Any SS class A experience to share?

I'm looking to upgrade from my beloved VAC Avatar SE only because I'd like tighter bass. Depth is fine, but I also want "slam". I'm thinking: Tube preamp with a Class A Solid State amp. The VAC is only 30 watts in triode mode and that is more than enough for my efficient JMLab mini utopias, so I'd rather not spend the money on power I don't need. Can anyone out there share their experience with these types of amps, especially when mated to tube preamps such as C-J, VAC, Hovland, Blue Circle, VTL, Asthetix, ...
I'm running a Pass Labs Aleph 5 with a ARC LS-2B modified by Great Northern Sound. The ARC is a hybrid pre using a single 6922 tube. I recently compared my GNS-modded LS-2B directly with my friends stock LS-2B and the difference was profound! Both of us agreed the mod was well worth the $750 (standard mod). But that is off the topic. Class A amps do run hot. My Aleph 5 is not too hot to touch, but you wouldn't like to leave your hand on it for more than 10 seconds or so. They draw full power constantly so they do cost more to run. The Aleph 5 pulls 300 watts continuously. I can ONLY speak about my personal experience with this one single class A amp as most of my audio experience is with tube amps. Of all of the SS I've listened to (and I've listened to $5k amps in comparable systems that are well set-up) the Aleph is the most tube-like SS amp I've ever heard. It pairs off nicely with the ARC and gives a warm, lush sound, and a wide sound stage that actually has some depth as well (most of the SS amps I've heard lack depth when compared to tubes IMO). The Aleph 5 is 60 watts, and does pair off better with higher efficiency speakers. I'm running it now with Silverline SR-17 monitors (GREAT little monitors). At 89db they will let you push them pretty loud, but in a larger space I think I'd like a more efficient speaker to go with them. I don't think this experience is proprietary to all class A SS amps, so YMMV. Hope that helps!
I'm looking to upgrade from my beloved VAC Avatar SE only because I'd like tighter bass. Depth is fine, but I also want "slam". I'm thinking: Tube preamp with a Class A Solid State amp.

Just a question. Where is the hall-mark of quality that only class "A" can give you all of this and "AB" class can not?
Do you think that "AB" class isn't up to the task?
This is just my opinion, but you can loose a lot more than you can gain if you switch without auditioning with your speakers. I think mini utopias are too 'lean' sounding, for my taste, to match them with equaly lean amps. I do not think that ss amp exists, yet, that sounds like a tube amp. But unfortunately there is a plenty of companies that succesfuly made their amps sound like SS (ARC, SF...etc) There is no such a thing as a sure thing, but i would look into Jadis Orchestra integrated amp or any other harmonicaly rich sounding amp. Again, just my opinion!
Spectral DMA-200, class A up to its rating of 200 watts @
8 ohms, 380 watts @ 4 ohms. Does not need MIT cables, but
I recommend them, at least the MI-750 series, low impedance.
It idles at 800 watts, so it uses alot of juice from the
wall to get that 200 watts. The fans can be noisy, so replace if necessary, no heat sinks. Lots of circuit protection and is impervious to short or open circuits, will
only have to replace fuses (mostly). Cost is around $1500
for a used one in 7/8 out of 10. There were a few on A'gon
last month. Superior sound at a fraction cost of new. The
best bargain on the market for a very special amp that is so liquid with very taut bass. I have two and would not part with them for love nor money.
The Forte' model 1A might be an option if you want to keep the price way down and don't need the wattage. This is a Nelson Pass design (50w/ch pure class A). I ran this into Thiel CS1.2's when I got out of college and it worked very well. It certainly isn't anywhere near the quality of a VAC, but it is a very liquid sounding amp for the price.
I've got to second the Pass suggestion, which is a common one for its tube-like liquidity.
More interesting is that I tried to run my Parsifal Encores with a dealer-recommended Avatar a while back. The spectral trampolining it provided was so severe that none of us could believe it! I finally got out the old RS SPL and carefully measured upper bass and low-treble huge peaks, and a VERY rolled off top octave. Horns were unlistenable!
VAC simply responded that the EL84 (?) is commonly non-linear (even in a well-behaved load like the Verity's!), and that I should try their $9000 monos. I tried Acurus, Krell, NAD Silver, and other SS brittle crap (but at least they were linear!), and found nirvana with a pair of Aleph 2 monos (mono version of the 5 mentioned above: 100/160 8/4, 300w idle EACH!). And YES, there is magic with all Class A. I also use a small portable Class A mic preamp from GRACE that is astonishing in its purity and grace.
It's the Class A more than the tubes, IMO....
Though I don't feel I have personal experience with anything to recommend here, I do notice that many of the respondents seem to be focusing on the class-A request and the fact that Duddley uses tube power now to recommend 'tube-like' gear such as the Alephs, when what he's asking for is bass slam. Class-A or not, at least when it comes to the smaller models such as Duddley seems to want, I don't recall the single-ended Alephs as being noted for their slam.
There's ahuge difference between the well-known bass-shy Aleph 30w 3 and the larger ones. A 12AWG PC helps, too.
As far as bass slam with the Aleph 5; I don't know if I can comment as of yet. The Aleph 5 is a new amp for me (as of about a week ago). I've been running it thus far with the SR17 monitors which don't get down below 40mhz. I also can't comment on the Aleph 3/30 comparison that Subaruguru mentions, since I have not either of those amps. Though the SR17's have a remarkably tight low end for such small boxes, I cannot say I'd equate the effect to that classic SS bass slam that hits you in the chest (not really fair to expect that from a small monitor though). I'd be curious to hear more comments on this (Suabru?) since I've not tried the Aleph 5 with bigger speakers yet. Maybe I'll bring it home and hook it up to my La Scala's! One additional comment I can make regarding Class A, as it pertains to my Aleph 5: They most definitely sound better, and more refined as they get hotter. 1 hour minimum, but many folks leave their class-A's running 24/7 and claim they sound best that way (after a few days running). I haven't really been able to tell the difference past two hours (it sounds great at that point) to two days (sounds the same to me as two hours, as far as I can tell, though my listening has not been so deleberate to really make a really critical judgement), so I save the power and shut them down when I know I won't be listening for a while (the Aleph is in my work system, so it shuts down on weekends). If I heard this amp blind I would NEVER guess I was listening to an SS amp (I would guess tubes or hybrid).
From personal experience of pairings with the Mini Utopia:
* Spectral could be an option
* YBA Passion (stereo)
* Symphonic Line Kraft 250A (the best bass "slam")
* Plinius (the newer model -- SA100?)
1) do try auditioning; the Minis are nice speakers (IMO), musical & precise, however I never found them "lush" or forgiving and their bass wasn't designed to go down very far.
2) check for low input impedance (i.e. matching) on these power amps: for example, the Kraft's input impedance is ~10kOhm.
3) Kraft, Spectral & others are wide bandwidth, and will amplify spurious info which in turn will probably be reproduced by your focal tweet!

Good luck!
Been through a lot of SS amps and I keep coming back to those that are biased deep into class A. I've heard some very good low bias class A/B amps of recent vintage, some of which are excellent deals (like the Citation 7.1), but the class A amps all seem to share certain fundamental traits that involve me much more readily in the music(...other than acting as space heaters, which, in my basement listening room, they are quite good at):

1. A certain ease of presentation.

2. A coherent quality

3. Tactile midrange, especially with female vocals.

4. Truth of timbre

5. Dynamic agility, sneaky fast. They just seem more real with all the small dynamic, ebb and flow stuff you hear in live music. To me, this is their most arresting quality, which they retain even at low listening levels.

Amps which do it for me :

Forte 1a & 4a

Monarchy SE-100 & SM-70

Most Llano amps

Reference Line Silver Signature (my all time favorite SS amp, has all the qualities above in spades. Makes most other amps, tubes included, sound a bit mechanical).

Just my experience.
'53, nice post (I'm 1952!).
I've been leaving my Aleph 2 monos (600w idle total) on all this week (it's 10F outside!), and am starting to agree that these thirsty non-PC hounds DO sound clearer ion the top octaves after at least 2 days.
I too routinely provided an hour or two warm-up, as clarity, slam, and extension improvements were easily noticed. After having decided to sell my Discovery essence XLR and keep my newish SPM instead, even though I feared the SPM was a little TOO revealing of junk up top, I now notice that the presentation after LONG warmup is astonishingly good with the SPM. NO top octaves slight edge that required the Essence previously. It's too bad that the SPM requires that I continue to pay for its performance by warming the big guns all the time. Strange synergies and parasitic relationships pop up in this noble hobby of ours, eh?
Hi Dud,

Last month, I auditioned many solid state amps in an effort to replace my ARC CA50. My purpose was to simplify ergonomics and lowering maintenance without sacrifice to sound quality.

I narrowed down to two amps, Aleph 3 and Gaincard. Currently, I am favoring the Gaincard. With the Aleph, I am using a digital preamp between the transport and dac.

Speakers I am using are KEF 103/4, Tannoy DMT10 and a pair of Silverline is on the way.
Hey Viggen, I recall that thread...are you still messin' round?! Which Silverlines are you getting? I recently got an Aleph 5 for my work system and am pretty amazed at how tube-like the sound is. It's not tubes, but it has its own nice qualities that makes up for what it is lacking. Still, when I get home to those SET's I am back in heaven! I must say the Aleph is really impressing me though! Never heard SS sound so good. I'm running it through Silverline SR-17's and that combination is like liquid butter! I'd like a bit more efficiency from the speakers if I were in a larger space though. For small spaces I couldn't ask for more.
Viggen, Do the Aleph 3 and Gaincard sound similar?
Hey Jax,

What front ends and cables are you using in your work system? I got the SR 11 to match with the Gaincard actually. I am really leaning towards the Gaincard and thought to tinker with the rest of my system around it. But, good thing I didn't sell the Aleph yet, as you seem to like the aleph/sr combo very much.

But, I do think the Gaincard is superior to the Aleph in every conceivable way. And, I do believe the Gaincard can be even improved with better front end, whereas, the Aleph isn't as dependent in terms of what components are upstream. The Aleph will throw similarly wide soundstage with mellow midrange with any cd player. This answers your question, Bud?

I read in Audioasylum that the gaincard is a mix between a Naim and a SET amp. I've never heard either. But, from what I read about Naim and SET, I would have to disagree. I think the gaincard is like a Naim and SET low/hi-biwired.
Catch my drift?
Hi Viggen- the work system is pretty plain: Rega Planet 2000 on the front end. Cables are mostly silver. Stealth CWS IC's and DH Labs Q-10 Speaker cables. The DH Labs are outright bargains and I use them on the home system as well. The Aleph 5 is 60 wpc, so is essentially twice the power of your Aleph 3, so I cannot say that our experiences will be identical, but I take it the essential charachter of the two amps are quite similar sonicly. Can't comment on the SR-11 either as I haven't heard it and it is an altogether different speaker than the SR17. I went to a monitor speaker because I will likely have to move the system into my office (a smaller room). But it is currently running in 1200 SF with 11 foot ceilings and I find myself yearning for a bit more punch from the speakers at times. The combination is really smooth though, and quite musical. I may sell the SR17's to go back to the horn speakers I so love in my home system. I wonder how the Aleph would sound with horns. SS and horns is a combination I normally would reject on principal, but having heard what the Aleph does with the SR-17's it has me very curious.
Hey Jax,
Actually the SR11 and SR17 are almost identical speakers. 11 have 1" tweet and 4" mids, 17 has 1.5" tweet and 6" mids. And the SR17 cabinet is slightly larger but shaped identically. From impressions that I gathered from internet research, the SR11 images better but SR17 has better bass. And, the SR11 has lower speaker sensitivity. Also, the Aleph3 is supposed to have a better midrange, whereas, the Aleph5, again, has better bass. Regarding horns, I hear Gaincard really excel with those too... heh.
Well Viggen, you are right about one thing, the bass on the SR17's is utterly amazing, and I'd never believe it was possible to get that kind of bass from such small enclosures if I weren't hearing it with my own ears. As far as your comparing it to the SR-11, I'd have to say that I doubt very much that comparing the two would be fare. The SR17 uses two Dynaudio drivers and has a claimed range down to 38hz (though I'd say 40 was more accurate). The SR-17's are the top of the same manufacturers monitor line while the SR-11's are one from the bottom and almost half the price. If this were two different manufacturers I'd say that didn't matter at all, but for the same manufacturer to outdo their top-of-the-line monitor speaker with their bottom-of-the-line monitor would be pretty self-defeating. I could see that if time had passed and technology had progressed, but this is the same current crop of speakers we're talking about. I cannot comment by direct experience of the SR11, but the two reviews I could find were mixed. My general understanding of Silverline products, and direct experience with the SR17, is that Alan Yun puts out some fabulous products at bargain prices, so I have no doubt that the SR11 is a fine performer in it's class. As far as imaging goes, again, my experience of the SR17's is STELLAR in that department as well. They are absolutely one of the most transparent speakers I have ever heard. We're talking Casper the Friendly Ghost here!! Soundstage is wide and deep and precise (even more so with tubes). I'd not heard anything in my research that would support your comparison of the Aleph 3 vs Aleph 5 either, but again, I have not heard the two side-by-side.
Yup, it's pointless to refute any points being brought up currently since neither of us has directly compared the two aleph amps and the two silverline speakers.

I will attempt to contact alan yun just because I too am curious to what one is getting for the extra $1000 besides larger cabinet, larger dynaudio drivers, and a slightly different cross-over between the 11 and 17.

Regarding the differences between the alephs, I've talked to people who has owned both amps including the guy who sold me my aleph 3.
I have decided to upgrade to the VAC Avatar Super. This is a new, and extensive upgrade. See if you'd like to know more about this integrated. In the end, I did not want to put up with the heat of class A's or the expense of seperates - yet, anyway.

Thanks, everyone, for your advice and suggestions. I'll be sure to post my impressions of this unit once it burns in.
It's hard to go wrong with tubes Dudley! Looking forward to your post burn-in evaluation!

Viggen; Alan Yun should be easy to reach and I've found him to be very responsive. Your original comments on the similarity of the SR17 to the SR11 strikes me as something that might have been in the SR11 review on the Silverline site the compares the SR11 to the SR15. Regardless, if you are interested in researching the SR17 I still have my list of URL's for reviews for the SR17 from my own research:

As to the Aleph question, I take heresay with a healthy grain of salt, and a big-ass bag of salt if someone is trying to sell me something. That's not to say the folks you spoke to are necessarily off-base. I'd guess you probably agree, with all the buying/selling and testing gear in your own space with your own ears that you've done recently. If you can afford the time and expense of doing that kind of extensive auditioning, there is no better way to evaluate a component than that IMO!
I don't know why you would find it hard to believe that the SR17 and SR11 have more similarities than dissimilarities.

This conversation falls under the category of "slippery slope."
Well, perhaps I'm not communicating as clearly as I could. I certainly believe that these two monitor speakers made by the same manufacturer may be similar in some ways, and in this case, the designer being Alan Yun, I'd guess that we have two outstanding products for their price point. But for me to believe that the two speakers in question actually performed similarly overall, I would have to believe Alan Yun to be a poor businessman, and I don't believe that to be the case. The one monitor is almost twice the price of the other. If I were to give you another example that puts the conversation in an different arena: I'm no big fan of cars myself, and prefer to move around on two wheels whenever possible, but for the sake of our slippery slope, let me use cars. Volkswagen makes a Passat with a 4-cylinder and with a more powerful 6-cylinder engine. Yes, I would guess that both versions of the Passat had many similarities. I would also guess that, given the choice, I would rather drive the 6-cylinder version every time. It's not to say the 4 is not a good choice...I'd just prefer the extra performance. Now for me to try to believe that Volkswagen would try to market those two cars at vastly different price points (and in the case of the cars it is closer than the speakers), and not have the more expensive vehicle offer something that they believe most folks who had the choice would pay the extra money for, I'd have to think that Volkswagen was off it's rocker! To compare the performance of the 4-cylinder with the 6-cylinder would not be a fare comparison, and that was the original point I was tryng to make about the two monitors.

I think beyond that, that we'll have to have this conversation again once the two of us hear both monitors side-by-side and make and can form a more informed opinion based upon direct experience.

...till then...