Looking for my first tube amplifier, help appreciated.


Greetings everybody, old school audio gear head here just deciding to begin the search for my first tube amplifier. I am running a Denon DN-A7100 preamp (xlr outputs), a Rotel RB981 on my Chane A3rx-c mains (8 ohm speakers crossed at 80hz), NAD 216 THX bridged on my JL Audio 13w3v3 8 ohm subwoofer in a sealed enclosure (also crossed at 80hz by the Denon).

I have over 300 gigs of wave file CD audio and enjoy everything from new rock to the Beatles.

I am looking to upgrade my system, of course one piece at a time, and really want to start with a tube amp. As a former guitarist I am a big fan of tube amplification so want to give it a whirl on my home stereo.

I was looking at the Audio Research VS60 but it doesn’t have XLR inputs. I enjoy high volumes so am trying to go with as much power as I can for my hard earned dollar. Yes, if money was no object I would drop 10k on a class A monster but that’s not gonna happen lol.

So I am hoping for some recommendations for a reliable and great sounding tube amplifier that has AT LEAST 50w per channel, has XLR inputs and is priced under $2000 on the used market. All recommendations are appreciated, thanks so much! Mike

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Look at Modwright, Balanced Audio Technologies, Audio Research, McIntosh for XLR (big bucks)...IMO, I would dump the whole idea of going balanced with tube gear because a lot of the best sounding stuff does not provide balanced connections!  Also, companies like Prima Luna make great integrated amps that I think would be a way more cost effective upgrade at this time. Doing away with separates simplifies and will sound much better as well.

Matt M

 Used Mesa/Boogie Baron.  
Good luck with that!!
So not gonna happen eh?
If the balanced inputs wont happen then I have to go back to the Audio Research VS60 for bang for the buck. Anybody else have other options in the sub $2k, 50w+ pc range?
Try saving up just a bit and go for a Rogue Audio Stereo 100.  They go for 3495  new and fit all of your criteria. 100 watts per channel, xlr inputs, both triode and ultralinear modes of opeation.  Killer sound and super reliable.
I'd think a used BAT VK-60 would be right in your wheelhouse, less than $2K and 60 wpc.
Caution: They do run quite hot.
ARC VT50. They don't come up for sale often because it's a great little amp for the money. Very musical amp.
There was a pair of atmasphere m60s posted a while ago pretty close to that price, IIRC. 
If you’ve played through tubed guitar amps, you should know a 22 watt Fender Deluxe Reverb is plenty loud and can keep up with a heavy handed drummer.

A 20-30 watt amp through some average sensitivity speakers will do the job blasting Zeppelin or the Stones.
Unless your setup is in a huge ballroom, forget the notion you need massive amounts of tubed power. But, If you MUST have the wattage requirement those suggestions are probably a good start.



The sensitivity of your speakers is 87.5db. Borderline tube friendly. Much depends on the impedance curve of the speakers - and the impedance matching of the preamp out to the amp input. 50 watts might play plenty loud - if the impedance matches up. The question is how good will it sound - especially in the upper bass region - above the 80hz of your subwoofer crossover. The thwack of a kickdrum lives around there.  Will the impact be firm or soft?   I’ve been down this road before. Highly recommend an in-home trial before committing those hard earned dollars. Many variables involved.  
Music Reference RM-200, which goes for about $2000 used, the improved Mk.2 version for about $500 more (one sold just yesterday on Audiogon for $2400). One small signal tube and two KT88/120 output tubes per channel for 100 watts. That's right, 100 watts from two tubes, and not because the tubes are run hard, but because designer Roger Modjeski thinks outside the box. Currently in Class A/Tube category in Stereophile’s Recommended List (if that matters to you). Balanced/XLR inputs only.

This is the first I have heard of matching preamp out to the amp input. Here are my preamp specs, any input is appreciated...

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Input sensitivity/impedance (volume at 0db)

(RCA connections)     220mV/20 ohms

(XLR) +4dBu   440 mV/20kohms

           -10dBV   110 mV/20 kohms

Output Level volume at 0db

     (+4dBu)   300 mVrms typ.

     (-10dbV)   75 mVrms typ.


The spec you are looking for is the output impedance of your pre. The input impedance of a audio device (in this case the amplifier) should be at least 10x (some say 20x) that of the device feeding it (your pre). 

Given your budget, I am with mattmiller in the suggestion of considering an integrated. 

As steakster indicated, research the compatibility of your speakers with tube amplification regarding impedance curve. Most 8 ohm speakers dip below 4 ohms somewhere in the lower frequencies. 

If you're going to upgrade your whole system you should start with the speakers as they will largely dictate what your amp choices are. 

I'm with soix, why not start upgrading the speakers first, this is your most important piece.
When upgrading I start backward in the audio chain, speakers, amp, preamp, then sources.
I agree with the above, speakers first. Also agree with Meadowman on the Rogue. Best sound and power for the money. Rogue Zuess owner here, I swear by that company's tube pre-amps too.
Get hold of the guys at VTA.  They'll help you out to customize your amp.

http://tubes4hifi.com/
Jolida 302B RC and 502B RC
I have used 302B. One of the best and underated tube amp
http://www.jolida.com/category/integrated-amps

I found this online a few days ago and from what I have read on Audio asylum
 looks interesting and not too expensive they sell kits and assembled units ranging from 30wc to 125wc the big ones under $1800



 www.tubes4hifi.com/home.html  missed the link sorry
Cary CAD 280 V12  is great amp about   $2000
The updated Sherwood S5000ii I am selling says 80-watt Stereo amplifier, 40-watts per channel music power. That translates to around 28-watts RMS per channel. Not XLR, but nice sounding for $899.
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I agree with meadowman above, Rogue Audio makes a great product. I originally posted a suggestion looking at the Rogue Audio Sphinx, but it's a hybrid integrated, and I see you're running separates. I have the Sphinx and it absolutely rocks (I listen to music loud too). I've heard nothing but good about their other products. Built in America, well made, actual people you can call and talk to, very decent prices, great power. 
XLR give you more gain (loudness) but amplify any distortion.   A good pair of RCAs will give better soundstage and imaging.  I used to be an XLR lover (XLR are great when you have grounding issues) and now have switched to RCAs and love the holographic soundstage.  This will open up your choices of tube gear if that is what you want to do.  I purchased a Conrad Johnson Classic 2 SE for $2200 new and just loved the warmth, but only RCAs.  I know have the Aesthetics Callisto pre eclipse and still just use RCAs, I just don't need the gain. - just to chime in on Rogue Audio - I have the hydra tubeD in a 3rd system and love the clarity and grace that it offers in an under 2K price.
For under 2 grand (around 1500 or so) you can buy a brand new Jolida 3502p with XLR inputs. I own the earlier 502p with XLRs and it’s likely not actually balanced (the 502p XLR inputs turn the XLR into single ended, but I forgive them and still like the XLRs anyway), but the 3502 has a balanced/single ended switch that indicates that maybe its XLR inputs are actually balanced. My "factory modded" 502p is a GREAT amp that has served me well with amazing tube tone and plenty of slam and power (my mains are maybe 89db although rated at 91) for over four years, and it holds up brilliantly when compared to more expensive stuff (I've done some "in home" shoot outs with higher powered tube amps from other makers and came away very pleased with my el cheapo amp which sounded as good or better). Interestingly (to me anyway) it’s quieter and clearer (maybe due to inherent tube harmonic characteristics) than most SS amps I’ve used with a surprisingly low noise floor and lack of hum. Note I have no connection with Jolida other than being as macho as Jason Statham (A Jolida owner...I talked to the dude who sold him his amp…see the original "The Mechanic" movie). A note on guitar amps…I currently use an 18 watt class A single ended Burriss el84 based head with a 12, or a 15 watt Reverend 6V6 combo with a 10, and both will tear up a club in a band situation no problemo.