Cary 805, deHavilland or Atma-Sphere? Anyone cares

Over the weekend, I have listened extensively to the following four different amplifiers and I have decided once and for all that the SET 300B, no negative feedback is the way to go.
The four amplifiers are as follows:
Passlabs X150: very neutral, powerful yet the sound almost very sterile.
EAR 834: very musical, tube mid-range yet sound the least like live music.
YBA 2 High current, Double Transformers: very musical, soft and sound very enjoyable; yet again not like live music.
Audio Note kit one: This is a killer and provided the music is limited to vocals and chamber music. Very good mid-range with good attack and the best like live music; but not very much bass.
However, this listening session made me to want more bass with the SET.
Thinking about the Cary 805, deHavilland or Atma-sphere ?
Any comment ?
Please advice
You may want to try Art Audio amplifiers.
Atma-Sphere is made in the US Cary is made in China. Atma-Sphere is good Cary is... not!




My Cary 805c was made in North Carolina. I have owned both the Cary 805C and Cary 300B signature. The two amps have completely different presentations. The 845 is big and breezy while the 300b is more immediate and focused. I found using a Sophia metal plate 845 in the Cary 805 to give the sound stage of an 845 with the detail and immediacy of a 300B. I have heard the 845 based deHavilland and enjoyed it. I can not remember the differences between it and the Cary. If you are looking for a SET sound with more bass definitely listen to an 845 based amp.
Another option for more bass is KR Audio amps. I have the Kronzilla SXI and bass control is wonderful (among other things). I like to use Bela Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo as a bass reference and the Kronzilla really graps the bass by the seat of the pants or thereabouts.
The Atma-Sphere OTLs will definitely give you a lot of what you find magical about SETs with the dynamic punch and bottom end that you crave. This will be the case if your speakers are an appropriate match, meaning 8ohm load or higher. With 4ohm speakers, you will need an autoformer, such as the Paul Spelz zeros, to get the Atma's to sound anything like they should.

Another type amp that reminds me of 300B, but has a bit more punch is a 211 based pushpull amp, such as the Consonance Cyber 211s that ultravioletaudio imports into the US. I think these are about halfway between the sound of a 300B and a traditional EL34 or KT88 type sound (i.e. big, warm, punchy).

Disclaimer: I own Atma-Sphere amps. Cheers,
The question is "thinking about a Cary 805,deHavilland or
One post has mis-information
One post address'the mis-information and the question
Two posts does not address the question and suggests something else.
Why cant we stay on track ?
Robert, you will not get very much bass out of a SET unless your speakers are extraordinarily SET friendly. If bass is more important to you than the midrange and top end offered by SET's, then I would suggest you look elsewhere.

I have owned the Cary CAD-805AE, and it is definitely made in the USA. The fun thing about this amp is that it is tweakable - both 845 and 211 tubes are supplied. You can also choose between 0 and -10dB negative feedback (but once you try the NFB, you will want to leave it at 0dB). The 845 provides a gorgeous SET sound - the trademark clarity and liquid midrange, and has a lovely full and warm sound. The 211 is slightly less SET-like - it has better control of the bass, but the midrange and top end become more etched. Neither tube handles the bass adequately - bass is insufficient and flabby.

I have never had an opportunity to hear the Atma-Sphere or de Havilland amps, so I can not help you there.
"The question is "thinking about a Cary 805,deHavilland or
One post has mis-information
One post address'the mis-information and the question
Two posts does not address the question and suggests something else.
Why cant we stay on track ?"

You forgot one.
One post tries to moderate the thread and offers no help what so ever. ;-)
Thinking means to have that image go through the brain or intuition process.
Intuition has many related meanings, usually connected to the meaning "ability to sense or know immediately without reasoning"
For that what I mean is the name Cary 805, deHavilland and Atma-Sphere is always on my mind.
In other words, the audiophile bug is constantly frisking and meddling me for something will never be able to annex; and that is the live sound.
I just wonder for those who cavil and goad on others; have they attend any live musical performance lately?
Do you realize how live music sound to your ear?
May be you have not listen to what a SET smplifier can do?
Here's one reviewer's opinion on the deHavilland:
I could tell you what is even better, at a small fraction of the cost, but, as the Smiths said, "But you'd never believe me."
Guy's I did not post to start an argument.Actually i am interested in the very same three pre amps and looked forward to your valued opinions of them.
The very knowledgeable Sbank's post is extremely helpful.
What speakers will you be using, and what is their impedance curve/spec?
Tvad asks the right question.

I currently own the Cary 300B sig monos and the 805s. I've previously owned the little Atma-Sphere stereo amp (s300?). The sig monos and little Atma MUST be paired with appropriate speakers (a relatively small percentage of all those out there) or they just won't work. The Cary 805 is much more flexible. I suspect the higher output OTLs are probably more flexible as well, but have no personal experience with them.

Further, the small OTL and 300B amps sound quite different even when paired with one suitable speaker versus another suitable speaker. In short, they are much more sensitive to the load they face and behave differently as that load changes. Some combos will sound great, others awful. Unfortunately, looking at impedance and sensitivity specs is not a great predictor of happy marriages.

IMHO, you shouldn't buy a 300B amp or a low output OTL until you've heard it with the partnered speaker. While that advice is generally good for any amp/speaker set-up. IMHO it is particularly critical for these quirky amp designs.

Good Luck

FWIW, the deHavilland SETs are some of the very best SETs made in the US. Also, as far as bass is concerned, Atma-Sphere amplifiers are full power to either 1Hz or 2Hz, depending on the model.

In either case of SET or smaller OTL, the speaker choice is important- the amplifier investment dollar will be better served by a 16 ohm speaker as opposed to four ohms (in fact transistor amplifiers sound better on 16 ohms too; there is not much argument for four ohm speakers if better sound is your goal). Some help in understanding what is up can be found at
The speakers using is the Magnepan 3.6.
This is a speakers from the SET hell, I believe.
I fall in love with the Maggies and I am sleeping with the SET.
Committing the sin, right?
Sounds like a quick divorce.
I'll be interested in Atma-Sphere's response. The Maggie 3.6 have a relatively flat 4 ohm impedance curve. I'm curious to know if raising the impedance curve to 8 or 16 ohms by using Speltz Auto-Formers would enable the use of an Atma-Sphere amp, and if the combo would be a successful one?
Dear Martykl,
I also have the Cary 300SE, 15 watts and they drive the Maggie fine; but not to the point of full, not even half bass.
I would like to have your advice on the Cary 805 since I am thinking VERY SERIOUSLY of buying and trying them with the Maggie, the wife, I believe. Bring it a better mistress, I believe it will help.
How about the latest 05 preamp,is it any good?
Please advice
The Magnaplaner 3.6 is not particularly hard to drive, but it is not efficient enough to really work with any amplifier that is limited to say 30 watts or less. The Speltz autoformer is a good combination with larger tube amplifiers and the Maggies. We have a number of customers that use the 3.6 with our M-60s or MA-1s and the Speltz ZEROs. This combination turns up an awful lot- I used to think that it was a local thing since all of these products are made in Minnesota, but its not. They just work really well together!

I've never tried the 805 w/Maggies, so I can't help you there. Similarly, I've never used the Cary pre-amps, so I'm 0 for 2. You may want to call Audio Connection in northern New Jersey as he sells both brands and can probably give good advice.

I will say that the 805s work like a champ with my Verity Parsifal Encore. The little Cary and little Atma S-30 cannot drive this speaker. I've used all 3 of these amps with the Merlin VSM and both Cary amps sounded great (particularly the 300b), the S-30 less great. At that time, I also owned the deCapo monitors, and while all the amps sounded great, the S-30 was IMHO much the best of the bunch. That's what I mean by difficulty in predicting a happy marriage. Please take that info FWIW.

Good Luck,


Did you ever get to hear the deHavillands?
I agree, I think you must move up to the M60s to drive the VSMs properly. With the right speakers however the S30s are wonderful - Audiokinesis Jazz Modules perhaps!
I am done with the Tannoy Kensington driven by the SET, 9 watts Audionot and done with this stupid bug.
Sorry you are having disappointment, but FWIW, 9 watts is not enough power on that speaker! Tannoy recommends a minimum of 50 watts and given the efficiency that sounds right.

The problem you may also be up against is that 50 watts is not going to show off the speaker if you have an SET. This is because at power levels like that bandwidth is going to be sacrificed in an SET; it is the limitation of the technology that you can have power or bandwidth but not both.

This is a problem in particular if you want the speaker to play bass (and have plenty of headroom)! If I were you I would look for a push-pull amp, something triode if you can. Our customers have had good luck with the M-60 on that speaker. Getting a 60 watt tube amp to play deep bass is not challenging. You also get more extended highs.

Good Luck in any event.
No disrespect to Ralph, but I think there are significant drawbacks to OTL designs, including Atmasphere. I've owned the latest M60 with all the factory upgrades except for the volume control option. First, speaker choices are limited to those that are 8 ohms or higher, which have been pointed out. Using an Speltz autoformer for speaker/amp impedance matching is defeating the purpose of OTL. Might as well get a transformer coupled tube amp and be done, which will give you much wider range of speaker options. I've found the tube noise in M60 to be unacceptable, especially if you have high efficiency speakers. I've had several output tube failures within first 6 months of ownership. Granted this is just my amp, but I've heard from other Atmasphere owners who have had this problem. When the output tube fails, it is quite alarming because you get a loud pop. It did not damage my speaker though.

The plus side to the sound of the Atmasphere M60 is crystalline high frequency (probably the best I've heard) and ultrasmooth midrange. The soundstage is huge, but the image specificity is more diffuse than other tube and solid stage amps. Bass can be loose, if you don't have the proper impedance matching. I think Atmasphere are more true to life than any SET amp I've heard. SET amps have their magic emotionally involving sound, but I don't think they are like live music unless you limit your music to simple vocals, simple jazz ensemble, chamber music and the like. It's hard, if not impossible, to get life like macrodynamics using a SET amp unless you have 100 dB+ horn speakers, which are IMO colored transducers, although horn fans are likely to disagree.

IMHO, good high power PP tube amps sound more like the real thing and work well with almost any speaker out there, including ribbon and electrostatic speakers.

Ralph may chime in here, but autoformers do not make an OTL into an equivalent of a conventional tube amp with transformers. I didn't find much noticeable difference with or without autoformers.
Using an Speltz autoformer for speaker/amp impedance matching is defeating the purpose of OTL.
From the FAQ at
12) What is the difference between the ZEROs autoformer and a typical tube amplifier's transformer?

The ZEROs have a few advantages over "typical" tube amp transformers:

A) The music comes out on the same winding wire that it goes in on so the music does not have to pass from a primary winding to a secondary winding.

B) There is no DC current to contend with. When a transformer is made to accommodate a DC field, its audio transparence is compromised.

C) The impedance ratio is very small (16 ohms to 4 ohms, compared to a few thousand ohms to 4 ohms). This simply means that it is much easier to achieve things like, frequency response extremes, than with a "typical" tube amp transformer. The ZEROs sport a frequence response of 2 Hz to 2 MHz.
-- Al
I cannot comment on the M-60. I have the S-30 so my remarks are related to it.

You stated:

"First, speaker choices are limited to those that are 8 ohms or higher, which have been pointed out. Using an Speltz autoformer for speaker/amp impedance matching is defeating the purpose of OTL."

With all due respect, I don't find that using the Spelz Zeros with my S-30 and Joseph Audio Pulsars defeats anything at all. On the contrary. The sound actually improved when I put the Zeros in.

You stated:
"... the image specificity is more diffuse than other tube and solid stage amps. Bass can be loose, if you don't have the proper impedance matching."

With my S-30 the images are spot on and the bass is tight. With the right tweaks the sound is so realistic, it is uncanny. I could not be happier.

I have not had any tube noise or tube failures.
Al, point well taken. I stand corrected. Then perhaps Atmasphere should just have built in autoformers in their amps.
Hi Sabai, I'm glad your S30 worked out for you and your speakers. My OTL amp didn't work out in my system. OTLs are more finicky and speaker dependent compared to other amps I've owned.

"With all due respect, I don't find that using the Spelz Zeros with my S-30 and Joseph Audio Pulsars defeats anything at all. On the contrary. The sound actually improved when I put the Zeros in."
If you found no degradation in sound and actual improvement, why doesn't Atmasphere build autoformers into their amps? Sounds like win win for the customer and Atmasphere.
Why doesn't Atmasphere build autoformers into their amps?
I'd expect that the main reason is that it would add cost, size, and complexity to the designs, while being unnecessary with many speakers.

Also, provisions would have to be made to allow the user to select among different impedance transformation ratios, and to bypass the autoformer altogether if high impedance speakers are being used.

Finally, having a Zero close to the speaker, as opposed to within the amplifier, helps to reduce the sonic effects of the speaker cable, since it results in the resistance and inductance of the cable being proportionately less significant in relation to the increased load impedance that is presented at the end of the cable.

-- Al
Dracule1, 6 ohms is not a problem for the M-60. As far as the ZEROs go, they should be considered a problem solver.

People often try to use the amps with speakers that they were never designed for. The ZERO helps with that. But if you have an 8 ohm speaker you just don't need them.

I should point something out here. With regards to impedance and amplifiers in general, there is no argument for 4 ohms or less (all other things being equal) if your goal is the best sound reproduction possible. Even transistor amps don't sound as good driving 4 ohms as they do driving 8 ohms as their distortion is higher (which the ear hears as strain and brightness).

Now the Tannoys are a proven easy load for tubes, and we've yet to run into a set that the M-60s won't drive.

BTW, and FWIW, most tube amp manufacturers warrant their tubes for 3 months. Our warranty is 1 year.