What is your budget?
16 responses Add your response
Great response Kurt -- but IMO and I have the Andra II's, 60 watts isn't enough for the dual concentric bass. Remember, you're trying to push two 12 inch woofers with 60 watts. You're probably not able to control the bass as the Andra's are designed -- maybe bloomy sounding. I had dual MC275's which worked very well (mono/parallel for 150+ watts) and was very happy until McIntosh came out with the MC2301's -- so, I got greedy and upgraded (a virus in this hobby/craze, I guess).
If you can swing the dual MC275's -- highly recommended for the best bang for the buck (used pair in the $5.5K neighborhood).
My friend could not drive them properly with antique soundlab monsoon monoblocks. Thick, slow, bloomy sound, for some musical, for some boring. He thought boring. Now he drives them with Spectron musician monoblocks. Now he is on the other side of the pendulum: fast energetic but cold and tipped up sound. We recently tried with nuforce monoblocks (plus PS powerplant and top of the line Harmonic technology cabling). That configuration seemed to be a balanced way between the two extremes. Source: emm labs.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but if not, here goes: These speakers have low impedance (approximately, and probably less than, 4 ohms) at low frequencies. I would recommend amps that have 2X the output at 4 ohms as they have at 8 ohms. As for tube amps that do that, there may be plenty but I got nuthin'.
With that budget, assuming that you can buy used, and that you wish to stick with tubes, I'd recommend the VTL MB-450 monblock amps. (Used prices are around $4-5K). These have enough power to drive the speakers with authority, and control the bass response. (Note, while the VTL MB-450s have very good bass response, in fact great for a tube amp, they are not quite as good as an equal quality solid state unit. But then again, an equal quality solid state unit will not have the benefits of tubes either, such as the nice mid-range that the VTLs have. Trade offs are a part of being an audiophile unfortunately.) I should also point out that the VTLs tend to run hot and will warm up your room a few degrees.
If you can expand your budget a bit (to around $8K), the tube VAC Phi 300 (150 wpc) stereo amp is about as good an amp as can be found, IMHO anyway. The bass is still a bit rolled off, (like the VTLs), but it is better in every other aspect than any other amp I have heard. (A truly reference amp, IMHO.) It too runs hot though, and will warm up your room several degrees.
For a solid state amp, I have heard that the BAT VK 600 SE (300 wpc) stereo amp is very good, and used it runs about $6K.
If you want the best of both worlds, and if you can expand your budget a bit, (up to around $7-8K), the hybrid Lamm M2.1s (200 wpc) monoblocks are great. (FYI, these are what I use with my Andra II speakers.) The Lamms have all the benefits of tube amps, (lovely mid-range and treble), and the benefits of a solid state amp (incredibly deep bass that is tight and quick). The only downside to these amps are that they tend to run very warm. (Not quite hot, but you're room will still be warmer by a couple of degrees.) And if you can find a pair of their successors, the M2.2s (220 wpc), they are even better (the treble is slightly more extended than the M2.1s). However, the M2.2s have been running closer to $11-12K used.)
As a side note, my friend and I compared his Lamm M2.2s to the VAC Phi 300 in his system. The Lamms have better bass (quicker and tighter) and better initial impact on percussion instruments (such as the keys/hammers hitting piano strings), than the VAC. But the VAC sounded sweeter in the mid-range and it bettered (very slightly) the Lamms in the treble response. (I think the Lamms are more neutral, but man, the mid-range bloom on the VAC is addicting.) I would be hard pressed to pick between the two actually. My friend decided to stick with the Lamms because of the bass response, and also because the VAC ran even hotter than the Lamms, and due to the potential cost of retubing (probably $1,000.00 or more if using NOS tubes). But it was a very close to a toss-up as to which amp was better. (IMHO, neither is better, as both have their own strengths and weaknesses.) By the way, I am being incredibly nit-picky about their weaknesses, as both amps are fantastic, and I would love to have either!
My two cents worth anyway.
I had the Andra 2's for a while, although they are supposed to be a bit more efficient than the original Andra's. I feel that the 2 needed alot of power. I could not imagine the VK-60 being even close to enough power with this speaker. The Vac 300.1's are a healthy 150 wpc IMO, but driving my Vandersteens with a powered woofer I believe is an easier load than Andra's. It's a very nice speaker, but not a tube friendly one. I think Kurt's suggestion of the VTL is the best if you want to make these sing. The Air Tight ATM-2's are a powerfull 80 wpc, but 2 in mono exceed 6k on the used market. If you go VTL, you may want to try KT-88's. I did not personally do it, but a good friend swears by the 88's in his VTL's.
tube amp in this price range and enough power, VTL 450 and Rogue Zeus. Rogue weighs a ton, might be a concern to some.
if you like BAT sound, I will vote for 150SE. you can start with a single 75SE and add 2nd one when fund allows. I owned 150 and 75SE before, now have 150SE. SE vs. non-SE difference is quite significant, they don't sound like the same amp at all. if you haven't tried a BAT SE tube amp before, you are missing out one of the best tube amp on earth.