Eddie Vaughn Carina

Once in a while an amplifier comes along that is so special, and so full of Karma, that it stands out from the pack in a way that is very special to me. Here we have just such a creation, the “Carina” by Eddie Vaughn. This is an amplifier that I’ve been hearing about for years, but am just now hearing for myself. And it came to me in such a natural way; I recently thought about it for the first time in a few years, mentioned to an email acquaintance that I was looking for one, and later that week the amp came up for sale just down the road from me, 5 miles or less. I met the owner in the parking lot of an Ace Hardware store and made the exchange, and a few short minutes later this amp was hooked up to my Lii Audio F-15 and singing. Sometimes when its meant to be it works this way.

Anyway, metaphysical musings aside, I’m super pleased to have this amp in my collection. Although a low production, hand made amplifier, this is a top shelf build in every way. This is put together in a careful, solid way with all high quality, hand picked parts and it feels like a bespoke piece that was made just for me, with no expense spared. Although made 15 years ago or so, this one looks like new and just exudes quality and refinement.

Parts-wise this is a superior build. The transformers are all custom-wound by Electra-Print, the tube sockets are of the highest quality as are the rear connectors, the volume control is silky smooth to the touch and runs the full band, even the rubber feet on the bottom plate grip just perfectly. There isn’t a single thing I would change about the physical build of this amplifier.

Sound-wise this is at the highest level, with a fast and detail rich sound that opens up a window on the program material that feels very immediate and intimate. This amp reveals details, yes, but it also reveals emotion. You can feel the emotion in the singer’s voice, the visceral grunt or push of the trumpet or sax, the little spatial cues between the lines that hold the tension, the longing, the joy, and the depth of the music. Some of my favorites shine in a way that is so pleasing to hear; after so many years of hearing the tracks over and over, something new is brought into play through Eddie Vaughn’s Carina. It may sound cliché, but I felt it right away.

Ostensibly an EL84 amplifier, my model has the later mods that allow it to run the Russian SV83 tube, which is clearly superior to the EL84 in my room. I tried a variety of EL84 and none compare to the SV83. Driven by the 6922, and with a wide selection of suitable rectifiers, the tube rolling choices are almost endless here. But beyond tubes, this amp also offers switchable Triode or Ultralinear modes, as well as two voicings, each of which have significant effects on the sound signature. In my amp, A voicing is more driven and aggressive while B is a bit more laid back and mellow. So much flexibility. This amp is a chameleon!

In my house this one was quickly nicknamed "Darth Vader" because of the sleek and shiny black layout. A lot like the Decware SE84, this amp has a powerful grip on the speaker but also has a delicacy and sweetness to its tone that is very pleasing to listen to and that I have been enjoying very much. With no noise of any kind at idle, and a high-quality built in volume control, the Carina is an easy am to live with for the long term. Eddie Vaughn certainly put his heart into these amplifiers, and after so many single ended pentode amps through the door I would classify this one as a true masterpiece. I don't know how many amps Eddie made, but if you can find one it is a destination amplifier. Super highly recommended.

This is a great looking amplifier. We’ve nicknamed it “Darth Vader” because of the all black, sleek and shiny look of it. At any rate, this is an exceptionally good quality build and a very fine sounding amplifier that offers a lot of the Decware flavor while adding some extra emotional context to it’s sound that is hard to quantify but is easily heard. The Force is strong with this one!

The Carina offers a lot of flexibility. The switches allow for this to be run in Triode or Ultralinear, but also feature two voice modes. On my amp, A is more aggressive and powerful while B is somewhat more laid back and mellow. I like A best and have run this one in A plus Triode for most of the time I’ve had it. Nice to have so many amps in one though.

Heavy-duty output transformers, custom wound by Jack Elliano at Electra-Print. Quality just oozes out of this amplifier!

The connectors on the Carina are first rate. This is something a lot of builders seem to overlook, but I am always happy to see RCA and speaker terminals of this quality. Nice! I only wish this had been made into a multi input amp.

While the Carina can run EL84 tubes, and the original models only ran the EL84, this amp has the later edition mod that allows it to use the Russian SV83 super tubes as a plug and play option. These tubes elevate the amp to another level, and there is really no comparison in my opinion.

5AR4 is the rectifier of choice with the Vaughn Carina. In this case I’ve pictured it with the super nice early metal base made in Holland tube, but most of the time its running with a more modest but still exceptional 60’s Mullard saw tooth shown below. Rectifiers make a big difference in the sound of this amp, and it will take a wide variety, but so far 5AR4 seems to be the best choice.

This is a great, very classy looking amp that sounds like a million bucks.

Darth Vader with a 1920's blue Arcturus 80 globe in place. Not the best choice for this amp unfortunately.