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Found-Music Blade Amplifiers: Initial Impressions

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  • Found-Music Blade Amplifiers: Initial Impressions

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    Last month I took delivery of my new Found-Music Blade mono tube amps. I had been happily living with prototypes for the past six months allowing the opportunity to experiment with tube rolling. The final version of the amp is much heavier than the prototypes, each weighing in at 85 pounds; in no small measure because of the much beefier transformer. The version with copper wiring retails for $16,000, while the silver wired version I purchased retails for $20,000. The look is industrial, not artsy; you are paying for the circuit design, high quality parts and bespoke construction.

    A quick review of my system:
    Turntable: Galibier Stelvio I
    Tonearm #1: Durand Telos with composite armwand; Benz LPS stereo cartridge
    Tonearm #2: Durand Talea with Miyajima Utopia BE mono cartridge
    CD: SimMoon Andromeda
    Phono Preamp: Experience Music Kahn two box with Sylvania 56 & Siemens 7788 signal tubes and Kuthe 394a rectifier tubes
    Line Stage: Experience Music Kahn two box with Sylvania JAN 71a signal tubes and Kuthe 394a rectifier tubes
    Cabling and Power Cords: Found-Music
    Speakers: Daedalus Ulysses
    Equipment Rack: SRA Scuttle

    The Blades' output is ~ 28-30 watts, depending on tube configuration. Which brings me to the subject of tube rolling...One of the reasons I enjoy tube equipment is the ability to tailor the sound to taste. A well designed piece of tube gear will make all tube changes readily apparent. Each Blade uses a single 0D3/VT139 Glo tube, 1 6SN7 driver and 2 EL34/6AC7/KT77 power tubes. I experimented with the following tube makes:

    OD3: Shughuang current production, NOS Hytron, NOS RCA. Final choice: NOS Sylvania. These tubes are cheap and easy to experiment with.

    6SN7: Various including current production ElectroHarmonix, various Sylvania NOS. Final choice: Sylvania 1952 3-hole. These tubes can get a little pricey. I am still intrigued by NOS Ken-Rad and Tung-Sol and would love to hear what the Sylvania metal base versions can do...

    EL34/6AC7/KT77: Current production JJ, ElectroHarmonix; NOS Mullard XF2 and Telefunken. Final choice: Current production Genalex Gold Lion KT77. You can drop a lot of coin here. Fortunately, in my system, the Genalex reissues sounded best. You can purchase a matched cryoed quad from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio for $232. While I'd love to know what the originals sound like, at $1500 a pair, that ain't gonna happen.

    A few other quick notes, break in settles down ~ 200 hours, with gradual improvements thereafter. The amps take about 20 minutes to warm up and an hour to really hit their stride...

    Almost right out of the (hefty) crates, it was obvious that the final product was substantially better than the already excellent prototypes. One of the first things I noticed was the excellent soundstage depth. One of my favorite test tracks is Carnavalia from the excellent CD Tribalistas (2002 Phonomotor), a collaboration between giants of Brazilian MPB, Marisa Monte, Arnaldo Atunes and Carlinos Brown. There was excellent resolution of the individual voices with guitars upfront and rhythm section in back. Another favorite test track isInsensatez (Entre Amigos, Chesky 2003). Here the guitar is upfront on the right, with the drums in the far back right. The micro-dynamics of the cymbals are heard to better advantage and the subtle kick drum after the bass solo (on the left) is well rendered. You can imagine Ron Carter's sinewy fingers sliding up and down the neck of the bass. Rosa's voice is verging on, but never sibilant and oozes sex.

    Bass is deep, well defined and impactful; not a rounded or butterscotch 'tubey' sound. Pablo Aslan's bass is superb on Derviche (Avantango, 2004, ZOHO), deep, articulate and nuanced. Henry Grimes' bass solo on Summertime from the original pressing of Sonny Meets Hawk (RCA, 1963) is one of my favorites and I've never heard it better. Likewise, high frequency details are well resolved without 'etching'. I like to use the cymbals and synthesized voices on Opeth's In My Time of Need (from the excellent LP Damnation, Music For Nations, 2003) as a torture test for high frequency resolution. Not only was the soundstage depth the best I've ever heard in my system, but Martin Mendez' drumming was superb, ever detail of his cymbal playing well resolved. Emotional Rescue (Rolling Stones Records, 1980) is a well recorded Stones' LP and the track Down In the Hole never sounded grittier, especially Bobby Keys' sax. The 12" 'Special Disco version' of Miss You shows off the Stones' killer rhythm section driven by Charlie Watts' impeccable timing and Bill Wyman's bass. It's a great example of the Stones' guitar 'weaving'...and you can actually understand Mick's lyrics!

    I am extremely pleased with these amplifiers. I rarely change equipment and feel confident that these amps will be a long term solution. One unexpected and pleasant surprise was how much better CDs sound in my system. I've probably listened to and bought more CDs in the past few weeks than the past few years combined. One tweak that further improved the noise floor, high frequency resolution and sound-staging were the Paulstra footers. I anticipate upgrading to the top of the line Found-Music power cords and am investigating separate amp stands from SRA. I will report back with updates as they become available.
    Last edited by jazdoc; 09-05-2016, 12:50 AM.

  • #2
    Congrats Mark! Is that the biggest wattage-wise amplifier that Scott has done? Know Scott usually plays with those single digit puppies. Also a new look for him too? How does your new amplifier compare to Scott's other amps that you've played with?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

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    • #3
      Thanks Myles! I am pretty sure this is Scott's most powerful amp. As intoxicating as the midrange is in his 45/2a3 SET amp, it didn't have the juice to drive my Ulysses which are 96db efficient and they are limited as both ends of the frequency bandwidth.

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      • #4
        Nice write up Doc. Were you using his single-ended amps before? And what is the circuit design of this new, larger amp?
        BTW, your mention of Damnation prompted me to buy the twofer with the remixed version- brilliant record (I don't listen to Deliverance as much, it is more in the "cookie monster" vein).
        PS: also good that you have a device that doesn't "need" unobtanium tubes, although tube rolling can be fun and efficacious.

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        • jazdoc
          jazdoc commented
          Editing a comment
          I had tried SETs in my system. Just not enough drive and frequency bandwidth, although I understand why people prefer them...that midrange!

      • #5
        Interesting I did not know about this company good write up I like that it uses tubes the average person can find. Thanks

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        • #6
          these are mono tube amps right? so is the price given per pair?
          Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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          • #7
            Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
            these are mono tube amps right? so is the price given per pair?
            Yes, these are mono tube amps. The price is per pair....

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            • #8
              Ah Yes!-- I know Scott Sheaffer the Amp designer --real gentleman--one of the Seattle group--Dave Slagle/etc

              but when I last spoke to Scott he had relocated to Texas--family matters.

              Great to see his Product getting Kudos!

              Soc

              PS: Wonder if we will ever see the FCoil rumoured ?

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              • #9
                Well the SRA Ohio Class stands are in the system. Believe it or not, I bought them as a (relatively) cost effective way to make room for digital gear on my SRA Scuttle Rack. How could they improve on the sound when compared to sitting on the Scuttle? I am glad to report that I was completely wrong...these stands are the real deal.

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                • #10
                  Doc, very informative. thanks for sharing.
                  TechDAS | Graham Eng | ZYX | B.M.C. | Boulder | Magico

                  "Listening to Analogue music is an act of rebellion in a digital gulag" - Simon Yorke

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                  • #11
                    Sweet amps !
                    Christian
                    System Gear

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                    • #12
                      With >250 hours of playing time, the amps seem fully broken in. I have introduced Paulstra footers between the amps and SRA Ohio XL stands...4 is too many; 3 seems just right with the loading specifications of 18-24 kg each. The footers reveal a little more air and improve imaging. At less than $100 apiece, they are a relative audio bargain.

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