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Midwest Audio

Deluxe Classic 2A3 SET Amp

Effortless Beauty

[Italian version]

Product: Deluxe Classic 2A3 Single Ended Triode Stereo Bloc Amplifier
Manufacturer: Midwest Audio - Dayton, Ohio - USA
Phone: 937-469-4391
Price as Reviewed: $1,590.00 USD
Reviewer: Scott Faller
Published: October, 2002

[Deluxe Classic 2A3]
Deluxe Classic 2A3 Single Ended Triode Amplifier

Trivial Bits

Just like so many of us, I grew up listening to tubes. In my case, it was my mom's old monstrous Magnavox console stereo with 12" woofers and horns. Just guessing, it was probably putting out a whopping 20 watts or so. It was an old 6BQ5 design. Not exactly audiophile quality but decent hifi none the less.

Since then I have been searching for the Holy Grail in Audio. In the late 60's or early 70's I got my first solid state system. It wasn't much, a crappy old integrated and a pretty worthless turntable, but hey, it was solid state, the latest and greatest. Much like CD's, solid state promised the world but really delivered a little slice of Arkansas (sorry to poke fun at anybody out there that lives in Arkansas. Arkansas is actually a beautiful state but admit it, the name carries a certain stigma attached with it. Oh I know, I live in Missouri, not much better when it comes to stigmas but hey, at least we have a competitive Baseball and Football team :-)

Anyway, over the years, I've bought and used literally dozens of solid state designs. I do have to say, solid state has come a loooong way. The designs today and a select few of yesteryear are quite stunning. Very musical, complete with bass to die for. That may be one of my greatest attractions to solid state, the bass. In The Beast (my big system), I boast almost 500 wpc at 8 ohms, tri-amped with a 12" woofer/cabinet design that reaches so deep into the netherworld that it scares all but the most savage demons. It's very cool to play with but somehow, something has always been missing. I've changed and rebuilt amps, tweaked every part of the system to death, but for some reason I've never been completely satisfied. I wouldn't say it's upgrade-itus, because it isn't. This goes deeper.

Enter Nels. When Nels and I hooked up, he started pushing the idea that what was missing was valves. Well, needless to say, it didn't take too long before his subliminal overtures in our conversations possessed my very being and I had plopped down a healthy chunk of money and bought a tubed preamp. Since I am Lord and Ruler of the Cheapskate Kingdom (located right next to that tiny Roman colony called Pocketus Lintus on the ancient world atlas), I searched the internet for what seemed to be weeks until I found what I thought would give me the biggest bang for the buck.

I picked out a second hand Lazarus Cascade Basic. It's a 12AX7 design with a low/medium gain phono stage. I ordered it and waited patiently for it to show up. When it did finally arrive, I took the box down to my listening room and ripped into it. I pulled it out and marveled at the little glass thingies inside. Ooou, they said Mullard, very cool. Then I slid it into my system. I carefully placed it on some squishy things to suck up the vibrations that were sure to infect my sound, then slowly flipped the power switch to the on position. There was a gentle hum from the transformer and then a subtle glow emanated from inside the casing. Extreeeemely cool. I picked one of my favorite CD's and slid it into the tray, pushed the close button and set the volume controls to a reasonable level. I sauntered (I just love that word) back my listening seat, sat down and holding my breath, I slowly pushed the play button. All at once, I realized what I had long since forgotten. I got this mini-rush of memories that seemed to come from a lifetime ago. It's exactly what I had been missing in my system…. Valves.

As the time passed, I upgraded my pre and some of the individual pieces but something was still missing. Somehow, even as good as The Beast sounds, it still didn't quite cut the mustard.

At the same time I bought the Lazarus, I started searching out old pieces of tube gear. Amps mainly. I'd drag these things home and take them down to my "laboratory" (said like Boris Karloff) and experiment on them. I'd perform operations on them as if they were lab rats…..all in the name of research. Many of them died in the name of science, but giving up their souls was a noble act. Just like Indian warriors, they died with honor. Some of them are still living and breathing. Off and on, the ones that survived the general massacre, will share their secrets of life with me. I have a couple of favorites that talk to me on a regular basis. Each have their own personality to share. Neither of their souls are pure, they both have a way of coloring the musical stories they tell. But that's OK, I don't mind, sometimes the little white lies they utter make the stories even better. But eventually, I tire of hearing the same stories again and again.

Then one day, as I was surfing the "net" I stumbled across a website called Midwest Audio. I was utterly mesmerized by the new Shanling CD player. This piece is pure artwork. I have no idea what it sounds like but it is drop dead gorgeous to look at. After I had snapped myself out of the spell the Shanling had cast upon me, I started looking at the other offerings that Midwest was making to the Audio Gods.

As I flipped through the pages, I noticed some pretty attractively priced tubed gear (less than $1000 US). That caught my attention immediately. All but too often in this industry, gear is overpriced and waaaaay too over-hyped. Most times when I go to listen to a new piece of gear, I am really disappointed. It never seems to live up to it's press, that or it's so bloody damned expensive that nobody can afford it. That (price) more that anything seems to drive most peoples purchases. What can I get for X dollars? We (mere pagans) want the biggest bang for the buck we can get. Then, we are left to lust after all that (seemingly) ultra cool gear we read about in the rags, full well knowing that there is no chance in Hell of ever actually getting a piece like that.

Well, after perusing the pages of Midwest Audio, my curiosity got the best of me. I tracked down their phone number and gave owner of Midwest Audio (Patrick J. Cunningham) a call. We talked for what seemed to be an hour about all kinds of stuff....music....gear...designs and mainly the "tube sound". When all was done, Patrick said he was going to send me one of his 2A3 amps to give a listen.

After I hung up the phone I thought to myself ….. a 2A3 amp…...let's see…..that's all of 2 1/2 watts, what in the Audio Gods names am I going to match this with?!! Two and one half puny little watts means I'm going to need some pretty damned efficient speakers. Two and one half watts, hey, that's actually 2500 milli-watts! I think I like that much better.

Lafayette Goodmans SK-111

It just so happens that on one of my many spirit journeys in junking, I drug home a pair of Lafayette Goodmans SK-111's (circa late 1950's or so). They are a 15" dual concentric speaker. A dual concentric is basically an audiophile name for a co-ax speaker. The tweeter (usually a compression driver) is mounted directly to the pole piece of the main driver. The drivers usually have rare earth magnets (Alnico) of purported superhuman strengths. Standard ceramics and neodymium magnets are mere 98 pound weaklings and pale in comparison to the almighty Alnico. With the Alnico (typically) comes super high efficiencies. In the Goodmans case, they are screamers. I measured them with my Sencore SP-295c at just under 103 db (Flat, not A or C weighted). They aren't pretty, in fact the cabinets are more than a little beat up, but remember these things are as old as I am and Lord knows I haven't aged very well either. Fortunately the drivers sound (and look) like brand new, right down to the burgundy colored felt.

Enough Already ...... Get On With It

A week our so later my FedEx guy decides to pay a visit to me. I immediately knew what it was…the 2A3 amp. I scurried off downstairs to get it unpacked and setup. As I pulled it out of it's bulletproof packaging, it was far better looking than the pictures had hinted. It has a solid Cherry wood base that has am impeccable finish. The metal has been colored with a dark gray "crinkle" heat resistant paint. By crinkle I mean, it's that paint that when it dries, it looks like the skin of an orange. For those of us that are klutz's, if we do something stupid, like slamming into the amp and we chip the paint (don't worry Patrick :-), it's easily repaired and matches perfectly.

Before I plugged it into my system for the first listen, I pulled off the bottom cover. If you notice, everywhere you look there are premium components used in the design. For those who pray to the Audio Demigods, your chanting will not have been in vein. Point to point wiring, silver hook up wire, precision resistors, big fat Solens caps, Black Gates used at critical junctures and TFT teflon film caps were used throughout the signal path. Not to mention, hefty WBT gold plated binding posts and nice gold plated RCA female connectors. The stock tube compliment are Sovtek's. We have the obvious 2A3's and a pair of 6C45Pi's as the driver tube and it's all topped off with a 5AR4 rectifier tube and a CLC filtered B+ supply. The choice of a 6C45Pi driver tube provides the gain of a pentode, while allowing the triode sonics to come through. The amp also has hum balance pots located on the top side just behind the 2A3's. This minimalist design utilizes no negative feedback. Dual chokes are utilized in the power supply path which allows for better separation between stages. The tubes are cathode biased which is essentially and auto-biasing circuit and the adjustment of the hum balance pots doesn't effect the biasing of the tubes. Not a hint of sand anywhere. Overall, extremely nice, in fact I'm pretty impressed. Especially at this price point.

Now for the installation. At the far end of my listening room (about 40 feet away) directly opposite The Beast, I have my tube gear set up. I took out my other amps and installed the Classic 2A3. I decided to use my Korato KVP 20 as the front end and my Arcam 8se as the source. Both, very nice sounding pieces. I turned on the system, let the tubes get nice and hot, then gave it an initial listen. It didn't sound too bad, not as great as I had hoped, but not bad in the same respect. Well, I sure didn't see it coming, but somebody had done a rain dance and there was a storm was brewing in my tube room.

[Deluxe Classic 2A3 Uncovered]
Deluxe Classic 2A3 SET Uncovered

Let me explain. I wasn't hearing what I felt I should have been hearing. The little details we live and die for just weren't there. I thought to myself, "Could this be?", a 2A3, with all these premium parts, that doesn't have any detail? "Not a chance." I answered myself. So I meditated for a while and my visions slowly began bringing my pre-amp into focus. I decided to change from the KVP 20 to my reference that I use in The Beast, the KVP 10. It's a true dual mono design with 12AX7's. It sounds wonderful in my big system so it should sound just as good here too, right? Well, after a few minutes of disconnecting and reconnecting, I had it installed and gave it a listen. The sounds definately got better but it still wasn't what I thought it should be…Damn! So I went and grabbed my trusty old Lazarus. I threw in some better tubes and fired it up. Nope, this one didn't work either. Good grief, what the heck is going on?

At this time I'm starting to think it's the Goodmans speakers. I'm beginning to have visions that I'll have to go see my local Witch Doctor and full time Snake Oil salesman that handles Lowther's (that's not a disparaging statement against Lowther's, it's a slam against my local guy). The thought doesn't thrill me a whole bunch. If I do that it means I just added another few weeks to the review process until the Lowther's break in, forget about the fact of having to tweak a pair a rear loaded horns to get them to sound right, let us not forget about the cost for a pair of PM2A's or DX4's.

Well, I started meditating again and finally decided to pack up the Deluxe Classic 2A3 (and the Korato) and go pay a friend of mine, Thom, a visit. Thom is a great guy and is heavily into 2A3's and 45's. He builds one helluva good amp and preamp. I showed up over at his place and immediately, Thom and Richard started drooling over the looks of the Deluxe Classic 2A3 amp. We pulled out an ancient pair of Klipsch Heresey's and one of Thom's amps and pre's. We started with a simple AB of the pre-amps. By the time we were done with the pre's, I was cussing Thom because his little hand built pre just blew mine away. God I hate when that happens. Then we started substituting amps. We slid in the 2A3 and it sounded simply marvelous. It played music exactly as I hoped it would. Well, after a few hours of paying homage to the Audio Gods, I packed up my gear, tucked tail and went home.

On the way back I started thinking about what I was going to do (praying is more like it). I really didn't think my speakers were the problem. So I called Patrick and we talked for a while. He mentioned that he listens to his with his Shanling going straight into the inputs of the 2A3, thereby removing anything extraneous from the signal path. I thought, hey, I can do that! I have a Creek OBH-10 (the Creek is nothing more than a motorized pot, no active circuits at all, just a pot with a remote control) that I can stick between the Arcam and the amp to give me some volume control. Then I grabbed an Audio Alchemy VAC in a Box (it's Thom's actually) so I could listen to some vinyl too.

I plugged it all together and turned it on and my room was immediately filled with music. Let me tell you, that was the ticket. Detail, depth, dynamics, every positive cliche a reviewer uses was pulsating through my body. I could feel little tingly things all over :-)

The first piece I played was Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax playing Brahms. This CD is absolutely phenomenal. When I listened to it before with the pre-amps in the way, it seemed slow and labored. Ma's attack on the cello was off, not by a great amount but off none the less. Somehow the life was missing in the music...and this is truly beautiful music, full of life and emotion. Ma's take on Brahms is stunning. Now with all of those pieces and parts out of the way, the amp began to truly sing. Ma sounded exactly as I imagine he would if I were standing in the back of the studio when he recorded this masterpiece. The aggressive attack of Ma's bowing, performed on his (over) quarter millennia old cellos, plus all of the glorious details of their fundamental harmonics, were magically restored by removing everything ahead of the Deluxe Classic 2A3 amp.

Over the next four or five hours I threw everything at this little gem but the kitchen sink. I sat here absolutely mesmerized with every piece I played. Then I started playing some vinyl.

Oh my God! Classic Records re-issue of Miles Davis', Kind of Blue was absolutely stunning. Now keep in mind, I'm using a cheap low/medium gain phono stage in the AA VAC in a Box with only a fair output voltage at best. It's an OK phono pre, not the best, but decent none the less. If you were to use a quality phono pre with a stiff output voltage, the results would be breathtaking. As it was, cut 1 side 1, So What, the stage sounded like it was close to 20-30 feet deep. Not to mention absolute, pinpoint placement of the musicians on the stage. There was no blurring of the music which happens so often. No big, bloated, fat guys playing even bigger and fatter instruments here. Everybody I experienced seemed true to life. The timbre and tonality of the instruments were spot on.

This in itself surprised the heck out of me. Reason, the old Goodmans. I knew they were good but I figured they would carry some pretty heavy baggage with them, especially in the critical midrange area. So many vintage speakers sound, well, a little beamy to put it mildly. I got really lucky in my find. That's not to say they are perfect, every speaker has it's compromises and the Goodmans are no different.

I never would have expected the Goodmans to mate so well with the rest of the gear, but they did. It's funny, these old speakers sound as clear and refined as a lot of what's on the market today. Best part is, they are in a predictable bass reflex cabinet, not a rear loaded horn. Granted I've tweaked the hell out of them. I rebuilt the crossovers using premium caps and I decided to use a planar tweeter of lower efficiency (92db) crossed in with a simple first order XO at about 12khz to extend the top end and reinforce where the compression driver doesn't go. Blending in that much lower efficiency tweeter sounds a little weird, I know, but it works, really well in fact. Then I cut some foam the size of the front baffle, made a cutout for the driver and installed it to knock down some of the wave launch of the mids. I blocked the bass reflex slots (so common back then) with some scrap plywood and cut a hole in one of them so I could tune the cabinets by ear using a cardboard tube from an old roll of paper towels as a vent. I stuffed the cabinets a little better to get rid of the slight boomyness and dampen a bit of the back waves. But that is really it. Are they perfect? Not hardly, but the tweaks I did work pretty darned well until I get the time measure the T-S parameters and build a proper cabinet for them. As it stands, these 15 ohm, 15" drivers easily hit 35hz (almost) flat in room and I have substantial output into the mid 20's, which is pretty darned good to say the least. That means I have no need for a sub for 98% of the music I listen to. If you have the notion to find a pair of these, good luck. I've been searching for some time and you can just plain forget it, they don't exist on the open market.

Anyway, back to the music. Everything I played just sounded "right" on this system with the exception of the heavily produced electronic music. That's not to say it sounded bad at all because it didn't, it's just that this type of music is better suited for a big slammin solid state system like The Beast.

It's not very often that when I listen to music on a stereo that I get overcome with emotion, but it happened with the Deluxe Classic 2A3. It usually happens to me at live events. As I was listening to the 2A3, this wave of emotion shoots through my body like a jolt of electricity. Every hair on my body stands at attention as the goose bumps pop out everywhere. It happened to me a more than few times that afternoon. I was listening to the Pat Metheny, We Live Here CD and the first of the rushes hit. The other memorable one was when I was listening to Pat Metheny and Charlie Haydens Beyond the Missouri Sky. I don't know if it was the resounding realism of the system or maybe I was just really impressionable and being swept up in the moment. It's so cool when that happens.

The Deluxe Classic 2A3's midrange and vocals are to die for. I played all kinds of different vocal music during this amps stay here. Everything from Cassandra Wilson and her sultry approach to jazz to Sade to Sarah Vaughn. Each of them sounded natural and un-encumbered. There wasn't even a hint at sibilance or graininess in their vocals. On the male vocal styling's, I played loads of different guys. For me, Harry Connick Jr. stood out of the crowd. His CD's are extremely well recorded. Harry can get a little weird sometimes but generally he makes some pretty good music. His vocals make for a great reference because they sound so natural. On the Deluxe Classic 2A3, it's no different, his voice was as smooth and buttery as you would expect.

>From Jazz to Classical, Acoustic to Rock and everything in between came to life with absolute precision (using the proper source materials of course). Midwest's Deluxe Classic 2A3 lived up to the hype surrounding the basic 2A3 amplifier design. The Classic 2A3 presented itself and the music with no artificial coloration's. It just allowed the music to play with effortless beauty…..providing (I had qualify that because of my experiences with the pre amps). Put a piece of gear in front of it that has any coloration and it will drive you nuts. This little amp seems almost transparent. When you have so little in the signal path, anything, even slightly flawed, shows up like a sore thumb. You end up listening to that piece of equipment rather than the music.

After experiencing this type of Audio Nirvana I'm beginning to think, as so many others before me are, be a minimalist. Fewer watts, fewer pieces in the audio chain, super high efficiency speakers, no hype, no BS, just pure music. An amp like this, a simple quality CD player, a $300 Creek OBH-10 and a kick ass pair of high E speakers is all a person needs. I'm extremely satisfied, so much so that I could easily do away with The Beast and not miss it (much). But I won't do that. I need that solid state slam fix on a pretty regular basis. I admit it, I'm a solid state bass junky. That's OK though, it's really cool.

Don't mistake what I'm saying at all, the Deluxe Classic 2A3 does a great job with bass, especially with my speakers. But the bass on a tube system with high E speakers is altogether different than the typical solid state rig. On the Deluxe Classic 2A3 it's extremely firm, refined and articulate. On solid state, it can be all that too, but on low E speakers coupled with silicon each adds it's own flavor to the music. That's not a bad thing by any means, it's just different, and different can be very good sometimes.

Oh Sure….You Like It, So What About Some Comparisons?

For those of you that are curious about the difference in sound to other SET amps, there is quite a difference between this 2A3 and say a typical 300B. A friend of mine, Willie, brought over a couple of his DIY amps and we sat down an made some side by side comparisons of them all. First, Willie is one heck of a DIYer. His amps are not only really cool looking, but they sound great too. He typically follows established designs but voices them to suit vintage speakers similar to the Goodmans that I have so they are a good match in my system. He also uses vintage iron and loads his amps up with premium parts (Solens, Black Gates, large value paper in oil caps, tantalum resistors). These end up being anything but cheap DIY amps. They will give anything on the market a good run for their money.

Willie brought over a tricked out 300B and a push pull, interstage transformer coupled 45. I'm a little reluctant to talk about Willies 45 because it's a completely different design than a SET since it's a push pull. Push pull designs are quite a bit weightier in the bass region than your typical SET. Throw in the interstage transformer coupled 45's and you now have a real competitor to the 2A3's midrange. Willie runs a slightly lower plate voltage in his designs which does a couple of things. First, it considerably extends the life of his vintage tubes (RCA's BTW) which is a good thing. Second, it lowers the output wattage. This PP 45 was running slightly under 3 watts (I'm guessing). When we unplugged the Deluxe Classic 2A3 and plugged in the PP 45 there was an immediate and more than noticeable difference. The PP 45 carried a damned impressive bass line. For lack of a better way to describe it, the bass was somewhere between SET and solid state. Actually, it was very cool. The extreme high frequencies seems a bit more extended also but not to a significant extent, but extended none the less. After the PP 45 warmed up a bit, I listened pretty intently. Although I love the bass coming out of the PP 45, I can't use that comparison, it wouldn't be fair but surprisingly, the Classic 2A3 really didn't fair to bad at all. This little SET's bass was good enough that the margin wasn't as great as you might suspect. Now for the critical midrange. Well, IMO, the Deluxe Classic 2A3 won hands down. I found the mids far more articulate and smooth than the PP 45. Again, this may not be a fair comparison either. I'm comparing apples and oranges here. The highs were pretty comparable. Though the PP 45 had just a bit more pronounced highs, I'd say the quality was similar.

Willie's 300B is a sight to behold. It's a pure 300B that uses the Electro Harmonix TJ's. He uses vintage iron on the transformers with custom wound output chokes designed with silver secondary's. Paper and oils, and premium parts abound. His DIY amp would be a welcome replacement to a lot of people's mega-buck amps. For those familiar with the sound of a 300B, this will be old news. The 300B has a different approach to music. Where the 2A3 has a silky smooth presentation to music, the 300B takes a bit more analytical approach (if tubes can actually be analytical). The virtual soundstage of a 2A3 is transformed into a landscape with a 300B. The 300B has this huge soundstage but it comes with a slight sacrifice to the smooth silky presentation of the Deluxe Classic 2A3. Willies custom 300B was no different. The 300B produced music with surgical precision. It had great bass. Normally, the 300B has better bass (subjectively) than a 2A3. Not in this case. The Deluxe Classic 2A3 held it's own against the highly touted 300B designs. To my tastes, the Deluxe Classic 2A3 sounded quite a bit better. Personally, I'll sacrifice that enormous soundstage for the milkier midrange.


Well lets see. There really isn't much to pick on in regards to this amp.

If I had my druthers, I'd druther see the inputs on the back side of the amp and the power switch on the front. I know why Tony designed it this way, it was to keep the signal path as short as possible. If he had put the inputs on the back of the unit, it would have changed the architecture (inside) of the unit. Not to mention it would have lengthened the input signal path. In an SET design, that can be a really big deal. Every (seemingly) minor change can have a huge impact on the sound. The inputs on the back are just a personal preference. Lots of the newer tube amps are coming out with the inputs on the front so it really isn't that big of a deal.

I could see the need for a tube cage for people with young kids. All of mine are grown and my nieces and nephews all know not to get near Uncle Scott's stereo. Death could ensue. Not by high voltage but by the owner :-)

The Deluxe Classic 2A3 comes with those little square rubber feet. They really don't do much of anything by means of absorbing vibrations or providing isolation. At the price point of this amp I really wouldn't expect too much more. In my case, I used some Sound Care Spikes that I use when I audition new gear. The average guy on the street is going to experiment with different types of isolators anyway. The little domed doorstops, Sorbothane or Vibropods will provide you with all the isolation you would want, plus they are cheap too. Ultimately, I didn't see the lack of expensive feet as much of a drawback at all.

Other than my personal preferences which are pretty minor, there really isn't anything noteworthy.


Well, as I finish up this review I can wholeheartedly say that I recommend this Deluxe Classic 2A3 amp from Midwest Audio. I feel you are getting one heck of a deal considering it's build quality, looks, and the premium parts, lest we forget the music it makes. Most manufacturers offering a product like this would probably triple the price if not more. At $1500 or so, depending on the options you choose, this is a pretty darned good deal.

If you are contemplating buying a flea powered tubed amp, take this advice to heart, keep your signal chain as simple as possible. Use a quality CD player, either with a variable output or buy a little passive preamp like the Creek. Heck, Partrick can even set up with one of those too (he buys the Shanling from Roy Hall, the US importer of Creek). If you are a vinyl addict like me, pick out a phono stage with a higher output voltage, say in 3.5 to 5 volt range. Same with your CD player. My Arcam only has a 2.3 volt output which is fine for a standard system that uses a preamp but when you plug it directly into this 2A3 (or any other for that manor) you only end up being able to listen to the first 1 1/2 watts (or so) of the amp. If you have screamers for speakers, that will do you just fine. With my Goodmans, that gave me a very pleasing 95 to 98 dB (or so) in room. That's more that adequate for most people but if your speakers are any less efficient you could need more output voltage to delve into that final precious watt or so.

There's a few things I forgot to mention in the body of the article above. First and probably the coolest of all, this amp is fully customizable. What the heck do I mean by that? Well, if you want the base crafted from any number of exotic hardwoods (no veneers here), Patrick and his team will make it for you. Want to supply your own antique wood, be his guest. Again, Patrick will be more than happy to build it. Now, here is something even more unusual, let Patrick know what type of speakers you plan to use and he will voice the amp to best suit your gear. A lot of people that are into flea powered amps are using Lowthers, Fostex, AER's, Klipsch horns or Tannoy's (and the list goes on and on). This particular amp that I have was voiced for Lowther Medallions with a second opinion provided by some Vintage Altec's. The voicing to the Altec's is probably why they are such a great mate to my Goodmans. Another thing, these amps are all hand built right here in the good ole' US of A. These are not mass produced by some poor guy (or girl) making $1 a day in some third world country, then imported and marked up to death. These are hand built by Patrick's partner Tony (and his team of Elves) on the East Coast. All the more reason that I find the price so incredible.

Patrick and Tony also make a less expensive version of the Deluxe Classic 2A3. It is the exact same design and look except it doesn't use as many of the "premium" parts. This could be really good option for those on a tight budget or the chronic tweaker. You could go for this one and over a period of time upgrade the caps and such all the while saving a buck or two. No doubt there are sonic differences but if money stands in the way, it could be a pretty viable option.

If you are in the market for a 2A3, 45 or a 300B, you need to give the Deluxe Classic 2A3 serious consideration. Paying more money for a "Name Brand" or an "Over-Classed, Ridiculously Expensive, Recommended Component" won't necessarily buy you a better amp. You will just be spending butt-loads more, but the choice is (ultimately) yours. Remember, sometimes the path to Audio Heaven isn't always paved with dollar bills. If that's the case, you are reading the wrong Review Magazine.

I'd personally like to thank Patrick and Tony at Midwest Audio for the use of their gear for the review.

Hey Patrick, ever think about making the 2A3 in a dual mono version? As great as the 2A3 sounds, I can only imagine how much better it could get.

Oh Nels, my wife would like to have a word or two with you. Trust me, you'd better hide.

Manufacturer's Comments


It was very gracious of you to review our Classic 2A3 Deluxe, thank you. I am also pleased that this review is being published on the Internet; a medium which allows a global community of music lovers to discover new truths about how they can achieve the authentic reproduction of musical events in their own listening environment. It's an exciting time to be in this business, and to be able to educate music lovers worldwide.

Here's the scoop: when we set out to create our line of single ended triode amplifiers we had a few specific goals in mind. First and foremost, to create a world-class musical instrument (amplifier) that would satisfy even the most discerning listeners. Second, to create a unique oeuvre d'art with an aesthetic that connotes a sense of the 'Deco-Industrial'. Third, to strike a design synergy between the esoteric and the practical – one that would allow listeners to experience the joy of music without having to subsidize a company's multi-million dollar advertising budget as part of the price of admission. I believe that the amplifier you reviewed, as well as our 300B and 45 models, have exceeded even our own expectations in this capacity. And the comments contained in your review, along with continued praise from our customers, makes our passion and enthusiasm for this work grow even stronger.

>From a design perspective, it is clear that we are minimalists; we value simplicity, harmony, and tonal purity. For us, virtually all else is artifice, whether it takes form as a non-essential physical attribute, or an intentionally ambiguous metempirical quality generated through the use of marketing hyperbole. Simply put, and without all the exhausted audiophile mumbo-jumbo, we design amps that make a piano sound like a piano, allows crooners to croon, scatters to scat, and lets a cello resonate so that you know that what you are hearing is made of wood and strings. In sum, to us the single most important attribute of music is tone; capture that in the art of music reproduction and you can begin to open the floodgates to musical ecstasy.

It's funny; when I finished reading your review, I thought to myself "hey, I gave this guy goosebumps, isn't that what it's all about?!" Yes, for me that's what it's all about. The Music. And hopefully, as we all become better listeners, to feel "the wave of emotion that shoots through your body like a jolt of electricity…to be swept up in the moment" as you so eloquently wrote. The way I see it, our amplifiers are simply a means to this end. No more, no less.

So, thanks again, Scott. I am thrilled that you enjoyed your listening sessions with our amplifier. It's so reassuring to know that there are individuals like yourself who are communicating with a growing number of music lovers who really 'get it'. Until next time, enjoy the music!

Patrick J. Cunningham
President - Midwest Audio

P.S. You asked for it, you got it. Look for a 2A3 Classic Deluxe monobloc design coming this Winter. As for the time being, those with monobloc fever will have to stick to our Classic 300B monoblocs (with the cool, retro, amber-glow lights)!

The Beast

  • Turntable – Systemdek 2x2, Rega RB 250, Expressimo Mods, Rega Super Elys
  • CD Player – Njoe Tjoeb 4000
  • Pre-Amp – Korato KVP10 with the Phono Stage, Tubed with Mullards
  • Tri-Amped using:
    - Tweeter Amp – Spectro Acoustics 200sr, 100 wpc @ 8ohm, (heavily modded)
    - Mid Range Amp – Rotel RB-981, 130 wpc @ 8ohm, (tweaked)
    - Woofer Amp – Spectro Acoustics 500r, 250 wpc @ 8 ohm, (heavily modded)
  • Active Crossover – Sony 4300 (discrete)
  • Speakers, My Design
    - Tweeter - 30" Carver Ribbons,
    - Mid-Bass - Focal 5K4211,
    - Woofer - Shiva.
  • Interconnects and Cables,
    - DIY, silver plated copper with teflon insulation,

© Copyright 2002 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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