OK, so it’s pig-ugly. The Decware Zen SE84 C is also probably the easiest way for a neophyte to get into tubes. With on-board gain control, all you need to do is plug in your CD player, attach some speakers, and you’re good to go. No pre-amp necessary.
Granted, it only produces 2 watts, so you’d better use some high efficiency speakers, preferably 95 db/watt or better. That pretty much rules out the more common multi-driver speakers out there. The general consensus seems to be a full-range, single driver system with Fostex or Lowther drivers works best.
I am using Fostex FE206E drivers in a ported bass reflex enclosure. Before you laugh at 2 watts, you need to hear these babies. The amp/speaker combo sounds fantastic, and produces enough volume to fill a decent sized room. (To put this in perspective, I have never turned the volume on these up all the way, for fear of hearing damage).
All in all, it makes a neat, affordable package that produces great sound.