LEBEN CS300F Integrated Amp with matching LEBEN RS30EQ Phono Stage


Staff member
Has anyone compared between Leben and vintage tube amp? Or even power an vintage speakers?
Going for similar power, I've compared it to a Scott 299 and Eico 2036 (similar to an Eico HF81). They all sounded good. The Eico was more stereotypically 'tubey' sounding. Gooey, thick, fun. The Scott was closer to the Leben but not nearly as transparent, not as open, not as clean but had a bit more color and overt tone, to the point where it felt like it was adding it instead of playing it, but not to the point where that was necessarily bad. I've had the Leben on older speakers but nothing like a big Altec horn, which just aren't generally to my liking.

Fair enough! I agree that you really do need to love the transducers that you listen to day in and day out.

I am quite surprised that the LEBEN - at 15W + 15W into 4/6/8 Ohm loads - is seen as such a speaker-limiting amp on this site, though. Compared to many of the flea-powered amps that audiophiles are playing around with these days, the LEBEN is a veritable Hercules!

I'm referring to the plethora of 7W 300 SETs, 5W KT88 SEPs, 3W EL84 SEPs, and their ilk that seem to fill the pages of every other audio website. Hell, we owned a 1.5W (into 8-ohms) SE-OTL for many years... Yes, that was an extremely speaker limiting amp - especially when the power output halved into 4-ohms!!! 😂

What surprises me more, is that many folk seem to think that by jumping from a 15W amp to 30W amp, they're gonna a get a whole lot more volume. I'm sure you guys all know that's just one 3dB increase to the human ear, which is (typically) one click on the volume control. Not a lot of increase really.

Having played around with a 1.5W amp, trying it with different speakers to see what it could do, really opened my ears as to how much heavy lifting the first watt really does. By comparison - all things being equal - the 15W LEBEN offers a volume increase of 12dB over the 1.5W SE-OTL. That's a significant amount of Gain and equal to that offered by many preamps!

With that in mind, I'd like to ask any flea-powered amp users among the Havenoids, to jump-in on this thread and tell us what speakers your 5-10w amps are driving. LEBEN owners would love to know!!!

Meanwhile, here's a few pics of our old TRANSCENDENT SOUND SE-OTL. 1.5 of the finest watts we have ever heard! For the eagle-eyed, yes that's a glimpse of our TRICHORD DELPHINI PHONO STAGE in the corner - our favourite SS Phone Stage!
[Pics always make a thread more interesting, don't you think?]

SE-OTL LP Cover Perspective.jpgSE-OTL Front Angle.JPGSE-OTL Night Glow.JPG


Staff member
If it helps put my comments in perspective, my other main tube amp is 100wpc. A VAC PA 100/100.

I purposefully have stayed away from flea-powered tube amps as I find that I don't care for most of the speakers they require to produce room-filling sound. And I feel that you have to give up sonic attributes with those speakers that I don't feel the amps make up for. Not a popular opinion around here but...it's just an opinion.
One thing I've found with matching speakers to it, is what small tubes you have in it plays better with some speakers than others. With the Royds, 12ax7s in the driver slots works really well. With others the 5751s were better.

Replacing the Sovtek EL84s in mine was the best thing I ever did for it.
Very interesting. Our LEBEN - the CS300F - uses an EL84 variant called the JAN6197 for output and 17EW8(Hi-FI) in the driver role. We have never rolled any of the tubes as I am unaware of others that are compatible. This may be an area we need to explore...


Staff member
Very interesting. Our LEBEN - the CS300F - uses an EL84 variant called the JAN6197 for output and 17EW8(Hi-FI) in the driver role. We have never rolled any of the tubes as I am unaware of others that are compatible. This may be an area we need to explore...
I wonder if there are differences internally with mine? All that happens with the move from 5751 to 12ax7 is more gain. Some cs300s came with 12ax7s and it’s worked and sounded fine.


Next Round Is On Me
The Leben is definitely on my buy list. It’s a good “in between” amp. In between high power solid state and fleawatt tube (nothing against high powered tube of course). I like the tube rolling flexibility/option.


Junior Member
I do like the little Leben, it certainly has that cachet going for it, as well as sonics no doubt. That being said, I have come to really enjoy the Croft Acoustics pieces I have very much too. The amp of course is a hybrid and not tubes on its output. Fun and fairly reasonably priced. And off topic....oops. Back to the Leben!

I 100% agree with most of what you have said above. We too find it very frustrating that most highly efficient speakers are not our favourite speakers, persae.

So, we are left with a bit of a dichotomy. Do we buy our favourite amp and use it to drive the most appropriate speaker we can find? Or do we buy our favourite speaker and drive it with the most appropriate amp we can find. Decisions, decisions...

Like you, we can - and do - easily support the latter view, which makes perfect sense, because the speaker is the only component that "speaks" directly to our human ears. Trouble is, on the appropriate speaker, the LEBEN CS300F sounds just sooooo damn good. So, one of our quests is to find the ultimate speaker for the little LEBEN.
[This is why I am so excited about Richard Austen's forthcoming review of the AUDIO NOTE AN K!!!]

Meanwhile, the KLIPSCH RP-160M delivers big-time in a big room, on just a handful of watts. We know; we tried the KLIPSCH at a mate's mansion where their large LIVING VOICE OBX speakers have long held residence. Driven by their resident Tsakiridis SET, our mate's comments were "Man! These things have got to be the bargain of the century!" We thought the KLIPSCH convincingly outperformed the far costlier LIVING VOICE OBX speakers - in the huge room. In our smaller room, the KLIPSCH just needs a bit more space to breath, but it still sounds mighty fine. So the room factor comes into play here too.

So, what's the answer? As you can see from this thread, we have chosen many paths - just like your First and Second system - explaining why we own so many different amps and speakers. Sick puppies, indeed.

Like you, I too would not have expected the ROYD MINSTRELs to perform so well on the LEBEN; so many thanks for this hot tip-off! I will make best efforts to give that combination a go, as I have a mate with a pair of MINSTRELs - and he's dying to hear our REGA KYTEs.

So JohnVF, you're absolutely right! The LEBEN CS300F will not drive all speakers perfectly. Not even most real-world speakers.

Therefore, regarding my taking issue with reviews where the LEBEN has been mismatched with speakers, perhaps I am being a bit too demanding? But call me crazy; I just very firmly feel that a professional reviewer has a duty of obligation to the manufacturer - and to their readership - to ensure that the amp (or speaker; or whatever) under serious review is partnered with highly appropriate ancillaries. As mentioned above, most of the LEBEN CS300F review combinations that I have read about online, amounted to taking a Ferarri cross-country and complaining about the lack of traction. Miraculously, in each case, the little LEBEN still garnered high praise! Nevertheless, I find this approach frustrating and downright unfair to the little LEBEN.

I would be far more interested in a review from someone whose current reference is a a low-powered amp. I live in hope.
Nice Leben review, but I think you will be waiting awhile for "that low power review". (I was hoping Art Dudley would use his 421a in recent review of klipsch horns, just for fun)