Best Amp to drive my Apogee Stages?


Greetings all.
I am wondering if I might get some good suggestions from anyone who might be firmiliar with the Apogee Stages. I have owned them for quite awhile, but due to blowing up my Krell (300i)intergrated amplifier more than once now (a $400 bill to fix it each time) I beleive that it is time to buy the right amplifier for the job. I need more power for sure, but my wallet is light these days. This means that I must minimize my purchase to something definitly under $2K and even more like $1200 price range. This seems to limit me quite a bit in my findings, but I am wondering if I might have missed something with my research so far? I have reviewed Krell, Levinson, Pass Labs and Threshold to date. Each have older options in my price range, but I am not certain if any will work better with my speakers?

Any thoughts out there?

Thank you in advance.

-LoveItLoud
loveitloud
Try older Classe'Audio. DR8, DR9, Fifteen, or Twenty-Five.
All great amps with plenty of current drive. Jason Bloom of Apogee used to demonstrate the Stage at audio shows with the DR8. Threshold S Series amps like S/200, S/300, or S/500 would work fine too. Best Apogee demo I ever heard was Apogee Duetta Signature driven by Threshold SA4e at Bay Area Audio show back in 1989. I never forgot the magic. Threshold SA4e is essentially unobtainable these days but it was one of the all time great Nelson Pass designs.
Jeff Rowland Model 5 is your perfect match. Currently listed on Audiogon for $1600.
Pass Labs is a great choice, but not in your budget. A old Threshold would be perfect. Something that might not be a conventional recommendation, but was surprising good for the money is the Sunfire amps. They are powerful and high current. At used prices, you can always sell w/o a loss. I've heard them drive plenty of tough loads.
Something else is a BATvk500, in your range more or less. Cheers,

Spencer
Please give more info on your system.
If you're going to use a balanced preamp, you can utilize a balanced amp to it's fullest potential.
If you have a sub(s), you can roll off the Stages at 80 hertz & make life much easier for the amp(s) driving the Stages.
I had the Mini Grand system with the Mini Dax. I had great results with Pass Aleph 2s on the Stages, and an Aragon 4004MKII on the subs.
If you have just the subs & no crossover, you can use filters like Vandersteen sells, to roll off the Stages.
02-11-10: Rrog
Jeff Rowland Model 5 is your perfect match. Currently listed on Audiogon for $1600.

or go class D, they will control them perfectly
Class D would be fine for your second system Clavil, but there is no class D amplifier in the same league as the Rowland. Besides, the Rowland 5 and the Stages are the same vintage. Apogee and Rowland sound wonderful together.
A lot has changed. D'Agostino is gone from Krell, Madrigal is getting picky about repairing old Levinson equipment and do you think Nelson Pass is going to repair his old Threshold amps? At least Rowland is still around and they have always been one of the best amps made.
Class D would be fine for your second system Clavil, but there is no class D amplifier in the same league as the Rowland

oh yes there is the Rowland 312 ...

it would be very interesting to realize a blind test especially with all people who claim class D is not good enough
02-12-10: Clavil
it would be very interesting to realize a blind test especially with all people who claim class D is not good enough
Do any of the current Class D offerings have the same, or equal, continuous current output capability as the late 80's/early 90's classic 100% Class A classics from Krell, Classe, Levinson, Rowland, etc?
Darkmoebius, yes, many class D amps are capable of much higher output than older Class A classics. For example, the Wyred 4 Sound ST-1000 puts out 570 watts/channel into 8-ohms and 1,140 Wpc into 4 ohms.

I personally, have not found a better sounding/performing amp than the W4S STI-500, which puts out 250Wpc into 8-ohms and 550Wpc into 4-ohms. A used ST-500 (the basic power amp, not the integrated) could likely be found in your preferred price range of $1200 and would pretty much smoke anything else that you could find for that kind of money, in my view.

Many of those who say these class-D amps are not in the same league with other great sounding conventional amplifiers have not actually compared them head to head...
Rrog, I'm not sure if your aware that most of Rowland's most recent amps are Class D. The last I heard D'Agostino's status with Krell is pending a court decision. Threshold's can either be repaired by the new owners of Threshold or by Jon Soderberg of Vintage Amp Repair. Jon was with Threshold when Nelson Pass was at the helm of Threshold. Jon might very well have been the person repairing ones Threshold amp back then. Jon has an inventory of Threshold parts and has a very good reputation, I too can vouch for his work. Nelson Pass has also demonstrated perhaps the most generous gift of his time and expertise in the industry with his help usually being available on DYYaudio.com.
1. The Rowland Model 5 & Model 7s are getting old.
I don't believe Rowland will want to support or repair them indefinitely. Older Model 5s & Model 7s have been through many thermal cycles - being turned on & off. The output transistors eventually fail & they are expensive to replace.
I'm not biased against Jeff Rowland. I own a Model 2 & I will not sell it anytime soon. It just sounds too good to me.
2. I own (7) Murano monoblocs. These are close in build to the Rowland 501s, they have the same B&O module. These will drive the Stages, the problem is a pair of Rowland 501s used are at least $3500.00, in good shape.
3. I'm going to suggest you try an Adcom 5500. I owned 2 of these and one will output 300 watts per channel to your Stages. They only cost around $550.00 used, you can buy an Adcom GFP 750 with the rest of your budget, and upgrade to any fully balanced amp later, the GFP 750 will be good enough to use with any amp already suggested..
Loveitloud

at your place I would try to borrow some class D amplifier for a few days ...

then you will have a clear idea of what happens, I bet you will discover a new couple of speakers in your Apogee ...
this happened to me with my Infinity which need also quite a bit of current

then you can try to find something which matches with your budget ... in class D there are a lot of alternatives even a Danemark based company (I can't remenber the name now) which is selling 1000 W / 4 ohms monoblocs for less than 1000$ !!

good luck ... let us know
The Stage is a great speaker and has the best midrange after Quads based on my personal experience and thus deserves a good amp especially a tubed one. For low price solid State, try a McCormack.
I also recommend class D, even Nuforce would do well.

Having the power and control factors with much less heat, maintenance, current draw and initial cost.

Put a good tube preamp in front of them and you almost have the best of both worlds.
Unsound, I don't think Loveitloud is going to get a recent Rowland class D amp that fits into his budget of under $2000.
No need to spend a lot - find a used Aragon 8008BB. I find the Rowland recommendations a bit puzzling as I would never choose them to drive anything below 4 ohms.
I don't find my Stage particularly hard to drive...100 watts of solid state or tube amps (with a good power supply) is up to the task in my room. I guess if you like to play music at loud levels (90-100 db) you should play it safe and get 200 watts or so?

I've used Krell Ksa-250, Krell Kav-500, Rogue Audio M-120 Magnum, Onkyo M-504, and Outlaw Audio 755....none had a problem driving the Apogee Stage.

I'm surprised you have had amp problems...you must play very loud music?

EDIT: Woops.....LoveItLoud (I should have saw that).

Dave
Sogood51 I am glad you are happy with your Stages used as part of a Mini Grand system but I have to disagree with you about power requirements. I have had Stages (later Mini Grands) for 18 years and when I finally put serious power on them I discovered new speakers. Clavil has it right.

Stage speakers can sound very good with high quality, lower-power amps and respond to tubes very well but, in my opinion, to unlock their full potential requires more power. The caveat is it has to be clean power from an amp that has good control. If the midrange/tweeter ribbon starts to dance either the speaker is being pushed past its limits or the amp is clipping.
Matti, why do you find the Rowland recommendation confusing? Is it because the Rowland 5, which I recommended, will deliver 600wpc into a 2 ohm load and it might be too much power for the Stage?
Honestly, Aragon is nothing more than a glorified midfi amplifier. Please don't confuse this product with highend. I have seen the Aragon protection circuit turn the amp off at idle with a pair of Martin Logan CLS. A Dynaco Stereo 70 would play the CLS with ease.
You are doing an injustice to the Jeff Rowland Design Group, Loveitloud and any Audiogon memebers reading your posting that the Jeff Rowland Model 5 is not a good recommendation for a load below 4 ohms. Not to mention the poor guy trying to sell his amp here.
Wilson Audio even chose a Rowland amp to power their WOW subwoofer when they could ave had any amp they wanted.
Don_s

I've had plenty of clean power on mine (Krell Ksa-250, 4.5 kva transformer)....they did sound great.

but they sound great with my tube amps also :-)

I guess the baby Krell just couldn't cut the mustard?....probably overheated from being overdriven?...small power supply, and not enough heat sink.

Dave
Sogood51--Dave, I had a Krell KSA-250 on my Stage panels for several years so I know what they can do. By moving on I also found out what they can't do.

I agree that tube amps and Stages can be very enjoyable. I borrowed some tube amps and tried them so I fully understand the seductive quality. I chose more power but I certainly could not fault anyone for choosing the tube route. In fact, I would be a little envious of the sound. It is the logistics--heat, tube replacement, etc that I rejected. I am not the right temperment.
quote]Matti, why do you find the Rowland recommendation confusing? Is it because the Rowland 5, which I recommended, will deliver 600wpc into a 2 ohm load and it might be too much power for the Stage?
Honestly, Aragon is nothing more than a glorified midfi amplifier. Please don't confuse this product with highend. [/quote]

absolutely right
but it won't be "too much" power ...
I am driving my Stages with TRL GT-400 and I love it!!!!!!

I agree with So_good that a *good* 100-150 WPC tube amp can drive the Stage well.

A good tube amp to consider is Audio Valve Challenger. Its sound is lush and seductive.
RRog, I get it - you like Rowland...fair enough. Aragon made good quality affordable gear. I've owned Krell and Levinson and the Aragon is quite good. I believe it also acts close to a voltage source down to 2 ohms. See link devoted to apogee scintilla - note amps recommended.

http://www.apogeespeakers.com/scintilla.htm
I used to have Stages I used adcom gfa555 and blew up 3 of em
then tried a Bryston 4b worked but did not sound as good as the adcom tried a carver tfm35 sounded better than the bryston. Settled on a pair of very modded Dynaco Mk III's I used that combo for 10 years or so
Matti, I am not partial to any brand of equipment. I am more interested in what components work well together. Probably the most popular amp used with Apogee speakers was the Counterpoint SA 220.

I am driving my Stages with TRL GT-400 and I love it!!!!!!

I agree with So_good that a *good* 100-150 WPC tube amp can drive the Stage well.

A good tube amp to consider is Audio Valve Challenger. Its sound is lush and seductive.

that's fine but can you tell us how they sound when you hear Bruckner 8th symphony at realistic volume or some Puccini or Wagner opera ?

If you want to get the best out of these speakers you need to control them perfectly ...
and this was quite a problem in the eighties
Clavil, How do you know when you have a speaker controlled "perfectly"?
The truth is you may never hear the true potential of a speaker like the Apogee. Because this is a hard speaker to drive there is no amplifier happy with the Apogee load therefore any amplifier connected to this type of speaker will never sound it's best.
Clavil

The TRL GT-400 are 400 watts each?....I'm 100% sure they can drive the little Stage with ease.

(My Onkyo M-504's don't even get past "warm" driving the Stage)

Dave
02-14-10: Gallant_diva
I am driving my Stages with TRL GT-400 and I love it!!!!!!
At $85,000 a pair, I'd hope so!
Clavil:

The GT-400 is a monster amp and will not sweat driving even the Diva. I was talking about smaller Tube amps Like the Audio Valve Challenger, which would generate 100plus wpc and will work fine with teh Stage and yes with loud Brucknor or other Orchestral pieces. Now, the Stage has its own limit that you cannot exceed even with a 1000 WPC SS amp.

But yes, I have driven the Stage with Krells too and they work fine but I prefer older Krells
Darkmoebius: Thank you for the well wishes :)
The ICE modules are NOT continuous rated. The very high limits quoted, like the 250 / 550 watt ASP500 are time limited numbers. There FTC power is much lower. The output Zobel will fry. The ASP500 time limit is 60seconds while the ASP1000 is 30seconds.
Gallant_diva,

Your system honestly inspired me to seriously look into Apogees, especially a pair of Divas. My next system upgrade is going to be built around them. I just need to move some place with a big enough room, first.
Darkmoebius: I will shoot you an email how to place the Divas. In order not to disturb this thread, email me privately please your room dimensions.
Clavil, How do you know when you have a speaker controlled "perfectly"?
The truth is you may never hear the true potential of a speaker like the Apogee. Because this is a hard speaker to drive there is no amplifier happy with the Apogee load therefore any amplifier connected to this type of speaker will never sound it's best.

than let's replace perfectly by best possible ;-)
obviously, a strong and stable amplifier at low impedance and with a high damping factor will do a better job than a weak one, and most of tubes or class A ...

considering the budget of our friend your suggestion choice of the Rowland 5 is good one and I am sure he will notice a big improvement

once again: I have been driving my Infinity for 14 years with an David Belles OCM (200 watts) + Treshold pre ... the day I tried Rowland (1000 Watt into 4 Ohms and Damping Factor 1000 at 1 kHz I was just schocked ... I couldn't believe my ears !

I discovered after 14 years how my Infinty can sound !!

will do a better job than a weak one ... I should have added

in this case
The amount of watts is not the issue. It is the load the amplifier has to deal with. True, a higher quality amplifier will sound better, but the Apogee is a hard speaker to drive and it is the load that degrades the sound of the amplifier.
In fact, the amount of watts is the issue. The impedence of Apogees speakers, barring the Scintilla, is 4 ohms. So most amplifiers can handle that. It is their low sensitivity that precludes most amps because they will not have the watts to run the speakers at decent sound pressure level.

In the case of the Stage, the sensitivity is a bit higher than other Apogees and also the spaker itself will not play very very loud (althoug it is good enough for most music except very loud rock or large orchestral music). Therefore, a 100-150 WPC good tube will drive it very well to the **Stage's maximum cability**. Having 400-500 WPC will not help any further although will not hurt either.

In the case of other Apogees, a 100-150 WPC *can* drive the speaker for low volume (e.g., vocals) but not for obtaining a good sound pressure level. Hence you will need more power.
The Stage actually goes below 4 ohms and while this may not be a problem for your monster tube amplifiers it can be a problem for other amps. However, the point I was trying to make is that an amplifier's sound quality will vary depending on the load it is driving regardless of the amplifier's power rating. Even your tube amplifiers would be happier if they were driving a speaker with an 8 ohm load.
BTW, whatever happened to the electrostics speakers you were building?
One of my heroes in audio is Leo Spiegel, the genius at Apogee acoustics who designed the Fullrange ribbon spakers.

In an interview in July 1990, he said:
"In the case of the Stage, we set out to make a smaller loudspeaker, still with a good, accurate sound but with higher efficiency than our previous designs so that it could be employed successfully in a wider range of systems. 'The way I set out to achieve this was by concentrating the amount of ribbon conductor in the magnetic field. A small improvement was also made to the magnet arrays too, but the primary change was to the woofer and tweeter diaphragms, which have a conductor on both front and back of the transducer. Another important, change was to the cuts which transform the bass unit diaphragm into ribbons. The sinusoidal cuts are only practical with the photo etching process used for a relatively high volume model like the Stage since the process will cope with, any arbitrary shape of cut. The smaller volume models are cut by band, so only straight line cuts are feasible. 'The electrical crossover point is about 350Hz, but the effective acoustic crossover point is around 600 to 700Hz as the electrical network is only one element of the transfer function and the characteristics of the ribbon have an effect here too. The blending of the woofer into the midrange/treble ribbon is very gentle. Every time we try a very sharp cutoff, you can bear the sound of the two units as two quite separate entities. It has been the same with everything we have worked with. You can always say 'here's the woofer' and 'here's the mid/treble tweeter'. But gentle crossover slopes demand good overlap in the frequency response, or the technique doesn't work, the units must be well behaved if such slopes are to work successfully".

"The Stage has a very smooth impedance and phase response, especially in the midband and tweeter region which has incredibly smooth group delay characteristics. In this way we can achieve depth and imaging. 'The idea is that you should be able to shut your eyes and sense locations and see the orchestra. We have worked very bard to achieve this. If it doesn't do this, it isn't one of ours. You might find a good receiver of, say, 50 watts/channel output that drives the speakers well, but so what? I think that the fine detail and the quality of the Stage really demand a truly fine quality amplifier. Power isn't the issue here. Quality is. So although the Stage is more widely compatible than previous Apogees we don't condone the use of poor-quality ancillaries anywhere in the chain."
I have Apogee Slant-6. I had Adcom GFA 200, Classe CA 100, Krell KSA 50S previously, and use Conrad Johnson Premier 11A now. The CJ has more "you are there" and wholeness to the sound and expansive soundstage. Really musical and tactile. You can hear the vibration from the throat and the moistness of the teeth when listening to vocals. The best tweak was using RCA clear tops on the 6FQ7 driver tubes. My preamp is Wright Sound WPL 100A, his top of the line single chassis (with in board phono). I have one of three made. George Wright was from Kent, Washington. He died last year. His preamps are the biggest bang for the buck ever, if you can overlook the exterior aesthetics. This preamp replaced CJ PV 12A. the system sounds like it has a shot of 30 extra watts of power and drive, oomph, depth and clarity.
Since your speakers are fully ribbon, I would try the Classe CA 100. It is rated at 100 watts per channel at 8 ohms, 150 at 4 ohm. It is cheap on used market. It sounds way more musical than the expensive current crop of Classe amps. It has incredible bass, especially for its power rating. The amp sound and play twice as loud than a 200 watt (solid state) Audio Research amp.
Good Luck.
Greg
P.S. I am using JPS Labs superconductor interconnects. Very transparent, but very rigid. I heard at least 3 more feet of soundstage depth with these interconnects replacing the "junk" Straightwire Maestro.
Gallant_diva, So, does that mean you agree with me?

I wrote "The amount of watts is not the issue".

You wrote "In fact, the amount of watts is the issue".

Leo Spiegel, your hero, wrote "Power isn't the issue here".
Rrog: I do not agree with you because you need to re-read the context of my statement, yours and Leo's.

First, you were putting the Stage with all Apogees and saying power does not matter. That needs some clarification.

Second, I said power does matter for Apogees (which means Apogees in general). Then I said **in the case of the Stage**, the impedance and sensitivity is benign and hence less power will suffice (which means *for Stage* power is less of an issue). I also said *for the Stage* more power will not help, which is what Leo is saying. To further emphasize this point, I said for *other Apogees* you will need power.

Leo, my hero, is talking about the Stage, emphasizing its easy load and mentioning exactly what I said, that is less power *for Stage*. He brought up the power issue (because for other Apogees, power is an associated issue) and stressed that Stage is an exception.

Finally, it appears that you think all Apogees have low impedance. In reality, only the Scintilla has one ohm impedance and the Fullrange woofer has 2 ohm if driven without the transformer, while the rest of the Apogees have close to 4 ohm with occasional dips to 3.

The Stage was one of the later speakers made by Apogee Acoustics, and in my opinion pushed the quality envelop further, combining most of the lessons that Apogees engineers had learnt. In my book, it is the best sounding Apogee (based on midrange, highs and transparency) and requiring the least amount of power. Other Apogees however outperform the Stage in other areas.

Hope that helps.
Rrog: Leo is also saying that the Stage impedence will not be problem, which is what I also said. However, you said "while this may not be a problem for your monster tube amplifiers it can be a problem for other amps"

I do not think it will be a problem as any amp with 100 WPC or so will drive the Stage well.
Thank you for clearing that up. Do you think I can run the Stages with 50 watts?
I have Stage and Duetta Signature...I can run them both to very good SPL's with my Rogue Audio M-120 Magnum tube amps (120 watts each).

I've also used, or heard many solid state amps: BAT VK-500, Krell Ksa-250, Pass Labs 150, Krell Kav-500, Outlaw Audio 755, and Onkyo M-504.

None of these amps has a problem driving the Apogee speakers to sane SPL's.

50 watts will drive the Stage, but not very loud?....although maybe loud enough for some people.

Dave
It is not just about SPL. It is about headroom, dynamics, and PRAT. I have had Stages/Mini Grands for 18 years with different amps. I never heard the panels come alive until I put serious power on them. I am NOT talking about 250 watts into 4 ohms. I am talking about 500 or more. If someone has not heard Stage speakers with serious power from amplifiers that have good control I am not sure they are aware of what the speakers are capable of. That is my opinion based upon my actual experience.

Again I am not talking about SPL because the speakers do have a maximum SPL that no amount of power can exceed. In fact, it is possible to have too much power. I only listen slightly louder now than I did with lower power amps but the dynamics and realism are dramatically improved and even at low volume the detail and PRAT is improved although that may not be a function of power, just a different amp.

Please note: I am talking about SS power. I do not have enough experience to comment on tube amps and power requirements for Stage speakers.
Rrog: As sogood51 says, 50 WPCs can drive but may be not enough load and may lack dyanmics. When we says power matters (and not matters) it is all relative. The Stage is an easier load as Leo was saying but still need good enough power.