EAR-869 SE tube amp
Copyright 2020 © Troels Gravesen

I found a 2nd hand mint condition EAR-869 at a reasonable price and couldn't resist the temptation to own a low-wattage SE amp for testing high-efficiency speakers and also hear what this simplistic tube amp featuring the very familiar PL519 tube could do here. This amp dates back some almost 30 years and was initially launched as a 13 wpc EAR-859, either ready-built - or as a kit. Some call it a SET amp as the 519 tube is wired for triode opration. Whatever!
Later around 2000 came the addition of a PCC88 valve in the input stage and an increase in output to 15 wpc and I'm kind of speechless that I can pull a 20 year old tube amp out of the box and have a sound that rivals the best I have ever heard in my system.
I wasn't disappointed. Out of the box, set to power-amp mode, driven from my EAR-912, and hooked up to my TL-2 MTT section, it did as well as my modded and bridged EAR-861. Well, maybe lacking a tiny bit in dynamics (the bridged -861 does deliver some 64 watts), but nothing I would even consider important. The label says 011115, so I guess this amp was produced in 2015.

Run as an integrated amp I connected my MSL cartridge to the van den Hul The Grail phono stage and plugged it into the phono input - and the total gain of the amplifier is enough to not turn the volume pot up to more than 10-11 on a clock scale. I haven't measured the total gain yet. Specs says 500 mV for 15 watts. As can be seen from the schematics below, there is no line stage as such; run as a power-amp is just by-passing the input and volume controls.
Having the MSL cartridge connected to the -912 phono stage or The Grail is a matter of taste. Very, very good both of them. The only thing missing with the -869 is a remote control, but apparently Tim is not a remote guy. You put on a record, you turn up the volume - and you sit down an listen! Got it!?

Contrary to the other EAR products I've bought, this amp comes with a substantial manual with lots of advise on set-up and other issues.


EAR-869 on a pillow on top of my EAR-861s. Here run as a power amp.
Runs the top of my TL-2 beautifully!

Actually you can wire this amp for 16 Ohms, should you want to. I almost always use the 8 Ohm tabs for even 4 Ohm speakers. It must be tried with every speaker what tab works the best.



EAR-869 schematics. Click image to view large.

Read Ken Kessler's review of the -859 here. (yes, eight-five-nine, dating back from the beginning of the 90'ies).