What is a good amp to pair with Hovland HP-100

Greetings all,

I'm starting to do research for a system upgrade and am pretty sure I want to check out the Hovland HP-100 preamp based on its excellent reviews. I would enjoy any suggestions or experience members may have with amplifiers (tube or solid in the same approximate price range) that they feel are a good match. I'm currently using a Unison Research Unico, so this will be a huge step up in performance for me. My turntables are Oracle Alexandria and Kenwood L-07D, speakers are Vandersteen 2ce (and will likely be upgraded as well).

I look forward to your opinions!


I have the Hovland, and am enjoying it with VTL MB-450 monoblocks. Here is some information from a Stereophile review what may be useful regarding impedence matching:

"The Hovland’s line stage didn’t invert absolute polarity. Its input impedance was a usefully high 100kohms in the midrange and bass, with just a small reduction to a still-high 86kohms at 20kHz. Despite the claim that the HP-100 uses a cathode follower output stage, its source impedance was high at 2.4k ohms, rising to 4.3k ohms at 20Hz. The partnering power amplifier would best have an input impedance of at least 47k ohms if the bass is not to sound lean."

Also, if you are buying used, you may want to be aware that some of the volume controls used in original building are starting to ware out, and replacement costs a bit of $$. You should definitely inquire as to whether there are any abnormalities to the volume control. Mine was fine. I just sent it to Hovland, they checked it out - they did do a power supply upgrade that made some subtle, positive improvements.

Alex at Hovland is one of the nicest guys you're going to meet in Audio, and he will work with you for whatever support you need. You can call him with a serial number, and get the lowdown on a preamp you are considering.

Best, Peter
PS Rickk - I think you're working in reverse order here. I think you should decide what speakers you like, then what amp works best with them, and finally choose the preamp. The preamp makes a huge difference, but I wouldn't recommend locking yourself in to a preamp/amp synergy until you've chosen your speakers.

Good luck! All the Best, Peter
Agree with Peter_s - not all preamps work well with all amps and you would not want to lock yourself into a preamp-amp combination by choice of the preamp.

I would ask the question: What good amp to pair with the 2CE ad then find a matching preamp....
Thanks for your responses! You make an excellent point. I was motivated to start with the Hovland also in part because I've been offered one at well below the going used rate. However, I was unaware of this situation with the volume control. It seems you've left me with two good reasons to reconsider. In any case, I will be replacing the Vandersteens as well and I'm fond of a pair of floor standing Proac I heard recently. I guess I'll see what threads we have regarding good amps to mate with Proac.


Dear Rickk, Congratulations on being ofered the Hovland at a good price. Sometimes in audio, you stumble across a great deal on a product that can elevate your whole system. I have heard the Hovland at length, and it is the best preamp I have ever heard, and I have heard and (used to sell) the top $$ Class A contenders. I heard it with the matching Hovland el34 amp, and some Verity Audio speakers. As you know, the preamp is also a beautiful work of art, built to the highest standards. I assume you are getting one with the phono stage, which is supposed to be superb. I would not worry about the volume control,it is the nicest feeling one I have used, built with a discrete resistor ladder of the utmost quality, therefore the signal is attenuated by a single resistor in the control, and there is no volume pot to get dirty and wear out.
I have an Alexandria as well, and I think you are on the right track witht he ProAcs. which are excellent. I suppose a synergistic match for the
pre and speakers would be an Audio Reasearch 100 or 60 series amp, which I have heard drive ProAC speakers beautifully. To me however, this would be an horrible design choice, as I find the AR gear industrial, plain and unattractive.

I personally would maybe look for a used Mac 2102 Tube amp (around $3800), the most beautiful amp ever built IMHO, and woud be a great match in every way. The VTL suggestion is also excellent, I am just not into monoblocks. I think the Hovland is single ended only? although I am not sure, which basically rules out BAT, and AR, Conrad Johnson is an option, albeit pricey. The Rogue monos are the best deal in powerful, domestic tube amps going, though not built to the Hovland's muster. a mono pair of used Cary Rocket 88's would be around $2500. As is the Cary V12 used. Probably the best sounding, powerful amp you can buy are the new Coincident parallel single ended 300B Monoblocks. These are in a whole different league than push pull pentode tube sound, and would work with ProAcs.
Since you are getting a good deal for the Hovland - I would get it. It's a nice preamp and if the match to your future amp is not perfect you can optimize and resell later.
I appreciate the responses,Cxintx and Restock.

Yes, the Hovland I'm looking at does have the phono stage. I am not familiar with the Verity Audio speakers, I'll have to investigate if there is somewhere in Philadelphia-New York to have a listen.

I am familiar with the amps mentioned with the exception of the VTLs and the Coincidents. I am always on the lookout for a Mac deal...

What does anyone think about trying to match a solid state amp to the Hovland? I'd read a thread on it here or on a similar forum some years ago but I no longer recall what the consensus was or what amps folks had used. Maybe there's no reason to look beyond a Radia...


I heard the Hovland with a Pass amp and it worked quite well. There is a thread here:

Pass with Hovland Pre

The output impedance of the Hovland is pretty low so that it should work with most solid state amps.
FWIW, the Proacs are known to sound best with tubes, at most of the Response series. I've heard them sound nice with VTL, Manley and ARC. Manleys are my personal fav or those 3.

If you are into vinyl, I'd search archives before assuming that the Hovland's phono stage will meet your needs, particularly if you are into LOMC cartridges. Cheers,
I have a Hovland HP-100 and have tried it with the Radia, Theta Dreadnaught,
Audio Research VT 100, and McIntosh 750. Personally, I liked it best with both the Audio Research and the McIntosh.
I use a Lyra Titan cartridge, by the way, and the phono stage is fine. No problem with MC cartridges. I did change the phono tubes to RAM super quiet tubes.
Well, to update, I passed on the Hovland for the reasons above. I really do think it's the best preamp I've heard but I also agree that it is wiser (at such prices) not to start from the preamp. I will start my search anew and hopefully have the opportunity to incorporate this beautiful machine into a system at some point. Thanks for the input!


Hovland works well with Krell, believe it or not.