In the last paragraph, I meant to say that system A (VTL/B&W)sounded a little warmer, system B (Classe/Wilson) sounded a little thinner. Sorry.
It has more to do with the power delivery to the active devices, whether they be tubes or transistors. A component can seem very detailed but not dynamic if the HF power delivery is good, but the LF power delivery is insufficient. Likewise, the component can seem very dynamic, but not render the detail if the LF power delivery is good, but not the HF. Detail is also a result of proper handling of return and power currents in the amp. If the currents are shared and generally uncontrolled, then the detail can be lost. See this article that I wrote in positive-feedback:
I think the obvious answer (but perhaps not the correct one) is that a component that excels in revealing minute detail usually does so at the expense of "warmth". Conversely warmth usually hides some minute detail. In my experience its hard to find any equipment that truly excels at both. I have opted for a small bit of warmth, it just sounds more natural to me. I do not think this same tonal balance need effect the overall dynamics of a system, that is the ability to convey the quietest sound and the loudest sound at the same time in an uncompressed fashion and the speed in which the system conveys the leading edge and the decaying part of the sound. To me this lack of compression, combined with a bit of mid-range warmth gives recorded music a more "life like" sound. In audio everything comes as a compromise of some sort.
Have you tried the Classe/B&W setup together?
I will try that setup, and the other one (VTL/Wilson), too. Do you expect the Class/B&W setup do come closer to the real thing, i.e., conveying both micro- and macrodynamics well? And if so, why?
I guess there is a lot of random luck involved, mixing and matching components.
I suggest that due to both those being under the B&W umbrella.
Yes it does have to do with the Tubes.. the wilson's sound aweful with Classe in my experiences... they make the wilson's thin sounding.. Mark Levinson equipment has the same effect in my experiences.. the VTL 450's with the Watt Puppy 7's will give you more of what you are looking for.
Or if you can swing it a pair of Lamm M1.1 you will be amazed. I own WP7's and Lamm amps and I have heard the VTL450 combo which was very nice but I still felt that the Lamm's did it even better (I owned M2.1's also)
Hgabert, to follow up on my 'short' response, B&W owns Classe so you'd suspect them to work well together. I am using Classe (Delta) with B&W speakers and am quite pleased, whether it is your cup of tea is for you to find out. If not already doing so, leave your amp on 24/7.
I've heard very good things about the Lamms. But do the Lamm M1.1's (at 100 watts) really have enough power? I can't even run the VTL 450's in triode mode because with 220 watts (!) breakup occurs (at reasonable listening levels). So I'm somewhat skeptical, but I'm open to any explanations why 100 Lamm watts should be sufficient.
You didn't mention which preamps or source were used. Assuming the source components were the same, I will say the N802's are more detailed when spiked, it is not likely they will be set up that way in a dealers show room. I will also say they sound much better with tube power, in my case VAC than with a former amp Classe.
Source was Mark Levinson 390s (CD), preamp was Mark Levinson 380s, interconnects and speaker cables were all Transparent.
You're probably right about the missing spikes.
The Wilsons, in their earlier incarnations, leaned (no pun intended) from thin sounding (Series 1), to richer sounding (Series 2) to lean again (Series 3). Depending on which incarnation you are using, this may be helpful information.
I don't believe that Dave ever used components that sounded "lightweight" as did older Classe equipment (I don't know about current lines; haven't heard them). He always went for a "rich" sound, as in Rowland Research, which assisted in his "voicing" of the very earlier WATTS.
As for the WATTS not having "macro" dynamics, all I can say is Dave must have radically changed the speakers over time. When I had them, I used them with VTL 300s, and, believe me, they had not just macro, but MACRO!!!!! In fact, I might have said, at the time, there were fewer microdynamics than macros.
Someone else suggested the front end would be important and I agree with that wholeheartedly.
And as for "warmth" hiding detail, well...hmmm...not sure I'd agree with that. Just listen to a pair of Avalon Ascents or Eclipse speakers, which have a very natural warmth to them, and they always had terrific ability to convey details. Not to mention their sense of space, which was, on Jadis electronics, Heaven on Earth. I don't think it matters if a sound is warm, unless that warmth is an overabundance of upper bass/lower midrange frequencies. Music needn't sound sterile to convey detail.
I have heard the 390, 380, and transparent cables together, the Classe (flagship monoblocks and CAM350) and B&W together, but not the Wilson Audio and VTL. I believe what you heard was mainly the effects of the amp. Classe amps tend not to be the warmest nor the champs at macrodynamics (in its price range). I do remember them revealing spatial details very well though.
Some people run the 7s with low power tubes so I would think 100W is more than sufficient, although having never heard the Wilsons I can't be sure. You can look into Manley amps as well. I think they combine refinement, warmth, and tube power for their price very well. I don't think they're as good as the Lamms but you do have to pay more. It certainly gives you a different combination of sonic attributes nonetheless.
I'm not sure 100 watts is enough. Both Wilson and B&W Nautilus speakers have lowish impedance curves in the 30-80 hz range, and both are rated at 90 db efficiency (or thereabouts). Any source material with wide dynamic swings from ppp to fff will have problems with these speakers (if the amp can only put out 100 watts RMS or less).
Thanks for your insights. I agree Classe is a little on the cool side. Perhaps their Omega line is "fuller" sounding, but I haven't heard it.