Integrated tube amp



Looking for some advice:

My father recently left me his Dynakit ST-70 amplifier/PAS3/FM-3 set, and I sent them to Curcio Audio to be evaluated for a possible upgrade. In the meantime, I purchased B & W CM-2 speakers, which I thought would be a good pairing.

Being new to this arena, I hadn't realized how many options there were for be honest, it's a bit confusing. I was further confounded by a recent audition of a Rogue Audio Tempest integrated preamp, which blew my mind.

When I started on this venture, the money was a bit intimidating. But as I look further into it, it seems that, like anything else, it's an investment. So here's my dilemna:

a. Is it killing a fly with a sledgehammer to buy an amp like the Rogue or similar to drive a pair of $1000 bookshelf speakers? Should I make the investment in the amp for the moment and upgrade the speakers when I get the chance? I know this goes against the conventional wisdom allocating x % for speakers, but I was a less educated consumer when I did...
b. Is it worthwhile to upgrade the Dynakit package, or should I be thinking new?
c. Has anyone had any experience on driving B & W speakers with tube amps? Are they compatible?

Any info would be helpful.

Thanks in advance...

I used to own that Dynaco set-up over 30 years ago. At that time is was quite good. But it is more a collector's item now than a state of the art piece in performance. I would look at and see what collectors are paying for it--sell it and buy more reliable and better performing solid state equipment.

It is a bit too much to buy a $1500 (or so) tube amp to drive $1000 speakers. Tubes require replacement and bias adjustment. Doesn't make any sense when good solid state equipment is far more reliable and costs far less for better performance. That said, I am sure the B&W's would play fine with the Rogue. But just think--for $1598 you could get an Outlaw Audio 950 AV pre-amp and 7700 amp that has 100 watts into 8 ohms playing into 7 channels simultaneously.

Heck, I have a ten year old OCM/Belles solid state stereo amp and a Classe thirty preamp that if someone drugged me I might consider selling at about $1500. I played my ProAc Response 2's ($3,000/pr speakers) off of that for years--and in the stereo universe, it was a sound (at anywhere near that price) that was nigh impossible to beat.

The main distinction that makes some tube amps sound different than solid state is the higher harmonic distortion and particularly some weird designs that exaggerate the output. The genius engineer Bob Carver has duplicated this in some of his solid states designs for those so interested. I think he did it just to prove he can and just to show that no one could tell the difference when he matched the output of his solid state design with the tube design. Of course he could. But so what?

I prefer a flatter well-designed solid state output that is reliable--never needs new tubes and never needs bias adjustments.

But for those that like the quaintness of tubes, I guess there is no big problem in paying far more for less than ideal performance--unless you like the sound of alterred output.

In closing, there is almost nothing that irks me more in high end audio salons and the tweako magazines (that get huge ad money from tube manufacturers)than the screwing of customers in the lies of tubes and the superiority of the sound. It is tantamount to saying that a horse will get you from NY to Boston faster and in better comfort. Uggghhh.

That said--if you like the old fashioned charm of lit tubes and the heat they exude, there is nothing wrong with buying them--as long as you are aware of the downsides. Just don't believe the BS and sales pitch.

Many thanks for your thoughtful and insightful response. With the amount of information available and the fervor with which people defend their choices, it's hard to cut through the BS. I'm still digging around for answers but will keep your advice in mind. One question: I'm a bit space deprived for a unit as large as the Outlaw, and living in a smallish (though not shack-like) apartment in NY it's not critical that I have paint-peeling power in an amp. Have you heard anything about the Unison Research Unico? It's a tube/ss hybrid that got great reviews on the Stereophile recommended components list...

Again, many thanks for your time...

what issue of stereophile reviewed the unico 80 watt amp, anybody know?

Black Math
May be top late, but...

If it isn't too much dough, I would fix up the tube amp. It will give you a nice warm sound than can only be had in older tube amps. Modern ones are much cleaner sounding to me. It may work well with the B&W speakers. They have excellent top end (very detailed), a good midrange, but not much bass.

If you have $1500 to spend in an integraded, look at Creek, Arcam, Rotel, NAD, or Bryston ( you can probably get a good deal on e-bay for a B-60 . Bryston has a 20 year transferrable warranty and sound incredible). They all should have remotes which really comes in handy.

jammin joe
Unregistered guest
Hear that guy ranting about tubes and the sound they produce, bru-ha. Put it this way I have martin logan electrostatic speakers, I paid 15,000 for them and I prefer to hear my Macintosh tube through them anyday over the carver sitting in the closet. In ten years I have only needed to replace one tube, cost me 65 dollars ouch. I often get buddies to come over with their new solid state stuff and guess what when they compare through real speakers(mine)the love the tubes more. Uneducated wannabee audiophiles will always lean toward solid state but in the end when they have been educated they realize high-end tube audio cannot be beat. Oh that distortion comment truely made me laugh out loud.

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest
Yeah, that higher distortion line is always good for a chuckle. And I chuckle every time a friend listens to my McIntosh tubes and prefers them to what ever they own. Before you decide to get rid of the tubes try to get a copy of the April/May issue of "The Absolute Sound". I know a lot of people think it's a rag but those are the same people who think tubes have a "quaint" sound. The discussion between the various reviewers is over which is better, tubes or solid state. Tubes win.
Tubes aren't for everybody and this dsicussion gives a good case for both technologies. Transistors almost always have tighter bass response (equal dollars spent). Transistors almost always have higher wattages (equal dollars spent) but those of us who love tubes don't care. If you think 100 watts is more important than most anything else, tubes aren't for you. Transistors run cooler (not always). Transistors are less microphonic (sometimes). Transistors are more reliable (I guess that's why the Soviets are still using tubes in their defense/space programs).
The Dynaco Stereo 70 is a great little amp. It will never be a giant killer but it will put a few of them in their place. It does run hot and will need to have output tubes replaced every few years. Output tubes aren't cheap (good ones, that is). The driver tubes and your pre amp tubes will last a decade. The PAS3 (3a?) is a good pre amp but, particularly in terms of noise and dynamics there are better designs. Of the two, it shows its age more than the power amp. A tube tuner is better than anything designed in the past thirty years under a grand.
Have the pieces rebuilt, listen to them and see what you think. These may not be the ones you want to keep but you probably can get most of your money back when you sell them. (How many solid state pieces can say that?) And you just might find what all the fuss is about with tubes.

Unregistered guest
J. Vigne,

What say you about hybrids (example, Jolida 1015 - $500 used on Audiogon)? While I can appreciate the highs and mids of tubes, I consider the often sited lack of slam in bass - hence my interest in hybrids. Listening to a fair amount of rock, I can see missing that punch in the gut. Or does that wisdom rank in there with the distortion line...

P.S. If you would suggest some moderately-priced tube gear, I sure would listen.

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest
Hybrids are hybrids. There are more recipes for a hybrid integrated than there are for a good marinara sauce. Some hybrids are very good devices, some are mediocre simply because the manufacturer was trying to create magic without a proper wand. The Unison pieces seem to have caught a lot of attention lately but they use MOSFETS as the output devices as opposed to a bipolar transistor. (Refer to my 06/03 comments in "Twilight of the CD" thread to see more about tubes vs. transistors.
Counterpoint was one of the best regarded in years past for their hybrids, but they became very unreliable and they have discontinued production of new components. They are being repaired, modified and sold on the web if you are interested.) You have to understand what tubes and transistors, and for that matter, various types of transistors, do well and not so well.
In general tubes are very good at low level signals such as pre amps and the driver section of a power amp. They capture sounds that most solid state devices seem to miss. They don't generate much heat here and they can last a long time. On the other hand they can be noisy and microphonic in the wrong designers hands. Output tubes in a power amp are usually, though not always joined to the speaker by way of a transformer/autoformer that presents a tough challenge to any designer and fabricator. The reason most tube amps sound less than great in the bottom is due to poor, read cheap, transformers not the tubes themself. Some tube amps run warm to hot, but so do many solid state amps. Tubes will need to be replaced on a regular basis, but how often depends on the amp not the tubes themself (unless they're just bad tubes). But tube owners see this as a way to get a brand new system each time they replace tubes as all tubes (say a Sovtek vs. a Svetlana)sound slightly different from the next even if the share the same number designation (6550, EL34, 12AX7, etc.). A good part of designing a tube product is to find the right combination of tubes for sound, reliability and will there be spares in a few years. (Tube manufacturers can disappear faster than equipment manufacturers.) But, that said, many tube owners buy a given amp and then start swapping out tubes till they get the sound they want. This became a joke not long ago as reviewers would take a piece of equipmemt in for review and then start swapping tubes till they ended up with New/Old stock (NOS) tubes that no one else could get and tell you how wonderful the amp sounded once it was modified from the original design into something unobtainable.
I can't suggest an hybrid because what you like is your choice not mine. Listen and see what you think. The Jolida had a good reputation but you should see what service is like (on any used or new item you are thinking about buying) before you plunk down your cash. If it were me I would find a good used McIntosh integrated but they may be out of your price range. (There was a question about a Mac integrated [solid state] about two months ago and I suggested the owner hold on to it and get it up to snuff. I use an Audible Illusions pre amp, they have been around for years, always got great reviews and are reliable. You might find a used, early model for not too much and join it with a solid state amp.
The bottom line for me is don't be scared off from tubes by all the people who want to poo on them. Listen and see what you think. Tubes may light your fire or they may be less than what you are expecting. The magic people hear is not there in all tube products any more than all transistor gear sounds wonderful.
As a last note, most rock and jazz guitarists do use a tube head amp and often a tube power amp for the sound. Not because of the distortion but because of the way just plain sounds and how it distorts when you do push it really hard. Solid state has a tendency to blow tweeters where tubes clip far more gently. Though not impossible, you almost have to try to clip a tube amp to the point where it will fry a tweeter. So most 50 watt tube amps sound way more powerful than a comparable 50 watt transistor amp.
Hope that helps.

Unregistered guest
Yes, that helps very much. Granted while I do my research and try to narrow as much as possible, I will be trying a few things because, well, taste. (I don't take peoples' suggestions as gospel, but as a great place to start off.)

You really hit a nail on the head for me - I do like a little distortion, a little bite, in my rock n roll. (Probably from growing up listening to my big brother playing his Les Paul through some tube head and a huge stack.) Hence I'm a little wary of things that might sound TOO clean - sacrelidge be damned. Imaging, soundstage, timbral accuracy etc. are great, but I'd like a system that can kick my butt up front, as well. As much as I love the female voice, pianos, etc., I'd also like to hear the throaty grit of a Les Paul through a Marshall (ala "Missippi Queen" from Mountain) and the slam of the drums and bass (ala "Real Me" and several other Who recordings). Rock - she is not pretty...just one of those things...

Thanks again and pleased to make your acquaintance.

Unregistered guest
P.S. that is also why a vintage Marantz through some vintage jbl monitors appeals...

Bronze Member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 88
Registered: Dec-03
The THD rating is misleading.

Unregistered guest
In the many years I've been a music lover, I've never heard a better combination then tube amplification, and electrostatics, or planar speakers. However for your purposes there's many integrated tube amps costing less then $1000 that would be perfectly matched to B&W, Proac, Mission, Warfdale, or the plethora of bookshelf/mini-monitors out there for under $1000. With an integrated you forgo, a Preamp (and choosing interconnects between amp, and preamp), and have a wonderfully musical ystem.

People whom speak of THD and other such numbers are usually those who have never heard a truly high-end system, or a quality tube amp. Of course tubes place some coloration in music, but unless your tri-amping $50,000 worth of Krell's, or Mark Levinson's solid state amp's driving Wilson WATT/PUppy/WOW speakers, or B&W 801 (robots) it's silly to be dicussing harmonic distortion, or such numbers. All those amplifiers sitting at stores like Tweeter-Etc, must sell themslves by claiming to have better numbers, like THD, they dont have any musicality. Salesmen throw numbers around trying to convince yiou th sound your hearins is great as some 18-year oold is trying to sell you a receviever while blaring some recent rock/pop band. That's an entire universe away from hearing the Cowboy Jumkies Trinity sessions recorded on a single digital microphone, in a church, played over a $59,000 Loth 300B silver wired tube amplifier, and their $40,000 Preamp, driving SoundLab's. That's a high-end system.

But for your needs I'd find a sub-$1000 325W to 45W stereo integrated tube amp, and an $300 pair of Mission loud speakers, and have system that would rival the unmusicality of a Solid state system even at the $5,000 level! Nothing images, throws a sound-stage, forms palpable 3-D images, and is infinately listenable especially for digial playback. The term "Listener Fatique" derives from the combination of Solid State amplification and digital electronics (CD players). Here's a few suggestions no mod is exetnsive enough to make a Dynaco sound decent.
the following Jolida inegrated tube amps are so inexpensive their practially free;
Jolida JD 102B 30W stereo integrated EL84's $580

Jolida JD 202A 40W stereo integrated EL34's $750

Jolida JD 302B 50W stereo integrated EL34's $950

Used Martin Logan Aerius (mint) $995 duct/View/2210

Mission M73I floorstanding (excellent imaging, midrange, tight controlled base)$229 duct/View/2239

Mission M72 bookshelf (unbeleivable imaging, mid's highs)$169 duct/View/2226

So for UNDER $1,000 You'll have an intro AUDIOPHILE system which images, has tight controlled base, and the Jolida amps are simply work of art. Or for about $1700 you can have a tube amp driving I've owned pair of $1300 Proacs, and a pair of Missions costing just $200 at the time, sounded just as good!!!! These speakers are the audiophiles best kept secret, and you simply can't go wrong with a Jolida integrated amp.


Gold Member
Username: Kegger


Post Number: 2069
Registered: Dec-03
heres an old thread to be revived.

Anyone here before do anything since this started or have anything new to add.

One thing I'd like to say is the triode front end with new board mod to an st-70
is pretty darn incredable. I've even had it on the scope and she plays
really flat from 7 hz to 35k at 42 watts a side clip free!

board makes an excelent amp!

Along with help from others on this board I'm a tube lover!
The difference between tube and solid state is quite staggering for me.
The tubes make a world of pleasurable difference.

I've got rogue amps and golden tube audio amps along with 3 st-70's
and while they all sound different everyone makes music more enjoyable
then anything solid state I've heard.

jimmy mac
Unregistered guest
Well I love my old tubes, St-70's and Macs but matched them with M&K solid state powered subwoofers and high efficiency satellites...filtered out the extreme lows going to the satellites...seems like the best of both worlds. The ST 70-s are a little weak on bass and the Macs a little too much bass...thus the solid state subwoofers...Can't beat the warm glow sound and visual of the tubes and on a cold winter night its like having a small fireplace in the sound room.

Gold Member
Username: Kegger


Post Number: 2166
Registered: Dec-03

New member
Username: Ideal4u

Steinhatchee, FL. United States

Post Number: 1
Registered: Apr-05
I am a newbie stepping into the tube market. I have 2 pair of Klipschorns, and a belle as a center. I am going to use 3 MC 2101 100 watt tubes to power the fronts, rears, and the center in mono. I am going to use a solid state McIntosh MX135 A/V preamp for connectivity purposes. Any ideas if I am going the right or wrong way. I also am using McIntosh MVP861 SACD/DVD/CD player, and a McIntosh MR-85 for a tuner. About 25,000.00 invested. What should I expect, good or bad. Thanks jeff

Gold Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 3475
Registered: May-04

If you like the sound of the Klipsch and the room is big enough to handle 4 Horns and a Belle, you should get pretty damn good sound! Not to mention quite loud!!! This is not the set up I would choose for classical music lovers (I find the tubes still can't tame that Klipsch horn loaded tweeter), but for rock or jazz it should be impressive.


New member
Username: Subiedriver

Post Number: 3
Registered: Apr-05
Re: the Unico integrated, the original review by Sam Tellig in Stereophile ran in 2003, I believe. Since then, in last few months, Sam Tellig has reviewed a smaller Unico, didn't like it as much as the 80-wpc Unico but still gave it good marks.
Another nice integrated to consider is the Audio Refinement Complete. It's 50-wpc and costs $995 new but you can get used ones on Audiogon for half that. I own one and it's really nice. My wife loves it too. Very smooth, often described as "tube-like" sound. Not great for hard rock or heavy thumping bass music, but for vocals, jazz, chamber music, etc., it's really nice. And a real bargain. Made by YBA, a French company that makes really super-high-end stuff. Audio Refinement is their entry-level line. You could pick one up on Audiogon for under $500 and if it's not your cup of tea sell it back for about what you paid.
Google "Audio Refinement Complete" and you'll see some rave reviews, just as with the Unico.
One caveat: the tuner and CD player in the Audio Refinement Complete line aren't anything special. So you might want to just consider the amp.


Unregistered guest
I have a very BIG opinion about tube amps - they rock, period. Do some research, don't just take my word for it. I have played real music, in bands, and have had many types of amps and speakers for the last 35 years. Trust me, keep your B & W's, and get good speaker wire, and hook them up to a TUBE amp!!!! Then never look back. But honestly, you must be serious about music if you want to invest in and maintain a tube amp. I think it is wort it. I now have a 1960 HH Scott LK-72 stereo integrated tube amp (like a 299). At maybe 22? watts per channel, it simply blows away any new solid state amp I have ever heard. It is all original, except for ONE tube (it wore out). I may recondition it soon, or buy a new TUBE amp. Do not waste money on an expensive solid state amp. Go for a tube amp. Tube watts CAN NOT BE COMPARED TO SOLID STATE WATTS. They are totally different animals. Test it yourself - I did :-)
« Previous Thread Next Thread »

Main Forums

Today's Posts

Forum Help

Follow Us