Tube virgin looking for tube amp under $3k


I’ve never owned any tube amps or preamps and since I’ve got 95dB efficient speakers I thought why the heck not? And wow! What a rabbit hole I’ve gone down In the last week or so and my head is really spinning. For just about every amp or amp/preamp combo there’s someone who loves it and someone who says don’t bother. And then the more I dig, the more brands I find.

I’ve read about these products recently:

— Erhard Audio integrated amp 
—The various iterations of the ST-70 (Van Alstein, Bob Latino, Will Vincent, etc.)
—Music Reference RM10
—Cary (out of budget except used)
—Raven (at max budget for integrated)
—Dennis Had (hard to buy/find)
—Quicksilver Mid mono (need preamp)
—Decware (too long a wait for me at the moment but maybe one day)
—Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III (at max budget and do I really need 100WPC with my speakers in a small room?)

And probably a few others I’ve forgotten about already. 

I have to say that the Bob Latino ST-70 speaks to me for the price of entry (about $1400) and the fact that I could get away without a preamp and only use a passive input selector. That said, would an ST-70 be the best choice or only the cheapest? 

Any ideas for a tube newb who doesn’t have a stockpile of tubes to roll in and out of an amp?




larshepping
@larshelling, what you say is correct with respect to a 100 wpc amp.  A class A 100 WPC tube amp will put out a lot of heat, so much so that it may challenge your HVAC system.  The right range of WPC is kind of important with tube amps or any class A amp.   More than enough is just a bunch of wasted power ending up as heat, too little and the music suffers.   I can tell you that my M-60 amps drive my 92.5 dB efficient speakers without breaking a sweat in a 2000 cu. ft. room and go as loud as anyone is ever going to want.   My guess is that for most people in most rooms with most music, a good 30 WPC amp would be plenty for 95 dB efficient speakers. 
Some thoughts on two I've personally owned.

Rogue Cronus Magnum II (not the most current III).  My experience, others may have had very different experiences.

Pros:  Located in America, nice people, you can call them on the phone.  Very heavy and powerful amp, reasonable price, good sound.

Cons:

Attention to detail is poor.  Mine came with the center screw, that secures the top cover, cross-threaded (I had to shear it to get it off).  On the CM this is a big deal because to change from 8 ohm to 4 ohm speaker taps you need to remove the top cover.  My unit came brand new and drop shipped directly from the factory, no one else had touched it.

Quality.  Generally a noisier amp over all.  Doesn't present a silent, black background.  The input selector switch failed while the amp was sitting unused and must now be replaced by the factory.  It may or may not be related to that specific switch but when it was working there was bleed-over from a not selected input to the selected input.  I also noticed crackling sounds when moving the volume knob.  Very faint but noticeable.  Can't speak to the III, but on the II, the headphone amp is quite poor.

Other.  The amp is very large (big footprint), heavy and runs quite hot so you need a large flat open surface to sit it on.

PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamp and DiaLogue Premium HP amp.

Pros:  Excellent sound quality.  Wonderful mid range.  Dead silent, deep black background.  Controls work perfectly and are a pleasure to use.  Built like a tank, excellent attention to detail and build quality.  Much more attention paid to the aesthetics, overall quality, fit and finish.  Still quite heavy but not as large a footprint as the Rogue.

Cons:  Above your stated cost target.  Not the be all, end all for detail and speed.  Beautiful for the human voice, acoustic instruments, music recorded in a real space (nuances, openness, etc.) Really large scale music starts to push against its limitations.  Runs hot (all tubes do).  My room is about the same as yours and it can get uncomfortable in the summer time with extended listening.  Cost, even at used prices you might find it hard to get the separates for $3k (combined they were about $7k new).

Final thought.  I strongly suggest the PrimaLuna.  Very high quality.  Very nice sound.  Perfect amp for someone new to tubes.  It works perfectly, you can roll in any (appropriate) tubes you like.  I have had two tubes go out on me.  Both were easy to diagnose, order replacements, plug in and keep going like nothing even happened.  I suggest you watch the used market.  You can stretch your budget a bit and go with separates or choose an integrated and stay within your budget.

Hope my experience is useful info for you.
I have auditioned many amplifiers with my omega speakers and my preference is low wattage single ended triode. You are certainly on the correct path with tubes. Enjoy the speaks - they are wonderful! 
You can find the Ayon Spirit III for about 3k used.  I love the hell out of mine.  It's even better suited to your speakers than mine.
With the room size and speakers I would go for DH/SET.

I use old Bottlehead 2A3 DH/SET mono block amps with wide range single driver speakers and previously used an Audion 300B DH/SET.

The output tubes I use (Visseaux, Ken-Rad dual flat plates and RCA's) now cost more than I paid for my amps and preamp.

I'm not familiar with the new Bottlehead offerings, or anything else recent for that matter.

Of the amps you list the RM10 stands out for it's unusual but really great sound.

Think it's been almost 20 years since I listened to Decware (one of their first 83/El84 amps).

What amps have you used with the Omega's (just curious).

DeKay