Enough SET Power for Rock and Roll

I'm still trying to figure out what SET amp would sound best for Rock and Roll (and other music but especially Rock) on Klipsch Cornwall II speakers (101dB efficiency) in a room about 18x13 (with kind of medium acoustics - not live, not totally dead.) On a Marantz 2230 (which sounds very good, surprisingly good for being ~35 years old and 30 watts of solid state) I found that when I crank up the Rock and Roll on the Cornwalls I'm listening from about 89dB to 97db, but frankly if I wasn't worried about clipping or blowing out the speakers or receiver I could probably enjoy an occassional 100 dB :) - but if I have to live at 97 dB and below I could. (Measurements made with a Radio Shack meter set on fast, C weighting - taken from 1 meter away from the speakers, and also at the main seating position which is about 10-11 feet from the speaker plane.)

From many posts here and over on AudioAsylum it sounds like a 45 SET amp would sound great but might not have enough oomph - although that isn't 100% certain. It seems that a 2A3 SET amp would have a better chance of handling the loud music and the "complexities?" of Rock (and orchestra music) vs. say simple instrumentals and vocals. Next up would be a 300B SET, more power but some people seem to think it gives away some of the "magic" of the 2A3 and especially the 45. It isn't so clear to me from reading the various posts how any of these tube types do on the low end; I think low end (reasonably deep and tight) is needed to do Rock and Roll well - but so is good midrange and highs, so it's a balance, of course.

What do you think, more power and listen loud with ease, ie go with a 300B, or can a 2A3 or possibly a 45 do it all? Or is it possible that SET just can't do Rock and Roll seriously with 101db speakers in a 18x13 rom? In which case, next up is what kind of tube amp? If SET makes sense, I'd like to give it a try but I don't want to push physics or the budget too hard with experiments that aren't likely to work.

We just had a four hour listening session last night that included the MFSL of Queen's "The Game", and Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sigh", with Coincident Frankensteins shining brightly through Coincident Total Victory IV's. I love the Franks on hard rock. The bass is insane! Tight, organic, articulate and totally satisfying.
Some guy's selling a pair of original Franks with KR Balloons and two other pairs of 300B's for $2600.00. That's pretty close to a price you could safely "audition" them with your Klipsch pair. Make sure you have good power cords with these amps, though. A lot of current for eight watts!
I personally like the KT-88 type tube for having authoritative bass with beautiful mids and highs. This tube was invented for audio, and is readily available for reasonable prices. A parallel single ended integrated amplifier (using 2 KT88s per speaker) offers 30 watts. But, in reality, w/ spkrs that have 101db of sensitivity, "how many" watts should not be the concern but rather "how good" of a watt can you get. Your spkrs actually do the work in this case. 3 watts should knock sheetrock off your walls. I still like the sound of the KT88 type tubes though and even a single ended amp using (1) kt88 per spkr. will offer 15 watts. Also, don't overlook the importance of the output transformer (not in OTL amps of course). The best sounding amps will only come from the best, musically driven manufacturers. I also credit the CD player with providing the quality of sound that the rest of the system gets to work with. Once your music leaves the CD player, it will not get better. It will get worse, but not better. Actually, to get the best sound per dollar spent, make sure everything in your system has similar quality. (spkrs, cabling, electronics & especially the source) Just my opinion. Hope this helps.
I also use the Coincident Frankenstein MK2 amplifier and their 8 watts per channel(300b) will be surplus power for your needs. My room is 14x26x8 feet and opens into an ajoining 17x 24 room. My speakers are 94db efficient, yet if desired the amp can easily drive to sound levels of 95 to 100db with ease and no hint of strain. Given your speakers and smaller space you should`nt have any problems. I can`t speak to other 300b tube amps given the differences in transformer quaility, driver tube choice and part selection. Best of luck.
I haven't had the pleasure of hearing the Franks, but I'm consdering them. It's hard to fathom 8 watts having a lot of bass....I'm not doubting anyone's claims it's just hard to wrap my head around that statement. Which is why I thougth about going to the dragons, but now not sure again....
To answer your concern honestly, yes the Frankenstein amps can do 'very' good bass. It depends on your speaker(load characteristics,efficiency,crossover type etc...) this is really the key. It ultimately won`t match the more powerful Dragon(211 tubes in push-pull). There`re always some degree of trade offs. The choice of 300b tube makes a significant difference in the bass quality also.

The Frankenstein has a superb power supply, over speced transformers and uses the very potent,high current 6em7 as the input/driver tube. It`s a exceptionally capable amp'if' matched to the appropriate speaker. I`m using the marvelous Takatsuki 300b tube and it drives my Coincident speakers(94db and 14 ohm load)with utter ease and control. I hope you get the chance to hear the amp with a proper speaker.
IMO 300B would probably be your best and safest bet given the levels you wish to attain at the distance from the speaker you listen at. The 300B will supply more headroom for the peaks.

Not that a 45 or 2A3 wouldn't work, but we manufacturer both a 45 amp and 300B amp and in our listening tests with 98 DB speaker at around 10 ft. the 45 does strain a bit when SPLs hit 100 dB (our test tracks include rock, big band, and large scale classical). It is still plenty load though for our tastes.

I use both a 12 watt 13EM7 and our own 10 watt 300B SET amp and play loud rock with no problems at all.
Interesting thread.

I'd like to try a SET based setup someday but right or wrong I tend to associate SETs more with Jazz and chamber music than rock and pop, which constitutes a fair portion of my listening.
It is really hard to say what volume level you are actually trying to achieve, and therefore, whether a particular amp or kind of amp is capable of delivering adequate power. Generally speaking, I would not expect power to be an issue with any 300b, 211/845 or tetrode/pentode used in single ended fashion (e.g., KT88, El34, etc. The 45 might be marginal and even the 2a3 might be marginal.

Aside from power, you need to first determine if single-ended sound is what will fit your sonic preference. Certain pushpull tetrode/pentode amps and many solid state amps deliver a harder edged attack to notes. This can be experienced as greater "slam" to the sound and might be preferred for rock music. Also, pushpull and solid state amps tend to have tighter sounding bass which adds "punch" to the sound. You need to hear a good SET amp (one with good output transformers is the key, and that generally means not a cheap amp), to decide if the sound is right for you.

As to the characteristic sound of particular tubes, there is considerable variation with brands and sound is also affected by the particular amps. Generally speaking, the 2a3 is the leanest sounding of the types you mentioned. It does not have as much upper bass/lower midrange as the other two and bas tends to be tight; the treble on a 2a3 is wide open and airy. The 300b is just the opposite-- it is warm in the upper bass and lower bass tends toward the loose side and there is less extension on top than a 2a3. The 45 is sort of in between. It has quite punchy, tight and deep bass and is warmer than a 2a3; it is also quite open on top like a 2a3 (for my taste, the only downside to a 45 is its lower power output). Properly implemented, ALL of these tubes can produce terrific sound, and it is a matter of taste and power requirement that will ultimately determine what kind of amp is right for you.

I personally think SET amps can do rock music extremely well. I don't listen at ear splitting levels, and at lower levels I really like what SET amps do with all types of music. At lower levels a good SET amp will sound more lively and vivid than a solid state amp or most pushpull tube amps.

One more thing, do not overlook output transformerless tube amps. This type of amp sounds VERY dynamic, lively and exciting. A 30 watt OTL would make a great "rock" amp coupled to high efficiency speakers.
I have certainly been able to get some strong bass and rock levels with both of the value-priced amp options from MiniWatt (S1 and N3). Great way to try out a SET for not too much cash. Remarkably quiet tube amps, especially considering the cost.
I wonder what pairings of SET and speaker might do rock/pop best?

Klipsch Cornwall seems like a good match. Are there better ones? What kind of cost should one expect between amp and speakers to really do it well along the lines Larryi described? Any good smaller speaker options?
I had a set (pardon the pun) of SET 45s. My speakers are 98 db. There was no-where near enough power...

So I built up a set of type 45 push-pull amps just for fun. Instead of about 3/4 watt, now I get something more like 5. So about double what I got out of my 2A3 SETs that I also had. One thing is for sure: the P-P 45s sound a lot better than either SET did before, regardless of volume- deeper bass, more extended highs, far more neutral and engaging in the midrange (nevertheless my 30-watt OTL took it to task immediately but that is another story).

DHT (Directly Heated Triodes) have a lot of linearity, but I don't see people comparing P-P to SET much in this realm, mostly because P-P DHT amps are somewhat rare. But I would consider it- you always want the amp to have essentially unlimited power regardless of the speaker for best result. With the Klipsch (depending on the room) that might mean 15-30 watts to really never be pushing the amp hard.

The problem with SETs is if you need power, the more power the amp can make the more the bandwidth is limited. By the time you get to 7 watts, most of them don't have much bandwidth below 30Hz (if they do then there will be no really high frequency extension...). This means that there will be colorations translating to lack of impact up to about 300Hz. But getting well below 15 or 20 Hz is no problem for a P-P amp, even if it makes 60 watts (and you can still have the HF bandwidth).

Now usually SETs are more transparent than many P-P amps, but if we are to compare apples to apples that P-P amp really should be using DHTs. If its a pentode amp *of course* the triode amp is going to be more linear...

The nice thing here is that with the Klipsch you pretty well can run whatever you want- its friendly to all known amplifiers.
My Audio Mirror SET monoblocks are rated at 45w - plenty 'o power for you. He also makes them at 20w.
I own a DHT pushpull amp that uses the 45 tube. It is a terrific amp--bass is tight and punchy, harmonic structure of instruments is fully saturated and realistic, and attack and decay of notes is very natural. These are all the qualities one would expect of DHT tubes. The biggest difference with SET amps is in soundstaging. SET amps tend to be better at presenting a big, enveloping soundstage in which the listener feels fully emersed rather than looking from outside in.

I mentioned high quality SET amp in my earlier post because there is a general impression that SET amps are lower in cost because of their simplicity. The problem with that assumption is that it is quite challenging to make decent output transformers for SET amps because of the high DC current saturating the core. The transformer is the key to a great SET amp, and good ones are not cheap.
The Audio Mirror stuff is very nice looking and appears reasonably priced.
I have a 2A3 SET amp @ 3 or 4 watts. It will rock with my 98db speakers.
But - Even when I had Klipschorns @ 104 db, and in a small 12' x 13' room, I always thought there were better options for rock. If loud is 20% or so of your listening, sure go for it.
But from your post it sounds as if loud rock is a majority of your listening. I would not recommend a 2A3 SET, I would skip the 300b SET and go right to a 211 or a parallel SET or PP DHT.
Flea power SET amps can do loud rock, but it ain't what they do best. Other topologies do loud rock best.
I wonder how some of the Zu speaker offerings compare to Klipsch in terms of performance and value for rock music off a SET type amp?
Here is what Steve Guttenberg had to say about Zus with a number of amps, including the MiniWatt:

I've heard the Jolida fx10 mentioned in that article do a surprisingly good job with a pair of Nola monitors. I could see it doing very well with Zu's. THe author seemed to like the Miniwatt as well. Will have to check those out.

How about Zu versus Klipsch in general for rock/pop music using a flea powered tube amp?
845 SET is the ticket. On 101db/w/m Zu Definitions, I can cave in my skull on clean heavy rock with 25w of 845 SET drive. You can also try PSET 300B at similar power, or 211 SET at about 16/16w with surprising drive. But unless you go for exotic big glass like the KR T-1610 or the Audio Mirror 6c33c SET monoblocks, 845 is the only SET for rock'n'roll. You can even find a few options for PSET 845, but you don't need it with 101db speakers.

I've listened to Klipsch Cornwall IIs with 45 SET Welborne monoblocks. I like to listen to rock and reasonably loud in a room about 18x14 or so. I think the 45s drive enough volume to just about get there. Would a little more volume be nice? Yes, but it's not that far from being enough. The 45s and the Cornwall IIs do very well together from top to midrange to bottom, but if there is one of the three that could go a little more it would be the bottom. I've tried other amps (more to get some deeper low end than to get more volume), including tube amps up to about 100 watts but the 45s are still the winner overall. I've also tried a Marantz 2230 and it's a very good receiver, but the 45s do a better job. Over course, the whole thing is somewhat system and room synergy dependent, and YMMV, but I think if you try 45s you might be happy to very happy, you will have a good frame of reference, and if you find something you like better you will probably be able to sell your 45s (I think 45s are becoming increasingly popular as more people learn about them). Let us know what you do and how it goes.

PS, the real answer is this whole think can be a trip/journey; so be prepared to have two of everything (amps, preamps, turntables, cartridges, speaker cables, ICs, etc. You will be able to A-B, settle on a winner, sell the loser, buy a new contender, and repeat; wash, rinse, dry, and repeat :)