Help me choose an amplifier

I am currently offering several different amplifiers. If you need help choosing, below is a summary of information and some considerations based on what you may be looking for.

Exordium

Best for:

DIY kit builders who want to get started with a trusted quality tube amp at an affordable price                                                            

Type:  Single Ended

Output Tubes:  EL84

Power Output:  4W

Frequency Response: 40 Hz - 20 kHz

THD @1W:  1.8%

DIY Kit Option:  Yes

Fully Assembled Option:  No

Speaker Sensitivity: 

>90dB SPL suggested

Speaker Impedance: 

8 ohms 

Price:  $799

AE1

Best for:

DIY kit builders who want a great value single-ended amp with a mix of quality components, output power, and style                         

Type:  Single Ended

Output Tubes:  EL34

Power Output:  7W

Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

THD @1W:  0.5%

DIY Kit Option:  Yes

Fully Assembled Option:  No

Speaker Sensitivity: 

>90dB SPL suggested

Speaker Impedance: 

8 ohms 

Price:  $999

AE1-C

Best for:

Anyone who wants an excellent quality single-ended tube amp with plenty of output power and unique mid-century modern style

Type:  Single Ended

Output Tubes:  EL34

Power Output:  7W

Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

THD @1W:  0.5%

DIY Kit Option:  Yes

Fully Assembled Option:  Yes

Speaker Sensitivity: 

>90dB SPL suggested

Speaker Impedance: 

4 ohms or 8 ohms

Price:  $1499 assembled, $1299 kit

Legendarium

Best for:

Enthusiasts who want a classic single-ended triode (SET) and don’t need much power output                        

Type:  Single Ended

Output Tubes:  2A3

Power Output:  3.5W

Frequency Response: 25 Hz - 20 kHz

THD @1W:  1%

DIY Kit Option:  Yes

Fully Assembled Option:  Yes

Speaker Sensitivity: 

>90dB SPL suggested

Speaker Impedance: 

4 ohms or 8 ohms 

Price:  $1699 assembled, $1499 kit

Requiem

Best for:

Discerning listeners who need higher power output and prefer minimal sound coloration, multiple source inputs                 

Type:  Push-Pull

Output Tubes:  6L6GC

Power Output:  20W

Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

THD @1W:  0.1%

DIY Kit Option:  No

Fully Assembled Option:  Yes

Speaker Sensitivity: 

Any

Speaker Impedance: 

4 and 8 ohm taps (16 optional)

Price:  $2499

DIY Kits versus fully assembled amps

Are you looking to build an amp or have one made for you?

You can see I offer both DIY kits and fully assembled amplifiers, but not in all options. The Requiem is a push-pull amplifier and I am not presently offering this as a kit because it's a bit more complex to build and I offer it as a very high quality fully-assembled option only. The Exordium and AE1 are intended just as DIY kits. And the AE1-C and Legendarium are offered either as a kit or assembled. If you are a DIY builder with some basic soldering skills looking to enjoy the process of building your own amplifier, then one of my kits may be perfect for you. But if you prefer someone else to build you a very high quality, hand-crafted amplifier, then the AE1-C, Legendarium or Requiem will be your choices. Please note that I do not suggest you choose a DIY kit just to save money. You should choose a kit if you truly enjoy spending the time building and learning!

Output power

How sensitive are your speakers and how loud do you like to listen to music? 

Speaker sensitivity is usually measured in dB SPL. Highly efficient speakers take very little power to produce a loud listening volume, which allows you to use an amplifier with lower power. I generally recommend speakers above 90 dB SPL for any of my single-ended amplifiers which have lower output power, but this isn't required. If your speakers are below 90 dB SPL or you prefer to listen to music loudly, then I would recommend the AE1, AE1-C or Reqiuem, which are capable of higher output power. The Legendarium or Exordium can  still be fine with lower sensitivity speakers, but just know that they will have lower output power and limits to their listening volume. If you prefer the most power possible because of your listening preferences or speaker sensitivity, then I offer the Requiem which is a push-pull amplifier with a maximum 20W per channel. None of these amplifiers should be considered "party" amplifiers or used outdoors to try and rock the neighborhood! 

Component Quality and Price

All of my amplifiers are high quality. Some use elevated component selection and finish details.

First, I want to be clear that I select only high quality components for my amplifiers, so you can trust they are well-made and do not use poor quality no-name brand parts. As with anything, there is a cost to using components that are either higher quality or have size and performance attributes that make them more costly--things like transformers with a wider frequency bandwidth at low levels of harmonic distortion, or premium grade coupling capacitors since these are in the signal path and should be the best possible. And then there are some finish quality choices, like the type of volume knob, speaker binding posts, or the paint and finish of the chassis. I do not price any of my amplifiers to make a huge profit, but I do need to price them based on the costs of the components they include and the time and effort I put into making them. For some people, cost may not be much of an obstacle, and for others it may be more of a consideration. For those who are looking for the best of quality and have less concern for the price, the AE1-C, Legendarium and Requiem are my premium products and are also the only products I offer fully assembled. If you are a DIY builder and would rather save a bit more toward a good pair of speakers or a pre-amp and turntable, then the AE1 or Exordium could be great options.  

Preference for a classic Single-Ended Triode (SET)

Are you specifically looking for a design with a directly heated triode tube?

Several of my regularly offered amps are single-ended designs. The Legendarium is a bit more special, as a directly heated triode (DHT) using the 2A3 tube. Other common DHTs you may hear about are the 300B or the 45. I find the 2A3 to be a tube that is easy to find and reasonable in price for high quality triode output. It is a classic vacuum tube invented in the earlier part of the 20th century for high fidelity audio and makes an outstanding amplifier with a pure and simple circuit design. If you are looking specifically for a SET amplifier like this, one that is tube-rectified and using no negative feedback, then the Legendarium is for you. (My other amplifiers use pentode output tubes wired in ultralinear mode with negative feedback to balance optimal output power with lowest possible total harmonic distortion. However, they can also be wired in triode mode if preferred, as a special order request.) Be aware that the Legendarium uses an AC filament power supply, and requires some adjustment to neutralize hum. 

Preference for colored versus transparent sound

How much "tube sound" do you want?

This is the most difficult criteria because it has some subjective nature to it. Tube amplification has natural harmonic distortion due to the non-linearity in how the tube amplifies the signal. Some would argue this is the source of "tube sound" which is sometimes described as natural, authentic, warm, full, rich, smooth or more colored than a solid-state amplifier. All of my amplifiers use proven, classic circuit designs and components to give you high quality and authentic tube amplification, with excellent sound characteristics like sound stage, detail, and frequency response. If you want the most natural tube behavior possible, then the Legendarium as a classic single-ended triode (SET) will give you the most authentic tube sound. On the other end of the spectrum, the Requiem is a push-pull design that provides high fidelity tube amplification with very low harmonic distortion and the most transparent sound. The Exordium, AE1 and AE1-C are somewhere in the middle of these. If you aren't sure, but you know you want to explore tube amplifiers, then I recommend the AE1 or AE1-C. 

Compact size and affordable DIY options

Are you looking to give tube audio a try, but have some size or cost limitations?

I designed my Exordium amp as the perfect gateway into tube audio--it's relatively small in physical size and is as affordable as I could make it without compromising on quality sound. Of course, like anything fun and with depth to explore, this hobby can be a slippery slope! I built my first amplifier many years ago out of curiosity and passion for hifi audio, and now I am exploring all sorts of circuit designs and different types of tubes. It's a lot of fun. But if you're just a bit curious and don't want to make a bigger commitment just yet, give the Exordium a try. The AE1 is a step up with higher power and component quality, but still very reasonable.

Still can't decide?

It's cool. Read some more FAQs. Send me an e-mail. I'm always here to help.

If they all sound good, that's great. You can just chill and think about it for a while, or maybe it will come down to which one has the visual style that you like best!

 

Also check out the FAQs through the link below, that may answer some other questions you have. Part of the fun for me is getting to know people like you, so I'm always happy to hear a bit about you and what you are thinking about. I may not always be able to answer right away, but I do take pride in giving good service and helping people out. I run this business purely for pleasure. I have another job that pays for my kids' braces, Oliver's dog food and my crazy audio and maker obsessions. So this isn't your typical business that is too busy to reply to you or just wants to make a hard sell. I just want to have fun and share my learning and creativity with others.

If you really want me to just make a recommendation of which amplifier to buy, I would recommend the AE1 as a kit or the AE1-C as a fully assembled amp. This is the first amp I started selling and is a great mix of high quality tube sound, uses readily available tubes, and has good power, but with pretty reasonable component costs. I use the AE1 in my own living room every day! (Of course, I also have two or three other tube amps always around in various parts of my house too!)

Read other Frequently Asked Questions about owning a tube amplifier: