I've found this amp to be very tube-sensitive. Replace the original ones with NOS tubes and this amp transforms from a good one into a great one. Even if your SE 300 B Mk II isn't modified for use of, for example, VAIC VV 30 B's, just use a pair of new WE 300 B's and listen what happens. Or change from the delivered EL 34's to vintage AEG or Telefunken tubes. Even better: do both. You'll be amazed.
Bass performance can be quite terrific, if you match it with highly sensitive speakers (not nessecarily horns) from about 92 dB/2.83 volts/meter on up. More efficiency surely doesn't hurt. And don't forget the rest of the setup... Conclusion: If the rest of your frontend is able to deliver it,the Golden Tube will give you sheer musical enjoyment! This is definitely a music lover's amp - not recommended for techno-crazed audiofools!
Apart from an fully extended bass, sweet and crystal-clear highs, combined with a very clean midrange, the GT delivers something even the best solid-state models can't give you: true SET magic...
You know, there is this strange attraction for me, for these really low powered single ended amplifiers. The very first time I even saw a catalog, Cary's, and my eye caught the output power spec on the 300SE mono amps, I thought to myself, "You gotta be kidding! 12 watts? What can you do with 12 watts?" What kind of nutcase would buy an amp like that? Well, within two years or more, I can't recall, I bought the long jewelled Carys.
Now I'm the end user of one Golden Tube SE300B single chassis amplifier, one that I got turned on to by way of a certain "Gizmo" Rosenberg, the trans-sexual SET guru? Yeah, what a nut case, anyway...he wrote a review, I just read it. We don't really know each other. I hope that doesn't spoil my credibility as an "Internet Cyber Reviewer". Maybe it does, who cares... And it's 8 entire watts. What a nutcase.
Now, you don't have to believe me that my experience with "properly set up" single digit powered amps is not that vast. I have to date only heard the ones that Audion, Audio NOte, Bel Canto, Cary, Iggy Chen,Loth-X (the tinker toy-like *SilBAtoNe*~#~), MasterSound, Unison Research and the Lau brothers' designs. I had the Lau's SE40 for five entire months before deciding that I'll go back to really, really, real single ended triode amps, and if my ex-girlfriends Cary and Cary (the 300SE monos, like sisters, twins even) were now out of reach for my shallow pocket, I might have done worse than getting a Golden Tube (*clanging of Chinese cymbals*) SE300B, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth. Straight out of the box this was one terrible piece of...well, maybe that was why the Lau brothers' Golden Tube is now Golden Theatre, makers of fine (golden) home entertainment centres of golden sound for your golden home cinema.
But anyhow, the amp comes with 300B tubes. Yes, and one 5AR4 rectifier tube. Is that all? No, one 6SN7 per side, and wait, an EL34 per side as well. I haven't seen this kind of set-up save in the Cary 805 which uses or used to use an EL34 to drive the 211 tube.
Getting the nice guy who sells Goertz Alpha Core cables to re-wire the input wire inside the amp with AlphaCore micro-purls seem to not have affected things much for the better. Oh, wait. I had to take the damned thing home first.
So I did. It sounded atrocious. Terrible. What a waste of money! And Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" told me (via his review) that this was a GREAT amp. Sheesh, you can't trust everything you read from the Internet nowadays.
I hooked them up to my 85dB AR M1s and for a time it didnt seem to sound as bad as that first day. And it's 8 entire watts. What a nutcase...
Anyway, to make a long story even longer I am now driving the Golden 300Bs with Svetlana EL34s, I have no idea what brand of 300Bs this job has (no markings), and am wary of replacing (rolling tubes) with the less amazing brands. Who knows? I might be swapping a Sovtek or a Valve Art for another pair of the same.
You can play around with both the bias of the 300B and the amount of negative feedback rather easily. There are tiny tinker toy like knobs on the chassis which makes twiddling fun, and yes after a few weeks, the amp began to sound almost good.
And the amp has all these options in the back. Monobloc-ing, bi-amping, balanced outputs(?)(*probably for paralleling two SE300Bs*)...and paralleling two 300Bs.
SO I carted the amp all over the place trying to find a pair of speaks that'll sound okay with them. I tried Acoustic Research's new high efficiency series, I tried ProAcs, I tried Triangle, I tried Loath-X, I even tried this huge Lowther thing from India, the RethM speakers...They look impressive.
After a month or so, the amp began to settle in more. I just got a pair of Kochel two way horns and still burning in the guys, but from what I heard so far...
Let me repeat that.
Wow. Wow, it was, it was...pretty darn okay. We're talking about real SET 300B and horn alchemy beginning to brew here. It was as if someone had just told the amp, "You can make music now".
The presence is there. If not entirely like the PSE A.N. Kegon, it is still there.
Those with or without SET amps will know what I am talking about. Presence. Delicacy. There-ness. I keep playing tons of violin recordings. The speaks are not fully "browned" in yet, but it's there. A might bit hard, but the amp was way too soft before. But it seems to be getting even better as the days pass, and I can't help but feel that I havent gotten the full potential of either amp nor speaker yet. Not for at least another year.
But the sense of presence is clearly there. Zakir is in front of me, on tablas. To my right actually. John McLaughlin is in front of me. No wait, now he's on the right too. Damned these multi-tracked,over-dubbed '70s recordings.
This amp is turning out to be quite a deal. It has so much of the single ended triode timbral and microdynamic thing that I don't think much of my old Carys. Well, not that much. And they focus better than the Carys too.
Music is in the details. So the subtlest things matter the most. The Golden Tube unit seems to be one of the better ones I have heard. Not quite the lemon I had thought initially. Things are opening up alot lately-the speed and rhythm seems to cohere more and more. GTAs and A.N. aren't known to be really fast and rhythmic amp designs, but this one is getting to be almost as good as any I've heard so far.
They outdo the Audio Notes and the Iggy Chens in terms of plain enjoyment. I'm getting to like this amp. I won't know how it compares with Wright Mono 8s, or Doc B's amps or Welborne's. But I like this amp. And I havent begun to tube roll on em...yet.
Wait til I get my hands on those NOS tubes I won on ebay...