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It largely depends on the quality of the transformers and the designers and the parts quality elsewhere.
I am fortunate that the Audio Note dealer in Hong Kong is the biggest of this brand in the world so you can hear the same amps with the same parts quality in both regular and parallel.
So the Quest is a 9 watt 300b monoblock and the Conquest is a parallel 300B and they have a single tube 2A3 mononoblock and the Empress 2A3 parallel monoblocks. And they have stereo power amplifier (one box) versions of both. And the prices are about the same for each same type amp (300b vs 2A3) and very likely using the same parts in terms of chassis, wiring, caps, resisters and transformers. So unlike comparing one brand that simply may be much better than another - here you can compare the same level of competency in design and the same level of parts.
The fact that any given 300B from a good designer beats an incompetently designed 2A3 maker - may give people the idea 2a3 is worse when no it may be that the latter is just a lousy amplifier.
Comparing apples to apples makes more sense.
The 2A3 parallel from AN has big bass and body and sounds FAR more powerful and textured than the same maker's 300B. It's not close. The Empress reminds me of listening to the Jinro 211 or my now sold LM 219IA (845) - huge balls, big sound. But it is more upfront. The 300B is tender and sweet. What you like will depend o what you listen to. I prefer the Empress because it will play all my recordings from sweet to trance/house. The 300B (and AN's 300B is far more powerful than most 300B amps I've heard) is classier perhaps but less full bodied. A veteran audiophile noted that when I am 60 I may come full circle and prefer the 300B. I think there may be something to this.
I just find parallel seems to grip better - not so much about power but about control.
If you have the Empress, I can highly recommend updating some of the electrolytics (like the cathode bypass cap) with the newest Kaisei model; the same goes for the new silver, non-magnetic resistors. I have worked with 2 mfrs (AN and Donald North Audio) to do this and these have significant impact on sound quality. On my Conqueror Silver, the bass was substantially improved. Yes the 300B can "snap". Other "things" also sound better, as a whole - more like the Conquest. I haven't tried this with my Fi 2A3/45 monos, and don't now if I will. I trust Don's choices a lot.
I don't have the Empress - That is well down the line. I have to do a preamp first. I will attend the California Audio Show and try to hear some different preamps. The M6 is my front runner but Jack Roberts on our staff prefers Emia over AN and Shindo. Given how affordable the Emia is I want to hear it and see how it is. Passive preamps generally do nothing for me even if they're more "neutral."
I've sold my 219IA and will soon buy my current review sample: The $825 (incl shipping) KingKo KA-101. A 12 watt EL84 Push Pull (I know but...) integrated/headphone amp that can also serve as a power amp.
thanks for this opinion.
my original post was occasioned by the wish to know whether
a parallel SET 300b amp might be able drive dunleavy 4sc speakers.
(i have a 2A3 X amp and will try again with klipsch la scala speakers
which i haven't listened to in years)
but i am very interested to know who and where that hong kong dealer
is. i will be visiting HK in Oct and mean to go to some audio shops.
online i can only find high end dealers of western gear. will be looking to hear some chinese stuff. i know the controversy about quality on
these forums but i have had two dared amps for about 10 years with
good results. the 300b finally gave out recently and that's why i
was looking again for possible replacement.
if you are reluctant to reply on message board an email would be good
There is nothing wrong with some Chinese amps and there is a lot wrong with other Chinese amps. It just depends on what you are looking at. I know a dealer here who sells amps from China, the US, Europe and Japan - and over the last 5 years the amps with the MOST problems have come from both Japan and the US. Both VERY VERY big name brands - noisy transformers - cold solders, hiss, hums and the sort. Meanwhile they have sold 3 times as many Chinese amplifiers and have had way less returned! So I would not put too much stock into "some guy" on an audio forum who is "guessing" about stuff that he's never heard or used.
This doesn't mean they won't have issue - Bentley has issues, Rolex has issues. So it goes.
A big 22 story or so building with floor upon floor of audio gear is at this address:
Grancastle Commercial Centre, 2T Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong. I think you have to leave through exit C of the Mongkok MTR but I am not 100%.
Keep this address someplace. It's a little tricky to find because HK is a very busy city and the entrance is not all that big.
There are several other buildings selling gear along with tubes. These shops sell level zero and one Audio Note. The big AN dealer is in Wanchai in the heart of the red light district on Lockhart road.
Audio Note is at
3/F, Beverly House, 93-107 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.
i will be within walking distance in wan chai
and will probably be at langham place again also
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