• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

Advice for a beginner please..

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Hi, I am looking for some advice please - having read through some posts on here and other forums I have decided I would like to try and get a tube amp which will give me reasonable sound without costing too much. I am currently trawling through some of the electronics theory, alot of which is going straight over my head at the moment but I don't think is beyond my capabilities. I am thinking that it might help me visualise it better if I can actually get my hands on an amp and have it physically in front of me. The options I am looking at are

Buy a cheap chinease amp and modify / upgrade it over time. A couple I have seen are
MENG "X3 EL34" Integrated Amplifier - EL34 Tube Amp @ on9mart.com
MINI L3 EL34 x 4 Push Pull Tube Integrater Amplifier ch on eBay (end time 08-Dec-10 07:59:01 GMT)

I have seen mixed reviews on these amps and am unsure if this route would end up being more trouble than it is worth for a beginner.

Other options would be
Separo se88i valve amplifier, KT88, integrated, single ended, valve amplifier
Icon Audio Leicester UK (Products Stereo 25)

The icon audio is top of budget at £600 and they are doing a deal at the moment to upgrade the tubes to KT88s for no extra. As I understand it the above 2 amps are chinease amps that have already been modified and sold on. Do these represent good value for money? Would I gain more and end up with a better amp if I bought a cheap chinease amp and used the leftover money to upgrade it myself?

The amp would be used in my study which is 3m x 3m so I wouldn't need much power. The input to the amp would mainly be from a PC and recording equipment and possibly direct from an IPOD.

Thanks for taking the time to read this - any advice / ideas / opinions would be greatly appreciated.

I started that way and think it is a good plan. I have Sophia Electric EL-34 push pull amp that works great and although not cosmetically great could be spruced up with a little effort.
I listened to it for a while, then worked out the operating parameters and schematic so I could rebuild it point to point and with upgrades and modifications when I realized I had all the components to build one from scratch. So now it sit unused.
It is actually a quite nice amp using 6u8 to el-34 in pentode. It originally sold for about $1500 new, but it I hard to find much information on, that is why I worked out the schematic myself, plus it was an excellent exercise. It is the big sister to the "Sophia Baby" amp you see for sale occasionally.
Anyway, I have been wanting to sell it for $400, if you have any interest.
Email me and I could discuss it further, that way you could see if it really would work for you or not.
Regards- Josh
I bought a separo se88i about 4 months ago and I am very happy with it. The chaps at hifi and audio are very helpful and honest. I have my amp connected to a pair of klipsch RB61 speakers and I am using an 18 year old rotel rcd965bxle. The sound as standard is very good indeed. But if you up grade to muse and mundorf SIO coupling caps with some nos valves the sound goes from being very good to imho amazing. I also uprated the power caps just for the fun of it. Here is the up grade list not including the 3 power caps... Gold lion KT88 matched pair (modern), telefunken ribbed plate 12AX7 and matched pair of RFT 12AU7 (very detailed valve not as warm as a mullard nos). Nichicon muse 470uf/50v caps one pair. One pair of Mundorf silver foil in oil caps 0.47uf/1200v they do not make 0.47/630v. A pair of mills resistors (optional), I think they were 47r 12w. I hunted about on ebay for the valves and got the caps from hificollective. With all the upgrades (caps, resistors and valves), you would probably end up with over £100 still in your pocket. If you do get the separo it might be an idea to get an APC line-R 600 or 1200 and set it to 220v. Don't get me wrong, the separo runs fine on 230/240v but the voltage in the UK can be as high as 250v in some areas and that is not good for the amp. It also protects your amp from any power surges. I tried my amp on 240v setting and it was fine but it runs cooler on 220v.
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