Most of his music listening is at low to moderate levels. Only gets loud on rare occasion.
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I have these speakers and find them to need a lot of power and respond well with tubes. I am using Carver Silver 7's that are highly modified. 15 KT88's a side. (see my virtual system). Even though they are rated at 8 ohms, I use the 4 ohm taps and find much fuller sound, great transients, sound stage and dynamics. I have read that the impedance drops quite a bit in real use. No way to get by "on the cheap" with these speakers. I am sure there are great (and expensive) solid state amps that do the trick. I think these speakers are not very forgiving and everything matters from cables, specific components to positioning. With the right electronics and set up you will be amazed at how much bass they can produce and how wide the and deep the sound stage can be. I also find they are very room sensitive.
Also, how old are they? I needed to upgrade my midrange drivers due to changes in the kevlar over time. Not an expensive upgrade, but a bit tricky to install.
I would suspect 70 watts might be too little. The best bass I could get was with a VAC Phi 110. This was superior to Classe CA300 and DR8, and the VAC PA100. From the bass up, the VAC PA100 is the champ. I have a new Cary 120S and a W4S St500 which at some point in the future I will audition on the N802's. The speakers currently are not set-up.
I spent years going down this path with my Matrix 802's. IMO you will go broke, or crazy, trying to use tubes w/large b&w's, unless maybe you could spring for huge VTL or ARC mono-blocs.
A large Parasound SS amp might start to do it, but like Angst0 said: "No way to get by "on the cheap" with these speakers".
OTOH: Your friend may like either of the amps you mentioned, for a while. If you don't pay too much used, you can always give an amp a try.....good luck!
Everybody likes different flavors. It isn't right or wrong, just differet. For me, I love my N802's. I power them with a pair of Marantz SM11 pwr amps that rate at 300 wpc in bridged mode. The key to my system however is the CJ premier 16ls tube preamp. In my system, the 802's do not sound bright at all, like some complain. I agree with Steve above that the N802 require decent current/pwr and doing that with tubes is expensive. I would recomend a good solid state amp of at least 200-250 wpc. Good and cheap is the CJ MF2500A. More money but also good would be parasound JC-1 mono amps or Pass. Combine these with the best tubed pre you can afford.
Again, everyones taste are different. That is what makes this so much fun :)
I use a Cary SLP98 F1 version for a preamp. This gives me tube sound with enormous current. I am fortunate enough to have about 400 watts per channel of KT88 sound from the Carver Silver 7's. Otherwise, tube amps are tough I think. Used to have a Mark Levinson....but the Carver opens up these speakers with relentless energy. Also, the speaker wires are critical. I'm using Synergistic Research cables designed for B&W bi-wired.
I've had a few speakers in my time, and currently still have the N802's in my possession... they are, in my humble opinion, one of the best bargains out there, period! I kept them over the 802Ds (yep, was not worth 2-3x the price, for 10% improvement), the Von Schwiekert VR4's, among others.
They don't "need" power, but they operate best with good reserves. I've ran them with a Parasound A21 which did ok, then onto a Pass Labs X250 which was more than fine, most of the time. Just recently swaped the X250 for a pair of X600 pass Labs Monoblocks, and it is perfect. A great combination, at a great price point.
YMMV, but I would think you will have a tough time keeping tube amps in check with these guys unless you go big like a pair of Audio Research Tube Monoblocks.
I set the 802's up on Sunday powered by the W4S ST500 running balanced inputs from the VAC ren. I'm at 30 hrs on the amp and very impressed with the results. The bass is very well controlled, but it is the mids that I find special. It doesn't possess the typical SS hardness. Yes it is a bit dry compared to tubes but still has a muted lushness that is appealing to a tube amp afficiando. The soundstage is increasing in size with use, creating a natural image relationship between instuments and vocals. Details are easily presented in free space and not localized to the speaker. Depth of image is dependent of the recording as it should be. This amp is an excellent match for the 802's.
Your own opinion and listetning experience is all that matters.
From my experience, I can tell you that I drive a set of N800's with tube mono amps rated at 140 per channel, but with an external power supply with plent of reserves when you need it. My room is 25x18.5 and I can fill the room loud enough where you have to shout to hear each other, and the music will sound sound crisp, playing from my turntable to boot.
Having experienced a myriad of amps with these speakers, I can tell you that most of the time, it will be your very own listening experience that will let you know if it sounds right. I have used transistor and tubes and for me by far, the sound of using tubes is way better, even with my flea watt sized 140 watt mono amps.
Everyone is going to say somehting differnt, and I have heard the same things being said about other speakers as well. I highly suggest you take a test drive and evaluate for yourself, but to just jade your opinion more, tubes can drive both the N800's and the N802's easily, loudly and with great musical pleasure. That is my experience. No issues and no hassles. BTW, I am using German amps called Octave.