For your musical tastes a well put together SET system would be ideal, IMO. Any opinions about the two tubes you ask about will be generalizations and will largely depend upon just how those tubes are implemented within a specific amp design. Power supplies are also very important in a SET amplifier, as in any amplifier. There are great 300B amps, as there are mediocre 300B amps. Same goes for any tube. Assuming you are considering a SET implementation of the tubes you mention, a 96db speaker would be just about right for a smallish to moderate room to enjoy the splendors of 8 watts of SET amplification done right. Synergy of amp and speaker is paramount with low-powered SET amps though so care should be taken - research your selections. I have no experience with the 845 to speak of. I believe the designs that use them are generally more expensive. The tubes themselves are less expensive than 300B's but do not last as long and there seems to be a more limited selection. Check with member Gunbei (Dean) - He's been loving his Bel Canto SE40 which uses the 845 tube. I can tell you my experience with the 300B tube in my system excells in every area you mention. It is not as good in orchestral nor Rock. But with vocals and acoustic solo instruments I have heard nothing better. You can read plenty about these tubes, and different amps that use them, both here in the archives as well as over in Audio(SET)Asylum. I won't wax rhetorical on stuff already said much better than I could say it, suffice to say, good choice...you've obviously done your research.
One difference I'm aware of is the price--300Bs can be exhorbitantly priced. A pair of WE NOSs closed on eBay recently for $2200. Yup, two-thousand, two-hundred dollars for TWO tubes. AMPS should come with them at that price!
Seriously, and as Marco already advised, read the archives at the SET Asylum, http://www.audioasylum.com/scripts/tv.pl?forum=set .
BTW I'm thoroughly entrenched in the SET camp with a pair of 50-Watt ASL Explorer 805s driving Quad 989s; I LOVE them.
Like Gunbei, I have a Bel Canto SETi40, which uses 845 tubes. For some reason, it wont work with the 845B/M tubes, but works perfectly with Valve Art 845s, which cost me $65 for a pair. For the purposes you describe, they are perfect.
Female vocals and individual stringed instruments are really, really good. I cant comment on 300s.
Read what Jax2 said twice. Also, 96db is only part of the equation. Not falling much below 8 ohms is important. With the right speaker the 300b might be the ticket for your female midrange and acoustic music. The more demanding the speaker the 845 might move ahead. Once you listen to both, one will draw you in more. If you can't listen to both, make the best guess. Good luck.
With your speakers and your musical preference, the 300B is the way to go! I have both,300B and 845 monos. The 300B will give a little more bloom in the upper bass to lower mids. Where as an 845 will be a little more neutral in it's presentation. If you really want to hear female vocals, try a good 2A3. This tube is the most romantic of all triodes. It will give a little more bloom in the upper freq.s when compared to a 300B. The 45 tube and the 845 are in my opinion the most neutral of the triodes. In fact an 845 ,to me, sounds like an 45 on steriods. I keep all the metioned tube SET amps around for my mood changes and musical preference at the time. The 845 will do rock and classical better. But, it's not as sweet in the mids as the 300B or the 2A3. It really will come down to your musical taste and sound preference. They're all great! I can't live without any of them.
Per Philefreak, I'd agree on the suggestion to try listening to some 2A3 SET amps, especially an amp like the Wright 3.5. But I would add that you'll be pushing the limits at 96db efficiency if you like listening at louder levels on some music. If you go that route I might suggest very careful speaker selection as you are only talking about 3 watts of power at that point. Those three wats are pretty magical if done right though. I can give you my own comparison of 2A3 vs 300B: I'd agree that the 2A3 does vocals like no other tube, but in a SET configuration, in my experience, it has come with what I might term a lack of fullness in the range. The 2A3 tube in SET is all about midrange and upper midrange. The lows are not a strong point with the 2A3. I would put that choice at the extreme end of selection in considerations, though if you truly do listen to 90% female vocals, I'd say it'd be an excellent suggestion as well, given the caveat that you'll be looking at different speakers. I do love the Wright Mono 10's which use 2A3's in a push/pull configuration to yield about 11 watts. This, to me, yields a fuller sound from those tubes, while maintaining that magic midrange potential. I'm not sure if there are other 2A3 amps that use the tube in that way, but it may be another choice to consider. It is closer in fullness to my 300B amp, while having a bit of an edge in female vocals (a bit more sweet and airy). In my 300B amp I would say it is a more balanced implementation of the strengths of SET and less of a sacrifice in any one.
As far as the overpriced WE 300B tubes, do keep in mind that they are by no means the only good choice. There are plenty of decent 300B's out there that you don't need to sign over your first born to obtain. Certainly the WE's are an outstanding tube, and I use a pair myself, but the more recent production tubes typically can be found for $400-800 pair and have a predicted lifespan of 10,000 hours. I've read a few recent shootouts and comments here that maintain that the newer Svet's and the JJ gold's are not far off the mark, and to some ears may be superior than the WE's. There's an abundance of 300B's to choose from in current production. Your selection of current production 845 tubes is quite limited AFAIK. 2A3's also, though not quite as limited, though the simple Sovtek 2A3's are actually excellent tubes in my amps, and well respected. NOS 2A3's go for some pretty large coin too, though not quite as much as the 300B's that were mentioned, which I think is ridiculous personally.
I've not heard any P/P 2A3s. Have heard several 300B P/P. The P/P always seems to make things a little more neutral. A 300B amp that is designed right can scare the pants off of you! I'm actually listening to some Joule Electra OTLs now. I'm so surprised how much I still like phase splitting amps! They sound like solid state tube amps! I think the poster has a pair of Hornings. I have the Horning Agathon Ultimates and know that the Horning like at least 6 watts.
My guilty pleasure would be trying a Cary 805 Anniversary which uses 300B & 845/211 tubes!
Marco is dead on. In fact, he owns both a 300B and a 2A3 amp which must be returned to their previous owners...pronto!
Antique Sound 1009 845 monoblocks are very good, so is Cary 805C.
Right now I have an 845 amp - deHavilland Ios - and a 300B - Audio Note Meishu. They are both excellent, but different. The 845 is more dynamic with better PRAT, and possibly soundstages more specifically. The 845 has tighter, deeper bass. The 300B is more natural with more bloom, more 3 dimensional. I enjoy them both and as some will tell it's simply more fun to have more than one amp. I don't like the cost of the 300B tubes. And there are fewer 845s to choose from. The 845 is more powerful and will give you more headroom.
For your listening prefs I would recommend the 300B. It is great with that kind of music and is more natural with acoustic instruments. With 96 db you should do fine with a 300B.
But please take my comments with salt since they are not only different tubes but different designs as well with different goals.
What it comes down to is the available of the NOS 845 vs the NOS 300B and the new breed of the 300Bs.
Keep in mind that modern 845s are not as good as the modern 300Bs.
[Keep in mind that modern 845s are not as good as the modern 300Bs]
Thats a respected opinion...but TJ Full Music, KR Audio and some others make premium 845 tubes that can compare to the best NOS 845 tubes (another opinion). This is from a comparison test with NOS RCA/WE glass using samples from TJ and KR Audio. I could not justify spending the $ on the NOS tubes with these well done modern gems available.
300B/845 are 2 different tubes with strengths in specific areas of the audio-band. If you want LUSH MIDS, an 845 can be the ticket...thought keep in mind 845's have rolled off bass and highs. 300B's are more well rounded across the audio-band but don't quite excel at the mid-range like a 845 tube can...again this is my (and my ears) opinion...
Oh the eternal question. I can't argue with any of the above. The 845 is more neutral with greater drive and dynamics. Base and treble are better defined and base deeper. 300B's have that tube mid range magic, which may well just be colouration, but who cares if it sounds so good. I prefer 845's, but could live happily with a 300B. Tube price is no small consideration, the premium 845's from China, may not be as perfect as the best 300B's, but you don't need a new mortgage to buy a pair.
Eril, what did you do? In the 1-3/4 years since I posted above, the Quad 989s and ASL 805s have been replaced, first with Eminent Technology 8s and ASL Hurricanes running in triode, and then with DIY, line-array, open-baffle speakers... http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k220/jeffreybehr/OB%20JG6518%20speakers/12Decfmlisteningpos_800w.jpg ...and 2.5WPC SETs.
My room is largish at c. 3200CF, and I listen at moderate levels, rarely reaching 95dB peaks. I listen to large-scale Classical and film music, and this system sounds simply excellent. The system is triamped so I'm using all of a combined 10 Watts (both channels) from 40 Hz up.
You might consider the Music Reference EM7 amp... http://www.ramlabs-musicreference.com/6EM7-13EM7.html . It retails for $950 but currently it's introductory priced at $850, and there's a return privelege (with a reasonable restocking fee, I believe). Pics are here http://s89.photobucket.com/albums/k220/jeffreybehr/Music%20Reference%20EM7/ .
Hi, I have the 2A3, 45 and 300B amps, everything depends on your taste, your ear, personally I prefer the 45 and 2A3 on 300B. I have Set Utopia Audio and love the 45 and 2A3, The 2A3 is excellent very balanced in all range bass, middle and louds 300B is excellent in middle and bass, with body and presence . The 45 are magic. Good luck, Martin
You already probably figured out that there is no clear and unique answer to your question. It also depends a lot on your taste. And you could see that there are more than 2 options - somebody mentioned also 2A3, which is also a valid option concerning the sensitivity of your speakers.
Generally speaking, 845 are tubes that provide more power than 300B (sometimes 300B's are used as drivers for 845's). This power you do not really need, because your speakers are going to work just fine with SET 300B of about 13 W per channel at 8 ohm. The precondition is of course that the amp has been made decently.
It is true that NOS WE 300B are very expencive. But the good alternative is to go for Chinease copy: TJ 300B, which is very good and costs somewhere about $250 each. Or Svetlana 300B ...
2A3 is also very interesting alternative. It is somewhere about 6W at SE mode and it can sound really magically. Especially with female vocals, acoustic instruments,...
Another alternative would be SET with 6C33. This tube provides healthy 15W/8 ohm in SET mode and it sounds powerful and amazing. BAT, Einstein, Graaf and many others are using this Russian tube.
But there are several reasons why 300B triode is called, for decades now, the queen of all triodes ...
Do any of you think that a 15-20 watt SET would be able to drive a pair of Merlin VSMs (89db and very smooth 8 ohm load)adequately in a 13x18 room? I would like to try SET, I have a SETransistor - Pass XA30.5 - and would like to try a tube SE, but I'm not sure about the power limitations.
Pubul57- I have used two different 300b SET amps in my 14 x 23 x 8.5 LR (with a large archway into a 2 level staircase/entry foyer) w my VSM-Ms. They are very nice for most of what I listen to (singer-songwriter, bluegrass, alt-country, folk, acoustic blues) but if you are looking for near live levels with orchestra or rock, I think you would not be satisfied. They make plenty of volume but when pushed, I do notice a bit of glare or harshness. The 300bs are around 10 watts. BTW, these are back-up integrated amps that I have for other uses. When either my main pre or amp is down, in they go and they are very satisfying. But I do always enjoy it when the VZN-80 goes back in, with 80 wpc.
We tried both 15 wpc 300B and 16 wpc 211 SET amplifiers with Merlin VSM-ME, in my buddy Spencer's (Sbank) system, Pubul57.
The 300B was a parallel single-ended amplifier, with 2 TJ mesh plate 300B output tubes. The 211 featured a single output tube. I have my 211 amp modded to run 845 tubes as well, but we didn't get to it that day.
You'll be able to drive the Merlins like crazy with any of these tubes, as we did that day. In my opinion, the midrange/treble of the 300B cannot be approached by a 211 (or 845, especially) amplifier. However, there is a lack of low-end with the 300B amp in comparison to the 211 (and, again, especially, the 845 which has tons and tons of bass) that may leave some audiophiles wanting.
For me, it's a closer race as to which I prefer, but Spencer (hopefully, he'll chime in here) was most emphatic in his feeling that the 211 was the way to go because of the paucity of low frequency performance via the 300B. Again, you can listen at very high volumes with either amp, and that is probably where the two of us will agree most.
DISCLAIMER: I am the North American importer/distributor for Opera Audio/Consonance high-end audio components - which the aforementioned amplifiers were
Spencer, if you chime in, I'd like to know what you think of the SET performance versus your Atmaspheres.