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Line Magnetic Tube Amp Journey


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Hello All from Singapore.

This is my first post on this forum though I have read a lot of posts but I decided to become a member because I am on my way to starting my Tube journey and I believe this forum is the bible for tubes! This post is a cut and paste job of some of my many posts in the Singapore forum. I saw the LM is getting popular down under so I thought it would be great to catch up with LM users and also help future buyers. 

My setup is as follows

Speakers - Elac Adante AF61 (87dB/6 ohm)
SS Amplifier - Peachtree Nova 300 Integrated with Phono
TT - Rega Planar 3 with Elys 2 cartridge (Using the built in Phono)
Music Server - Elac Discovery with Tidal. 
Speaker Cables - Tellirium Q Black 2
Power Cable – Shunyata Venom HC V2
Power Conditioner – AQ Niagra 1000
Music Taste – Hard Rock, Slow Rock, Acoustic Rock, Indie, Country, Smooth Jazz (Night Time) and Electronic ( House Party)

I started my journey with the Andrew Jones designed 99 dollar Pioneer speakers and found my way to the Elac UniFi UB5 before settling for the Adantes. At least in Singapore, I find the price to performance ratio to be excellent for the Elac range of products. I really enjoy the Elac Adante with the Peachtree Nova 300 but I have been toying with the idea to bring in a warmer Amp to sweeten the sound a bit. I got an Ifi tube buffer and that was the first time the idea of tubes struck me but I was always told that for solid state gear is what gives you the dynamics and the details and I was getting all that from my system. However the idea of Tubes were always in my mind. However time went by and I was ready(saved enough money) to upgrade my amp to chase the ultimate sound. I was evaluating the Luxman  Class A and AB flagship integrateds. My mind said Class A was not going to drive my speakers so the 509LX was kind of the ones I had my eyes on. From reviews and forum talk and dealer information, I was sure that the Luxman 509 would give the sufficient sweetness to my speakers which will give me the sound that I was chasing. I had also auditioned the Mcintosh MC252 with the Elac Adantes. I honestly had a lot of expectations from that pairing but it let me down. The MC252 just could not tame my bass and it was all over the place. 

I then started reading about tube amps and I felt that instead of buying another solid state, why don’t I keep the peachtree as my SS driver and then look for a tube driver. I can divide duties between them. I also use my speakers as fronts for my tv so the peachtree can handle that and when I want to just listen to music, I can fire up the tubes. Line Magnetic is a well known brand in Singapore and I have dealt with the dealer before as he also deals with Mytek and I have had the Mytek Brooklyn in the past.

805IA vs 150IA

I have read every article about these amps in forums and reviews alike and I have narrowed down my choice to these two. 805IA seems to be a very popular choice and 150IA seems to be a powerful beast. Since both cost the same, cost is not a deciding factor. I have an audition in a few days but I cannot take my Adante to the dealer nor can the dealer bring the amps to my house due to the weight!  So I am going to take my Elac UniFi UB5  85db@4 ohms )book shelves to audition because I feel that they are the starting point of development for the Adantes. 

I have written to a few LM dealers across the world and they have been super helpful but the opinion has been mixed. Some suggest the 150iA as it will be a better match for my speakers and future speakers since they can drive almost anything. Some was eloquent about the 805ia and that it is just magical and has enough power for my speakers. My dealer also has the ATC SM40 and he says that the 805 can easily drive them to decent sound levels without losing out on bass control. 

What do you think? 

Can current owners or tube gurus suggest based on my above description which amp would be a better match? I sit at about 9 feet from my speakers and I will not listen to them above 80 db loudness. My room size is a rectangular open plan about 16x12 will be the listening area. Do I need the 100 watts? Or will the SET amp do the job? 

 

Audition: 

So today I audition the LM88IA and the LM805IA. I carried my old pair of Elac UniFi UB5 so that I use something that I am familiar with.

We started with the LM805IA - It was my first ever tube experience and what I heard from these 500 dollar speakers were something special. I was able to relate to things that was described in reviews and forums. The treble sparkled and the mid range was so good that you could think that the sound was live. The only area where I felt the 805IA didnt do very well was probably the bass. I felt that it was a little wobbly for the lack of a better word. You could say that it was not tight compared to my peachtree nova 300 since I cant compare it with anything else. I would think that it could be due to the fact that my speaker was 85db@4 ohms. When I raised this point with the dealer, he mentioned that the 805IA will work best with something in the 89db and above. I will take his word for that since I could not verify that. The 805IA tubes are big and get hot. I surely could not consider it given my curre

We then moved to the 88IA because that was what I thought would work well for me. We started in the ultra linear mode. We played the same tracks that we played on the 805IA. My first reaction was that this doesnt sound like tube. It sounded like a good solid state. It did most of the things right but that mid range magic was missing. Then we switched the Triode mode and then the sound changed quite a bit. The lushness was back and it sounded a lot creamier like the 805IA but the bass was well controlled. I still think that if matched with the right speaker, the 805IA would be the better sound for me if I had the room and a rack that was child proof.

The 88IA is cheaper, the all rounder and works well with harder to drive speakers. Both the amps played loud enough. The volume was at about 9 o clock and plenty of room to move up so I dont think that it would be an issue for most rooms. I think the 88IA is a great way to get into tubes, get a slice of the SET magic and friendlier option for those with kids and pets. I have paid for the 88IA. The dealer will be upgrading amp and delivery will happen in 10 days.

Day 1 of Delivery of the LM88:

My amp was delivered in all its shining piano black glory ( it is also a dust magnet) last week. The dealer personally delivered the amp and he gave me a 15 min dos and donts.

This tube amp has 0, 4, 8 and 16 ohm. I was educated that the black speaker wire goes into the 0 ohm (ground) tap and then the red wire goes into a tap of your choice. I put into the 4 ohm tap because my speaker Elac Adante AF 61 was rated for 6 ohms. I am yet to experiment with other taps.

The sound out of the box was not what I had in mind. I was not very concerned either because in the few years that I have had a decent system, I knew that things need to settle down. The dealer told me that he had about 5 hours of running he did on the amp since he had made some upgrades as well. He told me that it would take 50 hours for things to settle down. The first track I played right after the 30 second blinker stopped was from Tidal and it was Down in the Hole by John Cambell and while the vocal was very raw. This was right after the amp was turned on. My wife who has a sensitive ear also told me that it was very raw and she described it like the singer was practising instead of performing. The bass was also wobbly. Within an hour, I felt that the sound was improving in the mid range. The highs were still quite sharp in some tracks but the signature of the treble was more crisp than bright. I never felt that this could be a bright amp and I was right. I played all sorts of tracks. I tried some infected mushroom and I dont think this amp had any issues with mid bass. One of the things that I noticed was on the strings. The strings for the lack of a better word felt real. The decay was longer..not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing but to my ears it was nice.

After about 3 hours of listening, it was quite late in the night and I had the entire space for myself and I tried some Sinatra and it was very nice. I have no doubts that the amp will shine in the mid range, I need to find out how they settle down in the upper and lower registers.

2 Weeks

The mid range has improved quite a bit. The vocals are sounding more natural and airy. The bass seems fine to my ears. I dont see them lacking compared to the solid state. Slow music sounds very good in Triode mode. I have been using Ultra linear for Rock music. when playing Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, the cymbals sounds are edgy/grainy. I noticed the same when there is a distorted electric guitar. The dealer and I have been exchanging notes and his advise is that I need to run it in for a longer time to see if this goes away. I read that capacitors that need to break in and Mundorf capacitors take longer to settle than usual. 

I also experimented with the taps and I feel that the 8 ohm tap seems to be an easier listen. The bias on 1 tube is slightly off so Ive just ordered a screw driver that is small enough to get through the bias adjustment slot.

Input stage: 2x 6CL8A (Mullard) et 2x 12BH7 (Electro Harmonix)
Power stage: 4x KT88 (JJ)

I am not able to find much information about the 6CL8A tubes on the internet. Are these the tubes that are responsible for the sound signature? If I were to sweeten the treble, is this the one that should be rolled? I am going to probably get about 200 hours before I think about tube rolling but Ive been trying to understand what tubes do what and what happens when you roll any of them.

 

4 Weeks:

I am happy to share that the top end grain which was annoying me seems to have gone away. I am not sure which tube was the grainy one but the burn in seems to have made it go away. I am still not listening to it critically but I get the feeling that I can extract good sound from the amp. The speaker positioning needs to be re done for sure. The bass delivery is different to that of my Peachtree Nova 300 amp. The peachtree had a better grip on bass heavy tracks. I am referring to the lows and not the mid bass. I feel the mid bass is not affected at all but the bass does feel a little slower but I would not call it as a weakness..just a different presentation. 

I changed the polarity of the speakers at the speaker end and to my ears, it seemed to have improved the SQ. Not night and day but surely few things are slightly clearer. It could be a placebo but I will keep experimenting since it causes no harm. The amp has good extension in the mids and highs. Good recordings sound good. Bad recordings sound horrible. The peachtree did not extend as much so rounded highs helps with poor recordings ( lots of 70s rock on tidal is not the best of recordings). My elac Adantes are extremely revealing speakers and very unforgiving on bad recordings with this amp. I have to live with it as a wise man said "In a high fidelity setup, garbage in is garbage out".

The amp for these speakers work best when I listen to them at about 70 to 75 db. Music loses its vitality at lower volumes. The amp shines with vocals and less instruments. Strings sound great especially acoustic guitars with vocals. I feel when there is a lot of instruments, the amp is not necessarily able to hold all of it together. Noticed only on some complex symphony. This again could be due to my speaker being harder to drive in general. I am yet to do any critical listening. I will give it about 200 hours. 

I am yet to try Vinyl on them yet I am waiting form my Tellurium Q Black II phono cables to reach me.

I will update post the 200 hour mark. On a separate note, who are the reliable dealers for buying tubes? Local or Online? Can I also know what pre amp tubes that you recommend for rolling. From what I have read, RCA Black Plates NOS  are quite popular and are in line with my preference in sound signature. I like a romantic sound with decent amount of detail. Rich/Dark/Warm are terms that work well with this speaker. Ideally should also work if I were to have a separate horn loaded speaker (think heresy/forte) down the line. I do not want to change the KT88 right now since I guess they have a shorter life and will need a change sooner than preamp tubes. 

 

8 weeks: 

 

Just wanted to share an update on my journey. 

The more I listened to the amp, I was convinced that it did a few things very well with my speakers and a few things which left me wanting for more. This is not the problem with the amp but rather it was the nature of my speaker. The pairing was restricting my choice of music and I was listening to slow/easier music. Fast rock music was not something this pair seemed to do well with. I did not want to go down the rabbit hole of trying to tube roll since it was not going to change the power demands of the speaker. 

After a lot of discussion with the dealer, I have decided to move up to the LM-150 IA amplifier. I feel this is a better match for my speakers. I heard the LM-150 with ATC SM50 and I liked what I heard. I will share my updates once the new beast comes home this Friday. 

For those who reading this thread, I recommend using the LM-88IA with relatively easier to drive speakers (There are lots of them) and it would do a phenomenal job. 

Looking to hear from fellow LM-150 users. 

I look forward to connecting with LM users and Tube aficionados 🙂

 

 

 

   

 

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you may not get the ultimate 'slam' of a SS amp with tubes, but I certainly get 'enough' on my system and I'm a classic rock/prog/classical listener. Welcome to the rabbit hole, you've taken the black pill, because this IS a 'black hole', you'll end up buying tubes to roll, tubes for certain genres/types of music, then you'll want 'back ups, general everyday listening, and then to 'special tubes' we all have for those times we really want to LISTEN.  Then of course you'll start on Capacitor upgrades, attenuator upgrades,  not to mention valve tester(s).

 Welcome, the hole runs DEEP 😁😁😁

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39 minutes ago, Grizzly said:

Very thorough write up!

Thanks a Lot Grizzly. I see that you are a LM dealer. I think you are doing audiophiles a great service. I think the LM brand is phenomenal for the money. It sometimes is unfairly written of as a Chinese product but pound for pound it is a heavy weight in all aspects. What is your view on the LM150s? In Singapore, the 805IA out sells the LM150 as the typical chinese music are vocal and trebble focused and 805IA with its golden midrange wins. But for harder to drive speakers and rock music ( Beatles to Black Sabbath), I felt the need for more power. I hope the LM150 does the job! The excitement is killing me!

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1 hour ago, cafe67 said:

ps nice write up of your thoughts and experiences with the LM. 

 

Hope you have air conditioning 😀

Everyone has Air Conditioning in Singapore! It is hot and humid through out the year. Lol. However, you reckon the LM150 amps get very hot? I have been using the LM88 IA and while it gets hot, It never got so hot that I needed to turn the aircon on. I read somewhere there that KT150 tubes disperse heat better than KT88. The 300B tubes on the LM805, for sure some serious ventilation.

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8 hours ago, BrownMagic said:

Thanks a Lot Grizzly. I see that you are a LM dealer. I think you are doing audiophiles a great service. I think the LM brand is phenomenal for the money. It sometimes is unfairly written of as a Chinese product but pound for pound it is a heavy weight in all aspects. What is your view on the LM150s? In Singapore, the 805IA out sells the LM150 as the typical chinese music are vocal and trebble focused and 805IA with its golden midrange wins. But for harder to drive speakers and rock music ( Beatles to Black Sabbath), I felt the need for more power. I hope the LM150 does the job! The excitement is killing me!

I prefer the 805 as well mostly, however the 150 does have that extra bottom end urge at the expense of a little of the mid and treble magic. It does run noticeably cooler than the 805 as well. The pats on the back should go to the distributor though @Line Magnetic Australia

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Wow - awesome write up. Great to hear you're getting good support from the local dealer in Singapore. We all really try to put the customers first to support them through their journey as much as possible and the factory makes fantastic products.

 

Interestingly on the different amplifier models, I find them fairly true to the tube type used, so it really comes down to which tube produces "your" sound. Some Love the EL34, some go crazy for the 845 and a lot of people love the mix of power and SET magic with the 805. My opinion on the different amps doesn't mean much as sound is such a personal thing - my ears will hear different things to yours!

 

Looking forward to reading more on your progress to getting the right sound for you. 👍

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6 hours ago, Line Magnetic Australia said:

My opinion on the different amps doesn't mean much as sound is such a personal thing - my ears will hear different things to yours!

 

Looking forward to reading more on your progress to getting the right sound for you. 👍

Thanks a lot Cam. I can't agree more. The system synergy is more important than an individual component. And choice of tubes for me had to come down to the speaker load. Have you had a chance to compare the LM88 and LM150? My speakers are power hungry and I feel that the LM150's 100 watts should seal it for me. 

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9 hours ago, Grizzly said:

I prefer the 805 as well mostly, however the 150 does have that extra bottom end urge at the expense of a little of the mid and treble magic. It does run noticeably cooler than the 805 as well. The pats on the back should go to the distributor though @Line Magnetic Australia

My reasoning has been similar. The 805 with an easier speaker would be a very special sound. It for sure has a golden colour that is added to all frequencies so purists might argue. In Singapore, the 805 and 150 cost exactly the same, so it all boils down to speaker matching and the kind of music one listens to. In a perfect world, we will have an 850 (805+150) LOL

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What a wonderfull write up there @BrownMagic

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences even though i’m SS amp audiophile through and through.

Thanks for sharing and enjoy your journey.

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1 hour ago, BrownMagic said:

Thanks a lot Cam. I can't agree more. The system synergy is more important than an individual component. And choice of tubes for me had to come down to the speaker load. Have you had a chance to compare the LM88 and LM150? My speakers are power hungry and I feel that the LM150's 100 watts should seal it for me. 

I have listened to both with a couple of different sets of speakers. Again, from my experience it comes down to valve preference and synergy (dare I use that word! 😀). I found that combined with my personal Zu Audio speakers the LM-88iA was my preference, but when combined with Wharfedale Elysian speakers the LM-150iA was in front.

 

I haven't heard your Elacs, but from what you've said the LM-150iA is possibly a better match. Hopefully this is helpful. 👍

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19 hours ago, Line Magnetic Australia said:

I have listened to both with a couple of different sets of speakers. Again, from my experience it comes down to valve preference and synergy (dare I use that word! 😀). I found that combined with my personal Zu Audio speakers the LM-88iA was my preference, but when combined with Wharfedale Elysian speakers the LM-150iA was in front.

 

I haven't heard your Elacs, but from what you've said the LM-150iA is possibly a better match. Hopefully this is helpful. 👍

I think you what you say makes sense. The Zu's are super easy to drive, Single Driver. The Wharfedales with multiple driver and a 4 ohm load would for sure do better with more power. I will report once I taste my own mix! From your experience,  in terms of the how hot these two get, would you say they both are similar? Ive heard mix reviews with some saying the KT150s disperse heat better and hence the amp runs cooler than those with the KT88 tubes. Would be keen to hear your views since you have tried them together. Worried about the Dog :D

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20 hours ago, jt301 said:

What a wonderfull write up there @BrownMagic

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences even though i’m SS amp audiophile through and through.

Thanks for sharing and enjoy your journey.

Thanks a lot. Ive been using SS all this while and it is my first dance with the tubes. 

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18 minutes ago, BrownMagic said:

I think you what you say makes sense. The Zu's are super easy to drive, Single Driver. The Wharfedales with multiple driver and a 4 ohm load would for sure do better with more power. I will report once I taste my own mix! From your experience,  in terms of the how hot these two get, would you say they both are similar? Ive heard mix reviews with some saying the KT150s disperse heat better and hence the amp runs cooler than those with the KT88 tubes. Would be keen to hear your views since you have tried them together. Worried about the Dog :D

With respect to heat, the LM-88iA and LM-150iA are very similar. It is the bigger tubes that get really hot and need much better ventilation.

However - I'd still keep the dog away, don't want the poor fella to burn his nose! 😀

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Great write up and personal pathway.

 

I agree that the speaker matching (driving ability) must be the thing for you as it's your musical preference that counts here. When the prices of different models are the same  it's paradoxically easier to think laterally about power handling. No one amp can do everything, but I would have said that my own Line Magnetic 518iA (20W 845 SET) was the exception to that rule...not so, it seems, when you really know what you're seeking. And know something about physics.

 

While LM amps can deliver astounding sonics generally--the cream of the Chinese High end--obviously system synergy counts. Good to be reminded of this.

 

When you have settled on a LM amp I have found that the very best signal and driving tubes are a worthwhile investment here.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is a new authorised Line magnetic dealer in Gold Coast is Paul Baker of FallsAudio . 
98 Bridgman dr , reedy Creek , Qld 4227 .  He does services and repair tubes amps as well as built to order . 

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Nice write up and you are in good hands with the advice from Robert.Some of his LM modifications were later implemented in there newer models...

Stump

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22 minutes ago, Stump said:

Nice write up and you are in good hands with the advice from Robert.Some of his LM modifications were later implemented in there newer models...

Stump

Thanks Stump! Yes, Robert is great with tubes and he is a DIYer. He offers his customers the option to get the "Singapore Edition" which basically is a souped up stock LM model. He changes the power sockets to Furutech, He also changes some caps and resistors. The midrange tends to be better compared to stock. I believe he exports some very large horns to Australia as well. 

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On 02/10/2020 at 8:23 AM, doogie44 said:

Great write up and personal pathway.

 

I agree that the speaker matching (driving ability) must be the thing for you as it's your musical preference that counts here. When the prices of different models are the same  it's paradoxically easier to think laterally about power handling. No one amp can do everything, but I would have said that my own Line Magnetic 518iA (20W 845 SET) was the exception to that rule...not so, it seems, when you really know what you're seeking. And know something about physics.

 

While LM amps can deliver astounding sonics generally--the cream of the Chinese High end--obviously system synergy counts. Good to be reminded of this.

 

When you have settled on a LM amp I have found that the very best signal and driving tubes are a worthwhile investment here.

Hello David - Yes, I agree with your experience. There are many factors I had to take into account before deciding on the LM150 compared to the 300b based LM805IA. In an ideal world, I would have both amps driving two different speakers but it is a never ending game! I am considering setting up a second setup which is just completely different to what I have in the main rig. Ideally something that is forgiving of poor recordings! Something not meant for critical listening. 

I am most defintely planning on changing the small tubes and that has been the advice by most LM owners as well. Ive not heard the 518ia but it was the model that got me into an LM showroom. If stereophlile didn't review  the 518, I would have never known about this brand even though I live in Singapore and there so many Chinese branded amps in the market. The gold color scheme is too gorgeous to look at. Shame they don't make it in that colour anymore. I would like to experiment with a SET amp at some point in my HiFi journey. 

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