Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?

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S Clark

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Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« on: 17 Jun 2018, 10:20 pm »
There really isn't a good place to put a discussion of small to mid size amps, but they work so well with many of Danny's designs I decided to put it here. 
There are lots of designs for amps that are bigger than flea amps, but not in the behemoth class.  From 6QB5 tube versions to various chip amps,  what do you use and what do you like about them?  Is the 8-20 watt range a sweet spot for musicality with a bit of muscle?
I've got several Eico and Dodd 6qb5 amps, and Jeremy's 7297 chip amp that check a lot of boxes for me.  What are the others?  What do they do well?

Tyson

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #1 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:10 pm »
I find Danny's approach of relatively high efficiency, simple crossovers and easy loads really allows tube amps to shine.  So much so, that I've got a 2 watt 45 SET amp in my system right now and I realize that I just don't need the 42 watts that my VTA ST70 Octal provides (as awesome as it is, I'll probably end up selling it). 

For SS amps, I find that the pure class A First Watt amps are very good, if you can DIY at all they are almost unbeatable. 

FullRangeMan

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Angaria

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #5 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:48 pm »
Try an OTL.  Bass will actually make you think it's SS.  Transcendent has a few in that wattage range.
https://www.transcendentsound.com/products-.html

S Clark

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #6 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:49 pm »

For SS amps, I find that the pure class A First Watt amps are very good, if you can DIY at all they are almost unbeatable.
Tyson, didn't you write that you liked the Folsom as much or more than the First Watt? Am I remembering that wrong?

Gustavo, have you heard the amp you cited?

Greyhound, Can you say more?  At quadriple the price of a Dodd or 15X the price of the Folsom, what does it do better? 

S Clark

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #7 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:54 pm »
I find the little Dodd 6qb5 amps throw a monster sound stage.  The Folsom amps have detail in spades with no fatigue-- really amazing amounts of detail.  They also have excellent bass control. 

ohenry

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #8 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:55 pm »
Don't forget the AVA Ultravalve.  It has solid state bass and nice highs.  Plenty of power and a beautiful build.  Tone Audio did a nice review that sums up what I hear, except he can express it much better than I can.

https://avahifi.com/collections/tube-power-amplifiers/products/ultravalve-vacuum-tube-amplifier

S Clark

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #9 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:57 pm »
We are throwing out a lot of amps, but little discussion of them.  What do you like about them?  What did they replace and how are they better?

Tyson

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #10 on: 17 Jun 2018, 11:58 pm »
Tyson, didn't you write that you liked the Folsom as much or more than the First Watt? Am I remembering that wrong?

Gustavo, have you heard the amp you cited?

Greyhound, Can you say more?  At quadriple the price of a Dodd or 15X the price of the Folsom, what does it do better? 

I did try out the Folsom out, and it was very impressive sounding and I gave a sort of "hot take" of how it sounded.  After listening to it a bit longer, I actually down rated it quite a bit (it was hyper detailed but very in-your-face sounding).  Overall the First Watt F5 I had at the time ended up sounding better (a lot better) to me, and then when I built the First Watt Burning Amp 3 (BA3), well it spanked BOTH the Folsom AND the F5.  I've heard several other First Watt designs, they are all quite good in their various ways.  But for my tastes the BA3 is the home-run product of the FW amps.

Tyson

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #11 on: 18 Jun 2018, 12:10 am »
I'll say a little more - Danny's designs are deceptive.  You think that they are built to a budget, and thus will err on the side of 'musical' and that is not actually the case.

His designs (regardless of price) are all pretty much dead on neutral and highly transparent.  They sound good with budget gear, but scale up extraordinarily well with more refined amps and front end electronics.  Which is why they mate so amazingly well with good tube gear. Because of their easy load, neutral but lively sound, and incredible transparency, you hear everything. 

His designs are NOT analytical sounding, but they aren't warm sounding either (IME).  Which means a nice little class D amp can sound very good.  But it will still be bested by quality tubes or quality class A SS amps. 

Part of that is personal taste, too.  I've never heard a class D amp I've liked better than even a moderately good SS amp, and of course you know that I'm a big time tube lover so even the best SS isn't as good as moderately good tubes IMO.  The problem with tubes is that they just don't sound good on difficult to drive speakers.  And that's why I am such a fan of Danny's designs, they allow you to hear with a good tube amp is actually capable of. 

S Clark

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #12 on: 18 Jun 2018, 12:11 am »
I did try out the Folsom out, and it was very impressive sounding and I gave a sort of "hot take" of how it sounded.  After listening to it a bit longer, I actually down rated it quite a bit (it was hyper detailed but very in-your-face sounding).  Overall the First Watt F5 I had at the time ended up sounding better (a lot better) to me, and then when I built the First Watt Burning Amp 3 (BA3), well it spanked BOTH the Folsom AND the F5.  I've heard several other First Watt designs, they are all quite good in their various ways.  But for my tastes the BA3 is the home-run product of the FW amps.
I could see how the Folsom could be called "in your face" due to the high detail.  There is a reason I use my larger Dodd (6L6GC amp) in the cooler months, but was having a hard time describing why I was partial to it.  It's more a difference in style than one being flawed compared to the other. 
I should also say that my Folsom is not exactly stock.  Jeremy did some modifications that make some differences. 
« Last Edit: 18 Jun 2018, 02:15 am by S Clark »

FullRangeMan

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #13 on: 18 Jun 2018, 12:15 am »
Not heard this amp, but 5W will demand a very efficient speaker.

Tyson

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #14 on: 18 Jun 2018, 12:15 am »
I could see how the Folsom could be called "in your face" due to the high detail.  There is a reason I use my larger Dodd (6L6GC amp) in the cooler months, but was having a hard time describing why I was partial to it.  It's more a difference in style than one being flawed compared to the other. 

Yes, the Folsom does that - everything is pushed forward, toward you.  It's an exciting sound.  But one that I found fatiguing over time (and also annoying because I've come to love depth in the soundstage).  If I listened to mainly rock, the Folsom might be a great little amp.  But for me, the much greater level of refinement, tonal balance, depth, etc...  all make the First Watt amps just better.  Of course they are also HOT and probably not great for a home in the summer if cooling is an issue :)

ohenry

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #15 on: 18 Jun 2018, 01:09 am »
We are throwing out a lot of amps, but little discussion of them.  What do you like about them?  What did they replace and how are they better?

Regarding the Ultravalve, it didn't replace anything, it was just another addition and is the most powerful tube amp I've owned.  Unless your speakers are in the mid-90's and easily driven, the flea watt stuff is cool, but dynamics and bass suffer.  I love Eddie Vaughn's Carina and a big fan of EL84s (especially the '58-'59 Amperex "d" getters) if you have an application for it.

Check out the Tone review to see if the AVA could be of interest.  Also, AVA lowered the price from $1999 to $1599.

http://www.tonepublications.com/review/ava-ultravalve-vacuum-tube-amplifier/

Oscillate

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #16 on: 18 Jun 2018, 02:08 am »
Tyson

I've owned Aleph J and F5 clones ...'really liked the F5.
Wondering if you've heard an F6 or F7 and how they sound
compared to others in the First Watt family?

S Clark

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Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #17 on: 18 Jun 2018, 02:14 am »
OHenry--  Absolutely.  Speakers have to be a match.  A 15 watt amp can do great things on a 92 dB efficient speaker and be completely inadequate on a 88 dB one.   My Dodd 6qb5 amps are great on a pair of X-Statics, but are insufficient on a pair of N2x.  My LS9's need hundreds of watts.  My old Altec Valencias and need only a couple of flea sized watts.  Every set of speakers I own work best with a different amp--- or so I tell my wife  :D.   

Folsom

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #18 on: 18 Jun 2018, 02:54 am »
Yes, the Folsom does that - everything is pushed forward, toward you.  It's an exciting sound.  But one that I found fatiguing over time (and also annoying because I've come to love depth in the soundstage).  If I listened to mainly rock, the Folsom might be a great little amp.  But for me, the much greater level of refinement, tonal balance, depth, etc...  all make the First Watt amps just better.  Of course they are also HOT and probably not great for a home in the summer if cooling is an issue :)

It's really interesting to see how the 7297 changes from setup to setup. Danny Richie thinks my version is too laid back in the higher frequencies. And some people have preferred it more than the F5, or as just different (all like it more than the ACA). I've actually come to realize how useful it is at diagnosing a system because it simply is not immune to problems up the line, or with the speaker/room/diffraction. The one area it's pretty good at is noise from the AC. So it has merit in the regard of how it shows you a lot, but might make you work a little bit more to tune things in.

Overall at times it can certainly be a bit more forward, but I think it's more realistic that way. I wish you would have heard it after the mod with the binding posts. There have been a few improvements.

R_burke

Re: Small-ish Amps- Quality vs Quantity? 8-25 watts?
« Reply #19 on: 18 Jun 2018, 02:58 am »
I use Manley Mahi mono blocks with my OB-5s.  They run 14 - 41W depending upon how you configure them.  Ultralinear or Triode and 3 different feedback configurations.  I personally have them set Triode with minimum feedback and this gets me 14W which is plenty for the OB-5s.