For less than big bucks, I had some success with an Aragon 4004 MK II.
I think the impedance dips a bit on these speakers, and the ribbons are pretty revealing.
Combined with a Jadis tube preamp, the system had some of the best midrange I have ever heard.
Go to www.iceh2oaudio.com
This is a amp that I own that was designed and voiced with Apogees.
The Stage likes tube amps. Another winner would be one of the new ICE
amps. I'm using one of the more expensive ones, the H2O, on the Stage's big
brother, the Scintilla. Jjaz makes a less expensive ICE amp. it's a honey for the
Tubes are a must for the mids and highs, but the impedence is such a killer on them that I see the dilemma. I had heard them paired well with Llano hybrids, the counterpoint np hybrid amps etc. A tube pre will help further. From more recent gear, I would think that the LAMM hybrid and within SS the Rowland or Boulder gear would be pretty remarkable too...
My Stage had a lot of great bass matched with a tube amp. One shouldn't feel nervous about an Apogee. The Stage does not need a brute amp to sound great. It is more important to have a clean sounding amp that is at least moderately strong. You don't need to spend the bank, either. If you want it all, then look into the ICE amps. There is no more powerful amp, that I have heard of, than the ICE amps mentioned above. The H2O shares the best sonic attributes of tube gear, with the muscle of the biggest Krell.
I am currently using a McCormack DNA-1 rev B amp on my Stages. I'm very happy with the sound and don't plan on changing it anytime soon. In the past I've used less powerful amps, such as smaller Brystons and Counterpoints. The bass and dynamics of the speakers weren't what they are now. Plus, the McCormack to my ears is just a much more musical amp.
Another thing to keep in mind concerning system synergy with the Stages is speaker wire. The sound from this speaker is more dependent on the wire used than any other speaker I've owned.
There is an amp on A'gon currently that is one of the best matches to Apogee speakers, it is the Classe DR-3. Don't worry about the 25 Watts, the DR-3 has enough current to drive anything. Sounds tubelike and a true Classic.
Thanks all for you follow-ups, I currently have Atma-Sphere M60's (OTL's) that I use on a conventional cone speaker that I just won't sell. Some have suggested a tube amp sounds good on the Stages, but does the M60's have enough get up and go for the Stage's. Yesterday I read some info on the Zero Autoformers? After talking to the manufacture of the Zero's, he says this device was designed for the OTL amps so they could drive more difficult loads. If the Zero Autoformers work, for around $500.00 problem solved and I won't have to buy that second amp. ,,,,,,,,,maybe?
For the $$ the Aragon 4004 mk II is a very good match. I am now using VTL 300 mono blocs with very good results. These
can be had for around 2k. I also have a old Threshold Cass 2
that does a good job for not much $$. My old stages are still capable of making me smile !
The new SST series from Bryston are very good matches with Apogees.
Although you can certainly drive the Apogees with a tube amp -
the low impedance of the ribbon drivers makes tube amps
problematical. There are big brute tube amps, but they are
More moderately priced tube amps that would normally be very
sweet may have trouble with the low impedance swings of the
Apogee drivers - just a "fact of life" with tube amps.
Beefy solid state amps work well. Apogee recommended Krells
and Classe; but Aragon, McCormack, Bryston, among others..
are known to pair nicely with Apogees.
Now that you have a short list; it's time to trust your
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Doctor, I used a Jolida 1000, on the four ohm tap of my Stages. The Jolida
handled the load with aplomb. Yes, it was somewhat syrupy, but that is just
byproduct of lower echelon tube gear. I ran a Pass X150 on Duettas.
Apogee hasn't made speakers in eight years. We are left to our own resources
to mate Apogees with amps. These days, there are a lot more exciting amps
to chose from without relying solely on the iron dragons of yesteryear.
I know what I am saying isn't common knowledge. It seems audiophiles are a
conservative bunch when it comes to their gear. It doesn't help that Mags, like
Stereophile, still champion huge solid state, and tube amps.
I understand the resistance. I too became defensive, when a fellow Apogee
owner told me a little cold stainless steel triangular amp worked wonders on
his Apogee. I just had a hard time believing it. Howerver, there was
something in the fellow's earnestness that won me over. I tried one of those
amps against huge solid state monoblocks, 150lbs. apiece. He was right. It
was as if someone had whisked away an army quilt from my Apogees.
Paul Speltz makes a very good autoformer. I heard one used on a Martin
Logan system. The amp was a sweet 7 watt Audio Note. It worked fine, not as
good as a Llano hybrid, or an S-H2O, but good.
I've driven my Stages with several amps with good results. The load is not that difficult, as compared to some of the larger Apogee models.
Much depends on your tastes. I had the mentioned Aragoon 4004 MK II in my system for a short time. While it had good base control, the mids and highs lacked refinement and clarity.
I've had a Bel Canto Evo 2, Gen II for the last 8 months and I'm pleased with its speed, clarity and control on the Stages.
It's best if you can try out the amp to get a feel for its sound character, especially if it uses tubes.
You can certainly run a small tube amp on the Stages, and get
something that "sounds" fine. However, when the Stage starts
to demand current - and if the tube amp can't provide it -
then accuracy is the first casualty. If the low impedance
load causes the voltage on the tube amp to sag below what
it should be - i.e. the product of the gain and the input
voltage - then you don't have accuracy.
If the amp can't supply the current the Stages want - like
the big amps that Stereophile, et. al. champion - then
you don't have accuracy - even if you like the sound.
I'm sure there are more amps on the market that pair well
with Apogees other than those that were around when Apogee
was still in business. I wonder how some of the newer
"switching" amps like the Bel Cantos do on loads like the
However, what the low impedance of the Apogee driver needs
is current. That's something that you are much more likely
to get accurately out of a solid state device for a price
that is reasonable, vis-a-vis a tube amp.
There certainly are tube amps that can handle an Apogee -
but with the current hungry Apogee - you are not playing to
a tube amp's strong suit.
Although a successful pairing of tube amp and Apogee is
certainly possible - it certainly requires more care and
It would be "safer" for the Apogee owner to stick with the
beefy solid state designs. A greater fraction of the
solid state amp market will pair well with Apogees, than
the fraction of tube designs that will.
Again, the current demands of the Apogees are just not the
strong suit for tube amps - although most certainly there
are tube amps that pair well with Apogees.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Have you owned the Apogee Stage? I found it a considerably easier load than the Duetta, and by a long shot, the Scintilla. RGocin knows what I'm talking about.
There are people happily using tube gear on all Apogees, but the Scintilla. There were people very upset at me for buying a Scintilla. One wrote, "Now, you will have to use solid state, and you will never be happy."
You know, I think he was right. I was not satisfied with the sound of solid state.
ICE powered amps provide the same naturalness as great tube amps do, adding prodigious power, speed, and dynamics. The H2O, with it's large analog power supply, leads the pack IMO.
It has been reviewed by 6Moons
I have a friend driving her Stages to great effect with Plinius 8200 Integrated.
Back in the day, Apogee had some Meitner MTR101 MkI or MKII monos driving the Divas at shows. These beautiful little amps are high current, inexpensive and can cope with any impedance the Stages could throw their way. There's folks doing mods on them for even better performance, but a pair won't set you back over 1k or so.
Yes - one of my current systems is an Apogee Mini-Grand.
I've done extensive testing with several amps - monitored
the voltage and impedance... I've seen the response of
tube amps vis-a-vis solid state.
I currently drive the Apogee ribbons with a Class A
'x'-series stereo Krell.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
I'm not saying that one can't use tubes - or that one won't
achieve a satisfactorily sounding system.
I'm saying that the impedance dips of the Stages, although
not in the same class as the Scintilla - ARE there and that
has an effect.
Although it doesn't sound bad - one may even have a preference -
but when you encounter an impedance dip - and the output
of the tube amp sags somewhat - then you just are not
Some may like the sound - it rounds off the "edges" - gives
you a more "liquid" sound - but it's not accurate - real
music does have edges.
If one is a stickler for accuracy - then one is more likely
to find that with solid state on something like the Stages -
although I reiterate - there are plenty of tube amps that
can handle the Stages without blinking - but they cost.
Then there are tubes that are not as beefy - but they
sound nice to some even though they are struggling to
provide the current into the relatively low impedance load.
Tubes are generally more happy with the higher impedance
Dr. Gregory Greenman
I'm the wrong person to be defending tubes. The only ones left in my stereo chain are in my DAC.
And, I won't be defending solid state either. My PWM monos have buried any interest I may have had in the best of them.
Both types of conventional amps have too many negatives.
You are right about edges. The PWM amps have sharp edges, only approximated by solid state. The PWM H2O out powers my former Pass X-600. The H2O digs deeper into the Bass, and with complete control. There is so much more information unveiled.
You are correct - every type and design of component has
their strong points and weak points.
It always gets me when someone says "..X-type amp is best
for all speakers, under all conditions, for all music...."
Tubes do certain things well, others not so well - and the
same is true with solid state. Their strengths and weaknesses
are often complimentary.
Additionally, sometimes the "advantages" of one type or
another are actually distortions that someone happens to
That's where you get into philosophy - do you attempt to
make the system accurate - or do you attempt to make it do
what you "like" - whatever that is.
I attempt to go for accuracy to the greatest extent possible
and not impose my prejudices on the artist's music.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Morbius, Like you, I base my audio decisions on what I hear at live performances. My Scintillas are very close to seconding my own piano.
I have found there are a number of paths open to approximating the live event. For instance, SET systems can be convincing. TacT is effective too. So far, in my experience, no path leads from solid state. Perhaps I just haven't heard the right one.
The fact is, PWM modules are much faster, and more efficient than transistors. They can retrieve faint signals that are smeared over by solid state. H2O breathes life-likeness into the music, given the right speakers. The Stage is the right speaker.
Even the live performance may not be the ultimate.
When you attend a live event, you're not listening to the
artist play - you are listening to the artist playing as
reproduced by the venue's sound system.
If you are listening to an orchestra - that's one thing - a
big orchestra doesn't need any help making sound.
But if you are listening to an artist in anything but the
smallest club - where you can hear them acoustically - then
you are listening to someone's sound system.
Comparing your own piano to piano played on your own
speakers in the same room would be interesting. If you
can get a real good recording of your actual piano in your
own room - and then have the opportunity to play back that
recording in the same room - that would tell you a lot.
The Scintillas are excellent - a case of going "all out" in
the design - without regard to certain practical limits -
like the impedance - which is why they end up at 1 ohm.
The Stages are excellent too. The only speakers that I have
actually heard that are as "real" sounding as the Stages,
are some very expensive Wilsons [ X-2 and Maxx-2 ]. The
Stages were a lot less money - so they are an excellent
value. Too bad Apogee went out of business.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
The Apogee may be coming back, under a new banner. Analysis Audio has made a good go at it. Word is Graz, of Down Under, is busy creating a new line of ribbon speakers.
BTW, My daughter plays viola, my son the bugle, my wife, the piano. We've been personally involved, as a family, in large and small acoustic venues for many years.
That is why I had to have the Scintilla. In a smaller room, I would opt for the Stage.
I have had Stages for fifteen years and have tried most of the variations. I think the arc welding amp thing got started because Jason Bloom was friends with the makers of Krell, and these were some of the first amps that sounded decent with Apogees. He tended to recommend them without reservation, even when I asked him personally at a demo, but he conceded that tube amps could do fine.
Right brained (i.e. scieintific) audiophiles like the arc welders because they measure well. The systems I have heard with arc welders are either tizzy, glaring, or sound like laser beams are sawing off the top of your head. The right brainers would call this "accurate."
I would stick with good quality 200w tube amps with the Stages, or with the current crop of "digital" amps such as Bel Canto Evo or the H2O types. The digital amps seem to preserve and project spatial information better than traditional solid state types.
If you really want your Stages to sound optimal, you need to upgrade the inferior and bright sounding internal crossover with a North Creek alternative or an external upgraded passive crossover.
I think the "alliance" between Apogee and Krell goes back to
the days when Apogee was producing speakers like the Scintilla
and the "Full Range" which had very low impedances.
The Krells were practically the only amps around that could
drive these low impedances without going unstable. [ There's
a point a which an amp turns into an oscillator if the load
impedance is low enough. ]
That was Dan D'Agostino's and Krell's original claim to
fame - they were about the only thing around that could
drive Apogees without blowing up.
However, for many years Apogee recommended Classe' amps
instead of Krells. Although the Krells did an excellent
job of driving Apogees, and Apogee went to Krell for the
built-in amp of their "statement" product - the Grands;
they probably wanted to offer their clientele a more cost
effective solution. Classe' amps did a very good job for
less money than the Krells - although Classe' amps were
not cheap by any measure.
Measuring well is a necessary - but not sufficient
condition for accuracy. If something measures well, that
doesn't mean the system is accurate.
However, if the waveform presented at the speakers input
terminals doesn't measure well because the amp can't keep
up with the current demands of the speaker - then there's
no way that can be accurate - no matter how it sounds.
It may sound nice to some - the attacks and edges of the
music being rolled off, which some like the sound of; but
it can't be called accurate.
I'll look into the North Creek crossovers.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
The H2O gives even the most demanding Apogee all the current it needs, plus, like I pointed out, set a new standard for leading edge, transparency, and decay.
I have heard Stages on a couple of occasions with Classe amps. While the sound was not bad, it did not really allow the potential of the Stages to present space and the Classes had greying, glaring, congestion and soundstage uncertainties that solid state seems to suffer from. I heard the Grands with Krells in a demo, and they sounded impressivey huge and dynamic, but also seemed to glare when I heard them. I used Melos Triode 200 high current hybrid tube amps on my Stages at the time, and I was impressed that they sounded better, but they did suffer from some softness by comparison. The Triode 200's, however, were superior in spatial presentation and timbre, and were easier to listen to.
When I use my Bel Canto Evo 200.2's full range through the passive crossover, they have the traditional virtues of solid state in lower midrange and bass control/damping. However, they are better than other sold state amps in attack, tone, and spatial addressing and separation, like tubes. The Bel Canto's seem to be somewhat musty as they go into the upper midrange, however. The H2O amps seem to have a better reputation in this regard.
The case for high current with the Apogees seems to be grossly overstated. I am currently using an active crossover with ASL 805 SET amps on the high ribbon. These are the most pathetic, current starved horrible measuring amps around and the sound is glorious and is vastly better than either the VTL 450 Sig monoblocks, Bel Canto Evo's, or the high current amps in my Yamaha RX Z9. No, I don't believe that I am in love with the distortion products, the amps are too simple in construction to pull any kind of elaborate tricks. A European audio critic that posts on the Apogee forum uses a 20 watt SET amp with the inefficient Calipers, and he says the sound is outstanding. At this point, I wouldn't trade the 805's for all of the Krells, Thresholds, Classes and Levinsons in the world. The 805's also drive the Stages full range through the passive crossover with aplomb and high volume levels, and the sound is not he least bit soft or impaired in the high frequencies. Rather, they tend to lack body in the lower midrange and bass, although the overall effect is charming.
Allen Wright is even working on a modest powered tube amp to use with the dreaded Scintillas, and if he manages it, I bet they will sound great.
Unless you do the measurements, you can't know what's going
I've put current limited tubes amps on the Stages - have seen
the tube amps strain, and fail to deliver the current needed
to compensate for the depressed impedance, and had audiophile
friends gush over how "liquid" and "lush" the sound was.
Then you put on the hefty high current amps - and they do put
out the current to keep the Stages accurate - and the
attending audiophiles complain about "glare" and being
I think some audiophiles just plain LIKE some of the natural
rolloffs that tubes provide.
Even the simplest single-tube amp is not perfectly linear;
the output characteristics of a tube are not perfectly
linear - they do "roll-off" at higher signal levels.
[That's why you hear that tubes clip more "softly" than
solid state - they are NOT linear up to the clipping point.]
It doesn't take a complex amp to have these non-linear
characteristics - the basic characteristics of the tubes
have these non-linearities.
If you like that sound, fine - go with what you like.
Just don't fool yourself that your system is accurate.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Morbius, what are you using to drive your Minigrands?
There wouldn't be amplifiers at all if it weren't for rigorous scientific types making observations about materials and circuits. They certainly make a greater contribution than the mincing aesthetes.
However, there is a point where the mono maniacal pursuit of concepts such as "accuracy" merely become alternate superstitions. I wouldn't claim any stereo system is "accurate", whether tubed or solid state, whether the input and ouput waveforms looked like each other or not. "Accuracy" is such a limiting concept when applied to audio.
However, when a tubed amplifier allows me to distinctly hear and follow four voices in a vocal harmony with ease and a solid state amplifier makes it sound like one voice, I know which one I want to listen to.
The point is that Apogees do not absolutely require the high current amp refrain that has been passed around for years. There are alternatives and everybody needs to let their own ears be their guides, as usual.
I drive my Apogee MiniGrands with a Class A,
Full-Power-Balanced, "cx"-series stereo Krell.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
I agree with your last comment that one has to let one's
ears be the final guide.
All I'm saying, is that many tube amps when confronted with
the complex impedance dips of the Apogee ribbons will not
have the current reserves to drive enough current through
the ribbon so that the voltage is what it is supposed to be.
Once the amp can't put the required voltage on the speakers
input terminals - then all bets are off with respect to
Accuracy isn't a limiting concept. The music signal being
sent to the speakers is encoded as a voltage. If the amp
can't put the correct, and I do mean correct; voltage on
the speaker's terminals - then you are doing something
inaccurate to the music.
Now you may like what you hear - but if your amp is not
putting the proper voltage on the speaker's terminals -
then all the great qualities that you are ascribing to the
music - are not qualities of the music - because the
musical signal isn't being accurately represented to the
speaker. Once that inaccuracy creeps in - there's nothing
the speaker can do to correct it.
However, you may like what the speaker puts out - you just
have to accept that it, of necessity; it is something
different than what the musician intended; regardless of
how much you may like it.
Dr. Gregory Greenman
Krell is a fine amp for solid state. I believe Boulder would better. Both
represent an old technology. The new fast switching technology is sweeping
acceptable standards set by transistor powered amps aside.
Accuracy doesn't just apply to frequency response. Timbre truth depends on
speed as well. You can't hear a string instrument's full character if subtle
sounds made by twisting of the bow is missing. That comes with speed, and
an amp's ability to fully support the loudest, and softest signals
simultaneously. The H2O has that speed, and separation.
Say, what do you think about parallel universes?
When I say "accuracy"; I don't mean just frequency response.
What I mean by "accuracy" is the shape of the voltage waveform
to the speakers is EXACTLY the same as the voltage waveform
that represents the music.
The frequency response is just the Fourier Transform of this
waveform. However, my definition of "accuracy" is more
detailed than that. In my definition of "accuracy" - the
voltage on the speaker's terminals has to look EXACTLY like
the music it represents.
There are tube amps that can reproduce accurately - depends
on the design and power capacity.
As for parallel universes, I'm afraid I don't delve into
cosmology - think the other end of the spectrum - nuclear
Dr. Gregory Greenman
If it's truly parallel, then how do you know it's there?
A lot of scientists understanding of the cosmos is based on mathematical elegance, and conjecture. Some things, like the aftermath of the Big Bang, can be measured. Gravity can be measured, but the source of this weak force has had scientists stumped. Using a theoretical parallel universe model, gravity makes sense. It ties neatly into other space/time theories too.
NOVA has been running a series on it all:
I got the impression somewhere that you work in the area where I live in the East Bay. You might want to listen to my psuedo mini grand system with gutless amps, and I could listen to your system with Krells. Maybe you will sell me and I will change my system and my impressions, I am always open to a broadening of my horizons. Since the speakers are largely the same, it would be an interesting comparison. E-mail me if you are interested. I could run through 1. pseudo high current solid state cascode JFET class AB (Yamaha RX Z9) about 300 to 400 watts @ 3 ohms/passive crossover 2. Bel Canto 200.2 digital amp about 200 watts @ 3 ohms/ passive crossover 3. ASL Explorer 805 SET (50watts)/ passive crossover and 4. Active crossover with 805 SET on MRT and Bel Canto 200.2 on the bass ribbons.
My listening impressions favor 4,3,2 and 1 in that order although the Yamaha would probably qualify as the most accurate.