Review: Triode TRV-M88SE Mono Vacuum Tube Amplifiers
Whenever you hear the word Triode, it is usually in relation to the type of vacuum tube or valve that is commonly used within amplifiers. But in the context of today’s review it is the brand of the company that produces high quality amplification, Triode Corporation Ltd.
Back in 1996, Mr. Junichi Yamazaki founded the company in Koshigaya which is situated about 30 km from Tokyo in Japan. Mr. Yamazaki left his previous occupation as an engineer for the Japan National railway wanting to pursue his passion, which is his love for music. Evidently, for many years he enjoyed tinkering with old stereo equipment in an effort to understand them and to improve the sound. His designs were successful and have been well received by the market, both locally in Japan and more recently around the world.
Some Triode Corporation products are sold under the name TRI but more recently have been changed to TRIODE. I’ve seen photos of equipment with either name on them, but regardless, they are from the same manufacturer. Although remaining a small independent company, they have been prolific with the designs of at least 36 components, including CD players, pre, power and integrated amplifiers. Many of them are no longer available as they’ve since been updated, but it is apparent that the majority of the new products are amplifiers.
Triode Corporation is distributed in Australia by Absolute Hi End, who supplied a pair of the Triode TRV-M88SE mono block tube amplifiers, the subject of this review. The current RRP on the amplifiers is $5,900 for the pair. Sold as a matched pair, they are most powerful of the power amplifiers available in the range.
The fact that they are designed with mono construction in mind, allows them to each have their own power supply for maximum signal separation. This also allows them to be placed closer to the speaker and to use short speaker leads, but longer signal cables which is always the preferable option.
Within each amplifier are the following tubes: 2 x KT88 pentodes for the output, 1 x 12AX7 (ECC83) and 1 x 12AU7 (ECC82) are used in the preamp feeding the output. It operates in class A/B and is a push/pull design. This compliment enables the amplifier to produce 60 watts RMS into 8 ohms. It must be stated that the supplied instruction manual and the website differ on the actual output of the mono block. The manual states that it is 50 watts. I am unsure which is correct. Needless to say, the figures won’t tell you how it actually sounds.
One of the highlights of these amplifiers is their stunning good looks. They have a silver aluminium front face with an off/on button and a rotary dial volume control (which I found to be very useful), a stainless steel body without visible screws and 2 large candy apple red transformers finished in high gloss. They immediately stand out from the crowd and look great in your listening room. There is a removable wire cage that protects the tubes from damage, pets and little fingers alike. The cage fits nice and snug into 4 slots and once located is rattle free, imparting an air of quality fit and finish.
At the rear of the amplifier is an IEC power socket and 3 output taps from the transformer, marked 6, 8, and 16 Ohms. Simply connect your speaker leads to the appropriate connector. There is also the provision for both balanced and unbalanced inputs, with a small switch for your chosen input. I really enjoyed seeing the small sticker “Made in Japan”, something that is increasingly rare even for Japanese based companies. It weighs around 15kg so some care should be taken lifting and placing the amplifier. In use I found that it stayed reasonably warm but never alarmingly hot, so some care should be taken with regards to ventilation and air circulation around the amplifier. It may be perfect for a winters evening as a room heater, as all valve amps do tend to throw off some heat.
Setup is straight forward enough, with the input selector set for the appropriate cable choice, power and the correct speaker impedance connection. Depending on your speakers, they have a stated impedance rating and the speaker cable should be connected to that rating. 8 ohm for an 8 ohm speaker and so on. Generally the correct setting will result in the most natural sound and the benefit of having the highest output level.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.