Before the advent of the modern amps, tube amps were the only form of practical way that could amplify the signal from either ahead tape or vinyl and boost it to louder levels. They were the only true puzzle of audio satisfaction back in the day.
The technology used to boost the audio signal is the tube amps are very simple. The tube uses oppositely charged electrons – cathode and anode, and move them through a vacuum such that the output power can be used to power a speaker. But the modern tube amps have scaled up the version of this simple working principle of the tube. An amp, on the other hand, strengthens a weak signal that comes from the source which cannot be picked by a speaker.
Therefore, a tube amp works by heating a metal that emits electrons. Once the electrons are produced, they are accelerated in a vacuum tube by components present in the tube to strengthen the weak source signal. However, the modern tube amps use a transistor in place of a vacuum to accelerate the electrons.
Generally speaking, if you are using vinyl, the signal produced is usually faint which necessitates the need for a tube amp.
Tube amps also known as valve amps were very common in the ‘50s and ‘60s and for a time went out of fashion. But they are making a comeback and they are in high demand nowadays. They have gained popularity due to their ancient looks, produces great sound, and gives a retro feel.
What to Consider Before Buying a Tube Amp?
You cannot just rush to the shop and pick any tube amp you come across. If you are a first-time tube amp buyer, you need to know some of the salient features that you should look for before purchasing a tube amp.
Hereunder are some of the top factors to take into consideration before buying a tube amp:
– Intended use
How you intend to use the tube amp is a critical thing to consider. Ask yourself questions like, are you going to listen to your vinyl via the speaker or headphone? For instance, if you are going to listen via the headphones, then know that the power consumption will be lower. Because headphones use little power so they will not get burned.
Before purchasing a tube amp, it is essential to identify where you are going to place it. Since tube amps have glowing lights in their tubes, they look amazing when placed in dark places.
Besides that, since the tubes are facing upwards, a tube amp needs a lot of vertical space where the tubes will not touch anything. Therefore, you need a place with plenty of vertical space, unlike the solid-state amp which you can place in a rack.
– Speaker impedance
Another critical factor to consider before buying a tube amp is the impedance of the speaker. Generally speaking, as the impedance of the speaker increases, there is a corresponding decline in the power output.
Therefore, if you are using a speaker, then ensure that the speaker has an output of between 4 and 8 ohms.
– Headphone Impedance
The value of the impedance of amp will tell you whether it is headphone compatible or not. The most common impedance range is between 20 and 600 ohms.
But, headphones do not have the same power requirements. So, ensure that you also check the power specifications of your headphone before you buy an amp.
Better still, if you can get an amp with adjustable impedance, the better because with an adjustable impedance, you can adjust the power to match the power requirements of your headphones.
For a tube amp to work well, it requires a minimum of 100 mV to function. Therefore, you do not have to be confused about the output power of the amp.
Another thing you need to consider is the input method. Ensure that the ports of the input method match the ports of your setup. Getting an amp that matches with your system will do away extra costs of an adaptor which will also tamper with the warmth and power of the sound produced.
– Power supply
Another critical factor to consider is the power supply. For you to get a clean and good quality sound from a tube amp, it requires an excellent power supply. Being a mechanical object, it can be damaged if the power supply is not sufficient. In addition to that, a tube amp needs a good quality output transformer. Although these might be expensive, you can buy an amp that is within your budget range.
– Construction quality
Tube amps have some parts that wear out due to continued use. Also, they consume a lot of high voltage power which can be dangerous if the amp is not sturdy. Therefore, a god tube amp should have a solid construction if you want it to serve you for many days to come.
– Compatible speakers
Another very sensitive thing to take into consideration is the speaker type that you choose to use with the tube amp. It pays well to have speakers that are compatible with the amp.
If you want the best results from the tube amp, ensure that the speakers you pair with it are sensitive enough to give you a loud sound.
Cost is a major determining factor when it comes to buying tube amps. If you are working on a budget and you are looking for a cost-effective tube amp, then you should consider the phono preamps. Pre-built phono preamps are cost-effective but they have amazing results.
Best Tube Amps for Turntables
1. Nobsound NS-08E
Are you looking for a vacuum tube headphone amp? Then look no further than the Nobsound NS-08E. It finds the number 1 spot on our list because of its affordability and optimal performance. They are a true reflection of their mission – make Hi-Fi affordable.
The Nobsound NS-08E operates with double 6J3 tubes. These tubes work to produce high-quality sound that will make the music sound charming.
Besides that, there are more products of Nobsound NS-08E in the market as compared to its competitors. Therefore, in case of any problem, you can easily get a replacement in the market.
What’s more, the Nobsound NS-08E supports a wide range of headphones that have an impedance range of between 18 and 600 ohms.
That’s not all; when you purchase the Nobsound ns-08e, you will get a warranty of 18 months from the date of purchase.
In terms of design, the Nobsound ns-08e has a sleek design with a brownish aluminum shell. The design gives the amp a truly vintage feel.
However, the power cable develops mechanical problems soon after use. Therefore, you need to apply some pressure on the cable for it to work well.
- Vintage design
- Compatible with a wide range of headphones
- Sleek design
- Comes with 2 vacuum tubes
- 18 months warranty
- Power cable gets damaged easily
2. Little Bear T11
Another pocket-friendly tube amp to purchase in 2020 is the Little Bear T11. We loved it because of its solid construction which is proportionate to its price range.
In terms of audio quality, the Little Bear T11 produces a warm, great, and powerful tone. Better still, if you wish to upgrade the tubes, you can do so to further the loudness of the sound via a process known as tube-rolling.
When you purchase the Little Bear T11, you will get a 10 feet grounding wire. The wire is meant that you can tie it to the radiator or window to fix the hum.
The design of the Little Bear T11 is vintage which makes it cool and it can add aesthetic to your home.
Besides that, the amp is compatible with most headphones. Therefore, you can use any headphone that has an impedance range of 20 to 600 ohms.
- Solid construction
- Amazing sound output
- Can be upgraded
- Comes with a grounding wire
- Compatible with a wide range of headphones
- Does not have a warranty
3. Fosi Audio P2
The Fosi Audio P2 is a standalone tube amp with an inbuilt preamp. Its preamp can pick up to 0.2 mV of phono signal which most amps cannot pick. The best thing is that the amp is compatible with a wide range of models.
The Fosi Audio P2 is known for its loud sound and it is compatible with most vinyl players such as AT-LP60.
In terms of design, the Fosi Audio P2 has a nice vintage look. There are 2 tubes at the top which illumes an orange light which during the night looks stunning.
What’s more, the Fosi Audio P2 comes with a distorted sound which you can notice with each increase in volume. To most people, the distortion sound is great though some might find it annoying.
It comes with a headphone port and it is compatible with a wide range of headphones. The impedance range of the headphones is between 18 and 600 ohms.
Moreover, Fosi Audio P2 is very easy to use because it does not have any complicated settings to adjust.
- Vintage design
- Orange light
- Comes with an inbuilt preamp
- Compatible with headphones
- Picks very low signals of up to 0.2 mV
- Loud sound
- Distorted sound at high volume
4. LOXJIE P20
The editor’s choice of the best tube amp for vinyl is the LOXJIE P20. It is a full balance tube amp although it is a new product in the market. It has gained popularity thanks to its high-quality tube amps and the LOXJIE P20 is the best selling product on Amazon today.
It is made with double 6N3 tubes which are military grade. The tubes are of high-quality, therefore, they last for a long time. However, they do not produce a warm sound as other tubes.
In terms of audio quality, the LOXJIE P20 has a clean, crispy sound. Also, the sound is loud which fits most of the peoples’ preferences.
Besides that, the LOXJIE P20 comes with a volume control knob. The volume control is equipped with an electric dial which allows you to fine-tune the volume through a wide range of up to 60 steps.
When the tubes are installed, the LOXJIE P20 has a vertical height of 5 inches. Therefore, ensure that you have sufficient space where to place this amp.
- Sleek vintage design
- Best selling amp
- High-quality tubes used
- Electronic volume control
- Loud sound
- Compatible with headphones
- Requires large space
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5. Reisong A10 EL34
The Reisong A10 EL34 is designed to be used with high sensitive speakers and it does not work well with floor standing speakers. Therefore, before you purchase this tube amp, ensure that you have a high power supply and compatible speakers.
The Reisong A10 EL34 comes with a high-end transformer output of 74×40 or higher. It is designed with manual welding so you can be sure that it will last for a long time. Also, it is preferred for audiophiles.
At the back of the Reisong A10 EL34, there is a black button that you can use to switch between the CD and AUX modes. After switching the amp on, wait for a few minutes before it can start working
It is designed with 3 tubes. The tubes are 2 EL34, 1 5Z4PJ, and 2 6N2J. Apart from that, the tubes are covered by a protective wire gauze which ensures that nothing damages the tubes.
Besides that, the Reisong A10 EL34 is made with high-quality aluminum which ensures that the amp will be durable.
However, at high volume the amp produces distortions. Therefore, ensure that you use low power when playing with this amp.
- Easy to use
- 3 tubes
- Ideal for audiophiles
- Can switch between AUX and CD with a touch of a button
- The tubes are protected by a wire cage
- Produces distortions at high volume
6. AIYIMA Tube T3 HiFi 6J2 Tube Phono Preamp
The AIYIMA Tube T3 HiFi 6J2 Tube Phono Preamp comes with an inbuilt preamp which gives you a stereo sound. Besides that, it has multiple input methods that allow you to use the one that you have. You can use a 3.5mm AUX or an MM signal input.
Apart from that, the AIYIMA Tube T3 HiFi 6J2 Tube Phono Preamp is compatible with a wide variety of output devices such as MP3 player, MM record player, DAC, CD player, computer, phone to mention but a few. Therefore, it can be used with an output media device.
There are two 6J2 tubes that produce blue lights that can illumine during the dark. Also, the tubes are replaceable in case you want to upgrade them.
In terms of sound, the AIYIMA Tube T3 HiFi 6J2 Tube Phono Preamp produces a warm, high-quality, and dynamic sound which makes the listening experience unforgettable.
It is powered by 12 v of power which upon increase increases the sound of the amp. This power is suitable for use with most media devices.
The design is vintage, and the construction is very solid which makes it long-lasting. Apart from that, there is a volume control which allows you to adjust the volume at which you would like to listen to your music.
Most importantly, the AIYIMA Tube T3 HiFi 6J2 Tube Phono Preamp is appropriately priced so you will not break a bank to own it.
- Inbuilt preamp
- Compatible with a wide variety of media devices
- Appropriately priced
- Warm and high-quality audio
- Volume control
- Illuminated tubes
- None to note
If you want to experience the best of the vinyl record player, a tube amp is a must-have. Whether you are using headphones or speakers, you can find an amp that is compatible. Most importantly, ensure that the amp you buy is compatible with the devices you have.
All the tube amps for vinyl that we have listed above are great but we would like to recommend the LOXJIE P20 because it is affordable but powerful.