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E.A.R. V12 Integrated Amplifier

04-19-2015 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 78

EAR V12 Integrated Amplifier

If you are a devotee of EL84 Pentode Tubes, or you require an integrated amplifier that kisses the music with power and elegance, E.A.R. presents the V12 Integrated Amplifier. From the soldering pen of Tim de Paravicini comes a product that majestically maximizes the venerable EL84 Pentode, for the first time in my memory illustrating why this tube is revered among many tubophiles. 

There are only a handful of EL84-powered amps around, with the most powerful of them having only four EL84s per channel, or less. Dynaco's SCA35 is still regarded as one of the most musical amps ever. The extraordinary V12 has six EL84s per channel, run in full pentode push-pull mode, yielding a strong 50-70 watts per channel at less than 1% distortion with no negative feedback. Solidly built, the dual mono construction offers four 12AX7s in the preamplification stage per channel. Single-ended only, the selector control gives you five inputs and one tape output. Robust four and eight ohm speaker taps are on the rear. A volume control and power button round out the sparse facilities.

This baby has one purpose! Produce musical definition at a quality never before achieved with this small pentode, and rarely achieved with any other power tube as well.

Reference System

1. E.A.R. 834L Line stage used as switch box

2. Kubala-Sosna Elation! Interconnects and speaker cables

3. Kubala-Sosna Elation! Power Cords

4. Astell&Kern 240 loaded with double DSD albums from NativeDSD.com, and connected with Kimber Select 1036

5. E.A.R. Acute CD Player

6. Modwright Sony 999 SACD/CD Player

7. McIntosh MR71 FM Tuner

8. AKG 1000 Headphones

9. Marten Duke II Speakers 

10. Marten Form 400 watt sub-woofer for comparison

The EL84 Pentode was developed 50 years ago to fit small enclosures with the higher output pentode technology where the larger 6L6 and EL34 would not fit. Only 50% larger than a 12AX7, the EL84 produces a maximum of 12 watts in pentode mode per tube. The tube is very robust, and is wired in the V12 in a self-biasing mode, needing no upkeep from the user. The closeness of the elements in the small tube and the small grid construction is credited for the very, very low distortion and high definition of the envelope. The E.A.R V12 offers what may be the first no-holds-barred application of the EL84 tube in audio history.


The V12 is the most revealing integrated tube amplifier I have heard at any price, ever. With non-stop musicality, rounded tonality, spot-on timbres, depth and breadth you must hear to believe, and a subtle, delicate sweetness that lives between the notes, the V12 is the ultimate for anyone with speakers in the 89db or higher efficiency. Perfectly integrated from top to bottom, the airy bloom and impactful, highly detailed bass are just right, and compliment any type of music imaginable. The mellifluous quality of the mid-band definition is as good as anything I have heard from any amplifier made by E.A.R. on my reference speakers. 


After trying the V12 with my AKG 1000 Headphones and finding the performance equal to my Cary 300B triode amplifier in tonality, but with higher definition, I would say that this is THE amp for hard to drive Quads, single-driver speakers, and horns, too. It features super low distortion and extreme quiet that will compliment any application I can think of.

Though neutral overall, I did detect a slight sweetness and added touch of musicality to most every album I played from every source. The result: I enjoyed playing music from my digital sources like never before. I became lost in the music. Do not get me wrong. Bad recordings still sounded bad. But better recordings sounded even better. I am coming around to the belief that the EL84 may just be that special vacuum tube that IS intrinsically musical. 


I had on hand the single DSD and double DSD versions of the new Mahler 5th Symphony from Yarlung Records posted to my AK240. The difference between the two versions was small, but obvious. The double DSD Mahler had no audible grain, more overall definition and air, and was somewhat more dynamic. The pacing of the double DSD version was more dramatic and the performance appeared more in the room. It was easy to identify the differences with the V12 that made the double DSD version more immersive musically. This may sound trite, but you really can count the violins with the V12.

The V12 does a truly special job with voices, particularly female voices. There is a focus to vocals, with a secure wholeness that is superb. The envelope of air around vocals is very convincing, bringing to mind the real thing. I noted an absence of stray phase distortion that yields ambiance where ambiance does not exist. The V12 is virtually free of phase distortion, giving space a sense of truthfulness or realism not always heard in tube gear. Solid-state gear has this clean sense of space, but usually adds a crisp edge to the vocals plus a dry ambient envelope.

The V12 is as authentic in replicating vocals as much more expensive separates. This is cutting-edge technology and something new. If you only need 50 watts, or a bit more, the E.A.R. V12 is as excellent from the first watt as I have heard at any price.


The E.A.R. V12 Integrated Amplifier is a stunner all around. It performs with extraordinary musicality, ultra-low distortion, very high definition, fine linearity, and a sense of reality that is as good as it gets. It is a visually gorgeous piece of gear, too. Truly maximizing the amplifying characteristics of the small, mighty EL84 Pentode Tube, for possibly the first time, the V12 produces spatial clarity that will knock your socks off. I believe this is the best tube integrated on the market today.

It is going to be tough to return it to E.A.R.!

MSRP USD $9795


Dan Meinwald

1087 East Ridgewood Street 
Long Beach, CA 90807
562 / 422–4747 (Pacific Time)
[email protected]