Solid state -> valve amp advice

Hello, folks of the abattoir.

As per the title, I’m after some advice.

My current setup is as follows:

Arcam Alpha 8R (on tweeter duty)
Arcam Alpha 9P (powering mid/bass of the r-hand speaker)
Arcam Alpha 9P (powering mid/bass of the l-hand speaker)
Sources are an Arcam CD72 or my PC, via a Meridian Explorer DAC
ProAc Studio 200 speakers.

I’m looking to change the amps for an integrated valve amp…but I’m wondering if I’ll lose too much of the bass by doing this. With my current setup, even at low volumes, I get a nice meaty kick-drum thud and some lovely lows coming through.

My music tastes vary, from hip-hop to c&w to metal to dance to easy-listening to blues to etc.

Obviously, the answer is to audition amps but, as my budget is c.£500, I’ll get more for my money going secondhand; obviously, it’d take a very obliging seller to let me try-before-I-buyed, er, bought.

Ideally, I’d like to move to a one-box set-up but I’d be happy using a valve pre-amp with my current power amps, if the pre- is where the tone is.

I realise that what I’m asking doesn’t have one ‘correct’ answer but I’m hoping that you can make some suggestions as to where to go from here.

Or is it simply a case of taking a chance on something and moving it on if it doesn’t suit?

Thanks in advance, Neill

Also, why does the smiley box pop up every time I type something? Bloody annoying!

EDIT: and what’s a ‘bakeoff’?


Given the sensitivity of your speakers you will need a valve amp with a bit of grunt.
Something like a Puresound A30 would be a good call.
Probably a bit over your budget second hand but not a lot more, you could pick one up for £600 to £650.

Failing that I would look for a valve pre-amp.

You could raise some extra funds by selling the superfluous power amps you have in your system as passive bi-amping is a total waste of time, selling all the extra cables you don’t need and then your options really open up.

A bake off is an excuse to drink a lot and eat a lot of cake on the pretty flimsey excuse of decending on someones house with diferent bits of hifi kit and trying different combinations of equipment.


The Arcam Alpha 9P is rated at 70 watts per channel. Most of the music power requirement will come in the bass. You’ll struggle to find a 70 watt valve amp within your budget although something like a second-hand Velleman K4000 or K4040 might not cost too much more. They do need to have been carefully built (they were a kit amp) and to have the valves well-matched to get the very best out of them though.

If, as you say, you’re looking for decent bass at low volumes then you don’t need 70 watts. Instead you want an amp where the bass response hasn’t been rolled off to protect a badly-behaved output transformer and where the output impedance gives you a nice high damping factor (you don’t need extremely high, which is what your Arcams probably have, because the internal resistance of the speakers very quickly comes to dominate). Getting decently high damping factor from a valve amp inevitably requires the use of negative feedback. So avoid amps designed by people who don’t like/don’t know how to do this properly.

I’m getting the smiley box thing sometimes. It is irritating isn’t it. Like most computer faults I can often fix it by switching off and switching on again.


Welcome aboard @grapefruit.

I think the idea of disposing with the Arcam pre and power amps is a good one. You are much better off with a single excellent amplifier rather than a collection of reasonable kit.

Attending a few bake offs or even hosting one, gives you the opportunity to listen to a wide range of kit while polishing off vast quantities of pork, chilli, and cake (vegetarian options are often available too).


I may be parting with my Bewitch A30, it’s one of the first ones made for Guy and is badged so on the back.

Valves are fairly new and it has a spare set of the smaller valves, it didn’t come with a cover though. I’d be looking for £550 collected.

Personally I would take the speakers active or digital active. Happy to help if that appeals

If at all possible try some different amps before selling the arcams, the 9s are decent amps. You may find a valve pre will give you a pleasant change without rocking the boat too much.

Try to check out the AN kit 1, its an 8watt SET with a volume pot, was the only valve amp i regret selling, it could do loud electronic music with sensitive speakers and still produced a holographic image. Would be simple enough to add 2 or 3 inputs and a switch.

Fwvliw I spent the best part of 10yrs going through all sorts of amps and ive ended up more or less back where I started with a powerfull solid state amp. I listen to blues, rock/metal and electronic music.

Bakeoffs are the way forward before spending.
Good luck.

Thank you for your welcomes/responses. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, I’m only slightly wiser, and, in some ways, more confused. To be expected, I suppose. :slight_smile:

It seems that I need something with a bit of power behind it: the Bewitch/Puresound mentioned have circa. 30watts - is this a decent figure to aim for? Realistically, will I get what I want for my budget?

Valvebloke: you mention a ‘high damping factor’? Is this figure generally available in manufacturer technical data? I’ve just done a quick search and haven’t been able to see reference to it or anything like it. What models/brands should I be looking at/avoiding?

As much as they’re probably ideal for someone in my situation, bakeoff’s aren’t something that I can realistically attend as health issues mean that travelling is difficult for me. Any local to Manchester in the pipeline?

AmDismal: unfortunately, I’ve no idea what your comment means - care to explain?
Soulman: where are you based?

Oh, I’ve done a bit of snooping and learned that my P9’s are worth more than I thought. :slight_smile:

Again, thanks. :slight_smile:

Active would mean driving each amplifier directly to a drive unit. You have effectively four amps, and four drive units. Going active involves removing the speaker’s crossover from the equation, and using an electronic one instead. It can result in considerable benefits sonically, if you’re willing to do a small amount of (1) DIY and (2) learning.

I have a Velleman K4000 that I used for many years, and it certainly has enough power (90W Class B, 15W Class A). And plenty of bass drive with the right valves (Svetlana Winged C EL34s). At the moment it needs recapping, or I would be using now!

As a general rule of thumb the higher the output of a valve amp the less benefit of having one, the lower the output the sweeter the sound, (big generalisation). To get decent volume, the lower the output the more sensitive the speakers need to be. Horn speaker for instance are often 104ish db and only need 2 or 3 watts per channel. Your speakers are not very sensitive so will need more powerful amps

Puresound stays in Class A and is about as high an output you will realistically get for the money.

Output transformers start getting very large, heavy and expensive after that.

Valve amps using 6550, KT66, KT88 KT90 and KT120 tensd to have much higher outputs, 50 - 100 WPC but are normally in Class A/B which reduces the transformer size. Class A/B means that it runs in Class A for the first few watts and then switches to Class B

The one thing about buying second hand is that the prices are pretty well fixed, you can buy try and move on if it doesn’t suit without any loss (apart from the hassle of buying/selling packing etc.

1 Like

If you want to go valves I’d suggest selling your amps and speakers and trying something like frugal-horns with a Puresound A10.

That will give you a good idea of what valves sound like for less than £700

I’m afraid this number often isn’t available. You can work it out if you know the amp’s output impedance (not to be confused with the speaker impedance which it’s designed to drive). One of the best sources for technical information about amps is magazine reviews. Stereophile (many reviews available online) commonly measures an amp’s output impedance. HiFi News and HiFi Plus often do too. The problem of course is that you have to know which amp you’re interested in before you can track down a review of it.

To be honest most conventional valve amps (push-pull, with negative feedback) should be OK. It’s some (not all) of the more unusual ones (e.g. single-ended triodes, or output transformerless) where you might want to check this. And it only matters if you want to retain the tight sound of your Arcams.


I’d snap these up very quick if I was you…


ProAc with valves, hmmm, not the sort of mix I would go for.

The Arcam amps are a bit ‘dead’ sounding and lack detail in my book. If you keep the speakers, you would be better off with a transistor amp of decent quality, something like a Lavardin IS. If you want valves, I would look at new speakers as well.

If you are up to it, ask a couple of meatmen around for a mini-bakeoff with valves and easy to drive speakers against your current set-up.


the advice I’ve received from this forum is:
sell amplifier ABC
buy amplifier X
sell amplifier A
buy pre-amp X
buy speakers <>
sell amplifier ABC
buy amplifier N
sell amplifier ABC and speakers ~
buy amplifier X and speakers #
E is no good, you need F
invite complete strangers to my house.
vote UKIP…oh, er…

Anything I’ve missed?


Seriously, i do appreciate everything everyone has written, even if it has confused me. I have learned a few things, too, so it’s not all bad. It does mean I’ve got things to think about so I’ll keep saving and reading and, probably more importantly, listening.

Cheers. :slight_smile:

Sounds about right to me

You got away lightly. If there was a ‘right’ answer to hi-fi questions then we’d all end up with the same system. I’m afraid the best you can hope for when you ask for advice is to have some of the possible traps pointed out. In the end all you can do is to listen and pick what you like the sound of within your budget.

At least no-one trashed your taste in tee-shirts or facial hair.



I don’t own any t-shirts.

My facial hair is wonderful.


Picking up on Bob’s (ICHM) comment, will I get better results buying a new amp and more appropriate speakers, rather than trying to force my current speakers to work with a more powerful amp?

To reiterate, with my current set-up, I like the physical-ness of the kick drum, even at low volumes; is that something that can be achieved with a lower-powered amp/more sensitive speaker combination (within my budget, which, with a bit of saving, could be £1k)?

Not something I’d have necessarily associated with Proac speakers in my experience. So yes I reckon starting again would be easier.

Keep your money in your pocket as long as possible though and try to go listen to other peoples set ups at bake offs etc. That way you might learn more about the sound you want and the kind of kit that can give you that. Trial and error can be time consuming and expensive.