I need help describing the sound of a SET to a friend in English.

I am trying to help a gentleman in this forum and I have the feeling that my English is getting on the way.

How would you describe the sound coming out of a SET?

Thank you!


I guess I was somewhere in the range...

"the music coming out of a SET is liquid yet it preserves dynamics, definition and darkness ( I do not know if this is how you describe the empty space between the notes) but the single most thing I like is that you can close your eyes and have the same experience as one would in a symphony hall....

Don't expect the power and dare to say heaviness of other and more powerful amplifiers, but because that lack of power I feel that they reproduce music like anything else, delicate in the sense that they preserve and reproduce music true to life."...

"organic" is really good.


Also, if your friend is so inclined...


Listening to Kepa Junkera Urraza recordings through a decent SET based system is mind blowing.



My impression of SET is one has to hear to understand.  Not optimistic it's possible to understand before one hears.

1930's table radio technology! I have four of them! Best used with speakers rated for 100db @1 watt. That means something like an Altec VOTT/A7 or the slightly smaller A5.

Music comes out of a speaker, not an amplifier. If an SET is properly mated to a great speaker (high efficiency, high impedance), then you will have great music.

It’s like cozying up next to a warm fireplace on a brisk evening. It’s intimate, present, seductive, and memorable. 

SET amps focus on current and the first watt. The tubes add the glow and bloom to the music, and rectification and quality transformers add the push and sag to make it very involving and also softer and more pleasing to the ears.

How can "the sound of a SET" be best described sans system context and the execution/implementation/design of the SET components within that system?

Let your friend listen to a system with SET amplification and come to his/her own conclusions in comparison with his/her prior references.

A real experience versus a cognitive exercise.


@dekay  Listening to 'K' by Kepa Junkera Urraza right now. Thanks for the recommendation. I spent a few months in Basque country. It's bringing back memories!

I once listened for an afternoon to two of the very expensive SET amplifiers made by Audio Note, original Kondo designs from Japan, not the UK imitations.  One was the Ongaku (around $70,000) the other was a Kegon (more than $100K) up- and downstream components were exactly the same, same program material too. (Speakers were also very expensive Audio Note, made for these amplifiers to drive.)  Both amplifiers sounded very good, but they were also very noticeably different sounding, one vs the other.  I concluded from this demo that the best (or these most expensive) SET amplifiers represent a purchase that one must make with the consciousness that you are buying colorations that you had better like. So, you are not doing your friend a service to just recommend an SET amplifier unless you are intimately familiar with what he likes and that his speakers are suitable.  Into the wrong speaker, any SET will sound like crap.

One of my single-end amps is the Golden Tube SE40. It uses three 6L6 beam tetrodes in parallel per channel. About 24 watts per channel. Rather a heavyweight among single-end tube amps! A lot more useful than the typical 2A3/300B amps! Plus the paralleled output stage gives it a much lower output impedance and consequently better damping/bass control. Am I the only one here that owns one? Production ended in the 90's.

@lewm I was telling @emrofsemanon that if I had to sell all my audio gear, except I could keep 2 systems one would be the TechDas AF1 premium with the Etsuro Gold, the CH Precision P1 in mono phonostage, Ongaku with the Avantgrade Duo Primo XD or Acapella Poseidon. 

I did tell him many times that he has to listen, because he needs to know what he is getting into and that SET is not for everyone. 

I hear a lot about Decware, and I listened a couple in Spain from a colleague with their little horn speaker and when he told me the entire system was under e$3000 I was astonished for how good they sound. 

@emrofsemanon's question got my attention and I am thinking of getting a system from them despite the wait. Is there another USA manufacturer I should try to study and listen?

Thank you


If you’re asking me, I have my own audio passions, convictions, and biases, and they don’t include SET-based systems. Although I do respect the concepts, I am not knowledgeable when it comes to the current market.


Three words come to mind.

"Presence" and "air" = not only the enhanced sense that the performer(s) are there right in front of you, but also a sense of the space around them.

"Bloom" = getting the timbre and the harmonics especially right, making more a richness to the sound.

This is based on ownership of Dennis Had-era Cary 300B.

- not only the enhanced sense that the performer(s) are there right in front of you, but also a sense of the space around them.

- getting the timbre and the harmonics especially right, making more a richness to the sound.

All of the above is not "unique" to SET amps.

And this is coming from someone who has embraced tubes as well as SETs.



@jasonbourne52 Hi Jason, how do you like the Golden Tube SE40? I have one too... although it needs a complete rebuild - it's essentially transformers and chassis only.

So far I have heard one account of this interesting SE amplifier: someone brought one to an Audio note dealership, thinking about exchanging it to an AN 300B amp. They plugged it into the full-AN system and it just floored the AN SET! Worked out the other way than expected, even the dealer was speechless.... it made me curious because of the power tube choice  - the 6L6, my favorite family of tubes. Vastly underrated, especially as a choice for single ended.

Cheers, Janos


SET aficionados tend to look down on SETs that (1) use many output tubes in parallel and/or (2) use triode connected pentodes or tetrodes. The Golden Tube amp is guilty on both counts.