Review: Triode TRV-M88SE Mono Vacuum Tube Amplifiers
I listened to the Triode TRV-M88SE amps connected to a variety of loudspeakers including the Audiovector SR1 Signature and the excellent Harbeth Super HL5plus which turned out in the end to be the best pairing for the Triodes. My listening comments below are with the Harbeth’s connected. The amplifiers were already seasoned when I received them, so required no further burn-in time.
The Triode’s take about 15 seconds or so to warm up sufficiently to play music and the recommendation is to lower the volume control on the amplifiers whenever switching the amplifiers on. It’s very pleasing to see the valves start glowing and emitting their soothing soft orange light, especially at night in a darkened room.
They seem to sound fine almost immediately, but after a 15-minute warmup they are even better. I was immediately impressed with the clarity, tonality and focus of the Triode’s. These are good sounding amplifiers that have a very good synergy working to drive the Harbeth’s. I used the 8 ohm tap on the amplifier and it worked perfectly. As I wrote in my review of the Harbeth’s, the combination produces breathtaking transparency, realism and a sense of naturalness. It made me want to discover more and more of my favourite music and to continue listening to it late into the night. It is very musically involving and satisfying.
Lining up Chris Jones’ “No Sanctuary Here” track was very pleasurable. The opening repeated “ohmmma” comes from deep in the soundstage. Jones’ voice by contrast is up front. The Triode amplifiers allowed me to easily hear the different textures of both those recorded voices. It is very well balanced, tonally rich, with the blending of the bass backing voices further back, reverb clearly heard, bass, guitar and organ.
There is quite a lot of bass content in the track and the Triode’s delivered it with a solid foundation and deep and powerful bass weight. Another highlight is the wonderful sense of three-dimensional space in the soundstage. The speakers disappear as the soundstage extends past the actual speakers off to the sides, as well as an exceptional sense of depth.
Again, this track really demonstrated a clear distinction between the front and rear voices, making them more realistic and palpable.
A favourite artist of mine is Doug McCloud. “My Black Pony” has huge variations in volume, or large dynamic swings, and the Triodes communicate this faithfully. It could be felt as well as heard with a good wallop and sense of touch. There may be only 60 watts per channel but they are good ones and certainly enough to allow reasonably efficient loudspeakers to play loudly enough in medium sized rooms with headroom. I don’t sense any lacking in output ability, there’s enough to satisfy.
The whole album “Whose Truth, Whose Lies” by Doug McCloud was simply irresistible. I couldn’t allow the album to go unplayed in its entirety, it was so good. Again, the synergy between the Triodes and the Harbeth Super HL5plus is highlighted. There was quite brilliant conveyance of texture and color. You can hear with each tap on the hollow wooden body of the guitar the resonance of the lacquered wood construction. Sounds seem to be alive and dynamic and full of all the detail that gives you the illusion that it sounds life like.
A familiar Beatles song “Strawberry Fields” as played by Al die Meola also exhibited an incredible soundstage. There is a precision in how and where the images are located, very accurately, always sounding natural with incredible differentiation between front and back locations. The regular cymbal taps in the left speaker are lovely and light and brassy. Guitar detail is great, particularly how Al stretches and bows the strings with his fingers, with all the textures and fine detail well conveyed.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.