Are you kidding? They are works of acoustical art. Tim de Paravicini is one of the top designers in tubed electronics. He's up there with Allen Wright of Vacuum State.
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Very reliable and well built. God help you if you need repair, though. When I needed help, the distributors were very helpful and apologetic, but "Tube God Tim" intervened and took the time out to thoroughly insult me by email because I dared to simply ask his distributor if they were taking time off, as I couldn't get anyone on a telephone to order the part for three days. You'd have thought I said something about his mother.
Mind you, not due to a three day delay or lack of contact: three days where no one answered or returned phone calls about a broken unit. They didn't deal with email back then and encouraged telephone calls for contact.
I immediately sold that piece after repair and will never have another Tim P designed piece in my system, even though it sounds pretty good and looks nice in its way. Too many other guys like Nelson Pass, George Wright (rip) Gordon Ranken and tons of others who make great stuff and are gentlemen.
I'll be happy to provide details rather than being flamed by pro-P fans who don't have any knowledge of this transaction. Mr. P's ego and attitude are well-known in the audio industry.
Totally not about EAR, but about audio guru nut-jobs:
I had an experience with an Audio-Guru nut job once.
I heard an item some local dude made in his shop. I said little about it to him because it sucked. (it totally made the sound worse not better)
A year or two later someone posted HERE (the goN') asking about the said item (one being for sale here on the goN'). I responded saying I had heard it in the audio guru inventor's own shop and system, and thought it sucked.
So this local guru dude calls my place of employement and threatens to SUE THEM unless they will allow hime to have all 400 employees in a lineup (all he knew was where I worked because of a mutual distant friend of a friend, and what I looked like) so he could pick me out of the lineup,find out my name and sue me for slandering his hunk of crap!
Then I had a hard time not laughing while I was being grilled by the personel dept about "is that guy really crazy.. is he dangerous? why did you (me) allow this to happen (the usual personel dept stuff)
Trust me, I never criticized the hunk of crap again. Luckily most of the people who heard it realized it was crap so the item stopped showing up for sale here on the goN'. I am certain the dude will see this or hear about it and try to find me again.. jeeez..
Lucky for me I am only telling the truth.
I've no exp with EAR products, though I wonder why this post.
Seems to me if a product line is bad, or service is poorly done, someone somewhere will mention it.
Add in the price point much of the EAR lineup asks initially, and by it's nature, not going to be an extremely popularly traded item. If therre ain't too many being bought new, there is not going to be any traded as used.
Simple enough a concept I believe.
There are those makers which tend to shuffle off support onto their distribution too, rather than take a forward personal consumer friendly stance... for what ever reasons.
3 days of no contact for questions on a supported item or no, in this day and age is approaching the ridiculous... yet I've seen first hand those which will routinely ignore emails and phone calls.... for weeks or more. Then refute it as having 'slipped thru the cracks'. Whose crack did it slip thru? I've heard song and dancnes like, we were all snowed in... getting ready for the show... at the show... sorry, just got back from the show... been traveling to dealers... it must have gone into the junk folder... etc.
here's a thought.... hire someone to field your calls and inform people of when they can expect some reply... or at least change the message on your answering machine... the technology I feel is within their grasps.
I've found the best path for my own peace of mind, and these non responsive entities, is merely to move on to another likewise component from a different source.
If things ain't working out before you go all in on a thing, exactly what makes you feel it will be just fine, after you go out and buy one of their products?
With any major buy I usually call the maker of the thing to get some more info on it and to see just what sort of people or person, I'm dealing with or about to deal with.
Some of these makers and/or their dealers share similar attitudes, and sometimes they are vastly different. It pays, IMHO to find this out before the sale occurs if possible.
I've had about equally good and poor experiences with device makers over the years. And, people are people. We all have good days and bad days for sure. In the context of business, and that's when a owner or prospective buyer calls, it should at least be conducted in a business like format, and never advesarial or confrontational. never.
I'd also go on my own expereinces, not entirely upon those of others... unless the 'other's' are the rule, not the exception... as may be the case here. Time and more input might illuminate things better.
I too have an EAR 859 and I love it.
I agree with the poster who shouted about the trannies - very big OPTs and very low operating points on the tubes.
I gather from a number of posts that the US distributor or dealer network is perhaps not the best friend to the manufacturer (saying about "who needs enemies" comes to mind). In Japan (where I am), EAR has a great reputation and their products see lots of bidders when they come up for auction. The 859 (or its decedent, the 869) was a StereoSound component of the year at one point if I am not mistaken. The 861s show up from time to time, as do the V20, and a couple of the other amps. I'd love a set of 509s but they are tough to find. The phono stages have a decent reputation as well.
Along the same lines as Blindjim... I like to send emails , from the manufacturer's own website , asking questions about their product of which I have an interest .
Sometimes I get an answer within minutes or hours . I consider them a good company that I would do buisness with . Some of these will even suggest that you call them and discuss what it is that you are seeking to acomplish and offer advice that will help , whether it would be their product or not . I am refering to those at Quicksilver , Upscale Audio , Granite Audio and Merlin .
Sometimes I have to send a second or third email before getting a response . A bit ify but a possiblity depending on the follow up correspondence .
And sometimes , after 3 email attempts , I don't get a response . I figure that they are busy with their current customers and don't need new ones !
I can't appreciate the good ones without experiencing the bad ones !
Good luck .
I would have to say that EAR amps are about as close to bullet-proof as tube amps can be. The parts quality is not great, but the components are designed to run for a long time without tube replacement, and if there is a failure, that it can be repaired in the field relatively easily (remember, TdP designs for the studio too, where gear has to be reliable and easily repairable). A competent / qualified tech will not have to struggle with a piece of EAR kit.
Another thing I like about gear is that it is not too tweaky (I believe all of the modern EAR gear has self-biasing circuits), and most if not all amps have 4 ohm and 8 ohm taps which is a nice touch. My favorite part of EAR amps though is the volume pots on the inputs so you can bypass a pre-amp.
Here are the drawbacks to buying / owning EAR gear (assuming you live in the USA):
1. Should you have some extreme failure, the gear would potentially have to back to the UK. This has never happened to any of my EAR components, but anytime that I buy any European or Japanese manufactured gear, I always keep that reality in mind.
2. Any and all EAR dealers are likely to be smaller outfits. This may sound like a generalization (and I apologize for the slight to any EAR dealers that have huge stores with lots of employees), but the EAR dealers I know are either home-based or have smaller stores. The Distributor (Dan Meinwald) is a very nice guy that participates in industry events and has been the EAR distributor for a while, so it is a not a hot-potato line that switches distributors ever 2-4 years.
But with all those things said, should you have a problem with the gear that requires serious surgery, you have to go through a dealer (who may be a one-man show), who then goes through a distributor (that is a one-man show). If all your stars are aligned then all these guys are home and return your call right away. If everything goes wrong, you have a couple days turnaround per gentleman. So the risk is that your system can be down for longer than you would like it to be (or longer than it should be).
3. Tim de Paravicini may be a brilliant designer but from what I understand, he is very protective of his designs and any criticism of them may result in him flying off the handle on you. I think we all understand that this is an issue of personality rather than product, but c'mon, I think all of our music collections would be a lot smaller if we only bought music by artists that were nice to everybody.
So those are three drawbacks that I can think of to owning EAR gear. Fortunately, none of them apply to me. Why? I'll tell you:
1. I've never had an EAR component fail on me, so I've never had to ship it off anywhere. Tubes have burned out of course, but I do not consider that a failure.
2. I have a competent tech within a 1-hour drive that is qualified to work on EAR gear. I'm sure if you emailed the EAR distributor, he would ask you where you are located and then tell you the nearest competent tech that he would trust to work on an EAR component.
3. I generally find the colorful personalities in hobbyist audio pretty entertaining and only sometimes insulting or a pain in the butt. I've talked to or met my fair share of designers, and although I've only found one of them to be difficult, and that designer was not Tim de Paravicini.
If you've read this far I have a few other things to say, but I caution the reader that these are all anecdotal experiences, so please take them as such:
* I love my EAR gear but it is expensive (and this has really gotten bad in the last 5 years). I blame this on the weakness of the American dollar vs. the British pound sterling.
* I've waited a few days for responses from manufacturers with great reputations. This is a hobby, and they run a business, and if you mix the two, more often than not you do not get 4 Seasons or Ritz Carlton service. Hopefully you get great service, but as I said earlier, these are usually small operations with guys that are backed up, on vacation, or just dont recognize that you're their #1 customer. There are plenty of hobbyists out there that buy products that have a hot review but the business may just be getting started, so buyer beware.
* I contacted EAR in England directly via email one time. I had a technical question and Tim himself responded. He was curt, but he answered the question. It would have been nice if he had offered a salutation at least, but I was looking for an answer, not a friend. You cant ask for more than that.
Finally, I would just like to say that from a performance perspective, EAR gear is at the top. For what it is worth, I completely endorse the components. Reliability is top-notch and sound quality is some of the best out there.
I hope this info helps.
I'm not sure if folks still peruse this thread but I figure I'll chime in. I've owned the EAR HP4 (headphone amp) for 5-6 years now I guess it is. I've also owned the 834p for nearly the same length of time. Both have worked flawlessly and save for my own curiousness with regards to tube swapping, none of the stock tubes have run out of life. I don't listen all day every day, but I would think it is safe to indicate that I likely listen about 100 hours/month.
The parts list isn't glamorous but then they weren't chosen to be. Tim apparently designs with sound in mind first, then cost considerations but always with reliability trumping both. Ultimately, if something was cost no object and sounded like Sirens chatting in one's ear but only for 10 minutes at a time due to some electronic breakdown, it wouldn't much matter how great the unit can sound.
The only gear I've personally looked at, touched and listened to that surpasses EAR in built quality would be anything by Wyetech Labs.
I own the 864, 324, 890 and Acute for six years. I had a problem with the 324 with one channel going in and out until the one channel failed. It turned out that Dan Meinwald's service tech Mitch Singerman lived nearby. I had a difficult to find short on the board which was just a bad trace which got worse over time (flexing?). It was fixed under warranty and returned within a week. I highly recommend Mitch Singerman for all types of audio equipment repair and Dan Meinwald as EAR's local rep. I bought most of the equipment through Tom Port of Better Records.
I endorse the facts that EAR equipment sounds great and that both Dan and Mitch are very helpful and friendly. Both the 324 and 868 are totally reliable and well made. I would buy EAR equipment again. I have never had the need to interact with TdP and, from the sound of this thread, have no desire to:)- but not everybody is a Ralph Karsten or David Wilson - brilliant, accommodating and socially appropriate.. When the combination happens, I always regard it as a bonus!