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Separo SE88i Valve Amplifier Reviews (KT88 single ended valve amplifier)

Benjamin Smith-Haddon

Hi Dave
In short I'm blown away. It has surpassed all expectations. Although I have only a 1980s transistor amp to which to compare it, the reduction in treble harshness is nicely noticeable while sacrificing no detail. Volume generated by my 89 db/w/m Proac Studio 100s is much greater than I would have expected from only 10W. There is no noticeable power supply hum. Excellent result and value.

The SE88i (KT88 valve amplifier) from Separo : Price £295

Paul Smith

Hi Dave
Just to let you know...I have it, and its up and running, and very nice it sounds to!!! Iíve had Chinese tube amplifiers for quite a while, my last being Mingda 845s till a transformer went down on one. But the Separo is very well built, love the heavy gauge chassis/front panel and of course no circuit mates brought a musical angel kt88 pp....but we donít like to talk about that.
Love the touch with the decent manual, oh and the duster(of course with my Mingda i got little white gloves as well, but my hands where to big)
Seriously, its been a real pleasure dealing with you, your service has been top notch and the product is a good one along with the preparation and time you spend checking them before dispatch, I wish you well with this venture, and nice to see you havenít taken the icon audio route by getting them re-badge and charging a lot more over the odds.
Just one note, I donít think you mention or make clear that it comes with a valve guard, although I wont use it per-see it is handy to have and maybe you should advertise the fact a bit more as it could be a deal breaker for someone considering your amps with pets and children...just a thought.
Once again its been a real pleasure Dave, carry on the good work and products and hope to deal with you again at some point in the future!

The SE88i (KT88 valve amplifier) from Separo : Price £295

John Fisher

Hello Dave
As promised here are my thoughts on the SE88i amplifier safely received a few days ago.
You may recall from my initial e-mail that I was looking for a small valve amplifier to run in my home/office while I am working there. The SE88i seemed to fit the bill and so I ordered one.
When it arrived, the office refurbishment wasn't finished (it still isn't!) so I couldn't install it there. However, to make sure that it was all working OK after its journey, I put it into my main hi-fi system in another room and switched it on. My system consists of a Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck with SME 309 arm and Dynavector cartridge, an Icon Audio Stereo 60 amplifier [KT88s in a Triode connection], a Marantz SACD player and a pair of Revolver Cygnis loudspeakers. About £10,000 worth of gear all told.
So I was really surprised at switch on that your amplifier didn't seem at all out of place - given that it cost just short of £300. Clearly the finish is a bit "industrial", perfectly fine in itself, but might put one or two people off, I guess.
That first evening I had only a few minutes to listen, but the first thing that struck me was the immense bass that was coming from the speakers, deeper and firmer and more controlled than I have heard from my system before. The top end seemed a bit recessed, but I didn't have time to listen properly that night, so I reserved judgement. After all, the main purpose of the initial exercise was to check that the amplifier was working OK.
I had a longer and more detailed listen last night, but using a Pioneer DV575A player [which also plays SACDs] as my main source. I used this machine because I know its sonic characteristics very well.
I have never used a single ended amplifier before - past experience has been mainly with Sugden Class A transistor amplifiers and latterly Ultralinear and Triode valve amps. So your amplifier came as something of a surprise to me. I have never heard such resolution of detail in large orchestral and choral works as I have in the last two listening sessions - and this is comparing the SE88i with amps costing many times its price. It is particularly the bass and mid-range that have struck me as so clear and detailed yet smooth. One caveat is that the top end is a little more recessed than I am used to - the Icon Stereo 60 is more forward in this respect, but I am sure I will get used to the sweeter treble over the next few weeks. Also I guess that as the amplifier's components bed in, the sound is likely to improve in all areas (though at the moment it is hard to envisage what there is to improve, given the current excellent performance). As an illustration of the treble conundrum, I would mention that I tried a Decca CD of the first New Year's Day Concert from Vienna - a recording of Strauss pieces made in, I think, 1951. The Decca transfer is not very good [so bright at the top end that I have rarely been able to listen to it - and even then with gritted teeth].
The SE88 has tamed that bright top end to such an extent that I listened to the whole CD concert tonight with great pleasure. On a different tack, my favourite jazz band was led by a guy called Bob Wallis in the 1960s and 70s. I know all his records in detail - have had many of them for over 40 years and played them many times. Listening yesterday and again tonight to a few sample tracks revealed detail I simply hadn't heard before. Rasping brass and details from the rhythm section really made their mark. Also an SACD of the Rolling Stones first album - absolutely as fresh as the day the tracks were laid down in 1964 when I listened through your amplifier.
The downsides - well not many really, considering the fantastic price you charge for this piece of kit. I have already mentioned the look. This doesn't matter to me but might, I suspect, put off a few wives/partners who might prefer something a bit blander. Second point, only two inputs. Again this doesn't matter to me as I only use two anyway - vinyl and CD, nothing else. However, again it might put some people off. And third [nit picking now!] no remote control, which I have grown used to with the Icon. But at the price what can you expect?
Dave, you have given me a problem. Don't get me wrong. The Icon is a fine amplifier of its type, well presented and finished [and not at all "industrial" in its appearance]; and I would recommend their products to anybody [I previously had a Stereo 40 of theirs as well]. I had been thinking of swapping my Stereo 60 for their MB845 monoblocks with a passive pre-amp in the near future. However, your little gem of an amplifier has made me stop and think about whether this would be a wise move.
The SE88i isn't better than the Stereo 60. It's just different. And it's different in a way that I like. I am now wondering whether to keep the SE88i as part of my main system instead of using it in the office. And if you can supply something this good for the money, why should I spend over £3,000 on a different amplifier?
Of course, this is dependent on having efficient loudspeakers and the Revolvers are just that [91db/W is quoted] so the SE88i's 10 watts of output goes a long way!
Once again, thanks for the amplifier. Even though it has made me think again about upgrades, it really promises to be the bargain of a lifetime.

The SE88i (KT88 valve amplifier) from Separo : Price £295

Martin Winter

Hi David,
Now that I,ve run the Separo in for a few weeks I thought I'd let you know how pleased I am with it.
You asked me to let you know how it compares to the Icon Audio Stereo 40. The Icon has a little bit more class, particularly at the frequency extremes, but then it is equipped with Mullard & Mazda NOS tubes and the model I bought cost about £900.
So, in comparison I think the Separo gives an amazing performance for the money. Looking underneath I note that it has a blue Alps volume pot.
I believe you said you can make the cicuit diagram available. If so, can you send me a copy?
Thanks for the good service.

The SE88i (KT88 valve amplifier) from Separo : Price £295

Separo E34i Valve Amplifier Reviews (EL34 ultra linear valve amplifier)

Steve Goom

Hi Dave
I received everything in good order yesterday. Plugged it in and WoW.
Very peased and impressed with the smooth sound. They driving into 200w BOSE speakers and I've never heard Bose speakers sound so good even when Bose's own kit is used.

E34i ultra linear valve amplifier by Separo. Price : £395

Rob Greaves

Hi Dave
E34i amplifier now successfully hooked up to my Denon 810 CD player.
My speakers are only three way mid-sized Sony bookshelf speakers so I was concerned there wouldn't be much in the way of bass... but there is. I'm extremely impressed.
A good test is always something by The Who... and Pinball Wizard sounds absolutely superb. There is a copious amount of bass, but it doesn't sound muddy at all - I can hear every note played crystal clear. It's almost like being there. There is no 'harshness' at all I'd learnt to accept with previous transistor amplifiers. The sound is good all the way through the volume range, although it really comes 'alive' at around the half volume position. I was in fact planning to relace the valves on receipt with Mullards, but I don't think there's any need! For the price, this amp has more than exceeded my expectations.

E34i ultra linear valve amplifier by Separo. Price : £395

Martin Holdsworth

...I have now made several hours of listening test and can honestly say this is one of the best amplifiers I have heard regardless of cost. It has been compared to the expensive amp costing four times as much and the E34I has always been preferred by the listening panel of 4 here at home.
...this amp is a true HiFi bargain.

E34i ultra linear valve amplifier by Separo. Price : £395

Norman Cole

Hello David
Here is 'report' on my E34i as promised. Maybe a report from somebody 'classical' (hate the misuse of that word) might make a change.
I have been using my E34i for just over a month and I have to say that I am very pleased with it. I have had a few transistor amps over time but have not tried valves for over forty years so I thought it about time I had another look. (Quad have not started making valve amps again for nothing). HiFiandAudio's offer of an effective two week trial proved too tempting to pass off. Also,this really did look like a truly 'affordable' amplifier, unlike other products I have looked up. I had alternatively considered building one from the many kits on offer but frankly the prices being asked are outrageous.
When first unpacked, I have to say I was a little daunted by it's size although the finish, build and appearance were better than I expected. A look at the underside of the amp reveals pretty good quality components. O.K. it's not the most sophisticated valve circuit in the world but we are not spending mega bucks here and it's the sound that counts. The weight too really is no problem. Once positioned, one is not going to move it much.
The other components in my system are an Asintrew 3500 CD player and a pair of rather large three way floor standing speakers from Wilmslow Audio. When first started up I did allow an hour warm up time but subsequently I now think half an hour is more than adequate to ensure best sound.
I initially started listening tests on my newest orchestral CDs going on to string quartets and song. There was absolutely no 'getting used to' period necessary.The difference between the E34i and the usurped transistor amp (Aura 80 integrated) was immediate. Quite apart from the usual qualities attributed to valve amps such as smoothness of treble and perfect voice is the 'sound stageing.' In my room it now sounds almost 'wrap around'. Something I had not expected. The base too is marvellous. Well extended but completely controlled and accurate. Timpani and bass drum do now sound like the real thing; not like somebody kicking the skirting board. I have even heard pianissimo tam-tam (flat gong) in some orchestral passages where previously I heard nothing!
As a more stringent test I played some early 80's CDs when digital was in it's infancy. Some early Decca and Supraphon performances which I have great regard for were sounding pretty rough but have now brushed up exceedingly well. With a smoothness, especially to the strings, (notoriously the most difficult and revealing) they now have a new lease of life. There is masses of power in hand with the volume control never having to exeed about twelve o'clock.
To sum up. Spectacular? Well no; that is just what it is not. It sounds just right, ballanced and as near to a real concert hall effect as I have ever had from my equipment. Smooth but not dull and easy to listen to. I dare say that a slight lack of sophistication at the top end could be improved with posher valves. However, that realy is nit picking and I will wait untill the suppied valves have expired before I bother to investigate this.
There are, of course, downsides to valve v transistor amps; size, heat dissipation, ultimate running costs (valve replacement),warm up time. But if you are a serious listener and not one who just wants nice background music then the sound improvement more than compensates. I imagine there are other valve amps out there that would sound as good as the E34i but not, I think, at such a modest price tag. Budget price yes. Budget sound, certainly not.
So be warned. Once tied, your tranny amp will not sound the same again.

E34i ultra linear valve amplifier by Separo. Price : £395

Separo P88i Valve Amplifier Reviews (KT88 ultra linear valve amplifier)

Dennis Weinreich

Currently I am using what I think is the best solid state amp ever made. I have 5 of these at the studio, including a pair driving the main monitors in the music studio (Studio 1 of you look at my website )and this one at home. A Studer A68. Full of detail, easy to listen to, very musical. Not like the American power amps that are made for grunt, or the Japanese Yamahas which are just 'nice' but have no character. We use a lot of JBL/Urei amps in the Film theatres
I was looking for something to make me love my Yamaha NS1000 again. We may have done it.
Firstly I came home and listened to my three reference tracks: then fired up the 88i and compared, swapping back and forth.
1. The Nightfly Donald Fagan IGY. I use it as my first test on every studio I build. I found there to be a very full bottom end, nice detail in the bass. Some confusion between the bass and the bass drum. It is very tight in this mix between them so the fullness impression perhaps lost some detail here. Very good separation in the mid frequencies with the guitar and keyboards being very distinct. When compared to the Studer this mid area was confused on it. The voice was very rich on the 88, but clean on the Studer.
2. A track I mixed back in the mid 1970's called Dreamer by Supertramp. I know every bar of this track because I was there. My CD copy has always been disappointing. I have a DAT I made from my 1/4" protection through AMS/Neve converters. I decided to just listen to the CD. It sounded great. What I found interesting was that all of the panning we did in the mix was very clear on the 88i. I did not use any half panning Everything is either full left/ full right or centre. At no time since we mixed it have I heard this on a domestic system as was intended. My wife heard the comparison and was frankly astounded that the two amps sounded so different. She then raised the question of musicality. Indeed I want to hear the music not the mix....Humm something to ponder. The difference was that there was better detail on the 88i but a nice quality to the Studer.
3. You won't know this a track by Japanese pop star Tommy Snyder called Such a Long Time. This is my favourite mix I have ever done. The track was recorded in my studio on my SSL / Sony 3348 digital AND analogue MCI 16 track with the backing track going to both machines, the all the overdubs done on the 3348 and mixed in Paris on a series 10 Harrison, one of the best sounding desks I know, with the backing track playing off the 16 track clean having not been dragged over the heads doing a million overdubs. The drums are fresh and clean and everything just as I recorded it without the mess of digital. I played the CD as well to keep the reference the same. I used some very nifty valve mics on this recording and a lot of valve compression and eq. (I collect this stuff but am currently selling it off cause I don't make records any more). For the first time I heard the Fairchild and U47 on the vocal sounding as I recorded it. It always sounded full and clean but on the 88i it sounded great. On the brass I mixed it quite deep into the mix. I was in my early Earth Wind and Fire period at this time. but the bite of the Telefunken 251 on the Trumpets and the resonance of the 47 on the saxes was very evident. This track sounded wonderful on the Studier too, but I was very happy with the 88i.

P88i ultra linear valve amplifier by Separo. Price : £535



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Separo Valve Amplifier Reviews, hifiandaudio review, Separo review, Separo amplifier review, E34i review,se88i review,p88i review, valve amplifier review