I'm going to buy my first tube amp. I need honest blunt opinions



Recommendations please. I am thinking of dipping my toes in the tube amp water.  For the longest time I have been tempted to buy a modest tube amp to run my Monitor Gold 300’s at 90db.

I’ve been toying around, researching the different characteristics of SET, class A, class AB, B Ultralinear tube amps for months. It’s a bit much. As far as the reviewers go, they are too vague. They are afraid to be upfront honest.

Sources are a Parasound JC 3+, a Innous ZENith Mk3, and a Oppo going to a Benchmark DAC, then all go to a Benchmark LA 4 preamp that will feed the new amp.

My room is 16 x16. The speakers have a 12-foot spread. I sit 14 feet back, so it’s not that big of a room.

I have narrowed it down to four candidates.

A used Canary Audio M90 300B Tube Amp at 24RMS,300B push-pull stereo triode Class A $4,000

A used Jadis Orchestra Black, 40 RMS, Class B $4,000

A 16-year-old, Used Cary Audio Six Pac Monoblock’s, 50 triode watts A/AB $2,000

A new Dynaco by WILL VINCENT 35RMS Ultralinear $2,300



Looking at the Stereophile measurements you should take care in choosing a tube amp as the Gold 300s look like a bit of a harder load than one might initially expect.  Here’s an excerpt from John Atkinson’s measurements section…

Although Monitor Audio specifies the Gold 300's sensitivity as 90dB/W/m, my estimate was almost 3dB lower, at 87.3dB(B)/2.83V/m, perhaps due to the fact that the Gold 300's impedance is specified as 4 ohms. (An input of 2.83V is equivalent to 2W into 4 ohms.) The impedance magnitude (fig.1, solid trace) does stay close to 4 ohms from the upper bass through to the mid-treble, with minimum values of 3.7 ohms at 117Hz and 3.57 ohms at 1kHz. There is a current-hungry combination of 5 ohms and –39° electrical phase angle (dotted trace) at 77Hz, and the phase angle exceeds +40° above 10kHz, presumably due to the inductance of the MPD tweeter's drive system. The Monitor Audio needs to be partnered with an amplifier that is comfortable driving low impedances.

A “modest tube amp” might not get the job done here, so make sure to do your homework before fully committing.  In this case you might consider going with a tubed preamp rather than an amp to get some of that tube goodness.  Don’t mean to be a bummer here but thought I’d share this info in case you weren’t already aware.


I have had several different tube amps over the years.  40 and 50 watt EL34 and 6l6 amps.   They drove speakers around 90 dB sens in a room about 17 X 15    

My latest amp is a 40 watt Solid State amp and it can drive 86 dB sens speakers to pretty decent volumes cleanly in roughly the same size room. 

That said I would avoid low powered SET amps with those speakers and look at something 40 or 50 watts with tubes that are readily available is what I would suggest 

I have a 300b and it sounds beautiful but only with my Forte.  It just doesn’t have the power to play low to moderately low sensitivity speakers    

@marshinski15 , @soix has given you excellent advice. Four Ohm speakers are usually not the best way to be introduced to a tube amplifier. If it has an output transformer (and most do, but not all) you can lose as much as an octave of bandwidth in the bass department. Distortion will be higher too, and even though the output transformer might have a 4 Ohm tap, it will be less efficient so you'll have less power (although that will only be a few Watts at most). In addition your speaker cables become more critical.

If your speakers were 8 Ohms I would say any of the amps you listed would be fine.

I think the Jadis and Cary would likely be good choices. I agree, that with Benchmark stuff a really warm amp will probably greatly enhance the sound.


But a question on your setup. That is a huge triangle you have for listening. Do you get solid center image and homogeneous sound stage between the speakers? Have you tried an 8’ to 9’ triangle? 

@soix +1

@atmasphere +1

I'm using a pair of Atma-Sphere MA-1's to drive a pair 8 ohm 87 db efficient Wilson's with great results, but I'm also using subs to drive every thing from 177 Hz on down. If I wasn't using subs I would want to find the highest impedance speaker that sounded good to me that I could to use with a tube amp.

I agree with Quicksilver, and I would go for the 100W KT Mono amps, not the Mid-Mono. 90dB is loud, and the Mid Monos would squash dynamics at those levels. I suggest staying away from the Cary amps because getting tubes for these babies requires big $$$, plus they run hot, plus 50W I feel is not sufficient for your purposes and speakers. Just my 2Cents worth.


Just realized your speakers are 90db (87db), not your intended listening levels...my bad. I would still go for something with more grunt. Btw, the new KT Monos Mike Sanders offers would be a safer buy than used V4s, Mono 90s, or Silver 60s. Those amps on Audiomart are great amps but are getting a bit long in the tooth, and the price for those V4s is high! 

The Jadis looks like a good choice and one thing to keep in mind when looking at a pushpull 300B amp is the massive retubing costs!

Looks like I will put this on the back burner till I upgrade my speakers. Thanks to everyone of you. You always pull through for me.

I also can recommend KT100 after owning several QS products.  I currently have Mid Monos.   They have been super reliable.  10 years old and have been trouble free.  Many , many hours on them and only a few tubes over the years.   

@marshinski15    I believe you have decided on the right course. I don't think any of your amp choices would have been a suitable match.

I briefly owned Quicksilver Mid Mono's, but felt I needed more power, so I was able to trade up to the KT Mono's with KT 150's (100 wpc).   I agree with @soix that the amps you are considering are likely not a good match for your speakers.  I'd be shooting for something in the 75 to 125 wpc range.   McIntosh MC275, offerings from Rogue, Quicksilver would be a good place to look. US Audiomart has a good selection.

I would avoid any amp limited to various "contemporary" powers tubes which may not be available in the near future.

This would include all the KT tubes starting @ KT90 and going upwards.

Same goes for anything using 6H30 small signal tubes.




If you want "blunt, I’d pass on all of the tube amps on your list, and ditch the Benchmark DAC, I had one and could not stand it. One of the most un-engaging dacs I’ve owned.

As for your speakers, and this graph, (and I’m a 100wpc mono tube amp owner myself) I’d be looking for a nice velvety 200wpc mosfet solid state amplifier. I think you’ll be much happier and your speakers deserve the right matching amp imo. 3.5-4.0 ohms is just getting too far down there for most tube amps. The amps I’m using right now would do it, and so would KT Monos yet I’d throttle expectations after seeing this graph and considering what tube amps you might need.

Worth checking the used market for nice SS mosfet amps (too) if interested.

I own MA Silver 300s, and have toyed with tube amps (MC 240, ARC Dual 52b) driven with my Stage 3 rebuilt APT preamp. I found that both those amps worked well,with the nod going to the Dual 52b. Of the amps you listed, I would favor the Jadis. I have heard driving Wilson Sophia 2s, and was very impressed. 300b amps, yeah, retube costs plus lower power, not. The Cary's are interesting but Im not sure how happy they would be with a lower impedance speaker. Just something to check if you get serious about them. Keep us informed as you move forward!

What kinds of music do you listen to?  Hoe loud do you normally listen?  How far are you from your speakers?  With 90 dbs speakers will play with any amount of watts, but they won’t sing until you have at least 50-75.  My speakers are 90 dbs sensitivity also and 40 watt tube mono blocks drove them, but the didn’t sing until I put a powered subwoofer in and the amps didn’t have to drive the lower notes.

Purchased my first tube amp from Upscale Audio after talking to the owner. Of course it was a Primaluna. The owner said to me I want you to mark this date of purchase and in five years you will still be listening to it. 

let me say, it has been long over 5 years and I refuse to sell it or trade it for something else. The sound is just unique. 

I’ll throw a curve ball into this discussion…within the context of your system, I’d keep your SS Parasound amp, ditch the Benchmark preamp and get a nice tube linestage. Having tried solid state preamps with tube amp and tube preamps with solid state amps, the latter is a better configuration. Gives you the magic of tubes without sacrificing the drive your SS amp provides for your speakers. This’ll be especially true with the benchmark DAC that can benefit from some of the tube goodness. As it currently stands, you’re feeding a very clean measuring but not necessarily musically engaging signal into your amp. Just something to think about. 


I would dip into this Integrated PL Evo 400 amp. Has the bandwidth and power not to mention you can tube roll up to your hearts content. Also can run triode mode so you can have the intimate sound if you want. Very versatile and made well.

I agree with the East17 as well. I personally am running the Dialogue Premium (only 4 Power Tubes) and had Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grands (90db @ 4ohms) and pretty much had more than enough bandwidth and power to run them. Room is an open 12’x18’. It was quite loud even in triode mode and EL34 Tubes.

I considered myself a detail whore and digital fiend for most of my life until I discovered how tube amps are 'supposed' to sound, and it took about $120k to finally get to the most basic setup I've ever had. I now have a Sonos Port feeding through a cardas clear spidf to a Synthesis A40Virtus tube amp/dac combo feeding to a pair of Wilson Duette IIs ans literally bnothing else. I've had $10k DACs, pricier amps, name brand streamers, crazy expensive sound cards, etc, etc. Nothing touches this, and, finally, I feel settled. What a crazy road it's been.

I have recently discovered Synthesis Amps and really couldn't be happier. They get virtually no attention in the name brand world and little in the way of reviews, but, honestly, after owning systems between $30-60k, I can honestly say my A40 Virtus blows everything else away. 

To be fair, I am a vocal, acoustic lover; so, the warmth is welcome, and these produce a fat, Juicy sound, but, somehow, do not feel muddy or over colored - just full.  And, I have probably the very worst spaces to listen (an enclosed porch full of glass and a cubed room with nothing but hard surfaces).

I've no horse in this race, but, for someone who's spent an insane amount of money (for a mailman, anyway), the rabbit hole has led me to abandon my Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th and a Classe' SIGMA AmpII in favor of this Amp/Dac combo - which doesn't even make sense on paper, I know; still, I couldn't be happier.

A used Pass Labs 1st watt  25 WPC in pure class A would work just fine and give nice detail and warmth with plenty of power on tap ,I used with87 db Dynaudio speakers . Plenty of good reviews.

The OP could buy a nicely restored pair of Dynaco MKIII's for less than $2K. With 60 + watts of 6550 power no problem with his speakers! I have the Paoli-modded pair!





My 2 cents from someone who owns tube amps and that my system sounds pretty good. First make sure that your DAC has an high output voltage 6V it’s ideally but no less than 4V, this will make your requiere less watts to drive those speakers. Second I will recommend going for Audio Research, for me those are some of the best tubes Amps and you can find a lot of used ones here. I owned also the MC275 from McIntosh and it’s a great amp but depending on the model ARC could be a better amp.  There are so many options in the market I will recommend you to listen to them before buying anything because at the end we all have different tastes. 

I owned those speakers a few years back. I tried a few tube amps but the best matchup was a SS Musical Fidelity M6PRX Power Amp. If I were to go with a tube amp I try a Linear Tube Audio ZOTL40.

The Jadis gear has a history of retaining much of its value. Especially when

purchasing it used.  


Quite a few years ago I too dipped my toe into the tube market.  Cheap Chinese one I modified, An old HK A12 I restored,  Built a "red light".  Nothing I could afford was any good even considering the 6 to 12W range.  Then I heard the Cary monoblocks on some Epos speakers. 35W if I remember. It was like melted butter all over the music. Soft, comfortable, could listen all day for my kind of music. Not for heavy metal or electronic techno stuff. Folk, Jazz, classical guitar etc.    Alas, out of my reach. As was Audio Research, Mac and some vintage Lux I found even though I very much liked their version of distortion. Hard to remember, but I think I heard a Vincent hybrid too.  I grew up with tubes of course as that is what we had. My first amp was a 30W Knight.  It was not SOA and by the time I could afford a stereo, A Sanyo, yes SANYO Plus 55 was out there and hooked me on MOSFETs.   

Yea, distortion. If you measure these amps, you will find it is not simple even vs odd and depending on topology, I can mimic that in a SS input stage*. It is something else I do not think we understand how to measure or if we are measuring it, we are not interpreting the measurements the way our brains are. 

I do not understand why, but tube amps seem to be more powerful than a SS with the same power rating. Where a 20W SS may be marginal, tubes seem to carry it off better. By the time you get to 50W, seems they are not lacking. Rock solid bass is not their strong point, but with a sub, that is totally a non-issue. 

Anyway, instead I built my MOSFET amp I still use today though for some irrational reason I am looking for a newer one. I understand the tube side, just not going there as amps good enough are still out of my range.  Then you have the age-old arguments about KT88, EL34, B300's.   

I am also temped to slip in a tube line stage, Schiit Sega + maybe.  Basically, a distortion generator, but a very nice distortion generator. The other side of me is focused on DACs.  Probably R2R or Qutest.  My 99% focus is on vocal sibilance, "metallic" tinge to a classical guitar bass strings, horn sharpness etc. These are things I can clearly hear even in a store.  I want to listen all day, no fatigue which seems to be mostly DAC centric.  Others are focused on impact, imaging, air etc.  DACs have improved immensely in the last couple of years.  The best of the best two years ago may be mid-pack today.  Talking sound, not spec chasing. 

Might listen to a Hegel MOSFET before you commit to tubes. A lot of the "musicality" if you pardon the arm chair reviewer vague terminology without the heat and ageing problems. Not as much "tubieness" as a Cary, but not far from a VTL if my memory is correct.   If I win the lottery, I think I would give tubes a try again. If you find an old Silver Seven, give it a listen. 

Hope that adds helpfully to the above members experiences. 

* Have some fun. Play with input LTP current matching of a bi-polar vs a FET input. 


PS. yea, the old MK 3's had good transformers. Toss in modern caps, clean up the heater power and they might still be competitive.  Then play with the grid resister values to tune to taste. (See VTL documentation)   Old CJ MV50 was similar.

Look at Margules Audio, I've heard them twice at the hifi shows and they always sound so great, look really beautiful with wood panels and copper plates, really great looking and have such great bass.... And made in Mexico of all places, never even knew there was high end audio manufacturing in Mexico, beautiful looking and sounding amps... Definitely plan on getting one some day

Some good advice but you actually never know until you try. We have vandersteen sevens that were driven by 28wpc set amp I believe 520 or 820 tube sounded fantastic on 83.5 db speakers pure class A. We were surprised at that. You can try hybrid amps like counterpoint sa-100 and get them upgraded or asteix amps.

+1 to all those who recommended a tube preamp first. I have owned my fair share of tube amps,hybrid amps and tube preamps. A high quality tube pre can give you the tube flavor you're looking for. Then later replace the SS amp with either a LSA Voyager 350 GaN amp ( a guy who has 3! is down sizing and selling one for a great price), or check out Tweak Audio. Ric is a great modifier. See which GaN amps he mods, then pick up a used unmoded and when funds are available send it to him


+1 on Quicksilver. These amps are incredible value. I've owned tubed Cary, Audio Research, McIntosh, but love my Mid Mono's the most. They drive my 90db efficient KLH 5s to sufficient levels in my 15 x 18 ft room. Believe it or not, they drive them and  previous Snells and Harbeths Compact 3s with better bass than a Belles SS amp I had that had 150 WPC. If you want to really raise the roof, you likely need more power but remember, double the power (in this case going from 40WPC to 80WPC) will only give you an additional 3db of volume. I listen mostly to Jazz and Folk and Indie stuff, If you want to crank heavy metal to high volumes, then suggest you stick with a warmish sounding solid state amp, possibly MosFet with 150 -200WPC  and use a tubed preamp as other posters have suggested. Personally I run tubed  preamp and power amp and would have it no other way.

The Quicksilver amps are super well built and in your price range you can buy new and not worry about breakdowns. My previous amp was an older Cary. It blew an output transformer on one channel that my local tech replaced but warned me that that was the last one Cary had in stock. I sold the amp as I didn't want to wait for the other transformer to go and then end up with a costly paperweight.

You can use numerous output tubes on the Mid Monos, but EL34s, to my ear, sound best. That is a good thing as they are more plentiful and less costly to aquire when you want to retube. And to get the most out of these or any tube amps, you want to upgrade the tubes beyond the standard Russian/Chinese tubes most manufacturers supply with their amps these days, although Mike Saunders at Quicksilver does have some decent older NOS Tesla tubes that get you part way there.


keep remote features in mind, AND exterior bias adjusters and external bias Meter

I have to agree woth some of the folks that recommend swapping the Benchmark preamp for a good quality tube preamp… I would say first. Then later upgrade to a tubed amp, in both cases I would consider Audio Research, CJ, and VAC for both. You will add synergy between the amp and preamp as well that way.

I I would look into vfets. Yamaha B1 or B2. And there is some Sony gear out there as well. It's all vintage, but easily refurbished and the sound is alot like tubes. The closest you can get to tubes with SS.

+1 @decooney

Your speakers needs a good SS amplifier. Some may not agree, but when your impedance drops below 4 ohms, it is a problem for tube amps to drive it. Even though specified sensitivity is 90dB, looks like actual sensitivity is close to 87dB. Your speakers have sensitivity and impedance characteristics similar to Thiel speakers except for the phase angle.


You should try Audio Research 100.2 amp. There are several used ones available in ebay, Audiogon, TRM, etc. This amp will give tube flavor you are looking for, except this is a SS amp. Very musical and highly recommended. And there are many other options as well.

"I suggest staying away from the Cary amps because getting tubes for these babies requires big $$$, plus they run hot, plus 50W I feel is not sufficient for your purposes and speakers."

Not sure where bojack is coming from regarding his comments on the Cary Six Pacs. I own a pair of these mono blocks and can assure you they do not run hot. Highest temp i've measured on the transformers was around 145 deg F. Yes you need 12 output tubes but the EL34 tubes are among the easiest to find and least expensive output tubes you can buy. Also, 50W of push pull triode power is more than enough to power most speakers unless you want to fill a large room at head banging levels.


@pwerahera +1 @decooney "Your speakers needs a good SS amplifier. Some may not agree, but when your impedance drops below 4 ohms, it is a problem for tube amps to drive it. "


I’m glad you posted this to help the OP more. Some people are not looking at the graph above or translating to (needs FLAT response) as they keep talking about speaker sensitivity instead of helpful flat impedance and load - with TUBE amps.

What makes a speaker Tube Amp friendly? Sure any of these tube amps will produce sound, BUT, how does it function, and does it sound good? I came across this old thread, many threads out there like this to understand more.


Link: Tube amp sound - affected by your speakers more than you’d think



If a tube amp’s output transformers are spec’ed for 4-ohm loads, it can do just fine as long as the speaker’s impedance doesn’t dwell much below that for extended periods. I asked this very question to Aric at Aric Audio before I ordered one of his 60w push-pull amps for my Perlisten S7t, which has a nominal 4 but dips below 3 at some points in the bass. He assured me no problem and he was right. The amp sounds wonderful and has absolutely no issues driving the speakers. I also have a couple of high-quality Class A SS amps that put 200+ watts into 4 ohms. I prefer the Aric amp with the Perlistens.

I jumped to tubes about 18 years ago. and I will never regret it.

Being a professional pianist and having made "live" recordings of great classical and acoustic jazz performers, AND having built and hand built soldered heathkits (component by component) as a teenager music and audiophile enthusiast... there is no more alive a sound than a tube system. Even a low-priced one.  If you listen mostly to loud rock, metal or screaming singers, don't bother with tubes, just get more solid state power per channel.

If you want to hear to finesse in music then you gotta go with tubes.  IF you have a friend or colleague or a hifi store (Do they still exist?), I urge you to acquire the RCA CD of Bartok Concerto for Orchestra with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony. RCA legendary producers and recording technology innovators! Sit back and listen LISTEN!


Personally I use the weytech Sapphire 300B monoblocks, and with their lowly 18 watts RMS (Yes S.E.T. 300B tubes), they rock my world every time I turn them on!


The founder and designer passed away last year.  They are difficult to find on the market.

I'm keeping my pair of monoblocks

Depends how power-hungry your speakers are, and if they have high-order (18 dB/oct and 24dB/oct) crossovers. If the true Theile/Small efficiency is less than 87 dB/watt/meter, and if the crossover is high-order or employs notch filters, sorry, tube amps are not ideal. Class AB or Class D transistor with 100 to 200 watts is what the speaker wants.

On the other hand, if the speaker has a true Theile/Small efficiency of 90 dB/meter/watt, and the crossover is low-order (6 dB/oct or 12 dB/oct), then tube amps of 35 watts/channel look good. A pair of PP EL34, 6V6, KT66, or KT88 will do the job just fine ... that’s the vast majority of vintage and modern tube amps.

SETs with 8 watts or less ... well, you really do need efficient speakers, and 6.5" to 8" woofers matched with 1" dome tweeters do not qualify. The true Theile/Small efficiency of nearly all 6.5 to 8-inch midwoofers is in the 86 to 88 dB/meter range ... and the woofer, not the tweeter, sets the efficiency of the loudspeaker. There are no magic cabinets that raise the efficiency of the woofer ... the T/S parameters set the efficiency of the woofer, and the entire speaker.

P.S. More complex crossovers are sensitive to source impedance, otherwise called Damping Factor. A very low source impedance, or high Damping Factor, is the hallmark of big-watt transistor amps.

+1@gold prentice I am not confident you will appreciate any of the suggested components give your square room and setup. I would suggest moving the speakers closer together if possible and then moving your chair closer to them aiming for the golden triangle. Then do some room analysis to see how the bass is behaving in the space and consider appropriate treatments. This may yield far greater improvements than swapping out this for that. Once you have gone thru that process and gotten accustomed to the sound then start looking at the upgrade path. Just my 2 cents.

I haven’t read every post but the op decided not to buy an amp. He’s going to buy speakers.

@paulcreed I haven’t read every post but the op decided not to buy an amp. He’s going to buy speakers.


Missed that, and worth noting. Depending on what speakers are chosen by the OP, a speaker change could potentially open the door more for a wider selection of sweet sounding tube amps as well - if that's a direction the OP wants to go.