Which Tube Integrated? Rogue v. Cary v. ARC

I'm new (6 months) to this obsession, but have discovered a fondness for tubes, yet a need to keep things as simple as possible (i.e., integrated instead of separates).

There appear to be three reasonable integrated tube amps on the market: Rogue Tempest Magnum, Cary SLI-80, and the new ARC VSI-55. The latter is based on the 2002 VS-55 tube amp, and is new enough that it is not even on ARC's web site yet.

Anyone with enough experience with any of these to offer an enlightened opinion?

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Hi, Don't forget Aronov LS960I. It weighs 58 lbs, not the 85lbs listed on their website. Has been outstanding throughout the entire sound spectrum, with a distinctive ability to allow speakers to reveal low bass other amps miss. A very natural, alive sounding unit. Pretty much an unknown company seemingly relying on word of mouth recommendations of current owners, and a few dealers.
I no nothing about tubes as my integrated is all SS but I just got done reading again the review in Stereophile about the Unison Unico Hybrid Integrated. Seems very interesting, combines tubes and ss in one at a decent price! Maybe others who have first hand experience with this will chime in.


I recently compared the Cary and the Rogue.
it was eye opening. Check it out here.
Good luck!
Depends very much on the speakers you intend to use.

I've been running an SLI-80 into ProAc speakers for years.
Lovely sound.

I have Meadowlark Kestral-2's, which are just being broken in via a solid state amp. Form factor (smallish) and my enjoyement of Meadowlark's sound sold me on these.
I also used the Unison SR-1 temporarily.
I had to get back to full tubes (The SR-1 is a Hybrid)
I emailed Unison about the difference in the Unico and the SR-1.
Besides the obvious difference visually (the SR-1 is the typical Italian visual aesthetic, shiny/wooden/ really, really beautiful) while the Unico is the typical, if nicely finsihed, silver faced box, Mr/Dr I cant remember his name designer/owner of Unison actually emailed me personally, to say that the SR-1 was the "more substantial product"/

Take that as you like. I can't remember the price difference, but had I never heard a full tube setup with some balls, I would have never looked back. That SR-1 was damn smooth, 2 tube input, ss output, it could rock, and it had the best remote ever- RF vs IR, so that it can see through walls, etc.

Anyway, I say get a tubed integrated, but if you're scared of 10 tubes (my Rogue is auto bias, and never makes a peep of tube noise) and you don't want to jump in with both feet, I found that the Unsion offered good performance for the $.
I have owned the Rogue Tempest Magnum for 7 months. It is matched with Von Schweikert DB100 speakers, a Nottingham Interspace Turntable and a Cary 308 CD player. Straight Wire cableing throughout.

I am very happy with the Rogue. No tube hum, but I tweaked it out with tube dampers and there was improvement (tighter sound).

It certainly is the right price and has increased my appreciation for sound tremendously.

I highly recommend setting the Rogue in triode (42 watts) and matching it with highly sensitive speakers, so you're not aching for more power. Triode sounds great.

I did blow my first tube (output) which also took out a resistor. Mark at Rogue is paying for the tube.

I changed out the input tubes to NOS and there was a large improvement. I also changed out the output tubes (NOS) but did not notice enough change so I went back to the originals.

I am a jazz fan and the Rogue is a great match for jazz. Rock, a little less so. Classical, terrific. Vocals, super.

What input tubes are you using?
Also, are you using an aftermarket power cord?
What type of tube dampers do you like?

The only ones that I've heard that I like are the cheap ones from Audio Research, basically a plastic sheet that is cut into little donuts, and they are very snug on the tubes.

I'm using Telefunken smoothplates in the 12ax7 position, but still have the stock Phillips JAN 12au7 tubes in. I was going to try Radiotechnique or Ciftes in the 12au7 positions, just never got around to it.

Also I REALLY like the sound of the ElectroHarmonix 6550 tubes. IF you ever want to mess around, try a pair of the EH el 34 tubes. They're cheap and the midrange is really pretty, but of course you lose bass.

Since the Tempest is autobias, the EL 34 tubes will be running a bit hotter (the amp is set for 6550/kt88), so their life will be shorter, but it is a little different flavor, if you ever get bored.

I'm using RCA 12ax7's and 12au7's and really like them. I heard Tung Sol 6550's we're also really good. I bought two matched pairs and blew out a fuse in 10 seconds and shortly after blew a tube. I did not notice a significant change.

Also, I heard that Rogue is going back to KT-88's for its Magnum series. The 6550's have been blowing out too frequently. Hmmmmm.

My power cord is a Custom LLC that I saw advertised on Audiogon. It is top of the line for them and reasonably priced $160. Good cord.

My dampers are Herbie's. I have them on each tube as well as on a couple interconnects. As I said, they have tightened things up.

One of my best purchases was a used Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibralter and I made my own sandbox for the TT. Super vibration control.