This little amp had to be THE sleeper of tube amps of the 90's. It didn't appeal to the SET crowd because it's push/pull and pentode. It didn't appeal to the usual push-pull tube amp crowd because it just LOOKs too small to be taken seriously. 30wpc is just at the threshold of enough power, in a lot of people's minds. Big mistake, because this is a special little amp. It gives up nothing at all in the midrange and treble to the really expensive tube amps...it's all there. Lushness, finesse, sweetness of treble, huge and coherent soundstage-everything you buy a tube amp for. Vocals and strings in particular are to die for. Plus, it's the quietest damn tube amp I've ever heard. Switch your preamp to an input not in use, turn the gain all the way up, you'll hear NOTHING AT ALL. No hum, no hiss, no sputtering. It's like a Bryston amp in that regard. Klipsch K-horn owners, THIS IS YOUR AMP! I don't know how Roger Modjeski did it, but I'll tell you what this gives you. It allows detail to come thru that is lost by a lot of lesser (read noiser)tube amps. But this detail is not in any way thrust at you in an etched, hi-fi fashion. It gently emerges, woven naturally within the fabric of the music, which is presented as a whole, coherent continuum, rather than as the sum of its components. This is the kind of amp that draws you into the music-we're talking zero listener fatigue, here. Weaknesses? Sure...it's a LITTLE 30wpc amp. Somebody commented to me it looks more like a 10 or 15wpc amp. It may look like it (it weighs all of 15 lbs, but it is so beautifully built that you don't care), but it sounds gutsy as all get-out, considering it's size. Still, you'll need to take care with what you pair it with. Thiels and B&W's are out...they're not only insensitive, they have a tough modulus of impedance for a little tube amp like this to overcome. Actually, I think if your speaker's impedance is ruler flat at 8 or even 4 ohms, you'll do great with this amp, long as you don't try to raise the roof. How do I know this? I'm using it right now to drive my Magnepan MMG's, which are notorious for "needing" >100wpc of solid state grunt to light up, and it works GREAT with these speakers! Then again, I don't push 'em really hard, since I listen to mostly chamber music (at which this combination EXCELS), and the Maggies are ruler flat at 4 ohms. I think that helps a lot. I hear this amp is magic with Meadowlark Kestrels, probably for the same reason. How good is this amp? Roger Modjeski voiced them using Quad electrostatics, with which this amp also sings. How good is this amp? I bought Rob Damm's (see his excellent review below), and I'm not letting it go this time! Just mind what you pair it with, keep your volume levels reasonable, and it'll put a smile on your face for years to come. This one's a keeper. I'm weighting the rating's so it'll come about to 4.5...just right in my mind as well.
I had a Monarchy SM-70 (which is one of the best deals in Audio as far as I'm concerned - excellent solid state amp, [I've had a bunch]especially when considering the price), but I wanted another tube amp. Got this one on Audiogon and it's about 10 months old.
Very nice build quality, not heavy but well made, has a nice wood base and champagne colored top with black transformer cover, brass binding posts and iec connector.
I am using the amp with Soliloquy 5.0s speakers (no sub), and a Sony SA20ES player direct to the amp.
Very nice classic tube sound in the mids and highs, sweet and not harsh at all, with good bottom end (not solid state tight but not mushy at all), excellent sound stage width and depth, (I have the amp set up in Mojesky's "light loading" configuration). I listen to jazz and classical music (typically solo, duet, quartet) and the sound is exceptional. Acoustic strings are excellent; natural tonal qualities; good air, transparency.
An excellent, well-made, fairly priced, and likely reliable piece.
I have to agree with below...I'm KICKING myself for selling mine! The only reason I did is that this amp can sound more than a bit sluggish as far as rhythm and pace goes, with ported speakers, such as I have. My little Epos needed a much higher damping factor than the little RM-10 could provide (12.5,@8 ohms, with "light loading" used...as opposed to a damping factor of 500 for my Bryston B60). Another caveat...this amp, as configured from factory,is very sensitive, so if you have a typical tube preamp, you may not get full benefit of how incredibly quiet this little amp is, especially for a tube amp, as you'll hear the noise from the tubes in your preamp...maybe better to pair this amp with a very quiet solid state preamp. But as far as liquidity, natural timbre, sound staging, this little amp cannot be beat for anywhere near the price...now I gotta go find another one.
This is a simply stunning little amp, but first I must make a few distinctions. Reading the "design philosophy" section of the instructions really got me to thinking about the nature of Hi-end audio... one of he best things the author of the booklet, Roger a. Modjeski, (who also designed the amp!) does is quote Frank Lloyd Wright in saying "I can build you a 5,000 dollar house for 5,000 dollars, but I can't build a 15,000 dollar house for 5,000 dollars." So, he goes onto say that he set out to build the best 35/wpc amp he could... but, it is a 35 watt amp, not a 50 watt amp, or a 350 watt amp. Is this the best 35 watt amp I've ever heard? Yes, without a doubt. It's also a unit of such surpassing quality in every respect. not one corner seemed to be cut anywhere. it's not flashy. just a wood and aluminum enclosure with the six tubes exposed and a switch. it looks simple and elegant, and it doesn't take a genius to notice the feel of quality about the thing. The speaker posts are custom fitted brass. there is a ground and your choice of 4-and 8-ohms binding post. the inputs (one set) are gold plated tiffany jacks. the wood base is a nice hand-finished ash tone (at least mine is... they are all handbuilt, so there might be some variations)the rubber feet are pretty generic... i upgraded to foculpods. the included tubes are matched RAM labs tubes (the best in the industry as far as I have heard) There is a switch to switch it to true mono (for biamping flexibility) the bias adjust potentiometers are convenient and servicable. The transformers, etc. are covered by a nice black heatsink cover. That's it for the look of it.
The sound: you won't believe you are listening to a sub-2000 dollar amp. the vocals jump out of the speakers. you can hear every word, and fatigue is zero. The soundstage is wide and generous with a fairly large "sweet spot" I assume it will drive most speakers as my mission 750le's aren't the model of efficency at 89db sensitivity. The bass lacks the crisp, clean definition when compared to solid state, but tubes have their own soundand must be taken on their own merits... incredible vocal and accoustic instrument reproduction, and a bold soundstage. it's a very liquid, warm, 3D sound that is fantastic for jazz, blues, folk... older, mono recording really shine, benefiting from the warm sound. this might not be the best choice for die-hard headbangers, as it doesn't have the punch loud rock needs... but, hip-hop, chamber music and some less dynamic orchestral pieces sounded quite stunning... this seems best suited to accoustic, small-band music though. it might be only 35wpc, but don't be afraid to push it... it is really a gutsy little amp.
all that being said, it's greatest sonic virtue is its quietness... this amp is SILENT. no hum, just music. i don't know how they did it!
i think i've said enough. go audition one today. it's a great entry into the world of tubes, or a great buy for a tube-die hard with low-power requirements.