What is the best integrated tube amp under $3k ?

I have recently been bitten by the tube bug. For the most part, I really love it. My short experience with tubes is turning out to be filled with much analyzing and upgrading of tubes, cables and different dacs. I am also discovering the strengths and weaknesses of some of the components that I am using.
I am starting to look at replacing my Jadis Orchestra Reference and would like to hear from what other folks are using as their integrated tube amps. My plan would be to try to spend about $3000 for a good preowned amp.
I'd especially like to hear from anyone that has owned a JOR and has found something that they are satisfied with.
I'd like find something that will be able to drive Dali Helicon 800 which are about 90.5 db sensitive.
I have heard of SET tube amps that people seem very excited about. I would like to hear some objective observations about these systems as well.
Thanks in advance.
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Personally, I would keep the JOR. So far, I've not found anything that eclipses a Jadis, though I want to try an Audio Note.

I recently got my DA30 up on its feet, after spending a couple of years on the shelf gathering dust while I used my DA60 instead. My friend, Jeff Carder, owner of CarderSound speakers, was over my home a couple of times and listened to the DA30 in my system. He commented that it's one of the best amplifiers he's ever heard, and just HAS to have it. I can't say that anything about it jumps out, but we both feel that it just plain sounds more natural than anything else we know.
same questions popped up on another forum this week, plenty of good ideas http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11619
I would look at a VAC Avatar SE or Avatar Super, both in our price range.
If you are intent on replacing the JOR, Clio09's VAC suggestion is a good one. I'll add Air Tight and Audio Note to what I believe should be a very short list.
Trelja ;
You have peeked my interest... what integrated amps are available from Audio Note and Air Tight for $3000 ?

Thank you.
peek-a-boo , I see that profreeding is not my frend !
O well , u no what i mene .

Happy Tunes .
Saki70, the Air Tight I listened to was the EL34 based unit. In fact, I A/B'd it at the dealer I bought my JOR from in 1999. I was more than happy with both of them, one of the reasons I chose the Jadis was the ability to also play EL34 types in addition to the KT90 it came with. I was told the Air Tight couldn't go up to run the larger KT88 type, but maybe it could? It's possibly listed as a power amplifier, but I remember it having level controls, if I'm not mistaken. It may have been somewhere in the $3500 range at the time, though I'm sure it's gone up. I guess I kind of meant the means to buy one would be the used route.

The Audio Note was a 300B based integrated about 1.5 years ago. For whatever reason, the name Meishu sticks out in my mind, but again, I'm not 100% sure that is the one. The dealer said the price was in the $3750 neighborhood. Nevertheless, that surely was a special amplifier.
Any idea of where I can audition VAC, Audio Note, Air Tight or some other top end HiFi in the Chicago area? As huge as this place is, it doesn't seem to have many tube equipment dealers that I have been able to find yet.

... and a very big Thank You to you Trelja ! Your totally unselfish help in biasing my JOR is very much appreciated. The tech actually calibrated it with a 400 hz square wave and it sounds awesome. I spoke with Pierre Gabriel this morning and told him of my ordeal with the loose solder joint. I also told him about the tube upgrades and he fully approved of the Mazda 12ax7s tubes I just put in.

I have it tuned up as best I can right now, but I am the kind of guy that would love some reassurance that my JOR sounds as good as any other JOR out there. Pierre told me that they are going to look for more Jadis dealers in the USA in the near future. John, I wish you would open up a store up here. 5 million population ;-)
Mattzack2, thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

There's likely a VAC dealer in your area. From my experience, Audio Note is a bit more difficult to find, and Air Tight even harder.

What tubes are you running in your JOR? Once I got replaced the KT90 with KT88 or EL34 in my Jadis, I felt there was nothing much out there to compete with the sound I was getting.
I can't compare it to the other integrateds mentioned, but the Ars Sonum SE competes very well with separates I have owned from CAT, Atma-spherse, and Music Reference. Now I own Merlin VSMs for which the Ars Sonum is "optimized", but I can't imagine it would not do well with other speakers that can run on 30 watts and almost all Class A power. It is also beautiful to look at if that matters. Runs with the JJ EL34L output tube.
If your intent is to audition the VAC Avatar series of integrated amps unfortunately they are no longer in production. The only option would be to buy one used.

If you just want to get an idea of the VAC sound and want to listen to some of their amps (I don't think they make an integrated right now, although I have heard a new model might be coming out, albeit at a much higher price point than the Avatar) I'd call Kevin Hayes at VAC and see if there is a local dealer in your area.

BTW - Brian Walsh of Essential Audio is in your area and has tube equipment. He'd be worth contacting. I'll be paying him a visit when I come to town for a conference the first week of April.
Ars Sonum Filarmonia SE.
I also own ar ARS Sonum and it is a fantastic amp. If you are going to stick w the Dalis, you may want to think carefully. They are pretty efficient BUT the low nominal and minimum impedence is something to take into consideration. Not sure what teh JOR uses for output tubes; if they are also EL-34s then should be no problem. I think the Avatar also uses 4 EL-34s. I've never heard the Avatar.
The Avatar SE uses EL-34s. The Avatar Super uses KT-88s.
The Ars Sonum is another outstanding choice in a tube integrated amplifier. With the Merlin loudspeakers, it's simply a match made in heaven.

I bought a matched quad of new Russian Gold Lion KT88 and a few different 12ax7 with my latest and greatest being a matched pair of NOS French Mazda 12ax7s's with the silver anodes from 1962. Have you heard these before? They seem to make the bass tighter, for lack of a better descriptor. I finally spoke with Pierre, and he definitely is a very charming guy. If I keep the JOR, I might consider finding a matched quad of NOS KT88's to try.
I think the KT88 are a good combination in the JOR, you get much more liquid mids than the KT90 and a lot more bass than the EL34. It's probably the best way to go in this amp. With my DA30 and DA60, I like the EL34, but those amps have more on the bottom because of their heavy duty iron, along with 5751 drivers.

My own experience is that I didn't realize how wonderful my JOR was until someone wanted to buy it, and I retubed it. Moving away from my JOR caused me to get back into Jadis on a very big scale, as I had to return to it quickly.
Thanks for the great observations. I put a tremendous value on the opinions of you folks.

I will most likely try to explore other top end brands in the Chicago area. But after listening to your comments, I will probably have to look far and wide before I can find a worthy contender to replace my JOR.

Thanks for all the great responses. I am next going to ask for more opinions on creating a short list for top end cables. I know it will be as interesting as this was,

Happy listening !
One suggestion if you do decide to keep the JOR is to drill additional holes in the bottom plate (there are already a bucketful of them) inline with the resistors and potentiometers involved in the biasing procedure.

As the disassembly and (especially) putting the amplifier back together are the most difficult and labor intensive steps, these holes would turn what is one of the most involved biasing procedures in audio into a simple no muss, no fuss 3 - 5 minute affair. Were I Jadis, I would implement it myself, as it would really make life easier for the JOR owners out there.
Guys, the Air Tight being discussed is the ATM1. It is sold as a power amp, but does have passive volume pots and two inputs. I'm no transformer expert, but the Tamuras(sp?) that it includes are supposedly super high quality. Great for a simple rig, but limited for folks w/many sources. It has been around many years, so some with same model number could be 0-10+ years old. They've gone used here for ~$1800-1900 or so.

I used to own one, and liked its sonics, but at the time had trouble finding a larger pair of speakers that would mate nicely for a larger room. (In a small room it was heavenly paired with monitors by Chario.)I carried it to five dealers and dared them to match it with a pair of speakers in my budget that would fill a large room. Eventually I gave up and went another direction. Cheers,
cayin t100
The Cayin is a very beautiful piece. It was a toss up between a Cayin and a Jadis in the end for me.
Sbank ;

Do you , or anyone else , know of an internet site where I can gain some info on the Air Tight products ?
I tried clicking on the 'Air Tight' link in the Industry Directory here and it only lists the distributor 'Axiss' . Their website does not list much of anything about the product .

I would like to know the power output , biasing procedures , tubes used and type of tubes that can be rolled in for the ATM-1 and ATM-1S .

Thank You .
The Sam's Audio Labs Sam Kim Heathkit 151 in full triode at 7 watts is just magical. HE totaly designs his own circuitry and is a genius on amplifiers, preamp, phono preamps, and tuners. I have heard people saying that it is the best they ever heard for under $3000.00
you can check him out at www.samsaudiolabs.com

Its worth looking into
Please look at the Eastern Electric M520 with the optional capacitor upgrades. They offer either Mundorf silver in oil or Teflon in oil package. Together with some reasonable tube rolling, this upgrade will elevate performance of this amplifier to match anything in its price range. Build quality is very good with a nice remote control. Contact Eastern Electric for other mods. Thanks, Nita

The Axiss website is the only one I know of.

From memory, ATM1 output tubes are 4 EL34s, a pair of input tubes, which I don't recall, and a 5AR4 rectifier, which isn't worth rolling. Power is around 35w/ch. Biasing is standard old school, drop a wire into a hole to read your meter, and adjust a small screw for each output tube. It wasn't tough, as I recall. No familiarity which the S model. Cheers,

Stevehifi, you should let everyone know that you are a representative for Sam's Audio Labs. FWIW I have heard that the Heathkit 151 from Sam's is killer.
Stevehifi, shame on you! You haven't posted anything on any thread other than about an amp that rep? You will quickly have zero credibility if you don't disclose.

Where's Audiofeil when we need him? Cheers,