Tube integrated amps


Don't know anything about tube integrated amps but want to learn.

Where are some good resources?

Want to give one a try in a second system that has Dynaudio 1.3SE speakers. Don't want to spend more than 2300 used or 4K new.
Blue Circle has a new unit called the DAR.
You might want to consider the Manley StringRay, as it is a great little tube integrated. I have one in my second system and it's great!. If you vinyl you will need a phono amp, I'm trying the MF XLPs and it sounds pretty good.
I am using an EAR 859 integrated amp. They occasionally appear on the used market for approximately 2K.
I'm going to guess that the Dynaudio 1.3SE are at least 89db effecient, and if so Melody I2A3 got a great write up by Ebaan at 6moons, enough so that I'll eventually give that a try myself.

If you like a sound that is fast, transparent, w/ excellent PRAT, tone & timbre than the Audo Zone AMP 1 gaincard is excellent choice...- but only 1 input.

A lot of nice integrated's in that price range, good luck.
Sugarbrie, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the DAR a hybrid integrated and not a tube integrated amp? Also, aren't you a Blue Circle dealer?

Nycjdc, you may want to check out a Cary SLI-80 Signature. I have no affiliation with Cary.
I would ask Dynaudio how they feel about tube amps for their speakers, they tend to be 4 ohm speakers which is not necessarily a deal breaker but is less than ideal for a tube amp, unless it is a very smooth impedance across the bandwidth - I don't if it is or isn't, but not all speakers match up ideally with tubes.
Thanks everyone. I say I want an integrated amp because I don't want another component in the system. I don't really care how many inputs the amp has; I only need one for my DAC.

The Dynaudio details are as follows. Does this mean tube amp wouldn't be such a good idea?

Sensitivity (2.83 V/1 m): 86 dB
Recommended Amp. Power: Small size rooms: > 30 Watts Medium size rooms: > 80 Watts
IEC Long Term Power Handling: > 170 Watts
Impedance, Nominal: 6 ohms
Impedance, (20-200 Hz): 3.6 - 23.9 ohms
Impedance, (200-20 kHz): 3.7 - 6.1 ohms
Impedance, Phase Shift (20-200 Hz): -53.2º - +28.5º
Impedance, Phase Shift (200-20 kHz): -5.0º - +12.0º
Impedance, HF (200 kHz): 6.9 ohms
Frequency Response (+/- 3 dB): 37 Hz - 27 kHz
Resonance Frequency: 40 Hz
Internal Cabinet Volume: 11.8 liters
Bass Principle: Bass Reflex
Weight: 10.1 kg. each
Dimensions (W x H x L): 8" x 15" x 11.5"
Crossover: The crossover is phase-aligned.
High quality crossover components only. Crossover Frequencies: 2600Hz
Crossover Slope: 6dB/oct
I'm leaning to thinking that you would need a pretty powerful tube amp with current for that load, but I'm not 100% sure on that, you should ask Dynaudio via e-mail to be sure, but it seems better suited to a 100watt SS amp. I think a 30-40 watt tube integrated would be less than ideal.
Stingray or Rogue integrated offer great bang for the buck
Thats a little different, if your room is small or medium
in size than either the Manly Stingray, or possibly Canary CA-608(?) would be worth looking into.

Or a Hybrid: (tube pre/mosfet amp) Unison research

And if you decide solid state: I've had the Ayre AX-7e, very refined & natural.

Have Fun.
those speakers will be tough on a tube rig.

I'm gonna say 30 wpc should drive the Dyn's. BUT at what levels?

86db is as much the issue as is the impedance here.

I'd say look to more than 30wpc on those particular speakers. Like 60 or 80wpc.

I ran a pair of phase tech 2 ways, with 85db, 8ohm, with a BAT vk 60 with no problems. The 8ohm load helped a lot I'm sure.

Will 30wpc tube amps work? I'd say so... but how well is another story I believe.

Without trying first and buying in the blind so to speak? I'd say shoot for more power right off.

Or really, really good quality tube ints with great output Trannys. IMO.
You could try a hybred like the Unison Unico SE. I think it has 140 watts. It should drive the Dyns. no with no problem.
I currently have a tube amp and Yes - they sound great, sometimes awesome, but I'm not sure they are worth the ongoing effort/expense.

OK - slam me if you must but hear me out first...
The following comments only pertain to amps in Nycjdc's price range - the better amps are awesome and have been designed to minimize maintenance.

You need to take some time to understand the TLC they MAY require and the path you are about to go down.

1. Depending on the amp you purchase - you may have to bias the power tubes - if the amp you buy requires biasing...
- some need biasing as often as every three months
- some less frequently
- and a few, more often
- you will need a GOOD digital multimeter, but they are inexpensive these days (aound $40)
- you will need to learn how to do it - generally it is simple and not a big deal - I got some instruction from my retailer
- some manufacturers recommend you take it in to be biased
- good ones provide instructions in the manual

2. after a while you may want to try different tubes, because you have read what a difference in sound tubes from different manufacturers can make:
- some amps permit a wide range of tubes to be used
- other do not
- they will sound different
- and power tubes can get expensive

3. tubes need replacing - from what I have read
- pre-amp tubes after about 6000 hours
- power tubes after about 2000 hours
- a set for my amp cost $300
- I can get away with $200, but the sound is no where near as good

4. Tube amps requires a lot more space in your rack
- if that's where you are going to put it
- they are larger and get WARM! - some get HOT!

5 From what I have read, the less expensive tube amps - integrated in particular, do not have the same dynamic presentation (a relatives Solid State setup confirms this) as a similarly priced Solid State amp and they have a little more trouble driving some speakers.

But - they do sound great!

If I had my time again - I would opt for
- a tube pre-amp to get that nice rich warm tube sound
.....long tube life, less expensive tubes and no biasing
- with a solid state power amp for the punch and bass depth
.....and eliminate the power tube biasing and replacement expense

Beware of some amps from China:
- some come with a 110v power transformer and may not be ideally designed to run @120v
- net result - the tube heater element runs too hot
- this can lead to premature tube failure e.g. after only 6 months
- also if the element burns out and falls across the plates inside the power tubes you could end up with a huge repair bill - nasty! (this can happen anyway - but it is rare)

For more details on my experience with the amp I selected - a Raysonic SP120 - see my review Raysonic SP120

For the record - I still love my amp - it is the best sounding amp I have ever owned to date by a huge margin.

I also, looked into the Manley Stingray mentioned above and it does sound like a very good amp, but take a read of their web site - I took some of their comments to mean - they don't appreciate you trying out other tubes - but perhaps their tubes provide the best sound anyway, but I'd like to be the judge of that - not the manufacturer.

This has been my experience and is just my opinion
Others will promote tubes as providing the absolute best sound
- they are extremely good and have a distinct sound,
- but they take some TLC and ongoing expense that you should be aware of.

I felt like you and purchased a Jolida 302BRC for less than 1K. Changed the stock tubes with Mullards and just enjoy! My only regret is I should have done long ago.
Two tube integrateds that should (theory and practice don't always align) work would be an used VAC Avatar and the McIntosh 2275. Even better would be some more powerful tube separates that drive 4 ohms well (larger Manleys, VTLs, etc). While much of what Williewonka, says is true, you can imagine how good tubes must be to put up with all the issues he mentions. In this case, and at your price point I think SS is "proabably" the way to go, at least 100 watts.
Jihley, you have Dynaudio 1.3SE speakers?
I use to have a Pair of 1.3se, and one Thing about this speaker for a fact is they love power at least 100 wpc, also the louder you turn then up, the better they sound. I think they would sound there best with SS amp.
That is what I think; tubes can work but it is not so straightforward with these speakers, and the specs really suggests an SS approach. My 2cents.
just a small 2 cents, most of you know much more than I.

I drove an 86db speaker to comfortable levels (in a small room) with a 10 watt Baby Sophia. The sound was wonderful.

I now have a Rogue that would drive the cones right out of the boxes if I'd let it and it's only 55 watts. it as I do, the small room gets hot, hot, hot and it's wintertime now.

I'm driving 86 or 87 dB sensitivity ProAc speakers with the CJ CAV50 integrated tube in triode mode (22wpc): no problems at all in a medium sized room. I'm in SF and Nycjdc's welcome to come over and listen. Two integrated tube amps currently in production and available used for under 2K are the Rogue Tempest II and the VTL IT-85; I think they're both 60 wpc rms or more, and well spoken of.
My Ear 40 watt 834 is great.Know the sound of tubes.6550's are decent and cheap but EL34's will give better mnids.KT88's will give more articulate dynamics and bass but cost when you have to replace them.You can choose anything from a Jolida on up and tweak the sound with NOS be they expensive German telefuken 12AX7's (or other model) or cheaper Mazda's etc.Your output tubes will be too pricey to get New Old Sock but you can have fun with longer lasting cheaper driver tubes.Your speakers should be at least 89 db though generally you can double the power of tube rating versus solid state because thy don't clip as hard i.e distortion comes on slower.And of course more you can spend more options you'll have.
Hi Chazz, your EARs are great, let me know when you want to sell them, but I don't think it will drive his speakers optimally.
Thanks again for everyone's input. Heard back from Dynaudio. He suggested Ayre AX7e, Naim NAIT 5i, Simaudio i5.3 (which is what they use in their office).

As for tubes, he says, "As far as tube (or hybrid) integrateds go, I could recommend looking at the VTL I-85, the PrimaLuna, BAT, Conrad-Johnson, Cary and McIntosh integrateds as a start since I have had excellent listening experiences with all of the above (though I forget some of the model names) in various systems with Dynaudio models. As far as power ratings are concerned, don’t be too worried about that. Dynaudio designs are very linear in impedance (meaning they are easy loads for any amplifier) and they have a steep efficiency curve. They really do not need high power, just their high peak input power handling capacity enables them to convert power into sound pressure without distortion, making them excellent mates to such amplifier designs. But they also will mate to more conservatively rated electronics, as current delivery and overall sound quality are the most important factors to be concerned with. I hope this makes sense."

So given what many have said here and the guy at Dynaudio, sounds like solid state is my best route.

Now if anyone has any experience w/ Ayre AX7e, Naim NAIT 5i, Simaudio i5.3, I'm listening.

Many thanks again.
Three excellent choices, good luck.
The tube issue I was concerned with was not primarily loudness, but spectral balance. If Dynaudio is right, and they should know, that the impedance curves are benign and linear, than it should be much less of a "problem".
Dynaudio recommends 60 wpc for smaller rooms, and at least 80wpc for bigger rooms.

Given the specs - 6ohm nominal impedence and sensitivity of 86db I would tend to agree with Dynaudio.

If you really want tubes I'd suggest you look at using a hybrid amp. These speakers were not designed to be driven by a tube amp.

I can't talk about the ProAcs or other 86db speakers but i can talk about the 1.3se and these speakers just don't sound there best at low volume listing, or with low power amps. THIS speaker LOVES power. and the louder they play, the better they sing. when i owned them I always found myself turning up the volume. in fact, it wasn't until upgraded to the Dynaudio C2s that I was able to play my music at low volumes late at night. again this is just my experience after 3 years with this Speaker, YMMV.
I have owned the Ayre Ax-7e and for $2K used it is everything and more that you could want, a highly resolved and natural sound...great soundstage and depth. A really nice amp, but for me the lack of tubes also meant a lack of inner resolution, note decay,...those little aspects that make your sound seem real (IMHO)
That being said, if you really want tubes in the chain;..I'd look into the Bat (300x?); tube pre & solid state.
The Prima Luna gets good press & will easily sell, if it didn't suite your taste. The VTL may not have the gas, based on what I've read on them, but I've never heard it.
I agree with the recommendations for more power with the specs of those speakers. Look at the BAT-VK300x or one of the Blue Circle tube hybrids.
I think the hybrid approach Pauly recommends makes sense given your desire for some tube presence. The Unico and Pathos hybrids would probably be worth your while to investigate and well within your price range.
I've used a Rogue Tempest II to drive a set of Paradigm 100's that have a somewhat scary impedance curve and it really did fine, even in triode (~40 watts).

The curve for those Dynaudios is beautifully benign, so if you're after the tube vibe (me too!), then I'll bet you have no problems with most any tube amp that makes 30 or more watts. Add more, of course, if you have a big room and want to peel the paint from the walls.

Biasing the Rogue takes me 30 seconds once the lid's flipped as it has a built-in meter. Heck, it's even kind of fun.
I'm driving Dahlquist DQ-20's in a medium sized room with a CJ CAV-50 (45 watts/per). I believe the DQ-20's are rated ~86 db (not sure of the if they are 4 ohm nominal). They get plenty loud for me.
This is not just a question of loudness and an amp may sound fine to you with a particular speaker till you hear the same speaker with an amp that is better matched and you suddenly realize what was missing - usually in termso f top to bottom balance. Tubes should be fine if the impedance cureve is smooth, which Dynaudio claims it is, but at 86db you will occassionaly feel you are running out of juice with 30 watts IMHO, I think you would be better served with someting around 60 watts to hit 105db peak transients.
I get what you mean Pubul57. Somebody who's heard them at their full potential will probably be able to find out if the balance isn't quite right. The loudness factor isn't everything, true. But is there any way to determine, by a listening test, if the top to bottom balance is good or less than that, for someone who hasn't heard the same speakers with more powerful amps ?
Khwarezm, proabably not. I would think the ability to make that type of assessment comes from experience with listening to a lot of systems and developing an ear for good, natural, and balanced sound. Unfortanately it is not very easy to determine the compabatibilty of an amp and speaker on paper, or in theory - although certain specs can be red flags that one should be aware of; you have to listen and the more familiar you are with the sound of top flight systems the better you get at judging and evaluating sound reproduction. I remember reading or being told, that when you start in the hobby listen to the very best system you can (whether you can afford it or not)to establish a baseline of what a system can sound like at its best. I remember thinking when I got my first "high end" syste, with NAD integrated and Polk 10B speakers that it couold not possibbly get any better, it sounded great - but I had a limited reference. I suspect that these speakers with a 30 watt integrated could and would sound just fine, till you heard them with a 60 watt tube or 100 watt SS. This is just my guess based on the specs, but practice has thrown many a theory out the window, so....
Do you have a dealer or freind in your area that would allow you to bring you speakers over the try out. Get a feel for how much power you want or need. I have a fisher 400 that is used with rogers ls3/5A's that sound quite nice. The fisher 400 is about 26 watts and the rogers are rated at 82 db @ 15 ohms. I admit a 15 ohm speaker is much easier load for a tube amp than a 6 ohm speaker.

You can also call the manufacture and ask their opinion on which of their integrated amps can handle speakers with low impedance. Everyone I have talked to are very helpful and would give their recomendation as to which of their products would handle your speakers.

I have not heard these integrated amps from Cary, Rogue, Audio Research or VTL but they all appear to be good products. Do your reseach and give it a try.
I agree with Pubul57 in that there is more going on here than decibels. In fact, in my example of ~40 tube watts driving well a set of speakers with a mildly ugly impedance curve, that tube amp replaced a MF A5 that claimed 250+ watts into 8 ohms. The MF had better control of the woofer, of course, but not by much. And across the rest of the frequency spectrum? Not even close, those tubes make music.

And as for establishing a reference based on a top-flight system, well watch your wallet as you slide down that slippery slope .

I like the idea of an NAD/Polk as a reference (mine is NAD/Boston Acoustics, by the way), then anything better is just an added treat.

So long as it all remains fun, eh?
I would also suggest a Unico or Pathos , although it depends on your personal taste, room dynamics, cabling etc etc. Perhaps a used Unico SE or Pathos Classic (MKIII) on audiogon is better value and in your price range.

I used a standard Unico (rated at 80w) to drive relatively insensitive speakers to great effect in a medium sized room. In one case, they were the Spendor 3/5SE's (84dB sensitivity) and the Harbeth M30's (85 db). Very musical, and solid low end punch from these monitors.

Anyway, good luck with your search - I don't think you can go wrong with any of the suggestions above.
Vincent Audio makes 2 integrated amps that are between $1k and $2k. Heard them at a show. Tough to beat at 2 to 3 times the price. I think they were the model 226 and 236.
Beautiful sounding and to look at.
Nycjdc, let us know what you end up doing and how it works out for you.
I will do so Pubul7. You & the others have been a great help. Thank you. leaning towards SS solution. Happy Holidays.