My first was a 1961 Fender Bandmaster (belonged to my cousin originally) followed by a Magnatone and many, many others from Marshall, Boogie, Hiwatt, a couple of Twin Reverbs, etc. My first stereo tube amp was a Marantz tubed receiver in maybe 1970 that was destroyed in a fire (in a hippy shop I leant it to), and more recently an excellent "factory modded" Jolida 502p, followed by my current fave, a Dennis Had SEP Inspire "Fire Bottle" HO (it's a HO) which is the best sounding hifi amp I've owned...by far...
I like Wolf's post so much I'll follow his lead. A blackface 1967 Fender Showman amp (four 6L6 power tubes) with a 15" JBL D140 driver for my '68 Fender Precision bass, and a blackface '66 Deluxe Reverb for guitar.
For hi-fi, a Fisher X-100A, bought used in 1968 to drive a pair of AR 4X loudspeakers (wish I'd known about the Dynaco A-25!). Next was the combination of D-51 and D-75 amps from Audio Research, new in '72, used to bi-amp Magneplanar Tympani T-I's.
Early (pre "CBS") blonde Bandmasters and Showman amps were great...I used that amp head for live shows with various speakers here and there for a long time...worked great with a Marshall 412 cabinet. I moved on to smaller amps eventually, now preferring a single ended "class A" 18 watt Burriss amp, and a Reverend Goblin 5/15, and both of those are astonishing tone monsters...I have an Eden combo bass amp that’s magical, and a new-ish Ampeg "Portaflex" class D thing with a 400 watt 15 that is nothing if not cute. That Marantz was way underpowered, but if used with efficient speakers might have been great.
It strikes me that you might appreciate this- the guitarist in my band uses a Marshall Major. I don't think he ever runs it past '2'.
My first tube amp was a Knight KA-95. EL34, 35w/channel integrated amp.
My first tube amplifier was a pair of Marantz Model 2 monoblocks, ca. 1958, which I found and purchased locally in the early 1990s. When operated in triode mode, which provided a maximum of about 18 or 20 watts, and with speakers having benign impedance characteristics, they were one of the best sounding amplifiers I've ever heard.
I sold them after about a year or so, mainly because they were not powerful enough for my purposes. Although I made what at the time was a nice profit on the sale, today I believe they would go for something like 10 to 15 $K, many times what they were worth then.
" Pretty sure that thing was a Marantz...certainly not a McIntosh...I remember it was absolutely tubed."
Nope, the Model 18 was the first receiver by Marantz and the only tube in it was the scope, all receivers are solid state. Tuners, amps and preamps yes.
Mine was a 1962 Dynaco St-70 that I built from the kit. I completely rebuilt it 3 years ago and it plays in my main system now. I have a HK Citation II that I believe is the best tube amp ever designed.
I call it the beast that plays like Angels singing. I use it when playing Jazz and classical music
My first tube amp was an early McIntosh. When I had children I had to put it away because they would play with the tubes. Later sold it, regretted this. I’m now 66, retired. When I was 35 and my children were older, I purchase a used Harman Kardon Citation II and had it rebuilt by the Master Jim McShane. 10 years later I purchased a second identical unit which has also been completely rebuilt with the best Mundorf Supreme SGO capacitors throughout. I use them to bi-amp a pair of Meadowlark speakers which are phase and time coherent. The Meadowlarks love those tube amps. The amps are nearly as old as I am, vintage 1960, but to my ears present a wide an accurate soundstage, causing the speakers to disappear. I’ve tried SS several times, but like an acquired taste prefer the tubes. The preamp is also tube, a Dynaco PAS-4 (1995 Panor version not the original Dynaco’s). Also fully rebuilt. I’ve spent years finding the right tubes for this unit and determined it best likes the frame grid Tesla’s (E83cc and E88cc), which are replicas of the famous Telefunken 803S. Telefunken and Tesla are the only two companies that were able to make these tubes, the technology which has since been unreplicated. The frame grid wire is so thin it is nearly impossible to see with the human eye, which is why others have been unable to make this type of tube. It contributes to a so called holographic signature with lots of detail.
September 1981: Bought a rare single-chassis dual-mono Futterman H3aa (#111AB) OTL amp from Bob Heenan at Q Audio, Cambridge MA. $750. Used it with a pair of Quad 57's (22585, 25391). Sold it July 1991 for $600. It needed new tubes and servicing. Should have kept it! Anybody out there know what happened to it?
Audio Research Classic 60. Had just moved back to Chicago from L.A. (1991) and found it for sale in the Tribune for $1600. The Gentleman selling also had an SP-9 pre but, like a boob, I passed. Decided to use my Adcom GFP-565 pre instead. So, for $1600 I got a mint CL-60, 3 meter ARC Litz speaker wire and 1 meter and 2 meter ARC interconnects (RCA). Classic 60s sell today for about $1600.
I never buy tube amp, but I have more 60 tube projects. First was SE EL84, next 6L6, 6S19P, 6S33S, 6P1P, 6AS7, 2A3 RCA, 300B JJ.....I had and PP, that is better only with it more power, but with sharp and metal sounding. IMO, SE is better with it warm sound, that I can listen continuosly every day /of cours output transformers have 10-20 times power for exelent and cool bass/. But I prefer smal SE EL11 Telefunken that is the top of the ice cream. I had and OTL projects 6AS7 RCA that is for a level higher all my SE and PP. Some days ago I fixed MaCintosh MC 240 - for me this is ordinary expencive and power amp, people pay onlly for brand .....My SE EL11 Telefunken and OTL are far better, IMO.
I've always owned SS power trains. never did I even consider using glass power. never having heard speakers being driven by tubes probably fueled that notion immensely.
I got my introduction to what a fully tubed system could sound like at a local upscale audio dealership. what I heard in that room put jaw immediately on floor.
hearing how much the CDP, p[reamp, and mono blocks would cost me to take them home nearly stopped my heart! it was well over $20K! but that sound is what drove me to tubes to begin with. at least it planted the seed.
with that initial haunting dealership experience and knowing nothing of tubes but what was posted on these pages some decades back, my curiosity ushered me into the tube world slowly.
instead of opting for a fully tubed amp, I went with a tubed preamp first. mating that with a SS amp and things got way better way faster! that combo was all BAT. VK5 plus VK500 amp.
the BAT preamp was. informative, but expensive to roll tubes as it had 10 tubes total. it was truly an education.
I stepped up to a better preamp which, BTW had less tubes but better overall sonics, and a much higher price tag. still the BAT VK500 was the amp.
the next excursion was a mistake. I decided to upgrade both the main speakers and amp at just about the same time. poor choice IMHO. should have only done one or the other. likely just the speakers. live and learn.
I bought a BAT VK60 stereo tube amp. Apparently, I missed the lesson on amps which use a lot of tubes, but was quickly reeducated and this time about amps whose output tubes do not have suitable drop in replacements! the VK60 was OK, just not my cup of tea so off it went shortly thereafter.
while deciding on which tube amp )(s) I wanted, or could buy next, a pair of Dodd monos came up for sale. the Dodds were getting plenty of Forum press so I pulled the trigger and brought them in.
again, I'm apparently a slow learner as the cumulative tube compliment for both monos was now up to 14! lovely.
the new speakers were 93db not 87db as were the previous ones so the Dodds ran them just fine. in fact, being somewhat uneducated on IMP taps and tube amps I ran off the 4ohm taps for a while. sonic results were fat, rounded, and lush. eventually and again, from these pages, I switched to the 8ohm taps and the world took on a new sheen! that was the sweet spot for those speakers indeed with those amps.
since then life got complicated, but the desires and designs going now going forward for any outfit I generate will have tubes between the source and speakers. how many beyond the preamp will be the sticking point and decided by my preffs, and the speakers demands. hopefully, it will be another fully tubed powertrain.
My first bit of tube gear was a AR SP10 that was gifted to me by one of my very kind and generous clients. I had no idea just how good it was, but when he offered it to me as "an old preamp that he had in his basement" I graciously accepted. It cam with lots of old tubes which were all "graded" on a hand written spread sheet no less. It sounded wonderful in my system and the phono section was amazing, albeit a little bit noisier than the SS unit that I was also using.
The other tubed amp that I have is a "refurbished" Fisher 100b that belonged to my late father. It was in the family for decades until it finally came back to me. I was a little skeptical about using it in my main system due to the relatively low output, but I decided to give it a try while I was between amps. The results were absolutely stunning to say the least. While not the last word in the area of bass and upper frequency extension, the music it made was just that, music. While I am not using it at the moment, it still sits atop my main rack as a reminder of dad's appreciation for music that I am blessed to have inherited.
HealthKit W5M which I built with my father in the late 1950’s. Haven’t used these in years, but I still have several of these units in my basement. After that Sherwood tube intergrated and then several different solid state units, mostly Heathkit and Carver. All still in the basement.
In the 1990’s I purchased my current Plinius 8150 which I moved to my mountain home when I purchased my Plinius 9200.
Absolutely no issues with either Plinius since purchase. Much warmer then all my previous Solid state amps. Very happy with both these rock solid integrated amps.
I do not miss my tube amps or replacing burned out tubes at all. Solid state technology has improved significantly since I built my first Heathkit transistor radio.
first was a hybrid integrated was a BAT tube pre of 6h30s, my first "real" quality amplifier. the problem was that I was driving Klipsch. The pair of Dali Helicons fixed that, and I could finally see what he BAT could really do.
I sold the BAT after making a pair of 40w push-pull Kt88 monoblocks with the local audio club. Quite good.
the last tube amp that I sold a few months back was a PrimaLuna HP Dialogue Premium. Great amps! but hot for me. Like the OP, they doubled as a large space heater in my CA weather with no AC, so had to let them go.... in favor of Class D for low heat/energy (energy bills are high in CA). the good thing is that the Class Ds i have were made by a company who mastered tube products beforehand, so their Class D amps are voiced toward tube sound.
My first stereo tube amp was a Dynaco ST 70 I bought in 1968 when it was almost new. I still have it. Has been lightly upgraded but retains its original charms. Sounded best with Spendor BC IIs that I regrettably sold. Keeping it alive with an FM3 and KLH 17s.
Currently listening to a C-J Premier 11A that I picked up earlier this year in my main system. Fantastic amp but the Dyna is heavenly.
Great to see the number of Dynaco initiates, perhaps not the original kit builders, but certainly among the best second generation advocates. I started with a kit-built Eico in the early 60's, then a Heathkit, then upgraded to Dyna, PAS-3x and ST-70, and still have two PAS-3x preamps with upgraded tubes, one factory built bought cheap. I lived in that Dyna world until building Welbourne Laurel Iix Ultimate 330B mono blocks which I still have, driven by a new AI Modulus 3B, recently received. Love the glow of the 300B tubes and have rolled a series, currently blue Sophia Classics. Will perhaps experiment with the planned newly built Western Electrics, but I'd like loads more input before dropping that many dimes.
My first tube amp was a Conrad Johnson MV55. It was a really nice sounding amp. Sold it and moved on to try a lot of different tube and Solid State +50-75 amps in the following 25yrs. My first SS amp was just before the MV55, it was a Forte Model 4a. Another nice sounding amp. Since, I’ve owed some really good amp throughout the years and my favorite tube has been the 300b. I still own 4 amps that use 300b power tubes. I’m presently using 3 amps now in my system that I am very happy with and will probably never remove them because they just sound so awesome and perfect. The Conrad Johnson Premier Four, MV55 and Forte Model 4a modified, upgraded by Jon Soderberg of vintage amps repair. Yes that’s right, I discovered that I should have kept the MV55 and Forte so after 25yrs I bought them again and they are fabulous.
Just to mention, I own the Threshold SA/3, very nice amp, very pure and musical. Never had a Marantz tube amp but I own an original Marantz 7 and the phonostage is awesome. Use it in one of my setups and I have a K&K phonostage in my other system. I agree with someone’s post here about the 6550/KT88 tube, once your ears get accustom to EL34’s, 300b’s, and other great power tubes, can’t listen to 6550’s any longer.
My first tube amplifier was a *used* MC275. Today a classic. It was a trade in.. I used to sell audio and was also able to secure with a salesman's accommodation a new Luxman tube amp. Back then they were not well known. No one knew about burning in equipment back then, and the AC quality was raw. So, the Luxman was given a quick listen and sold, as the MC275 remained the head rooster.
The MC275 was impressive with KEF 104ab's. Tube amps did not have good bass control. Their damping factor was weak,. It was years before I liked certain solid state. Yet,finally one Class D amp gave me a certain quality that reminded me of the MC275, but with superb bass control. Now, its a tube preamp, but Class D amp.