Home Entertainment

Desktop tube amp promised to sound as good as it looks

The tube-driven Desktop Valve Amplifier from IMS Electronics
The tube-driven Desktop Valve Amplifier from IMS Electronics
View 7 Images
The input and output options of the Desktop Valve Amp
1/7
The input and output options of the Desktop Valve Amp
The Desktop Valve Amplifier's Bluetooth receiver can be switched off when not in use
2/7
The Desktop Valve Amplifier's Bluetooth receiver can be switched off when not in use
The Desktop Valve Amplifier has two 0.25-inch headphone outputs, each with its own volume control
3/7
The Desktop Valve Amplifier has two 0.25-inch headphone outputs, each with its own volume control
The Desktop Valve Amplifier is wrapped in a 140 x 120 x 25 mm (5.5 x 4.7 x 0.9 in) CNC aluminum housing, which has a viewing window to the top so that listeners can enjoy the warm glow of the tubes while in use
4/7
The Desktop Valve Amplifier is wrapped in a 140 x 120 x 25 mm (5.5 x 4.7 x 0.9 in) CNC aluminum housing, which has a viewing window to the top so that listeners can enjoy the warm glow of the tubes while in use
The tube-driven Desktop Valve Amplifier from IMS Electronics
5/7
The tube-driven Desktop Valve Amplifier from IMS Electronics
The Desktop Valve Amplifier can support up to 32-bit/384 kHz audio resolution (including DSD when the SaviAudio is in Master DAC mode)
6/7
The Desktop Valve Amplifier can support up to 32-bit/384 kHz audio resolution (including DSD when the SaviAudio is in Master DAC mode)
Speaker connections to the rear of the Desktop Valve Amplifier
7/7
Speaker connections to the rear of the Desktop Valve Amplifier

Following the success of his first Kickstarter campaign, New Zealand's Martin Young of IMS Electronics has returned to the crowdfunding platform with an updated hybrid valve/tube amp he's calling the Desktop Valve Amplifier. Housed in an enclosure machined from a single block of aluminum, with a Gorilla Glass viewing window up top, the unit is certainly something of a looker. And Young is promising top notch sonics, too.

Young says that during and after his first Kickstarter outing he received a number of design suggestions that couldn't be implemented for the original Hybrid Valve Headphone Amplifier, which started shipping to backers in January 2016. This update sees some of those suggestions taken on board.

The Desktop Valve Amplifier is wrapped in a 140 x 120 x 25 mm (5.5 x 4.7 x 0.9 in) CNC aluminum housing, which has a viewing window to the top so that listeners can enjoy the warm glow of the tubes while in use
The Desktop Valve Amplifier is wrapped in a 140 x 120 x 25 mm (5.5 x 4.7 x 0.9 in) CNC aluminum housing, which has a viewing window to the top so that listeners can enjoy the warm glow of the tubes while in use

The new model retains the hybrid circuitry found in the original unit, but a 100 W Class D amplifier has been added – which should be enough to drive most living room stereo speaker setups. Two separate Burr Brown OPA2134 headphone amp stages (so that listeners can share the output with a friend), with independent volume control, are reckoned capable of driving everything from high street consumer to high-end audiophile headphones.

Marrying the amps to SaviAudio SA9227 and Texas Instruments PCM5102A DACs supporting up to 32-bit/384 kHz audio resolution (including DSD when the SaviAudio is in Master DAC mode) and Raytheon 6418 glass tubes is reported to result in "a warm rich sound with plenty of dynamic range and much more spatial separation."

Elsewhere, an OPA2134 phono preamp stage allows users to plug a turntable straight into the amp, there's an analog signal input, too, and a Bluetooth receiver. The latter may seem a little out of place for such a desktop amp, but will allow users the convenience of streaming music from mobile devices through the device without resorting to cables.

Speaker connections to the rear of the Desktop Valve Amplifier
Speaker connections to the rear of the Desktop Valve Amplifier

All of this spectastic goodness is wrapped in 140 x 120 x 25 mm (5.5 x 4.7 x 0.9 in) CNC aluminum housing, which has a viewing window to the top so that listeners can enjoy the warm glow of the tubes while in use.

Production funds are being sought through Kickstarter, where pledges start at NZ$699 (about US$495). If all goes according to plan, Young estimates the first units will go out in June. Watch the pitch video for more on the project.

Sources: IMS Electronics, Kickstarter

Art and Technology together; The Desktop Valve Amplifier

5 comments
Kevin Ritchey
For $500 I would expect it to at least "drive a pair of speakers" and do so while looking fantastic inside a person's equipment rack. Ya think? Is it a coffee table amp? Too pretty to use and view longingly from above? I guess I shouldn't be so snarky but is it an art piece or something more useful? Have we lost sight that it's supposed to recreate music with precision? Just asking....
ljaques
100 watts for headphones? Well, at least all this efficiency costs only about $100 per ounce. I'm surprised that they're so close to their goal at KS. Class D amps are known for more distortion in transistor amps, but I'm not sure what the valves (aka "tubes") produce. G'luck, mates.
JohnOwen
Shouldn't the tubes not lay parallel to the PCB? They do produce SOME heat. I question that physical design. Also, tube dampers COULD be put on them if they were VERTICAL. Just my 2 cents worth.
lechb
Please note that the IMS valve amp has 100 watt stereo output (50 W per channel) as well as stereo lineout. It also has two separate headphone sockets, each one with its own volume control. It is a really beautiful piece of Audio gear for Audiophiles who demand really exceptional sound quality for a reasonable price.
JimFox
$500 is incredibly cheap for an audiophile quality amp, if this is what it claims to be. It's beautifully built in the Apple style but my tragedy is that my hearing has gone belly-up, otherwise I'd order one NOW! "inside a person's equipment rack"- don't be silly, it's far too compact for rack mounting... "I'm not sure what the valves (aka "tubes") produce" - varies with the tube type and circuit design, but all valve amps have far higher distortion values than transistors. But they sound better, in spite of that. "100 watts for headphones?" - NO! Headphone output would likely be one watt or so, depending on impedance. If you bothered to read the full article, this integrated amp [pre + power, with RIAA] was developed from the previous HEADPHONE amp...