Don Garber 2A3 / 45 Monos

Don Garber’s Fi amplifiers have got to be some of the most iconic contributions to hifi ever. An early proponent of the single ended revival of the 1990’s, Don Garber built carefully crafted single ended amps in a variety of flavors, all made by hand in his small NYC studio, with simple circuits and high quality parts. His 45 and 2A3 amps are the most famous, but Don also built the 46, the 300B and the VT52.

Here we have perhaps the most well known of Don’s amps, the 2A3 / 45 monoblocks. These amps run the 2A3 tube with a 5V4 rectifier, but changing that to a 5Y3 (or an 80 on adapter) brings the voltage down and allows the amp the run the 45. This same basic design was also used in Don’s X amps, one of which it was my pleasure to own a few years ago.

This is a direct-coupled design and it sounds very, very good. I like both the 2A3 and the 45 of course, they are both at the very top of the DHT food chain. Normally I would give the nod to the 45 as being the winner in a 2A3/45 shootout. But in this amp somewhat surprisingly the 2A3 sounded just a little better to me, with a little fuller presentation that I found addictive. This amp has a purity that is engaging and it clearly shows off the program material’s strengths and weaknesses as well as differences between tubes, so it really pays to have the best 2A3 and 45 tubes you can find; in my case a mono plate pair of 2A3 from the early 30’s, a pair of Sophia mesh plate Princess tubes and EML mesh globe 45s. These amps deserves the best, and are able to get the most out of the good tubes. You will definitely hear the differences.

During my time with the Garber monos I also had on hand two other top-shelf 45 amps: a sweet single ended 45 with Partridge transformers driven by the EF37A pentode, and the amazing Aum Acoustics 45, both of which I ran back and forth with the Garber amps in 45 mode. There were similarities and differences between all three of course. Of the three, the Aum Acoustics 45 was clearly superior at detail and a sense of ease, while the EF37A driven amp had the most grunt and a more aggressively driven pace. The Garber amps were a nice middle ground in between, with most of the best characteristics of the others, and with my Speed 45 globes in place it has a purity and tone that is very pleasing. Everyone will be happy with the amazing sound produced by the Don Garber monoblocks.

Don Garber’s 2A3 / 45 monoblocks are a landmark pair of amps that have perhaps become statement pieces in the single ended world. This is a hobby built on the backs of effort from the 1920’s and 30’s, but without a lot of recent history behind it. Here then are amps that date back to the days of Sound Practices and Vacuum Tube Valley, made by the hands of a legendary builder and artist who was at the very forefront of the tube audio Renaissance. They are both iconic looking and sounding, and were signed by their creator. As I said in my review of Don’s X amp, if the Smithsonian were curating an exhibit on tube audio, one of Don’s amps should be at the center of the collection. He set the course that many others have followed, and his wonderful amps are still at the top of the pile in both performance and aesthetics. Super highly recommended, if you can find a pair.

What a pleasure to own amplifiers like this. With the ability to run both the 2A3 or the 45 at their optimum operating points, this amp really is two-in-one.

I always like to see a signature on a build like this.

Good quality connectors are very important to me, and the Cardas posts that Don used here are some of the best.

Does it get any simpler than this? Beautiful!

Here they are set up with Speed 45 globes and 5Y3 rectifiers.