What price range are you talking about?
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Decide on high efficiency speakers first because they will be the biggest determining factor in a low-power system depending on space, musical preferences, and replay volume. A better understanding of your preferences/needs would really help us with suggestions.
If you are into Mahler at realistic volumes with the least amount of distortion and greatest dynamics, a 100+dB multi-way compression horn system would probably be best.
Intimate acoustic, jazz trio, quartet, vocals etc...that's where full range single-driver systems excel.
In between, multi-way compression/dynamic hymbris and SET-friendly multi-way dynamic speakers like Silverline. etc.
The musical presentation is so incredibly different between those 4 major categories, and even within them, that you really need to arrange to hear other people's high-eff setups before making the jump.
As for amps, depending on the speakers you choose, you may not have to limited to 300B amps. There several other fantastic output tubes that equal, or even exceed, 300B's in many ways.
You've already heard and marveled at an Art Audio amp. The owner, Joe Fratus, considers their PX-25(which I own) to be their finest. It has 6wpc output, but out drives many 300B or other higher powered SET's. These sell here for $2,500-3,200 used regularly and hold their value at that price. Also consider their 845 based Carissa.
Welborne Labs 300B DRD or Terraplane monoblocks are amazing. DIY HiFi Supply's Lady Day+ monoblocks are great and have a large following.
I am afraid I am not a horn fan, but there are a number of companies making SET friendly speakers, which are not Horns(I have been on a similar hunt). If you can find 15watt + amps, you will make the search easier. I agree with darkmoebius, there are other SET valves you could consider. I personally prefer 845's, always with the proviso that amp design and component quality makes more difference than tube choice. As you know, output transformer size and quality is key.
Speakers to consider that are SET friendly:
The one I went for is not an obvious choice at 89db sensitivity, but a flat 6ohm impedence, makes it SET friendly. That is the Acoustic Zen Adagio, at the price, it is a steal. It needs 50+ SS watts, but 20 SET watts drive them just fine.
The hard part is finding new high efficiency speakers in his $2,000-3,000 range that will properly fill a large room.
Used though, opens a pretty large selection:
Klipschorn/La Scala types
Living Voice Auditoriums
Classic Altec Voice of the Theatre style Valencia's
Really liked what I saw on the 6-watt PX-25 fron Valve Art..sold on SET now
My monitors are 89db @ 7ohms,though if I added a powered sub wouldn't that compensate a little power distribution-wise?
No one has metioned the new Celius esw from Triangle (92db)
Horns intrigue me - but know nothing about
I'm more into Jazz than anything
"My monitors are 89db @ 7ohms,though if I added a powered sub wouldn't that compensate a little power distribution-wise?"
Not unless you included some type of "high-pass" filter before the amp to block low frequencies from reaching it. Even then, it may not work depending on the impedance curve of your speakers.
Bottom line, your speakers probably were not designed to be used with low-powered SET amps, so don't waste your energy trying doing so. That would be an attempt to use the wrong tool for a specific job.
The goal is not have a system that simply works, but to have one that works to the best of it's abilities. Your speakers will not provide that with lower-powered SETs.
On the other hand, Art Audio's 16wpc Carissa (845 tube), or even better, 20/32wpc Jota (depending on output tube) probably will drive your speakers fairly well. But, they do not have the same "magic" of the lower powered offerings. Although, they do have their own benefits in the area of lushness and slam, respectively. Either of these amps could potentially make a fantastic match with your current speakers.
Please heed the advice people are trying giving you here, low-power SET systems requirement far more planning and understanding than normal high power setups. There are no shortcuts, there are no free lunches.
Good choice Saffy,
The PX-25 is one of the finest amps I have ever heard. It has a musical quality that is entirely unique, one reviewer coined the phrase "as if instruments were lit from within". I agree.
The PX is 6wpc, but has current capabilities beyond the normal 6-10wpc SET amp. I suggest speakers of >95dB to really let the amp shine.
I'm partial to single-driver, or more accurately, wide-range driver speakers. They usually feature a 1st order, or no, crossover at all, which along with the single point of origin for the majority of the frequency range leads to a greater time and phase coherence than multi-driver speakers with higher order crossovers.
By "musical coherence" I mean that is as if all sound flows from a single musical tapestry. Not one dimensional, but a beautifully woven soundscape of depth and nuance. Done properly, it is awe inspiring and there is nothing like it.
But, that isn't the only, or even best, approach. Like everything in audio, which is best for you is a personal choice and may not be the same for anyone else.
Welborne Labs, which also makes fantastic SET amps, has a great page listing speakers that mate well with SET amps. They also have a short primer on proper speaker matching.
The best advice I could offer for anyone interested in high-eff speakers would be to check here, Audio Asylum's High Efficiency Speaker forum, and on the Fullrange Driver Forum for a horn or high-eff listeners group in your city. At the very least, there might a few owners in your area. Ask if you can check out their systems. The more you hear the better.
Take your time before jumping in, high-eff systems are much harder to get right than most people would think. And enjoy the learning process.
I think I may have it here.
Recently off ebay I found a Spark/Cayin 300b single ended from about 1997 design , but this appears to have been a model year 2000 unit. I retubed it with a set of VAlvo e188cc vintage and a set of Sylvania 6sn7. The 300b are kr audio 300b.
Playing a variety of jazz LP's and some varied blugrass, female vocal, strings, horn section, with some clean plucked bass. Just finished some odd Japanese album I was lucky to find today. Linen jacket and early Victor pressing. Gorgeous
Sounds are playing through some vintage Altec 604's with a clean sealed sub for the nether region. The Altecs are housed in a heavy solid Teak ply cabinet. The subwoofer has a cabinet that is quite dense. Very fast and bass notes are complete and full throughout the range
A friend that's a musician was here and we might have had some Adult beverages... but he'll attest
Something clicked totally within the system this eve. I finally figured out two key things that perfectly hit the stage-like realism at low non-fatigueing levels. So solid yet so there... yowza, nirvana.
In looking for an equivelent system, I haven't heard another like it.
The KCS Back Loaded Horn by Johnk for sale on right now on AG would allow you to use a wide variety of 300B or 2A3 amps. KCS offers many other designs of great value. I bought the BLH and love it. Please take the time to look at this speaker. 98db. 8ohm load.
Thanks everyone - a wealth of info
Think I've nailed it down to the PX-25 amp
Really like what I see in the Druid MK-IV, + they let you try them for 60 days.
The abbey line looks nice, but don't get as good of reviews as the Druid, + they have less chance to pass the living room furniture police.
1- your thoughts on Abby vs Druid, and/or other Sp. options?
2- are theses low power amps sensitive to what speakers cables one uses?
3-am I ok going with just the PX-25 passive, or do I really need a line stage?
In response to your questions:
1. Both the Druid and Abbys are great speakers, especially Abbys for the money. I think the two do really well in small to medium sized rooms. Both benefit greatly from a subwoofer. Although, the Druids deliver surprisingly deep bass for a cabinet that is only 6.5" deep, really perplexing how they do that.
Zu seems to be one of those products that evoke strong responses, both pro and con. Some of those who dislike them have actually heard them, a lot have not. You have to decide for yourself and Zu's 30-day money back guarantee assures just that. Not many other manufacturers are that generous.
Oddly, we tried my PX-25 with Abbys but actually preferred the $800 Almarro A205A with it. The A205A is a single-ended pentode (SEP) amp that has sonic performance leagues beyond it's price. Paired with the Abby, it is sublime when you take cost into consideration. A few cheap upgrades to the Almarro make it a real giant killer.
As for other speaker options, please let us know your room dimensions, average listening level, and how far you sit away?
2. Low-power, high sensitivity, systems are far more revealing(IMO) to component and cables changes than high powered systems. Noise is also a big problem. For example, when I had 90dB speakers, my system was dead quiet. But, when i switched to 97dB speakers and <8wpc SETs, it became glaringly clear that I had a loud 60Hz hum problem in my household electrical system. The hum was clearly audible at my listening position 14+ feet away. I had to re-ground my breaker panel and then use balanced isolation transformers before my audio system before I could get it truly quiet. Never knew the noise was there with 90dB speakers.
I've also found that cable changes are far more pronounced with the high-eff system.
3. If you only have one source, then no need for a linestage. Whether the PX-25 passive will work well for you is really dependent on the output of your cd/turntable/tuner, etc. The PX has an input sensitivity of 0.7V, so anything with 1.5V output will do really well as long as you keep interconnects short. I probably wouldn't use anything that has under 1.2V output, a little headroom is always good so that the sources output stage isn't stressed at all - they distort badly when pushed hard.
-23 x 20'
-Speakers centered on 23'side(in front of wall of glass doors)
-Sunken room with one 20' side completely open to th rest of the house
-listening distance 12-13' away
DAC: Meitner Bidat 3.5v output
-My idea would be test the Druids, if a go get the Px-25, and assume the Druids pass despite border-line bass - add their sub down the road.
1- Has anyone heard the Druids with the PX-25?
2-I would be auditioning the Druids with my Jadis 60w - could that prove misleading as to the eventual sound of the PX-25 combo?
3-I have a long 15' speaker cable run - is that a problem with 6w? They are efficient cables
4-At $5000.00 for the Druid sub combo - does that new budget open up some CLEARLY better sp. options
Nice digital front end, Saffy. I have the Museatex/Meitner Bitstream dac(3V/300ohm output) which had full signal & power supply upgrades by John Wright of Museatex in Nov 2005. Definitely works extremely well with the PX-25 and high-eff speakers. Also, plenty of drive for a passive preamp, I use an S&B TVC.
Saffy,This is from some old fart that's heard a lot of stuff! Find a great dynamic speaker that has a benign impedance(4 0hm,6ohm,or8ohm). Doesn't matter which impedance as long as it don't dance up and down. It needs to be at least 90 db at one watt. If you have a great preamp(active tube) then get a pair of Melody M2A3 Monoblocks. If you don't have a great pre. then I'd suggest the I2A3 amp(integrated version). They're 18 watts per channel and are nice. With the speakers i've suggested, you can still try a 300B SET (you'll just have to stay under 93DB). You can still have a nice solid state amp for when you want to party and just jam out! But, there is no amp that will do it all! I've found that the 2A3 push/pull gives me all the midrange magic of a 300B SET plus great bass and extended highs. Build your system to be able to convert to any style you wish and are in the mood for! The best and easy way to do this is make everything else work around the choosen amp for the moment or mood!