Advice on an upgrade

Well, just a little under 3 months ago, I heard a tubed integrated amp (VTL IT85) in my system, and it blew me away. It really altered my reality. I now feel like I'm just starting out on a major exploration, and I'm ready to discover something new.

I'm thinking about selling the VTL IT85, and upgrade to seperates. I live in a condo, and my speakers probably aren't changing soon, as I love electrostats, and don't think there are any other good options vs. my Logan Aerius i. I really like their sound anyway.

ANYWAY, the 80 wpc did fine for me. I think I'd like to find a stereo tube amp, and a nice tube preamp. Balanced outputs/inputs. Something around 100 or 120 wpc I think is fine.

I'm kind of shying away from monoblocks because of their power requirements. I can't add any dedicated circuits to my apartment. Or am I wrong?



Steve "Dennis" Daigneault
Are monos the way to go? Here are a few of the pieces I was considering:

VAC Renaissance 70/70 sig - stereo (65wpc too low?)
AtmaSphere MA1 mk2.2 monos
VTL MB185 sig monos
Mesa Baron stereo
Cary V12 stereo
You may like InnerSound's speakers better than Martin Logan.
others also wondering about...

Air Tight ATM 2
Manley Reference 240/100 monos
VAC PA 100/100
Kora Titan monoblocks
I don't know much about the impedance curve of the M.L.'s, but I hear that many electrostats present a difficult load for some tube amps. Better minds than mine will respond to this comment, I am sure!
Yo Denis: Cross these off your list-- Messa Baron--sonics are not in the same league as the others. Cary---Just won't work with stats. This includes anything they make including the 805c. For power/control/slam,go with AR3. OR--I saw a pair of Walcotts (sans wide band transformers) for 4400. This I think, would get you much further up the chain.---Hey,just an opinion;in case I bashed someone's fav.
I have a pair of Martin Logan Ascents and used a Audio research VT100. This match was the best iv'e heard so far with my ML'S and had more then engough power for them. I haven't heard the MKIII, I had a MKI. You should be able to find a MKI or MKII for a really good price. I think the MKIII Has the new super tubes. I myself would stay with the MKI or MMKII, just my opinion. Hope this helps.
What am I missing by stayin away from monoblocks?
dennis, in your original post on your disappointment with the BAT you mentioned that you were hoping for a warm, organic sound. you may recall my comments then. nothing has changed much in my opinion. i think the ML's can sound cold and etched if not properly driven. i think you may find synergy in looking for tube or ss amps with high current delivery which are reputed to be on the warm side of neutral, for example Conrad Johnson. Of the amps you have referred to above which i am familar, i don't think that you will find that they will warm up your system, especially the ARC, Mesa Barron, VAC's and VTL's which require very netural systems to sound best. mono's are not necessarily any better for your needs than stereo amps. i don't think you need really high power in an apartment. were i you, for reference purposes i would borrow an amp reputed to be warmish and put it into you system for a few days and see if that is a possible solution for you. you'll at least see what the differences are between what you have and a "warm"amp. good luck.
Would a Conrad Johnson be an upgrade from my current VTL integrated? I actually am surprised you say that the VTL isn't warm, because to my ears, compared to my old NAD integrated, it's a lot warmer, and much more "unveiled" or open sounding. I'm considering the VAC 70/70 more seriously, partly because this seems more of an upgrade, and also because it's a duo mono on one block, and i like the look of an open tube chassis... !
dennis, i have no doubt that the VTL intregrated is warmer than your NAD with these speakers - i would think the NAD's were never a proper choice for them. that doesn't mean in any absolute sense that they have a warmish tone - that effect has everything to do with the speakers they work with. You must think of the speakers and amp synergy - next to your room and placement this is of prime importance. there are a lot of conrad johnson models about - they all sound different to some degree - the tube models are usually warmer than the ss - all would be an upgrade IMHO. but thats not the point, from my view its the sonic signature of a warmer amp you want to hear so you can decide which direction you want to go, then pick the exact make and model. CJ just came to mind as an example of warmish amps that don't compromise a lot on providing you with detail etc. however, as a practical matter, they have some highly regarded models that are easy to use in that you can change and bias the tubes yourself when this becomes necessary, therefor are much cheaper to maintain and experiment with. you must have a cj dealer somewhere in DC you can get a loaner from. i would try to get the 11a or the cheaper 55 just for a peek. have fun.
Synergy over price/reputation. I understand that. I'll look into CJ auditioning possibilities. Thanks.
1. Get a Supratek Chardonney line stage (sse thread here under "Preamp deal of the century" for $2200. Don't even think about it, just do it.

2. VAC 70/70 - nice piece (Mk I,II or III?). But remember, you are stuck with the VAC-distributed Chinese Golden Dragon 300B's in push pull configuration, so upgrading to WE300B's - which would be great - would be muy expensioso. Instead, if you like VTL, get a 175 Signature with 807 output tubes. These were made at one time, but now are special order. $2200-2400 used. Very nice amps a steal at used price. Saw it easlily driving a pair of hard-to-drive Acoustat 1+1 Electrostats. Hard to find because so good for $, but look with patience.

3. Consider Berning ZH270 amps, singly or bridged. Ask other people about them and you'll see the big response. Hard to find used for that reason.

4. AirTight EL-34 based amp would still be nice.

VTL85 may be forced to use 6550's because of price constraints, but avoid that tube in higher powered amps.