Highest BUILD quality tube amps?


Not so much with sound...lots of ways to fine tune thru tube rolling, etc. I'm just curious which tube amps are built to last for many years with the least amount of repairs. I know Mcintosh comes to mind for longevity. I was snooping around on the web and Air Tight seems to be built like a tank and I've never read any poor repair histories. Luxman same thing. Any others come to mind?
aberyclark
Check out the Bob Carver Raven 350 amps.
ozzy
I own Quicksilver amps for ten years and never a hiccup!  
I have a custom amp and preamp from Deja Vu Audio both are point to point wired and both around 15 years old. Other than replacing tubes I've had to clean the volume control of the preamp once. The amp once blew a resistor when the voltage in my home spiked. That's it.
Check out the Bob Carver Raven 350 amps.
I am hoping some reviews start popping up for the Carver Crimson 275
There's a number of them that are very high quality and low maintenance.
VAC, Atma-Sphere, BAT, Lamm, Music Reference, Herron, VTL, Rogue all qualify IMHO. Audio Research is one of the biggest brands, but while they certainly have a large number of fans, I have heard plenty of stories and had one personal experience where they are a step down in reliability (and repair cost) vs. those mentioned above. 
The Air Tight I once owned was also trouble free, but my read is that there aren't too many sold so it's hard to get a meaningful sample. Cheers,
Spencer
Will Vincent (autospec) specializes in rebuilds of Dyna ST70's. He built me a really nice SET 45 on a Dyna chassis! Recommended!
Manley Laboratories; they make their own trannies too!
Prima Luna has got my attention for the simple reason of point to point wiring. Circuit boards are only so good IMO. Boards do have a range of quality as far as material used, thickness of traces, etc. In the end though, it is hard to beat point to point.
Atma-Sphere for me.
B
Vac! 
Made in Florida USA........great guys , great service, hand wired, continuous auto biasing extracting the optimum performance from tubes at all times.
i love mine!
Canary M350 Mono blocks. Sound good, look good, and run fairly cool.
Wavelength Audio and Art Audio come to mind.
I think today's Jadis amps are about as high quality as anything out there.
Another vote for Quicksilver...   super reliable, built like a tank.    Point to point , never any issues with mine.  I've had a few tubes crap out but the fuse did it's job and there was no collateral damage.   Unlike I will ever sell them , they are that good.


Yes, Quicksilver is really a contender for build quality. I might explain that QS products are not so much overbuilt as they are properly built. You pay for sounds, not pounds. Even so, they have their own heft to them.
I had owned many well-known tube amps. Last year i discovered Mastersound and my perception totally changed. Best tube gear I ever owned.
Now i have the compact and the monos PF 100. I believe that nothing mentioned here can even be compare with mastersound level.
Regards
VAC, Atma-Sphere and the new Carver amps.
VAC...point-to-point wired, great customer service, Kevin Hayes replies to even the smallest queries. ARC does that too but only takes a long while to get replies back and perhaps a bit let down by the dealer support. 
Always had great experiences with Audio Research!!! Built like tanks! Also have a tuned Manley phon pre-amp.... Solid as well!
Shindo (velvet sound, low power speakers, expensive) BAT (expensive and gobs of power) Line Magnetic Audio (great budget) Border Patrol (low power speakers, horns) and Decware (great reputation) and ARC (quality and name recognition) 
As far as build quality and attention to detail - Canary Audio is absolute top of the list.  Polk finally we agree on something :-)

Good Listening

Peter
I have I have been very fortunate with the tube amps I’ve owned over the years.  Jadis Defy 7 and JA 200’s, Atma-Sphere, Joule Electra, Convergent Audio Limited Edition monos, and now CAT JL-2.  All have been trouble free.  The JL-2 is about 150 pounds and built extremely well.
Post removed 
Also, Audio research can repair any product it’s ever made

But their build quality is kind of standard level. Aside from the knobs. I mean, it's not bad, but the choice of tubes and caps and circuit accounts for 100% of the sound of that gear. It's just basic sheet metal bent and silk screened with a nice front panel on it.

I'm not saying it's bad, but I wouldn't rate it at the top of construction and attention to detail. I'd rather call it perfectly utilitarian construction.

As for the sound quality, that is another story.
Speaking from personal experience alone, Atma-Sphere, Music Reference, Jadis, and AVA (Audio By Van Alstine) are excellent. Audio Research not so much, but that company may have more happy owners than all the above combined, so what do I know? Are they still mounting output tube sockets on their circuit boards? Not a good idea. The VTL retailer I know and his customers are very happy with that company’s products.
From my experience -

Audio Research line stages will generally run for close to 20 years after which the power supply caps may reduce reliability. (LS25Mk1 Ref2Mk1 LS26)

The power amps require some bravery though. (VT100Mk1 Ref110) However both are still running.

Allnic. I have 2 pieces, very nice and reliable. 
I got a Jolida tube integrated amplifier about 8 years ago after reading several good reviews. I've been satisfied with it and have had no problems. One of the things that finally convinced me to get it was the fact that there is no plastic on the unit; even the control knobs are metal. The remote control for the unit is also metal and weighs about a pound; the "buttons" on the remote are steel bearings about 1/8" diameter. I figured if they paid that much attention to such a small detail, I would trust them. No regrets.
@erik_squires4:  According to conversations I had with Bill Johnson in the 1970's, those "simple" faceplates were the most difficult and demanding items he sourced for his products. He told me they gave him headaches for weeks and months and that they had to return many of them that did not meet his demanding standards.

Not sure how today's faceplates differ from the old ones; they were a lot of things, but certainly not "simple" to manufacture.
I’m I’m going to throw my hat into the ring as a brand new tuber, and say that the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premier HP an excellent quality amp that hits way above its $3800 price point, and really sounds excellent. Point to point wiring and a bunch of advanced featUres designed to enhance tube reliability and not drive them to max while still putting out 75 watts in ultralinear mode (switchable on the fly to triode mode). I was actually surprised at how much difference the power amp made in my system!
I have had my Marantz 8b since I bought it in 1964. I also bought the reissue in the 90s. Still working just fine, bother of them. Glorious.
Line Magnetic and Finale Audio, good quality and sound at reasonable pricing
I really want to save for a new MC275. It has the looks and I like the sound. However, for less money, I can get monoblocks (which I prefer) from Quicksilver or Primaluna. I just wished the QS's looked more pleasing (I know that is weak..but I do like good looking equipment as well). The PrimaLunas look nice, I just wished they were built over here, japan or Europe (I know if they were, the price would be much higher). I was an automotive manufacturing manager and we had so many quality issues with cheaper asian built components (China, etc) that has left me hesitant (yes, I know my phone, TV etc were built there). 
Interestingly, I have had more problems with US made equipment. Not so much with gear made elsewhere in other countries. In fact I had US made audio made by a German guy that was dreadful and poor parts. But my Chinese made gear was made great and the customer service top notch. If one is selective, great gear can be purchased from China and elsewhere.
Hand wiring in a tube amp is a good idea. In tube amps with higher voltages, its possible for an output tube to create flyback voltages between the plate and cathode connections. This can cause arcing on the tube socket and if mounted on a circuit board, arcing on the board too. Flyback voltages can occur when the amp is driven into clipping and an output tube is driven into cutoff- at this point the magnetic field in the output transformer collapses and creates a very high voltage- similar to how a spark coil works in a car.


If the amp is hand-wired, sockets are much easier to replace! If there is a circuit board that is damaged by arcing, it can be tricky to repair.


The other issue of circuit boards is heat. Power tubes run hot and this can degrade the circuit board over time. This can be particularly problematic in tropical environments, where its a good idea for the circuit board to have what is known as a 'conformal coating' which prevents corrosion.


Finally, the design and quality of the traces and pads of the circuit board can have a big effect on how repairable the board is- a poorly designed pad (as seen in 1980s ARC) does not survive component replacement very well. So if a circuit board is employed in tube equipment for best longevity it should be 1/8" thick with the heaviest traces, employing a conformal coating, with good pad design and ample cooling holes around any components that run hot.
I agree with Atmasphere. PTP wiring is really the best design for vacuum tube amps. I have a Line Magnetic integrated amp and my dealer told me the company designed the amps based on the old Western Electic blueprints from USA designs. So far, compared to Primaluna, Cary, Rogue and some lower priced ARC models I have liked the sound, performance and customer service from LM Audio and my dealer.
Of course, my limited experience with tubes amps leaves others opinions as valid as mine, even more so. I think BAT, Border Patrol, and Decware probably make great amps...but have not heard them
like preston suggested, check out Decware!


Hand made amps from Dennis Had...little gems of tube magic.
Agree with bdp24, bad idea to install tube sockets on a circuit board and with Ralph, hardwired, less circuit boards are best EXCEPT in the case of David Berning designs in both cases. I owned a ZH270 for 13 years and never had to change a tube let alone anything else, amazing reliability in spite of  circuit board mounted sockets.

Agree with Quicksilver and my pair of 64 year old McIntosh MC-60's which are built like a tank including the heavy gauge steel casing.    
ARC power amps blow resistors and bias circuits frequently when a tube fails, causing a return to the factory.

I had a D125 power amp burst into flames with the bias circuit board ruined one time.

Very costly repair.......sold the ARC and never went back to their tube power amps.

ARC preamps have very good reliability though.
Per Jolida amplifiers, I used to have an SJ302a prior to being a dealer and it failed on me.  It turned out to be the leads on the circuit board lifting up, which apparently was a common issue.  I haven't heard of any similar issues with their newer gear but I would avoid their earlier models at all costs.  
Check out Weston Acoustics amplifiers. Australian made in a Melbourne suburb and very highly regarded within the Stereonet community. Earle even winds his own transformers and does all the cabinetry as well. I have owned the Troubadour which is a 20-30 watt integrated amp, depending on what valves are in it, for 8 years now and have had no issues at all. He also makes mono-blocks.
Does Jolida have their business in order as far as a single entity? I could have sworn there were two versions of Jolida amps floating around at one time due to unsettled grievances who the real owner was. 
I really wish I could swing two MC275’s, Atma-sphere monos, or Carver Monos. All have great sound ( although I have not heard Carver) and look wonderful. I like Rogue monoblocks as well, however, I hate that their tubes are somewhat hidden
Couldn’t agree more, when it comes to PTP wiring, over PCBs. I’ve been very happy with my Cary amps. Enjoyed a Rocket 88, for a short time. Now(the past ten years), a pair of SLM-100s. Easy and worth the effort to upgrade. Transformer quality is key, when it comes to valve amps, and I’ve found those in my Carys, make the cut. Now that Dennis no longer owns the company, can’t swear to anything, though.
Emotive Audio Design (not Emotiva).  Solid design and construction.  Point to point wiring.  Conservative operating points so long tube life and excellent long term reliability.