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Hi,

I'm interested to hear peoples experience running Valve amps in QLD. Particularly as a primary listening rig and running through summer without air conditioning.

 

Background:

I've been an avid HiFi individual for many years.

 

I've run into a problem over the last few years with my Sugden a21a (almost 20 years old) which started dropping the left channel. Without getting into that issue (exhausted) I am retiring the Sugden and looking to my next option.

 

Specifically I am looking to an Icon audio Stereo 25 MKII.

I'm not in a financial position to do what I thought I may have done all those years ago when I bought the sugden (sell it in the future and upgrade to a more expensive amp).

I have on good authority that the Icon will be well suited to my system and will keep some of the colour which I am fond of (I have a studio reference setup also for recording) so the valve amp will drive my primary listening system (mostly vinyl).

 

System Spec:

air conditioned room (although I prefer not to run it when listening to music)

Sonus Faber toy towers

Rega P3 with added power supply and upgraded drive belt

Rega ania MC

Rega fono MC MKII

Nordost Blue heaven

 

 

Interested to hear your thoughts

 

Edited by Nate G
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I use an EL34 amp and don't find it adding to the heat of the room by any appreciable margin, when It's hot it's hot, the room that is.

But I have the sliding doors open so not sure how different that would be if they were closed.

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Thanks Ian,

Our listening room has a high ceiling and a floating floor. There is good air flow so this is good to hear your example.

 

The Sugden is class A so it ran super hot in summer. May very well have played a part in what I would call its 'early' demise.

I have two friends with A21a's also. None of us have a working rig 15-20 years on but can't say I don't love those amps.

 

I suppose, what (if any) disadvantage is there to running a valve amp in a climate that regularly exceeds 30 degrees C ambient room temperature?

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No disadvantages to report on valve amp use under those lovely preconditioning temperatures over summer that valves absoluely adore to be in. The only disadvantage will be on the listener and the level of discomfort.

 

The internal gas vacuum will nicely be isothermally preconditioned. Warm up time for the accompanying circuitry to come up to speed will also be quicker.

 

Just make sure that those drops of sweat don't end up over the hot valves sizzling them to steam. 😁

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I would suggest that you look at the total power usage of the amp.    I can't find any specs, but for a 30+30 amp, maybe 200 watts top?  Anyway, consider what it would be like, temperature wise, to run a couple or three of 100 watt light bulbs in the room.  If the people will be comfortable, the valves certainly will :)  

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The Sugden's may very well have suffered due to their own generated heat long term, at least electrolytic caps in them might have suffered after 20 years which would be expected.

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Don’t have experience of the Icon but I hear good things about them.
Just reading your post though I thought I’d share my experience of my Sugden A21A bought in 2001 - so similar vintage to yours. It was sounding dull and had lost some sparkle/ weight and richness. Anyway Sugden sent me a set of replacement caps, rectifiers and volume, balance and selectors. Got my technician (son) to install them and it has transformed it I must say. The components were 95 quid and its like new. 

I upgraded to an IA4 from another SNA member as I wanted the extra power for my speakers and room but I won’t sell the little A21a.  It’s a giant killer with the right sensitivity speakers I think even compared to the Masterclass.

Would be interested in how you go with your quest. 

Edited by Shaunmaxr
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On 26/02/2021 at 6:29 PM, muon* said:

The Sugden's may very well have suffered due to their own generated heat long term, at least electrolytic caps in them might have suffered after 20 years which would be expected.

Yes,

When the L channel first dropped we did some work on power supply which resolved the problem (at the time) but at least one of the Caps were bulging and as I wanted the amp long term I replaced the four of them. This wasn't the end of the work on the amp unfortunately and many issues, $$$ and down time ensued!

 

As above. Doesn't make me any less endowed with the sound of those amps.

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Well I can say that my Quad II mains transformers get uncomfortably hot after an hour of use.  With their age I don't like the idea of not being able to put my hand on the transformers and I have had one fail about 2 years ago.

 

But then again my SS plinius MA102's also get damn hot if I run them class A.  In summer I keep them in AB.

 

Unfortunately I think it is just a problem with Qld as even my valve CD player gets pretty damn warm (Opera Consenance Droplet 5).

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38 minutes ago, Shaunmaxr said:

Just reading your post though I thought I’d share my experience of my Sugden A21A bought in 2001 - so similar vintage to yours. It was sounding dull and had lost some sparkle/ weight and richness. Anyway Sugden sent me a set of replacement caps, rectifiers and volume, balance and selectors. Got my technician (son) to install them and it has transformed it I must say. The components were 95 quid and its like new. 

This is great to hear, thanks for the info.

As an interesting side note, I sent Sugden an email when it was identified that the Caps could do with replacing. I have an email back from them saying 'Replacing the capacitors would appear to be a fairly random suggestion'. As if a bulging cap wasn't enough? When I offered more info (age of the amp, that I live in Australia where the heat can be a real issue) I did not receive any further reply.

I'm glad your experience was different.

 

Happy to update on how I go with the Icon. I feel at this point its the way for me to go

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I found that the best compromise for me is high efficiency speakers (99db+) and lower wattage amps (10WPC or less) meant both incredible sound and far lower heat output.  Course I've since moved to a 10WPC class A solid state amp which I find a bit cooler running again and would a draw approx 110W continious at the wall. Best sound I've experienced yet. Truthfully I can only feel the heat if I put my hand on the side heatsink and I can easily hold it there. My previous 6WPC Wavebourn Edelweiss-3 SEP amp ran way hotter.

 

The Aleph-M doesn't sound solid state,  yet it doesn't sound tube either.  Rather a marriage of the traits I enjoy most of each  :)

Edited by MattyW
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Weston Topaz and it does put out some heat but I have a sealed room acoustically and I ended up putting AC in because of the insulation batts (acoustic ones). They both keep the heat in and also keep the cool in. If the tubes were in a bigger room then i don't think they'd be a problem. But we're more humid here than Brisbane and smallish room and hot tubes don't mix.

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On the Northern beaches of Sydney it gets quite hot sometimes (Queensland hot) but the humidity can be bad too. I have noticed 2 things after 30 years of owning valve amps here:

 

1. An A/Con for the music room is very worthwhile (a ducted, 'quiet-running' type). I used to have all the lounge room windows open all the time but not after noticing the resulting corrosion...

2. Mostly it's the 845 valves and banks of 6550s that offend in raising the ambient temperature.

 

My 300B and EL34 twin valve amps, and my preamp are OK in this regard.

 

There is nothing quite like hearing beautiful music in a deliciously cool room on a very hot evening. Talk about a guilty pleasure...

 

[Incidentally, my friend in Perth came up with a partial solution to global warming during a heatwave over there. He suggests that then everybody just opens their freezer door at the same time! 😁]

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On 26/02/2021 at 5:52 PM, aussievintage said:

I would suggest that you look at the total power usage of the amp.    I can't find any specs, but for a 30+30 amp, maybe 200 watts top?  Anyway, consider what it would be like, temperature wise, to run a couple or three of 100 watt light bulbs in the room.  If the people will be comfortable, the valves certainly will :)  

Yes, I found a doc online and 178~180 watts was the quoted max usage by memory. I think the 'heaters' use about 78 which is a factor in this figure

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd like to thank everyone for their input.

I'm the proud new owner of the Icon Audio Stereo 25 MkII.

I managed to muster up some extra cash and traded my P3/ +PSU on a brand new P6 as well.

My Ania MC obviously came over to the new P6 also.

 

The improvement over my old system for the above reason cannot just be put down to the amplifier, however the experience is note worthy.

Having heard the Ania (with rega external phone stage) I do have a reference for the cartridge, however the P6 clearly adds a significant amount of detail and control to the front end. No doubt the improved signal would aid the amp in delivering more palatable/ digestible music.   

 

I've found the Icon to gobble up everything I've thrown at it from:

The 2009 melody Gardot album with lush strings and clear restraint in production - a trombone solo using few long notes with the most subtle of flourishes to pink floyds brick in the wall (need I say more). I even cranked some hermitude to see what transpired and soon found myself with a big grin from ear to ear that I couldn't wipe away and glued to my couch!

 

Overall, I have built this system for musicality. The Sonus Faber toys are a efficient speaker into 8 ohms and have surprised me again at how they are handling the new components with details I've never heard before like Gravity (track 1 on John Mayers Continuum album). The shimmering cymbals that ring out and the subtle hum of the guitar amp latent in the mix.

 

Overall very impressed.

Now I'm back to digging through my records for more gems. I've got listening to do!

 

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It may be relevant to mention the heat.

It is clear visually that the valves are glowing. We have had rain here the last few days and sub 30 degree temps.

I'm not convinced that the Icon is running all that much hotter than the Sugden did, but it seems pretty happy and with the cover on I can touch the cover which is hot but more like a pleasant hot than scalding.

 

I suspect I will just need to wait and see as far as reliability but based on the above have no issue given the size of the room, air flow and the option of A/C whilst listening.

 

Thanks again

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5 hours ago, NightShade said:

I'm the proud new owner of the Icon Audio Stereo 25 MkII.

Congratulations on the Icon Amp. So glad you like it.
I have the Icon Audio Phone PS3 phono pre amp.

image.png.f7d1874c70e479356e25196228b56e97.png

 

My valve amp is positioned within 5 surfaces of a cabinet which means only the front is open to air.

I mounted a fan in the back of the cabinet, only because I could. LOL!
I'm in Brisbane so it can get hot, but that is taken care of with air con.
I mean who wants to sit in the heat while listening to your records, not me!
But I do believe this added ventilation will help with extending the life of the main amp valves.
 

You can see the fan at the back of the amp cabinetamp-fan1.jpg.e28d848875c81a71e9444ec668ff325e.jpg

 

This model and make are super quiet

amp-fan2.jpg.73499c4dc4fe25e54b27870f28b0e3fa.jpg

 

Here is the fan with the back panel it is mounted on popped out of the cabinet.
I wired the power to is so that it comes on automatically when the amp is turned on.
If you walk around the back while the amp is on you can feel a lot of heat streaming out of the fan.

amp-fan3.jpg.4e282bac0720bc5fe88227940a884bf1.jpg

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12 minutes ago, rockpig said:

You can see the fan at the back of the amp

Looking good!

Yes, I'm familiar with fractal having built several computers over many many years. Another good 'silent fan' is Noctua. Looks to be a good rig you are rocking there

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Please share some photos of the iconic audionics and valvionics glowing!

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I'd be more worried about your mains AC voltage, and what that gets up to, and whether all your equipment is rated and set up for nominal 240V, as it could be set up for 220 or 230V operation and you could have 250V going in.

Edited by trobbins
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Icon Audio is based in the UK and they have a similar situation to us as far as mains supply goes.

And if it was purchased from an Australian retailer it should be OK.

 

Edit: Granted I'd see what the mains from the wall is, as some people get horror voltage levels.

Edited by muon*
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On 16/03/2021 at 4:46 PM, xlr8or said:

Please share some photos of the iconic audionics and valvionics glowing!

As requested. Not the best photos as was taken with my mobile phone in low light!

 

I must admit, I didn't buy the amp for its looks. In fact, based on the image searches online I was a bit underwhelmed, particularly compared to the 'big brother' Icon amps that have copper plate and other beautiful finishing material.

That was before I saw the amp in person. Up close the build is very good including subtle touches like the black brushed front plate. The costs of the build clearly went to things like point to point wiring. Things like a remote control (convenience) and style flourishes were left out to focus on quality of sound for a price.

PXL_20210319_125344380.NIGHT.jpg

PXL_20210319_125416404.NIGHT.jpg

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On 16/03/2021 at 4:25 PM, rockpig said:

Congratulations on the Icon Amp. So glad you like it.
I have the Icon Audio Phone PS3 phono pre amp.

image.png.f7d1874c70e479356e25196228b56e97.png

 

My valve amp is positioned within 5 surfaces of a cabinet which means only the front is open to air.

I mounted a fan in the back of the cabinet, only because I could. LOL!
I'm in Brisbane so it can get hot, but that is taken care of with air con.
I mean who wants to sit in the heat while listening to your records, not me!
But I do believe this added ventilation will help with extending the life of the main amp valves.
 

You can see the fan at the back of the amp cabinetamp-fan1.jpg.e28d848875c81a71e9444ec668ff325e.jpg

 

This model and make are super quiet

amp-fan2.jpg.73499c4dc4fe25e54b27870f28b0e3fa.jpg

 

Here is the fan with the back panel it is mounted on popped out of the cabinet.
I wired the power to is so that it comes on automatically when the amp is turned on.
If you walk around the back while the amp is on you can feel a lot of heat streaming out of the fan.

amp-fan3.jpg.4e282bac0720bc5fe88227940a884bf1.jpg

 

Yeah, I can remember many an occasion sitting in just my boxer shorts sweating as I listened to vinyl...... Then painfully extracting myself from the leather couch (skin stuck to it with sweat) to go flip an LP over or change records. Yeah, I have aircon though only tend to use it on those nights where it's just so hot you can't sleep. I'm a fellow Brisbanite.

 

I didn't specifically move to low wattage amps due to heat though rather speaker matching, though it has been a very nice side benefit. Even on the hottest days it's not too bad anymore.

 

The Fractal fan is a nice work around. I'm on my third Fractal Define case these days. Fantastic cases which are both quiet and run cool.  :)

Edited by MattyW
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  • 2 weeks later...

I had just finished building a WAD KT88 amp and a WAD Pre 2 - PSU/Pre and phono stage when we moved to Northern Galicia in NW Spain.  Rain all year round in fact more rain than in Ireland and Scotland combined and awful humidity, average 90%. We decamped to Andalucia behind the Snowy mountains/Sierra Nevada, living at an altitude of 900m. I used to laugh when I heard about heatwaves in Oz, because in the summer months, June and sometimes from May to end of September by 1500 hours the temperature was normally 40C, our last 7 weeks there the temp. hovered around 45C. 

 

MY KAT 88 got so hot it was almost impossible to touch any part of it and because the climate was so dry (semi desert) the static build up was terrible I had to use my Zerostat gun before touching it. Touching almost any metal object I got zapped with static, some people are more prone than others.

 

Construction in Spain is so bad that children play in the streets until at least 1AM because it is impossible to sleep. Also because there is zero privacy as well I ended up buying a head amp as I did'nt want to upset the neighbours.

 

In the drier parts of Oz do others suffer from static problems? 

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Even in Brisbane there are days when static is off the chart for me. This could b a combo of floor carpet n clothing with a dry winter westerly. 

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39 minutes ago, wasabijim said:

Even in Brisbane there are days when static is off the chart for me. This could b a combo of floor carpet n clothing with a dry winter westerly. 

 

I'm a bit of a wookie so have to avoid clothing with synthetic fibres. Wood floors help though,  as has ditching vinyl  ;)

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I have family and friends in Bangkok, one of them running some very hefty SAC (Silk Audio) GM 80 mono blocks in a fan cooled room only, the A/C gives them dry skin or some other issue.

 
These units have run 4 to 6 hours a day, 365 days a year for the last 5 or so years and not an issue (other than valve rolling  to get the right sound).

 

The SAC units are made in Bangkok so may well be designed to take the ambient conditions into account. 

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