The heart of the system : AMPLIFIERS

Everybody is the music business knows that I trully am an amp freak.I have a HUGE collection of guitar amps, a personnal tech ( bless you Max ) to take care of them and a 6th sense of how a good tube amp should sound. I even made guitar amps from WWII morse emitters called the GI JOE.
For those who never came to my shop, here is a glance of my collection :

But I spent more time on guitar amps than on hifi amps. Because I always wanted tubes and hifi tube amps were very expensive in my teenage. Now, thanks to China, this is not the case anymore : you can have a full serious tube hifi amp for the price of a cable from hifi 'audiophile' magazines.


Let's start with my favourite amp, the one I use everyday ---1st picture on the top. When I got it secondhand from France, I immediately change all the tubes. My wonderful NOS Sylvania 5881, Siemens E83CC and Amperex 12AU7 , say the cream of my personnal collection of valves. Soon to find out that :

1- The wiring for the filaments of the preamp/drivers are really 6v and not 12.
2-The legendary US 5881 had weak bass.
3-The power tubes bias was not adjustable.

A beautiful NOS 6L6GA tube from May 1944 made for the US NAVY, venerable ancester of the GC.Could not stand the Yaqin virago voltage.

The problem with preamp tubes was solved quickly with some great help of Mr.Lampizator . I found out that Russian 6N2 on the front and Russian 6N1 back/drivers were perfect match. Those tubes from Russian army are great and cheap, even vintage OTK , which means 'ooh that kind'.

But power tubes let me puzzled : Chinese KT66 or Russian 6P3 gave much better bass results but always ended with one of the tube's anode starting glowing red. Which is bad isn't it ? I think this is because of the difference in AC between China and France. 220v in China but 230v at least here. And no bias adjusments. May drives the tubes hot.

The solution came from my experience in guitar amps : which 6L6 is always working with no complain and great tone in ANY amps ? The Sylvania 6L6 GC of course ! Legend says this tube was engineered to resist speaker vibration in a 100w combo ( The classic Fender Twin who else ?) head over heels. Legend also says that the first Peavey 5150 were stock fitted with this tubes and the amp stopped selling when they put something else in it, because Sylvania was not making audio tubes anymore.

I like legends in the guitar world, mostly because they are always true.


Not as detailed as the Yaqin, this is quite some back-up amp anyway. As always, I changed all the tubes : My rare SIEMENS EL34 with pointy flask I love, 2 x '50s Russian 6SN7 ( here again all my vintage US 6SN7 did not make the trick...I suspect different specs ) and a 6N1. I use it in the triode mode as Mr.Lampizator suggests, but nearly all the other mods were already performed at the factory. I think they read his webpage.

D-CLASS or T-class AMPS

Great new contender of the hifi amps, the D-Class based on TRIPATH chips are unbeatable price/quality ratio wise. But stock, they lack details in the trebles and punch in the low-end, at least to my ears. And , as very efficient, they have quite low power for usual hifi speaker.
I thought again of Heartley Peavey---maybe because I met him once at the NAMM show Guitar Player fiesta...--- who fitted his first tranny amps with LPB1 circuits to give'em more guts. So I throw in my MYKONOS preamp I made up for DAC buffer, and guess what :
once again guitar receipes worked out perfectly for hifi :

Now that 2x15w cheap tripath can drive my low db Magnat monitors with ease, sparkling trebles and huge bass response.
So good indeed that I fear using it with my fave speakers and it would outthrone my Yaqin.  
I have include a red switch to go from D-Class only to D-Class with mykonos for A/B trial. Which I went only once. Time lost.
All this in a tin metal biscuit box, drilled with an army knife. Blue led compliment of scavenged Chinese DACs.

This is my other T-class amp biscuit-box, this time with the uncanny TA2020 chip which has no cease to astonish me . This particular amp take more and more often the place of my beloved Yaqin , because of its incredible tone. Seems even BETTER than this great full tube amp . Here is a view inside :

Here coupled with a light version of my mykonos -- in the sense of weight, as it is simply floating here on the amp parts --,
the sheer power and the perfect tone of this 2 x 25 w amps is simply unbeatable. Works loud on any speakers, no matter what efficiency .
I wonder why more money would be spent for a hifi amp. Maybe for the aesthetics . Unbelievable bang for any bucks.

Here is the final version of my ta2020 amp : see details here .

CABASSE amp : French Germanium and symbols from a speaker big name

Here is my old CABASSE amp in its steel and chrome glory. Built like a tube amp but really transistors---some Germanium !. A nice overall sound but what I love the best are the symbols. Look at that ancient scale for balance ! ( In French it's the same word ). And great on/off switch , with lighting CABASSE.
On the top , this is my old Dual tuner and on the right corner the CV-40 amp, Mr.Lampizator cut-the-equalizer fave mod. Stock, my CV40 sounds like a 2euros AM radio .. maybe some problems or maybe it badly needs that mod. I'll come back to it one day.

REVOX amps : Serious sound savers

I think Revox amps are the only amps that could save a bad hifi rig, including real bad speakers. I remember a jeans shop that played music from some real cheapo speakers and sound was good. I was wondering how these horrible installation could achieve this . The answer was hidden under a pile of ugly tee-shirts : A revox stereo amp. I own two of them : this B750 mkII I use in my office everyday, for outputing my computer through a small Behringer usb dac in a glorious way. My other Revox is used in my home studio for monitoring :

It's an old A78 but with grey push buttons. They usually are silver. A real great amp for precise monitoring. And I love its wooden box. Pairs perfectly with my old KOSS headphone when I want a journey back in the '70s.

Bang & Olufsen tube amp from 1968

My beloved B&O is the only one I ever saw powered by real tubes. Wooden box too. I just adore its equalizer display made out of a plastic wire taking physically the shape of the EQ you choose. It bends with a system of pulleys with the treble and bass setting. A must-see.
Great, great sounding amp. With a nice Danish crown on the forehead. And modern cinch plugs too.

Philips FA454 : the CD150 companion with a HITACHI touch

I love this amp mostly because it fully matches the classic CD150 , making a complete line with its slaved tuner. It is quite a complex circuitry , featuring class G , a 1976 invention from Hitachi. From what I understood , this was made to rise the efficency of the amp by mixing one class B with several class C amps , thus implying complicated DC power. I wonder if it sounds good....ought to try it seriously one day.

NYTECH : English nonsense goes benchmark

At least not the usual aesthetics. I remember their 1st amp looking even weirder , like a desktop calculator. This amp is great for testing all sorts of experiences : very reliable and good, neutral sounding. DIN plugs, while annoying, are a plus for testing old European stuff the way they were meant to be. Next to it you can see the later CYRUS brand FM receiver, but I think it's the same people behind.

Another PHILIPS : the tangerine dream FR150

Great sounding amp with plenty'o'power , inboard receiver and dynamic headroom power instead of plain 'volume'. I wonder what that means but they don't go cheesy names very often so let them have fun this time.


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