Tube amplifiers are held in high regard by many audiophiles because of the euphonic distortions and flavors they add to the music. These effects are so subtle that only hi-fi enthusiasts are able to discern. If you’re wanting to get the best possible tone out of your hi-fi system, you’re going to want to find the absolute best tube amplifier (to go along with one of your outdoor stereo receivers), and this is exactly what this article will help you do, so you should definitely stick around.
What Are Tube Amplifiers
Simply put, tube amplifiers are models that utilize vacuum tubes or valves in order to amplify the electric signals that musical instruments send when plugged into them. Such electric signals are produced by pickups, in the case of guitars. Then, they make their way through the preamp and power tubes of the amplifier before eventually being released as sound through speakers.
How to Choose a Tube Amplifier
Before selecting a tube amplifier, there are a few factors that you must take into consideration if you wish to ensure the most value for your money. Let’s discuss these factors very briefly.
Tone is everything when in the market for a tube amplifier. You can’t just buy an amplifier based on the input of others, no matter how valuable the input is. Tone is completely subjective and is a matter of personal preference. What one person deems as an excellent tone might not appeal to you. It’s important that you listen to different tube amplifiers in person before formulating your opinion so that you end up with a model that you really like.
Will you be using your amplifier mainly at home, gigging bars, or large venues? Do you want an amp that breaks up at lower volumes or do you prefer high headroom? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself when trying to select a tube amp based on wattage. Keep in mind that tube amplifiers sound their best when pushed a little.
You can have an amplifier that boasts very high wattage, but if you can’t crank the volume up for whatever reason, like not wanting to disturb the neighbors, you’ll never get to witness the amp’s true potential. Per contra, if you have an amp with fairly low wattage, you’ll be able to play it at lower volumes and witness its potential because the tubes will be pushed to clipping a lot easier.
Different power tubes flaunt different sound profiles due to dissimilar characteristics. 6L6 tubes, for example, flaunt remarkable roundness and clarity, whereas EL34 tubes are known for their excellent lows and midrange. Robust tubes such as the 6550 or the KT88 are proficient when it comes to producing an ultra-clean sound that’s reinforced by low-end frequencies. If you’re into smoothness and harmonic distortion, opt for an EL84 or a 6V6 tube.
Just because an amp is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better than lower-priced counterparts. It all boils to your personal preference in tone, once again. You can play a pretty expensive amplifier and not like its tone. Per contra, you may find a wallet-friendly amp that’s perfect for your tonal requirements. You must also keep in mind that some amplifiers are only expensive because famous musicians use them.
5 Best High-End Tube Amps in 2020
Tube amplifiers come in a variety of shapes and sizes with different specifications, which is why trying to pinpoint your ideal amp can be quite overwhelming. To simplify your selection process, we’ve managed to narrow down your options to just 5 quality amps that are sure to impress.
1. Muzishare X7
The Muzishare X7 is one of the most versatile tube amplifiers available today. It can be used for a wide range of music genres, whereas other competitors are designed for certain genres only. It can be linked to a preamp signal input, and with the aid of the phono function, you can easily connect it to your phono player. Like the X5, point-to-point hand welding is used for this amp.
The X7 comes with a host of accessories that you’ll surely appreciate, from the infrared remote control and tube protective cover to the interconnect table and detailed instruction manual. Also, the device flaunts an impressive 45W output, which means that it can withstand being pushed to extremes. This, however, doesn’t mean that it’s louder than a solid-state unit of the same rating.
The amplifier uses a Z11 core toroidal power transformer, which grants it a few advantages over conventional transformers. First of all, it’s significantly lightweight, which is a result of the toroid (doughnut) shape and not cost-cutting. In addition, it’s perfect for delicate electronic systems, as it flaunts low-radiated electromagnetic fields. All in all, it’s a very well-rounded tube amplifier.
Richard said, “The amp arrived in flawless condition with the tubes properly installed, and boy does it sound fantastic. I really like this amp!”
Victor said, “While still in the break-in process, I’m very impressed with the packaging, finish, and presentation. This one is quite the looker.”
The downside to buying this amplifier is that it truly embodies the term ‘high-end’ in the sense that it’s quite expensive. It certainly delivers an excellent bang for the buck, though.
This second entry from BoyuuRange displays seriously impressive push-pull hi-fi amplification capabilities. The amp has a single-to-noise ratio of 88dB, thanks to it having an input sensitivity of 550mV and an output power of 2x35W. As far as the tubes, it’s equipped with a single 5Z4P, 4x EL348, and 3x 6N1J. It flaunts an excellent frequency response range of 19Hz-43kHz.
Considering its frequency response range, the MT-34 MKII offers a maximum output voltage of 16.5V. The harmonic distortion of this amplifier is also quite impressive at under 0.2%, so you’re guaranteed great fidelity. The BoyuuRange MT-34 MKII also comes with its very own tube cage for your convenience. Last but definitely not least, it’s backed by a 1-year limited warranty.
Amanda said, “The sheer weight of this amplifier is remarkable. The construction doesn’t suffer from any cost-cutting on the materials whatsoever. It’s very aesthetically pleasing as well.”
Catherine said, “This thing is fantastic right out of the box. It’s under-priced for the sound quality it delivers if you ask me.
The drawback to using the MT-34 MKII is that you need a very efficient set of speakers. Ideally, you want to have a set of speakers with a 90+mV sensitivity.
The Willsenton R8 is yet another remarkable integrated/power amplifier that doubles as an amp for headphones as well. This amplifier can be used with tube EL34, 6650, or KT88 without any problems. It’s entirely handmade via point-to-point welding, just like the Muzishare X5. It flaunts a square power transformer that’s designed specifically for its construction. Pretty big deal!
You can switch between ultra-linear and triode modes with the Willsenton R8. For power supply filtering, the voltage amplification utilizes a 6SN7. Moreover, two pairs of 6SL7 and 6SN7 tubes are utilized by the voltage amplification and push stages. As far as the rear stage, it relies on 4 KT88/6550/EL34 tubes to deliver single-ended power amplification belonging to Class AB.
The amplifier’s output transformer makes use of 2 wideband EI output transformers for optimal performance. Also, it comes with a full-featured remote control that utilizes infrared technology. The amp can easily be connected to independent preamp signal input, as it offers a post-level function. The tubes on this amplifier can easily be replaced, opening a wide door of possibilities.
Corey said, “Without having heard a single note yet, I realized I own a beautiful piece of audio jewelry. And after hearing what this amp has to offer, I’m completely blown away.”
Kurt said, “After only a few hours of playing the R8, it opened up very nicely with an excellent image and sound stage.”
Once again, this is an amplifier that comes at a pretty steep price tag, but there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best tube amplifiers on the market today.
Looking for a tube amplifier that’s optimal for bass? Look no further, as the BoyuuRange A50 MKIII has everything you need and more. Most people believe that solid-state amplifiers are better in terms of bass reproducing than tube amps of similar sizes, but this isn’t true. As soon as you give the A50 MKIII a listen, you’ll realize just how remarkable it is for bass reproduction.
This amp utilizes output transformer potting techniques to ensure stability and reliability. Also, it flaunts a double-chassis design with a steel thickness of up to 2.4mm, so this is basically a tank of an amplifier. To add, it vaunts high-grade aluminum CNC machining as well as anodic surface treatment. This might actually be the best 300B amplifier available on the market today.
Josh said, “After a few days of using this amplifier, the only thing I could say is that I just can’t stop listening to it.”
Eule said, “Very well packaged, clear instructions, and impressive sound quality. Well worth the asking price.”
When you first try this amp, you’ll notice a slight over-focus on midrange frequencies, but it will be reduced the more you use the amplifier.
5. Muzishare X5
Equipped with the Superior Z line of caps from Jantzen Audio as well as caps from Nichicon KX, Vishay BC, and ELNA Silmic II, the Muzishare X5 delivers one of the smoothest performances you can get. This tube amplifier is entirely handmade with the aid of point-to-point hand welding techniques. It houses 2 high-quality EI output transformers that ensure superb sound quality.
Bias adjustment on this amplifier is extremely easy and you won’t require a multimeter. The unit produces an impressive host of sweet sound flavors, courtesy of tube rolling. It can be used as a tube headphone amplifier, as it features a built-in 6.35mm headphone output. No matter how power-hungry your headphones are, this amplifier flaunts enough juice to drive them.
This amp comes with an aluminum remote control and a protective cover for your convenience. You have the ability to switch between triode and ultra-linear modes to enjoy different sound signatures based on the genre of music you’re listening to. Further, the device flaunts 4 inputs, so you connect several sources at once. Lastly, it’s backed by a 1-year warranty from QA.
Eric said, “I have this amplifier for over 15 months now and I never had any problems with it.”
Matthew said, “The amp is nothing short of superb. It requires some getting used to, though.”
Like most Muzishare amplifiers, the only negative that’s shrouding the X7 is its price tag. It’s a lot of money, but the amp does an excellent job of compensating in terms of value.
There you have, musicians and hi-fi enthusiasts, the absolute best high-end tube amplifiers on the market today. If we were to crown a winner, we’d opt for the Muzishare X7, as it’s the most well-rounded and versatile of the pack.
If you’re looking for an amp that’s a bit more cost-effective, it doesn’t really get any better than the BoyuuRange MT-34 MKII. It offers exceptional sound quality and features a sturdy, visually appealing construction
Hopefully, the information shared in this article has helped you pinpoint the ideal tube amp for your needs. Feel free to let us know which of the above-mentioned tube amplifiers you think is the best.