If we are being truly honest with ourselves, buying a valve amplifier in 2018 is a bit of an anachronism. And we should bask in that! Yes, there are good sonic reasons for buying a valve amplifier (they did in the 1970s and onwards what LP does today – people choose them because they sound better), but if you are going to go a bit retro with your equipment, make it look good! Which is why the Auris Audio Fortino 6550 is the perfect modern valve amp.
Auris Audio is one of a number of brands coming out of Eastern Europe. This Serbian-based company first hit our particular radar screen thanks to its excellent headphone amplifiers, but we quickly realised this is just a toe in the Auris waters. The company makes an extraordinarily comprehensive range of audio components, from DACs and preamps, through power amplifiers, headphone amplifiers, and even loudspeakers. Most of its audio electronics are centred around valve technology (although it also makes a couple of Class D designs) and we thought a good 50W integrated valve amplifier would be a great place to start. A 50W valve integrated amplifier is also like ordering pasta al pomodoro in an Italian restaurant. It’s an easy way of spotting whether or not the person making the thing knows what they are doing!
I don’t know about his culinary skills, but Milomir Trosic of Auris Audio really does know his way around an amplifier circuit! As the name suggests, the four input Fortino 6550 is powered by a quartet of 6550 power tubes, driven by four ECC82 double triodes. This delivers 50W per channel in push-pull or ultralinear operation. 6550s are a little unfashionable at the moment (the fashonistas are going to KT150s this season) but I can’t for the life of me work out why this should be, aside from novelty. 6550s are widely available, affordable, powerful and sound good. They represent a fine balance point between the cheap-but-lower powered EL34s that dominate the guitar amp world and the more esoteric Kinkless Triode designs. The more I think it through, it must be snob factor and novelty that drives brands to KT150s. Regardless, Auris’ use of 6550s makes the amplifier more affordable both to buy and in long-term care and feeding.