VTL 450 signatures
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Make sure to take a look/listen at the Quicksilver V4's. I have owned the DNA-1 Deluxe, DNA-2 Deluxe, auditioned the Rogue M120's and the Rogue Zeus. The Quicksilver V4's are built like tanks, and you get a LOT for the money, as Mike Sanders at Quicksilver doesn't drop loads of cash on advertising and raise his retail price accordingly. You can opt to use just about any tube, KT-88, KT-90, EL 34, 6550, etc. Mike told me with the KT-90 compliment it would be about 170-180 watts per channel. The Quicksilver's in comparison to the M 120's were a bit more open and clean. The bass was about the same, just seemed to be better soundstaging with the V4's and more of a "tube" presence in the midrange. The Rogues seemed a bit more "solid state". I can also put it this way... if you have a scale of say 1 to 10 in tube sound... 1 being the most "syrup classic tube sound" (some may say the Cary camp) or 10 being the most "solid state like sound for tubes" being Audio Research, BAT, etc... I would place the Quicksilvers at about a 5... perhaps a bit on the warm side. I would place the Rogues about a 6 almost in the middle but perhaps a touch on the solid state sounding side. However! I did hear the M 120's with 6550's in it, which I have always felt were a bit dark, perhaps they would have sounded better with KT-88's. Good luck.
Atmasphere M-60 amps used (around $2500 +/-) in conjunction with Autoformer Zeros (new for $950). This combination will give you sound quality you will not believe. Throw in an Atmasphere MP-3 preamp ($2500 used), and you will get sound that is quite difficult to comprehend vs. your old McCormick (combines with whatever preamp you were using).
Currently, I am running a pair of Vienna Accoustic Mahlers (which are a proverbial bitch to drive) with the Atmasphere M-60 amps and the MP-3 preamp and the Autoformer Zeros, and it is the finest quality of sound I have gotten out of them. Now granted, bass is not quite as good as some of the best solid state amps I have used, but my bass perfomance is still remarkable. I NEVER imagined little 60wpc tubes could do this kind of job driving the Mahlers.
Why go with Atmasphere? Because they (the Atmasphere amps) are OTL amps (transformerless), they distort the signal less than any transformer based tube amp.
One caveat though... you will most certainly need to use the Autoformer Zeros to drive your VR-4 speakers. The Zeros raise the impedance level that the amps see by either *2, *3, or *4 depending on how you configure the Zeros. OTL amps really like to drive 8, 16 or 32 ohm loads.
The other nice thing about Atmasphere gear is tube rolling is not required to get great sound. The stock tubes they use are not amazingly rare or astronomical in price (I am just using the stock tubes).
Anyway, I am a Glacier showroom which means I carry both Atmasphere and Autoformer Zeros. One thing about OTL amps... once you have heard them, it is very difficult to go back to anything else (especially anything resembling solid state).
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Monterey (Seaside), CA
PS: I have heard the VR-4 amps being driven by a pair of the ASL Hurricanes. It sounded decent enough. However, I have also heard them driven by the Rogue Zeus tube moster amp, and that combination I thought was better than the ASL Hurricanes. For shear power, the Rogue Zeus is a MONSTER amp. However, if you want to best sound quality possible for under $5k, I'd go with the Atmasphere gear hands down.
Thanks everyone who has responded so far.I would even consider some ss gear that had the refinement of tubes.I have researched all of the gear that has so far been recommended to me & am getting educated.
I am looking for that non syrupy mid range magic that draws you into the music.BTW, I am happy with my current sound but compared to what ? I will make some time & listen to some local gear in my area.
1. Llano Design Trinity 300 300 wpc, super high current, hybrid. Can use multiple tube types in voltage stage for customizing sound. Fantastic bass. Or for you $, you could get the Phoenix monos.
2. Send the DNA to SMcAudio for the full monty, Gold upgrade. SS bass with very fine midrange and great extension. If yer pre has a true balanced out, you could get the balanced inputs.
3. Berning ZH-270. I listened to some VR4 Gen3s with this and it had PLENTY of balls and bass up the ying-yang. For $5K you could get a new one with the full upgrades from Allan Baghdan. If you only have two line-level sources, you can run it as an integrated, and sell off yer pre and a set of i/cs.
I have not heard the other amps w/the VR-4s, just going by how the sounded with my Vandersteens, but I KNOW the Berning was excellent. It auto-biases each time you fire it up, and uses 4 modest cost power output tubes and 4 12A?7s.
Thanks guys you are giving me a great education. I am put off by low powered(35-50wpc) tube amps thinking that while there may be magic to hear it is only with certain music & at moderate listening levels.
I feel that 250-400 wpc keeps the amp at idle without a strain and gives you whatever you want effortlessly.Amps that come to mind are the Parasound JC-1(non tube) & the VLT 450 Signature and the Rouge Zeus.My speakers are at 88 SPL.