Amp Selection for Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Concert Grand


I’ve got a situation where at almost any normal listening level, I get headaches. I’m somewhat prone to headaches from sound anyway, but this is unusual for me - the perceived loudness is around 80dB, but SPL meter at my listening position measures consistently 5-8dB higher than what I would "guess" (and my guesses are usually pretty good). I’ve never experienced an issue where the SPL was much higher than perceived volume.

Current Setup:

I have a pair of the VA-BCG speakers in a 2 channel setup. At present, they’re driven by two wyred4sound mAMPs, and sound great. They’re 4ohm speakers with 91dB sensitivity and these amps are rated 430w RMS for 4ohm. The room is 14x13, 9’ ceilings, and one wall completely open into the foyer. The speakers face that open wall.

The Actual Question:

So, my thought was, perhaps, that the speakers are receiving too much power. I could be completely wrong on this, but just in case I’m not, I was curious if there were any stereo amps along the lines of the Krell Duo 125XD that don’t push such high wattage at 4ohm.

I should note I have no issues with class D amps, I am open to anything that's a good fit for the speakers.

Hello David

I do not know how long you have had your VA-BCG speakers but I feel I can give my opinion. I had the speakers on trial for three weeks and had the same amplification and analogue/digital equipment.
I played our usual multi genre music and, frankly, I had a headache not long into each listening session. My experience was that I lost the bass unless the volume was up, the mid range was like a sonic laser to the ears and the tweeter, reasonable whether driven low or high.
The midrange has to be at the worst roll off-on between bass and tweeter. It is at a very complex musical area and as such s
seems to over compensate by boring sound into your brain.
I changed to Focal Sonos Olympica 3 speakers and these speakers were like a gentle massage.
I do not think an amp change will solve the headaches. Best luck.

Actually I think VA speakers appreciate high current amps - not as much as Dynaudio’s do but they do sing better with high current. They are more sensitive though and can work well with lower powered amps.

If anything my experience with VA BCG speakers are that they are a bit rolled off in the highs.

The mids are nice - not as magical as older Sonus Faber designs or Harbeths but nice in their own way - definitely not laser like as the other reply says. I guess it is system/ room/ break in dependent.

Ayre, Primare and Pass Labs all work well with them from what I have heard in my system.

I've heard Ayre paired very successfully with Vienna Acoustics.  A store owner even drove a pair of Liszts with the 60w integrated, so show it would work.  I've listened to Liszts, Concert and Baby Grands, and for me the Concerts somehow don't have the magic of the other two models.

All that being said, with that sensitivity, you could easily drive them with the Pass XA25--that might well be the cure for your woes.

Distortion/noise usually causes discomfort (listener fatigue).  You have probably heard the saying, you don't know its there till its gone.  A lot of noise comes from the power in your wall feeding your gear and the front end (phono or digital equipment).  

As far as power, try getting rid of any silver or rhodium power cords, interconnects etc.  Just use good clean copper.

As far as the front end, if you stream  or play CD, you have to have something better than a laptop feeding a DAC.  The Power Supply is a noisy mess.   I can't help you much with Vinyl or CD.  I don't know much at all about them. 
Plinius SA-100 in class A drives a pair of VA Baby Beethoven beautifully in a system owned by a member of my local audio society.  Many hours of fatigue free listening.  
Thanks for the recommendations. 

To clarify on my digital setup, I'm running the W4S music server outputting via one of their USB cables into their 10th Anniversary DAC, and their balanced XLR out to the two mAMP monoblocks. Using Tidal, CDs, CD rips, FLACs downloaded online - no change in the headache issue. And I'm confident in the sound quality coming from the sources.

For my analog setup I'm awaiting my SST Ambrosia w/ Phono Stage, right now my Planar 6 is just going into a cheapo $50 phono box from Guitar Center as a placeholder. Same issue with the vinyl - headache within minutes, sometimes seconds. 

I went and auditioned speakers all over Austin yesterday, and given the size of my space and the deal I got, I just grabbed a pair of Revel F206. I generally won't buy the ultra high end stuff (should have mentioned that) unless I get it used - the VA I picked up for $1400 from a guy who just bought some Salon2s (which he got at an insane price as well). I'll have the F206 later this week, had to order in white.

Finally this morning a friend brought over his Pass labs amp (don't recall the model number) and the headache issue was worse than ever. Within 5 seconds, we BOTH had brutal headaches and the feeling of intense pressure in our heads like we were being squeezed. At a volume we both guessed was around 75dB, but measured at 90dB!

I'm considering saving the VA for later when I have a larger space and can better position them. They're fantastic sounding, but I can't cope with this headache situation anymore. I'll update this thread to comment if the F206 fix the issue.