Sweet sounding SE tube amps under $3K USED

I'm looking for some imput on tube amps... mono blocks or stereo, doesn't matter. Needs be SE for sure, XLR in as well as option is OK.

Sonically? Superior mid range, great bottom end, and sweet top end without lack.

I would prefer self biasing, but a stable amp once biased properly or one easy to bias, would be FINE.

Stock tubes should be sufficient to provide a very good sound and the neeed to retube with NOS not a mandatory thing to accomplish that end.

Retubing should not cost a ridiculous amount.

If the overall cast of the sound leans towards the euphonic or musically colored side of the scale... that's all the better too.

Power? I'd guess anything over 10 - 15 wpc, to ???... though I would prefer 30+ wpc.

Are there such amps?

I sure would like to know. BTW the less costly, the better.
Boy, I'll tell you what...there are two pairs of Dodd Audio monoblocks for sale on Audiocircle.com right now. One pair at $2800 and the other at $2500. If I was in the market for tube amps, I'd buy one of these immediately.

They are EL34 amps. 120wpc. Single ended.

As an alternative, you might consider the George Wright Signature AU-15. Boa2 owns these, and says they are the best amps he has heard with his Klipsch speakers.
Hey jim!

Sorry I didn't respond o your last email, been boxing up everything in the house getting ready for move-out on the 22nd.

10-15wpc SET range gives a pretty good choice of amps - EL34 (12W), 845(15W+), 6C33C-B(12-18W), etc.

What are your new speakers? Silverline Sonatina's, I think.
Dodd are tubes? or do they also make digi? man, I must be losing it... I'm thinking the HR is tube predetermined, and now the Dodd's are digi... EL34, huh? hmmm.

V man
Sorry to hear aobut the move. Hope it's a positive, overall.

Sonata III's. Maple piano finish... that alone ought to be good for another couple 'db', if not I'll have to live with the 92-93 the maker says it has.

In keeping with my current trend towards a fast approaching encounter with senility, I've been confusing myself with the multitude of Art Audio itterations & reviews today. Some must be too new as they have no press yet at the AA site. ...no matter, I've yet to feel out a favorite. One I can afford anyways.

I thought for a while the manley Snapper... then a Mahi. Still the Thor PA30's are sure on the list.

Coincidentally, the wpc numbers are pretty arbitrary and were taken just off the top of my semi-senile head.
Dodd Audio makes tube monoblock amplifiers and battery powered tubed preamplifiers.
Tvad - thanks.
I must say that is one ridiculously difficult site to navigate. The color scheme kills me.

Ever see a review on the amps? I saw the Ten audio deal on the preamp.

The amps do look nice... also, is there a link to specs on them? Do they auto bias?

Single ended may or may not be the nirvana you expect. Many se amplifiers don't have good bass control and you can find many really good sounding push pull both new and used for your price range, not to mention a huge amount of really good affordable tube integrated amplifiers such as Cary or Cayin.

The Manly stuff is really excellent and the little Stingray can sound really good. Go find yourself a good dealer in your area and listen, buying used amps you don't know is a crap shoot!
Having read the product description of the new version 3 Dodd mono amps, I'll have to retract my unqualified recommendation of versions 1 and 2 for use with the Sonata III, which are presently for sale. The reasons are that the new version 3 boasts a better power supply, more headroom and quieter operation. With your high sensitivity loudspeakers quiet is important, and the mention of the quietness of the version 3 makes me suspect of the quietness of the versions 1 and 2 paired with the Sonata III. You'd have to hear them to be certain. If they worked, they'd be great bargains though.

FYI, version 1 sold to many Audiocircle members for $2500/pair new (and everyone was creaming their jeans about how good they were). IMO, that puts the value of used version 1 amps somewhere below $2000...maybe even lower? Perhaps a great value in a tube amp, but they don't have a large pool of interested buyers and therefore resale suffers.
I had the Dodd version II and it was pretty quiet....FWIW
05-05-07: Arthursmuck
I had the Dodd version II and it was pretty quiet....FWIW
Remember "quiet" is relative to the sensitivity of the loudspeakers. The Dunlavy IV may be less sensitive than the 92dB/1 watt/ 1 meter Sonata III.

Just to qualify my statement, I originally unconditionally recommended the Dodd monos at the used asking prices. I've often thought of buying them myself just to try. However, I then remembered the relatively high sensitivity of Jim's Sonata III speakers, and I thought I should qualify the recommendation a bit. I still believe they may sound phenomenal.
Look for an Art Audio Jota..... Great amp.

If one wants a sweeter sound than Jota, try finding a second-hand Diavolo.
Its 13 watts gives wider choices of speakers than most SET amps.
A PX25 is pretty nice, but I found speaker choice too limiting (unless driving easy-to-drive stand mounts dynamic speakers, single-driver or horn types ) to realise its potential. ( for me anyways )

You can have a factory install an XLR input option but it's not necessary unless you run long ICs.
I am with Chris. Art Audio is great value and great sound.
The Dodd amps are just fine up to about 95-96 db, they were even fairly quite, on my Cornwalls. They are fabulous for the 2500 price point. They will BLOW away your BAT amps, with better bass/mids/treble, as long as you tune them properly with the proper tubes. My new custom horns sre 101 db, and they are too noisy for these, as are the Moscode. I own both these, and many more. Good luck in your search. My feeling is, yu better have a small room, or like low level listening if you gonna go with 15 watts.....remember, yu need power reserve.
...good follow up thoughts on pricing... and resale. I got the same notion when I saw the 'quieter' being mentioned, too. then thought... "Quieter than what?"

As for going integrated or balanced. But for a time that just ain't in the cards for me. I sincerely like the preamp I have now. A lot. having just retubed it with NOS rcaS, and about to reterminate my ICs to SE... or sell them and move to the newer line whatever the amp, it needs have SE in's. If it has both, super! SE is the ticket for me for now, or till this preamp dies.

I dig where you are coming from on the crap shoot bit. i do. I'm actually pretty conservative. Don't have a thing against PP amps either. in fact that is all Ive heard. Just push pull, and no SETs... and as I pointed to in my parameters, it ain't gotta be a SET. I'm just not opposed to it. Not at all. it's my musical tastes that indicate a need for better power reserves and an ability to render conplex uptempo info.

the best sound to date is for me, a push pull ultralinear mono block pushing 30wpc on a good day.

G_m_c & Chris
AA is sure a big consideration. "Which AA amp" is however, more the issue though... and Jota mono's are maybe beyond me preicewise, most likely.
the BAT VK-60 meets all those criteria and can be had for about $2k used (sometimes less). Single-ended bridge topology

I will second or thrid the Art Audio Diavolo. Love mine and Joe is wonderful to work with; even if you buy used.

Another happy dodd owner
Mine our version 2 quiet as can be and highly musical
at the used prices they are surely a "steal"

They are capable of so much more with a little bit of tinkering
Thanks much. i appreciate the experience (s).

When you say "up to about 95-96db", you mean speaker eff, right?

"My feeling is, yu better have a small room, or like low level listening if you gonna go with 15 watts.....remember, yu need power reserve."

Hmmm. I have to admit low power, which to me is under 20 wpc, does give me pause. the biggest mistake I think I've yet made is not testing the boundaries with low or mid (30-100wpc), power amps enough to determine how much is enough.

My limited testing of what's on hand and in my room, shows me I listen usually at less than 88db or so. At an avg. of 92-94db, or so, I'm not hanging out there very long. A cut or two perhaps.

I got those above numbers from the vk60 driving some 84-85db mid to large, stand mounted two ways. The 'attack' I would preffer wasn't there however, and I'll attribute that to the speakers low sensitivity, cone design & construction.

I'm not attempting a limbo act here. I've simply felt that in my limited experience (s) in tube amps, that now I can finally try some I've previously discounted entirely out of sheer ignorance, or the then speaker's needs.

I've nothing against Dodd or any other makers amps for that matter. I simply need be cautious and prudent. Primarily, I do not want to wind up with a tube amp that sounds like a solid state amp.

Likely there are any number that will fit the bill I ask for... though I am relegated to conjecture, postulating, and the resultant confusion which stems from it.

whatever the choice, I feel it's gotta be a pretty safe one so if not right (enough), I'll not lose when it's put back into the market. that is about the only thing I do know for sure... well, and it needs be SE and under $3K.

Thanks. Got one already. Just Trying to improve upon it.
How about something completely out of the box, like a Response Audio Bella Extreme 3205i integrated amplifer? It's a highly modded Jolida 302 or 502. 50wpc with EL34 tubes, or 60wpc with 6550/KT88 tubes. Should drive the Sonata III nicely, and it's only $1650.

Or, if you prefer a separate preamp, there's the Bella Extreme 3205 stereo amplifier. 50 or 60 watts per channel for $1699.
Blindjim I would look for a wright sound 300B pp, Vac 30/30, et...definately go PP, or you will not have enough balls. Make sure to do yur homework, s you can buy, try, and resell with little of no loss, until you find what is right for you. Email me off line with yur #, if ya wanna talk
Thanks... by "with little tinkering" ... What do you mean? Do you have to roll tubes right off to get it to sound great? OR are other items being upgraded the consideration?

I think mods and upgrades are options... and not prerequisites. If mods and/or tube rolling is a must do, or even a should, I'd not be interested quite as much as that would be additive costs to the experience.

out of the box? I doubt I'm in one actually, could be though. the preamp I have is a keeper, unless you want to trade me yours for mine. Amps only is the desire here. I do appreciate the thoughtfulness though.

I did run across something interesting this weekend, "Melos"

Anyone know anything about melos? Any support for them? I see one review that lauds them and the VSA VR8... and a number of threads asking about a repair facility no longer in business.

Has Melos died off?
I agree with the VAC 30/30 suggestion. It'd be hard to go wrong with a VAC. I've heard the 30/30 with Merlin VSM-MMx loudspeakers, and the combo was very, very good. You give up a touch of bass extension and control with 300B tubes versus KT88 (and the 300B tubes cost more than KT88). That's about the only downside I can envision.
I'll also chime in on the side of the VAC 30/30 suggestion. Absolutely outstanding products from a lights out high-end audio manufacturer.

One benefit that cannot be underestimated is that you are joining a family run by one of THE BEST people in the hobby - Kevin Hayes. Aligning yourself with such people never fails to pay dividends over the course of ownership.
wow. I was under the impression the VAC amps were intended for use in balanced mode. And they run for under 3K?

05-07-07: Blindjim
wow. I was under the impression the VAC amps were intended for use in balanced mode. And they run for under 3K?
Some VAC amps have both single ended and balanced inputs and outputs. I believe others, like the Music Block series are just single ended.

I saw someone selling a used VAC Renaissance 30/30 recently for $2500.

You cannot buy new VAC amps for under $3k, as far as I know. But, VACs are built to last a lifetime. In fact, there is a page on the VAC website called the "VACtory Store" where used VAC gear is occasionally listed for sale.
many thanks.

the killer for me with VAC is the PP 300b's. My last go 'round trying to get a Ren 70 was put off ultimately by the requirement for '8' 300b tubes. Finding out what the retubing costs were caused me to let that go.

I would think the 30/30 uses less however and I'll give that some goodly amount of thought as well. I agree, Mr. Marks, Mr. hayes, and some others do make great gear. I feel VK, P Marks, and K Hayes are at the top of, or very near, the top of the list of the best of the best. IMO. Though I've had only 3 of VK's & one of Marks gear here to try, I would have little problem buying VAC simply on Recomeds.

As Tvad had pointed to some lesser expensive (though modded) amps, I was hoping to have heard some thoughts of other possibly lesser known yet quite good names being dropped here.
PrimaLuna Prologue 6 monoblocks. 70wpc, EL34. A pair used pair available now for $1800.

McIntosh MC275. Used for around $3k.
tvad... I had forgotten all about Prima Luna. 'preciate it.
Sure thing, Jim. I'm slowly switching my thinking toward amps/integrated amps from companies like PrimaLuna, Bella Extreme, Cayin, and Rogue that make music but may give up some of the ultimate refinement of more expensive audio gear (no particular suggestion on my part that any of these brands do this, but I suspect it comes with the territory, and frankly is the direction I'm considering).

Still, the search for full range, high sensitivity/benign-impedance-load loudspeakers is tough. The Sonata III were certainly near the top of my list when I was diving headlong into the research. Therefore, you're present journey is of interest.
My little sojurn into well, lets say "les than mid stream powered" amps might not be the best test for yourself. Primarily as my particular tastes in music tilt towards the "not quite at" the truly neutral side of things and rests securely on the warmer side of it.

I still have a propensity to listen to a wide variety of genres. With Roomful, Gordon Goodwins group, many old school R&B artists such as Solomon Burke, Wilson Picket, Aretha, etc.. amongst my favs I pray I never settle into any myopic phyllum of musical expression, aside from my prefferences to tonal qualities, with thick and rich being my usual standard. .. and naturality always the judge.

Therefore, I can't get in one amp (s) everything I desire. My willingness to make concessions in exceptionally dynamic presentations is tuff for me... yet to more than some degree that seems my particular bent.

I doubt seriously, given the money spent to bring in what other pieces I have on hand is already gone, that I'll digress or consolidate my rig, for at this point several items IMO, are keepers. The amp situation does seem questionable however. The question lays more to prefference than to preformance, to put it squarely.

In a few weeks I'll know far, far, better about the amp too as the current speakerage is definitely lacking in conveying to me great accuracy of scale, and organic timberal qualities quite often. Although pleasant enough to listen to, wagering on system needs based upon their presentation abilities is sheer folly.

The ‘real deal’ as I see it is finding out which tube amp will provide enough harmonic richness and texture, and still have enough jump in it to bestow an . involving re-creation.

In the back of my mind is a fall back plan that allows me, should the tube amp be just flat out gorgeous sounding yet without the dynamic thrustyness I feel is necessary, I’ll just get 100wpc SS amp for part time duties.

What has surprised me too is no one has mentioned Qucksilver, ASL, Cary, or Outlaw. IN fact a friend of mine said she had owned a Stingray int. and went to an ASL int. and was far more pleased with the ASL. She was using Vandy 2’s back then.

Since "attack", "exceptionally dynamic presentations", "great accuracy of scale" along with "harmonic richness and texture, and still have enough jump in it to bestow an involving re-creation" are you primary goals - POWER is what you are looking for. Lots of it with reserves for more even with fairly efficient speakers.

As I mentioned in an earlier post/thread, your speakers are 92dB, so listening at 89dB requires 0.5wpc. Well recorded classical or jazz (not most pop/rock music) can have 14-20dB transient peaks above average listening levels.

That means in order to accurately recreate large dynamic swings in complex musical passages without clipping or compression/distortion and keep the amp in it's most linear range of function, you'll need at least 100wpc - 150 to 200 is more like it.

Now, that estimate is obviously an ultimate goal and you can get by with less than that, but I would seriously stay above 100wpc and look for an amp known to have a serious power supply.

Take a good look at some Manley Labs Snappers monoblocks. They are 100wpc and more importantly, they use the same EL34 in ultralinear PP just like the Thor TPA-30(or 60) amps that you loved. On top of which, they allow both RCA and true balanced(XLR) inputs. The amps truly differential instead of simply using an input transformer to convert balanced/XLR inputs to single ended.

Manley Labs are known for making amps that kick a** dynamically. A huge part of their business is to the pro audio/recording industry. Also, they are made in the USA and have a great reputation for support.

There's a pair for sale here on Audiogon for $3,200. Go to Manley's website and read the reviews, especially the Inner Ear Report, Positive Feedback, Stereo Times, and Soundstage.

If not the Snappers, then consider an older set of VAC PA series amps. There's a set of VAC PA-100/100 monoblocks for sale here at $1,600 which use Kt-88/90 output tubes. Both tubes excel at bass and dynamics.
I think you're onto something there. Thanks much.

two issues are at hand for me. One, not being able to travel and hear them. Two, I think I am trying to get in one amp waht it likely takes two to do properly. One lush amp, and one for most all else.

Power reserves are sure important. I do know that much.
Imho, EL34 based amps are a great place to spend some time. The AE Sixpac are very reasonably priced (under $2k used) and highly reviewed. Also, look at the Cayin 860 monoblocs. I bought a new pair for under $3k and they are a fantastic value and sound great. I think they are the Cadilac version of the Prima Luna(Chevy) as I suspect they are made by the same people.

I run them with Merlin VSM MM's, Modwright 36.5 Preamp, Modwright AT Denon 3910 and they work together very well.

I'm just starting to go through the Cayins and swap out and upgrade some caps and tubes and I plan to be content for a long time. Highly recommended.
Blindjim, FWIW, I recently bought a Cayin A100T out of curiosity. I've only had it for a month or so but so far I'm not only pleased but surprised. While this is an integrated amp it has in input for a preamp which bypasses the 'front-end' of the Cayin so if you want to use your pre amp its easy to do. It also has the ability to switch from triode (laid back, less focused) to ultralinear (which is a very focused sound)on the fly with the remote. I prefer high resolution w/out brightness and a very focused image. My speakers and ears prefer the ultralinear but I'm sure many would like the triode or both. The best part is the sound! The unit (after fiddling with the tubes a bit) has real balls (heft!) but is not boomy at all, the mid range is very liquid and the highs are fine as well (again with a few tube changes). It is very linear, if a tad warm with my stuff and the tube changes. In my set up I'm getting my typical wide and high imaging, and focus depth (which has been more prominent in the center) some pretty good depth on the soundstage rear sides as well. If you develope any interest in this unit, send me an e-mail and I'll answer any questions (that I can).
thanks. I recall now the thing that set me off. thanks for the links to these as well... the ST review won't open for me though. Re-reading through the rest of them reproved the notion I had about them... on paper. My take, is that they have greater emphasis on leading edge and slam, than the euphonic side of timberal glow. But perhaps that can be accomplished with a bit of tube rolling... there or elsewhere in say, the preamp.

I suppose that is the stumbling block for me and compromise seems aptly, the answer. I need either compromise the financial future, or compromise the sonic pallet by way of euphony, or the dynamic. spectrum.

That, in a nutshell is what I felt the Thor amps captured so well in their presentation. Almost equal parts of the color of rich timberal luster, and very good leading edge definition, lending the blend to a natural recreation of tones and fine image outlines possesive of such sufficient body that was 'ear-catching' to say the least.

Just one of those "Ooooooohhh" sounds, quite impressive.

Given, I'm no longer afraid of the dreaded neutral monster that had so long haunted me i would now be incled to compromise some of the euphonic side of the coin to gain greater flexibility in vaster musical genre enjoyment... but not entirely, just some.

which makes me feel I should get the Thor 30's, and a decent SS for sequential use with the monos, to better cover the whole of things, perhaps. Like a small Bells, Mac, or even a couple digi's.

thanks... I'm drawing a blank on "AE"? Who's that?

Thank you much. I'm getting such an influx of int info I'm wondering now if I've not made some mistake by not paying as much attention to them earlier on. It probably had something to do with my predisposition to the "lots-o-watts" camp I was so squarely set into.

I think, 'think' mind you, I should go ahead and pursue the addition of the tube amp (s) first as I am fairly set to that task and would hate to abandon it without ever knowing something of it firste.

I don't doubt for a minute that there are some really fine ints available out there. One is likely in my future, just not at the moment. Unless the financial bottom of the life boat I'm paddling runs onto a reef.

The aspect of the pre in's is a real good thing too for me.

The addition of the Silverlines will allow a far wider path for audio investigation now, regardless the tube amp, as they simply continue to impress whilst they run in.

Just for some closure I figured to sign on and tell what I bought ultimately.

I got a pair of preowned Dodd 120 MK II, w/Platinum sonicap upgrades. They arrived safe and sound as I overnighted them from Portland Or.

First impressions? Nice. Changing around some tubes they got nicer. Very good in fact. So at this point I'm satisfied I made a fine purchase.

Only one issue exsists. My own inability to read the bias meter. I'll figure out a work-a-round for that soon enough.

...and now the need is for amp stands.

So thanks everybody for your thoughts and experiences. they served me well indeed.

BTW they work very well with the Thor pre, and Silverline units. No anomolies at all.

I pray I can repay the favor down the road.
All the best Jim
With a bit of "tweaking" you can raise the Dodds performance quite nicely
A buddy of mine is running a Cary SLI 80 signature (w/EH KT88's) w/Sonatina III's in triode mode. It's a really nice sounding combo.
..and by that you mean some tube rollin' right? If so, I have on order some RCA 5687. One pair. I'm going to order another set of the SED C EL34. With a full set of GE 7044 (very dynamic and extended & high res), another of Tungsol 5687, (a bit less res and so forth as the GE, but still quite good... just 'less' by about a third), and hopefully the RCA will round out the sound a bit better for my preffs.

Amp stands worth having vs. my DIY's ARE IN ORDER NOW.

Thanks. that's an int amp right? Hopefully my 'next' amp will be akin to my preamp. The PA 30 were high on my short list and match my tastes more closely... though an ART AUDIO may be too or a VAC.

I've long since become more flexible in which way things go, as they keep going down different roads than the predetermined route.

4 yrs ago my plan was for a pair of BW 802N, a tube pre, and a BIG Mc amp. Only one of those goals were realized, and that one is a keeper. So too are some other items in my sys. Maybe the Dodds too... though they have far more extension and power than I need and so did the VK60.

25-50 wpc is all the power these particular Silverlines need, for my room and preffs, I think.

One thing is for sure, the Sonata IIIs can 'handle' power, but they are quite adept at resolving musical recreation with not much power as well. Perhaps previous itterations, or the preffs of those owners has indicated otherwise, but with my bought recently new, from Silverline, Sonata IIIs lots of power is not a necessity. IMO.

The 'TYPE' of power being applied however is more important. I've not had to use an output tap other than the 8 ohm one... on any amp... well, so far anyhow.
Tubes is one part of it
Don't forget isolation - Get those amps raised off the ground and swap out the stock power cords when time and money permits


Thanks... I'm a little ahead of you in that regard. I'm using an Elrod Sig 3 to supply a PS audio Duet which has two VooDoo Gold Dragon IIs supplying each amp. A pair of DIY stands and have 3 types of tubes to roll in the driver/first stage spots... RCA 5687 - GE 7044 - Tungsol 5687s too. I plan on ordering another fresher set of the SED C EL34s soon.

I also have to redress my above post as to which imp tap on the Dodds is best for my Sonata IIIs, and it ain't the 8 ohm tap. I thought I had tried both when writing the previous post, but thought well about it and could not remember when or if I had.... so I changed it over yesterday and WOW!

The change was no subtle one either! Quite surprising in fact! I've no idea as to who, what or how come this config does waht it does and it seems counterintuitive. The Sonata IIIs are really easy to drive given the various amps I've tried on them. All using the 8 ohm or 6 ohm taps on tube amps, or regular output from a lightweight solid state amp.

Don't have an O-scope, and now, am not too worried as to why the change was so dramatic, just digging it far more now. Tremendous difference for the better. Indeed.

I'm going to attribute it to the Dodd amp working best off the lower imp output tap and leave it at that. Another Dodd owner said as much to me after hearing of the move, saying he got the same results on his speakers and their imp was reportedly well above the 4 ohm imp area too.

so "my bad" as to the above erronious or misleading entry.

What was once experienced as a wide open very extended yet still musical sound using the 8 ohm output tap on the Dodds has morphed into a solidly palpable, textured, and remarkably natural sound with very good presence and layering. Oh, and the bottom end all the way up to the top end is far smoother with the lower regions being far more inline with a proper rendering. great bass, in other words. in fact I had to retune the sub, and lower it's volume.

Wow! I'm definitely impressed now with the synergy/combination of the gear in total. Though some more attention to speaker and sub placement is in order, as well as some attention to the use of different footers, and I'm thinking well about Bright Star, FIMM, BDR, Walker, AND Boston, in no particular order.

for isolation try the Mapleshade isoblocks under your Dodds

In my system this was the "tweak of choice"

I also like Herbies Tenderfeet not necessarally better but definitely different


Check! some sort of isoing is definitely gonna go on. What or who? I don't know yet. Soon, though, very soon.