Considering switching to Tubes


Hello all, 

For the last ten or so years I've been listening to music on my home stereo, and for the last 10 or so years I have been 100% content with everything about it. And then my best friend brought by a Chinese integrated tube amp, and my world fell apart. 

Currently the set up is:
Speakers: B&W 805s 
Amp: Rotel RB1070
Preamp: Rotel RC1070 
CD player: Rotel RCC1055
DAC: TEAC UD301 

The B&W and Rotel gear was purchased whe  I worked at an electronics retail store through the employee purchase program (I think it was cost -10%), the TEAC was added to try out streaming through the system, which in all honesty is what I do 99% of the time now. 

My friend and former colleague brought over a recently acquired Yaqin MC100B, and I simply can't stress enough how much more I enjoyed listen to the music off of that integrated Amp. 

Which leads me to my questions, should I just give in, and grab a relatively affordable tube amp? And secondly, I've been reading (mostly about Yaqin, because I'm not in the position currently to invest 5000+) up on their various models, and the two that seem to be what in looking for are either the MC100B which I've heard on my system and the MC13S, which I have not. The first uses KT88s and the second uses EL34s, I'm not a big bass loving guy, and the EL34s intrigue me, but I'm a hesitant to jump in without listening to them. The snag is, I live in the arctic, and the only really way for me to try them at home, is to purchase them. 

I'm open to arguments for and against swapping out the rotel, for yaqin.


Cheers, 

esp803
Once you go tube, you'll probably never go back. I have never heard any Yaquin equipment. I know how much you don't want to spend but what is your ceiling about what you spent on the speakers? BTW, I run an amp that uses EL34's and am very happy with that sound.

I'm planning on keeping my speakers I think. 

E
I bought an early Yaquin hybrid integrated amp brand new from China in around 2005.  It took out the crossover in my Vandersteen 2CE Signature speakers (speakers were playing at very low volume).  2 days later, the amp caught fire!!!  I am sure they are made better now, but I would never trust that brand.  You get what you pay for.
Tube integrateds are definitely the way to go. By far the best performance for the money out there. This will sound funny but since you can't audition then you might as well bank on the fact you will very likely fall in love with whatever tube amp you get (unlike SS I have yet to hear any bad tube amps) and so its okay to buy based on appearance. 
Welcome here Esp, I see you are new here. Firstly since you live in the Arctic tubes will at least give you warmth musically and thermally!      Other tube amps will also give you similarly what the Yaqui did, so not necessarily stick to that brand, which opens up more of a can of worms. Look at amp/speaker matching, of course.     Next a tube preamp may be a desire.....                 You are on a good path here. Ask more questions, many here are happy to help!
Nothing wrong with well engineered tube gear. A lot of goodness in sound quality to be had with such gear. I have always enjoyed my AI preamps over the years. And there are many reputable tube gear manufacturers out there (and here on the Forum). 
I fully with Millercarbon!! (I did not see that post). Any quality "agreed" upon (here) tube amp will most likely make you very happy! Made (hand made) in USA is a standard to begin from. There are many.
I can never see my system without tubes! For the first time in a long time, I have switched from 300b SET monoblocks for a SS class A amp (the crazy goood XA25 amp from Pass). But..... I keep a tubed preamp (Backert Rhumba) and a tubed DAC (Audio Mirror Tubadour III) in front of the amp, and all is great! Musical bliss, to my ears!
Thank you all for your responses, I'm looking forward to being warmed, both musically and physically by a tube amp in the not too distant future. 

E
I dipped my toe into the world of tubes buying a fairly low-priced, 40W, used integrated tube amp - I figured it was pretty low risk and I could sell if for about what I paid for it, if needed. I fell in love with the sound and never looked back.
B&W's don't have the reputation for being all that tube friendly.
Look at cayin integrated tube Amps. Much better quality and fantastic sound. They are point to point wiring. I believe they make the amps for PrimaLuna though I could be wrong. 
Old Alaska saying “ come to Alaska where the odds are good but the goods are odd”. 
Cheers and good luck! 
You might like to try Y S Audio. They have tube integrated amps starting at HK$13900. I have had a Y S Audio preamp for 10 years and it has been very good and very reliable. To get the very best sound you might need to change the 12AX7 and 12AU7 tubes. I would recommend NOS Mullards , Telefunkens or RCAs. 
I bought a used Research Audio VSI60 integrated  and love the sound. Good luck trying to zero in on something...Reading the reviews of all the different tube products can make your head spin.
Several years ago, I visited the Klipsch factory... they were using a Cayin integrated in their demo room.  I thought the sound was wonderful ( and the Cayin looked great, too).
Hi, I had a similar SS system to yours but went tube about a year ago and could not be happier.  But, I made a few mistakes I hope you can avoid.  I first tried the cheap Chinese made equipment and was not happy.  Then, I figured out I could get awesome USA stuff used and assembled my dream system.  On audiogon, I bought a Conrad Johnson PV8 tube preamp for $720 and a Conrad Johnson Premier 11 tube power amp for $1700.  Now I have IMHO the best sounding system I’ve ever heard.  Good luck.  Kurt 
I also can highly recommend the Cayin brand. I bought one after having three US-made tube amps from highly regarded companies and, while they were all excellent, the Cayin sounds just as good or better, is extremely well made and the prices are reasonable. Mine came with EL34s, which sounded great, but I’m now using KT77s which are a drop-in replacement for the EL34 and really enjoy them.

One thing seems to be inevitable not long after acquiring a tube amp, you’ll start wondering what different tubes would sound like. Tube rolling is interesting and sometimes does make a positive difference but it’s best done at first with help from a reputable tube dealer. If you get to that point ask here for dealer recommendations.
I've been using Graaf GM50B with my Wilson Benesch ACT (fairly inefficient : 89dB 6 Ohm nominal and 3 Ohm minimum) speakers. Can't complain. Graaf has enough juice to control the WB speakers. You should be OK with B&Ws as long as you don't go low powered SET.
About six months ago I decided to give PrimaLuna a try based on all the favorable reviews and comments.  I started with a Dialogue Premium HP amp, replacing a McIntosh MC152.  The sound through the PrimaLuna was significantly better than through the McIntosh, even after less than the recommended burn-in time.  I was sold, so I then bought a Dialogue Premium preamp, and the sound is even better.  The PrimaLuna products (bought new) can be tried at home for 30 days, and if the buyer is not satisfied, he or she can return for a full refund (excluding return shipping charges, of course).
I've owned a Yaqin mc50L for a couple years now. I absolutely love the music it makes. Having said that there are always caveats. The original tubes were junk, in fact one was dead on arrival. I'm currently using jj kt88s, nos mullard, 12at7s and jj 12au7s. The parts used to produce these amps are of decently high quality. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Yaqin product but, a person could find a used amplifier right here on Agon as well. Either way, tube amps are the right choice for people who love music.
Oh yeah esp803, if you have the budget for a Prima Luna integrated and they'll give 30 days to try, highly recommend you go for it. Unlike SS where its a crapshoot with tube gear the similarities are to where after a while you can just look at what tubes and how its made and with a few choice comments be pretty sure what you'll be getting. Then on top of that you live with tubes you come to appreciate which features really matter and which are merely nice to have and which are pretty much a waste of money. If I were looking the Prima Luna would be top of the list it ticks all my boxes.  

Didn't have time with my first post but wanted to say I had a similar "rock my world" experience with a tube integrated. Made a trip out of state to listen to something else wasn't thinking at all of a new integrated but that's what they had running their main system. Never before had heard anything even half as captivating, and that included a lot of three and four (and probably even five) times as expensive solid state amps. Because of where this was I had to sort of drag my wife along and that tells you something too because afterwards it was her more than me who wanted to talk about how good that system sounded. Tubes just have this natural ability to draw you in that is hard to explain technically but you know it when you feel it. Its hard to overstate the value of this because even going beyond the sound of the tube amps themselves merely by being in your system they give you a reference that if you listen will help guide you to getting even more of that same quality from everything else. If you can do that, have not only the amp but everything all the way down to the power cords drawing you into the music, wow. What its all about.
Esp803, for me,tubes are still the best. Music in Class A is warmer, deeper,more holographic, more detail . But i think it’s not a match with the B&W 803. I don’t like B&W on tubes, because these speakers are more analytic,not a good ratio between high,mid and low.
I suggest : Ear, Papworth, Audio Note , Jadis, PrimaLuna. And other speakers.
When you said Chinese I was awaiting the magic words "Line Magnetic".
Not sure where the budget is but this company is #1 right now in the
"reasonable" price world. Any tube selection will make you happy!!

You could pick up a used Rogue Cronus Magnum tube integrated.  It comes standard  with KT120 tubes but you can use EL34 tubes like I did.  I have seen the original here for around 1500 and the 2nd generation for 1800.  It is built like a brick s*** house and will give you nice warmth up there. 
I don't get all this 'B&W- no good with tubes' nonsense.
Your 805's will flourish with a nice tube preamp. They're fine speakers that will sing in many systems. While the Rotel amp isn't the last word in sonics, it'll do just fine with a good, not so expensive second hand Conrad Johnson preamp. PV8, PV11. An Audio Research LS2 or 3. Maybe even a used Doge 8 Clarity if a remote is necessary. Just sell the Rotel pre, put the few hundred toward the new used pre and you'll never look back. Your preamp was the weakest link in this mix. Then down the line, flip the amp for a better SS amp, but you may not feel you have to, so one step at a time.
I am a very long tern Tube Amp enthusiast, who has had Commission Design/Built Amps produced since the early 90's.
Recently at group meetings, a few variants of DIY SS Power Amps have been put forward for Audition.
I have heard these compared to a 211 Valve Power Amp, that was the main amp in use on the day, being the owner of 845 Monoblocks, I will say I was familiar with the 211 sound.
What I did not expect was how the DIY SS Amps took a grip on the music, delivering a very attractive SQ, one that I could live with, and be very satisfied.
At a later date, at another event, a EAR 988 was the main amp of the day, it was a very nice amp to hear in use, especially in its Guise as it had undergone Tube Rolling, that as a result took the SQ to a much improved level.
At the latter part of the day, a Neurochrome SS Amp was put into the system for audition.
Firstly from recollection, it possessed all the qualities of the previously referred to SS Amp. 
Secondly, it was a very attractive amp for SQ, and was only separated from the EAR by small differences in the presentation, I could quite easily
live with a amp like the Neurochrome.
On a more recent visit tot friends who has a system I am very familiar with, there were two Pioneer SS Amps in use from a vintage era, these are integrated, but have the option to bypass the pre amp, so they are in Power Amp only, and were attached to a Slagle AVC.
Usually I hear the Audition through a Custom Built 300B Monoblock and Dual Mono DACT Passive Pre Amp.
On the day, I could not fault the set up, and was thinking that this may have been the best audition I have had in the listening room.
I am today, much more appreciative of the SQ offered by SS Amplification that I have been in my past.
I can see myself introducing a Neurochrome or the Pioneers into my home, as part of a second system, in the future.
I would recommend seeking out a Neurochrome for a Audition, before committing to a full change in direction toward Valve designs.  



   
  
Before you go with tubes, have a listen to a Nord Acoustics class D Amplifier, it will offer class A sound and really open up your B&W Loudspeakers, From my experiences B&W Loudspeakers like lots of power and need to be driven to get the very best out of them.
Ask the experts at B&W Loudspeakers before you go with tubes, they will tell you everything you need to know before you spend your money.
Arctic? interesting... I live in a remote location as well.. (northern Canada). and I totally understand your feelings...
i was using a home theatre receiver then started playing with a tube headphone amp... that also can work as preamp (Schiits valhalla 2)... so decided to go to tubes all the way...
Found a used audio electronic by cary audio hercules power amp.
it uses el34’s along with 12at7’s. 
i truly love the combo... my gear ain’t any high end at all, but i’m super happy with it...
tubes do add warmth and honestly, i love the way they look...
they might be not as efficient as solid state, but i don’t think i can go back...
best of luck!
From various AV receivers, an Onkyo amp, a class D NAD C388 then most recently the AB Halo Integrated, I moved to all tubes just a couple months ago. I now have a tube Rogue RP7 pre and tube Stereo 100 power w/ KT120s. While I understand that Rogue is voiced not to be uber "tubey" and "warm", the tubes do make themselves known in glorious midrange and beautiful, natural decay of cymbals. Everything just sounds smoother, yet more detailed than the Parasound, especially with the Rogue in triode mode. I’m very happy with my setup at the moment, and would say it’s unlikely I’ll ever go back to SS :)
I have a Cary CAD 300SEI I bought new last Dec on a discount.  I love it,  but it was not inexpensive.  I need another amp for another location and would like more power for some bigger speakers in a bigger room.  I am tempted to try a good non-brand name.  I would prefer made-in-USA.   
Anyone tried these?  http://rogueaudio.com/Products_Cronus_Magnum.htm
Joilda (or Black Ice now maybe) makes great stuff, and is far less expensive than pretty much anything comparable out there. Made in China, checked out, tested, and marketed in MD. 

I recently made the switch to tubes after using SS (Belles, Anthem) for 2-3 years. I always wondered what was wrong with me. My listening sessions were maybe 5-6 songs, my ears were fatigued, and I’d want to go do something else.

I thought to myself, maybe I just don’t like listening to music as much as I thought. Perhaps I was one of those "audiophiles" that uses music to listen to their system as opposed to using their system to listen to music.

This all changed the moment I went to a local dealer that was playing my Kef speakers with Rogue gear. First the Pharoah, then the Cronus Magnum. The dealer agreed to let me take them both home to demo. First was the CM.

The moment I plugged it in and started listening I couldnt wipe the smile from my face. I was in awe. The music pulled me in, in a way I had never experienced before. I thought to myself for the first time, finally, now I have a hifi system.

Everything just sounded soooo musical. The mid range had this incredible fullness to it; I couldnt get over the amount of detail I was hearing; and the soundstaging was to die for. The change wasn’t vague or subtle either. Listening to Miles Davis - Kind of Blue on vinyl, I felt like I was practically in the studio with them.

I brought back the CM and brought home the Pharaoh a couple days later. Plugged it in, listened, and was like NOPE. I need those tubes back in my life.

It took me a few years in this crazy hobby to figure out what I like. Turns out I’m a tube guy!!! I placed an order for the new Rogue CM III and can’t wait for it to arrive.

I may keep the Belles around for a second system or an occasional listening session when I want the slam of SS. My advice would be to give the tubes a shot. You may be very surprised at what you’ve been missing out on the last 10 years.


I second Black Ice/Jolida, great sounding gear for not a lot of money and you can significantly upgrade the performance by getting upgraded resistors and capacitors from Black Ice in Maryland.
If you think you want to go the tube route I would highly suggest Rogue audio. You didn't give a cap on how much you would like to spend, but you said you are not in the position to do 5000+ investment at this time. I started with all tubes preamp and tube monoblocks. My current setup is still a tube preamp paired with Pass Labs SS amps and couldn't be happier. I had Rogue monoblocks at one time but decided to do a "deal" with my dealer and git VTL amps ( bad mistake for another topic one day)I wish I keep the Rogue monoblocks. The Cronus Magnum by Rogue should suit you quite nicely. One thing that is nice about Rogue Audio is you can call them and get supurb customer service and advice. One thing you need to keep in mind is tube gear has a tendency of breaking more often than SS gear dose it just comes with the territory. So along with the investment of tube amps/ preamps you will need to keep a "tube survival kit" especially if you are remote and accessibility to tubes is difficult. Translation be prepared to invest in replacement tubes because when it's -25° and all you want to do is stay comfy warm and listen to music and a tube takes a dump you are sonically S.O.L . Hope this helps you.
Happy Listening
Mark
Get the exact same amp you heard in your system and liked . Any other amp you get might not sound as good . Just because its tubed does not mean any other tubed integrated will sound as good as you like the Yaqin . 
Your friend sounds like a great guy. My advice to you is sell all your worldly possessions, empty all your saving and buy two giant mono blocks (150 watt single ended per channel should do) then go get a pair of avant-garde TRIO LUXURY EDITION 26. Use your phone as a preamp/streamer with a thrift store RCA to headphone jack cable. If you have enough money left over by the cheapest six pack of beer sit in your empty room listen to music inbetween sobs of self-loathing.
B&W's don't have the reputation for being all that tube friendly.
While this is true, the 805s are an exception. We've had a number of customers using 805s with our M-60 amplifiers so its a friendly load for almost any tube amp.
@gents   The OP specifically stated that he listened to a tube integrated, was duly smitten, and then asked if he should switch to a tube AMP, not preamp. As B&Ws are, typically, a rather demanding load, he should approach buying a tube amp for them with caution. Not any ole tube amp will do.
Remember "icepimp", I've got your Amp hostage (the aforementioned MC100B), and giving it a good test.

Thanks all for the responses, I think the way I'm going to do it is go with the "I liked what it sounded like, I'm just going to get it", plus that way Icepimp and I can bi-amp things, for reasons. 

Cheers all, 

E
+1 on PrimaLuna. Had a Hegel integrated before. 
I recently traded in my Macintosh Integrated for a Prima Luna EVO 400 -- I was blown away... it was the warmth and **utterly holographic imaging and presence** I'd been searching for, for nearly 40 years. I've since rolled KT150s in and some Mullard tubes on the input stage and it pure magic. I can't fathom going back. 
A nicely restored pair of Dyna MkIII's is an easy recommendation for those B&W 805's! A true Golden Age David Hafler design! I have a pair (modded by Paoli - a favorite of Harry Pearson's). 
I had SS equipment many years ago
Wanted to go tubes, so started with the preamp.
Was looking at Audible Illusions preamp but saw good reviews on the VTL TL-2.5
Auditioned one & was sold.
Upgraded amp & cables & was shocked at how good this preamp is.

20 years later wanted to stay with VTL so upgraded to TL-5.5 series 1 preamp.
It’s more articulate. 

Always thought about getting tube monoblock amps but found a good SS amp & when driven with a tube preamp, I don’t feel the need to change the amp.

I think you do need tube equipment in the chain.

I have a tube preamp, SS amp, & tube DAC.
The tube DAC makes the digital more listenable.

Solid state vs tube is like a four stroke dirt bike vs a two stroke dirt bike.




I own a Marantz 2325, 2285, had some solid state Mac's 2100 C26 etc.. I switched to Tube, built a Pair of KIT  Dynaco MkIII with KT90's, rebuilt a pair of Heathkit AA-121's and now own a Music Reference RM 9. Driving the RM 9 with a Scott LC-21 Preamp which I like better than the Marantz 3300 which I also own. I have a Jolida Glass FC tube Dac, I have a couple of Dynaco PAS 3 preamps, Dynaco CDV Pro tube CD player and a Sony CDR W33, pair of JBL 4430's. Teac 3440 RR . Nothing beats Tube Audio IMHO. For the heck of it, I'm going to rebuild a Dynaco Stereo 400 SS amp just to compare to the RM 9.
I didn't read all the comments, so someone might have mentioned this, but I can highly recommend Bob Latino's tubes4hifi site as a source for really great tube amplifiers. What he's done is essentially to provide a modern, highly upgraded, high-quality replica of the legendary best-selling Dynaco Stereo 70 at a very reasonable price. It's not a refurb or rebuild--all the parts are 100% new. You can either buy it as a kit and build it yourself (the instructions are said to be very clear and very good) or buy one already assembled.
I have the ST70 (made by Bob) and it's the best bang for the buck I've ever experienced in hi-fi. Currently not using it, but only because I don't have room for a stereo in my current home.

Plus, Bob's customer service is absolutely first rate.

I have zero connection or financial interest, I'm just a (very) satisfied customer.
Tube amps required work and new tubes that only last at least for me a month . By from a known company  you need to service them
I bought a Line Magnetic 216 integrated amp some years back. This was a very reputable Chinese made and engineered KT88 amp. It’s been fantastic, but I don’t know what the company has been doing now. I think one of the brothers passed away, so LM Audio may have changed philosophy? Anyway, at that time they were keeping much of the Western Electric ideas in their designs, which is part of the reason, I think their amps excelled. They also stood behind the product, when after 3 years, a transformer went bad. BTW with easy to drive speakers the amp sounds very, very good. I had replaced the stock tubes (did not have to do so, but wanted to try something new) with Gold Lion KT88 and the smaller tubes with NOS Sylvania tubes and the amp sounded even quieter and better.
The answer to your question, IMO, is "yes".
Solid state vs tube is like a four stroke dirt bike vs a two stroke dirt bike.

 Omg yes!!! Perfect analogy.  People who have never ridden a 2-stroke they don't know what they're missing, but for people who have ridden a two-stroke and now Ride for strokes are always searching for that thing that it's missing that they used to have couldn't quite put their finger on it. And lastly the people who have converted back over to Two Strokes,have fallen in love with things all over again