Suggest having a look at new Pathos Classic One.See ukd.co.uk and pathosacoustics.com.Hybrid amp.Very nice !
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You did not mention any power requirements or new / used. But in your price range I would suggest a Conrad Johnson Premier 11a (70wpc) used; very reliable and user friendly. My first and only tube amp experience. I miss that amp and wish I had it back. In my limited experience the issues I had with tube amplification is heat, they need good ventilation, and the occasional rebiasing of the power tubes. IMO as long as stay with a reputable manufacturer you shouldn't have any major issues. You will need to replace the tubes after two or three years of normal use, however, that is farily simple. As far as sound quality versus SS you will need to be the judge of that.
Other manufacturers with good reputations are Cary Audio and Balanced Audio Technologies (BAT). Hope I could help.
Tube amps are really not that hard to use or maintain, but there is somewhat more effort involved than with SS. For your first amp I would recommend that you get one that is fairly idiot proof but that allows you to maintain your self. Individual bias pots and built in meter is fundamental to ease of use and tube rolling. Make sure that you can easily find good replacement tubes at fair prices. Make sure that you can easily bias the power tubes yourself. Its nice if the unit has a fuse to protect the bias resistors if a power tube shorts out - saves a trip to the service tech (this doesn't happen often, especially if you buy tubes that are known for being rugged in the first place, and avoid tubes which are not. (I just bought an integrated unit with both a fuse and auto bias, talk about idiot proof). You must also adopt the attitude the tube changes WILL BE necessary and its not a big deal, just keep extra tubes on hand so when one fails prematurely you can just replace it, and keep a set of both small tubes and power tubes on hand so you can replace them when they ware out. No different than doing maintanence on your car. Then sit back and enjoy. If you provide some detail about your speakers, room size, and listening preferences you might get some meaningful reccomendations.
As others comment, allowing for for easy bias adjustment with a built in meter is a good feature. But note that (1) some tube amps use LEDs that go dark when the amp is correctly adjusted (easy to do) rather than a meter (e.g., the Conrad-Johnson MV-60) and (2) some tube amps are automatically self-biasing with internal sensing circuitry so the user doesn't have to do any bias adjustments at all (e.g., the BAT VK-55).
appreciate your insites and input...
the price range of $1500-2000 would be for either used or new
currently i run a mac mc252 on a set of ushers x719 which are 8ohm and 88db. the room size is 12x12...
i am fascinated by looks mostly and cool factor...is that worth the maintainace and biasing issues...btw what is bias tuning? is that a gain adjustment and is it a L/R or something else..
my other fascination is with class A rated output amps...are they worth it?
sorry i am a novice but got a serious bug..
I guess one would have to have one of these tube amps in their own system before one could judge.----There is one thing I can tell you ; they (tubes)do sound pretty different than most solid state amps--A generalization only--- Whether or not you like that difference is another thing. I say listen to a triode amp, not necessarly a single ended one but a push-pull triode. Then you can tell us.--- Some tube amps have a simiar to SS sound; and some SS amps have a similar to tubes sound.---Don't know of many SS amps that have a similar to triode sound; there may be some but the price won't be in the 1--1.5k range.
The previous post by AVguy makes a good point: moderately priced tube amps can, and usually do, sound quite different than comparably priced solid state amps (due mainly to the much higher cost for transformers in the tube amps). The performance difference between tube and solid state amps have been narrowing over the past 10 years, but that's mainly true for the higher-priced models.
If you want to experiment with a tube amp, you might look for a used Quicksilver amp, which is user-friendly and offers good performance for the money. You might also consider some of the very good tube amps now being made in Asia (mainly China and Taiwan), which offer good value due to their lower manufacturing costs.
What type of music do you generally listen to? That also will play a big part in whether or not the tubes will be appropriate for your tastes, and help pinpoint which tube amps you might want to consider.
Let us know what kind of music you generally listen to, and I'm sure that you will get plenty of excellent recommendations that would fit the bill.
All the best,
I would take a look at the Quicksilver mono blocks that allow you to put in different types of output tubes...KT88,EL34,6L6 and others, providing you have enough power. This way you can 'listen' to various types as well as brands of tubes. Not the easiet to set up but then again definitely not the hardest. Also Quicksilver's sound pretty good too! Oh yes, Quicks also hold the resale value.
thanks for the follow up
i love vintage jazz...coltrane, chestnut,sandoval,billy taylor and of course krall and recently cincotti
i do like classical music...but not much orchestral or opera. Mainly piano and vilolin
and of course i do rock every so often...floyd,eagles and ray vaughn,etc
that is the spectrum of music i enjoy
like i said these amps have an enourmous appeal to me on the visual basis..favorites Mcintosh 2000(i believe) and like the looks of BAT units. Also any tubes come in class A outputs?
many thanks for your help
As Alex & Sdcampbell both said, the Quicksilver products are superb. Their Mini-Mono's have a very open sound, eerily close to that of SET (single ended triode), which has an intimate, holographic midrange. You can use a variety of tubes with them, and they are self-biasing. They would easily power your system in that 12 x 12 room, and if you like them, I would suggest trying them out with a more efficient speaker. It would be worth your time to hear them with an older Klipsch Heresy or Forte, especially on the music that you like.
There is a pair of Mini-Monos for sale at $525 here (they usually go for $700 or so). They are exceptionally good amps. You can pick up one of their preamps for around $500-600 used, and even if you play around with NOS tubes and upgraded power cords, you will be well under your budget.
Another superb amp is the Audiomat Arpege. Incredibly musical, and about $1250-1400 used).
Also, If you have not heard SET amps, and you like class A, I would recommend giving them an audition. Like many people, my wife and I became completely addicted to their holographic midrange. You will experience their full benefit with a more efficient speaker, particularly because many of them are between 3 and 12 watts, but they sound absolutely magical. We generally play our 7W SET with our 104db horns, but with our 95db Silverline speakers, Pink Floyd etc. sounds fantastic. However, it's with jazz, vocals and classical that they really shine.
Hope this helps.
for 2000, you could have a VAC auricle, which has independently biased tubes and a built in meter. it's 55w and should drive your speaker fine in you sized room. jazz is fabulous with tubes and definitely through this amp. the midrange is particularly sweet with the el34, perhaps sacrificing a tiny bit at the frequency extremes. i have one and love it! plus if (and that is a really big if!!!) you ever have a problem with it, Kevin at VAC is fantastic (as is their customer service in general). though i must emphasise that i have never had any problem with the amp, it has been flawless in operation and a joy to listen to!
I just bought a used BAT VK-60 for $1800, and the sound is mesmerizing. Also the amp is self-biasing (automatically adjusts the current to the output tubes), so you needn't worry about that. The Quicksilvers are marvelous bargains and extremely well made, but I find the sound a little dark. Good Luck. - Jeffrey
VAC's Renaissance amps and CAT's amps are Class A triode designs. They all exceed your budget, however.
That said, you might be able to pick up a VAC 30/30 Renaissance Mk. III used for +/- $2,500. It is as trouble-free as a tube amp can be because (i) it is self-biasing, (ii) uses super long long-life 300-B output tubes, and (iii) has great build quality. It also has a "sentry circuit" that automatically shuts down an output tube if the tube starts to fail. It is only rated at 32 watts channel, but is much more powerful than its wattage rating suggests due to its very high quality power supplies and output transformers. It can drive most speakers to loud levels in average size rooms (it is a beast of an amp that weighs 85 lbs. - it can drive a 2 Ohm load). The styling is gaudy in my opinion, but the sound quality and build quality are truly supurb.
The only hassle to owning a good tube amp is that most put off a goodly amount of heat and you can't leave it on 24/7, meaning that you have to give it time to warm up before letting loose (it depends on the amp, but generally speaking, anything less than a half an hour of warm-up stresses the tubes and other internal parts). This requires that you "plan", to a certain degree, when you will listen to music, which some people find unacceptable.