First tube gear- Is a 300b amp a good place to start?

KPC

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Perhaps the Frankensteins will lead me to emotional tears…quite different from the tears when paying for audio components.

I’m leaning towards the Coincident Frankensteins for the price/performance. Even though Dennis Had’s (Cary Audio founder) eBay $4k STEREO TUBE AMPLIFIER INSPIRE 300B (which includes WE 300B tubes!) seems like the best bargain, I’d rather spend more to get the Frankenstein’s performance.

Altec speakers keep cropping up on forums. May have to try out someday…if I have the space…and if I can wheedle it past my spouse:)
 
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Thaluza

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Since you are considering Altec speakers with the amp that you might buy, here's my two cents. I can see the appeal of Altec horn speakers. I actually bought a pair of Altec Valencias last year to hear what they sound like. They are slightly smaller than a pair of washing machines, and are not very attractive in my opinion. At times they are spooky real spectacular with the Frankensteins (and with my 45 set amp), but I also hear horn glare with many recordings. They are kind of a tease. It is fun to rotate the Valencias in every once in awhile, but they have caused me listener fatigue so they haven't lasted for long before I feel like putting my Von Schweikert speakers back in. But what do I know, I am an Altec rookie and I am still learning about them.
 

charles1dad

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Hi KPC,
I believe that your gut instincts are guiding you in the right direction. I have owned the Coincident Frankenstein 300b mono blocks for 12 years. They have provided a very enjoyable, compelling and very emotionally engaging listening experiences without fail. They are silent, rock solid reliable and offer the most pure and realistic sound I've heard in my home.They are both very resolved and organic in their presentation.

I can't imagine why they would not be a superb pairing with your proposed Volti speakers. The current MK III version is said to improve upon my very fine MK II model. BTW I'm using the EML XLS 300b tubes. I have used the Elrog and Takatsuki as well.
Best of luck,
Charles
 
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Atmasphere

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The 300B seems to be a unique favored sound that at some point I had to try out. So instead of someday, I chose to start with the 300B. I’ll likely try other tube amps typologies later.
(emphasis added)

Well you know, the 2A3 ascended the throne in the early 2000s, supplanting the 300b for the inside buzz for where the 'magic' is. The type 45 has supplanted that since then. The smaller you make an SET the better the bandwidth is on account of the output transformer (the power tubes have plenty of bandwidth- the 211 or 845 can be used as transmitting tubes). There's a direct corellation between bandwidth and the following garnered. The bigger SETs that actually have bandwidth get similar respect. So you'll want to be careful about that.

The result? On sensitive speakers (97db) the JJ was clearly superior in terms of tone and texture and bass was about equivalent...there was more inner resolution with the JJ as well. Dynamics were similar.

I've not had either in the shop here so I can't speak about them, but I think some variables aren't locked down. One that quickly comes to mind is coupling caps. Another is the use of feedback- apparently that can be changed (at least from what I'm seeing on the VAC site). Finally, as I've pointed out in the past, when you combine single-ended and PP circuits you get both a quadratic and cubic non-linearity. This can cause emphasis of the 5th harmonic- which I suspect is why SET lovers (rightfully) don't like such amps. But the field here seems a bit limited (as were my experiments, which went entirely the other way). So while I don't doubt your experience at all, I don't think its the last word.
 
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morricab

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(emphasis added)

Well you know, the 2A3 ascended the throne in the early 2000s, supplanting the 300b for the inside buzz for where the 'magic' is. The type 45 has supplanted that since then. The smaller you make an SET the better the bandwidth is on account of the output transformer (the power tubes have plenty of bandwidth- the 211 or 845 can be used as transmitting tubes). There's a direct corellation between bandwidth and the following garnered. The bigger SETs that actually have bandwidth get similar respect. So you'll want to be careful about that.



I've not had either in the shop here so I can't speak about them, but I think some variables aren't locked down. One that quickly comes to mind is coupling caps. Another is the use of feedback- apparently that can be changed (at least from what I'm seeing on the VAC site). Finally, as I've pointed out in the past, when you combine single-ended and PP circuits you get both a quadratic and cubic non-linearity. This can cause emphasis of the 5th harmonic- which I suspect is why SET lovers (rightfully) don't like such amps. But the field here seems a bit limited (as were my experiments, which went entirely the other way). So while I don't doubt your experience at all, I don't think its the last word.
I always ran the VAC with 0db feedback...turn some on always damaged the sound. So, apples to apples in that regard between the two amps.


Your amp has a quite high 5th and 7th harmonic, which diminished (but not missing) 2nd (but also relatively high 4th)... higher harmonics at low leves visible above the noise to 20th harmonic...
 

Atmasphere

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I always ran the VAC with 0db feedback...turn some on always damaged the sound. So, apples to apples in that regard between the two amps.


Your amp has a quite high 5th and 7th harmonic, which diminished (but not missing) 2nd (but also relatively high 4th)... higher harmonics at low leves visible above the noise to 20th harmonic...
That measurement has an error, brought on by accidentally grounding one of the speaker posts thru the test equipment. This imbalances the drive to the output section and introduces a quadratic non-linearity. Besides that of course that was done over 20 years ago and even we make improvements from time to time ;)

As far as apples to apples- did you use the same power tubes in both amps? How about the driver and voltage amplifier tubes? Were they the same ones- not just in brand but actually the same ones? You know how different tubes can sound even when branded the same way. I agree that using the feedback wouldn't help. But if you open up your amp and compare the parts to the ones inside the VAC you'll see they are quite different. When you're running zero feedback all that stuff can make a pretty audible difference. That was why I used the same parts and same tubes in my experiments. My experiment wasn't perfect by any means but I did try to reduce those variables.
 

findog

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Just recently built the Elekit 8600s with upgraded Lundahl 2785B transformers and the new Western Electric 300B tubes. It was my first kit and the instructions are well written and easy to follow. The amp is amazing. Exceeds all my expectations. I also have a 300w solid state amp from LampizatOr and have used Melody M845 mono amps in the past. The Elekit is maybe not their equal but hard to tell the difference in pure enjoyment. Highly recommended if you still want a 300B tube amp.
 

No Regrets

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After 5 years of intensive research, I’ve nearly completed my first bucket list analog+digital audio chains emphasizing linearity and neutrality hoping to land somewhere mid-fi - Constellation Inspiration Pre+Stereo electronics to a Magico A5.

In addition, I subsequently want to explore quality “tube” sound and it seems that the 300B amp is maybe one of the best tube sounds. So I’m targeting the Volti Rival 100db speakers (seems relatively uncolored vs other efficient speakers) and am considering the following 300B amps:
1.5 ELEKIT TU-8600S kit
2.5 Line Magnetic LM-210 IA 300B
4.0 STEREO TUBE AMPLIFIER INSPIRE by DENNIS HAD CLASS A 300B
6.0 Woo Audio WA5 300b
6.5 Coincident M300B Frankenstein MK III
and plan to hook it up to my Constellation Inspiration Pre.

I know other options include a tube preamp or a tube integrated.

For tube sound to this newbie, am I going in the right direction?
In my humble opinion, getting the best tube sound has much more to do with it than just simply choosing an amplifier with a certain type of output tube. I have a few different amplifiers... custom push pull EL 84's, single ended 300B's, and single ended 845's. I truly love them all!

The entire amplifier circuit, the type and quality of the power supply design, the quality of all of the transformers being used is more important to me than the type of output tube being used. Naturally, you also have to match the amplifier to your speakers and the rest of your system for synergy.

If I had to choose from just the amplifiers on the list you provided in your original post with the speakers you are considering, I would choose the Coincident M300B Frankenstein.

Wishing you all the very best!
Don
 

KPC

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Scored on a used excellent condition Coincident M300B Frankenstein mk2. The seller had a toddler so safety was a concern.

Thanks all for your input. Now I’ve got to save up for the flea watt 100dB Volti Rival speakers. Bummer, like many things nowadays they raised the entry price from $8k to $11k - not sure if parts were upgraded, the parts cost more, and/or the business needed to increase profit margin to justify the large increase.
 
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adrianywu

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I recently helped a friend choose a new sound system. At the end, we went to a dealer who specialises in tube equipment. We chose the Zu Definition IV since the design uses full range drivers without crossovers, with a horn loaded compression tweeter and a powered subwoofer. That means the tube amp does not have to worry about the bass, which gives a lot more flexibility. The dealer had literally two dozens of tube amps sitting there for us to switch back and forth. The speakers proved highly transparent to the characteristics of the amps. A PP amp using KT120 was out. The tone was far inferior to the amps using DHTs. We also tried an amp with PP 2A3s. The tone was much better, most obvious on string instruments and female voice. However, An Audio Note 300B SET integrated was best (at that price point). The sound was very dynamic, and there was no compromise with the bass. With such a system, you can get the best of both worlds; the tone, transparency and delicacy of SETs and the solid bass and dynamics of solid state amplification. I employ a similar strategy at home with 300B PP amps on the tweeter and mid horns, and a solid state amp for the 15" bass, using an electronic crossover.
 

charles1dad

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Hi KPC,
In my opinion you have made an excellent decision. I own 3 tube amplifiers , an el 34 (40 watts) and a 6550/KT 88(100 watts).The 8 watt Frankenstein mono blocks are the go to choice. Simply more natural sounding and a higher degree of tactile realism. Superior tone, timbre and harmonic overtones. It is more emotionally engaging than my other two tube amplifiers.

In summary it is just more pure and organic in presentation. Terrific bass texture, very nuanced and dynamic ebb and flow is splendid! Relatively speaking my other tube amplifiers although very good themselves sound mechanical if directly compared. With an appropriately chosen speaker the pairing with your Frankensteins will sing heavenly. You now own superb 300b mono blocks. BTW get the best 300b tubes you can afford as this amplifier will exploit the higher quality of them.
Charles
 
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Boomer Bill

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I am the happy owner of the Elekit 8600s and with a DIY 100db or so sensitive speaker (15" woofer/horn tweeter, photo attached) it sounds virtually identical to a Starke AD4-320 driving Magnepan LRS, (same room, speakers stacked) which is very good indeed. You should use efficient speakers with it, and good (not necessarioly expensinve) speakers. If you don't want to build the kit, I'll build it for you for $100 if you live in Southeern California. Put a Telefunken NOS tube in it. The improvent is striking.
 

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markgarm

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Hi KPC,
In my opinion you have made an excellent decision. I own 3 tube amplifiers , an el 34 (40 watts) and a 6550/KT 88(100 watts).The 8 watt Frankenstein mono blocks are the go to choice. Simply more natural sounding and a higher degree of tactile realism. Superior tone, timbre and harmonic overtones. It is more emotionally engaging than my other two tube amplifiers.

In summary it is just more pure and organic in presentation. Terrific bass texture, very nuanced and dynamic ebb and flow is splendid! Relatively speaking my other tube amplifiers although very good themselves sound mechanical if directly compared. With an appropriately chosen speaker the pairing with your Frankensteins will sing heavenly. You now own superb 300b mono blocks. BTW get the best 300b tubes you can afford as this amplifier will exploit the higher quality of them.
Charles
Hi Charles - can I get your opinion on something ? I have the latest PRE's bi-amped with Franks on top and Dragons on bottom .
Sounding good of course but I wish there was more authority , more bass . What do you think about me changing the Dragons for 300 watt tube monoblocks ? I just saw a 300 watt CJ online for sale .
 

markgarm

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Hi Charles - can I get your opinion on something ? I have the latest PRE's bi-amped with Franks on top and Dragons on bottom .
Sounding good of course but I wish there was more authority , more bass . What do you think about me changing the Dragons for 300 watt tube monoblocks ? I just saw a 300 watt CJ online for sale .
markgarm at gmail
 

Hear Here

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Hi Charles - can I get your opinion on something ? I have the latest PRE's bi-amped with Franks on top and Dragons on bottom .
Sounding good of course but I wish there was more authority , more bass . What do you think about me changing the Dragons for 300 watt tube monoblocks ? I just saw a 300 watt CJ online for sale .
My own relatively limited experience with low-powered SETs (300B and PX-25 based) is that they are sublime with small-scale music, but are a lttle out of their depth if you want masses of bass, or the "authority" I think you are looking for if playing big orchestral music, etc. I say that after using these amps with 102 dB horns over several years. Even the 6 watt PX-25 had plenty of power - just lacking in slam when needed. I'd go for a meatier tube such as 845 (18-28 watts) or the slightly lower-powered but similar 211.

PS - I like to think I've now grown out of tube amps and have very satisfactorily moved to Purifi Eigentakt Class D amplification. Give it a go - so much less trouble and you'll very probably listen to far more music.
 
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charles1dad

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Hi @markgarm
I'm very familiar with the Coincident Frankenstein 300b mono blocks and love them. However I have no experience with the 211 push-pull Dragon mono blocks (75 watts). It would seem logical that 4x the power 300 watts might serve you better driving the 12' dual woofers per channel. The problem is that I just do not know enough about the big CJ tube amplifiers to offer meaningful advice.

For example what's the current output capacity and damping factor of these amplifiers? Would solid state amplifiers driving the woofers be preferable for more bass "impact" or would they deteriorate continuity with the Frankensteins? You ask a good question I'm unable to answer.
Charles
 

adrianywu

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My own relatively limited experience with low-powered SETs (300B and PX-25 based) is that they are sublime with small-scale music, but are a lttle out of their depth if you want masses of bass, or the "authority" I think you are looking for if playing big orchestral music, etc. I say that after using these amps with 102 dB horns over several years. Even the 6 watt PX-25 had plenty of power - just lacking in slam when needed. I'd go for a meatier tube such as 845 (18-28 watts) or the slightly lower-powered but similar 211.

PS - I like to think I've now grown out of tube amps and have very satisfactorily moved to Purifi Eigentakt Class D amplification. Give it a go - so much less trouble and you'll very probably listen to far more music.
I had experimented extensively with different approaches to try and have the best of both worlds; the musicality of low powered DHTs but the "authority" of high powered amps. I found that push pull pentode amps are neither here nor there; they do not have the scale and speed of SS, and they do not have the tonality, purity and clarity of DHTs. I ended up with a triamped system using an analog crossover, with differential push-pull 300Bs on the high and mid horns, and a bipolar transistor amp at the bass (reflex cab with 15" field coil drivers). It is possible to get a seemless transition between the tube and SS amps using 4th order crossover.
 

godofwealth

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You would have to compare a PSET to a push pull amp for a fair comparison. I have done this with the very good VAC 30/30 and a JJ-322. Both have two 300bs per channel and both are Class A triode without feedback. The JJ is PSET and makes an honest 15 watts (seen the measurements in. Polish magazine) with 1% distortion (It has huge Double C core output trannies). The VAC is PP making around 30 watts and also has big trannies.

The result? On sensitive speakers (97db) the JJ was clearly superior in terms of tone and texture and bass was about equivalent...there was more inner resolution with the JJ as well. Dynamics were similar.

On normal sensitivity speakers the VAC was better with more grunt and better dynamics. That being said, the JJ was one of the weaker sounding SETs I have owned when played on normal speakers...other SETs, particularly Aries Cerat and KR Audio drive normal speakers effortlessly.

Another example recently was a friend of mine has a pair of 50 watt Nagra 845 PP monos. My 20 watt Ayon Spark SET sounds better on his Sonus Faber Olympica 2 speakers.
I recently bought the JJ 322 push pull 300B amplifier with 2 JJ 300B per channel. I’m using it with a Lampizator Pacific DAC that also uses direct heated triodes (300B, 242, 45, etc.). I run the Lampi direct into the JJ, and use the JJ ALPS potentiometer for gain. No preamp needed. My speakers are Quad 2905 electrostatics, not particularly efficient. I thought the JJ would not be powerful enough. I was pleasantly surprised by how powerful it sounds. Granted, I don’t listen at 100 dB, the Quads don’t do that anyway. In my listening chair 12 feet from the speakers, average listening level is more like 75dB. I find that plenty loud. It’s the very best sound from my Quads I have yet heard over many years.

I have a far more powerful Audio Research 210 tube monoblock amplifier that uses 8 KT120 tubes per channel and produces about 225 watts per channel. I vastly prefer the sound of the 20 watt JJ. I also have an ARC Reference 3 preamp. Both ARC pieces are now gathering dust since I got the JJ. I bought the JJ amplifier used for less than 2 grand with four new JJ 300B tubes.

My personal view is that the JJ 322 would be a steal at 20 grand, which is less than what ARC now charges for amplifiers comparable to the Ref 210. At 2 grand, it’s the best hi fi purchase I have made in 30 years. If you can find one, BUY it. You will be hard pressed to find a better amplifier. I have owned a vast amount of amplifiers, all the way from the 200 pound Krell 700cx behemoth to little Quicksilver tube amplifiers. The JJ’s are very special. You can get far more powerful amplifiers. But it’s the first 2-5 watts that count, and here you can’t beat the JJ. It’s a battle tank, weighing almost 100 pounds. It’s beautifully built. It has very low distortion as these type of amplifiers go (0.3% at 10 watts). It’s sound is to die for. That’s all there is to it. Nirvana. No, you can’t get rock concert volumes, not with the Quads. But I haven’t tried more efficient speakers.

DD9BB09A-FCE1-4D18-B6C1-E672F774B4BF.jpeg 05A16212-2291-471C-9267-9F46D9002295.jpeg
 

morricab

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I recently bought the JJ 322 push pull 300B amplifier with 2 JJ 300B per channel. I’m using it with a Lampizator Pacific DAC that also uses direct heated triodes (300B, 242, 45, etc.). I run the Lampi direct into the JJ, and use the JJ ALPS potentiometer for gain. No preamp needed. My speakers are Quad 2905 electrostatics, not particularly efficient. I thought the JJ would not be powerful enough. I was pleasantly surprised by how powerful it sounds. Granted, I don’t listen at 100 dB, the Quads don’t do that anyway. In my listening chair 12 feet from the speakers, average listening level is more like 75dB. I find that plenty loud. It’s the very best sound from my Quads I have yet heard over many years.

I have a far more powerful Audio Research 210 tube monoblock amplifier that uses 8 KT120 tubes per channel and produces about 225 watts per channel. I vastly prefer the sound of the 20 watt JJ. I also have an ARC Reference 3 preamp. Both ARC pieces are now gathering dust since I got the JJ. I bought the JJ amplifier used for less than 2 grand with four new JJ 300B tubes.

My personal view is that the JJ 322 would be a steal at 20 grand, which is less than what ARC now charges for amplifiers comparable to the Ref 210. At 2 grand, it’s the best hi fi purchase I have made in 30 years. If you can find one, BUY it. You will be hard pressed to find a better amplifier. I have owned a vast amount of amplifiers, all the way from the 200 pound Krell 700cx behemoth to little Quicksilver tube amplifiers. The JJ’s are very special. You can get far more powerful amplifiers. But it’s the first 2-5 watts that count, and here you can’t beat the JJ. It’s a battle tank, weighing almost 100 pounds. It’s beautifully built. It has very low distortion as these type of amplifiers go (0.3% at 10 watts). It’s sound is to die for. That’s all there is to it. Nirvana. No, you can’t get rock concert volumes, not with the Quads. But I haven’t tried more efficient speakers.

View attachment 93165 View attachment 93166
Just FYI, it is parallel SET not push pull. I agree it is a steal for that money…:D
 

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