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REVIEW SUMMARY: A ranking of 32 tube and tube/hybrid headphone amps  

post #1 of 482
Thread Starter 

I have been asked repeatedly to do this, and I have resisted so far, but I have decided to go ahead and rank all of the tube amps that I have either formally reviewed, or that I have owned for a long time but not formally reviewed.

Note that this is a HUGE range in prices, from $6,000 to $120!!!! And note also that I ACTUALLY RECOMMEND and like EVERY ONE of these amps – understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each. So in some ways this should be looked at more just as a list than a ranking, although I did put them in order of my preference. I should also point out that, IMO, the amps ranked from #5 on down are all VERY close in terms of sound quality. From 6 up, some significant jumps begin to occur.

By request, I have included the price to the best of my ability. Prices are all in USD, and do not include shipping unless indicated.

Note also that I have not included on this list amps that I heard only at a "meet". This is not a long enough exposure for a proper evaluation. So in spite of my having been very impressed with amps such as the RSA Raptor and B-52, and the Eddie Current Zana Deux, since I have only heard these at meets, I cannot include them on a list like this. All of the amps on this list I had on loan for a full review, or I actually bought and owned for some period of time.

I have posted a link to all of my reviews. I hope this is helpful in some way.

1. Leben CS300X (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/leben-cs-300x) - $3,500
2. RedWineAudio Isabella (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f113/r...ne-amp-368375/ ) - $4,500 without DAC

3. RedWineAudio "Audeze Edition" $3950 [NOTE: ranking is essentially derived only from use with LCD-2 headphones, and the RWA AE isn't really even a "tube hybrid" in some senses, although there is a tube directly in the signal path, so I included it here] (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/572939/review-red-wine-audio-audeze-edition-balanced-headphone-amplifier-dac-combo)

3. Apex Peak/Volcano (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/498865/apex-peak-and-volcano-loaner-program/15#post_7035840) $2,495

4. Decware Mini-Torii (no formal review - really only for low impedance/low sensitivity headphones like Planar/orthos) $1,495

4. WooAudio WA-22 (no formal review) $1,900

4. Trafomatic Experience Head One (no formal review) $1,500
5. Ray Samuels Audio Stealth (Short Review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/ray-samuels-audio-the-stealth/reviews#4252) - $2,495

5. WooAudio WA2 (Short review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/woo-audio-2/reviews#4253) - $1,050
5. Decware Zen Select CSP-2 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...ne-amp-338147/ ) $795 - better for high impedance headphones that WA6

6. WooAudio WA6 (no formal review) - $620 - better for low impedance headphones than CSP-2
6. Schiit Lyr $449 (no formal review) 6. Darkvoice 337 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...mpared-324469/ ) $750 including shipping from China
7. Bijou (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...ne-amp-286709/ ) - DIY, price varies
8. Bottlehead "Crack w/Speedball" (No formal review) - note that the Elekit will be better for low impedance headphones

8. Elekit TU882 $425 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...embled-434829/ )
9. Ming-Da MC-84C -07 (no formal review) - $415
10.AudioTailor Jade (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...lifier-389381/ ) - $345

11. Schiit Valhalla (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/schiit-valhalla/reviews#4251) $349
12. Transcendere Sweet-5 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...2/#post5358135) - $597
13. Yarland P100 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...p-pics-237394/ ) $495 - new 2009 model
14. J Sound Lab "Headphone" (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/products/j-sound-lab-headphone)- $399
15. SpaceTechLabs 6AS7G (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...mpared-324469/ ) - $790
16. Antique Sound Labs MG Head DT - $395
17.WooAudio 3+ (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...mpared-324469/ ) $495
17.Darkvoice 336SE - $299 shipped from China
18. Musical Paradise MP301 Mk 2 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/553325/review-musical-paradise-mp-301-mk2-vacuum-tube-integrated-amp#post_7460704) - currently $269
19.Head-Direct EF1 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...ne-amp-361841/ ) - currently $299
20. Musical Paradise MP301 - (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...er-amp-421314/ ) - $199
21.Eddie Current LunchBox II - $225
22.Qinpu A-3 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...eakers-401697/ ) - $240
23. HifiMan EF2 - $189 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6179650-post590.html)
24. TNS Sweet-2 - $220
25.Qinpu Q-2 (Review: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f5/rev...eakers-401697/ ) - $110


Edited by Skylab - 10/5/11 at 10:02am
post #2 of 482
Appreciated Skylab for your astonishing effort in this regard.
post #3 of 482
Thanks once again for all your excellent work. I've said it before and it's worth repeating: the efforts of you and a small handful of other Head-fi review-giants make this site the wonderful experience it is for so many of us other mutts.

Regarding this line-up of hybrid amps, where would you put the Little Dot 1+? Anywhere? Nowhere? With all the clamour that amp received a few months ago, I'm a bit surprised to not see it listed here especially with the Quinpu getting a look-in.

Thanks,
Don
post #4 of 482
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddoingwell View Post
Thanks once again for all your excellent work. I've said it before and it's worth repeating: the efforts of you and a small handful of other Head-fi review-giants make this site the wonderful experience it is for so many of us other mutts.

Regarding this line-up of hybrid amps, where would you put the Little Dot 1+? Anywhere? Nowhere? With all the clamour that amp received a few months ago, I'm a bit surprised to not see it listed here especially with the Quinpu getting a look-in.

Thanks,
Don
Thanks! I actually really wish I had ever heard any of the Little Dot amps, but I have not. Their absence from this list is a problem for sure, but I don't want to buy one just to review it, so I'm not sure that there will be a cure.
post #5 of 482
Awesome compendium and detailed as usual.

Very interesting to see where the PPX3 resides relative to the WooAudio 3+.

Thanks once again for your hard work saving countless people time and money not the mention making our hobby more enjoyable.

In Skylab We Trust.

Tom
post #6 of 482
Skylab I would love for you to review the Ming-Da MC-84C -07. I was skeptical about purchasing this, but I did after a glowing recommendation from you. You were absolutely right. I have about 100 hours burned in on this thing, and I'm very impressed so far. I would like to see if your impressions are similar to mine. Anyway thanks for recommending me this amp. There's not many people talking about this. So it maybe one of the best kept secrets on headfi. It can be had for as little as 350.00usd. Wow.
post #7 of 482
That's awsome, Rob! If only I could send you my LD MK VI to review.
post #8 of 482
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by moodyrn View Post
Skylab I would love for you to review the Ming-Da MC-84C -07. I was skeptical about purchasing this, but I did after a glowing recommendation from you. You were absolutely right. I have about 100 hours burned in on this thing, and I'm very impressed so far. I would like to see if your impressions are similar to mine. Anyway thanks for recommending me this amp. There's not many people talking about this. So it maybe one of the best kept secrets on headfi. It can be had for as little as 350.00usd. Wow.
Yep, the MC-84C 07 is a very nice amp. I played it with my AKG K340s for Ray Samuels at a meet, and even he was impressed . It does prefer high-impedance headphones, and good tubes for it are a little pricey, but with my all-Mullard tube complement, its an amazingly good amp.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil' Knight View Post
That's awsome, Rob! If only I could send you my LD MK VI to review.

Thanks! Yeah, "borrowing" tube amps is just risky business
post #9 of 482

LD cure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post
Thanks! I actually really wish I had ever heard any of the Little Dot amps, but I have not. Their absence from this list is a problem for sure, but I don't want to buy one just to review it, so I'm not sure that there will be a cure.
Maybe someone should just ASK LD to send a selection of amps to our good friend Rob. He seems like such a nice bloke...
post #10 of 482
The Red Wine is some serious stuff. The Red Wine Signature amp is one of the best K1000 amps.
post #11 of 482
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spareribs View Post
The Red Wine is some serious stuff. The Red Wine Signature amp is one of the best K1000 amps.

I really like the hybrid amps, even the inexpensive ones. When I saw the Red Wine at the top I was interested ....for about one minute until I saw the price. I didnt expect a $6000 price tag .... ouch. Sure looks nice though.
post #12 of 482
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sacd lover View Post
I really like the hybrid amps, even the inexpensive ones. When I saw the Red Wine at the top I was interested ....for about one minute until I saw the price. I didnt expect a $6000 price tag .... ouch. Sure looks nice though.
Yep, seriously good, and seriously expensive. Of course for that price you do get an awesome DAC as well.
post #13 of 482
You are missing the Zana Deux!
post #14 of 482
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbd2884 View Post
You are missing the Zana Deux!
Please re-read the first post - I added a note that relates to (among others) the Zana Deux.
post #15 of 482
Thanks for all the hard work you've put in Skylab! I really appreciate your effort.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › REVIEW SUMMARY: A ranking of 32 tube and tube/hybrid headphone amps