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A-348 Review - The Magic of Tubes and Vinyl

 
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cmiller



Joined: 28 Mar 2008
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:06 am    Post subject: A-348 Review - The Magic of Tubes and Vinyl Reply with quote

I have long thought that tubes and vinyl would be the perfect fit for me. Six years ago, when I upgraded my system, I looked into tubes but found the cost prohibitive. Although there were a few inexpensive tube amps, their build quality and durability seemed suspect. What a difference six years can make, when I went shopping to upgrade my NAD gear I found a number of tube amps in my price range. The build quality also appeared far superior to that which Iíd seen in the past.

I auditioned amps from Cayin, Melody, Audio Space and Shanling. Comparing a variety of amps in different rooms with different associated gear is a confusing proposition, however I also listened to comparatively priced solid state gear in the same systems and in all cases preferred the tubes.

By chance, I ran into Ian Grant demoing his gear at That Old Retro Store and although the acoustics in the room were no match for some of the other listening spaces I had auditioned gear, the Grant amps clearly had that same tube magic. They were also 30 to 50 percent less expensive than their competition. After listening to all of the Grant amps, I went with the A-348. With the associated gear and my music it seemed the best fit.

Once I got everything home and set up, I put on some of my more familiar vinyl, poured a few fingers of Scotch and settled in. I wasnít disappointed; vinyl and tubes really are magical. One of the best explanations I have heard is that SS gear does a very good job of delivering the front half of the note, the transient but tubes do a far better job with the back half - the steady state tone, decay and harmonics. For me this is where the music resides. With vinyl and tubes, I feel I get closer to the real sound of the music, the tone of a Les Paul or Strat through a Marshall stack seems more life like and continuous than through my SS gear. There is something very right about listening to Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) through a EL34 knowing that Hendrix (apparently) used a similar tube in his Marshall head to get his mountain toppling tone.

Since I have not experienced many tube amps, it would be difficult for me to do an A/B comparison but the A-348 clearly gets me much closer to the music than my previous SS gear. For a very reasonable price, this amp added the fullness, soundstaging and level of realism that I suspected I was missing. I also played a number of CDís through the amp and although it is not my preferred medium, it made them far more enjoyable, removing much of the hard edge I associate with CDís. (I also upgraded my CD player, but that is a different review)

The only criticism I have is the number of volume steps when using the remote control. There are not enough. Getting the volume right is important and sometimes I found myself getting up to make the finer adjustments by hand, not a big deal and certainly not a deal breaker (some amps in this range do not even have remotes) but something worth addressing in future models.

Fantastic value and performance!

Chris M
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igrant
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Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 500

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Chris,

It is a pleasure having you have as customer and it was a lot of fun matching you up with the right amp for your tastes. I of course also like that your system is basically all GF now except for turntable and speakers, which we hope to entice you into down the road Smile The PF-120 power filter with your name on it is here now.

It will be cool for you to mention the rest of your GF system, when you get a chance.

I noted that issues with the remote too, but as mentioned have gotten so used to pushing up then down (or vise versa) to get smaller gain changes that we haven't addressed the issue yet. We will for the next version and if an easy mod can be made we will offer it to you for yours.

Thanks again,
Ian
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Thomas



Joined: 22 May 2008
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 7:22 am    Post subject: Virgin Audiophile Reply with quote

Hello there the names Thomas,,,Iam new to tube land

I Just have a few questions about the A-534.

1\ Is the A-534 10 watt pure class A single ended triode?

2\ How many watts is that equivalent 2 when compared 2 SS?

3\ I dont care about surround sound and all that other garbage I just want 2 channel audio,,,, with that being said what are the best speakers under 1200(CAN) for the A-534.

4\ Can the A-534 be the center of my entertainment unit, meaning can I run 2 channel audio from my DVD through the unit as well as video games......Iam not gonna blow a tube if theirs a loud gunshot?

5\ When u purchase a A-534 do you get tubes with the unit or are they extra?

I would really appreciate some help in this area thank U
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r3cc0s



Joined: 13 Apr 2008
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thomas's
The A-534 from what I understand is a single ended triode amplifier utilizing 300B tubes.

10 watts, is 10 watts regardless of class A or AB switching, however the transition to swing to different impedance drives are better with class A, being that you can think of it as being "always" on.

Amps are rated at 1000 hrtz (1k) cycles for their max power rating

Speakers are rated @ 1 watt at 1 meter for db..

I've heard this amplifier drive a number of speakers very well, ranging from Paradigm Monitors 11s & Studio 40s V4s to Ian's Green Mountain Audio EOS, which can take a max of 300 watts.

However IMO, pairing any SET amp to a speaker means: Find an efficient speaker.

For under 1200? I'd search around on Audiogon or Canuck Audio mart to find something of quality for that price range.
However this amp is very capable, and as long as you have speakers rated 87db & greater, this amp will drive them well.

This amp to me is quite possibly the best sounding amplifier that Ian has... and one of the best I've ever heard.
It might not be as dynamic as his RITA or A-88, but the midrange is shear magic.

When it comes down to pairing up electronics, such as your DVD player, TV or video games, I'll let Ian answer these questions.
However you'll be introducing areas of potential and common problems with Hi-Fi such as "ground loops" unless you have a common grounded conditioner
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igrant
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Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 500

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Virgin Audiophile Reply with quote

Thomas wrote:
Hello there the names Thomas,,,Iam new to tube land

I Just have a few questions about the A-534.

1\ Is the A-534 10 watt pure class A single ended triode?

2\ How many watts is that equivalent 2 when compared 2 SS?

3\ I dont care about surround sound and all that other garbage I just want 2 channel audio,,,, with that being said what are the best speakers under 1200(CAN) for the A-534.

4\ Can the A-534 be the center of my entertainment unit, meaning can I run 2 channel audio from my DVD through the unit as well as video games......Iam not gonna blow a tube if theirs a loud gunshot?

5\ When u purchase a A-534 do you get tubes with the unit or are they extra?

I would really appreciate some help in this area thank U


Hi Thomas,

Sorry for the delay, still on the road. R3cc0s (whatever that means Smile answered most of your questions.

No you won't blow a tube with a loud gunshot, I've used it for movies with 86db effiecient speakers and there is plenty of headroom even at loud listening levels for 2 channel home theatre.

Yes you can hook up to four line level devices such as game consoles, DVD's etc and switch between them. To avoid any potential ground noise, you should run everything from the same power bar.

Where are you located? Maybe you can audition one, most of our dealers will with a deposit let you take one home for the night.

Ian
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Thomas



Joined: 22 May 2008
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

I love the sound of tubes exspecially with vinyl, knowing that it can be used with other devices is a real bonus.

Have a great day

T
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