[ UPDATE ]
A JAPANESE TRIBUTE TO AMERICAN SURF GUITAR
Leben CS-250 Power Amplifier
A new old addition to our setups, the Leben CS-250 tube amplifier swaps places with a Jolida FX10 integrated amp, still powering Martin Logan Electromotion EM-R in-walls.
That bass. Here we’ve found a tube amp that isn’t afraid to Rock, so long as your speakers can run with eight watts on each side. It’s deep, quick, and responsive, even if it’s 20% less powerful than the Jolida FX10 it replaces.
Except these are not the right numbers.
The CS-250 weighs more than twice the Jolida and sounds it. Never mind that it retailed for five times the Chinese FX10’s price. However, the Leben isn’t a Chinese amp.
Made in Japan as a limited production, Leben engineered the CS-250 for an ‘American’ sound, with its Hammond transformers and quad of 6K6GT vacuum tubes across stage front — a tube more likely to be seen inside vintage guitar amps.
“It’s the tube Leo (Fender) chose for the Fender Reverb Tank.” Says Fender, the Reverb is an amp that was “a staple of virtually every surf performance and recording since the early ’60s; blues and experimental players love it too.” Dick Dale’s Misirlou from the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction is probably the best known example of surf guitar.
One characteristic of the 6K6 tube that’s also evident in the mastering of surf guitar is that the harder its driven, the brighter and smoother the audio becomes, so with the right glass, the effect draws you in as the music gets louder. Circuits with 6K6 tubes are all over but getting it right is less common. Televisions from the 50s often have them in their audio sections.
In our own Leben, we settled on stock Phillips 12AT7 tubes and after-market old stock Ken-Rad (Kentucky Radio Corp.) 6K6GT specials. Fascinating, isn’t it, how the Japanese and the Bluegrass State can both be known for its whiskey and its vacuum tubes. Kanpai, listeners.
Manufacturer: Leben Hi-Fi Stereo Company (lebenhifi.com)
Price: $3195 in 2002
Notes: The CS-250 has a built-in attenuator on the lower left (volume control) and enough gain to be ran as a single input integrated amplifier. For performance, adding a matching preamplifier is an improvement, but not as important as the rest of the system.
Its sibling amp, the CS-200p, is officially pictured with four brass rings around the base of its power tubes. According to the US distributor, these rings were never included or available for the 200p or the 250. Pity as they look great and there’s a source for them somewhere on the Web. Strictly for the hifi shows, we presume. That’s one way to tease a niche audience.
Visit Life After CD on Flickr for higher-resolution photos.