I need tube sound without the tubes

I've been running tubes for awhile and am just about fed up with all the problems that tubes entail. I've spent the past five years putting out fires...sometimes literally. Problem is I love the tube sound. Now, I'm a poor social worker with a taste for caviar and a pocket for tunafish...anyone out there have any recommendations for a great cheap amplifier that sounds sorta tubey. I need at least 75W per channel to run my speakers effectively. Cheap, my doctor and lawyer friends, means around $400. Maybe I'll be able to afford more in my next lifetime. Anybody want to make a donation to charity?
I can't understand why you have so many problems with tubes.I never have had a problem and currently have 16 tubes in my system.I can think of no $400.00 amps that have a tube like quality to them.You usually have to pay lots to get REAL "tube like" sound.You may be told some cheaper amps sound this way but I wouldnt believe it.IF you can swing some more cash the Pass Labs Aleph 3 is a real sweet sounding amp.Only 35 wpc but pure class A bias and handles amps with 88db and above quite well to fairly high volumn.If I were you I would stick with tubes.Is your bias set correctly? Tubes in good shape? I cant figure out why you have so much trouble.What amp do you have?? Im a nurse so I can relate to your $$ issues.
I'd second the Aleph 3 recommendation, but those are around $1100 used. I'd recommend checking out some used Luxman amps from the 70s, or early 80s. They're solid state, but have a warm, smooth sound. They even made a few models of integrated amps with one or two tubes in the preamp...they were nice, and trouble free. I had a one-tube C-384 from the mid 90s which was nice, and there is 80s model with two tubes that has been reviewed favorably at audioreview.com.
Monarchy Audio. SM70 or SM70 Pro. The unit cost $719.00 retail. It is a stereo block rated at 25 w/ch when used as a stereo amp, but you can flip a switch for 70 w/ch of mon action. I know this is higher than your budget, but on the used market, you should be able to get 2 of the units for about $900.00. The Pro costs a little more and has more power. These are 2 stage class A 0 feedback amps. Regards, Mike
Muse 100 amp. If you can find a used one, it'll be about $400.00-500.00 used. It has a very nice tube sound without any tubes to worry, and it built by a great company. Any questions, let me know.
Hi Dave, To answer your question, I started with Counterpoint gear about seven years ago. As you probably know, that stuff can be a nightmare. Went back to CA three separate times and almost burned my house down. Just got back from Peace Corps in 1998 and needed a tube amp so I got a Dynaco. Sounded great for about four months...then it's gone...I think it's the can capacitor. But even then the sound was great on some nights...others it was mediocre. But your right...I love tube sound, but after owning tubes for years, I've spent more time looking at my equipment than listening to it.
For an integrated amp, check out the YBA Audiorefinement Complete or used YBA Integre or Integre DT For separates, tube champ Conrad Johnson makes a Sonographe SA250 Amp at 125 watts which has a tube sound, even more so when matched with the Sonographe Preamp. I do mean the SA250, some earlier Sonographe amps sound more solid state but are still pretty nice.
There are currently two SA250 currently listed here, one is $450, the other $600.
In that price range I think you would be really happy with a decent ADCOM amp. Try the 555 mkII or 5800. They are very smooth and easy on the ears. You can pick one up used for around $400-$500.
Just listed my YBA Audio Refinement Complete integrated a minute ago... Reviews say it is the best ss amp for tube sound (Check out IAR's review, which says it's the best sounding ss amp at any price). I'm not a doctor or a lawyer either... So for you... $650. HAHA! Good Deal!
A little know secret of the used high end is the Forte 1a, the predessor of the 4a. Outstanding amp for the money. 50 watts per side deeply biased into class A but sounds much more beefy than 50 watts. They go for right around $400-500. The Forte 4a is also a consideration at ~ $700. More open and dynamic than the 1a "very much like a good tube amp" says Robert Harley of Stereophile.
There are a number of good suggestions above. Let me add one additional possibility: the Musical Fidelity amp. It is British-made, sounds very "tubey", and is available in your price range. New units are sold by Audio Advisors.
It doesn't matter what brandname. Take pains to check it out that you consider to audition those that have pure class A type circuitry. Pure class A designs are typically low in watts (50w) or less because of the way they are biased. For that design the TH distortions are kept to the even harmonics very similar to that of tube's. Check earlier thread on "..how you...class A.." in this same forum. Hope this helps.
Id listen to the lamm m2.1 It will be the last amp you will buy SOUnds like tubes but has clarity, stability and slam of the BEST solid state with thr use of only one 6922 tube! I had cj 200 WATT monoblocks and DONT miss them
Thank you gentlemen for all the recommendations. Sounds like there are more options than I thought.
Try an old C.J. MF-80 (not the newer 2100,2300)its solid and relatively warm for a mosfet amp.
Like many of the respondents above I can't see why you have had so much trouble with tube amps. If you think back, before solid state wastubes, and everything ran on tubes, mostly, with little problem. The only difference is that now many tube amp designers are actually from a solid state background where it's standard practice to run everything at about 94% of its maximum rating as a norm. This is not good news for tubes. they prefer to run at their sweet spot, which is usually about 65% running (giving massive room for inadvertant overload, abuse etc). All the guitarists who use tube amps in the world can't all be wrong.... And do you really need all that power? I have a system which runs 12watt amps into InnerSound stat hybrids in a 20x15 room with no volume problems! As long as your amp is well built, not pushing the limits of the components, well ventilated, and of good sound design you won't go far wrong. Caps tend to go before tubes, so get any caps checked out first. My recommendations; vocale tube amps (vocale@aol.com), or Sugden solid state, class A jobs. Don't give up; tubes are the way to go. graham
Have you looked into Jolida amps (the 202A or the 302A should be in your price range)? They have decent amount of power and you get tube sound within your budget! FYI, I think there is a Jolida JD202A unit in the Classified section for $550. Good luck and happy listening!
Man, I must second that emotion regarding the YBA Audio Refinement Complete. It is amazing at $1k retail. I dont own one, but if I were ever "slumming" (lol) I could own one these things, stop reading the magazines, and Be happy forever. Now I have a CJ tube pre, and a McCormack amp. Great combination. Lots more $ than the A.R. Complete. But I'm telling you, it is a SS integrated, with the tight quick SS bass, and the most amazingly smooth mids you may have ever heard. Treble is friendly, too. If you have the means, I highly reccomend it. Listened to Jolida integrated too, which WAS my pick for budget nirvana. No Contest. If you must have separates, the Audio Analogue stuff is great, tubey sound too. I think I saw one under "amps" yesterday. Good luck
I second the opinions on the Jolida and Musical Fidelity. Just make sure you get the previous generation MF, as they are moving away from the tube sound. In my opinion, there is no substitute for tubes. A solid state amp is often marketed as the designer's most "tubelike" yet. That is, until the next model. Tube amps never face this. It seems that tube people often can sniff out a SS product pretending to sound like tubes. I find their best efforts show the mosfet "haze" common to products trying to sound warm, or the dry mids for the bipolar designs. That doesn't mean I think there aren't good SS products out there. A used Jolida can fit into your budget. I think they sound very good, especially when you replace the cheap Chinese tubes(many used ones have already had this done). The sound is not far from many of the more expensive brands(they sound like tubes!). You get a detachable power cord, an upgrade right there if you ever have the money down the road. I have never heard of reliability problems with Jolida, and I have steered MANY musician friends to them. And these people really beat the hell out of these amps. But, one thing they always say, they'll never buy another solid state amp.
Have you tried B&K, used ST140s go for $2-300 used. The later models are 105 watts per channel. They also run relatively cool. I purchased mine new 8 years ago and have only had to replace it fuses once due to my monkeying around without thinking. They are not very detailed amps, but are extremely smooth.
try a used electtrocompaniet amp - a bit higher than your budget, but not your typical harsh solid-state sound.
I'd agree on the Audio Refinement Complete. Very lush tubelike sound. Stereophile rated Class B $$$. I sell them new for $895, but honestly, if you can pick up one like the fellow listed above in fine condition, save yourself about $250 on a good used one. The power is rated at 50 watts per channel, but it smoked another SS I have rated at 75 watts per. The rep swears to me it fully doubles power into 4 ohm loads, and appears to have a very capable power supply.
I also think the Audio Refinement is amazingly like tubes. It means it is possible to get close to tubes with solid state so why aren't their any seperates (preamp/power amp) out their that really sound like tubes?
My first suggestion is a Pass Aleph 3($1100) and my second would be a YBA.