Help me choose an amplifier
I am currently offering four different amplifiers. If you need help choosing, below are some considerations based on what you may be looking for.
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 amplifiers, but this isn't required. If your speakers are below 90 dB SPL or you prefer to listen to music very loudly, then I would recommend either the AE1 or AE1-C, which are capable of higher output power. The Legendarium or Exordium can be fine with lower sensitivity speakers, but just know that they will have lower output power. None of these amplifiers should be considered "party" amplifiers or used outdoors to try and rock the neighborhood! I may introduce some push-pull designs later that go up to 10 or 20W, but a single-ended amplifier is generally suited for lower power output and therefore ideally matched with efficient speakers.
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 or Legendarium are my premium products. If you'd 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 Single-Ended Triode (SET)
Are you specifically looking for a classic design with a directly heated triode tube?
All 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.)
Compact size and affordability
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.
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. It's 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: