Help me get started again. Tube amp...


I had a full on audio addiction up until about 10 years ago when my first child entered the world and my priorities changed.

Now as my kids are spending more time with their friends and in activities I find my time at home wishing I had a system to appreciate.

Luckily I still have some little Stirling Broadcast LS3/5a V2 tucked in a corner, a nice little passive preamp stored in a drawer and a sudden CD player that has been playing Disney music faithfully.

I need pair a tube amp and I may even get some Vinyl.

My first little tube amps (which I sold here and wish I still had them) were VTL tiny triodes (the late version) and then I had fun playing with all kinds of ST-70 circuits.  The VTL was better but rolling up my sleeves and redoing the ST-70s was great.

Since I have been out so long I have no clue what is what.  I could use some direction for a lower priced tube amp to get me started.

It was recommended to me to look for Audion 300B Silver Knight mono-blocks or Rogers E-20 or E-40 amps from Doug Stirling.  Finding these is perhaps not as easy in good working order and at a cost I like.

Any thoughts on how to best start up my addiction again?
portlandlay
Affordable is a relative term; but how's $1000 sound. Can't go wrong with Roger Modjeski's creations:
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/tube-music-reference-rm-200-with-kt-120-2017-02-12-amplifiers-9270...

Why not put some of that time to use and build your own? There are lots of kits out there on the web - Bottlehead etc. Just search for tube amp kits. I've built a few and am starting to design my own.

Much cheaper and you get the added fun of building and the satisfaction of having made it yourself.

Both of these sound like good paths.  $1000k is in the budget and building my own is absolutely a possibility.  I am just so far removed I need the guidance.  I will check these options out for sure.  I am familiar with Bottlehead but what other kits are all the rage?

There are many out there so I hesitate to make a recommendation of one over the other but you should at least look at Bruce Rosenblitz site at http://www.transcendentsound.com as a start.

He wrote a gook book on tubes and circuits which is where I started although I have read a half dozen books on the subject from there.

The subject is quite vast on the web today not to mention youtube and other online sources. You can have a lot of fun learning and building here. 

Jolida makes some of the best sounding amps out there, and they're relatively inexpensive.  Simple push-pull Ultralinear designs, easy maintenance bias adjustment…blah blah…my 502P amp with factory upgrades sounds amazing, and has for years. A used newer version with some added stuff, like a tube selection switch and balanced input switch recently sold for under 500 bucks on Ebay. 
Thanks guys.  I remember Jolida and I will check them out.  This first amp does not need to be the best.  I just need a gateway amp :)
That  Music Reference amp is a steal. Get it. No kidding. A steal. I do not know the seller or amp's history etc... assume it works as it should.
The MR amp is an auction.
I checked, the ad for the MR says it’s a classified. And OP should seriously consider it. Damn good amp, and american made so servicing is no problem.

If you have appropriate speakers and wanted to stay with the 300B low power option, here's another pair to consider.


http://www.ebay.com/itm/Wright-Sound-Company-Mono-8-300B-Vacuum-Tube-Amplifiers-Made-USA-/232233585259?hash=item3612334a6b

There are Quicksilver amps that are built here and should be in your price range (whatever that really is).  I have heard a few and think they are very good for the money.

If you liked VTL wait until you can buy VTL, or perhaps even Manley which his ex wife owns and runs.

Why not try out a modern design tube integrated, such as the Raven Audio Nighthawk, if you can swing it?  You even get a remote volume control, and the sound is sublime.

https://www.ravenaudio.com/Nighthawk-MK2-Integrated-Amplifier-_p_11.html
Made a full price offer for that amp . Offer rejected !
The Music reference amp
Figured something was up....
That was a really low price for that amp.  I think the owner might not have known what to ask, or there is something more nefarious under foot. They are not very expensive amps so the OP can consider a new one or wait for a used one. There are a number of other amps out there to consider, I think the OP is familiar with ST-70s etc. there are always an abundance of various rebuilds kits and modded units out there to consider.
mechans
They are not very expensive amps so the OP can consider a new one or wait for a used one.

interesting comment - not too many people I know consider $6k US dollars for an RM200 chump change.

http://www.ramlabs-musicreference.com/pricelist.html


They are more costly than I remembered them to be.  It has been a while since I last visited his web site. I guess if he wants one specifically with or without Rodger's hand wound transformers. 

Some of the other offerings seem affordable, if you can live with 25 watts or less  and like EL-84 power tubes.
The RAM Labs selected tubes were always very expensive.  I haven't used many and don't want to make blanket statements , but all tubes as they age can get noisy.

Van Alstine

I really appreciate all of these thoughts guys.  I will be checking out all of these options.
Man I am pretty surprised that VTL stuff looks the same as it did almost 20 years ago :)


Should never have sold those little guys.
I sold my MR RM-200 in late 2014 for $2000. I can't imagine why the one mentioned above is half that, and hasn't sold!
I don't know if anyone has mentioned Prima Luna from Kevin Deal.   They have been very popular and come in a  few price points.  I would imagine that a used one would be accessible to you. 
Get an old Lafayette KT-550 tube amp, convert it to EL34 and then you are done!  Now on to your source and preamp!

Happy Listening.
The seller of that $1000 MR RM200 also,declined my full price offer. Not sure what his intentions are? It is not an auction. Oh well.

Granny,

Looks like he re-listed it at $2,000. :-|

Same Feb 12 ’listed’ date; AGon must have allowed it - increased fee(s)?

Grannyring, he turned down my offer for $900, submitted after your offer of $1,000. ;D
I tried to purchase even with our low dollar. The listing is not available to me at all in Canada.   :^(  

$2000 us = $2600 cdn dollars. The used RM200 is worth $3k + up here.

Californians imo, are spoiled having Roger living and doing business in their backyard.

The seller of the RM did state he wanted a local sale if possible . Maybe he’s waiting for that to happen . Some communication would have been nice though .
He should give a reason as this looks strange without some communication. He has good feedback, but does not seem to communicate fully :)
He just increased the price to $2000. Funny.
^^^^^^ very funny.  Almost like he is running an auction without actually having one.  It makes no sense, as I thought that if you do have an auction you can request a minimum bid?
^^^^^^^^
expect a bump to $2500 if he is reading this thread. 
Priced too high now.

I sold my RM-200 in 2015 (not 2014 as I incorrectly stated above) for $2000 (hope my post above wasn't the impetus for the seller raising his price!) only because I found a Mk. 2 version for $2500. The Mk.2 provides a worthwhile improvement for the extra $500, for anyone looking for an RM-200. Really good value in a tube power amp imo.
Really good value in a tube power amp imo.


Eric - true, but when I think value, I tend to think $$ value. MR amps go beyond with a very well thought out design - including very long tube life. How do you put a price on that ?

Speaking for my local area, Roger's amps have quite the reputation. They are rare here. I wouldn't sell my hot rodded RM9 for anything. I was curious and considered this one for a friend that has heard my modded RM9.

Q) How do you know when you have a special piece ?

A) When the very respected amplifier hot rodder, that you are asking to hotrod your amp, wants to buy the piece off you.



The condition of the amp is OK at best if you look closely at the pics. It is an MKI, not II, and it is only getting older. Perhaps it will sell for $2000?  I paid far less for an upgraded RM9 3 years ago. Good amp, but built on a circuit board with the tube sockets also on the board. This is not the ideal way to build an amp. I do much prefer point to point. 
It might make sense just to get an St70 so I can play with different circuits.  I really had fun doing that before.  I know that an St70 will never sound great but enjoyable anyway.

I was never able to get it to sound as good as my VTL Tiny Triodes.  But it was fun trying.
Yep Chris, completely agree. If I had found an RM-9 Mk.2 first I would have gotten it instead of the RM-200 Mk.2. On the other hand, I like that Modjeski gets 100 watts out of only a single pair of tubes in the 200, and that those tubes are KT88's (the amp can also be run with 6550's). And he does so without running the tubes hot, Roger placing low maintenance high on his list of priorities. In that regard, I'm with grannyring---the chassis mounting of the tubes on the 200 is a big plus for me. I still plan on getting the great little RM-10 for my old Quads, THE amp for that speaker.
Bdp24
I like that Modjeski gets 100 watts out of only a single pair of tubes in the 200, and that those tubes are KT88’s (the amp can also be run with 6550’s)


Curious if there is another tube amp out there available other than the rm200 - any design - that is able to put out more power going from 8 ohms to 4 ohms ? Does anyone know ?

RM200 from owners manual tapped on 8 ohms.

8-Ohm Load ......4-Ohm Load ........2-Ohm Load
112 Watts ..........145 Watts............ 125 Watts

*************************************

Grannyring

Amp Modder 1 - changes out parts old for new with no change in design.

Amp Modder 2 - changes out parts old for new and makes design changes like no pcb.

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?action=gallery;area=browse;image=62509

Amp Modder 3 - changes out parts old for new; determines that existing pcb design works well, and puts money into other design changes.

http://usr.audioasylum.com/images/y2014/10/120572/amp.jpg



All RM10'S are still PTP .  

Great pics. I modded mine with Jupiter caps and it looks like that last pic? Funny. Wanted to add-on an expansion chassis of wood so I could fit film caps in the power supply, but decided to just sell. Great amp however!
Forget that RM-200; too much now. So how about an RM-9mkii for less! Better amp for sure: https://www.audiogon.com/listings/tube-music-reference-rm-9-mk-ii-125-watts-per-channel-2017-02-17-a...
Yes indeed. Nice amp for sale!
Since you can DIY and are also somewhat familiar with the ST70, I would suggest that you look into a VTA ST-120 over at tubes4hifi. It is I would say. somewhat based on the old Dynaco but much improved.

The input and driver circuit utilizes a Mullard topology now and there are two versions of the driver board available; one that uses the 12**7 family and one based on the octal 6SN7.

All components including the pre-punched SS chassis and the transformers are new US made parts. At under $1K as a kit, it is most certainly a great deal.

http://www.tubes4hifi.com/bob.htm#ST120
Finale Audio (Triode Labs) out of Toronto is making some wonderful amp’s for reasonable pricing and with the US-Canadian exchange it makes it even better. All made in north America too. with some great upgrades like James, Hashimoto, Triode labs transformers. they have new integrated amps starting at around $1500. and they are wonderful.
I'm kind of a kit addict-
ST 120 was fun, so I built one of the VTA 6SN7 preamps to go w it, hard to go wrong w any of Bruce's OTLs.
Good luck in your quest!
Chris, to the best of my knowledge the RM-200's higher 4 ohm output is unique in the world of tube amps. I wonder how Roger achieved THAT engineering feat! Clever designer, and really swell fella.
Get a used Primaluna. Sold my first 2 and moved up the product line. Even the early little Prologues are solid.

i am a lover of the LS3/5a, having purchased original rogers in the mid 70s and held them for 25 years until college funding caused me to liquidated everything.  i had owned many amps over that tiem period, and (due to their small size) brought the speakers into many audio salons to listen to still more electronics.  if you are like me, it is about the midrange and the great soundstage.  

i have found that el34 tube amps are the best match for the ls3/5a.  they bring out the best of its characteristics.  i had settled into the conrad johnson el34 amps, which gave them the most warmth.  however, i have not listened to CJ current versions.

when i got back into audio a few years ago after my kids were all gone, i wnet with proac mini monitors instead of the ls3/5a.  not sure if it was the right decision, but, here i am.  the amp i fell in love with is the primaluna dialogue premium. i have the hp (high power) version which runs  4 el34s per channel in stereo mode. the amp can be used as a mono block, giving a good step up oportunity in the future.  while this model is the best of the primaluna amps and costs $3500 new, their prologue series are less expensive and can be found used, especially if you want their integrated amp versions. 

you might consider the integrated primaluna as, especailly with the ls3/5a, the tube preamp will be a big improvemtn over almost all passive preamps, based upon  my past experience.

good luck.  as someone who was out of audio for a while, it is great to be backmlistening again! enjoy!
Thanks again everyone.  A lot of these choices are similar to what they were 10 years ago.  The refresher is perfect.