Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.
In a world dominated by megawatt amplifiers and HDMI conversion what am I doing reviewing a SET (Single Ended Triode) tube amplifier from a boutique manufacturer named Decware? The SE84C+ is the continuation of Decware's first ever amplifier the SE84C, which despite it's modest beginnings, has become a sort of cult classic among discerning audiophiles unconcerned with its two Watts per channel into four Ohm power rating.
Retailing for $738.00 and sold direct through Decware's own website the SE84C+ looks more like a DIY kit than a slick, industrial design statement. While it may not exactly be a looker, its performance defies belief so long as you have efficient speakers, think 93dB for starters, with a stable load to mate to it. The SE84C+ is a Class A Triode amplifier with a power rating of 2.3 Watts into four Ohms and five Watts when the SE84C+ is bridged in mono mode. The SE84C+'s power increases as the Ohms decrease and Decware claims the SE84C+ is stable down to a single Ohm.
The SE84C+ is built using point to point wiring, no circuit boards here, and features a 5U4G tube for rectification, SV83 or EL84 tubes for its output and a single 6N1P, 6922 or 6Dj8 tube for the signal. All of the SE84C+'s tubes are self biasing and can be readily found either through Decware's own site or any number of online retailers making it cheap to upgrade or experiment with. Decware states tube life to be roughly 5,000 hours, so unless you like tube rolling this may be one of only a few tube amps that don't require weekly maintenance, in fact Decware recommends you leave the SE84C+ on 24/7.
The SE84C+ features two analog stereo inputs as well as a pair of five-way binding posts that can accept up to 12 gauge wire (bare) as well as banana adapters and spade lugs. There is a front mounted volume pot, yes the SE84C+ can function as an integrated amp, as well as two top mounted switches, one for input selection the other for selecting bias. Everything about the SE84C+ screams utilitarian, for there is not an ounce of fat anywhere; it's very, very Zen. The SE84C+ is hand built in the USA and comes with a lifetime warranty to the original owner.
• While not a looker, the SE84C+'s build quality is second to none. For an amp that is roughly the length and width of an adult hand its 17-pound chassis feels like it would withstand a nuclear blast. It has a very militaristic vibe to it and while the design may be ridged the sound it produces is anything but.
• The SE84C+'s tubes are cheap to replace as well as experiment with meaning you can really "tune" its sound to your liking or source material.
• The SE84C+ is lightening fast, provided you have efficient speakers, and very revealing. Well-recorded material will reveal it self to your ears in ways you never thought possible. Poorly recorded material will make you wish you never purchased the album.
• Midrange and treble are the SE84C+'s strongest suits both providing countless hours of effortless enjoyment, never fatiguing or harsh even at loud volumes. However, while the SE84C+'s midrange performance is stunning it's no slouch when it comes to the bass either.
• The SE84C+ images like a champ, in fact I haven't heard a more transparent amplifier in long time. The soundstage is vast and wide with terrific separation and placement.
• Dynamically, despite is meager power output, the SE84C+ is quite impressive with wonderful attack that comes from one of the blackest backgrounds I've heard from a tube amp and glorious decay allowing notes to hang in space just a touch longer than what you're used to.
• The SE84C+ is sold direct through Decware's own site with a 30-day money back guarantee. Of the thousands of SE84C Decware has sold they claim only 16 have been returned. That has to tell you something.
Read the Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2