Who makes the highest quality tube amps?

One scale of 1-10, 10 being best designed and constructed technically, personal sound preferences aside, who are the 8s, 9s, and 10s?

VAC, ARC, Atmasphere would seem like likely candidates I can think of. Are they ?

Where does Decware rank? Rogue? How about others?

SOme technical facts to help support any claims is appreciated please.

Durability and reliability matters to me here as much as anything. I would want my tube gear to continue to work as reliably as designed years down the road as well as up front.


4b9c724a 509c 4bb1 a384 a61b6782a9d0mapman
In current production? Would you like to also include brands of the past?
I would like to hear opinions on this as well.
Sure, I'll take whatever info people want to provide, current or past. As long as its something that might still be acquired, either new or used.
"Durability and reliability matters to me here as much as anything. I would want my tube gear to continue to work as reliably as designed years down the road as well as up front."

I recommend Quicksilver Audio based on your comment above. Classic in appearance, rock solid build, easy on tubes, and very reliable.
McIntosh has a great reputation for reliability.
having already owned ARC, Cary & Rogue tube amps my pick is Music Reference - period both for bulletproof reliability, tube longevity, low power consumption, ie heat generated & most importantly sound.
BAT, CJ, Cary, EAR, VAC, Quicksilver, Sonic Frontiers, VTL, Krell
Why don't you post the question a fourth time. You might get some better answers. Sheeesh...
@Zd542, Tube amp from Krell?

Answer the question young man.
Airtight, Jadis, Tube Research Labs, Nestorovic come to mind. I'd love to have a Jadis personally.
Ayon Audio, beauty aesthetically and sonically.
02-08-13: Tpreaves

Who makes the highest quality tube gear?

I do, of course. It is the best in the universe.
A lot of tube Designs are pretty simple, it is nearly impossible to build a bad sounding 300B amp for example...

OTL is really difficult to make it reliable. Or being gentle on tubes, or using cheap tubes, no matching necessary ...
When paired with the right speaker, hard to beat.

My vote here is for R. Karsten , Atmasphere
Thanks for the supporting argument Syntax.

TP, I don't doubt your the best, but where's the beef? :-)
I think Butler needs to be on the list. 25 year tube life, inexepensive tubes, very well-built chassis and excellent input and output connectors. Oh yeah, you also never need to fiddle around with bias - truly setup and forget...

cj in my opinion as I have only owned cj and Cary ........
I have a 31 year old mcIntosh amp and it has been serviced but once. That is reliability.

Also have some Ayon tube gear... sounds great, reliable (so far)... only 2 years old... so in 29 years I'll let you know if it hangs with the McIntosh
At least that I can afford, Quicksilver.
Von Gaylord Audio designs some awesome tube gear. I have the entire line and I am smitten.
Tube supply is a real issue
@Zd542, Tube amp from Krell?"

Sorry, just kidding. It was just a little humour. For some reason, I couldn't help myself.
In addition to some of the above mentioned, David Berning's designs since 1974, have a legendary status for both reliability and technical design and would have to be in the discussion. Example, I have owned the zh270 for 11 years and the outputs test at or very close to their rated transconductance value STILL and all the various input/driver tubes still test strong. Not even a hiccup from this amp, totally reliable and a strong case for those concerned with the reliability of tube amplifiers. McIntosh would also be a very strong candidate.
Shoutout for BWS Consulting high power tube amps, alas, no longer available. 600 lb delivered. Bruce was David Berning's neighbor back in the 70s.
I agree with you tubegroover. A friend of mine still has an Audionics BA-150 designed by David Berning. It works and sounds great.
Put Octave on your list if it is in your budget. They have a protection circuit that even if if a tube decides to show you a lightning show no other parts will be damaged. I'm speaking from experience. I've had 2 tubes that thought it was the forth of July. No problems as a result.
I give the highest recommendation to Atma-Sphere.
I have a Jolida that sounds great and has worked perfectly for over a year.
Mapman, just curious here, are you planing to replace your class D amps with tube amp(s)?
Mapman, You didn’t state the reason behind your post so I don’t know if your question is simply academic or you’re actually shopping for a low maintenance amp. If you’re shopping, another relevant question relating to durability is - how hard is the amp on tubes? Some amps, that are themselves very durable, burn through tubes more quickly than others.
Add in TRON, Border Patrol, LAMM and Kondo to that list. My money went on a TRON Voyager 6W OTA using an EML20B tube. Fabulous sound and unbelievable build quality. My preamp is a TRON Meteor (predecessor of the top end Syren preamp). If you want to see the build and component quality, here’s a topless pic of my TRON Meteor preamp.


Jeff at Highwater Sound, NYC, is the US distributor for TRON and also holds Border Patrol.

Butler Audio Monad
Phaelon if the tubes tend to go up fast, that's a - in my book. I'd tend to agree that tube life is a key factor for reliability.
Chalice Audio with their 'Grail' SET monoblocks...
I have a VTL Stereo 90 Deluxe Ultra-Linear tube amp that I mate with a Harman Kardon Citation 1 with Focal Diva Utopia Be Speakers. Simply Stunning!!!I find the VTL more holographic, more musical, more transparent, more harmonically textured, a more magical level of refinement and tonally richer than ARC and in addition, VTL exhibits greater Pace, Rhythm, Attack, and Timing (PRAT) which allows me to experience a greater emotional connection to the musical presentation. I am using New Sensor Corp. Genalex KT88 power tubes with (2) NOS Siemens 801S's in the input position and (2) NOS GE's in the phase inverter position.

BTW, I'm taking a Poll on two very influential jazz recording engineers. Please visit my website and vote for your favorite jazz engineer: Rudy Van Gelder or Roy DuNann.

Michael Miguest
My Jolida was playing some small Jazz combo music one day and I ran into the room thinking a live band had broken into my house. Turns out, they had, so I had them arrested and taken away.
Some good suggestions, including Tron, just great amps and good support from Graham who makes them. For amps I have used myself and it's a few, I would say Ayon, for sound, build quality and reliability
Lol wolf.

Class D amps aren't going anywhere.

I've dabbled with adding an additional system built around
high efficiency speakers and a tube amp for awhile and hope
to do that someday.

My Triangle Titus speakers are tube friendly. I could use
them in my current second a/v system with a tube amp. I use
a mhdt Paradisea tube DAC and Tube Audio Design Hibachi 125
monoblocks there currently with an old NAD 7020 run as the
Is budget a factor?
"Is budget a factor?

Eventually but not at this point.
Are the tube amps meant to drive your Ohms?
Emotive Audio Design needs to be on the list.
Electra Fidelity. Hard wired, Huge custom hand wound transformers, Jack Elliano's proprietary circuits. Mine replaced Coincident Frankensteins. No contest. He makes a single ended 45, 300b, and el-34. Also makes push pull amps if you need more power. Give em a try, it might get you off the merry go round.

No tube amp for the OHMs.
Audio Valve should be included on this list as well.

Which Electra Fidelity amp do you own? I was looking at the 45 or 300b? Have you been able to listen to all 3 amps?
Does the el-34 have SET magic?
These are two Lamm amplifiers for consideration.


Pure Class A hybrid amplifier producing 110 Watts into 8 AND 4 Ohms, 400 Watts into 2 Ohms, 600 Watts into 1 Ohm (continuous). Features hybrid vacuum tube/sold-state design with one specially selected 6922 vacuum triode. 12 high speed MOS-FET output transistors, no overall feedback. Switch-selectable bias/voltage settings for 8- or 4-Ohm operation. XLR and RCA inputs; 2 pairs of binding posts. Remote control: power on/off.

While this amplifier doesn't "technically" meet the all tube amplifier thing, I'm sure it not only meets it "sonic wise", but exceeds it. Tube amplifiers have every thing except the "bass slam" of well known SS amps. I've noticed this when I paired one of the best tube preamps with a very transparent SS amp.

While we all agree 100% in regard to the sonics of all tubes, they lack that little tiny bit of "bass slam". I believe Lamm's design with the best parts available will give me all the sonics I desire from tubes, as well as the bass slam of SS.

My desire is not to just have a tube amp, but to get the liquid sonics plus the "bass slam" of Krell, which is not on my list of preferred amps, but it's got that "bass slam".


Single-ended tube amplifier producing 18 Watts continuous into 16/8/4 Ohms. Pure class A operation. Regulated power supply. High current low impedance output triodes (6C33C) in the output stage and in the voltage regulator section. XLR (pseudo-balanced) and RCA input connectors. Multi-turn trimming potentiometers for setting the nominal value of plate voltage and plate current of the output tube.

The input stage has been totally redesigned and is based on the topology developed for the ML3 Signature amplifier. The result is a perfect fusion between the ML2.1 and ML3 Signature.

Now this low power amp meets the all tube thing if you got the right speakers. I believe either amp could work depending on the size of the listening room; that would determine absolute power requirements.

Joule is another name to consider.
Bobheinatz, I went the el-34 because it had more bass slam and dynamics then my previous 300b amp while maintaining all the SET magic. I switch between NOS Amperex and Mullard xf-1s which helps. I had their 300b version in my system for a few weeks and it is also outstanding. They share the same class A3 circuit. I don't think you could say one was better than the other, just different flavors due to the tubes. I was worried I would start buying $2000 Takatsuki tubes and coming from 300b wanted to try something different. I have also had the pleasure to hear the 45 in Jack's
home system. Quite an awesome little amp just not enough power (1.5 watts) for my speakers. Let me add that Jack and his partner Tony are an absolute joy to deal with. Jack is so humble, without perusing an old online interview I would not have known he worked on the NASA Gemini project,
was a recording studio engineer, holds multiple amp circuit patents, and hand winds the finest transformers. It is guys like Jack, Ralph of Atmasphere etc. that make this crazy hobby great.