Tube Power Amp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Apr 18, 2020  |  61 comments
VAC's Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc amplifier ($75,000 for a single amp; $150,000/pair mono, as reviewed) is tall, young, and lovely, but unlike the girl from Ipanema, it isn't tan. Nor, at 280lb in its flight case, is it likely to "go walkin'." Getting the pair moved into my listening room required considerable effort—fortunately not mine.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 28, 2020  |  85 comments
Only recently did I learn that successive generations of the Chevrolet Corvette are referred to by the cognoscenti with two-character alpha-numeric identifiers: C1, C2, C3, and so on. I learned this while reading about the most recent version—C8, known to non-cognoscenti as the 2020 Corvette—which happens to be the first version since C2 that impresses me. (I say that as one who used to work for the owner of a C3, a then-middle-aged male who actually boasted, while under the influence, that he and two of his C3-owning friends drove them solely because their juvenile styling attracted juveniles. Rest assured I left his employ within days of that revelation.)
Jim Austin  |  Jan 21, 2020  |  32 comments
This, our February issue, is the first Stereophile issue to arrive during the year 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Audio Research—in my view one of the key events in the history of high-end audio. So it makes sense for this issue to include an Audio Research review—in this case, of the $20,000 Reference 160 S stereo amplifier.
Robert Harley  |  Jan 10, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1994  |  6 comments
At the 1992 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Audio Research showed a line of reference products that represented the pinnacle of founder William Z. Johnson's life work as an amplifier designer. Although the all-tubed, fully balanced preamplifier and tubed monoblock power amplifiers were shown as works-in-progress, it was clear that these were products aimed at advancing the state of the amplifier art with no consideration for cost.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Dec 05, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1976  |  13 comments
We mentioned in the last issue that we were becoming increasingly disturbed by "a certain manic quality that is creeping into this pursuit of sonic perfection." We were referring then to a manufacturer's announcement of the imminent availability of a speaker system weighing over 1000 lb per channel, but we could just as well have been speaking of this behemoth from Audio Research.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Aug 08, 2019  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1967  |  13 comments
It is not at all unusual these days to find manufacturers producing "matched" speakers and amplifiers that are designed specifically for one another. But it is very unusual to find this being done by an amplifier manufacturer who doesn't make loudspeakers. The Futterman H3-A is one of these rarities—an amplifier designed primarily to complement one of the best, and one of the hardest-to-drive loudspeakers on the market: the KLH Model Nine.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 25, 2019  |  5 comments
Products come and go. Some impress more than others, and in our little world, the ones that impress the most wind up in Class A of our semiannual "Recommended Components" feature.

After a product makes it to that list, if Stereophile's reviewers go more than a few years without hearing it again—in a home system or a dealer's showroom or even at an audio show—that product falls off the list, usually quietly. Thus, if a reviewer is maximally knocked out by a piece of playback gear, yet the fates allow neither a purchase nor an extended loan, he or she or someone else on staff must endeavor to borrow it again so it can stay recommended.

Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  101 comments
I had never been alone with a Russian-manufactured 6C33C tube. At least not at night, in the dark. The first night Balanced Audio Technology's VK-56SE tubed amplifier was in my system, I sat on the floor studying the unusual shape and dark orange glow of its four 6C33C-B output tubes. I noticed their brightly lit, cathedral-like innards. My Russian neighbor told me they were used as regulator tubes in MiG jets during the Cold War. I could believe it—their exposed cathodes were the exact color of the Soviet flag. From more than a foot away, I could feel the heat from their high-amperage filaments.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 04, 2019  |  17 comments
I will never forget.

In 1988 I had my first experience with Western Electric 300B tubes. It took place on a quiet, streetlights-and-snow night at my friend Ryoichi's apartment on Riverside Drive, in Manhattan.

I had never heard of the late Japanese amplifier designer Ken Shindo, of Shindo Laboratory. But that evening, Ryo's audio system was all Shindo: a hammertone gray Shindo-restored, grease-bearing Garrard 301 turntable sitting on a Shindo plinth of glossy wood, with a Shindo-modified Ortofon tonearm and SPU cartridge, a Shindo moving-coil step-up transformer, and a Shindo preamplifier with a moving-magnet phono stage.

Art Dudley  |  Jan 24, 2019  |  41 comments
To audio designers in Japan and elsewhere, the single-ended, 300B-tubed amplifier is like a haiku: an art form defined by both its prescribed limitations and the potential such restraint offers for artistic expression. Here, the only hard-and-fast rule is a simple one: output devices are limited to one 300B directly heated triode tube per channel. From there, it's a blank slate: Do you want AC or DC on the output-tube heaters? Tube or solid-state rectification? Low or high gain? Fixed or cathode bias? New parts, vintage parts, or a mix of both? Triode or pentode tubes as drivers? Capacitors or transformers—or nothing at all—between the plates of the driver tubes and the grids of the output tubes?
Art Dudley  |  Dec 20, 2018  |  5 comments
There's no place for fashion in epidemiology, aeronautical engineering, or the mining and storage of uranium. Fortunately, domestic audio is less serious, its goals more scattered and ambiguous, than those and a thousand other pursuits.

And so, throughout the 20th century, any number of trends in domestic audio popped up their heads, some remembered as fads, others as legitimate approaches to playback. Among the latter are amplifiers whose output sections operate in single-ended mode, in which the entire signal waveform is amplified by a single device.

Anthony H. Cordesman  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1986  |  4 comments
Some audio products deliver truly superb sound of a kind that really makes all the frustrations of building a high-end system worthwhile; they also require exceptional attention and care. The Counterpoint SA-4 is a case in point. With the right speakers, it competes for the title of "Most Transparent Amplifier Available at Any Price." On the other hand, this amplifier steadily loses output power as speaker impedance drops; it must be carefully matched to the right speaker. Then, and only then, can it produce one of the finest musical experiences available.
Steve Watkinson  |  Nov 13, 2018  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1986  |  0 comments
The great debate that has long separated audiophiles is tubes vs solid-state. Other topics, CD for example, may temporarily steal the spotlight, but year-in and year-out no other subject is the cause of as much controversy as whether tubed or solid-state circuitry produces the more accurate sound. As is typical with long-standing feuds, the split runs deep, and tempers often flare.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 23, 2018  |  16 comments
Doshi Audio first crossed my radar at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, where I wrote that the sound of the company's tubed monoblocks and preamp, connected to Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers via Transparent XL cables, "excelled in midrange strength as the system threw an exciting soundstage." After auditions of Doshi-Wilson pairings at many subsequent shows had convinced me that Doshi's products could truly sing, I contacted company owner and product designer Nishith "Nick" Doshi to inquire about reviewing one of his amps.
Herb Reichert  |  Oct 16, 2018  |  18 comments
When I began writing for Stereophile, I dreaded doing comparisons. They were stressful and tedious—and what if I got them wrong? But I quickly learned: Not only do readers enjoy comparisons, they need them. How else might they imagine the relative merits of the component under consideration? Once I realized this, I began acquiring a range of reference amplifiers.

But conspicuously missing from my audio menagerie has been a fast, neutral, 100Wpc tube amp to put more pop, fire, and maybe a little glow, into the Harbeth M30.2s.

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