Maybe a daft question having not inspected one close up, but why are valve amps so expensive and secondly sometimes very heavy? I like the idea of a cheaper Chinese import if anyone can recommend a starting point.
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expensive - mainly because they can't be mass produced. some point-to-point soldering will always be required and that requires labor which will always be more expensive than surface mounting techniques.
heavy - they usually use substantial mains transformers and then two output transformers. big transformers means a lot of weight.
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Save yourself the effort of a cheap Chinese import. There are even cheap valve-amps that sound very very good, like mine. It is a Chinese brand but a very good one, and no import. Less cheap then "Yarland" or other really cheap brands. The same can be said of "Prima Luna" which is a Dutch design but build in China.
I would not even try mine against the very cheapo things. It would be no serious competittion, i think. Beside this i have read stories of bad or difficult warranty or even bad amps. Better stay away from them!
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+1 for oldric's descriptions.
Regarding Chinese amps both the Yarland make and PrimaLuna are excellent for the money, it all depends on how much you consider to be 'expensive'.
I would disagree that if they are cheap they must be rubbish as others here seem to imply. Some are cheap because they started selling direct thus cutting out middleman mark-ups.
I might suggest Icon Audio of Leicester that do a good 'starter' amp in the form of the ST20PP, but these are not cheap.
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I would avoid any import Chinese amps, they dont usually have the power supply up to spec (~220V).
Regarding price and weight. They usually are expensive as any decent tube amp (Integrated/Power) will have large output transformers which are A- Heavy and B-Expensive.
A lot of cheap valve amps have a 'warm' sound with rubbish bass, this is mainly down to really cheap, light transformers.
Even my little Decware that I had @1.5wpc weighed 8Kg in a tiny chassis, mainly down to the one big output transformer.
The other reason mentioned, is a lot of valve amps are hard wired rather than PCB which upps the cost.
There a plenty of options, second hand can get you a pretty decent one for not much.
Look out for the original Audio Innovations 300 and 500 series, any Consonance, Icon Audio, Decware to name a few.
Audion, Ming Da or even some of the old WAD (World Audio Design) kits that seem to pop up now and again.
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I have vague recollections of my father's croft super micro A pre-amp: weighed hardly anything...
If you start with your 1st valve-amp, the Audio Innovations 300, 500, or 700, 800 are not bad, but i heard the difference with mine. And that's night and day, with mine being day!
That is probably because it was only a pre-amp.
Another very good little known valve amp is J Wood... a one man band, made to order and not overly expensive.
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That would explain that, then.. Amplification of said system was provided by Quad 405-2 which weighed a ton ...
Thanks all. My local dealer offers Icon audio products- my issue is the price of a basic amp would be equal to a pretty serious transistor amp if bought wisely, maybe second hand etc. I would be up the creek if I decided that the valve amp was either nothing special or limited in driving capability for future speaker upgrades.
Surely you wouldnt have bought it in the first place if it was 'nothing special'.
You could always upgrade speakers to suit the amp ,or am i being silly here ?.
Nice user name btw .
'zactly. And no not silly.
I was going to type 'or am i being a sarcastic pisch taking fecker' but thought better of it ,lol.
generally like all audio equipment the heavier the better
valve amps need good output transfomers , these are heavy
most chinese very poor build quality not to british/european standard eg ROHS . CE or 220v 50hz Not 240/230volts
also no service/warranty , if it breaks sending 15kilos by dhl to china costs a fortune
buy from a uk dealer with warranty dared & mingda great value from £250 , primaluna & icon from £750
then sky is the limit - audio note , shindo , silbatone from $100,000
something about a good single end or push push amp just cant touch
Thank you all. Useful info and a few brands to look at that I wasn't aware of.
Floyd Droid, I was thinking in terms of how 8-30 wpc might sound once back home and the initial excitement has lessened, once a few tracks had been played. For me, valves are a big step away from SS and I'm still understanding the different technologies. If valve amps started from say £400, i would be happy to take a punt but £800 plus opens a lot of solid state opportunities - a Primaire i30 went for just over £800 last week. Before you say it, yes i know I can home demo!!
I'm enjoying the forum exchanges.
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