I used to own an Air Tight ATM-1, a fairly similar amp using 6550's. The amps built in attenuator works just fine and is quite transparent, in fact probably more so than the variable output of a cd player. But if you have both units go ahead and experiment and see which you prefer. The good news is you don't need a preamp, though you may one day want one. One thing, I believe the Air Tight is single-ended only if that matters. Great sounding gear though, those Tamura transfomers are the real deal! Happy listening!
Mahalo e Jond. Thanks for the view and the fine point re the Air Tight's attenuator v. the variable output on a CDP. I'm encouraged. I've also noticed on your Virtual Systems post you have a Herron preamp, which has been highly recommended to me in combo with its own power amp, but I'd have to guess how it would interact with the ATM2. Did you ever put it together with your Air Tight ATM-1? Thanks again for the quick post.
I have owned the ATM1 ( I think I sold mine to Jond?), the ATM2 and now own the ATM3 Monos. I would strongly suggest using the Attenuators off the AirTight. If your Cary has a fixed out which has less in the way then the Variable, this would be the best way to go.
while the built in Attenuators are very tranparent, I beleive they can be further upgraded by Tom Tutay to an even higher quality version.
I don't mean to highkack. I am very interested in the Air Tight Amps. How does the ATM1 compare to the ATM2. Is it easy to get repair work done if needed?
"If your Cary has a fixed out which has less in the way then the Variable, this would be the best way to go."
I'm sorry. But I don't follow this very crucial comment above. My Cary has a VARIABLE OUTPUT, but I can set it to any specific level and use the ATM2 attenuators to control volume.
I heard from the dealer today, though, that this method would REDUCE dynamics as compared to using a preamp and that I might lose a fullness of sound as well. Comment?
Great memory, you did indeed sell your ATM-1 to me, and a great amp it was, thanks! I hope you're enjoying your ATM-3!!
My sense of the above advice is that, if my Cary 303/300 can be set to a FIXED output level, it's better to use the attenuators in the Air Tight ATM-2 to control volume--correct?
It's also my sense that the amp works fine without a preamp and may be even more transparent.
Finally, Jond, did you ever use your Herron preamp in combo with the ATM-1 you had? How did it sound?
No, by the time I got the Herron I had traded the ATM-1 for a pair of Cary CAD 300B Signature monos. That was a great combo, the Herron was easily one of the best and quietest preamps I've ever heard, ss or tube! I'd still have it but I wanted an all Deja Vu Audio system, the best in the planet!
I have owned the ATM-2 and ATM-3 monos. The ATM-2 continues to be one of my favorite amps. I did try running the CDP ( Wadia ) directly into the ATM-2. While it worked fine, I did prefer the preamp, which at that time was the First Sound Deluxe. The dynamics and soundstage were improved with the preamp.
I notice on other threads you've had experience with various preamps and the ATM-2. I'm now considering going this route, looking at Air Tight ATC-3, Herron VTSP-1, Modwright SWL 9.0SE, Acoustic Masterpiece C101, and EAR 834L. Any opinions? Other suggestions? Anyone?
I've had a lot of success using an Air Tight ATC-1 Pre with my ATM-2. Great MM phono stage. Not the most transparent pre in the world, it tends to sweeten things a bit. But overall very pleased with it.
Thanks. This is very good to know. I've seen ATC-3 Pres out there, but no ATC-1 pres yet. I'm now using the ATM-2 with a Thor TA-1000 Mk 2, which is fairly transparent, I think. It passes along every tube change in the Air Tight and can sound analytic sometimes, especially with 6550 power tubes and all Telefunken triodes in the power amp. I find I myself need to "sweeten" the sound with Mullards in the Air Tight input stage and in the Thor's 12AX7 positions. So, your ATC-1 Pre must contribute what's needed perhaps. However, all my listening is from a digital source--a Cary 303/300.
Bblilikoi: I have tried running my Ayre Universal player C-5xe to the Manley Steelhead's line-level input and the Steelhead's variable output drove a pair of BAT VK-150SE directly (as Manley's suggestion to avoid another electronic layer - preamp). I also tried running the Ayre through the Steelhead then Steelhead's fix output to an Air Tight ATC-3 to drive the BAT amps (i know..i can omit the Manley between the Ayre and Air Tight..but i just wanted to findout what effects the Air Tight had on this chain). To my surprise, with the Air-Tight in..the sound had more punch, more authority without sacrificing any of the transparency and I didnt notice any increase in noise floor.
With a side note: Ayre C-5xe's output is relatively low (1 and 2VRMS for DSD on unbalanced and balanced output, 2.05 and 4.10VRMS for PCM , respectively. Here are my points (after a long interlude):
1. If your source's output is low, it might not be a good idea to drive the amp directly using just an attenuator (in your case, ATM-2's; my case, Steelhead's)
2. Having an extra electronic layer might not always be a bad thing, especially if it is really transparent, and it can provide extra gain without adding too much noise.
3. Try and hear for yourself all the configurations, eventhough at first it might seem nonsense (as long as you dont do any damage to your system)
This is why i had to add the Air tight ATC-3 pre in my system and run everything (phonostage, CDP) into it instead of just using the Manley. The sound now is so much more satisfying
I'm running the Cary 303/300 through a Thor TA-1000 Mk.2 preamp I'm trying now with good results. Running it direct into the ATM-2 Air Tight made the music sound like amplifed MP-3 files--rough, etched, not great. The Thor seems to me transparent, adds gain, and has a kind of big stage and good imaging in small combo acoustic music. But I listen mainly to choral, opera, and orchestral music, really, and it's pretty good for that too. With small choirs, it's magic.
Bblilikoi: Are your Air Tight ATM-2's transformers quiet? As posted in the other thread, my new ATM-2 's power transformer hums and can be heard from 3, 4ft away...I'm exchanging it for another one (but will take 4-6 weeks for delivery though) but still curious to know if Air Tight usually have this problem.
Yes, my ATM-2 transformers are quiet. I'm sorry yours aren't, but glad Air Tight is getting you a new unit. That's very good to hear about Axiss Distributing. I haven't heard of this problem with the amp before.
At Toms suggestion, I've tried running the Air Tight direct from the Cary 303/300 CDP once again--this time with more interesting results. It's not as brittle and hashy sounding as when I tried it before--perhaps the contribution of all my tube-rolling (in both amp and CDP)--and there is more clarity and less distortion of some kind, but there is also a definite tip up within a certain treble range. The information comes through much cleaner and, thus, I can hear what's tipped up. I'm sure it's that impedance drop in my Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home speakers below 4 ohms in the 4kHz-20kHz range.
At the suggestion of another member from another thread, I lowered the bias-settings on the Air Tight by two measure markers. He suggested lowering the bias to improve sound, particularly relating to the Air Tight's leanness and tone of being "tipped-up," as that's been his experience with his Air Tight ATM-2. He reported that, when he tube-rolled his pre, a Wavelength, the character of the ATM-2 would change, brighten in tone, and sound "tipped up and leaner." This has been my experience whatever the tubes in either pre or amp, actually, though some are better than others.
Well, I lowered the bias-setting by about two measures and the choral music I was playing was immediately slightly better--more resolving. As I listened further, I could tell there was more inner detail in the soundstage and that the voices themselves were more easily separable, creating different polyphonic lines (as they should), and coming together more cleanly in coherent harmonies (again, as they should).
Overall, judging by a handful of CDs played with the bias lowered and the CDP running direct in to the Air Tight, this results in a cleaner choral sound. And a very sweet, clear, and fast orchestral sound too.
anybody know the site Air Tight ?
I would recommend using the Air Tight ATC-2 valve preamplifier with the AirTight ATM-2 amplifier. I can not understand why any one would run a amplifier directly from a CD player, the reason why is there is no buffer stage and the sound will be edgy and hard. Preamplifiers especially a very good valve preamplifiers add the tone to the music body and weight to the sound. Dynamics are also a huge benefit from a preamplifier stage especially if you are playing Vinyl.
I think people get the impression of a cleaner sound by running direct from a CD player but this is actually a leaner sound that will eventually fatigue a listener who will then tend to blame the amplifier.
A well designed preamplifier is the heart of a Audio system and the soul of the music. Some time Less is not always Best in a audio system, do not fall into the trap of thinking because I have done away with one component in the chain the sound will be more musical.
I have tried all the passive gain devices over the years and from my experience valve preamplifiers are still the best option for audio system tone and synergy with your power amplifiers.
You can look at my Audio system products used on my Audiogon page.