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Thread: Interesting 'LP Audio' 20w single ended Class A amp from Valab

  1. #1
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

    Default Interesting 'LP Audio' 20w single ended Class A amp from Valab

    I referenced this in a wanted thread recently but it's since arrived and it deserves its own space I think.

    Quite a few people here have dealt with Kevin at Valab over the years, most of them latterly I think as a source of quality parts and DIY components, but he's come up with some pretty good kit over the years, I'm not sure the extent to which he is directly involved in manufacture but I do believe he is engaged in design, and many of the internal parts are quality bits sourced within his native Taiwan rather than the Chinese mainland.

    I've had a few bits over the years probably going back more than 10 years to an early non-oversampling DAC that was quite popular among forum-goers, a later USB version, and most recently a directly heated triode preamp which I had quite a bit of fun with and reviewed here as well.

    So an attempt to satisfy a curiosity about Pass Aleph-derived single ended power amps out there led me to this LP Audio Spirit 0-L1 - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/LP-Audio-.../222735396465? (no listings current at the moment but I'm sure it will be listed again). I've had to wait a few weeks for it, first of all because Kevin removed the 220v mains transformers and went to his supplier (in Taiwan thankfully) to get some 240v ones made - he's just been through the same procedure for another regular customer in Australia. (It then got held up for 2 weeks in UK customs over the holiday but that's another tale). Kevin had done this previously for me for the DHT preamp and Valvebloke at the time when I got him to check it over confirmed 240v operation and remarked on how well it had been done (not with a different mains transformer - this was till 220v, but with other circuity which I didn't quite follow but which I was assured was effective).

    Something I didn't give much thought to was the IPR of this, it seems to be based around the principles of the Pass Aleph-Mini, a cut down single gain device version of the Pass Aleph J circuit that's popular on DIY audio. But it doesn't use any of the 'approved' DIY boards (which it shouldn't have anyway as this is a commercial venture) and I'm not sure if it will have paid any royalty to Nelson Pass. Anyway it's not Pass branded in any way so perhaps it flies under the wire as 'inspired by' - it can hardly be said to be a novel concept these days, and the execution is everything.

    On the topic of execution, it seems to be very well constructed, and is extremely heavy for the size of it. It was well packed and arrived in spotless condition. On first impression the thing you see are the fins that cover it - which turn out to be necessary as it gets very hot indeed. It seems to be made up entirely of mains transformers (two of them, for double mono), fins, and those gain devices. It has lights inside which are a bit cheesey but at least you won't forget to turn it off.

    The sound? Well out of the box I wasn't sure, I plugged it into my study system (for where it's destined) and it immediately underwhelmed. A bit harsh was the judgment, though there seemed to be plenty of bass, plenty of output, and plenty of detail. Hmmm. I thought I'd pull the Pass DCB1 buffer preamp (no gain) out of the setup and try again - and immediately it improved a lot. This is actually the first time the Pass had failed me. I believe the 20w amp has a 20kohm pot on the front of it (not sure why) but I suspect this is not ideal. Anyway putting either my Trichord Research Genesis III transport/player or the Schiit Modi Multibit DAC directly into it vastly improved the sound.

    As it warmed up and played in it made a super job of driving my little Tannoy DC6 speakers in the study (couldn't try with vinyl as my Garrard 401 is doing duty in the main system while my TD124 plinth is being modified back at Russ Collinson). Great bass, lovely bloom in presentation - proper single ended glow, but apparently no down side in woolly bass, indeed bass comparable to the 200w Class D amp I've been using in there - which BTW works beautifully with the Pass, as indeed a Leak Stereo 20 did before it, both of them being high sensitivity power amps. I would say the little LP Audio isn't nearly so sensitive - indeed I would say unless you are driving with a single source, a pre with gain is a pre-requisite. (I have a valve one coming from Alan/Firebottle so I suspect that will be a nice combination - stay tuned).

    In the main system, driven by the 14db gain EAR 912, the LP Audio upped its game again. I wouldn't say it matched the STA25 in smoothness or authority, but it did that lovely single ended thing of being very up front/3D, layered and atmospheric, while making a decent fist of the bass, better than I expected (the 12in HPDs being tough to manage in the bass frequencies) - I think due to what I read from research on the Aleph Mini, if such is what it is, a damping factor of 150, far better than any single ended valve amp out there. It's an exiting listen though I wouldn't swap it out for the Radford on Tannoys. On easier to drive speakers, I'd be prepared to bet it would come into its own in delicious fashion.

    Anyway, pretty pleased with this, will report more as time progresses.

    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  3. #3
    Join Date: Mar 2017

    Location: London N2

    Posts: 899
    I'm Edward.

    Default

    Looks like beautifully built unit. Not surprised you are finding the sound good as well.

    Pity you had not received this a few days ago as I would have loved to have listened when I came over. Maybe another time.

    Sent via Tapatalk
    Source: Tidal/Roon
    DAC: Metrum HEX NOS

    Amp: Sugden Masterclass 2018 spec, Radford Revival STA25,
    Speakers: Tannoy Eaton


  4. #4
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

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    Just to add ... this has settled in nicely as it's played in from new with a few hours on the clock, it's become much smoother and freer. I'm extremely impressed with it, it's back in the main system now and driving the HPDs with aplomb ... to the point where I'm getting ready to re-write my advice about Tannoys (especially 70s HPDs) and single ended amps being a complete no-no ...

    This thing has sparkling attack that for me marks it out from a lot of cuddly valve amps .. but no lack of harmonic richness at all, and plenty of control (for all its relatively meagre 20w, albeit Class A ones). 3D layering is very nice, bass articulation has improved markedly from when it arrived out of the box.

    Well impressed.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Sep 2015

    Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

    Posts: 20
    I'm Ales.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    Just to add ... this has settled in nicely as it's played in from new with a few hours on the clock, it's become much smoother and freer. I'm extremely impressed with it, it's back in the main system now and driving the HPDs with aplomb ... to the point where I'm getting ready to re-write my advice about Tannoys (especially 70s HPDs) and single ended amps being a complete no-no ...

    This thing has sparkling attack that for me marks it out from a lot of cuddly valve amps .. but no lack of harmonic richness at all, and plenty of control (for all its relatively meagre 20w, albeit Class A ones). 3D layering is very nice, bass articulation has improved markedly from when it arrived out of the box.

    Well impressed.
    Very interesting reading, because I'm also looking for best possible, affordable amp for Tannoy Turnberry SE. Can be good candidate for my speakers too? Your unit is double mono in single housing? What is the function of the knob on front plate - passive volume control?

  6. #6
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

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    This could be interesting with Turnberrys but I would still recommend a Radford STA25 ahead of it!
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Sep 2015

    Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

    Posts: 20
    I'm Ales.

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    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    This could be interesting with Turnberrys but I would still recommend a Radford STA25 ahead of it!
    Hi Tom, in my country I can get only STA15 or buy via internet LP audio 0-L1 20W class A amp? You are using high end preamp from EAR. Is really important to have such high quality preamp or you can use zero gain buffer from Pass or something similar?

  8. #8
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by opt817 View Post
    Hi Tom, in my country I can get only STA15 or buy via internet LP audio 0-L1 20W class A amp? You are using high end preamp from EAR. Is really important to have such high quality preamp or you can use zero gain buffer from Pass or something similar?
    Interesting point .. I'm actually using this in my study with some Tannoy DC6 dual concentrics, with which it's really fantastic, bass you just wouldn't believe from such a small driver.

    When I first put it in there, it really underwhelmed ... I had been using a Pass B1 buffer pre-amp (actually the DCB1 version popularised over on DIY Audio. For the first time in my experience, this failed to be a good partnership - it clearly needed an active preamp. I put out a 'want to buy' here on the classifieds and Alan (Firebottle) came up with one, which arrived yesterday sounds superb with it.

    So no, I wouldn't say it needs a very high end preamp, but it certainly seems to respond to a high-gain valve preamp.

    The knob on the front is a passive pot, it's handy for sensitivity matching I think.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Sep 2015

    Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

    Posts: 20
    I'm Ales.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by montesquieu View Post
    Interesting point .. I'm actually using this in my study with some Tannoy DC6 dual concentrics, with which it's really fantastic, bass you just wouldn't believe from such a small driver.

    When I first put it in there, it really underwhelmed ... I had been using a Pass B1 buffer pre-amp (actually the DCB1 version popularised over on DIY Audio. For the first time in my experience, this failed to be a good partnership - it clearly needed an active preamp. I put out a 'want to buy' here on the classifieds and Alan (Firebottle) came up with one, which arrived yesterday sounds superb with it.

    So no, I wouldn't say it needs a very high end preamp, but it certainly seems to respond to a high-gain valve preamp.

    The knob on the front is a passive pot, it's handy for sensitivity matching I think.
    Can you describe what type of active preamp from Firebottle you are using with LPaudio 0-L1 20W A class amp? I'm also interested if solution is sounding good?

  10. #10
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,156
    I'm Tom.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by opt817 View Post
    Can you describe what type of active preamp from Firebottle you are using with LPaudio 0-L1 20W A class amp? I'm also interested if solution is sounding good?
    You'll need to ask Alan, the one he sent to me looks like a prototype rather than a finished product.

    I have the Taiwan amp back in the main system tonight and I have to say it's sounding great.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

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