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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Yaqin tube amps: any further thoughts?

    Once again I'm giving some thought to trying a tube amp; this has got to work with my Magneplanar MG 1.6's. It's also go to be cheap.

    My objective here is experimentation, specifically to try a tube power or integrated with 50+ wpc. I could use it full range or for the treble in a passive bi-amp configuration. (The Maggies crossover at about 600 Hz; the bass would be powered by my Class D Audio SDS-258.) This won't be a "SET" amp of course, and will need to operate in pentode or "ultralinear" mode to achieve 50+ wpc.

    Cyto and Poultrygeist have owned Yaqin amps and wonder if they or anyone has further thoughts. The Yaqin MC-10L is sort of in my price range and is available from a Canadian deal with a good eBay reputation -- see HERE.

    The dealer also has a couple of slightly more up-scale models, the MS-20L, (HERE), and the MC-100B, (HERE). If there were a good reason I could probably stretch to their prices.
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    I once bought a Yaqin VK-2100 SS/tube hybrid from a Chinese ebay seller which had great build quality and sounded as good as the $800 Bada DC-222 tube hybrid from Pacific Valve but alas neither could resolve detail at low levels like the original $239 Miniwatt S1. I have read that the MC-10L sounds better than the VK-2100 and I have no doubt as it's all tube. The 10L seems a good choice for now.

    I know nothing about Maggie crossovers but if there's any way to avoid them and bi-amp that's the ticket.

  3. #3
    RGA
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    Why not ask the dealer to lend you two of them to try out first. Tube amps are not automatically better than SS or digital by the mere fact that they are tube amps. The Roksan Kandy Integrated, Sugden A21a, even the Trends Claas T amps I have here beat a lot of SS amps - but they beat a lot of tube amps as well.

    And you seem to only concern yourself with measured response so why even bother - Tubes have higher THD and worse frequency response and not all of them are zero feedback. And going as cheap as possible gets you cheap sound - no matter what the design - instead of buying and trying 12 cheap amplifiers - why not get ONE great one and be done with it?

  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Why not ask the dealer to lend you two of them to try out first. Tube amps are not automatically better than SS or digital by the mere fact that they are tube amps. The Roksan Kandy Integrated, Sugden A21a, even the Trends Claas T amps I have here beat a lot of SS amps - but they beat a lot of tube amps as well.

    And you seem to only concern yourself with measured response so why even bother - Tubes have higher THD and worse frequency response and not all of them are zero feedback. And going as cheap as possible gets you cheap sound - no matter what the design - instead of buying and trying 12 cheap amplifiers - why not get ONE great one and be done with it?
    Thanks, RGA. What you say does make sense; you've talked me out of the project because a cheap amp is all I could afford.

    I take you meaning that low-cost tube amps are an "iffy" proposition at best.
    Last edited by Feanor; 02-20-2012 at 04:18 AM.

  5. #5
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Thanks, RGA. What you say does make sense; you've talked me out of the project because a cheap amp is all I could afford.

    I take you meaning that low-cost tube amps are an "iffy" proposition at best.
    The thing is if you had NO system at all then inexpensive tube amps are fine. You simply go out and look for ones - perhaps Yaquin - that punch beyond their price class - but you have a system and already own amplifiers that will probably better this tube amp.

    I heard a Bottlehead kit (don't know the model) but it really just sounded like a distortion box to me - lumpy soft and yes the midrange was warm - but the whole thing sounded like mush - felt similarly about the ST70 another tube amp - granted very old - that people rave about.

    Even expensive models don't always sound remotely accurate - Copland to me sounds exactly the way most SS guys "think" all tube amps sound like - Jolida's 302b is similar. Copland is in the $5k range and up.

    And then there's the tube types - plenty of people HATE the 300b - they find it bass shy - and very "weak" at driving anything remotely difficult - they opt for 845 or 211s or even 2a3.

    It depends what you run - Magnepan doesn't present a difficult load - Apogee does (well some of them).

    I am not a fan of tube amps for most people. There is too much of the ole - "my system is bright so I'll buy a tube amp" - which doesn't fix the problem really.

    I don't have as much experience with cheap tube amps - but I still maintain that it takes a pretty high dollar to really understand why someone would still buy vinyl - if machines like the MMF 7 and Rega P3 were my baseline - I would not own a single record today.

    I get the sneaking impression I would feel that way about some of the cheap tube amps. I did like the ASL AQ 1003DT but it's still over a grand - and apparently the service isn't all that great.

    Grant Fidelity is appealing but you can't hear it anywhere due to their business model. AN Kits are relatively expensive.

    There's no rush anyway - one day a show will come to a town near you and will have all these toys and then you can go listen to it. And it will likely be hooked up to speakers that are designed for them. I am a big believer in the system approach in order to get a baseline for the company's sonic aesthetic. If you don't have the baseline then the component jumping is just playing around endlessly hoping stuff will click.

    For example - until I heard the Roksan TR-5 - I would have had no idea that that was the sound Roksan was after because their other gear is always connected to speakers at dealers that sound completely different. Now I know what Roksan's design team has in mind based on their system.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Bill, Van Alstine has an Ultimate 70 used tube amp for sale. I was over at his house the other day listening to some gear.

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  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    Bill, Van Alstine has an Ultimate 70 used tube amp for sale. I was over at his house the other day listening to some gear.

    avahifi - Used Equipment
    I'd buy Frank's amp in a second, but unfortunately it's over my budget by four hundred bucks or so.

  8. #8
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    I'm friends with a guy who deals in audio and he allows me to take his tube gear home for extended periods. In my house I've listened to Fisher 400, 500's, Citations, Dynaco ST70, HH Scotts, Pilots, HK Copper Top, Jolidas and most recently a Prima Luna Prologue. These are all push pull tube amps in excellent condition and if I had never experienced a SET I could have been happy with any of them.

  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Tube amps vary even more than s/s, that's why I was asking.

    BR's suggestion for the Van Alstine is a good one apart from the price. Same goes for Bob Latino's ST-120 (new, kit) and the Triode Dynaco Mk3, (also new kit).

    But you're right, I'm in no rush.

  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    I'm friends with a guy who deals in audio and he allows me to take his tube gear home for extended periods. In my house I've listened to Fisher 400, 500's, Citations, Dynaco ST70, HH Scotts, Pilots, HK Copper Top, Jolidas and most recently a Prima Luna Prologue. These are all push pull tube amps in excellent condition and if I had never experienced a SET I could have been happy with any of them.
    That's at odds with RGA who's saying tube amps are all over graph for sound quality, so what to belief.

    Probably what I'd most like to try, apart from the price being a little high for me at the moment, is a pair of Triode Dynaco Mk3's ...


  11. #11
    Forum Regular YBArcam's Avatar
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    The Yaqin sure looks purdy. I suspect it feels solid too.

    That said, I think I'd agree with RGA. I've read good and bad about cheap tube amps. A poster at another forum I read bought the Miniwatt and hated it, despite many good reviews online. This and the mixed impressions of brands such as Yaqin are enough to dissuade me from looking at the cheaper Chinese amps on the market. Audio Space is one Chinese brand that looks on par with it's non-Chinese competition, and I can also visit a local dealer to hear these amps.

    I've looked into tube amps and personally I think I would rather save up and buy new or used Manley, Rogue, Decware, and the like. It's not just about avoiding problems, but buying from people who have made these things for a long time and aren't still learning as they go along (that goes for those based in North America as well - you can buy tube amps online from many places, but what's the quality like?). Also, I think you want to form the right impression. You don't want to listen to a SET amp for the first time and think it's garbage because you listened to a poor representation of the technology. I'm not saying the Yaqin or Miniwatt is a poor representation of push/pull and SET respectively, but opinions vary so much that how am I to know? For those with an already established reference of what a tube amp can sound like, they would be better able to gauge the quality of a cheaper alternative.
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  12. #12
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    YB,

    Interesting that you mentioned Decware as the Miniwatt sounds very similar but try finding a Decware for under $200. Here's what Srajan Ebaen of 6moons said about their award winning Minwatt.

    " The Miniwatt reminded me of the crystalline fast as a whip, lit EL84 Decware"

  13. #13
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Most of the reviews on the Yaqin tube amps have been very favorable. Here's a stereophile forum on the MC100B
    Yaqin MC-100B Nice Amp! | Stereophile.com

    Here are a few on the MC10L

    coolcatdaddy: Yaqin MC-10L Amp - An initial review

    MC10L is good or not - diyAudio
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  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    Most of the reviews on the Yaqin tube amps have been very favorable. Here's a stereophile forum on the MC100B
    Yaqin MC-100B Nice Amp! | Stereophile.com

    Here are a few on the MC10L

    coolcatdaddy: Yaqin MC-10L Amp - An initial review

    MC10L is good or not - diyAudio
    Thanks, Larry. Those are interesting and quite positive reviews.

  15. #15
    RGA
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    I think the thing with tubes and SS is the latter is presumed to be accurate because "some" numbers look better but also that they sound very much "alike" most of the time. The reality is ALL amplifiers are inaccurate and grossly so. The fact that 50 amps sound similar doesn't make them more or less accurate - it merely means their inaccuracies are similar.

    No one sets out to make an inaccurate product and with todays technology and text books ANY maker can make ruler flat frequency response speakers - zero to any animal's ears distortion etc etc. Indeed a maker can simply go to SEAS or Scanspeak or Vifa or peerless and buy drivers they recommend to get you the resulting graph you want that will look good on waterfall plot or under an oscilloscope.

    Inexpensive anything has to make more compromises and has to make the choice for one thing over the other. Tube amp generally more so since they are not designed to "drive anything" they are more finicky about the speakers sources attached and perhaps cables.

    The Bryston 3B I had could drive virtually everything - it just Controls the woofer - super tight sound. But it also bullies some speakers (as UHF noted in their review) and makes the sound hard. The Technical superiority in "grip" is all well and good but it often sounded like it was over-controlling the woofer and to the ear made the speakers (95db horn Wharfedales) sound like it had far less bass weight and made the sound hard and thin - which eventually also made them sound bright.

    The Sugden A48 b an integrated Class A/B SS amp which is described as being "valve like" and indeed is a little veiled sounded far far better. It does not have the technical mastery in regards to low noise or grip that the Bryston had or the much more expensive Musical Fidelity A300 I compared it against.

    My Audition with the A48b for example vs the A300 with Paradigm Studio 100V2 loudspeakers illustrates dramatically that SS can sound very different. The A300 is like the Bryston in numerous ways - grip/air/power/slam/wider stage in terms of width/uber imaging. Massive power for an integrated.

    All things that sound very impressive. I was initially impressed.

    The Sugden was connected up. Right turn - voices had more rounded presence (which is what I usually refer to has organic) they seemed "real" in the sense that there was a person in front of me rather than a very nice cardboard cutout of the person. Bass was deeper and richer and fuller (no frequency limiters in the Sugden). It didn't have the slam the grip the lowest noise floor the stage was smaller but felt less artificial to me. And it did bring a little veiling or colouration to the table as well but all in all that is a trade I make every single day of the week. Tone and timbre and reality over staging and "effects" any day.

    It's not the MF is necessarily wrong - I just think it's not designed primarily for what I think is the best music reproduction. And the MF sounds too much like Rotel and others for half the price. The same issue I have with ML and Krell and Bryston. They sound great when you want to impress your friends for short session but they're tiring to me because they sound artificial.

    A good tube amp with the right speakers can get some of the advantages of SS - clarity, neutrality, bass, treble extension, staging imaging but also has that reality of 3D space.

    But Sugden illustrates that SS can get into the ballpark as well. Technical Brain on my short audition did it amazingly well - but it's just so expensive and they have serious issues with early failure rates.

    The A48b sounds more stereotypically tube than some SS amps - it sounded more tube like than the AQ1003DT which sounds leaner and meaner and gripier - and had less bass weight.

    I am not really sure the kind of tube amp you want Feanor but it strikes me that you want something that does not stray too far away from what you get from SS like MF/Bryston etc. I don't know of cheap tube amps that do any of that.

    But from what I read in terms of push pull - you're probably more of a KT88 amp guy which would be something like the GF Rita or similar. Perhaps EL 34 but some of them can sound overly warm.

    KT 88s tend to be more powerful and leaner and grippier sounding.

    Something like the 302B used might fit the bill - I actually find it leans warmer than the this soundstage review but the one I heard may have had different tubes - and Sonus Faber and Totem are noted to lean warm so that may have had an influence.

    You can get these for something like $350 used maybe less with the recession. And it has 50 watts and looks really nice in person too. SoundStage! Equipment Review - JoLida JD-302B Integrated Amplifier (10/2000)

    PS - SET does have the advantage of not needing to bias tubes - you simply stick the tubes in and it goes - no voltmeters to deal with.

    Also - Yaqin is good - I listened to the following amp Yaqin MS500B - 300b tube questions under the name Grant Fidelity. I didn't love the particular Grant Fidelity speakers but the amp was not mushy or flabby.
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  16. #16
    Forum Regular YBArcam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist View Post
    YB,

    Interesting that you mentioned Decware as the Miniwatt sounds very similar but try finding a Decware for under $200. Here's what Srajan Ebaen of 6moons said about their award winning Minwatt.

    " The Miniwatt reminded me of the crystalline fast as a whip, lit EL84 Decware"
    Maybe I should read the review in full, but I suspect Ebaen may have later said what the Decware does better than the Miniwatt. That's what I find happens in a lot of pro reviews. They rave about how a incredible a budget component is (when was the last time you read a bad review?) but then ultimately they conclude it falls behind it's more expensive competitor in certain respects.

    But like I said, I don't have any experience with the Miniwatt or Decware. What can one expect for $189 from an integrated amp though? If the Miniwatt is all that it should be a game changer. I'd be interested to see if in ten or twenty years down the line it is still remembered as more than a flavor of the month product.

    In the review I mentioned from the other forum, the reviewer noted that the Miniwatt had no serial number. This is a major concern. He was unsure if his amp had some sort of defect. What if a run of N3's had a specific defect? Without serial numbers how is Miniwatt going to trace this? Are they even interested in doing so? This is another reason why I'd pass and purchase instead from someone else who is interested in releasing a quality product.

    I wonder if Yaqin amps have serial numbers. I don't see one in the eBay pic the OP linked to. What kind of support will you get if you plunk down $500 and the amp develops a problem? I know there is a warranty shown on the eBay page but if I had to use it I'd be holding my breath.

    Do these products truly sound good and compete with products 5 and 10 times the price, or do people just love them because they sound good for the money and represent a cheap way to get into tubes? If it's the former then perhaps I will have to change my outlook.

    For now I think I'd rather save up and buy a 20 year old integrated from Audio Research (for example), and be assured of a certain level of sound and build quality, support if I need it (even when outside of warranty), and a stable resale value. And it would likely be the last tube integrated I'll ever buy. Might take a few years to save the cash, though. That's the part that sucks.
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  17. #17
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    YB,

    If I tattoo a serial number on my Bottleheads do you reckon the SQ will get ever better? :-)

    It makes sense to read the full review so you don't have to "suspect" what the reviewer might have said.

  18. #18
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YBArcam View Post
    ...
    For now I think I'd rather save up and buy a 20 year old integrated from Audio Research (for example), and be assured of a certain level of sound and build quality, support if I need it (even when outside of warranty), and a stable resale value. And it would likely be the last tube integrated I'll ever buy. Might take a few years to save the cash, though. That's the part that sucks.
    This strikes me as a valid suggestion, though too many "classic" amps are overpriced.

  19. #19
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    My objective for a tube amp would be to better understand their appeal; to that extent I don't particularly want to avoid warmish amps if they are popular. I'm skeptical though that I will prefer any lower priced tube amp to comparable price s/s amps I've heard.

    The used Jolida is a very good suggestion: thanks for that. Jolida vs. Yaqin vs. whatever, I still haven't decide that a tube power amp is really want to do in the short term.

  20. #20
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    A classic amp makes sense if you can do your own recapping.

  21. #21
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by YBArcam View Post
    Also, I think you want to form the right impression. You don't want to listen to a SET amp for the first time and think it's garbage because you listened to a poor representation of the technology.
    That has been my concern with the Miniwatt: I'm still not sure how good a representation of SET it is. I really want to try a SET amp someday, but I don't want to form a wrong impression of the tech, because I auditioned a cheap (and relatively low quality) version. While I don't base purchase decisions solely on Stereophile reviews - I was disappointed that the Miniwatt merely got a class D rating, despite being raved about in other mags.

    I'm not looking for a product that is "good for the price" but just something that sounds "good" (without the need for any qualification).

    I really hope some of the SET reviewers cough*RGA*cough will start reviewing affordable SET amps. That way us non-SET users can know what the good affordable examples of the tech are.

  22. #22
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    For the most part, I have been impressed with some of the cheap chinese gear. I have the Maverick DAC-1/Preamp, the Grant Fidelity DAC-11, a Fiio D3 DAC and the Dayton Audio DTA-100a amp. Are they audiophile, no, but they all produce good quality sound at their price point and perform way above their price point with the exception of the D-3. I would have no problem trying one of the Yaqin tube amps at around $500. Based on their reviews and price I think that they are a risk worth taking. If you don't like it then you could easily turn around and sell it.
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  23. #23
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    My objective for a tube amp would be to better understand their appeal; to that extent I don't particularly want to avoid warmish amps if they are popular. I'm skeptical though that I will prefer any lower priced tube amp to comparable price s/s amps I've heard.

    The used Jolida is a very good suggestion: thanks for that. Jolida vs. Yaqin vs. whatever, I still haven't decide that a tube power amp is really want to do in the short term.

    Ok Feanor...here you go.

    Asylum Trader - Waamamps 807 SE 4 wpc + LOTS of EXTRA TUBES!!! Final price reduction.

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  24. #24
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    Sold now. It would drive those Audio Note AN-E SPe HE Special Edition Silver's still on sale.


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    No monkey coffin is worth $13000.

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