I had the Talon Firebirds before and also had a hard time matching amplifiers with them. I ended up using a Krell 400Mx. By far this amp get the most out of the Talon. I hope that helps.
I would try to audition a Halcro MC20. It has the lowest noise floor of any amp I have ever heard. It's very dynamic and has loads of power. It took about 6 weeks to burn in, but now it sounds very very good. (it was thin at first, not very enjoyable, I almost sent it back). I have three other audiophile friends that felt the same way at first, but now all three of us are very impressed with this amp.
I can't comment about it being paired with any totem speakers but I did hear it with Merlins, James, Intuitive Design and NHT and it drove them all with out a sweat.
I think the 23.5 is an excellent choice. I've used my Hawks with Ref 20.0, Classe 10, and VAC aurical. The ref 20 is the best SS I've heard with it. The Krell makes sense for the Firebirds because it has a higher damping factor, which is not needed for the Hawks. I really like the VAC (the new model is the musicbloc 90).
I'm now using the VAC musicbloc 160 with Hawks (and Firebirds). This is an amazing amp. I was extremely happy with the Auricle amps, but what VAC has done in the musicbloc 160s is really special. I'm hearing twice the depth in soundstage and before the auricles already had more depth than any solid state amp. The only downside to the musicblocs---they are not inexpensive. Definitely worth an audition if it's within your means.
I've had a few people now suggest the VAC amp and, indeed, Mark Farnsworth had originally told me that he favours valve amplification with the Hawks. However, I am more inclined to move for a ss amp: partly due to the fact that I have a front end (Townshend Supatweeters, Talon Hawk monitors with Velodyne DD12 subs - all in stereo) that is very sensitive to the frequency extremes and can bring out issues with tube amps.
In fact, I sold my earlier Audio Research VT200 MKII, Conrad Johnson Prem 8a and have rejected various other options that have spent some time in my set up. These include classics such as the Leak ST60, Leak 12.1, Atmasphere MA1, Plinius etc.
Given all this, could you suggest the strengths that I am likely to hear with the VAC in toe?
Many thanks for all of your very helpful contributions to date.
Imaging and depth will improve with the VAC. It's just a really excellent combination. In many respects I almost feel like the speaker and amps were made for each other. I'm currently enjoying the Musicblocs on a pair of Firebirds. As to frequency extremes--well the Hawks don't go that low anyway. 30 Hz is about their limit--so the sub amp will be handling the lower extreme. As to the high end with the super tweeters, I doubt I can hear above 20kHz any more so I doubt I can make a very good assessment.
Many thanks Rives. I'll give it a go with the Musicblocs as soon I can arrange to audition a set. Concerning the super tweeters, I also sympathise/suffer with the effects of age but still suspect you'd hear the difference in a number of areas but am certain that female vocals and general imaging will be the most notable. If you have a chance, give them a bash - and thanks again.
Thanks to all respondents, however I have now sorted my apparent problems in driving the Talons and they are singing like the proverbial lark. I managed this with a different system change that has meant that the Levinson/Hawk combination seems to have been made in heaven. I've actually posted a review of how this all came about at http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?rprea&1187459855&openusid&zzDgob&4&5. Thanks, again though for all of your kind assistance and suggestions.
I just have to let you all know of a recent discovery that has me very excited. By happy coincidence, I recently had the opportunity to try the Talons on the Escalante Hoodooh stands. This transformed by Talons into a whole new beast: better dynamics, frequency range, detail and overall realism. I am not certain why this major transformation came about with my move from the former Partington Broadside stands but, filled with sand, the Hoodoohs should be consider a must hear when it comes to the Talons.
I now play the Talons with an external cross-over in my modified Levinson 23.5 amp and have everything below 70Hz managed by the integrated Velodyne DD12 subs - run in stereo. The sound is just real music and you actually see and hear the musicians in all their splendour in your listening area. The subs need to be isolated from the floor on which the rest of your equipment stands (I used Audio Technica pneumatic footers for this) and you will be amazed at what this combination does. For Hoodooh think Voodoo - just magic.
Give it a go if you can.
Stands make a huge difference. Why that stand with that speaker--I don't know, but we did make some changes to the Hawks so that the new ones are threaded and can be bolted to the new stand. This does improve the sound, but also makes it less likely that they could get tipped over.
Glad you are enjoying it.
I see they use the Accuton drive units. I have used the Bel Canto Ref 1000's on them, But the best amps I have used on those drivers are the MSB M200's. I just used them with the Marten Miles III at the recent Heathrow Hifi Show to very good effect. I have a customer who I sold an AR VT200 which went very well with the Talons. I would think the new Thorens amps or the Jef Rowland amps would be a nice match. But In my experience I beleive the MSB M200's to be the perfect partner.
Sorry for getting back to you so late. The Talon/VAC combo as Rives mentioned, the imagaging and depth are outstanding. The two were truely meant for each other. I remember visting over 35 rooms that day at ces, and the room that stood out most was this room. There were several silky sounding rooms at the show but I think what drew me into the music with this room even more so was the 3d imagaing. The air that floated around each instrument and placement of each entertainer on stage was chilling. Those VAC Amps are out of my league as for budget, but after talking to VAC CEO Kevin Hayes, he mentioned that i needed to hear the music blocs 160 too. He mentioned that they also do very special things in sound. All in all i don't think you can go wrong with this combination of equipment. Personally I could listen for hours and hours with all types of Jazz and classical.
Many thanks but I really think that the Talon/Hoodoh/Levinson/velodyne combination - as driven by my Essential 3160 line/phonostage - gives me live music/performances in my listening room. I cannot put into (a few) words what this all means but there are Audiogon threads about using Subs in stereo that give a pointer to what this all means but to hear it is to find an end point in my search: it is that good and realistic.
thanks for your suggestion but I sold my Audio Research VT200 MKII for the Levinson 23.5. It is in another league for presenting a natural realism across the full acoustic range (I think there are various review threads online if your input "Levinson 23.5 reviews" on Google you should get an idea of the case as it sounds to me). I've since had it modified with Eichmann cablepod inputs, new higher grade bipolar resistors and a modified internal crossover point at 70Hz (the mentioned sub threads rehearse some of the advantages that this affords the monitors - my Talons in this case).
I am not certain if the new stands might make the same difference as I have not had a chance to hear them. However, the details and realism from placing them on the Hoodoohs was simply frightening. I could shout the strengths of the Talons from the roof tops and believe me I have searched long and hard to bring live performances into my personal space. Although my Hawks are the old model, in my particular set up I do not believe they can be outperformed by other speakers REGARDLESS of price.
I still hope to continue this dialogue but hope others try experimenting with them and stands, integrated subs and amplifier should not be underestimated.
In joy and music
Just to say, on the sub/monitor issue, you might want to give a close read to the various positive cases presented at http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?eanlg&1117893153&read&keyw&zzintegrated+subs.
The Google search on the Levinson should afford you the perspectives of actual users and I find the consistency of opinion interesting.
Just in case
It sounds like a really good system you have honed together. If it sounds better than the VAC/Talon system i heard, I would love to hear it. I can attest to the levinson sound too although never heard the combination you are refering to. Levinson is the reason i started to follow and become an audiophile about 10 years ago. I was a home theater fanatic and still love a nice home theater but when i visited Audio FX in Sacramento way back when, I was floored by the sound coming from the Levinson/Dynaudio C-5. I think the cut was take me to the river cant remember the group. Right then i knew i had to have one of those!!
All in all, Im glad you have found something that gets you closer to the holy grail of sound. Happy Listening.
I have both Levinson Ref 20 and VAC 160 musicblocs. With the Hawks there is no comparison--the Musicbloc is awesome. I'm also using a Navison 572 monoblocks with an older pair of Hawks. These amps have little bass, which is fine with me and would be fine if you were using a sub (I'm not in this set up). The Navison's are considerably less expensive than the VAC amps. They are also less power--only 8 watts I believe, which in my application is more than enough. It's an office system and I don't play loudly there. The Navison has a wonderful open midrange. Probably not as low in distortion, but just very musical and enjoyable to listen to.
As to the stands--the older models do not have the threads for the stands, so I probably wouldn't really recommend the Wings stand for older Hawks. What you have is probably a great choice--sounds like it from your description.
I see your point but think that the 23.5 and old Ref 20 are not really the same beast. Have you seen the brief comparison at http://www.stereophile.com/solidpreamps/606/index9.html?
Thanks again. I am very happy with it but no doubt will continue to tinker as is our way. On the sub issue, if you check the Audiogon link cited about and look at the article by R. L. Hardesty cited by Rauliruegas on the second page of the thread you can see how the Hawks can supercede expectations.
Dear Rives: IMHO if one amplifier is better than other with a specific speaker has to be/see ( between other things ) how good that amplifier match the speaker electrical impedance and for other way what the person is looking for: just sound or music.
I never had the opportunity to hear the Dgob system but I have almost clear what he are looking for ( music priorities ) and something that he wants to achieve is to be nearest to the recording.
I really like the Talons, as a fact time ago I recomended to Dgob stay with it and not change it.
Now and returning on subject as good as the VAC amplifiers are IMHO and due to its high output impedance anything that we hear/heard through it and the Talons will be " heavy colored sound " very far from what is in the recording, you can like it ( like you did/do and I respect that. ) or not but the fact is that that amplifiers can't be a good match ( for music ) not only to the Hawks but to other speakers.
In the other hand the 23.5 that own Dgob is a lot better match than the VACs.
Another subject that you have to know is that the 23.5 ( that own Dgob ) is a unique ML amplifier that has a very nice and unique up-grade that puts it in other quality performance level and IMHO above the VACs, the 23.5 give to Dgob music and music nearest to the recording with a lot lesser " distotions/colorations/noises/etc/etc " than the VACS.
Maybe I wrong but we can't change the Ohm's Law about impedance matching between the amp and speaker.
Now, mi opinion is only that just one more opinion, the important opinion is what Dgob thinks.
Regards and enjoy the music.
You are right about Ohm's law, but you probably know very little about Talon speakers impedance curve. They are about the flatest in the industry which makes them so easy to drive by many tube amplifiers. The max impedance is around 14 Ohms and the minimum is around 4. A nominal impedance of 6 ohms. The VAC is a perfect match for the Talons. We show with VAC regularly--why? Because it's such a great match. I have owned Levinson, reference 20.5 and 20.0 (still own these). I have compared them with the Talon speakers to the VAC directly on Hawks, Thunderhawks, and Firebirds. The VAC is better with all three speakers. This is not to say the 23.5 is a bad match--it's a great amp and will sound great with many speakers. Now I have also tested the VAC with my Martin Logan monoliths, which go down to about 1/2 an ohm. In this case the Levinsons were surperior. The VAC did not handle this very low impedance as well.
Dear Rives: The Talon electrical impedance swing goes from 4 Ohms to 14 Ohm, IMHO this is not the flatest one but I respect your point of view about.
Now, the VACs high output impedance ( this is a Vac design signature: unfortunatelly. ) makes that instead that to achieve a flat frequency response the VACs give a non-flat frequency response with deviation of more than ( plus-minus ) 2-3 dbs in random way and according that speaker impedance curve, this means: distortions and colorations because in some frequency range the VACs gives more volume and in other frequency ranges gives lowe volume, all those random changes in the volume ( SPL ) makes that the sound reproduction stay very far from the recording ( because those VACs changes does not exist in the recording ) where the Dgob 23.5 is nearer to the recording.
I know that you like what you hear through the VACs but does not means that it is correct ( for say the least ). I have a great respect and love for the music and I like to hear what is in the recording with the lower distortion/coloration/noises and the like, I'm not saying that I like cold or lean presentation no I like music ( the natural " colors " and tonal balance of music ), that's all.
Anyway, your music sound reproduction priorities are clear ( very clear ) that are different from mine and from the Dgob ones and its ok ( it will be boring if everybody thinks the same in the same way ) if you are satisfied ( that I think you are ) with what you have and your believes.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I have the Firebirds. Same as the Hawk but with an 11 inch wolfer. Right now I'm using the Lamm 1.2 Ref. mono's. An excellent combo. I also own a Gryphon Encore which is also excellent with the birds. I used to own the parasound JC 1's and they too were excellent. In fact Mike Farnsworth was at my house when I was running them and he liked the sound so much that he talked me into selling them to him. Wish I still had them.
After Farnsworth upgraded my crossover, the Firebirds are almost a straight 8 Ohm load. Not dropping below 6 Ohm. The original crossover went from 4 to 8 Ohm. I haven't checked the Hawk's impedance but 4 to 14 Ohm doesn't sound right. Maybe Rives can clarify.