This piece is an interesting one, provided by one of the UK’s leading distributors in boutique brands (G-Point Audio), this sort of product sums up a little of what he is all about. Just from the pictures you can tell a lot of what it stands for, exquisite, unique, bold and without doubt, VERY expensive. Tektron is Italian and for the most part, their valve amplification is for speakers and while in the headphone world little enthusiasts may have heard of this brand, the HiFi world may be a bit more educated. I first ran into this company at the Munich High End Show, where this very vacuum tube head amp caught my eye. Funnily enough it was on a stand oozing tube products it was not the amp itself that stood out to me but the monster of a power supply that sat next to it. Sadly, oddly, perhaps even stupidly the amp was not set up to try, I think maybe the venue mains couldn’t handle the power supply or something, but there it sat in front of me, with some HD650s plugged in but un-listenable. It was only by chance that I ended up in contact with the UK distributor from reviewing the Lampizator Lite 7 and now have the very amp set up in front of me, but this time it is very much turned on! Now even though I never tried it at Munich, a lasting impression was left for a few good reasons, obviously the design and power supply struck me quite hard but even though I am not shallow to these sort of things, the price certainly lingered in my mind. 11040€ converts to around 8360 GBP retail and that’s how much you will have to dig out for this amp. That is with premium Psvane 2A3 or 300B, with G-Point happy to sort you out with whatever tubes you would prefer to get. They would also consider some other high quality tubes if you would so desire and don’t worry about getting played off with any cheap tubes with this amp, you will only get the best. I would like to note that in the price you will get the tubes, amp, power supply and also a plinth that doubles as a headphone stand for the amp which I don’t have on me for images. Oh and for the collector factor, the amp I have at home with my right now is just one of two, so feel special owning one!
Settings, Settings and Settings
So the amp comes in two pieces and across these two pieces you have a lot of dials for set up, dependent on what tubes you have decided to run. Now both the power and driver tubes of this amp are rollable, offering great versatility (and fun, duh) to this amp but it is very dependent on what tubes you are using as there are 3, yes THREE different settings. These are important to keep in mind and I honestly don’t have a problem with them. Only one of the 3 settings is quite finicky to change and it is not that time consuming. One of the reasons the power supply is so large is to accommodate all this different setting for use with different tubes. If you want to change driver tubes then there is a simple a/b switch, with ‘a’ referring to a 10v power supply and ‘b’ a 7.5 one. I have a 4328D driver tubes from the British GEC/ITT which are WE328 equivalents so I have to opt for position ‘b’, ‘a’ would be for those wanting to use WE310A. You then have the filament voltage to change regarding power tubes and this is done by turning a dial that sits next to a big red LED display on the power supply. Because the dials turn nice and easy to save yourself jogging them they lock into place, well executed in my book. It is only the last setting, the plate current for each output tube that is a little bit of a pain and you need to turn screws that are embedded deep into the faceplate. Basically you need a thin screwdriver! Having used both 2A3s and 300Bs with this amp I have gone through this process and as previously stated am quite fine with it. The tube rolling capabilities of this amp really are second to none and you can use such a array of glass. If you are the sort person that finds it tedious or doesn’t own may tubes, or even low quality ones, then this may not really be for you. It is for those who love triodes and will be getting stuck in rolling this amp with a range of the best valves available, that is what this was designed to do.
When it comes to tubes Greg had a little to say on the matter.
“In the meantime I have had many unpleasant adventures with Chinese tubes, their lack of reliability and worse, the way Chinese factories are dealing with claimed warranty.
For these reasons this TK amp will come as a standard with customer’s choice of tubes manufactured in Europe. As it deserves the best they will either be Emission Labs or KR Audio valves. Nothing else. Both companies are offering 2 years initial warranty , which is then expandable to five if an owner will register their serial numbers with factory on line. So far these are the best tubes to my ears.
The same applies to Lampizator DHT DACs I am selling. I wont supply any customer with Chinese tubes. If he aims for them I will deduct their value from the price and let he deals with it on his own. Simply I don’t need any negative feedback on my name coming from frustrated customers who didn’t listen to my advice at first place.”
Once the power supply is set up for the right tubes you connect one of its two outputs to the amp itself. Ergonomics are great with them putting an output on the front and back of the power supply as you never know what will be optimal in an individual set up. Personally I love having the units separate as the power supply is way to big for my desk and if it was an all in one I don’t know how it would fit. The amp section is actually quite small though and sits lovely up with my DAC while the power supply is under my desk on a rack.
On the amp itself we have some interesting options/features. It starts off pretty standard on the left with a 1/4 inch output (no balanced on this amp) and a input selector for the 3 RCA inputs but then you have two more knobs and this was interesting choice for me and at times, a frustrating one. Instead of a single volume knob that handles both channels, you know like every other headphone amp, we have an individual pot for each channel. I guess there are advantages to be had but for the most part, I don’t want to have to spend some of my listening tweaking the volume on two SEPARATE knobs. Just give me one and I am a happy guy. You also have two single ended RCA pre amp outputs for this to double up if in a speaker system as well… oh and you want a volume pot per channel on your pre amp of course?!
Now the interesting thing with Tektron is that they are a very customisable brand. You could ask for say a balanced 4 pin XLR output, one volume pot, no pre amp outputs, even to a point where they custom make headphone amps to your spec. I guess that will add to the price but what I am getting at is that they are accommodating, I had their cheaper OTL model previously and that had been made specially with balanced outputs and if you are paying as much as this on an amp, I would take advantage of this offer, thats one reason to go with a truly artisan company right? This amp is however them striving the best and summarises the progress Attillio at Tektron has made over a range of head amps he has made for both G-Point and individual needs. This was made for his most demanding of customers and I can see that.
The build quality of the amp and power supply match well, featuring a brass top plate on the amp that matches the front panel of the power unit. The rest of the units are then encompassed in a solid wood. While they certainly look stunning, how else would they have got my attention, there is a feel of DIY about the amp because it is hand built, a certain retro nature to it and some odd part choices. By that I am mainly referring to the 3 knobs across the front of the amp. I would not say they have good knob feel, or are even great looking parts. In a day where we have high quality pots left right and centre, these seem a bit ancient and basic. I also feel of the two volume pots that the right one is ever so slightly higher, which drives me nuts when volume matching channels, I will never get over that decision! Lastly the feet don’t seem very exotic or HiFi, they are also very slippery so I have intervened and added some grippier isolating feet I had handy to stop the amp slipping when plugging in a can. They probably sit on the plinth that I did not receive much better though.
Turn the Page for the Amp to be Put to Use