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Author Topic: New Horn friendly amplifier worth checking out  (Read 17050 times)
Randy in Caintuck
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« on: July 26, 2012, 07:23:16 PM »

I recently had a chance to check out a new amplifier that really made me sit up and pay attention.
Many of the readers of this forum probably remember the designer and builder from the old Decware forum from years ago ..... Terry Gesualdo. He is now a regular poster to the Hawthorne Audio forum and has started a company building some very neat amplifiers.

His first "official" offering is a 6 watt per channel pentode (yes, that's pentode) beast that goes by the unassuming name of UA1 ..... which stands for Ugly Amp 1 .....  Wink



However, don't let the name fool you ..... it's not that bad looking and has an inner beauty that is hard to ignore.  To say that this amplifier is dynamic would be a severe understatement, and it is not lacking in finesse by any stretch.  Some amplifiers have the ability to make the listener tap their toes and this amp is one of them ..... in fact, I find myself "dancing in my chair" on a regular basis while listening to music via this amplifier (not a pretty sight, but I can't help myself) .....  Roll Eyes

It is honest and revealing and is able to bring the listener very close to the music.  With 6 mighty pentode watts per channel, it lights up The Horns with great enthusiasm and throws a wonderful sound stage.  I have been running The Horns with this amp since I got them back from the Ed Schilling Speaker Refinishing Emporium and the sound is as fine as the speakers are good looking.

Now .... the good news ..... the price is $500.00.  You can also have the amp built in a nicer looking chassis for some additional scratch, but if sonics are more important to you than looks this is a great bargain.

Terry will be releasing a 6CA7 amplifier and a KT-120 amplifier in the near future ..... but this little guy is probably all the amplifier most folks would ever need.

During my vacation, I schlepped the amp up to Rob's (firebottle on the forum) home in Columbus, Ohio and we got to run his very fine vinyl front end through the UA1 ..... wonderful.

There is a thread discussing the amplifier here on the Hawthorne Audio forum.

In a lot of ways, the UA1 amp reminds me of The Horns (not as pretty, of course) ..... a small, attractively priced package that punches way above its price class ..... sold by a guy who has a real passion about what he builds.

Highly recommended ..... and yes, I bought one .....  Grin

Terry can be reached at the following email address :

tadgesualdo@gmail.com

Happy listening,

Randy
« Last Edit: July 27, 2012, 05:20:25 AM by Randy in Caintuck » Logged

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steve f
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« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2012, 02:22:50 PM »

Randy,

When you get a chance, how about a comparison to a couple of the other amps in your possession?

Steve
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Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2012, 06:17:23 AM »

Randy,

When you get a chance, how about a comparison to a couple of the other amps in your possession?

Steve

Hi Steve,

Let me give this some thought ..... I will offer some thoughts later this evening .....  Smiley

Have a good day,

Randy
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Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2012, 09:30:53 PM »

Randy,

When you get a chance, how about a comparison to a couple of the other amps in your possession?

Steve

Hi Steve,

Terry has asked me not to make any "direct comparisons" with the other amps I own and have owned for a couple of reasons.
Most of the amplifiers that have graced my system over the past few years have been made by one of the rather close knit little group of "cottage industry" designers and sellers that have audio forums that you and I frequent or are affiliated with one of these forums ..... all of whom Terry has respect for.
Terry doesn't want to have any hard feelings with any of these designers.  Truthfully, he is going after a slightly different slice of the market ..... and the pricing of the Ugly Amp 1 reflects part of that philosophy.
Even the other amplifiers that he will be introducing in the near future are aimed at a different audience than the amplifiers I own or have owned.

Having said that ..... I will make some observations that will probably give you a good idea of what this amplifier is all about, without "stepping on anyone's toes" .....  Wink

The link I provided to the Hawthorne Audio forum in the original post gives a pretty good idea of my initial impressions of the amplifier ..... as well as some thoughts from a few others who have heard the amp.

Before I heard this amp, my exposure to pentode amps had been very limited.  This amplifier puts out 6 very muscular watts per side and has a very high input sensitivity.  Because of that, it really is hard to make any comparison with the Decware model SE84C+ that I currently own, which puts out 2.3 watts per channel.  The pentode sound and the triode sound are two totally different animals and a person really needs to hear the UA1 in a system that they are familiar with to know which is the better fit for their tastes.  To my ears, the SE84C+ is "beautiful" sounding while the UA1 is "honest" sounding.  They will both embarrass much more expensive amplifiers and I plan to keep both.  For the reasonable price of both amplifiers, that decision wasn't very difficult .....  Grin


The 300B amplifier that has spent a lot of time in my system recently is no longer being sold by the designer, so I don't have a problem making a couple of comparisons between it and the UA1.  I really like this 300B amp.  It sounds a lot different than most of the other 300B amps I have heard ..... probably because it uses solid state rectification and 12AT7 driver tubes, instead of the 6Sx7 tubes that are the normal driver tubes for 300B amps.  My 300B is quicker and tighter sounding than most of the other 300B amps I have heard, which sounded a bit thick and slow to me.

Because of the high input sensitivity, the UA1 puts out a much higher SPL at a lower volume setting on my DAC than the 300B.
When it comes to dynamics, there is no comparison.  The UA1 has startled me at times because of this. The 300B is a lot more forgiving on hot, thin or poorly recorded CDs, which can be a good thing.  But, on well recorded CDs and the vinyl that we played when I visited Rob "firebottle" in Columbus, OH , the UA1 got me a lot closer to the performers.

A couple of things that I noticed immediately that the UA1 does better than just about any amp I have heard (with the exception of a couple of cost is no object ones) is how clearly it articulates vocals and the "toe tapping" factor.  Simply stated, it is hard to sit still while just about any type of music is playing through this amplifier.

I guess the bottom line is that this amplifier is a no-brainer for the modest asking price and will get a person "closer" to the performer than just about anything I have heard.

One of the other gents who has heard this amplifier made an interesting observation about the ability this amplifier has of separating instruments and vocals ..... he said it sounds like each instrument and voice has its own speaker driver dedicated to it ..... and I would second that thought.

Terry will be adding a switchable option on the current production units that should make the amp a lot "friendlier" to hot and thin CDs ..... which will make the amp useful with a larger part of the CD collection for most people.

Many of the folks I know in this hobby have more than one amplifier in their stable.  This amp is unique enough and is at a price point that it would merit serious consideration for just about anyone, IMHO.

Terry shared one of his design goals with me ..... that a person could put a system together with a very modest analog turntable, the UA1 and a decent pair of speakers and have a system that would equal the musicality and joy of listening of a much more expensive audio system.  From what I am hearing, his goal has been realized.

Randy

 
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steve f
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2012, 03:10:25 PM »

Hi Randy,

That's my job to step on toes, not intentionally, but it happens.    Grin

Thanks for your commentary.  That little amp may be right up a lot of audiophiles' alley. I do prefer pentode to triode, and sometimes even SS to tubes. I'm big on neutral sonics with plenty of dynamics.

The UA1 with SS regulation should be a killer unit. I'd really like to audition one. The market needs some reasonable cost amps that are there for sonic quality and not just looks. I can't get into that one without breaking some toes though.

Thanks again.

steve


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Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2012, 05:25:02 AM »

I'm big on neutral sonics with plenty of dynamics.

Thanks again.

steve


Hi Steve,

If neutral sonics and plenty of dynamics is your cup of tea ..... I would bet the farm that you will like the UA1 .....  Grin

If there is any downside to the amp, poorly recorded (hot and thin) CDs will make you cringe ..... but, with well recorded CDs and vinyl this amplifier will let you hear things that will make you shake your head.

Also, the dynamics and "spank" make the amp sound like a lot more than 6 watts a side ..... and this is noticeable even on acoustic instruments and vocals.

I can make an argument for liking a lot of amplifiers I have owned for different reasons, but there is no question in my mind that this amplifier is very special ..... and the asking price is a no-brainer .....  Cool

Best wishes,

Randy
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Ed Schilling
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2012, 08:38:09 AM »

Hey Randy, tell Terry I said "you better be able to grow a thicker skin".

He may not realize this but many of his "competitors" and "old friends" will be upset regardless of how nice he is about it all. He has stepped into their world and on their toes, whether he believes it or not. Regardless of what he thinks or has in mind an amplifier is an amplifier and if he's built a good one he has made enemies he does not know about yet. If he has built an amplifier "for a different market" he will fail.

An amplifiers job is to drive speakers.....if it only works with a few then there is a problem. 6 watts is pretty good and puts him in the middle of the guys going for the "high efficiency" crowd.

I wish him all the success in the world but  he should welcome comparisons, not be afraid of hurting feelings. It's business, plain and simple.
I'm sure Deckert won't give a rats ass about how "nice" he is and a comparison won't make him any more or less upset.

If the amp is really good (and I believe you) he should welcome comparisons. By requesting they not be done it gives (me at least) pause for thought....."what's he afraid of? It's not good enough to go head to head against similar products"?  Had I done this I'd not be here after 12 years. I've tried to be "nice" to everyone.....but not at the expense of cutting my own throat. They would have eaten me alive had it not been for my "honey badger attitude".

It is possible to be nice about things and treat people well, but in the end many (competitors) will view him as simply "that guy that builds that cheap good amp".

So, Randy tell us, does it crush the zen amp? The Torri?  Is it their equal or simply not as good? The answer to this (and similar questions will sell or not sell amps.........

He's going to make enemies whether he likes it or not and it will not be his choice....he has stepped into their world. been there, done that!
Ed
ps.....I've already suggested one of my guys give him a call based on your post, but I'd like to know if it kills a Dec. amp Smiley


« Last Edit: August 01, 2012, 08:44:59 AM by Ed Schilling » Logged
Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2012, 10:41:53 AM »

Ed,

I appreciate what you are saying ..... but I am still on good terms with a lot of different folks who build amplifiers and would like to keep it that way .....  Wink

A couple of things worth saying :

1- Terry isn't afraid of comparisons, that's not the issue.  When you hear one of his amps, you will see that there is nothing to be afraid of.

2 - The UA1 is an "entry level" amplifier as to price ..... but it will run with the big dogs as to performance.

3 - I have always felt that The Horns need more than a couple of watts to really "light them up".  This amp will do it and that is the reason I mentioned it on the HornShoppe forum.

Take care ..... and tell the family I said "hi",

Randy
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Ed Schilling
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2012, 11:05:12 AM »

Hey Randy, as usual I may have been misunderstood. I'm not suggesting stirring up trouble......but you do have an idea how the bass response compares to say, a Carina or Zen. To give us an idea would be helpful to everyone. That is what I'm suggesting and there should be nothing wrong with that. To "play with the big boys" I'd think someone will have to give comparisons to other common well known competition.

To think comparisons are stirring up trouble is to be treading so lightly that one is floating above the path.

There is no reason to shy away from honest comparisons. Quite the contrary, to be silent about feelings and recommendations is almost dishonest if you "know the truth as you see it". After all, it is just an opinion. The test of time will prove how good a product is....and if it is good you'll have jealous people trying to copy or discredit it. Honest comparisons will not affect the end result. He's already made one enemy for sure in his field!

Again, We wish Terry all the best and you should not feel as though you are "doing anyone wrong" by sharing your knowledge and opinion!

Feel free to compare The Horns to anything on the planet!

Ed
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Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2012, 12:04:43 PM »

Ed,

I hear what you're saying and the question that Steve asked was not unexpected or in any way out of line.

My main reason for the original post was to alert the many readers of this forum to a very attractively priced amplifier that would work well with The Horns.

I have not made any secret of the fact that the best sound I ever heard from The Horns in my listening room was with the original Decware mono blocks, which put out about 5 watts a side.  The Select was never able to light The Horns up like those mono blocks did.  The "high impedance" EX version that Decware made for a while worked a lot better with The Horns, but is no longer produced.  Either of these amplifiers were a better match with The Horns if they had a preamp in front of them.
With the 6 watts a side and a very high input sensitivity, the UA1 does not need a preamp and makes The Horns jump.

I have never heard a more musical amplifier than the various Decware Zens with any of the Parker Audio speakers, but those speakers were all originally designed and voiced for a low powered amplifier with a preference for low impedance speakers.  Of course, those speakers work well with a lot of different amplifiers, but it was a very fine combination.

As to the Carina, as far as I can tell, Eddie no longer has a website and is not selling amplifiers commercially.  Eddie made no secret as to the sound he preferred ..... "full of tube goodness" .....  Grin  The Carina had some nice switching options that could produce a variety of sounds, but all of them were fairly warm and rich sounding.  The UA1 is not "warm and rich" sounding by any stretch ..... and while the Carina is a very muscular amplifier for the power rating, the 6 watts a channel that the UA1 puts out is more muscular still.

As to the Decware Taboo, I haven't really spent much time with that amplifier, but from what I understand talking to some folks who own it, it sounds a lot better driven by a preamp.  Again, the UA1 doesn't need a preamp.

Of the current Decware amplifiers that I have heard with The Horns, the $1700.00 Mini Torii sounds the best to my ears.

Those are some honest and fair comments about some amplifiers that I have a high regard for.  There are a lot of crappy amplifiers on the market and all of the ones mentioned above will humiliate most of the competition.  When I bought my first Decware amplifier, it replaced a $2500.00 Audio Research piece ..... which it killed in the musicality department.

To my ears, we have come a long way.  There are some really good amps on the market and the UA1 can hold its own in some pretty respectable company ..... at a price that will not break the bank for most people.

Anyone who owns a pair of Horns and is looking for an amplifier that will make them sing should give the UA1 a serious look.

Randy
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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2012, 12:42:08 PM »

Thanks Randy, that was excellent!

And you know I appreciate you posting about a "Horn friendly amp" for sure. Like I said, I've already sent a friend Terry's way based on your comments. The price is a no brainer......but not if "it ain't real".

Keep in mind, while I know you personally as do several other forum members not every does.....posting impressions of gear you have and had will be of interest and help your "street cred." Smiley

Keep us informed and thanks for the info on Terry's amp!
Ed
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steve f
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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2012, 12:53:39 PM »

Randy,

I asked my question because I have fairly good familiarity with a lot of your equipment. I also value your opinion.

I understand that being totally honest can upset people. We are talking livelihoods here. For those of us not actually offering products for sale, mostly all we have to lose is a couple of hundred bucks, the cost of gaining education. On the other hand, we can help others avoid pitfalls. BTW I bought the EX version of the Decware amp and found it was wrong for the Horns. Sold it after a couple of months of tube rolling. I hate tube rolling. Diversity of opinion.

Steve
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Randy in Caintuck
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« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2012, 01:43:29 PM »

Hi Steve,

While I didn't think that the EX Decware amp was the BEST amp for The Horns, I did think it had a greater sense of "ease" than the standard version.  I did feel that both amplifiers benefited from the CSP2 preamp with The Horns.

I don't mind a little tube rolling ..... but it can get a bit tedious .....  Wink

Best wishes,

Randy
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TerryG
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« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2012, 11:29:33 PM »



Well this is a rather uncomfortable discussion  Kiss 

The reason I did not want Randy to compare amplifiers directly is because out of the respect for the feelings of others.  Personally I do not think I know of anyone with a thicker skin than myself.  But that does NOT mean I have to be inconsiderate of others.  Still brace yourself for the following "pitch".

I am also not about to apologise for introducing others to anything I feel they will enjoy, will benefit them, or help them in some manner.  What I am hoping is exactly what Ed has already stated will happen, others will get the point that there is something to this.  And others will start producing single ended pentode amplifiers that are designed to exploit their virtues.  One thing should be as plain as the nose on anyones face, these are pentodes and need to be used as such, you can not treat them like triodes, anymore than you could treat a triode like a pentode.  This is not to say you can not strap a pentode to work as a triode, but if your using it as a pentode, then understand their needs as pentodes, and do not try to make them work as triodes.  In other words in pentode mode, pentodes have unique needs.

As a result of my desire to help as many as possible experience the pentode sound, and what these tubes do in single ended pentode operation, I have started a thread on another forum of a single ended pentode Spud build using the 6LU8 tube.  It is designed to be open source and after the group build is done I may offer it as a kit, for around $300.00.   But the idea is to make a single ended pentode amp for as little as possible but not sacrificing performance where it is necessary.  The raw parts should cost under $200.00 and will be sourced on the thread.  I am trying to do everything I can to allow anyone on any budget experience a single ended pentode amplifier.  A year from now we will see how wise my efforts to do this, this way is.   It is my priveledge to offer this amp for others to experience.  And it does come with a full money back guarantee for 30 days if you decide you do not like it all your out is shipping costs.

Regarding this little amplifier Randy seems to like, it is meant to be a sample.  Just like the free little taste of ice cream at the ice cream parlor, this amp is just a taste of what pentodes can do.  It is not meant to be the last word in high fidelity.  I have two others designs that I feel are better, and more of an all out approach, but they cost more money.  But I am not leaving much room for profit with regard to this amp, that is my personal choice to meet a price point.  We will see if that decision is wise as well.

For the last year and one half I have been trying to get anyone excited about single ended pentode amplifiers.  Personally I feel they are the best tube ampilfiers I have ever heard, but then again I have led a fairly sheltered life.  The only other amplifier that is a single ended pentode costing under $1K that I know of is the Alamarro amplifier.  Therefore single ended pentode amplifiers are just not out there that much, there are a few though.

This amp is interesting I could relate several incriminating things about its design, and its design phylosophy, but would anyone really care.  All the high points of its specifications have been related already.  6 watts, actually 6.2watts, meant to be used with 8Ω speakers, and is a rather high gain amp of about +20dbs, but that will change a little on the next version.  It has two gain stages, and started out as a Spud amp, but I thought some might have issues with getting it to the clipping point using its full wattage, so I added a gain stage.  I probably should put a volume control on it, but as it sits it probably would be a good candidate for the Truth line buffer.

I am open to questions.  I will openly compare any amplifier I own with this amp, and be as honest as I can be.  Anyone with a brain should feel my opinion is scewed a little, being the creator of this amplifier.  I could not wait for Randy to get his Horn's back because I have my Horn's and felt that they complimented each other very well.  To me what was so cool about each of their abilities was the imaging capabilities of each is so nice that together they do things I personally have never heard.  But then again I have not heard my Horns with a high watt SET either, like I said I am a little sheltered.   To me there is really only one word that would best describe this amp, any other area it could be improved, but in one area, I have never heard its equal.    DYNAMIC!!  both macro, and micro.

Believe me when I say it is not me, its the tube, all I do is get the heck out of the way!!

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« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2012, 01:37:07 PM »

Hey Ed, ok I'm now in on this thread since you requested some comparison such as the Carina, and other worthy amplifiers to compare with Terry's pentode amplifier.

I'll make it short for ya.  I own a Carina and love it.  I own an 845 triode 16wpc.  I've owned a number of decware amps too.  A few solid state amps that are held in high regard by a number of folks.  Too many to mention here.  Bottom line is this: I had an opportunity to hear Terry's pentode amplifier, at Randy's and at my place, with my gear and several sets of speakers including my beloved horns you made for me.  His little pentode amplifier is in good company with the amps I own and associated gear.  I also owned a 205 mark ll a while back too.  For the price of admission as a kit or otherwise, this is an amplifier worth looking at if you get a chance.  I won't sit here and blather on about bass output, shimmering highs, sparkly this and that.  What I will say is it makes music, good music.  As with all things this is my opinion and I don't have all the answers.  A fresh approach with pentodes is a nice addition IMHO.

Rob.   
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