My first tube integrated: which one to get?

Hello Audiogoners. I have had only Solid State equipment for my entire life. Recently, I have been considering a purchase of an integrated tube unit. My budget is around $4.000 USD. I have been looking at two units in particular: Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III and the Cary Audio SLI-100. I’m having trouble deciding on which one to purchase. I was hoping the Audiogon community could advise me as to which one to get.

My current system consist of a pair of Emotiva XPA-100 mono blocks, Parasound P6 and a Music Hall 9.3 TT with an Goldring Erotica LX cart. My speakers are Focal Aria 926. I have a smallish room, 11’7” (3.56m) x 15’7” (4.78m). I should also note that I’m planning on getting a DAC after my integrated amp purchase.

Both tube units I’m considering provide 100 watts/channel in Ultralinear but the Rogue Audio is switchable to triode mode at 60watts/channel. The Rogue unit is of a KT120 configuration whereas the Cary unit is a KT150 design. The Rogue has an onboard MM/MC phono stage albeit solid state. The Cary has no phone stage therefore I’ll need to get some sort of step-up phono stage from my MC cart. The Cary unit, normally a $6,000 plus system is on sale for $3700. The Rogue unit is $3400. I listen to manly rock from the 60s to current and some classical. However, I have been enjoying my friends jazz collection he gave me, inspiring my to seek out more contemporary jazz recordings.

My question are:

Should I even consider this purchase?

Will I experience the upgraded tube-quality sound I’m hoping for?

Should I consider instead a tube-based preamp to go with my 250watts into 8 ohms mono blocks?

If you recommend the pre-amp path, what sorts of things should I be paying attention to?

How important is it to have the ability to switch to triode mode? I understand that acoustic jazz sounds much better in triode mode?

Is there anything else that I should be considering with this possible purchase?

I should also say that I don’t mind used if I can achieve a bigger bang for my buck. Buying either the Rogue or the Cary new provides me with a generous 3-year warranty.

There you have it. I look forward to your input. Thank you all in advance for your help.


My question are:

Should I even consider this purchase?

I do not know the “pair of Emotiva XPA-100 mono blocks” … but maybe a tube pre is also an approach?

Since you have a small room check out the tube based Soundstage Expander from Black Ice audio.


I've been around stereo gear since the components only had one channel and they called it called hi-fi.  I was there before transistors, as well. In any case, maybe I'm now truly deaf & over the hill but I just can't help but think of my Primaluna Integrated as my hifi end game. Not terribly expensive. Sound as lovely and involving as anything I've owned. Conservatively engineered. True, I'd hear a passel of better systems when I'd go to hi-fi shows and haunt hi-end L.A. audio stores. But for the past few years I'd rather just listen to my .mountain of records & CDs, and my various streaming sites.

Seeing as you have mono blocks, I’d suggest you look at getting a tube.preamp. You can get the best of both worlds. The tube sound without the heat from the output tubes. I have a pair of tube amps, each have 4 output tubes and they’ heat up the 15’x15’ room they’re in in a couple of hours.

Also, preamp tubes can last 10,000 hours and KT 120’s maybe 2000.

First, I think what you are thinking is a very good idea.

I took me some forty plus years to finally get a tube amp. I, so wish I had done it decades ago. I first got a tubed preamp about 30 years ago, then tubed preamp, tubed CD player, and finally amp a few years ago. My system, all tubed now is so much more enjoyable than anything I had in the past it is just shocking… see my systems.

So, you ask a lot of good questions.

I would go for the Rogue. Forget about the watts. My Audio Research Ref 160 offers ultra linear 140 wpc or 70 wpc in triode mode. While when I first got the amp I was shocked at how there seemed no difference in volume or weight between the two modes. But the triode mode seemed a bit warmer more natural, so that is what I used. The other day for some reason I found my system sounded sterile and not nearly as involving as usual. It was technically really good, detailed… but really missing something. I realized I had unplugged the mono-blocks… which defaulted them back to ultra linear mode… I flipped them back into triode mode… just heaven. The real warm enticing sound came back… cymbals sounding like brass, deep silent background, the incredibly musical experience.

Triode mode with tubes… magic.

100 wpc is far from the sweet spot for tube amps.  Your speakers do not match well with tubes.  Buy the DAC first.

1) You should definitely consider the purchase because the only way to know if tubes are for you is to try them in your system.

2) Upgraded tube-quality sound? Only your ears can tell you that.

3) A tube preamp is a great option if you're otherwise happy with your Emotivas.

4) A tube preamp should have an output impedance at least 10X lower than the input impedance of your Emotivas. Otherwise, you just need enough inputs (including built in phono if you want it) to hook up all your sources. I'm a fan of the 6SN7, but there are great preamps that use other tubes too.

5) Triode/ultralinear switching is nice, but my experience is as long as triode mode has enough power for my speakers I prefer it with all types of music, so I rarely switch. I've had the Willsenton R8 in my second system for about a year now and after the initial experimentation I've left it in triode 100% of the time with my Caintuck Lii 15s.

The Rogue and Cary units are good choices and fit well given the rest of your system; $3.5K for preamp alone might be overkill.

New DAC is a whole 'nother discussion. I'm 95% vinyl, so my Schiit Bifrost is more than enough.

Hello armstrod, thank you for your repsonse. I'm curious, did you purchase your Willsenton R8 through Amazon or did you buy it direct from China?

Hello carlsbad, thank you for your response. I didn't mention it in my original post because I wanted to keep it short, but I'm also considering a speaker change as well. My Focal 926s are a bit too much speaker for my small room. If I were to make the change, and given the size of my room, which speakers would be a good fit for a tube INT? I need a speaker that extends in the high frequencies. My aged ears need all the help they can get. I was thinking of a ribbon tweeter stand mount or maybe a pair of Scansonic 2.5 MB1?

Given your response to carlsbad, I would consider the change to speakers and a tube integrated. 

I would lookup Fritz Speakers. Give him a call and discuss your situation and sonic preferences. His speakers are easy to drive and are very tube amp friendly, No need for a high powered tube amplifier. 


I owned the Cronus Magnum II for several years and absolutely loved the sound.  The CM III is an absolute no brainer for you, your room and speakers.  Expect dynamic punchy bass, clear refined midrange and a large atmospheric sound stage.  The KT120 power tubes are tough to beat.  

A good tube preamp is a good first step, but if you really want to experience all of what tubes can do, it’s best to go with a full tube amp as well. Within reason, the number watts is less critical to me than the quality. Triode is the way to go IMHO.

One of the benefits of tubes is that you can roll tubes to fine tune the sound to your tastes and system.

FWIW, I’m running a pair of KT66 outputs on a pair of Dyna/VTA 70s running as monoblocks. It’s only 10-12 watts per side in triode, but sounds pretty amazing. Also, FWIW the Convergent Audio amps are the absolute best I know of, and use KT120s.

If you’re gonna possibly change speakers soon I’d highly recommend at least identifying what they’d be so you can choose an amp that can drive them properly.  FWIW.

I second the recommendation for Fritz speakers. The go exceedingly well with tube amplification. The Fritz Carrera BE has a beautiful beryllium tweeter that IMO is a match made in heaven for tube amps. Quicksilver integrated amp gets my vote. 

Sonner Legato Unum with matching stand. Built for Tube and Class A amplification, though work well with my GaN and other Class D stuff also.

Fritz speakers are very nice also. 




I bought my R8 used so the answer is neither, but I've dealt with China HiFi as I needed a replacement remote and they were very responsive, as was their US repair facility.



Yup, Quicksilver Integrated. Ideal for a small room and speakers of reasonably high sensitivity such as your Focal 926's. Worked great with my Focal 906's.

Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III and the Cary Audio SLI-100. 

I'd go Rogue but the Cary is a fine amp also.

I'll 3rd the QS INT. there one for sale used for like 1500 bucks. And theres a CMIII for like 2500 get em both. Then you'll have several different flavors to try.

I agree a tube pre is a great starting point. In my experience, I get better sound when pairing tube amplifiers with tube preamp’s, but many like to mix tube and SS. I have a preference for vintage - Marantz 8B, Citation II, etc. Whichever route you go, explore tube equipment because it’s magical. 

Tsakiridis Aoelos Ultra

i love mine to power my Nola Boxer 2s. 
Uses k150s, mundolf caps. 



I have an SLI-100 and have been very happy.  I do have a large room, but I can't imagine that amp not playing as well as possible given the room acoustics.  I have driven 3 different sets of speakers with them and they were great with all of them.  Currently driving Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G.


I was just on the Decware site and i was impressed, simple yet beautiful and reasonably priced tube amps, (some mods available). Then you have the Willsenton R8 AND the Willsenton R800.. I have the R8 and have changed the tubes to Mullard EL34’s, Sylvanias 6SL7’s and 6SN7’s all on a comment from a gal who noted she had purchased both amps and further commented the R8 beat out her Uniti Atom. And, she went on to say, "if the tubes were changed as noted above it could be an end game amp for some." That was a bold statement. I purchased the R8 soon after and changed the tubes, i now can safely say that amp is not going anywhere. Although i recently went out and snatched up a Kinky Studio and changed the op amps to Staccato. This is no joke, I actually forget i am listening to a solid state amp, I s--t you not. So now i have "two" loves....

Latest iteration of a Decware Amp..


Your speakers will work fine with a tube amp, especially the Cronus. I have M-180 monoblocks from Rogue paired with a set of Focal Kanta No.2s and when in triode mode I am only pumping 75wpc into them and they sound sublime. I can't speak to the Cary but I am familiar with the Cronus and it is a fine integrated. 

I can say that my ears appreciate the subtle qualities of tube amplification. (I've owned Cambridge Audio, Peachtree, and Moon Simaudio previously.) Consider the PrimaLuna Evolution integrated amps if as a newbie you’d rather avoid the maintenance issue of adjusting tube bias (or just wondering if the bias is correct), or wondering if an amplifier tube might be bad. Also, their support is responsive. I’m enjoying it as much or more than my previous tube integrated, the Rogue Cronus Magnum. And its WAF scores higher, if that's an issue.

Consider the Danish-built Soekris dac2541 R-2R when you research DACs. Less concern about the technology becoming outdated, and it should suit your budget.

Best wishes!

Since the Focal 926's lack bass, you might add a pair of REL SHO's.  You will find this a game changer.  I was looking at the Focal 926's, but decided they lacked the bass.  A pair if Kanta's would be a large step up.

I'd go with a PrimaLuna. They fit into your budget and have a lot of great features.

I have a Rogue Pre and Quad Artera Stereo --> Aria 926s. I like the Rogue gear and those guys always answer the phone. They helped walk me through setting up the phono stage as well. They also make a couple Tube Hybrid (tube/Hypex) amps that are really cool. You might do some research on here about people who run Tubed Pre to SS amplification. Or even Tubed pre to Class D amplification. I like the combination myself.


I also added a REL 9/Tx Sub to cover the low end.

I’m a fan of Roger’s High Fidelity. Here’s a EHF-100 MK2 Integrated Amp. Ebay takes 13% so a phone call will save you that and more. I had a PrimaLuna integrated before. Good too for sure. But I moved on to add more power to my power hungry speakers.

I think you will get an appreciable upgrade from the Emotiva Mono’s with a substantial tube integrated or the holy grail of separates (hard to do with out a bake sale or bank robbery).

Lot's of Amps here that will get 'er done.


I think you will get an appreciable upgrade from the Emotiva Mono’s with a substantial tube integrated or the holy grail of separates (hard to do with out a bake sale or bank robbery).

@wsrrsw I am not sure.
If the OP did not find the Emotiva Monos grating/shrill/grainy/bright, then adding a tube pre for a bit of warmth may not be really better in terms of HiFi, but it could sound pretty nice.

Then they would have all the watts that they need frost the Emotivas, and get some tube warmth from the pre.

I agree that going to big tube amps would be more a $ hungry way to get there.

@holmz Fair enough. I’m biased (auto at that) towards tubes. Often these “discussions” meander off track and get a bit predictabley preachy but  despite that often  have sone peachy keen nuggets.





@wsrrsw yes sir… I have a couple of tube preamps and a stereo tube amp and a monoblock tube pair… So I am biased a bit as well.

There are many ways to skin a cat, and I meander too. 😁

I was in the same position. I wanted to try a tube integrated for starters. The preamp and amp separates seemed more complicated and hence expensive. There are slot of choices but I wanted auto bias so I could overcome my fears of new stuff. The reviews pointed to Raven Audio. Plus it is super simple design but incorporated a sub output which I needed. My experience has been life changing. Never have I owned a system so crazy enjoyable. At $2999 the entry level isn’t cheap but the quality and customer support is a game changer in the audio industry 

End Game - Leben CS-600 Integrated Amplifier (32 wpc all tube)

Starting Point - Rogue Sphinx V3 (tube pre w/100 wpc Class D amp; upgrade the tubes to NOS Mullards from the 60's)


Person writes a post asking for thoughts on a Rogue vs. a Cary. I like maybe three people actually answer the question and everyone else weighs in with their own junk. If you were in a classroom and answered the teacher's question like this, you'd get a lousy grade.

Post removed 

The Rogue Cronus III would be my choice for too many reasons ro list. In the end, go with your ears and heart. Do it for the sake of the music you love.

Cary all the way.  Years ago I owned a couple SLI-80's and the Cronus Magnum I.  Cary is all hardwired point to point wired unlike Rogue and sounded way better to me especially in triode mode.

Dan Wright at Modwright is about to release an Analog Bridge. Keep your stuff and add this.


Sent from my iPhone

I've been VERY happy with the smooth analogue sound of my Primaluna amps, pre-amps, and integrated amps.  The reason there are so few for sale on Audiogon is because Primaluna owners keep them for a long long time.

Have you made a choice yet?

There are two thoughts to share from me:

One, how much of the tube experience do you want? Push pull amps like Prima Luna and Line Magnetic sound like softish SS amps. So not much different to SS amps.

Two, whilst you are looking for a tube experience have you considered a cheap entry level 300B SUT amp like this one?



Agree with your assessment 100%.  Have the same Ref6se and 160S.  Game changer.