Blue book is about $1500 which is $1500 too much. Find a used Sonic Frontiers, Cary, Rogue, Quicksilver, etc. and hear music not a dried out presentation from ARC.
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I suppose my comments were a bit over the top. Reputations? That's like trusting the media for the news. Don't believe all you read and hear. ARC makes competent equipment and it is well supported at the retail and manufacturer's level. That is undisputable. That being said, however, it is my opinion that your money can be spent more wisely. Hope that helps.
I owned the 120 monoblocks a few years back. I paid about $1650 at the time..which was about book on them. Mine were not the SE version which have upgraded caps. I ran them on ML SL-3's and Von Schweikert VR2 for the time I owned them. Neither speakers sounded their best driven with the VTM-120's. I liked them because they were not bright, but they really didn't have that tube magic I was expecting, and eventually parted with them.
I would have to agree as Audiofeil mentioned..they do tend to sound rather dry, and I feel they lacked conventional tube warmth, although they are not bad sounding.( IMO..ARC has never made a bad sounding amp yet!) They just lacked that emotional connection that I expected from tube amps. :) Ken
Blue Book price often has nothing to do with actual sonic quality so I would not focus on this too much. What the going price has been on Audiogon would be a far more worthy indicator of their "value".
$1500 does seem a bit high considering that ARC M100 mono amps sell in the low $2k range and these along with the D115 stereo amp (which sells in the $1300-1500 range) are in a completely different league than the more budget-minded VT60/VTM120 series. And I have seen the ARC VT130 stereo amp go in the $1700 range and this is an oustanding amp that I wish I had not sold years ago. Clearly Audiofeil has little or no experience with these models as they do not at all have a "dried out presentation" that I personally would associate with the Classic series.
ARC like any other company has made some phenomenol products and a few that performed quite poorly; the LS2 and CL150 come to mind on the latter. And on the issue of Sonic Frontiers, the SFL-2 was one of the most unmusical line stages that I tried in my system some years ago.
If you're selling the VTM120's good luck. If you're looking to buy the VTM120's, I'd consider the models mentioned above if you want to stay with ARC amps. But there are so many products to consider if you're not attached to ARC.
Over the past 30 years I have owned three ARC amps:
D76A, D115 MKII, VT100 MKII (which I am still enjoying). They were all very musical and great performers. None could be characterized as "DRY" sounding.
Apparently Audiofeil is limited in his exposure to the ARC product line. ARC has made some of the great tube amps over the years. His ignorance speaks for itself.
Ok now, I actually respect Audiofeil's opinion and appreciate the time he took to answer my thread. There's no such thing as a wrong opion - in my opinion. That's why we're all here. Right? Anyhow, JaFox, great post. I was actually poised to pull the trigger on a pair of the VTM120's for $1,650 but now have decided not to. I have $1,700 burning a hole in my pocket and want to buy a pair of tubed monoblocs 100wpc minimum. Second choice would be tubed stereo, third would be solid state, 250wpc. Could you recommend a couple of options you alluded to in your post? Thanx much. Anyone else?
Thanks for your comments. IMO, your speaker is a critical determinant of your amplifier choice. If the load is "normal" and driveable by both ss and tubes, a used Pass X150 is a nice solid state amp. Used units are going for around 2K. As far as tubed amps go, referring to my previous post, Rogue M-120 Magnum, Sonic Frontiers Power 2, and Quicksilver V4 are within your budget. All 4 are backed by a strong manufacturer/ retail network, reliable, and will outperform the VTM120.
Good luck and have fun.
Jafox and Gmorris- I have quite a bit of experience with ARC over the past 35 years. IMO they've made some very fine linestages but I've never heard a power amp (stereo or mono blocks) I would own. I respect your opinions however and wish you both well. To each his own guys.
Pawloski: I think that it is going to take some patience and luck to find a good deal on a pair of good sounding mono tube amps in your price range. But I have seen older VTL models like the 185/225/300 sell below the $2k mark. And these were huge hits in the late 80s with great 3-dimensional qualities and impressive bass for tube amps of the time. Just be prepared to put out a few hundred $$ to retube these amps if you get an older pair with old warn out tubes.
And what about the Quicksilver that was quite the rave back in the 80s as well? You might be able to find a good deal here and retubing if needed should cost less than the VTLs. They simply won't have the punch and dynamics of the VTLs.
What kind of speakers do you have? You can't really buy an amp without matching it with the speakers and vice versa.
Do you have any plans/interest to biamp? If so, focus on a 2-channel amp like the D115 or the VT130/VT100 if you want to stay with ARC products and then get another later. The BAT VK60 is another product to consider to start with one and then get another later to either use as two 2-channel amps or have them changed to run as mono amps.
If you need an amp with more power, the Counterpoint SA and NPS series are excellent performers as well; they simply will not have the bloom and decays like the other amps mentioned here. They are incredibly tonally coherent...just not the last word in resolution....but nothing mentioned here really is anyway.
So there's some ideas from my corner of the world.
Thanx JaFox. One of the things that appealed to me about the VTM120s was that they were probably less than 10 years old. I'm biased against buying something older than that. I just have that as a mental line in the sand. I have Von Schweikert VR4JRs. I'm going to start researching the amps you mentioned. Thanx again. Audiofeil, I agree with your opinions on the Rogue's. The 120 monos were on my shortlist but I didn't see any listed/available. I thought Sonic Frontier was out of business. That was the other requirement I had: I wanted to buy a used amp which was made by a company still in business for service/parts reasons. Am I wrong??
Correct. I hit the "submit as is" button before I removed the statement regarding strong manufacturer/ retail reliable network. My bad. :-)
The VR4JR is a very nice speaker but you will not need 100 tube watts to drive them unless you have an absolutely mammoth room. Don't forget that 100 tube watts and 100 solid state watts are different animals. With that in mind you might consider the AES (Cary) Six pack, a great pair of amps for the money, and the Quicksilver Mid Mono, another great pair of amps. Both are in your price range.
Pawlowski: There are a lot of VR4JR owners who would be willing to share their experiences on their search for an amp that works well here. This could save you considerable time and even a little money. Consider starting a new thread requesting ideas for amps that work well with the VR4JRs.
Concerning newer vs. older amps, as long as the company is still in business and doing very well, even older models are supported for repair and upgrades. This is definitely true of ARC.
Audiofeil, the more I research Quicksilver, the more intrigued I become. Currently, I see KT88, Mid, V4 and 100 Watt monos available here. Based on specs, the prices asked for these vary not in accordance with what I would expect. Could you rank these based on your experiece, if any, and opinion? Thanx
I've only heard the V4 and Mid Monos but not with the same speakers. Furthermore I've not heard either one with your speakers. Therefore I'm a bit reluctant to "rank" them. Both are well built by a dedicated owner (Mike Sanders) and you could do a lot worse.
The 4JR's are 89dB I believe and should work well with either of these depending on the size (including height) of your room.
Both the V4 and Mid Monos allow you to use EL-34, KT-88, or KT-90 output tubes which is kind of neat. You can buy new Mid Monos for under $2000 I believe. Nice to have a warranty with tubed components.
All of course IMO
I had a rather detailed conversation with Quicksilver's designer a few months ago who pretty much said the mid-monos are of the same sound and music making ability as the V4s, just at 1/2 the power and don't look as cool. I've been looking for a tube amp to properly drive Harbeth Compact 7s and am considering the Mids or V4s but I need something with good current drive.
I don't really know how to determine that from specs but most tube amps are not high current deliverers. This is not needed with many speakers and I've used 300B and 572 based SETs with ProAcs, Spendors, Merlins, and Soliloquys with great success. However, I've been told the Harbeth's Radial driver needs current to "make it go" and S/S amps are current devices. Many tube amps can swing voltage but not so much current drive.
My experience has been that tube watts are more powerful sounding thatn S/S watts, and I'm now using a Plinius 50wt amp which drives the living hell out of the C7s. Sounds damn fine, too. I would think the 50wt Quicksilver Mids would do the same but maybe not - the Plinius is a high current device.
I've input a thread under "Speakers" asking about tube amp recommendations for Harbeths and maybe someone will better explain all this.
I can also say the Mike Sanders at Quicksilver has an impecable (SP?)rep and is available by phone to discuss any aspect of his stuff. He's been making high quality tube amps for over 20 years now and I remember the superb press he got when first starting.
Also, we have to remember that doubling the power of an amp will, theoretically, only increase loudness by 3db. I also love the look of the V4s and may buy them on that alone.