My friend tried that exact system.
He currently used an Audiomat intergrated tube amp.
(FWIW, it has a very nice sound and it seems to have more power than it is rated for.) He has B&W speakers, CDM7's (or something like that) and they sound pretty good too. He then tried the Equation speakers and they give a nice presence to the music, more so than the B&W speakers. However, they lacked quite a bit of bass response, so much so, that my friend went back to the B&W speakers.
Hope that helps. (If you want, you can email me, and I can forward your message to him, assuming he does not read this for himself.)
I think that getting the Audiomat is a good choice, sonically speaking anyway. (I have heard reports of them not being as reliable as they should be, and that their US distributer is not very sympathetic or helpful. That is strictly what I have read on the boards, so take that with a grain of salt.) The Thiels can be a little bright, but a tube amp should tame that, IMHO.
I considered buying an Audiomat amp because they are supposed to be quite good but decided against it because of a reported incident of the importer. The word used by my friend was not repeatable here...
I would go with an Audio Note Soro SE integrated amp like I did, 18 incredibly robust watts with amazing sound for about $1200 - $1500 used - with phono available.
I have owned both the Audiomat Arpege and the Equation 25 speakers (but not at the same time). My two cents...
The Arpege is a nice clean sounding amp, but fairly weak bass, and lacked 'grip' with most speakers I used it with. Replaced it with a ASL AQ1001DT- a much more enjoyable and cheap amp. Recently I have been using the PrimaLuna Prologue 1- an EL34 integrated like the Audiomat amps. The PrimaLuna is just as fast and clean as the Audiomat, but with much better bass, drive, and a bit of midrange warmth lacking in the Arpege. Personally, I would take the Primaluna or the ASL any day over the Arpege for sonics (must admit the Audiomat amps are much better looking). I have not heard the Prelude and is probably a better amp, but is a lot more expensive.
As to the Equation 25 speaker. They use high quality drivers, well made cabinets, and are voiced for speed and detail- not warm laid back speakers. Also, they are capable of very accurate deep bass. I found these speakers had a lot of potential, but not quite to my taste. My solution has been to use them in a DEQX based system. The DEQX preamp uses DSP to correct speaker frequency response, driver time alignment and phase, as well as performs digital room correction. My amps are Granite Audio tube monoblocks. The DEQX corrected Equation speakers are a whole different animal- just the right balance of speed, detail, warmth, and deep coherent bass. The DEQX is the real deal.
There should be many threads on Thiels and tubes in the archives- may not be the easiest speakers to drive with tubes. Many less expensive tube/speaker combinations that would probably be more satisfying than the Equation/Audiomat gear. Fine equipment, but requires a lot of time and effort to get the best out of it.
I have owned both the Arpege and the prelude, the prelude is in a class of its own, while the Arpege is still a very nice sounding amp, the prelude has ALOT more power and very fast tight bass.
As for the North American distributer (Mutine)
I ordered a new set of tubes, on a Monday and received the tubes on a Wednesday.
I must mention that they where slow responding to emails.
I was driving a pair of focus audio fs688 that run at 85db with no problem and by far the best sound out of all the intergrated and separates I have owned
(sim audio I-5, I-5 LE, P5/W5 combo and the DK vs-1 MK II
You will need more power for the Thiel speakers than these amps provide if my experience with the 2.2 and 3.5 speakers have any relevance. The Audio Note P2SE could not work well at all with the 2.2 Thiels.
Being a previous owner, I would stay away from anything Audiomat and Equation for the following reasons:
1. The amps are good, but overly pricey - you can do better for much less money.
2. Weak bass.
3. Two weeks from Mutine to answer e-mails, no help whatsoever if you buy your amp used, even if you offer to pay for service.
4. A very confidential and almost non-existent dealer network (most have left or are thinking to leave) , yet the distributor frequently admits to being ''overloaded'' with demand...his reason for not having the time to respond quickly....sure.
5. Try to find anything written on the Equation 25 speaker aside from that lone review....nothing, nada, zip. It's like this is a ghost speaker. If its that good, surely, something else can be found other than the self-congratulatory comments on Mutine's own website.
6. Low resale value. A Sim Audio I-5 sounds much worse, but will sell in a week. An Audiomat?....took me 3 months to sell mine at a ridiculous discount.
In case you need more reasons e-mail me !
I'd agree the Audiomat Arpege has issues with the bass and a treble that tends to roll off, but this thing MAKES MUSIC, which is more than I can say for the majority of solid-state and digital amps I've auditioned in the last few years... The midrange is truly superb and almost makes up for its shortcomings.
Haven't heard the Prelude, but the top dog Opera is in another class altogether: fully class A topology, high-grade parts throughout, superb build quality, with high-quality O/P trannies that represent a large proportion of its admittedly elevated cost. It's BY FAR the best amp I've heard in my system and supremely musical yet accurate.
I've compared it to the likes of:
Pathos new Classic One
Bel Canto eVo2i
DK Designs VS1-1
Bent TVC / Bryston 3B-SST
Bent TVC / Audio Research 100.2
Bent TVC / Threshold S-5000e
Bent TVC / ICE H20 digital
PSA PCA-2 / HCA-2
Audiomat Arpege Reference
The Audiomat gear alone made MUSIC in my system.
I posted a thread asking "what power cord for the prelude"
The only reponse I got was from the individual that reveiwed the Arpege for soundstage a while back...In his words:
I reviewed the Arpege for SoundStage! and later sold the Audiomat line in my part-time shop. The Prelude is my favorite amp of the lot. As far as power cords go, I really liked the Custom Power Cord Company Top Gun HCFi. I thought there was excellent synergy between the Audiomat and the HCFi. I haven't heard the Elrod with them though
I have not had any problem with week bass on the Prelude
The Arpege is another story
F1a, MOST quality tube amps make better music than MOST solid state or digital amps, so this is no real special credit to the Arpege. Audiomats are fine amps. I just think you can do better for the price, and MUCH better in the peace of mind department as far as service from the importer or dealer (remember,most Audiomat dealers don't keep the line for too long).
You mention that the Prelude and Opera beats the Pathos, well, I hope so at over twice the price ! I think this says more about the Pathos than it says about the Audiomat...Consider the low resale value for such high-priced equipment and the Audiomat just isn't a good deal. However, if you are sure to keep the gear for the long haul,(right) resale value is not an issue.
I had the Arpege for three years. Worked great always. NOS Mullards on the input tubes brought out killer mid range. Lows and highs were OK. Sold the amp for what I paid for it in a week. Only sold it to upgrade to VAC and Audio Research seperates. I am a satisfied customer.
I own an Audiomat Prelude. With the Vecteur L4.2 cdp, driving B&W N803s. On paper may not be the best match, because the B&Ws are current hungry, but the 30wpc tube amp drives the speakers amazingly well. The system has musicality and magic. When and if circumstances permit, I may well upgrade to the Equation speakers. I heard the 35s recently for a brief while and they are mighty good.
For Thiels I would suggest checking out a more powerful VTL triode tubed amp.