What’s the world’s best 2 watt amplifier?

je2a3

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I've been dabbling in low powered amplifiers for some time. My first foray was a type 45 based amp (allegedly built by Burgess). I played it on a set of Coral 8" full range drivers mounted in a cabinet using a passive 8" radiator made by Coral. It worked Ok but I felt I could do better.

I have a theory that most people running lower powered amps have not compared them directly to other amps on a level playing field. What I mean by this is that if you have an SET, where is the push-pull version of it that uses the same power tubes and similar construction? Or, where is the push-pull amp that makes the same power? Most of the comparisons I've seen are against amps of quite a lot more power! So I figured to eliminate that as a variable, as well as the type of tube, since most SETs use DHTs while the PP amp it gets compared to is often an indirectly heated pentode based design, probably using feedback and operating class AB. Apples and oranges.

I don't know if this an acceptable apples vs. apples comparison.

I built this pair of Class A PP2A3 mono block amps with a Mullard style driver stage sans global feedback + Peerless 16309 OPTs in the early 90s.


Encouraged by reading Sound Practices, I built this no NFB cascaded 6SN7 > SE2A3 > Tango U808 OPTs. It's essentially half of the PP2A3 amp in terms of topology and power output. I remember the 10 kHz square wave looking similar in both amps. That's as far as I got in terms of testing since I'm not an engineer.

Being a classical musician, my ears chose the SE2A3 because it reminded me more of what I hear in a concert hall. Soon my pair of Spendor LS3/5As were replaced by more efficient Altec 755Cs. I also unloaded the PP2A3 mono blocks to finance higher quality Tamura and Tango SE OPTs.

Twenty five years later, I'm still listening to SE amps ranging from 720mW > 8 watts per channel.
 
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charles1dad

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@je2a3


“Being a classical musician, my ears chose the SE2A3 because it reminded me more of what I hear in a concert hall. Soon my pair of Spendor LS3/5As were replaced by more efficient Altec 755Cs. I also unloaded the PP2A3 mono blocks to finance higher quality Tamura and Tango SE OPTs.

Twenty five years later, I'm still listening to SE amps ranging from 720mW > 8 watts per channel”

I 100% understand your preference why it is so.
Charles
 
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godofwealth

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Here’s a nice write up of Destination Audio’s design philosophy.


What I find remarkable is the passion these designers bring to their work. Also striking how most market audio rags (Stereophile, TAS etc.) ignore these products.
 

godofwealth

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@je2a3


“Being a classical musician, my ears chose the SE2A3 because it reminded me more of what I hear in a concert hall. Soon my pair of Spendor LS3/5As were replaced by more efficient Altec 755Cs. I also unloaded the PP2A3 mono blocks to finance higher quality Tamura and Tango SE OPTs.

Twenty five years later, I'm still listening to SE amps ranging from 720mW > 8 watts per channel”

I 100% understand your preference why it is so.
Charles
Lucky you! For me, SETs are a recent discovery. I have much to explore in this fascinating corner of the audio world.
 
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Adagio

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I Will join the crowd that states Firs Watt as a reasonable substitute for low power tubes. I’ve used Cary amp, JJ 2A3-40 monoblocks, I’ve tried many others but then I bought a DIY return of zen as a “reserve” since tubes started to get hard to get during the Corona. It sounded so dam good that I became curious about Nelson’s more recently developed designs. I had the opportunity to try both the SIT-3 and F7 at the same time with my Avantgarde Uno fino edition XD.
all the amps sounded really good. I ended up with buying a F7. Because it didn’t had anything “sticking out” it sounded most homogeneous and relaxing of the bunch. Relaxing as in getting the feeling of my shoulders dropping down and I’m not trying to listen to specific things in the music just allows me to sink in and absorbing the music.
Every time I swapped to the F7 I got the feeling and thinking, this I what I want. The other amps shined at different things and almost shouted to me “ listen here, listen how good I am at this particular thing” there was a sort of “glare” that I often hear with 300B that sounded a lot like tubes with the SIT-3 although seductive I preferred the F7 in the long run. Somewhat glad to have escaped the tubes with the constant worries about different brands and tube rolling. So first watt is a very good choice
 
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godofwealth

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Interesting. From Pass’ description of the F7, he states that:

‘The F7 is a very unique power amplifier, a two-stage push-pull JFET/MOSFET
topology with fewer parts than any First Watt amplifier to date and incorporating a very interesting balance of very low negative voltage feedback and a little bit of positive current feedback to give an astonishing measure of control over reactive loudspeaker loads.”

I wonder if it’s the positive feedback structure that explains why you like it so much. I haven’t heard the F7.
 
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bonzo75

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Compare of TM 45 and destination 45 two years ago. DA 45 are excellent.

there was also a Sun Audio 801 there. While not as good the other two in terms of nuance and sophistication, it was surprising how good and satisfying it was for less than 2k used.

 
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bonzo75

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It's never too late. The triodes are still around albeit at higher admission prices. But it can be off set by getting into DIY and acquiring high quality output transformers.

yes but then the hobby will move to rolling transformers and debating which is higher quality. It’s a money pit either way
 

VinylSavor

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yes but then the hobby will move to rolling transformers and debating which is higher quality. It’s a money pit either way
Doesn't have to be. It only becomes a money pit if you can't suppress that urge to roll tubes and parts etc. Most of that rolling is turning in circles anyways. A good circuit topology comes first, that trumps all, without that no need to spend much money on tubes or parts. next is decent parts quality that is within the budget. And the last is tubes (I should not say that as a tube manufacturer). Then just enjoy and stop thinking about improvements. There are still plenty dirt cheap tubes out there which can get you top sound quality. Of course if you want the best in the world then don't complain about the cost. When I started my business I had a pair of single ended mono blocks in my offering for 2000 Euros the pair. Way too good sounding for the price, but nobody wanted it.
 

bonzo75

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Doesn't have to be. It only becomes a money pit if you can't suppress that urge to roll tubes and parts etc. Most of that rolling is turning in circles anyways. A good circuit topology comes first, that trumps all, without that no need to spend much money on tubes or parts. next is decent parts quality that is within the budget. And the last is tubes (I should not say that as a tube manufacturer). Then just enjoy and stop thinking about improvements. There are still plenty dirt cheap tubes out there which can get you top sound quality. Of course if you want the best in the world then don't complain about the cost. When I started my business I had a pair of single ended mono blocks in my offering for 2000 Euros the pair. Way too good sounding for the price, but nobody wanted it.

that never works Thomas there is not a single point in the chain that audiophiles don’t roll. They all find ways to swap in their budget and their chosen field of play, whether it be cables, cartridges, tubes or transformers, etc

even with circuits, there are some differing philosophies, and so unless the circuit philosophy/quality of parts/tube balance is somewhat clear, a person who starts in this will only get deeper
 

VinylSavor

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that never works Thomas there is not a single point in the chain that audiophiles don’t roll. They all find ways to swap in their budget and their chosen field of play, whether it be cables, cartridges, tubes or transformers, etc

even with circuits, there are some differing philosophies, and so unless the circuit philosophy/quality of parts/tube balance is somewhat clear, a person who starts in this will only get deeper
It does work, maybe not for you or the common audiophile. In fact most of my customers came to me because they were tired of swapping gear and wanted to settle for a stable system. I would say 90% of my customers do not roll tubes and just listen.

Yes there are different philosophies. And I understand if audiophiles want to play and tinker, but from my own experience I can say they mostly turn in circles. But then : I would not call myself an audiophile ;-)
 

je2a3

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yes but then the hobby will move to rolling transformers and debating which is higher quality. It’s a money pit either way
I agree with everything Thomas @VinylSavor said.

DIY has taught me to that operating points in circuits influence sound a lot more than rolling tubes, caps, etc. So when I want to sample the "tone of a vacuum tube" I look for a circuit and whip out the soldering iron.

If I may add, my NLA Tamura F7002 and Tango NY15S OPTs acquired in the 90s are worth a lot more now. But if I sell them I have nothing to listen to, so it isn't really a financial gain. :)
 

charles1dad

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You are definitely on point. The merry go round chase, rabbit hole explorations and general angst are self induced and avoidable: This is a mindset phenomenon and issue.
Charles
 

bonzo75

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I agree with everything Thomas @VinylSavor said.

DIY has taught me to that operating points in circuits influence sound a lot more than rolling tubes, caps, etc. So when I want to sample the "tone of a vacuum tube" I look for a circuit and whip out the soldering iron.

If I may add, my NLA Tamura F7002 and Tango NY15S OPTs acquired in the 90s are worth a lot more now. But if I sell them I have nothing to listen to, so it isn't really a financial gain. :)

sure, so you rolled these things during your DIY experiments. How else would you know the difference in Tamura and tango etc models
 

bonzo75

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It does work, maybe not for you or the common audiophile. In fact most of my customers came to me because they were tired of swapping gear and wanted to settle for a stable system. I would say 90% of my customers do not roll tubes and just listen.

Yes there are different philosophies. And I understand if audiophiles want to play and tinker, but from my own experience I can say they mostly turn in circles. But then : I would not call myself an audiophile ;-)

I wouldn’t say that. I know customers of your product who moved on, and not at all for sonic reasons. Changing gear is part of the hobby. Even in your products, I am sure the 45s were great, yet GB is now on 300b. Let’s watch this space two years later.
 

bonzo75

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VinylSavor

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I wouldn’t say that. I know customers of your product who moved on, and not at all for sonic reasons.
As I wrote about 90%. So of course there are others and some who swap out my gear. That is all ok for me and I cannot build stuff to suit every possible need or taste
 

VinylSavor

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sure, so you rolled these things during your DIY experiments. How else would you know the difference in Tamura and tango etc models
I do not know the difference between all those models. There are simply too many Tango models and Tamura models etc. There is no general Tango sound or Tamura sound as some might think. Tango made some of the best transformers but also some quite poor ones. Lundahl makes more budget priced transformers but for certain applications they make the best ones. Audiophiles are too much about brand names. And tube sounds.
 

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