Check all your grounds first. GTA pres' were know to have a problem
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My suggestion is that before you call Soniccraft you see look at the Yahoo Group golden_tube
You will probably have to join first. Look at all of the messages from a guy named Loc Vu - he's a Golden Tube guru and will either help you to upgrade the unit or you can ship the box to him for work.
To answer your second question - is the SEP-1 worth it? Golden Tube Audio products have an almost cult-like following. It seems that the company had pretty good designs that were compramised by less-than-stellar parts and spotty build quality. I own an SE-40 SET amp that I use in my office. Is it the best amp I own? No. But it is very enjoyable nonetheless and was a great value for the money I paid for it. I have performed some minor upgrades as described by Loc Vu and others, and there has been a remarkable improvement over the stock sound.