Confusion reigns - tube amp,ss amp, integrated..??


I've been reading a lot of threads here (and on the Audio Asylum) and I am just getting more and more confused.

I am coming from the simple world of SS receiver and separate SS power amp - Rotel gear, as you can see from my Virtual System. I am trying to find a more musical system, but I still need to have a system that can be used for HT.

I am changing out my speakers to Cain & Cain Abbys - single drive (Fostex 166E) high efficiency speakers (95dB.) My Teres turntable is also a keeper, as is my phono stage. These are about the only decisions I have been able to firm up! So, I am building my system around these components.

I need either an integrated amp or separates - pre amp/power amp. I thought tubes would be best for the Abbys, but then again, maybe the pre should be solid state with a tube amp - or is the other way around better? You see how unknowing I am! An integrated amp might be a bit of a compromise, but might also fit my budget better. :-~

This is what I need the system to do: I need to be able to run my CD drive, a DVD drive, my phono stage and a subwoofer, as well as, of course, front speakers. If I end up getting rid of my receiver, an option for rear and center speakers would be a plus, though I may forgo surround sound (5.1) with my new system.

My budget is around $10,000 (gulp) which is both limiting, I realize, and more than I wanted to spend. :rolleyes: I would like this budget to include a new CD-player - I am considering the Musical Fidelity A5 - so I guess my actual amp/preamp budget is around $8000.

Please help me if you can!

Holly
oakiris
I had a good receiver in a HT setup and wanted to get to a much higher level of 2 channel performance. I decided to go for an integrated with a HT pass through so the integrated would be literally "integrated" and the amp section can be used for HT with a flip of a switch. I also wanted to do tubes (although my speakers are not as efficient as yours), and ended up with a VAC Avatar Super, which has worked very very well and provided all of what I was looking for. It has line level outs which can be run to subwoofer(s), but I rely upon my receiver to control the sub which is used only when watching video. It has phono, and 3 other inputs. Check out the threads on seperates vs. integrateds. Good luck.
Firstly with a speaker of 95dB efficency you have a chance to opt for a 300B tube amp. Since you say you have a phonostage that you want to stay, a 300B int amp would be a wise choice. As far as a sub, my Vandersteen requires no extra hookups such as a sub out as in a reciever. High end Equiptment is like that. Now you mention rear & center channel. This is for a surround sound, there is no room for a 300B amp there. You may think you want surround sound but once you hear a properly set up 300B system you will think you have several channels with the detail & imaging. Owning a TT like the yours deserves such equiptment to compliment it. One last thing, the CD player does not have to be absolute state of the art, the one you mentioned is fine. When you now hear your records you will be dusting your CD player. Enjoy.
first of all rotel makes fine ss gear. secondly unless you are prepared to give up a lot bass and high frequencies, there are a whole lot of options without buying cain and cain abbeys. what kind of music do you like? $10,000 is not limiting if you buy products of exceptional value. don't buy anything you can't audition. i hope you think this is good advice.
I have a good receiver in a HT setup and wanted to get to a much higher level of 2 channel performance. I decided to go for an integrated with a HT pass through so the integrated would be literally "integrated" and the amp section can be used for HT with a flip of a switch but otherwise dedicated to 2 channel CDP or TT. I also wanted to do tubes (although my speakers are not as efficient as yours), and ended up with a VAC Avatar Super, which has worked very very well and provided all of what I was looking for. It has line level outs which can be run to subwoofer(s) if you want. It has phono, and 3 other inputs. Check out the threads on seperates vs. integrateds. I hope this helps.
With a quality subwoofer your speakers should work quite well. A high quality tube amp based on the 300b tube is an obvious choice or, for more power which you probably don't need, look to a 845 or 211 based tube amplifier.

For a quality 300b amplifier for not a small fortune as well as a good line stage check out Wright Audio products. Wright is working on a new line stage that is a no holds barred unit and will retail for about 2000 or a bit less. George Wright's 300b amps are a good value but definitely not the last word.

With your budget you can afford to acquire a quality CD player as well as a hand built 300b integrated amp that will mate perfectly with your speakers. Please let me know if you'd like to learn more; I only use the best NOS/current production parts and you will love the results.
first of all rotel makes fine ss gear. secondly unless you are prepared to give up a lot bass and high frequencies, there are a whole lot of options without buying cain and cain abbeys.
Jaybo - I have no complaints about the Rotel gear I have, I just want something "mo' better!" As for the Abbys, I was completely wowed by their sound - and their looks - when I audtioned them. I am definitely buying them, should have them in my house the first week of November.

Maineiac - The VAC Avatar Super looks like a very nice unit. What receiver are you using?

C123666 - I have read good things about Wright Audio; their phono stage was on my short list before I decided on the Holfi, which I was able to audition locally at Teres Audio. From your comment: "I only use the best NOS/current production parts and you will love the results" it sounds as if you build tube amps....? If so, I would indeed be interested in more info. Also, what "quality CD player" are you suggesting? Either way, I am guessing that I would still need some sort of receiver/processor to match with the amp in order to use my DVD player. Or am I still confused?!? :-~

Thank you all for your responses.

Holly
I've ditched HT, and spent my money on fewer, higher quality two channel components. You can still run your DVD player thru a high quality 2 channel system and have nice results. With a high quality 2 channel system, you won't have to worry as many bells and whistles, and can sink your money into fewer, but higher quality components.
I am indeed considering getting rid of my rear speakers, and possibly my center, but still would like the sub for movies. Quite a few people have mentioned that just running the front speakers for HT works very well indeed. After all, I don't have a dedicated HT room, so my system's surround sound impact is already compromised!

I haven't seen many tube amps that have a DVD input, however. What are you using, Pdreher?

Holly
Hi Holly,

Let me try to help you through this mess. One - you cannot believe the magazines, reviews - etc- they are all tainted by manufacturers advertising money. Everyone has their opinions and their preferences.

Let your ears and the sound of live instruments govern your choices. I used to work for a major mid to hi end dealer some twenty years ago and love this hobby. I have had many components that I have experimented with in and out of my home, in particular - a variety of power amps and speakers. I have owned many components. I hope what I tell you will save you lots of time, trouble and dollars and maybe some of the other readers wh are wading through all of this.

Here is my bias- when I sit down to listen to music, I want to hear something that sounds like real music- believable. I want to hear a saxophone that sounds like the real thing (not like a childrens toy), I want texture, body and truth in timbre. For me- that is best captured by well designed triode tube amplifiers (both push pull and single ended.) You do not find it with solid state components. I dare any audiophile to test it. Listen to the background instruments -can you focus on them dictinctly? You cannot pick them out with solid state amplifiers- there is too much drive- they blur them all together- you are aware that what you are hearing is ELECTRONIC. In general, you do not find this level in clarity in pentode tube, push pull designs that I have heard that encompass the majority of commercial tube manufacturers out there. You get more body to the music but they still so not get the distinct resolution level that the better triode tubes can reveal.

The speakers you have selected leave you many different choices in amplifiers. If you are looking for trouble free clean solid state- a nice YBA Integre DT or Passion will be musical without the solid state grit and grain and with a good soundstage.

I agree with Pdreher in that I think a high quality two chanel system is preferable than the multi-chanel HT. The whole HT stuff is another ploy to pry your hard earned dollars from your purse for something you may not need. You can end up littering your house with speakers all over the place- sure you have sound all around you but more is not neccessarily better.

With your speakers since they are very efficient-I would be to agree with the path C123666 mentioned above- a good quality 300B design would complement those speakers very well.

To get the most out of your system, you have to mate the preamp/power amp together and pick the appropriate speakers. My suggestion would be pick a good quality tube preamp, 300B poweramp and enjoy a very musical sound experience everytime you play your stereo.

Well within your price range, a nice Audible Illusions L-2 or M3a with a pair of Welborne 300B monoblock amps that will run you in the used market- $2500 to $3K. You can sit back and enjoy music at home and laugh at your fellow audiophiles blowing needless funds into their equipment.

Another nice option if you want more power is a Berning ZH270 amp- very flexible and tranparent with tube sound and truth of timbre! The designer has one of the best minds in audio and really understands audio circuits, designs amps that you can really live with (as opposed to the rest of the industry that would have you buy imposing -lets make the stereo the most dominant thing in your family room.)

Just an opinion like everyone else on here, but one that has alot of experience through years of trial and error and critical listening. My suggestions will help you have you have a system that you could go home to and relax and enjoy with out hype and pretention. Hope my two cents helps!
what type of music did you addition the cain and cain's with?
Thanks Apt_one - I very much want to hear the music, not the electronics. Your comments are quite convincing. I am especially interested in the Welborne Labs Terraplane 300b - after all, the bubinga wood will match some of the wood on my equipment rack! :rolleyes: Welborne also lists the Cain & Cain speakers as compatible. Since I don't have the skill to put together the kit, I would have to buy the assembled unit.

As for the Audible Illusions pre amps - what is the difference between a "Full-Function Stereo Preamplifier" (the Modulus 3A,) and a "line stage" (the L2.) The L2 appears to be capable of HT pass through to an external processor, but I am beginning to think I don't need that!

Jaybo - I can't remember all of the CDs I heard during my Abby audition, but among them were cuts from: Angelique Kidjo's "Black Ivory Soul," Miles Davis' "doo-bop," and Leonard Cohen's "Ten New Songs."

Holly
I second Apt_One's advice. Stay away from HT... you will end up spending alot of money for "bells & whistles" that would be better spent on higher quality two channel components. I learned the hard way ($).
I also used to have Rotel HT gear and got really tired of the midfi sound - especially with music. I didn't think I could get high quality 2 channel and HT in the same system for less than huge amounts of money.

However I ended up getting a deal on all Cary HT components. The Cinema 6 pre/pro, Cinema 5 Amp, DVD-6 player. After upgrading my cables to match the new system, I can tell you I'm in heaven every time I fire up the system. I never thought I'd have as good 2 channel audio in my home, let alone how amazingly this sounds in HT.

That I get all this with 3 components is just astounding. If you really shop hard, you could probably find this setup for $5K or more. You could also get the less powerful (but equally as amazing sounding) Cinema 7 amp and go down in price from there.

As an ex-Rotel owner, I can tell you you'll be in seventh heaven like I am if you go the Cary route. For pure sound quality, you can't touch it for the price.
I will be able to check out some of the Cary products at a local dealer. I'll have to audition them, Larry.

Briefly, how do they differ from the Rotel sound??

Holly
Hi Holly,

I have the Audible Illusions L-1 and highly recommend it. Great preamp without going broke.

The L-2 line stage (no phone input) is the newer version of the L-1 with the HT bypass and a remote. The M3A obviously includes the phono input. Sonically they are identical.

Have fun.
I have read good things about the Audible Illusions products and they are on my list of components to audition - there is one local dealer here. Thanks, Apt one.

Holly