Publisher Profile

Line Magnetic 219IA Integrated Amplifier Review

By: |

Line Magnetic 219IA Single Ended Triode Integrated Amplifier

Line Magnetic is an intriguing brand out of Mainland China. The owner of the company has for many years been restoring Western Electric amplifiers, loudspeakers, and drivers and operating as an OEM manufacturer for other more mainstream audio brands. This seems to be rather common in China with many companies first serving as OEM makers and then eventually bringing out their own products. Shengya, Jungson, and Cayin are some of the more known mainstream audio brands. Line Magnetic is a little different however because as noted above, they clearly love the past and wish to bring back proven and loved designs with improvements and at lower prices. Jack Roberts noted some of the background of the company in the LM755 review.

When I moved to Hong Kong in 2011 I noted the staggering number of tube amps sold here, including most of the usual suspects in the tube world, a large number of DIY amps, and of course numerous Chinese brands that run the gambit of the excellent to the possible fire hazard. At the time I was looking at building an inexpensive audio system and wrote some articles titled “Reviewer on the Run” for Dagogo about building an entry level system.

One of the product lines I stumbled upon was Line Magnetic. The dealer here was selling well-established tube brands such as Rogue Audio and Melody along with Zu Audio speakers and a set of big ATC SCM 100 speakers. The massive 219IA Line Magnetic amp sitting in the middle of the room was hard to miss, as it was at least twice as tall as the other amplifiers in the store. So I wandered in, sat down, and listened. I was across the board impressed with the results I was hearing with both the Zu Audio speakers and with the difficult to drive ATC SCM 100s. I filed it away but at that time I didn’t want to make too heavy a commitment in a second audio system.

A few months later I happened by the store again and was again impressed with Line Magnetics, their at-the-time, one and only, tube CD player; I was so impressed I bought the player. I have been using the CD 215 for over a year and didn’t bother reviewing it until Tone Imports in the United States began carrying the model. You can read my review of the LM CD 215 for further information.

Time passed and as my situation here became more solid, I began looking to delve into higher end Single Ended amplification. One of my favorite amplifiers is the Audio Note Jinro. The Jinro is a 211 SET amplifier and is a copper wired version of famous Ongaku amplifier. Though I found that 300B, EL84, and other lower powered SETs offer a wonderful sense of tone and beauty as well as exceptional inner resolution, because of my more varied tastes in music the 211-based Jinro and Ongaku reigned supreme. The Jinro can rock and offers a wealth of beauty and magic in its own right that makes it and the Ongaku the gold at the end of the rainbow and about as hard to own given the five and six figure prices, respectively.

The problem of course is really wanting something you can’t afford. So we of the non-Sultan variety must find something just as good for less; or at least we tell ourselves it’s just as good for less. Still, the advice I often give to beginning audiophiles is to listen to the best regardless of whether you can afford it. Have the frame of reference in your back pocket and find something that truly rocks your world. So with the Audio Note 211 amps in mind, separating themselves from other tube amplifiers I have heard, I at least have a clearer picture of what I want in an amplifier.

A Magnetic Pull

The Line Magnetic 219IA wound up moving back into the picture; even though it doesn’t use a 211 tube it is nevertheless a more robust SET amplifier offering a considerable, for SET, 24 watts. I was taken by its ability to play big full tilt music with bass prowess while also sounding nuanced with nearly the subtlety of a good 300B.

A lot of amps seem to do one or the other – you have to choose between tone and beauty on the one hand, and power and drive on the other. People choose the tube type based on their personal sonic preferences. I know audiophiles who hate big power tubes and prefer 1.5 watt per channel 2A3 or 45s. 845 and 211 tubes provide big power, but are difficult to get right: With big power comes complexity in the parts, and bigger transformers are required which means far more weight.

Generally I hate big heavy amplifiers and the Line Magnetic 219IA is BIG and HEAVY. I groaned. The 219IA clocks in at 55kg (121lbs) and won’t fit in any normal audio rack. It’s at least two and half times as tall as most amplifiers though not particularly wider or deeper than most. The amplifier is built like a tank complete with the gunmetal paint steel chassis. I am usually skeptical of big and heavy and I also tend to prefer simpler amps with less switches. But there are exceptions and the 219IA is one of the exceptions.

Over a year of courtship

I auditioned the LM 219IA numerous times for over a year. I kept coming back to double and triple check that I wasn’t missing some kind of gross audible foible that was tricking me into liking her. I would try it against the other amps in the store and ultimately the big Frankenstein-looking 219IA won my shootouts.

I decided to buy the amp. I want to be clear that I purchased this amp prior to a formal review largely because Line Magnetic was not seeking reviews and the policy many companies in Hong Kong have is that reviewers must purchase the amp if they want to review them. Fortunately, the manufacturer allows returns so I was not too worried; should I not have liked the amplifier there were other choices.

22 Responses to Line Magnetic 219IA Integrated Amplifier Review


  1. Jack Roberts says:

    Richard you are right, Line Magnetic is not anything like any other Chinese company I know of. I own their little two watt amp and it is an amazing little amp. By the way I hate tube rolling but it is necessary to get the best sound from most tube amps. Thanks for a nice review of a great product.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Jack,

      Could you give us the model number of the amp you’re describing (their little two watt amp)? And will you be writing a review of it? I hope so! I’d love to hear more about other Line Magnetic products.

    • Jorge Serrano says:

      Dear Jack, I would like to congratulate you by the excellent tube amplifiers articles wrote during last years, I am a recent newcomber to the tube world after more than 20 years with SS amplifiers. I love the Line Magnetic 219ia look and I wonder if you would recommend me to drive a pair of Sonbus Faber Amati Homage; some french friends of mine are driving them with 24 watt SET amplifiers with excellent sound results.

      Regards,
      Jorge

  2. alan trahern says:

    Any chance you might be willing to divulge the price of this little nugget? It seems like this might be germane to the review, after all. Mea culpa if I missed it but I looked twice before commenting.

  3. Adam says:

    Hi Alan,

    The amplifier is $7500US, I believe. And price has been added to spec list. My apologies for overlooking that.

  4. Charles Wasson says:

    Richard,
    That was called interesting and well written review, you effectively describe the essence of SET amplifiers. I’ve heard many highly regarded SS amplifiers, Pass, Jeff Rowland, D’Agostino, Soulution, DartZeel etc. I understand why many listeners would praise them, not me. SET done to a proper high standard is simply more natural, realistic and far more emotionally satisfying . You review conveys what I’ve experienced first hand. It would be quite interesting to compare your amplifier with the Canadian Coincident 845 SET stereo amplifier.

  5. Glen says:

    Enjoyed reading the review, it seems to be a great product. Would enjoyed seeing more pictures as always. Yet have concerns over the what if it breaks on not well known Chinese products. But this gives pause to take a chance.

  6. Richard Austen says:

    Hi Dan

    The amplifier Jack is referring to is the LM Mini 218 which is a 3 watt headphone amp/integrated amp. You can see it here http://eugenehifi.com/Line_Magnetic/html/Line_Magnetic_Integrated_Amplifiers.html

  7. Gavin Hadley says:

    “And that’s largely why I bought one”…yeah and who wouldn’t at that accommodation price? :-)

  8. Mr. Hadley,

    Thank you very much for your readership and comment. One of the perks of being a Dagogo Reviewer is discount on reviewed products after spending many hours of diligent auditioning and writing. Some DRs have no problem disclosing their eventual ownership of products they reviewed, while others prefer to keep their ownership a private concern, regardless it was the post-review purchase of a $65k pair of speakers or $500 worth of accessories. However, when disclosed, fact of ownership is the ultimate endorsement meant to express confidence in the quality and its compatibility of the reviewed product in the context of the DR’s audio system.

    The Dagogo Comment section is constructed to encourage readership involvement toward a higher level of appreciation of the hobby we are so passionate about. While we love praises and constructive comments, we also value criticism where it is due. Your comment, Mr. Hadley, requires more elaborate content in clarifying whether it is a sarcasm towards the reviewing profession or the pricing structure of the products that you want but cannot afford. We at Dagogo do not publish comments that are mere pun.

  9. Gerry Gassman says:

    H x W x D?

  10. Robert says:

    Wonderful review, Richard. How does the 219 compare against the new 518i? Thanks again. Very tempting to pull the trigger on one of these great LM amps!

  11. Greg Armstrong says:

    Nice review Richard. I’ve been to Hit Audio in Mong Kok a few times and heard the 219IA with ATC speakers. I was hoping it would be good with my Rethm speakers. I was thinking the 210IA might be better but they don’t keep it in stock. The 219IA might be too ‘honest’ for my Lowther derived speakers. Do you know where the Line Magnetic classic stuff is in Hong Kong? There’s no mention on Line Magnetic’s website (there’s only one 852 number) and they don’t answer my emails.
    Thanks,
    Greg

  12. jorge says:

    Dear Richard,

    I want to congratulate you by the excellent review of the Line Magnetic 219 ia and I wonder if you would recommend it to match my demmandinf Sonus Faber Amati Homage speakers?, I am not quite sure if those splendid 24 watts will move with authority these italian demanding speakers.

    Best Regards,
    Jorge

    • Hi Jorge

      Without matching them up I could not say for sure. The LM is still a 24 watt per channel amplifier and it has 4 ohm taps. It drives my KEF LS-50 well but the KEF is a two way two driver loudspeaker. Once a speaker starts adding crossovers to 3-4 or more drivers it generally asks for more from the amplifier. Still what you could do is try and find a similarly powerful amplifier and see how it goes. Personally, I prefer going with SET friendly speakers if the plan is to go with SETS. Sonus Faber really isn’t designed with SET in mind. I get the sense they’re more designed for 200+ watts of solid state.

      cheers,
      Richard

      • Jorge Serrano says:

        Hi Richard, Thank you for your promptly answer. As you know the ATC 100 are also very demanding speakers with their 88 dB and 8 ohms and I normally see them always amplified by very powerfull SS amplifiers; by your review the LM219ia seems to offer a lot good current albeit being only 24 watts. I think 92 dB and 4 ohms is the equivalente to 89 dB and 8 ohms so maybe the magic will occur, nevertheless the best solutions is to test it at home as I will do next month.

        I love the magic of SET amplificacion better than the pushpull one and if possible would like to match my Amati with a good SET integrated amplifier. Regards

    • Stump says:

      I demo my LM 219 with SF and here is a feedback!

      It’s been fun to listen and compare.
      The Line Magnetic was amazing with the CH2s. I thought it sounded pretty good with the Sonus Fabers as well, but after comparing back and forth, I’d still have a slight preference for the Moon. The amati’s are not an easy load to drive, and I just wonder whether the 300W solid state just provides that little bit of extra control needed. On the other hand, I thought Line Magnetic worked better with the CH2s than the Moon.

      With the Sonus Fabers, the tonal balance with the valves was a touch warmer, but the decay of the notes ( especially with violin and cello) seemed more natural with the solid state ( slightly more distinct with regards to the start and finish of a note, compared to very slight overhang or smear with the valves) – fairly small print stuff… Rod stayed around for a while longer last sunday and also listened back and forth and had similar thoughts. Probably fairest to say that the sound from both amps was different, rather than one being better or worse. I guess I’m used to what I’m hearing from the Moon.

      The line magnetic is a lovely amp, and great value for money. The build quality looks top notch. If I was looking for an amp now, it would be a very strong contender.

  13. Miguel says:

    Great review!
    I’ve been a couple of times at Hit Audio in HK and last time I was there was to bring home my pair of Zu speakers.
    I also got amazed by the huge 219ia and after more than one year listening to it in different shoppes, I’m thinking seriously in taking the step and buying one. I’m running my Zus with a very nice push-pull amp (a KT88 based Cayin), but since I’ve heard the magic of the SET amplifiers – especially the 219- I’ve been growing the bug in me for a single ended.
    My question to you is: after all these months are you happy with your 219? We read a lot of nice reviews from when people are auditioning the amp for the first time, but I never found an opinion from someone owning it for a long time.
    Is it a keeper?

  14. Richard Austen says:

    Hi Miguel

    Yes I have had it now for a few years and I am still quite happy with it. Best of all it sounds even better as a dedicated power amp so there is some upgrade ability with the amp as well. For most sane audiophiles (are any of us) the 219IA is more amp than one should probably realistically ever need.

    Cheers,
    Richard Austen

    • Richard Austen says:

      Hi Miguel
      One of the bigger advantages of the 219IA is that it is dual mono and thus when used as a power amp will be the next best thing to monoblocks. The 518IA operates as a stereo power amp with obviously lesser transformers. But yes the 219IA is big.

      I am planning to go a bit upscale soon on my system with separates and am contemplating adding to the 219IA or replacing it.

      If you e-mail me personally rausten@dagogo.com we can discuss my 219IA.

      Cheers,
      Richard

  15. Miguel says:

    Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your answer.
    I was at Hit Audio last week again to listen to the amplifier, but this time I got a bit biased. Besides the 219ia, I also enjoyed the sound of the 518ia. And they have now a new model, the 508ia that I didn’t have the chance to listen to, but it seems (and they told me it is) a musical monster!
    My reason tells me to go for the 518ia, is more suitable in every aspect; But my heart is still with the 219ia. My wife, though, keeps saying that she kind of sees some beauty in the 518ia while for her the 219ia is a horrible beast – the eternal Wife Acceptance Factor…. So at this moment I’m not sure yet. I’ll keep visiting the place until I have my decision made.

  16. Miguel says:

    Hi Richard,
    Email sent!

    Cheers,
    Miguel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Popups Powered By : XYZScripts.com