First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P

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jhr1986

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I've never owned a tube amp, I don't think I've ever even heard one but I've known for years that I have to try one.

My budget is in the $1500ish dollar range and the two I've found are the AVA Ultravalve and the Jolida/Black Ice 3502P.

I'm not looking for an integrated, just a two channel amp that will let me learn about that "tube sound".

The reviews I've seen of the Ultravalve seem very positive and I know the maker has a forum here.  One thing I really like about the Jolida is the XLR inputs but I can't find any reviews for the thing.

Has anyone here experienced both or at least the Jolida and would like to comment on it?

FullRangeMan

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #1 on: 9 Dec 2020, 09:00 am »
XLR inputs on a tube amp are not the rule,  tube amp circuit dont need balaced inputs, some time they are cosmétics, hence they need a small transformer tô work properly.

jhr1986

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #2 on: 10 Dec 2020, 01:08 am »
Thank you for the info.  Obviously I'm a neophyte on the subject of tube amps. 

Not that I doubt you, I'm just the type that likes to understand the hows and whys - can you explain why tube amps don't benefit from balanced inputs?

Any thoughts from others on the two amps in question?

rotarius

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #3 on: 10 Dec 2020, 03:58 am »
I have the 3502P and use it off and on since 2017.  It has the factory upgraded caps.  It sounds great.  I have only compared it to the Primaluna Prologue and is a definite step up particularly in the bass region. Unfortunately, it is not as robust due to board mounted tube sockets. I had to send it in for a board swap.  Excellent service and a very reasonable price.  They told me it was likely a broken trace, I did roll a lot of tubes after all. 
I am sure the AVA amp is a good one if you can get away with lower wattage.

rotarius

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #4 on: 10 Dec 2020, 04:02 am »
One more thing, those xlr inputs are not truly balanced, it's single ended only.

RDavidson

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #5 on: 10 Dec 2020, 04:38 am »
Get the UltraValve. It is a classic design, rooted in one of the most renowned classic tube amps, the Dynaco ST70. To top it off, the UltraValve is made in the US by an established and reputable manufacturer. If anything goes wrong, you know you'll be taken care of. To me, having that peace of mind is a major factor in many of my audio purchases.

dB Cooper

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #6 on: 10 Dec 2020, 06:09 am »
Ultravalve all the way- assuming they are a good fit with your speakers and listening practices (Speaker sensitivity/room size/SPL requirements). Frank will give you good advice about that- as close as your phone. Good luck getting this level of support from practically anybody else. That alone would be of more value than pointless single ended XLR inputs that are there mainly for appearance's sake.

/mp

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #7 on: 10 Dec 2020, 03:30 pm »
The OP doesn't include if used is acceptable, what speakers he uses or the room in which they operate. This necessitates generalized recommendations.  Design & execution makes as much difference as SS vs. tube IMO. As always, YMMV.

Happy listening,

RDavidson

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #8 on: 10 Dec 2020, 04:16 pm »
That alone would be of more value than pointless single ended XLR inputs that are there mainly for appearance's sake.

It was a bit of a technical awakening for me several years ago when I learned that the implementation of XLR inputs/outputs did not mean that the circuit in an audio device was balanced. Thus the use of the XLR in/outs was of limited usefulness in those cases. Along those lines, I also learned that a full system has to be completely balanced to benefit from balanced connections at all. The more you know!  :wink:

dB Cooper

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #9 on: 10 Dec 2020, 05:17 pm »
The OP doesn't include if used is acceptable, what speakers he uses or the room in which they operate. This necessitates generalized recommendations.  Design & execution makes as much difference as SS vs. tube IMO. As always, YMMV.

Happy listening,

Good points. If you have 89dB speakers, a medium sized room, and listen at moderate volumes, you don't need what you need if you want to blast 85-86 dB speakers in a bigger space. In the first scenario the Ultravalve will blow your mind; in the second, maybe not.  jhr1986, can you give us some more info?

Also, are you wanting to go 100% tube or are you open to a hybrid amp? Tube watts aren't cheap and there are many good hybrid options (including from AVA) which may be more practical for the higher-power-needed scenarios.

mick wolfe

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #10 on: 10 Dec 2020, 05:47 pm »
As mentioned by /mp, without knowing the speaker being used, (unless I missed it) it's hard to recommend either.  Now if the speaker is around 90 db efficient with a stable impedance curve that hangs out above 4 ohms....I'd opt for the UltraValve provided the room is relatively normal sized. Single ended outputs are just fine in this scenario.

whell

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #11 on: 10 Dec 2020, 06:51 pm »
Its generally a safe bet that if you're trying to decide between and AVA - made amplifier and anything else, all else being equal, pick the AVA amp.  Can't go wrong.

jhr1986

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #12 on: 10 Dec 2020, 07:00 pm »
It was a bit of a technical awakening for me several years ago when I learned that the implementation of XLR inputs/outputs did not mean that the circuit in an audio device was balanced. Thus the use of the XLR in/outs was of limited usefulness in those cases. Along those lines, I also learned that a full system has to be completely balanced to benefit from balanced connections at all. The more you know!  :wink:

I'm just now beginning to learn this with the help of this thread  :lol:

Obviously if the internal circuits of the amp itself aren't balanced then I could see how balanced inputs do nothing.  Signal path would be Digital source (CD/Streamer) connected via SPDIF to DAC > DAC to preamp via XLR > preamp to amp via XLR.  I assumed that if the amp had balanced inputs that they would provide a benefit but as I'm finding out that may not be the case. 

I've not used balanced cables before but in the course of upgrading my system I wanted to buy components with balanced inputs/outputs (and I guess just as importantly, balanced circuitry) with the goal of having the lowest noise floor possible with those components.


For those asking for more details on the system/room - either of the amps should provide (more than) sufficient power.  The listening room is 20' x 12' and half of it is open to another room that is ~200 sq ft and 9' ceilings all around.  Speakers are >90db efficiency;  if the NIOSH SPL meter app on my iphone is to be believed most of my listening happens at 90db or less.  Impedance is rated at 8ohms, and according to measurements I've seen from others, stays at or above 4ohms. 

I would be willing to buy used also.

jhr1986

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #13 on: 10 Dec 2020, 07:21 pm »
Also, are you wanting to go 100% tube or are you open to a hybrid amp? Tube watts aren't cheap and there are many good hybrid options (including from AVA) which may be more practical for the higher-power-needed scenarios.

I missed this in my post above.  I would prefer to go 100% tube.  I have an all SS stereo right now and would like to add a tube preamp and amp so that I can play around with 100% analog sound vs 100% SS sound vs various combos of the above.

dB Cooper

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #14 on: 10 Dec 2020, 08:16 pm »
90dB is good, the open to the adjoining room sort of cancels that out.

mick wolfe

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #15 on: 10 Dec 2020, 10:36 pm »
That's a lot of cubic feet to fill with a 35 watt amp unless you just happen to have Klipsch Cornwall's or similar hidden away somewhere. With the speaker in question, (whatever it is?) it would be safer to move up to a 100 watt tube amp. This based on room + adjoining room total volume.....if I'm reading correctly.

FullRangeMan

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #16 on: 10 Dec 2020, 11:10 pm »
Thank you for the info.  Obviously I'm a neophyte on the subject of tube amps. 

Not that I doubt you, I'm just the type that likes to understand the hows and whys - can you explain why tube amps don't benefit from balanced inputs?

Any thoughts from others on the two amps in question?
We are all bozos in this bus   :thumb:
Iam with a cell phone this night  só cant search good.  The short answer could be tube circuits amplify just the positive polê, the negative polê are commom.
« Last Edit: 11 Dec 2020, 03:34 am by FullRangeMan »

opnly bafld

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #17 on: 10 Dec 2020, 11:23 pm »
I was satisfied with 85dB speakers (ATC) and a 22 watt triode push pull amp (LM) sitting 6-8' from the speakers in very similar size rooms.

Edit: Just realized that I currently have 90dB speakers (Snell) and 40 watt mono tube amps (QS), no problems.  :D

RDavidson

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Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #18 on: 10 Dec 2020, 11:47 pm »
Sometimes chasing lowest noise via a balanced system is a misnomer and just adds cost and complexity. If you don't live in a high noise environment with a lot RFI and EMI, then a balanced setup is not likely needed. Most of the time when people chase lowest noise (in a home audio application) it is because their speakers are very highly sensitive, like 100db +. In those cases, even the slightest hiss can be distracting. A balanced setup makes no guarantees of fixing the problem either.

On a side note, there are some amps that perform better with balanced connections because they are designed to do so. Some class D amps come to mind.

Side note 2, DACs with XLR outputs are likely balanced, but perhaps not always.

dB Cooper

Re: First tube amp - AVA Ultravalve or Jolida/Black Ice 3502P
« Reply #19 on: 11 Dec 2020, 12:25 am »
We are all bozos in this bus   :thumb:

Completely off topic but thanks for the Firesign Theatre reference, always fun to meet another Bozo on the funway