Tube Fantasy Push Pull 2A3 Monoblocks

The 2A3 has become one of my favorite tube types. Its one of the oldest triodes, and like many things in audio they got it right a long time ago. The 2A3’s sound is typically characterized by clarity, a subdued warmth, and an overall feeling of ease that allows it to make just about any type of music you can think of sound good. This is a tube to choose as a middle ground that does basically everything well. There really just aren’t many well designed 2A3 amps that sound bad. But at 3.5 watts in single ended the 2A3 is still speaker challenged. Push pull configuration changes that equation, and in a push pull circuit the 2A3 makes 10 or 12 watts per channel; enough for a pretty wide range of speakers. If you've become familiar with the sound profile of a big push pull 6L6 or KT88 amp, the 2A3 in push pull offers a significantly different sound, while still allowing you to use a fairly inefficient or difficult to drive speaker.

Enter Ling Xiao Nan, a boutique amp builder based in China who seems to be a small scale, possibly one-man production, and who sells his wares under the moniker of Tube Fantasy. I think it's a somewhat silly name, but make no mistake, these are not cheap thrown together amps. Rather they are quite solid, carefully crafted, and excellent sounding little amplifiers that seem to have quality parts overall and in person do not feel cheap or cheesy in any way. Based roughly on the shape and size of the classic Quad monoblocks of the 60’s, Tube Fantasy builds a variety of push pull and single ended circuits using 300B, 2A3, 6L6, and even some outliers like the F2a. When a pair of his 2A3 monos came up I decided to give them a whirl, and its been a fun experience so far!

I’ve had a few push pull triode amps in the past based around all of the big characters; the 45, 2A3, 300B and 6B4G, and the Tube Fantasy 2A3 monos hold their own fidelity-wise with any of them. Build quality is better than many; these amps are solid little bricks. Well executed and compact, the amps are even tube rectified with the 5AR4. For the low cost of admission, these amps present a very solid value and its hard to imagine anyone realistically being disappointed with these.

The sound of these amps is neutral and even handed as I would expect from the 2A3, with a balanced presentation between the speakers and the kind of clean and centered channel separation typical of well designed monoblocks. The soundstage on most program material is presented a little farther back in the audience than some of the single ended amps I’m most familiar with, it is like sitting in the 10th row of a performance rather than onstage with the musicians. Completely silent at idle, even on my 100 db/wm speakers, there is no noise at all from these amps, even with my ear in the cone. That's a nice feature! The amps produce 12 watts of clean and distortion free power, which is enough to play far louder on the Lii 18 panels than I care to listen. On a more delicate sounding driver like the Coral 10CX50 coaxials, the Tube Fantasy monos sound very open, clean and fresh. And paired with my single Altec 755a driver in mono, the Tube Fantasy seems to make a very good source for that demanding and finicky little speaker.

Overall these are quite pleasing amplifiers that will be at home in basically any situation and with any music lover. I’ve enjoyed my time with these amplifiers, and they have exceeded my expectations. Recommended, especially as a new flavor for someone who has speakers that aren’t single ended friendly, but who still wants to experience the magic of a smaller output triode. I’ll be on the lookout for another of Ling Xiao Nan’s creations in the future, perhaps something using one of the more unusual tube choices he seems to be fond of.

Clean and simple little monoblocks. With an all-metal construction these are solid and substantial.

The mesh plate Phillips EF86 are an interesting choice and continue the Quad tradition. There is something about mesh plates that is really appealing.

Clean lines, well built, solid metal bricks. These are a model of utilitarian function. So many tube amps these days are flashy chrome plated monoliths. These simple little amps transcend all of that and simply deliver the goods.

The 5AR4 rectifier is always a good choice, and it is nice to see tube rectification on these amps.

Simple but good quality connectors are a nice touch here.

Like a four cylinder tube audio motor, chugging out the miles in my audio room.

Here is the amp set up in a mono configuration, with a mono converter between the preamp and the amp. In this case powering my single Altec 755a and pictured alongside the only other monoblock I have on hand, a single ended VT-52 by John Hogan. Its apples vs oranges, but in direct mono comparison on the 755a driver, the Hogan VT-52 is more open and smooth, with a more present and alive presentation than the Tube Fantasy. But the Tube Fantasy amp has more grip and authority, more grunt, and it is apparent on certain material where the Hogan seems to be clipping. The Tube Fantasy sails through those spots without missing a beat. It's a denser sound than the VT-52, but overall I do prefer the VT-52’s lightness and ethereal quality.