I am sick of failing amplifiers

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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[QUOTE="Atmasphere, post:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but just in that small photo you put up, the amp seems to be a bit of a mess. Capacitors should never be mounted as you see in that photo because the weight of the part will cause it to flop around, bending its leads during shipping. This can cause the leads to fail. If you want to see how an amp should be built if wired point to point, take a look at the video on the home page of our website. Or look at the innards of a Marantz 8B amplifier. Whoever makes a point to point wired amp needs to do a neat job, for no other reason than taking pride in their work. Such amps tend to be built better and hold up better (and often sound better too due to less stray capacitance), simply because of the care of the builder
[/QUOTE]
The distributor, True Audiophile, has been crapping on me for weeks saying I'm the worst customer because I sent photos and complained about the slop work done in these amps. For instance, he did not lash down the coupling cap and cap beteen the input and driver tube. In shipping it flopped around and ripped itself loose from the tube sockets. I had to pay $1,000 in shipping to have him fix his slop. I have about 6 other hasty, short cut, messy complaints. Burned wires, broken solder joints, missing parts, slop wire routing creatimg noise, a ground fault he never figured out, unnecessary shop wire jumpers in the signal path wiring. And his response to it all was Cobra AKA Phil had made such a mess of the amps he could not straiten it out, so he left the mess. I wrote the tech and said it appears he has lost his pride in craftsmanship. What a shame. Gary, True Audiophioe, then writes back and again says I need to quit complaing about the poor quality work. I am lacking any gratitude and a horrible customer.

I would never buy from him. Be wary.
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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So I'm still fighting the Black Shadow. I finally have a tech who knows what an amp is. Rene with Jaegeraudio.

First thing he did was map the circuit. And measured it. He found .5% distortion at all power levels. Even well below 1 watt. He also found the output transformer falls apart below 200 hertz.

I shared his schematic with Scott at Found Music. Both he and Rene felt the front end was poorly designed. So Rene made a breadboard, designed a new one and installed it. Much more clean now. Less fatigue. Not like it showed things never heard before. Just easier to relax in front on.

Next, we ordered Electra print output transformers. I got the single tap 6 ohm version. They should be installed and ready to go in a few weeks.

I'm still shocked what a pile of crap these were from the start. I have no idea how much damage was done by the original owner Phil. Were still finding dangerous stuff such as caps rated for 250 volts with 550 volts across them. And I don't know how they came back from the manufacturer repair tech with a coupling cap in 1 amp and not in the other. Thats a new one we just discovered. The Audion repair tech missed that one. And he missed the under rated caps that may or may not be part of the original. Who knows what Phil did.

This has to be it for me as far as SET 845. I have tried it. So far as a topology (SET 845) it has been impressive when played through such a compromised amp. I sure hope the output transformers bring it all together. If they don't, I really think it will be time to try SS. After listening to the Dartzeel 468, I feel SS can be quite magical. Now, where is a $10k SS amp that sings like those big monoblocks.
 
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KeithR

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You really need to stop slandering people. Let's face it, you like to muck with stuff and think you're the expert. You should just build your own amps and quit complaining.

That horrible tech Phil *only* used on this pair of amps was noneother than Bob Hovland - you know the guy who had a successful audio company for decades. I think he knows more than you and any 2 bit guy you've hired for "help." In fact, Bob's PS upgrades became standard in the next Black Shadow version. And now, you are complaining that Audion didn't do there job right - the manufacturer of your amps of which you paid up for a worthless mk2 upgrade when people told you not to do it.

Honestly, not sure why you come on this forum to complain incessantly when the former owner, the current distributor, and manufacturer have all helped you out and you think they all suck because of your "expert" opinion.

Ironically you say they are the best sound you've ever owned. Stop mucking with them and just enjoy the music.
 

jeffrey_t

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So I'm still fighting the Black Shadow. I finally have a tech who knows what an amp is. Rene with Jaegeraudio.

First thing he did was map the circuit. And measured it. He found .5% distortion at all power levels. Even well below 1 watt. He also found the output transformer falls apart below 200 hertz.

I shared his schematic with Scott at Found Music. Both he and Rene felt the front end was poorly designed. So Rene made a breadboard, designed a new one and installed it. Much more clean now. Less fatigue. Not like it showed things never heard before. Just easier to relax in front on.

Next, we ordered Electra print output transformers. I got the single tap 6 ohm version. They should be installed and ready to go in a few weeks.

I'm still shocked what a pile of crap these were from the start. I have no idea how much damage was done by the original owner Phil. Were still finding dangerous stuff such as caps rated for 250 volts with 550 volts across them. And I don't know how they came back from the manufacturer repair tech with a coupling cap in 1 amp and not in the other. Thats a new one we just discovered. The Audion repair tech missed that one. And he missed the under rated caps that may or may not be part of the original. Who knows what Phil did.

This has to be it for me as far as SET 845. I have tried it. So far as a topology (SET 845) it has been impressive when played through such a compromised amp. I sure hope the output transformers bring it all together. If they don't, I really think it will be time to try SS. After listening to the Dartzeel 468, I feel SS can be quite magical. Now, where is a $10k SS amp that sings like those big monoblocks.
I heard them at Phil's house and they sounded great. I think your mistake is not to have the original manufacturer work on the amps.
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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You really need to stop slandering people. Let's face it, you like to muck with stuff and think you're the expert. You should just build your own amps and quit complaining.

That horrible tech Phil *only* used on this pair of amps was noneother than Bob Hovland - you know the guy who had a successful audio company for decades. I think he knows more than you and any 2 bit guy you've hired for "help." In fact, Bob's PS upgrades became standard in the next Black Shadow version. And now, you are complaining that Audion didn't do there job right - the manufacturer of your amps of which you paid up for a worthless mk2 upgrade when people told you not to do it.

Honestly, not sure why you come on this forum to complain incessantly when the former owner, the current distributor, and manufacturer have all helped you out and you think they all suck because of your "expert" opinion.

Ironically you say they are the best sound you've ever owned. Stop mucking with them and just enjoy the music.
I'm sure where they are now is a fine design. They are 5 versions down the road. But you have not looked under the hood of my amps. And I am not the tech. I don't know anything about amp circuit design. So no, I won't build amps. And I have not done anything inside these. I have to shop it out. But visually these amps look like a bomb was set off inside of them. If Bob did the work, I'm sorry, but Bob did a poor job. And underrated parts were used that my new tech removed as he said they were liable to failure. And upon reflection, the manufacturer tech said they were such a mess, he though multiple hands had been in them and he was not being paid to remake them from scratch. Which I guess is where I am eventually getting too. But it bothers me when my new tech gets into them and says I'm sitting on a failure hazard. I expected that sort of issue to be noted when I had them evaluated the first time around.
 

Kingrex

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I heard them at Phil's house and they sounded great. I think your mistake is not to have the original manufacturer work on the amps.
I think you are 100% correct. Sending them to France may have been the best thing to do. But what would the manufacturer do. Update the circuit to what works best now, of just make them work like the US rep did. I have no idea. I at least believe France would have seen what was not part of their circuit design and removed it. The US rep sees what, maybe 2 to 5 Audion Amps a year. He is not working on them every day.

My new guy has designed and built 845, 211, 45 etc type amps all his life. For him, this is a walk in the park. He knows exactly what to do. Its right up his alley. I would have brought them to him when this all started but he was unavailable at the time. And I did not push the issue at the time as I did not know this type of amp was his specialty. I do now after we have gotten to know each other.

My $ hole is now:
$4500 purchase
$6500 rebuilt
$400 bias
$850 circuit trace, evaluation and final bias adjustment
$1250 front end rebuilt
$625 purchase output transformers.
I don't have the labor bill to put the transforms in but it will be about $800.
 
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Solypsa

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I am sure you didn't have spending $15k in mind when you first got these amps (!) however for a 'glass half full moment' what you now have are no longer Audion amps entirely ( new input circuit, new opt etc. ). Maybe they will be wonderful performers? Certainly big power SET's often cost in this range at the end of the day....
 

K3RMIT

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Sep 4, 2020
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I modded equipment for 10 years before designing my own product line. 40 different components. Never encountered a piece that I could not improve. I don't do that anymore, but I agree with you that it's hard to find anything on the market that cannot be improved with mods. All of it needs it IMO. Finding a competent modder is another thing...
Most all made products can be improved for better sound or functions. the point is did it make that much happen ? Cost in production after design is where this lesser product happens. I too tinker to make things your own does add value.
ps Steve anything you touch is better I feel after
 

K3RMIT

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Sep 4, 2020
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Rex, IMO if you want to sort out tube amps, a track record of the manufacturer is always a good idea to look up. They should have been around for a while. Look at what people say about them online. Personally I prefer the amp to be handwired, as that makes things a lot easier to service down the road, particularly in the case of tube sockets. The amp should not use tubes that aren't readily available. The cost of the tubes should not be crazy money! Its nice to have that bit of audio jewery in your living room, but the fact is that chassis bling comes at a price. Always audition the amp in your system before pulling the trigger. Specs don't always tell you the whole story.

A special note on SETs- you really don't want to run them past about 20% of full power, as in most cases that's where the higher ordered harmonic distortion starts to show up- contributing to 'dynamics' as those harmonics are used by the ear to sense sound pressure and they start showing up initially on transients. SETs have trouble making power and bandwidth at the same time; so about 8 watts is about as much power as you can usually make and still be 'hifi'. So an 8 watt amp is really only good for about 2 watts if you really want to hear what that amp is really all about. IIRC your speakers are in the mid-upper 90s for efficiency, so SETs might be challenged to strut their stuff on your system.

BTW if dealing with tubes the efficiency spec in speakers is far more useful than the sensitivity spec since tubes don't double power as impedance is halved!

Many tube amps are not all that different from their vintage forebears; your Ikes are a good example, being based on the Eico ST-70 circuit of the 1950s. Believe it or not, they actually have made progress in amplifier circuits since then! If you want a nice reliable amp with good specs and a great track record, the Berning 'ZOTL' amps are a good choice. No-one faults those as they sound great, are built by a great designer and they hold together. I am of course partial to amps that are not a rehash of 1950s designs :)

Don't give up hope- there's a lot of good stuff out there.
Excellent post filled with honesty wonder how many got offended
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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I am sure you didn't have spending $15k in mind when you first got these amps (!) however for a 'glass half full moment' what you now have are no longer Audion amps entirely ( new input circuit, new opt etc. ). Maybe they will be wonderful performers? Certainly big power SET's often cost in this range at the end of the day....
And that is the only reason I am moving forward with them. I keep saying, they sound nice. I believe in the end they can sound quite amazing.

And another half glass, through all the irritation, I have learned heaps about amps and their performance characteristics. Add that greatly benefits the rest of what I focus on for work.

$15K. I would not have spent it. I would have bought the Dartzeel 108 V2 for $10,500 from a dealer.

I'm irritated how I feel I was led to an expectation and I was not aware the pitfalls and cost associated with it.

When I received them I immediately noted the amps did not work right. I was basically told to pound sand by Phil. They were mine. I was not ready to get into a lawsuit. I hoped $2500 would make them run.

The US dealer agreed to work on these. At this point I was being told these amps looks like multiple hands had been in them. They were a total mess. There were functional issues and they needed to be rebuilt. And you know what. $2500 made them run. ok they function.

At that point I asked can they shine. Can they be what a Black Shadow can be. I was told they can be even better. And In the end I believe they can shine. And maybe better than what would come from the factory. Hence I am dug in on the process. Some mods the US importer wanted to try were installed in mine. But, some major issues were left unchecked. Extremely high distortion figures, poor output transformer performance, a continued ground issues. To be fair, I was offered new silver core output transformers. But that was a $9500 up-charge. I was never offered a copper core replacement. Nor was I ever quoted any performance numbers that are easily measured. Additionally these amps were redplating the Elrog, Linlai, Psvane and half the Shuguang tubes I owned. If I had used NOS 845 tubes, I am told I would have destroyed them. But, I was also told I can drive the heck out of these graphine plate tubes and they will take it. I have opted to run them a little cooler than wide open upper limits.

This has been a long slow process. It keeps unfolding in layers. And each layer is additional issues that were undisclosed and now being unburied.

I am a bit bitter. I believe everything what I have said is a fairly accurate recount of the interactions and process. It has been expensive and uncomfortable. I would not hope this type of event to land on others. Its hard enough to make functional equipment blend and sing together, let alone components that have operational deficiencies.

One of the attributes I like about Whatsbestforum is the dealers that are on here all seem to have not only the end consumer, but also the quality of product at heart. They all seem to be striving to do it right. If its going in your house its going to work as intended. Thats what I am looking for. A Black Shadow to operate at a high level as intended. Not a cobbled together old mess. No thank you.
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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You should buy that Dartzeel amp for $10,5k. Just saying
I just listened to the 468 feeding Estelon FORZA, Holly cow was that amazing. One of the best systems I have ever heard. I really like the Dartzeel sound on those speakers. Of course, the small 108 wont compare to the flagship. The 108 I was looking at is gone. I could put my name in on another, but I bet there up to $14K or more. One of the few pieces moving up in price as it gets older.
 

K3RMIT

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I’m puzzled Rex how can you solely judge a sound on a complete system and feel it’s sound in yours ?
 
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Folsom

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I don’t understand, what is the timeline of the unit being fooled with internally?
 

Kingrex

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Feb 4, 2019
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I’m puzzled Rex how can you solely judge a sound on a complete system and feel it’s sound in yours ?
Totally agree. How do you pick equipment? Its hard. Go to a store, go to a show, read and read. It's still not your house, speakers, front end etc. Its almost throwing darts. If you want to buy a built up sound by a dealer you have a better idea what it may sound like in your room.

It sure would be nice to try before you buy. I asked to have the Dartzeel at my home but the dealer said it was a consignment sale so no. And I could not go there due to Corona. If I were to drop $54k for a new one, he might bring one by my house. I don't know. I never asked as I don't want to spend money like that.

I don't know many people who really know what they are getting when they buy stuff. Maybe they have heard something at a show, maybe at a store. But most everyone I know sends off a check and hopes for the best.
 
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BlueFox

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I never heard any of my current gear before I bought it. I read reviews and comments on audio forums after each piece of gear had been on the market for at least a year before I bought it. So far I absolutely love my stereo and have zero desire to replace anything. However, if Magico releases a version 2 of their S7 speakers then I might upgrade. Being retired I have to watch my pennies.
 
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213Cobra

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So I'm still fighting the Black Shadow. I finally have a tech who knows what an amp is. Rene with Jaegeraudio.

First thing he did was map the circuit. And measured it. He found .5% distortion at all power levels. Even well below 1 watt. He also found the output transformer falls apart below 200 hertz.

I shared his schematic with Scott at Found Music. Both he and Rene felt the front end was poorly designed. So Rene made a breadboard, designed a new one and installed it. Much more clean now. Less fatigue. Not like it showed things never heard before. Just easier to relax in front on.

Next, we ordered Electra print output transformers. I got the single tap 6 ohm version. They should be installed and ready to go in a few weeks.

I'm still shocked what a pile of crap these were from the start. I have no idea how much damage was done by the original owner Phil. Were still finding dangerous stuff such as caps rated for 250 volts with 550 volts across them. And I don't know how they came back from the manufacturer repair tech with a coupling cap in 1 amp and not in the other. Thats a new one we just discovered. The Audion repair tech missed that one. And he missed the under rated caps that may or may not be part of the original. Who knows what Phil did.

This has to be it for me as far as SET 845. I have tried it. So far as a topology (SET 845) it has been impressive when played through such a compromised amp. I sure hope the output transformers bring it all together. If they don't, I really think it will be time to try SS. After listening to the Dartzeel 468, I feel SS can be quite magical. Now, where is a $10k SS amp that sings like those big monoblocks.
I'll restate as previously: I bought those amps as the original owner directly from Audion, then in the UK. I made no changes to them myself other than tubes. About four years in, one of the solid state rectifiers blew. I took both amps to Bob Hovland and asked him to replace and upgrade the rectifiers in both amps so they would be the same. I also asked Bob to inspect the amps for any other problems worth correcting and to make suggestions for improvements he thought worthwhile making.

Bob replaced and upgraded the rectifiers in both amps. He suggested recapping the power supply to get faster charge/discharge than the stock caps, which would improve dynamics, definition and bass. I agreed. He also said he could make the amps quieter by fabricating a custom shield for the power transformers, going so far as to precisely position them by ear and by meter. Last, he rerouted some of the signal wiring for lower noise and made some grounding improvements. He did not want to make signal component changes as that would likely change the voicing of the amps. I also agreed. No trouble ever after that. Before I sold them to Kingrex, I took them back to Bob for inspection and asked him to replace suspect components. They got a clean bill of health and when both amps left Los Angeles, there were no (as in zero, none) mismatched parts in those amps. They worked perfectly, and by the way, Bob's noise abatement resulted in the amps testing -10db from as they tested before the changes, and -12db from Audion spec.

Now, Kingrex knows I have a long string of text messages from him after he got the amps, outlining that HE was inside the amps making changes on the fly, which I advised him not to do. He also texted to say at one point that after I coached him through an initial rough start that the amps were quieter than his push-pull amps and sounded "way better." Sometime after that some kind of trouble started and the amps got shuffled in succession to -- by my count followed here -- at least three other techs I know nothing about. Geeze Louise, he even ragged on the importers tech.

It's like every time you change dentists the new guy claims he would have done everything better than the last dentist and the one before that. But every time he claims any of these problems originated with me or Bob Hovland, he is deflecting, blatantly misrepresenting. Those amps left Los Angeles with no problems and all parts matched between them, included the many tubes I sent him above and beyond the deal. If anyone here has seen Bob Hovland's work, you'd know that what Kingrex is describing didn't originate in Southern California. Good luck with Electr-Print xformers. I just sold a couple of amps for a friend transformered with custom Electra-Print. Let's just say the Black Shadow pair I had were drum-tight in the bass region and lightning-quick by comparison. Audion's OTLs fall apart below 200 Hz? The amp is rated 24w. Well, I guess anyone can test them up to, say, 32w to see what happens.

Phil
 
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Cellcbern

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I have been using mostly tube amplifiers from known manufacturers for tens of years. I can count on the fingers of the two hands the number of times I had problems with them, and any of them was easily serviced.

Surely I also ran into problems when I got "garage" built designs, or suspicious brands - some I could easily solve, others were only permanently solved selling them cheap as electronic waste.

As far as I see the situation many people have problems with tube equipment because they use poorly chosen tube replacements or do not replace them at due time - and people should remember that good tested and matched tubes can be expensive.

The last 3 amps I bought have all been duds. I bought an Altec Lansing 1570B redone by Tom Tutay with Transition Audio. I had to get into the amp and change out signal caps, input wires and solder a couple loose connections. After that the amps worked fine, but they were not quite what I was looking for.

Round 2 I figure I will get a new amp with a manufacturer warranty. This is maybe the 5th set of amps I'm buying. I buy the Ampsandsound Casablanca. They sound nice but I am plagued with humming I blame on home for years. In the end I have a different manufacturer get into the amps and $1,000 later the faulty internal grounding, incorrectly installed input and some other issues are corrected and the amps are now suppose to be much more quiet. I have not received them back yet.

In the interim I get excited about trying SET due to the long thread here. I buy a used pair of Audion Black Shadow. The sound is pretty good. Its not perfect. I have been struggling to get them to really click in my system. The problem now is in the last 2 weeks (3) three Telefunken E88cc and (1) one Amperex 6922 have all gone microphonic shrieking within days of being installed in the amps. I can blame 1, maybe 2 tubes on my tubes. But 4 is becoming an amp problem in my mind. Seeing how each of these tubes cost me close to $200, and they are dam hard to find good ones, I'm at full halt on music until I either spend thousands with the shipping to get the Black Shadow repaired. Or until my repaired Casablanca are returned. They are on a slight hold as its $200 round trip to ship them so I only sent one to ensure they could actually be repaired. I need to get the other in the mail.

In short, I'm getting pretty sick of audio crap. Crap being the headaches and just Crap gear. I have been wanting to try a SS amp, but honestly, I don't know I want a used one as it may just shit the can any time and be an anchor for my boat. And I'm tired of tubes. I even tried a new tube amp and got a turd. Or at least I had to send it to another shop that could understand why it had such bad humming issues and for the most part repair them. I have been advised, they will never be totally quiet due to the design.

Maybe I am just a snob now, but "new" these days is really out of my grasp as pricing is unreasonably high. I have steep expectations for PRAT. I want a decent amp. For goodness sakes, I cold purchase a darn nice car with the amount of money I have buried in my audio now. And I just keep bleeding, all with issues now. It's actually quite gut wrenching. When I got up today and fired up the system and a brand new set of Amperex 6922 started to squeal. My stomach really dropped out and I have been in a pissed off fog all day. This merry go round of wasted money on audio has to stop. And that is not just me now talking. My wife is really starting to put the screws down. She has had enough of the bleed herself. When I get upset over issues such as this, I'm getting the "dump the stereo if it does not make you happy". She may not be all that far off base. With all the fiddling, pondering, reading, modifying it takes to tune a setup to get the most, at some point, the fun in it starts to run dry. Failing amps is just flat out no fun. Not only do they make the owner mad, but decent relationships with audio members can really go sour when your sitting on used gear that is not working correct. Orrrrrr, is it something else that is really something else. At least when I bough my used CJ and the fuse blew every turn on, I had a real case to take to the seller. I got compensated for repairs there. God only knows why input tubes are going microphonic within days of being installed. Or a darn good tech. Of which am not.

I have been using mostly tube amplifiers from known manufacturers for tens of years. I can count on the fingers of the two hands the number of times I had problems with them, and any of them was easily serviced.

Surely I also ran into problems when I got "garage" built designs, or suspicious brands - some I could easily solve, others were only permanently solved selling them cheap as electronic waste.

As far as I see the situation many people have problems with tube equipment because they use poorly chosen tube replacements or do not replace them at due time - and people should remember that good tested and matched tubes can be expensive.
Agree. Been using tube and hybrid gear for decades with few problems - all of it purchased used or demo and modified/upgraded (e.q.,by Modwright, Parts Connexion, and my tech at Music Technology, Inc.).
 

K3RMIT

Active Member
Sep 4, 2020
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Totally agree. How do you pick equipment? Its hard. Go to a store, go to a show, read and read. It's still not your house, speakers, front end etc. Its almost throwing darts. If you want to buy a built up sound by a dealer you have a better idea what it may sound like in your room.

It sure would be nice to try before you buy. I asked to have the Dartzeel at my home but the dealer said it was a consignment sale so no. And I could not go there due to Corona. If I were to drop $54k for a new one, he might bring one by my house. I don't know. I never asked as I don't want to spend money like that.

I don't know many people who really know what they are getting when they buy stuff. Maybe they have heard something at a show, maybe at a store. But most everyone I know sends off a check and hopes for the best.
all my stuff is vintage , i could not afford it back then when new lol. and new stuff near it i am like you need to hear at my place .
 

Robh3606

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I have used vintage Crowns for over 20 years and they work just fine. When I purchased them used I brought them into the service center had them went through and brought back to factory spec. Have had Emotiva for 10 years again no issues. They certainly are not the" best" but they sure do keep working. Can't understand why amps costing much more are failing??

Rob :)
 

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