I think the VTL are a bit warmer than the ARC and maybe a little more open on top. MB185 vrs a vt100. You also have the triode/tetrode switching with the VTL which is not available, to my knowledge, with the ARC. Triode opens a whole nother can of worms. I really like the VTLs and would love to upgrade to a 450 but if i had to live with a VT100 no worries.
Hi hifi....it would be helpful to list your speakers and approximate room size. or maybe at least an idea of some speaker choices. the Atmasphere MA1 has some sonic attributes that i prefer generally to the ARC and VTL.....but is quite affected by speaker and room size choices.
that said, Piezo has it right. in general, the VTL has a somewhat traditional 'tube-like' warmth.....just not too much of it. it is more like a tone control. the ARC is more neutral.....even slightly dry to some tastes.....but big and bloomy sounding but without added warmth.....except maybe in direct comparison with ss. some ARC's seem to have a slight 'veiling' or 'greyness' to them......but i don't always hear that from them. bass performance is a strength of both the VTL and ARC.....the ARC seems to be slightly more neutral thru the mid-bass (which i prefer).
personally, i prefer the clarity and more neutral approach of the Atmasphere......but it needs the right speaker and reasonable sized room to really be comfortable. the ARC and VTL have distinctive signatures.....the Atmasphere is really about getting out of the way of things.
all three of these amps are excellent.
A agree with Mike's comments, point-for-point. I would only add that, with compatible speakers (which are many), the Atma-Sphere MA-1 and MA-2 amps have incredible bass authority and impact.
Hi, I appreciate the responses. Ok, here's my target: Sound Lab M-3s or maybe M-2s; the room size is marginal; about 18 long x 12 wide by 10 high. I think I can get each speaker within 1-2 feet of the side walls and about 4-5 feet out from the back wall - which would create an arrangement and allow for a seating position that pretty much conforms to the recommendations on the Cardas web site (which I've found to a useful). I'd prefer the M-2s, but they might be just a bit imposing given the room size; I think the M-3s might feel a little more comfortable in a room this size, but I'm concerned about getting enough low end. So, the low end in amp performance will be particularly important if I go with the M-3s, but overall deluxe sound is important with either the M-3s or the M-2s. I have a hunch that ARC, Atma-Sphere and VTL can all make Sound Labs sound very good. I've heard lots of ARC amps including an ARC amp driving Sound Lab U-1s in a system that was exquisite top to bottom. I'm less much familiar with Atma-Sphere and VTL, but I have a hunch either the MA-1 or the MB-450 would be excellent; so we're just fine tuning I suspect - but hey, that's what this gets to be about. I also have a theory that the Zero Autoformers might have a role to play.
Also, my experience is that ARC's service is somewhere between excellent and perfect (I've been an ARC customer for many years, so it isn't even clear to me I want to switch; I think ARC is a great company that makes great products.); I'd be up for hearing about the service from Atma-Sphere and VTL. My impression is that they must be reasonably good to have been in business a fairly long time themselves so it's primarily a decision based on sonics, but any service input would be good too. (I'm still going to be an ARC customer even if I try the VTL or Atma-Sphere models so this isn't about manufacturer loyalty, it's just a matter of trying to optimize one system.)
Well, I was trying not to get this too specific, but there you have it. Any feedback comparing the amps from these three manufacturers would be appreciated and any feedback from people who have actually heard 2 or 3 of the three on the same speakers would be highly appreciated..
Hi_hifi, I'll try to offer a little advice and encouragement on your intended system, since I own Sound Lab U-1s and am a Sound Lab dealer located in the Chicago area.
First of all, hats off to you on an excellent choice of speakers! (grains of salt all around) In your room either speaker would work. M-2s are easier to drive than M-3s, and it's unlikely you'll be wanting for bass augmentation especially if you go with the M-3s. One person I know has Auras (which use similar size panels as M-3s) supplemented by a subwoofer in a room about the size of yours, although a pair of Sound Lab U-2s (same size panels) in an 11'x12' room about 2 1/2 to 3 feet out from the corners sounded quite good as well as in a slightly larger room. Although the frequency response specifications for both the M-2 and M-3 are similar enough, in-room response is different depending upon natural room reinforcement, which in turn depends upon the room size and acoustics. Another thing to consider is the horizontal radiation pattern, 60 degrees on the M-3 vs. 75 degrees on the M-2. The M-2 may prove to be more tonally rich and full bodied than the M-3, to an extent determined by the room. In your room I think you'd hear it. At the same time it's good to have room for the speakers to breathe, and in smaller rooms the smaller speakers may image better.
As for amplifier choices, I have experience with Atma-Sphere MA-1s driving my U-1s. Especially on the current production speakers which enjoy a significant efficiency improvement, the MA-1s should easily be able to drive either the M-2s or M-3s well. Zero autoformers may be worth considering to raise the effective impedance, especially if you go with M-3s, although one of my customers didn't like the Zeros with his M-2s and MA-1s, finding them veiled. I can't speak about how well ARC amps match up with the current production Sound Labs, but only the REF models, especially the REF600s (one of my customers uses them to drive his U-1s), were capable of driving Sound Labs satisfyingly until recently. The VT200 and VT100 now may be capable of driving them. The bigger VTLs seem to be a good match, as Albert Porter reports that his VTL 750s drive his U-1s quite well, so the 450s may be worth checking out and ought to be tons of power for the newer production Sound Labs.
If you're in or plan to visit the Chicago area sometime and would like to come for a listen, including some of the above amplifier choices and perhaps others, let me know and be my guest. Meanwhile, feel free to pick my brain for what little is there. Always glad to help. Best of luck!
Brian, thanks for the reply; it's always good to get both info and encouragement :).
I've read your paragraph below several times, but I'm not sure if I understand it fully.
- Are you saying that the M-3s will or will not have sufficient bass in a 18x12 room?
"First of all, hats off to you on an excellent choice of speakers! (grains of salt all around) In your room either speaker would work. M-2s are easier to drive than M-3s, and it's unlikely you'll be wanting for bass augmentation especially if you go with the M-3s. One person I know has Auras (which use similar size panels as M-3s) supplemented by a subwoofer in a room about the size of yours, although a pair of Sound Lab U-2s (same size panels) in an 11'x12' room about 2 1/2 to 3 feet out from the corners sounded quite good as well as in a slightly larger room. Although the frequency response specifications for both the M-2 and M-3 are similar enough, in-room response is different depending upon natural room reinforcement, which in turn depends upon the room size and acoustics. Another thing to consider is the horizontal radiation pattern, 60 degrees on the M-3 vs. 75 degrees on the M-2. The M-2 may prove to be more tonally rich and full bodied than the M-3, to an extent determined by the room. In your room I think you'd hear it. At the same time it's good to have room for the speakers to breathe, and in smaller rooms the smaller speakers may image better."
- did you really mean to say "it's unlikely you'll be wanting for bass augmentation especially if you go with the M-3s"? or did you intend to say M-2s?
I realize everything is room dependent, but let's assume I can do whatever I want with the room; I'm still trying to sort out, for a 12x18 room:
- whether the M-3s will deliver enough bass to be tonally balanced?
- whether the M-2s will bring a notable improvement?
- whether the M-2s are too large to be practical in the room?
Any chance you'd be willing to give a "yes" or "no" to those 3 questions? I realize you haven't seen the room and it's just a guess, but given your experience it's probably a much better guess than mine.
My goal is to get the best sound I can get without feeling like I'm in a compression chamber; at some point (which I think I'm approaching) a system can overwhelm a room (visually and/or sonically). On the flip side, this is a once in every 30 years kind of system investment and I don't want to come up a notch short.
Bottom line: if price wasn't an issue and you wanted to live and listen in a room 18x12, which model would you choose? M-3 or M-2?
PS, once we get the model nailed down, we can go back to more amplifier discussions :)
- did you really mean to say "it's unlikely you'll be wanting for bass augmentation especially if you go with the M-3s"? or did you intend to say M-2s?
Oops, good catch.
Especially since the ceiling height is 10 ft., M-2s may be the way to go. I think the M-3s might be a bit light-sounding by themselves, although you could augment them with subwoofers. A little more information about your room and listening tastes would be helpful before making a strong recommendation.
The M-3 width fits the room better, but I've seen A-1s in rooms your size, which some would argue are too large. The M-2s might be a good middle ground, but see the above paragraph.
Send me an email with your evening phone number, and I'll be happy to give you a call if you'd like to continue this discussion. I'll do my best to avoid sales pitches.
If you do go with the A-S MA-1's remember their upgrades, spend a little more now to get their very best.
I just recieved a used pair of MA1 Silver editions. They are everything I could have hoped for, including thunderous bass (Coincident Total Victory speakers and Placette Passive linestage).
The person I bought them from (Saddle1) said he will keep his Tenor 150's, only because he has 4 ohm speakers. Otherwise they where very close.
Have you made an amp decision yet?.
Excellent choice of speakers...M2s would be best....I might suggest the best Estat amp I have heard...and I have owned Arc, Jadis, Krell, etc and listned to VTLs extensively...the BEST amp being WOLCOTT.
If not Wolcotts...like the VTL
would like to respond as well.
Have the Atma-Sphere MA-2 on hand, as well as a nice example of the AR VT-100 mk2.
speakers are Genesis 501's.
to start right off, the MA-2's have a far better transparancy and openness compared to the AR VT-100.
the VT-100 is rolled of, has an bit muffled and 'messy' character compared.
due to the output transformers the combination with my 4 ohm speakers is actually a better one .
the low bass and upper bass is better controlled and the VT-100 has a more robust and liquid midrange.
in absolute terms the VT-100 has better control, better bass, better and fuller midrange.
what the MA-2 lets me hear is not a curtain lifted, not a window cleaned but an open door to the music.
it is like you get another 5 Khz on top of the VT-100 recessed top end.
they are that open. but they sound a bit on the lean side..
tough choices to be made ? i see the VT-100 as a good allround amplifier which can be hooked up to many speakers.
it is a friend you will like, but to me the AR does not excell in any area particularly, it does a good and dependable job. i have had this experience with many other AR gear. preamps same thing.
have never heard the big VTL's though..
I have found the solution to all these amp choices...
BAT VK-75 SE .
the OTL will always have transparancy and openness in abundance, but somehere you have choices to make.
if you own 8 ohm or higher impedance speakers, you have a great combination with the OTL's. ( particularly if you crave for openness and transparancy)
if you want the transparancy and the control and the midrange to go along as well, audience the BAT amps !!
don't get carried away with the topology only, it is the match with the speakers that creates the magic..
the match of the MA-2 OTL with my 501's is not a perfect marriage.. you may find other matches that do work.
Atma-Sphere MA-2s and Eidolons: Given Tuboo's experience with MA-2s and Genesis (thanks for sharing this), I thought I should offer some additional comment on my experience with MA-2s and Avalon Eidolons. The Eidolons are also 4 ohm nominal speakers, but they never drop below 3.6 ohms and have a smooth impedance curve (no sharp dips).
For me, the combination of MA-2s and Eidolons is the best combination with the Eidolons I have heard, solid state or tube. The control in the bass is astounding: very agile, very tight, very defined, very transparent. This is in sharp contrast to Tuboo's experience with the Genesis speakers. With the Eidolons, bass definition is excellent. Transients are exceptionally well defined at both leading and trailing edges, and timbre is "spot on."
For example, a group of audiophile friends and I listened recently to the Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida "Moonlight Serenade" (Jeton) recording on the Eidolon/MA-2 combination. Those who have heard this will know that Ray Brown's bass is closely miked, very detailed and VERY POWERFUL: the reproduction here was outstanding, with several of our group commenting that they'd never heard a double bass reproduced with such detail, definition, agility and authority. This experience is consistent for me with the MA-2s and Eidolons over many recordings with deep powerful bass, e.g.: Mercury Firebird (Classic Records reissue); Mercury "Marcel Dupre at the Organ of Saint-Suplice" (SR 90227); Music of Durufle, Organ of Hedvig Eleonora Church (Proprius); Arnold, Eight English Dances (Lyrita); and many others.
Other tube amplifiers I've heard with the Eidolons simply cannot match the sonic virtues of the MA-2s; but I have not heard ARC Ref300/600 nor the big VTL monoblocks directly with the Eidolons. What I can say is that the Atma-Sphere MA-2s match up very, very well to these speakers and make incredible music.
My experiences with the MA 2 mk 2.3 and Wilson MAXX 2's is virtually identical to Rushton's experience with the MA2/ Eidolons. I do believe that, as with any very resolving component, care must be taken in system and ancillary matching for best performance. I have not heard the best ARC products, and have only heard the BAT and VTL amps in similar systems--but not mine. Both are excellent, but at these prices the only way to buy is through direct experience. Another amp in the same performance category may be the Tenor Hybrid, which I have heard great things about.
As I am a fairly old Audiophile, I have heard many systems, and nothing has even come close to the combination of Atma-Sphere MA 2.2 and Kharma 3.2 speakers. Any audiophile friend who has heard them has done a double-take...........
The soundstaging, detail, dynamics (maybe attributable to the slew rate of 600mv/sec - the fastest extant), transparency, tightness of the bass and the upper end is just incredible. These are amps for life and as an audio nut, I have never said that before.
But, no, I have not A-B'd them with ARC or VTL. (Nor will I !:)
Well, first thanks for all the info. I appreciate it.
Second, I decided to go with the M-2s, but believe it or not, they aren't here yet. Supposedly they will arrive this month.
Despite reading everything I can find anywhere (audiogon, audioasylum, etc, etc.) I haven't been able to figure out what is the best amp for these speakers. I'm pretty sure that "synergy" is important, so what works anywhere else may or may not work in my system and room. Having said that, I've always built my systems largely on studying other people's experiences and then listening to the contenders for "potential." Although a component in a particular system might not show its potential (if the other components or the room aren't right), a truly outstanding piece of equipment will be part of a truly outstanding sounding system, somewhere. Said differently, if I can't find a system somehwere that sounds great with a particular component (even when the other components and the room might not resemble mine), then I begin to wonder if maybe that component isn't really all that great after all.
Long story short, I'd like to find some system(s) somewhere in the U.S. where an Atma, VTL, or Wolcott amp are included and the system "blows you away" with great sound. Obviously, it would be nice if I could hear such a system with M-2s (or almost any Soundlab speakers), but other stats or Maggies, or any great speaker would be fine. And ideally, I'd like to hear a system where someone could say "listen to how incredible this is", and then switch between two of the brands (Atma vs VTL or vs. Wolcott, and ARC - which is my reference). Kind of hard to believe that it's so hard to find such a system, but I'm still looking. If anyone knows of a system that is truly spectacular that could be auditioned with one of these 3 ARC competitors (or better yet with 2 or 3 of the 3), please send me an email. I can travel a bit and for the right demo I'm inclined to do a road trip. Surely, some dealer or someone somewhere must have an inspirational Atma, VTL, or Wolcott demo. In the meantime, thanks for any additional descriptions of how these various units sound in systems you've heard. One way or another, I'll figure it out - that's part of the fun. Supposedly we're here to enjoy the journey, but I'm starting to get a bit eager for the destination :)
Hi_hifi, are you the same person who just posted over on the SLOG site? Where are you located? I do offer some of what you mention, although ARC isn't something I demo nor would recommend over the others.