance and bought a 300b SET amplifier,  immediately after powering them up the first time I realized that there was no going back. The sound quality, pure transparency and natural tone took a giant step upward. Its been more than 7 years of utter satisfaction with the SET in my system. 
Charles 
getting back to the el34 amps, i find it interesting that any of the older  conrad johnson (mv45,50,52 etc) or new (classic 60) did not come up in the conversation.  while it has been a while since i listened to cj, i remember them as very warm midrange. or are the other brands just plain sweeter?

It's also been a few years since I last listened to an EL34-based CJ amp & my recollection is in line with yours. It was an integrated amp & delivered terrific midrange but had rolled off highs & lows. While that sound is not atypical w/ EL34 power tubes I thought the CJ amp was a bit too focused on the mids at the expense of the highs & lows. 

My current set up consists of a PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium integrated amp & Spendor  S3/5 speakers. So far I've only used EL34's in the amp but it can also take KT88's, KT120's & KT150's. The PrimaLuna can run in triode & ultra-linear modes, & using the latter setting w/ EL34's provides my small Spendors w/ plenty of power & punch. Of course, these monitors don't have a ton of bass, but I've found the DiaLogue Premium S3/5 combo to deliver great midrange w/o sacrificing the highs & lows like the CJ.     

I do remember some of that old CJ stuff. But for me, if I can truly remember that far back, it was just a little too warm. To me they had a pronounced mid-bass hump, and a little thin in the area of true bass. And as I recall they weren't the most transparent either. I notice there's an affordable Australian made Melody EL34 amp being sold by a chap up in Canada. Melody is known for building things the way they used to, like tanks. https://www.audiogon.com/listings/tube-melody-el34-dark-integrated-amplifier-2016-12-05-integrateds-...
You mentioned the Marantz 8B as a benchmark of sorts at about $3k.  Others have suggested SET designs.

Have you considered other vintage amplifiers?    There are several golden era EL34 tubes amps that compare favorably to what is available new (after suitable rebuild...)

Dynaco MK-IV (mono blocks)  

1/2 of a ST70, as monoblock, but with the full power supply of the ST70,  extra PS capacity addresses the main weakness of the ST70 design. Many agree that the amp sounds so much better than a ST70.   And a rebuilt pr can be purchased for less than $1k if you are patient.

Pilot 264  (stereo basic amp)
Fisher X1000 (integrated amp)
Scott 272 and 296 (integrated amps)
Fisher 200 (mono blocks)
Fairchild 260 (mono blocks)
Acrosound Ultralinear II (mono blocks)
Leak 60 (stereo basic amp)
Cary 40m (mono blocks) and SLA70 (circa early 1990's)
Icon Audio Stereo 25  (new production)

While not EL34, many love the McIntosh MC30 monoblocks, and MC240 stereo amp.

I bring all of this up as an alternative.  You will be surprised by the sound of any of the above amps, after a careful restoration. Cost for each should be around your benchmark cost or less (+/-).  You will likely be able to resell for your costs should you dislike the sound, our find something better.

Just some thoughts.

I hope you haven't purchased anything yet, because at this moment I'm listening to PrimaLuna mono blocks and loving it; four EL 34 tubes per side. New might be within your budget. Give Upscale Audio a call tomorrow, but remember they're on Pacific time.


Enjoy the music.
i did just purchade a prima luna and plan to use it in stereo mode (for now) with el34s. its the dialogue premium hp. 
You made a very good purchase; those Prima Luna are comparable to much more expensive amps.  When that happens, quite often the price goes up.

Enjoy
Congratulations, good choice. I hope you enjoy it.
Congratulations on your purchase and many years of listening joy. 
Charles