|[ Valves, valves !! ]|
At the beginning of the 90s I listened to an Audio Note OTO valve amplifier. The OTO gave 12 watts in class A. The other components of the equipment were an Audio Note speakers and a Micromega Stage 3 CD player. The sound of this combination was absolutely incredible: soft and powerful, absolute high fidelity. I was really stunned. How was it possible that a 12 watts amplifier produced this amazing sound? Was there any trick?
As I learnt latter there wasn't any trick because almost all valve amplifiers sounded like the OTO. It was well know among audiophiles all around the world that the sound of these kind of amps was so good. Automatically the question that came to my mind was: If the sound is so good, why not all audiophiles have a valve amplifier? The answer also came rapidly: the technology of valve amplification was substituted in the early seventies by a new technology, the solid state technology (transistors, I mean) and valves became obsolete. I was surprised because after listening the OTO I couldn't believe that and also because I saw the increasing interest of audiophiles for this equipment. What I also learnt is that this equipment had the drawbacks of being minoritary: high prices (I remember that the OTO price was, in a special offer, 2200 €-375.000 pta and the OTO SE almost 4200 €-700.000 pta), expensive components, etc.
So, between the dilemma of the drawbacks and the excellent impression that the OTO gave me I decided to learnt more about tube amps. The first question that came to my mind were, what should I do to have a tube amp?
I got the answer while I was reading an issue of english magazine Hi-Fi World. The magazine showed some photographs of tube amps kits and they have reasonable prices. They also talked about the excellences of vinatge audio equipment and so I began my research about these kind of components. In my city I only found the Velleman K 4000 (now 4040) tube amp kit but I found some classic tube amps. And I felt in love with them...and I'm still in love with them!. If you're interested in knowing more about vintage tube amp equipment, plese visit the Vintage audio equipment section of this site.
About kits...as I said before they're the cheapest method to have a tube amp. They have great quality and they aren't very difficult to buy. They allow the low budget audiophile to enter the tube audio world and can be configured to the user needs. But they are not the only alternative....
As you can imagine my interest for tube audio equipment has grown all along these years. From the early 90s when I felt in love for tube amps to now I have seen grown the availability of tube audio equipment as well as the interest of audiophiles for these components. If it was difficult to find tube amps now it is very easy. Everybody interested in tube amps could find them at very reasonable prices. In kit form, or as hand-made products or as china-made amps the availability is huge.
If you are interested in knowing in depth other questions about tube amps I would recommend you to visit the auditions and articles sections of this site. There you can read my experiences with this equipment, specially hand-made amps such as the George 50/50, the Tecno Line or the Filarmonia. If you are a first time buyer of tube equipment I would recommend you to read my article I want a tube amplifier were I explain what you have to know about tube amps before buying one. If you still want more information you can visit the links section of this site or the Audio Nirvana forum
AUDIO AND VALVE KIT RESOURCES
Here you have additional information about the subject of this section:Tubes Versus Transistors: Is There An Audible Difference?, written by Russell O. Hamm
One of the best articles about the eternal question: Is it best a transistor amp or a valve one?Tube Data Base, written by Jim Johnson
Sometimes a valve have different names.This is a database where you can identify the names of a valve doing cross-matching between their possible names. I have built a HTML table that you could see clicking here (250 kb).
Finally, remember that the internet has a lot of information about tube amps and that using a search engine you can find almost everything.