This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Three months later
I had to start my audio commentary with the fact that Triode Labs was spot on to not fear picking up the gauntlet. When mated with speakers capable of expressing themselves on a 6-watt diet, this entry-level amplifier indeed makes quite a statement for pure musical pleasure. On features we're in very Spartan territory with two single-ended inputs selectable via a rotary switch in the front (a third input is a possible option should you need it), no line level outputs and a pair of speaker terminals in the back. The latter's output impedance can be selected via a switch on top of the amplifier. The standard model offers 4 and 8 ohms but to better accommodate the Ocellia and Zu speakers the review loaner was shipped with 8/16Ω taps instead. All this to say that Triode Lab can easily accommodate impedance requests to match a wide range of speakers.

The absence of a variable line-out could be more problematic as it precludes connecting a subwoofer directly other than through the speaker-level connections which can sometimes be compromised with subwoofers not specifically designed for that. The design team at Triode Labs recognizes the validity of the request as a 6wpc amplifier will often be mated to bass shy(er) speakers. They're looking into a way to implement variable line outputs without degrading their sound quality which apparently is no trivial task. Such an option may be available at a later time. For now all subwoofers will have to connect high-level from the speaker terminals.

Overall build quality looks solid but fairly utilitarian. At this price you won't find flashy or shiny paint, no massive enclosures still ringing like bells and no fancy designer parts. Instead there's a smart selection of quality components that bring great performance without breaking into stratospheric price levels. A good example would be the Hammond output transformers from the nearby city of Guelph in Ontario. In addition to being famous for their superb guitar amplifiers, Hammond provides custom transformers famed for their quality at fair prices. Working with local providers not only ensures Triode Labs of fast and quality supply, it also fulfills their stated mission of supporting local industry. I'm sure cheaper transformers would have been available from China but they wouldn't have given Triode Lab the ability to accommodate an overnight request like mine for 8/16Ω outputs.

Volume control via continuous pot felt smooth and very progressive whilst being absolutely quiet even over high-sensitivity speakers. Our dear editor will point to the fact that there's no remote control which is accurate but since I need to get up to flip my antiquated vinyl records, I didn't find the lack of remote an annoyance at all. On my 93 to 97dB/m speakers all listening was done with the volume between 9:00 and 1:00. Anything higher moved into painful territory. This gave me more than enough flexibility to never have an issue finding the perfect listening level.

Once connected the most striking element about the EL84TT was its complete operational silence. This wasn't just a very low-level whisper as I am used to from excellent tube gear, this was utter silence - quieter even than the solid-state FirstWatt F5 to the point of having me initially think the amplifier damaged upon delivery. Then the first notes of music coming through proved that it was fully functional. It simply had the lowest noise floor of any tube amplifier I've heard, owned or reviewed. That meant lower than the Yamamoto A08s on hand, lower than Ocellia's massive 300B integrated, lower than my departed McIntosh integrated or the Onyx SP3 I keep as reference for what well-executed Chinese tube amplifiers can sound like.

This exceptional silence explains one of the core traits of the EL84TT. That's a very high level of resolution when it comes to tone and instrumental texture. Those weren't traits I expected from EL84s to this degree. As the weeks went by, this story of eluding expectations repeated itself. The EL84TT proved me wrong on just about anything I'd expected based on the little I knew of its design.