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The Valve Amp Thread

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Those of you who have read some of my posts on here should know that I love Valves.

I have heard and owned many Amps over the years from Class A SS Amps to my current Devialet 200 (which actually sounds to my ears at least in the same ballpark as a very good Valve Amp probably due to its use of a high quality Class A circuit) but for me, nothing makes music sound like music more than those archaic, energy inefficient, sometimes temperamental, glass bottles. My SS Amps have come and gone over the years, but they'll have to pry my S8 out of my cold, dead, fingers.

Valve Amps continue to be popular with companies such as: Audio Note, Unison Research, Audio Research, Copland, Icon Audio, Quad, EAR Yoshino, McIntosh, VTL, Balanced Audio Technology, PS Audio, Prima Luna, Lamm, Jadis, Conrad Johnson, Graaf and many more very well respected companies all producing very high quality devices, not to mention the masses of Valve Amps coming out of China.

Clearly, Valve Amps are still immensely relevant to the current HiFi landscape.

Valves often get a bad rap on here from some members who cannot get past the energy inefficiencies, 2nd order harmonic distortions (which actually sound pleasant to the ear), the fact that the technology is over a century old, low power output (especially for SETs) the cost of expendable valves, and the price per Watt.

For me, all that pales into insignificance when I'm settling in to my nicely warmed up S8 for an evening of listening pleasure.

I find it interesting that when I have friends over who haven't experienced a good sound system, they are blown away by the Devialet and want to hear lots of different tracks, but when I introduce them to the S8, they settle in to the music and listen much more intently. When asked which Amp they prefer, they more often than not choose the 'light bulb' thingy.

I am surprised therefore, that Valve Amps hardly ever get a mention on here, except for the usual few who dismiss them with disgust (whilst I suspect, never having actually properly listened to one, let alone owned one).

However, maybe there are a few posters out there willing to share their (hopefully positive) experiences.

If so, this thread is for you.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
Floyd Droid (to give him his full title), had (IIRC) some big Icon Audio Monos and promoted the excellence of Valves by exploding some of the myths....another of a substantial group of interesting people who have sadly moved away.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
282
166
19,070
I've never owned one, and wonder if I will ever have an opportunity to. I must admit that given a few grand to splurge on a new amp I'd be more likely to plump for the Devialet.

I'd be interested in an integrated valve amp, preferably with a phono stage and a tape monitor circuit. Budget, say, up to £3000. I've tried hard to like Icon Audio and have now heard them at least four times at shows, but they've never really done it for me. Audio Research and Audionote always sound fab though. Perhaps Prima Luna?
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
nopiano said:
I've never owned one, and wonder if I will ever have an opportunity to. I must admit that given a few grand to splurge on a new amp I'd be more likely to plump for the Devialet.

I'd be interested in an integrated valve amp, preferably with a phono stage and a tape monitor circuit. Budget, say, up to £3000. I've tried hard to like Icon Audio and have now heard them at least four times at shows, but they've never really done it for me. Audio Research and Audionote always sound fab though. Perhaps Prima Luna?
You could investigate a used Unison Research Amp. I got mine several years ago from a dealer on Fleabay. When I got it, it was in pristine condition and I've never had a minute's trouble with it. I don't think this is down to luck either, as these things are very serious quality and built like tanks (The S8 weighs 30Kg!). The original £5,500 asking price probably encourages care of ownership too...

You could probably get a mint S8 for about £2.5K
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
CnoEvil said:
Floyd Droid (to give him his full title), had (IIRC) some big Icon Audio Monos and promoted the excellence of Valves by exploding some of the myths....another of a substantial group of interesting people who have sadly moved away.
Unfortunately these forums have developed a tendency to be dominated by a few who insist that all Amps and Digital sources sound the same and therefore only the cheapest option is justified, which doesn't leave much room for the discussion of anything else....
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
300
98
18,970
Whenever I've heard valves I've loved the sound, and I'm constantly hoping to be able to switch to valve amplification one day. The cost is the barrier at present, but something from Icon Audio's entry models might be a possibility at some point.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
282
166
19,070
Infiniteloop said:
nopiano said:
I've never owned one, and wonder if I will ever have an opportunity to. I must admit that given a few grand to splurge on a new amp I'd be more likely to plump for the Devialet.

I'd be interested in an integrated valve amp, preferably with a phono stage and a tape monitor circuit. Budget, say, up to £3000. I've tried hard to like Icon Audio and have now heard them at least four times at shows, but they've never really done it for me. Audio Research and Audionote always sound fab though. Perhaps Prima Luna?
You could investigate a used Unison Research Amp. I got mine several years ago from a dealer on Fleabay. When I got it, it was in pristine condition and I've never had a minute's trouble with it. I don't think this is down to luck either, as these things are very serious quality and built like tanks (The S8 weighs 30Kg!). The original £5,500 asking price probably encourages care of ownership too...

You could probably get a mint S8 for about £2.5K
Thanks, IL, worth considering! EDIT:- Yikes, there are two on eBay right now.
 

Al ears

Moderator
matthewpiano said:
Whenever I've heard valves I've loved the sound, and I'm constantly hoping to be able to switch to valve amplification one day. The cost is the barrier at present, but something from Icon Audio's entry models might be a possibility at some point.
Don't forget Prima Luna. Very good for the price. ;-)
 

Al ears

Moderator
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
matthewpiano said:
Whenever I've heard valves I've loved the sound, and I'm constantly hoping to be able to switch to valve amplification one day. The cost is the barrier at present, but something from Icon Audio's entry models might be a possibility at some point.
The first time I heard a Valve Amp I was in a HiFi dealer's to audition some speakers. They had it playing in the reception area and the sound knocked my socks off. It wasn't loud or 'impressive' or even playing anything that I was familiar with, but there was something about the sound that gripped me.

After that I couldn't get it out of my head. I knew I had to have one!
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
I guess so, but 27p - 18p a day running costs isn't much outlay on a hobby, is it?
 

tino

Well-known member
Sep 29, 2011
135
10
18,595
Infiniteloop said:
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14W from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!
Me too! A gorgeous amp with plenty of grunt despite being only 14W. I've now downsized to its smaller sibling. Not as punchy, but still very sweet sounding and more than adequate @ 12W with my 89dB speakers.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Infiniteloop said:
matthewpiano said:
Whenever I've heard valves I've loved the sound, and I'm constantly hoping to be able to switch to valve amplification one day. The cost is the barrier at present, but something from Icon Audio's entry models might be a possibility at some point.
The first time I heard a Valve Amp I was in a HiFi dealer's to audition some speakers. They had it playing in the reception area and the sound knocked my socks off. It wasn't loud or 'impressive' or even playing anything that I was familiar with, but there was something about the sound that gripped me.

After that I couldn't get it out of my head. I knew I had to have one!
And a very good one it is to.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
I guess so, but 27p - 18p a day running costs isn't much outlay on a hobby, is it?
I quite agree, I've got eight EL34's to deal with. Just saying some people cannot get their heads around paying out again regularly over and above the initial outlay.
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
I guess so, but 27p - 18p a day running costs isn't much outlay on a hobby, is it?
I quite agree, I've got eight EL34's to deal with. Just saying some people cannot get their heads around paying out again regularly over and above the initial outlay.
Interesting. I've never heard an EL34 Amp. I'm familiar with the KT88 and the recent KT120 which adds a bolder bass to the KT88 sound. The 845's are big and romantic sounding. I've read that EL34's are sweet and melodic. - What's your view?
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
207
0
0
It's a gap in my experience. I've only really heard Luxman's entry level valve setup and then even cheaper ones that are closer to the level of the Fatman products. None of them really grabbed me. The were too soft and only good with some music.

Would also be interested in playing around with some hybrid kit. As I have active speakers I've considered getting a valve preamp/headphone amp as a way of changing up the sound, etc.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
I guess so, but 27p - 18p a day running costs isn't much outlay on a hobby, is it?
I quite agree, I've got eight EL34's to deal with. Just saying some people cannot get their heads around paying out again regularly over and above the initial outlay.
Interesting. I've never heard an EL34 Amp. I'm familiar with the KT88 and the recent KT120 which adds a bolder bass to the KT88 sound. The 845's are big and romantic sounding. I've read that EL34's are sweet and melodic. - What's your view?
So you didn't spot my deliberate typo? They are in fact EL84's. Sound is very neutral but bold and has extremely low noise figures for a valve amp.

There are plenty of reviews on the web.
 

Infiniteloop

Well-known member
Jul 23, 2010
48
4
18,545
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Al ears said:
Infiniteloop said:
Macspur said:
I've never owned a valve amp, but did recently hear a friend's Audio Research VSI 75 which I did really enjoy.

I like the look of the Leben SC600.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
Listening is key. On paper there's so much to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt, but really Valve Amps are pretty easy to get along with.

But once smitten, there's no going back.
I would quite agree. Anyone who says all amps are the same certainly hasn't listened to any Tom Evans Audio gear.

I must admit only my power amp has valves but together with the preamp it sounds sublime, in a sense that you cannot hear the amps if you know what I mean.

It's always been my opinion that people have tended to dismiss valve amps because they are underpowered (not true these days) and they recoil from the fact that one day you might actually have to spend money and replace something on that amp, namely the tubes.
My first Valve Amp was a Unison Research Preludio. It produced 14 Watts from a pair of KT88 Valves.

This was enough for party duties using a pair of 86dB Sonus Faber Concerto's!

As for Tube replacement, PreAmp tubes (in my case 12AU7's) are available NOS very cheaply and last for approx 10,000 hours. Power Tubes (845's) for the S8 are about £200 from the nice people at icon Audio and only need replacing every 2-3 years.
Yep, plenty loud enough with some efficient speakers. Mine is rated at 25 watts but you wouldn't believe it. Some people seem to be of the opinion that if it hasn got 100+ watts it isn't worth buying.

Unfortunately to some people replacing your 845's would be like buying a new amp every 2-3 years.
I guess so, but 27p - 18p a day running costs isn't much outlay on a hobby, is it?
I quite agree, I've got eight EL34's to deal with. Just saying some people cannot get their heads around paying out again regularly over and above the initial outlay.
Interesting. I've never heard an EL34 Amp. I'm familiar with the KT88 and the recent KT120 which adds a bolder bass to the KT88 sound. The 845's are big and romantic sounding. I've read that EL34's are sweet and melodic. - What's your view?
So you didn't spot my deliberate typo? They are in fact EL84's. Sound is very neutral but bold and has extremely low noise figures for a valve amp.

There are plenty of reviews on the web.
Didn't realise it was a typo. I haven't heard EL34's or EL84's....
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
4
19,195
I am still a little bit intrigued by the new Quad VA-One that will be launched later in the year ..

http://www.whathifi.com/news/quad-launches-va-one-valve-amplifier

... but £1400 still seems a lot of money - especially considering I would probably need to change my 90dB speakers for something around 93 - 96dB because of the low power output of 12 Wpc!

I'll see if I can get a home demo when it eventually gets to the shops.
 

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