What's the best EL84 amp?

My speakers have loved the two I’ve tried, both vintage. I would love to spend some money and get a great EL84 amp. Any suggestions? Not interested in an integrated. 


The Leak Stereo Twenty - made in the UK - is an excellent EL84 amp. There are several restored ones on EBay for around $1200 - $1400.

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My favorite push pull output tube. I have no idea what the best is but I love my Manley Mahi monos and Kingko KA101Pro stereo integrated.

Haven't heard the Music Reference mentioned above but have read nothing but rave reviews over the years.

I have been trying to find a RM-10 for a year. They don't seem to pop up anymore.

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@dhcod They might start popping-up again sooner than later. Keep an eye out for them. I wish there was some way to add an image to give you more clarity, but for now you'll have to trust me on this.

Ok! I'm on the lookout! I also have a wanted ad on USAudiomart in case that's an easy way to communicate.

I have a Sam's Audio redesigned Heathkit 151.  Sam only used the Heathkit chassis and transformers and builds from the ground up his circuits.  All point to point, no circuit boards.  The 151 uses uses EL84's and is one sweet sounding amp.  15 watts of sonic bliss.

We manufacture class A mono blocks. Pm me if you are interested sorry to the rest of you for pushing my gear here

I had an RM 10 mk ll. I wanted more power and looked for a year for another amp so I could make a mono block. Never found one. Sold mine exactly 3 years ago. Looked a few times, but I’ve never seen another one.
it’s a really nice instrument! Really, Good luck finding one. I have a quad of exquisite el84 from Brent Jesse. I would be happy to let go of them, but they aren’t cheap.  PM me. 


@clio09 is or was ,Music Reference. He would be an excellent choice if you’re looking for one. I highly recommend it.



For my money one of Tim de Paravicini's masterpieces such as EAR 534 or one of the more expensive models. All punch well above their weight.

How about the Leben CS300 and the Audio Note OTO? (didn’t see you’re not interested in an integrated)

I had the RM 10 for a while, and I also had the VTL tiny triodes. For my purpose, I liked the VTL better. I also think that the older one sound slightly better than the newer ones… But they are a PIA to bias. 

@dhcod Roger made some improvements in the MkII version and laid the groundwork for more improvements in the amps circuit design prior to his death. Note that there are multiple MkII versions (Roger felt as the designer he could make changes anytime he wanted), where the MkI retained the same circuit and specs throughout its run. You will find those who feel the MkI is a better amp, just as there are those who felt the RM-9 MkI was better than it's MkII version.

I tell this to anyone who is interested in buying a used Music Reference amplifier these days. Inspect the interior very carefully. If necessary get pictures of the interior and send them to us to verify the amp has not been modified beyond reason. Lately we have seen too many Music Reference amps come into the shop for repair that were modified to the point where putting them back to original spec wasn't worth the cost to the owner. In fact we now refuse to service amps modified beyond reason.

I had Oliver Sayes build me a custom unit based on the RH84 circuit. It's an amazing single ended pentode amp. It nicely showcases what the EL84 can do; it's hard not to like a well-designed, well-built EL84 amp.  It's holographic, and I find it a tad punchier, and bass probably a little tighter, than single-ended triode amps I own and have used in the past.  Overall, I'd say it has the air and liquidity that one usually wants in a single-ended amp, but maybe a little faster and a touch less bloomy than the typical SET.  


Music Reference RM-10 Mk 1 acquired!

Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions. I'll circle back after trying out the RM10 for awhile. It'll be interesting to hear it vs my 9W 300B SET.

I’d be interested to know why a person would prefer the original RM-9 to the Mk.2 version. Dick Olsher (a favorite audio critic of mine) reviewed both, greatly preferring the Mk.2. Both reviews are available for reading in the Stereophile archives, I believe (I have a complete collection of the digest-size issues, my first subscription issue being that of Autumn 1971. It was J. Gordon Holt who changed my hi-fi life, not Harry Pearson ;-) .

In his Mk.2 versions of the RM-9, RM-10, and RM-200, Roger Modjeski successfully endeavored to lower the distortion and increase the linearity of the circuits of all three amps, resulting in improved sound quality. I know some listeners actually like the sound of high-distortion tube amps (Herb Reichert? ;-) , hence the popularity of single-ended designs in some circles.

Congratulations @dhcod! You are in a select group of lucky music lovers who have the pleasure of owning a Music Reference amplifier.

I actually had both version of the RM-9 (and got a chance to spend a day with Roger while he fixed one of them) and I think it's really about what you are pairing it with and what your ears like. Pretty sure with my current vintage bass reflex studio monitors, the Mk 1 would be better because these speakers are almost too clean sounding at time.

Still remember very well how hot those RM9s got. Toasty! But wonderful.

@dhcod: If you want to experience a hot amp, get a pair of mono Atma-Spheres. A pair of M-60's run 16 output tubes (in Class A), for a mere 60 watts//ch!

@bdp24 More people than one would have expected have told us they felt the RM-9 MkII sounded more like a solid state amp than a tube amp. It was certainly a lower distortion amp, with an upgraded power supply featuring added filter capacitance and chokes, but 8 x EL-34s for output tubes is 8 x EL-34s so go figure.

While Dick Olsher preferred the original RM-9 fitted with KT88’s in place of the standard EL-34’s, in the Mk.2 version he preferred the stock EL-34’s, finding the KT-88’s to imbue the Mk.2 with "a subtle, bright tinge through the upper mids and lower treble, and to reproduce the lower mids and upper bass less fully fleshed out." Now THAT sounds like the description of a typical solid state amp!

By the way, SkyFi Audio currently has an RM-9 (original) in stock, priced at $3499. For those who found tube amps to go through tubes too quickly (ARC, anyone? ;-), in the RM-9 the EL-34’s are biased at only 30 milliamps, resulting in low plate dissipation, therefore cool running tubes with a typical lifespan of about 10,000 hours. 10,000!

But Roger ended up, I believe, liking the RM-10 even more than the RM-9. At the talk he gave at Brooks Berdan Ltd to introduce the RM-10, I asked Roger if he recommended a single RM-9 over a pair of RM-10’s for use with stacked Quads (my speakers at the time), and he told me a single RM-9, as it’s greater power output would better prevent overload/clipping with the demanding load stacked Quads present an amp.

The next time I saw him he told me he had been thinking about my question, and had changed his mind. I know he had a pair of Quads himself, and after living with the Quad/RM-10 combination had come to REALLY like their synergy. In my humble opinion, the RM-10 is THE amp for the Quad ESL.

Roger was an enthusiastic proponent of using a pair of subs with the Quad, crossed over at 100Hz with a steep filter (symmetrical 24dB/octave). If you’re going to do it, look into the Rythmik/GR Research OB/Dipole Sub. In my opinion, THE sub for use with the Quad, or any dipole loudspeaker, for that matter.

I like the EL84 tube and once owned a custom-made amp using that tube.  Of commercial amps of current manufacture, I like the Audio Note OTO, which is a somewhat pricey integrated amp. 

For vintage amps, I think that the Eico HF81 amps were quite good. 

I’ve had experience with two EL84 amps, both of which I’ve kept in the mix over the years. Vintage: Eico HF-81. Great midrange, hard to fault, except for low damping factor. My more powerful Anthem Integrated 1, with a quad of el84’s, has proved a sleeper. It’s paired well with Quad 57’s (the Eico not so much). Because it’s really good with every speaker I’ve tried, I won’t get rid of it. Even when it caught fire due to a short on a JJ output tube (more tubes, more can go south). Should be fused, but no. Still worth the replaced resistors- back in service and sounding great with old Monitor Audio MA3’s . . .

Sorry- these are both integrateds! My only experience with EL84 monoblocks is with Heathkit UA-1’s. They get lots of good press, especially with ESL57’s. My experience was they need very efficient speakers to be OK. Despite Sheldon Stokes’ claims, they crapped out in an appropriately treated listening room.

I had UA-1s with my ESL57s. They were awesome but not as good as the Rogue Atlas they made special for Quads. 

Sorry- these are both integrateds! My only experience with EL84 monoblocks is with Heathkit UA-1’s. They get lots of good press, especially with ESL57’s. My experience was they need very efficient speakers to be OK. Despite Sheldon Stokes’ claims, they crapped out in an appropriately treated listening room.

Sorry for the duplicate reply just now. I also opted for a Rogue Atlas (with KT120’s) for my quads and nothing else I’ve tried has worked out so well. 
The best match for any EL84 amp in my direct experience is my Altec 604’s in 620 cabinets. 

Haven’t yet. I just got a 45 SET for them, replacing the Eico, and am swapping out different phono preamps to see how that sounds. The Eico at 14 watts was plenty powerful- it’s a fairly small 250 square foot space, with no carpet. Gets loud real fast. I bet the Rogue would sound great, but for this application it would blow the windows out. 2 high quality SET watts are great. The SET has volume pots- at 50 percent it’s as loud as I’d ever want to listen.

I don’t want to sell the Eico short- it’s really sweet. EL84 amps have treated me well.

+1 on the Leak Stereo 20. Had one in the mid 1990’s and used it to run a pair of 15 OHM Rogers LS3/5A’s. System was a Naim CDI, Nac 72/Hicap/ Nap 250. Used to alternate between the Nap 250 and Leak Stereo 20. The Stereo 20 really synergized nicely with the Naim gear and LS3/5A's. Great sounding little amplifier.

Bought it for $400US. Sold it a few years later for $400US. Wish I still had it.

I've had a music reference RM-10 mk 1 for many years and absolutely love it.  I'm currently using it in my second system but, in the past, tried it in the main system in place of my joule electra rites of passage to see how it would sound.  I liked it so much I kept it in place for many months before reinserting the rites.


I'm running a matched quad of sovteks in it.  


Mine is super stable and quiet.  It has a magical addictive quality to it.  I believe the reasons there are so few for sale is there aren't very many of them, and everyone who has one simply doesn't want to let it go. 

I'll be interested in hearing your impressions dhcod.

I bet those Joules sound incredible. I also imagine you have very good air conditioning :)

We live in a small loft and I had the Stargates which were just wonderful and I really wanted to upgrade but the summers were tough!

The joules were incredible. I had them for many years but passed them on to a new home after I bought a VZN-80 and found it just as satisfying in my system as the rites but in a smaller (and cooler) package. My main speakers are quintessence prototype and they are extremely efficient. I’m currently powering them with a first watt SIT-3, which I find to be a smooth, detailed, quiet and addictive small amp, much like the RM-10. The little class A pass amp sounds exceptional driving the quintessence.


Enjoy your RM-10. They are very special. I will never sell mine.

Nor will I @car123. Or my RM-9 and RM-200, for that matter ;-) . Brooks Berdan had a fairly wealthy clientele, and he was more than happy to sell them VTL and Jadis amps (cha-ching ;-). But he recommended the Music Reference amps to his clients who wanted not just great sound, but great value as well.

Music Reference owners tend to keep their amps a long time; buyers of many other brands seem to always be looking for something better, constantly changing in hopes of finding whatever it is they are looking for. Roger Modjeski was a musician, and his priorities in reproduced sound closely aligned with mine. As did his taste in music.

Roger felt that the electrostatic loudspeaker design was the over-all best reproducer of recorded music. He was a longtime QUAD ESL owner, and used that speaker as his load in the development of the RM-10. His last product was his own ESL, with his own woofer design for 100Hz and below. He advised me to use symmetrical 24dB/octave filters with my QUAD ESL/sub setup.

Interesting! I had a SIT-3 with my current setup and it just didn’t surpass the Sun Audio 300B and its 9 WPC. I really wanted it to work. Maybe I gave up too soon?

I miss Brooks more than anyone I’ve ever know in audio. What a gentle-man. I’ll never forget the day he gave me the key to the museum to have a look around.