I am interesting in buying a tube integrated. I think my budget is around 3K - 5K range (new/demo/used) is fine. But I do want to get a decent one. The options are too many...but I do have some criteria.
1) Has to be aesthetically pleasing (which takes out the Primaluna stuff for now, else I’d consider them) 2) Push-pull Class A/B, I like to keep my electronics on always, and I am environmentally conscious, so I don’t want to just drain power with a Class A (Octave’s eco mode is very interesting in this regard) 3) Has to be at or above 30 WPC to drive my speakers as per their recommendation 4) Biasing has to be easy (auto is best, but manual bias with integrated meter is fine) 5) Prefer KT150/120/88 based stuff (I’m flexible here, just want KT150 if possible) 6) Prefer less noise, so high SnR like 90 or above 7) Volume control should be high quality, like stepped attenuattor 8) At least one XLR input
Don’t need phono/dac input, doesn’t have to be single ended (by default).
With that said, I think I like the Octave V70SE, V80SE, they fit the bill but above budget new. Really wanna check out the Lyric 140. I think these may be doable with the 5K (maybe a bit more) budget and demo/used condition.
I have a Raven Integrated Reflection MK2 that is awesome and meets all of your criteria except for the cost. However, they have others in your price range. Check out the website and then do yourself a favor and call Dave Thomson, the owner of Raven.
I have the Octave and I enjoy it very much. Plenty of power and control without the overtly tube "bloom". I came from very high quality ( and very expensive ) ss separates and the Octave while different, it is very musical and organic sounding. It is also packed with very useful features that I find invaluable.
@yogiboy Hi, my main system is a solid sate seperates system. I wanna get a hassle free tube integrated for just to switch things up now and then. But if the sound is great then I just wanna keep it on. My eventual plan is to sell my SS separates and also replace it with a very high end SS integrated. I had a tube preamp before (Dehavilland Ultraverve3), and while great, I just don't know if I wanna get involved with tube separates. Else the Quicksilver Mono amps would be pretty desirable, very affordable and US made.
@jerry_gt3rs Yes, their amps have the features that I like. Unfortunately it seems like if I want to play around with KT150s, I'd have to get the V80SE, else the V70SE would be perfect.
@czbbcl Fair enough, everything will be connected though, to the speakers. I feel turning then on and off puts extra stress on the tubes.
@willgolf Ravens look great, but I feel they are a bit overpriced for the offering and compared to competition. However the Blackhawk LE is interesting, as is the Osprey. The Reflection 2 has too many tubes for me to maintain.
As for others, the CAV45 is something I looked into before. I'd consider CJ stuff if I was looking for separates, but for an integrated, the CAV45 doesn't have a preamp stage, it's passive, and I'm not sure if I'l like the sound of it.
I don’t know if you have seen the Primaluna products in person but they look much better than they photograph. Personally I dislike the tube cage that reminds me of a roll top desk. However its use is user optional.
A used VAC 160i would be a great choice but would still likely exceed your budget. I believe it’s KT88 only for the output tubes.
Jolida has some integrated amps that offer KT150 tubes so that might be worth a look.
Another albeit expensive candidate is the Leben CS600 even though it doesn’t offer the tube compliment you are looking for. It is a wonderful sounding unit with a retro style.
The XLR input requirement is what really puts a major limitation on your options, as tube integrateds in this price range tend not to feature this, not even a "convenience" input (i.e. not genuinely balanced). Perhaps go hybrid.
@czbbcl Fair enough actually, that's why I want something with a good protection circuit, and I'll keep it off, I'm not too worried about warm up time I suppose, I don't think it takes more than 10 minutes or so to get an amp going.
As stated, the XLR requirement greatly limits the search.
B/c everything else you want screams "PrimaLuna". It is the obvious choice to me, not only b/c i can attest to its grace and power, but b/c it is basically an awesome "blueprint" of a tubed amp, and you can adjust the tubes to match your speakers. Which also makes me wonder, I didnt see you list your speakers. This will be necessary to know to make a good pairing.
No offense, but I think XLRs are overstated, unless you are running 20 feet of line and need the power for length of cable. Just an idea, but if you have an XLR coming out of your source, you could also get a high quality adaptor (Cardas, etc) to put on the end of the cable on the amp side: XLR to RCA .
A Jolida 3502S takes various power tubes, has at least 60 watts per side, and has a balanced input. It's only issue is that it may be too inexpensive (maybe 1500 to 1800 bucks new). Note that I used a 502P (lightly factory upgraded) amp for years and it sounded great and was trouble free, and the MD Jolida dudes are great to talk to.
@1graber2 The issue is XLR outout of some dacs are optimized/better than the RCA, my Metrum dac is one of these. But It's not a deal breaker or anything, I can use RCA as well, just prefer XLR.
@wolf_garcia I will look into the Jolida.
@jafant Yes, so far I believe Octave is leading. There's one for sale now. Just wondering what are the differences between the regular and SE versions. Though since I prefer KT150's, I believe I could wait for a V80SE to come up within my range.
Also, I have Legacy Audio Signature SEs. I contacted them and was recommended to use tube amps at 30 WPC and above. Though I have successfully drove them with a Coincident Dynamo SET, which is only 8 WPC, so I think 25 ish watts and above should be fine. The Dynamo bottoms out at heavy electronic beats and the bass gets flabby, but for most music it works surprisingly well.
Jolida MD (not sure if the "other" Jolida they had issues with are still around, and don't care much if they are) is always a good place to investigate tube things, as they price things fairly without much hype (not much advertisement if any). I noticed Morrow Cables ( I use a few of their cables…they work well) is "partnered" with them…Primiluna is well made and seemingly well regarded with "premium" parts, etc., but costs multiples of Jolida products, and doesn't necessarily sound better, at least in my experience.
I agree primaluna has everything you’re asking for. Trouble free tube rolling because of the autobiasing circuit, protection circuitry, integrated, its in your price range, Dialogue premium hp is 70 W with el34. Quality made Huge power transformers. Prima Luna is a Dutch company. Although, they use the Cayin factory in China for assembly with strict monitoring.
Ditch the cage if you don’t like it. It won’t fit on anyway with some larger tubes. I’ve had mine for a year and am still discovering new things about my music collection. I didn’t like the look at first either but it grew on me because of the sound.
Also, most people will tell you never leave a tube amp on 24/7. Leave it on for the day and power down at night when you retire or when you leave home. It’s not best to cycle on and off at free random but the wear on the tubes a couple times a day isn’t worth bricking your transformers, amp, speakers, ...house!
Suggest you take a look at the Unison S6 which was Stereophile "Class A" and has received nothing but 5* reviews (check online). Based on my listening it is on a different level from any of the "usual suspects" (e..g., Cayin, Prima Luna, Jolida, etc.) and is more musical than any push-pull integrated amp I've heard. With the new Sophia blue EL-34 ST tubes (Sylvania long black plate or Amperex or Mullard long plate 12AX7's) it is a revelation and I am off the merry-go-round.
During my search I've also come across Rogers EHF 100 and 200. The 200 uses KT150s but is out of range but I do see EHF 100s popping up now and then. Any thoughts on these? Not a huge fan of the looks but fair enough, can't have it all.
@wolf_garcia did mention them. Any thoughts from owners? They seem to be made very well.
People I know who own Rogers amps seem to love them…maybe the lifetime warranty appealed to them also, but they’re the real deal in terms of well designed hand made stuff. I’m happy with my el cheapo Dennis Had amp and Schiit Freya preamp…both clear bargains among high end sounding things.
Are you asking about it? BAT is one of the few companies that make balanced tube gear. Unfortunately they only make the one integrated and it's a hybrid. I'm not considering hybrids, as I do have a solid state system, I just want an alternative purely tube based. But BAT make good gear for sure.
I am the US distributor for MastersounD and I came across this thread. I wanted to introduce a possible solution for you - the BoX. This unit will be arriving in the US shortly and boasts 35 watts per channel of single-ended goodness. I utilizes three el34 per channel in an enclosed chassis and also offers remote and phono inputs. What really makes this unit stand out is its price - $3,000. That is normally what you pay for a decent push-pull el34 amplifier, much less a single ended version.
Like all MastersounD amplifiers, this is a full tube integrated.