I've used Bryston (3B-SST), BAT (VK250SE), and now Rogue M-180 tube monoblocks. I've also auditioned the BAT VK-55 (tubes). The VK-250 was certainly very good, but I used it for trade-in on the Rogues, which are more transparent and natural sounding. (Actually I auditioned the M-150s first, really liked them, and then decided to order M-180s).
Oddly, it's the tubed Rogues that seem to have less of a sound "signature" than the solid state VK-250. The VK-55 had a midrange to die for, but was missing a lot at the frequency extremes. The Rogues are more neutral, but you don't feel you are losing anything on the frequency extremes.
I use the Rogue's in triode mode, and the only non-stock tubes I'm using are a pair of Ei Elite 12AX7s (Yugoslavian tubes). I tried some RCA clear tops 12AU7s, but preferred the Philips tubes that the Rogues came with.
Perhaps I should have tried the more modest Rogue offerings first, like the Atlas or Stereo 90. I was on a sort of upward spending trajectory when I bought the M-180s, and was also intent on keeping everything balanced (and my high-pass filters were the balanced ones), which doesn't seem as important now in retrospect.
I have not settled on a pre-amp. I'm currently somewhat dissatisfied with my BAT 3iX. It seems to suck away too much detail. I run my DAC directly into the amps.
The Rogue Hera sounds unbelievable with almost any amp in the loop, especially the Rogue monoblocks!
Rogue is one I would like to hear in the tube amp camp.
Tube Audio Design products another in the SS/tube hybrid camp.
in the straight SS camp, I would tend to lean towards some of the better Class D amps.
Many, many years ago I heard the old Quicksilver monos with the original Vandy 2s and was very impressed. FWIW.
Just an FYI. I don't own Vandys, but for some reason I think John Rutan of Audio Connection, Verona, NJ uses ARC gear to power up his Vandys. John is dealer for both Vandersteen and ARC. If John catches this OP, perhaps he can weigh in. Otherwise, I suggest that the OP contact John. He's a great guy and I'm sure he would be happy to help out.
I am not an ARC or Vandy dealer and have no economic or family relationship to John Rutan or Audio Connection.
I've always found the most memorable Vandersteen set-ups used Audio Research. There is definite synergy with this match-up.
Atma-sphere works wonderfully well. Incredible combination imo.
ditto on the audio research. Don't own vandersteens, ( got cats! ) but always liked thier sound.
Rogue Audio gear is getting along really well with Vandersteens. My system is at the "bottom of the line" for both Rogue and Vandy, but the synergy is sublime. From what I've been reading, as you move up the ladder with each brand, the synergy stays perfect, and the music sounds better and better. Good luck, and Happy Listening.
I spent an afternoon at Audio Connection with John and Mr. Ed several years ago.
Wasn't there for anything equipment or music related, but John had the Music Reference RM10 and Vandersteen 2s going - I forget the preamplifier now. Have to say the combination was spectacular. That was by far the best I'd heard these speakers.
The finest Quatro rig I've heard consisted of an Ayre KX-R running MX-Rs through Audioquest cables. Randy Cooley's setup of 5As run by ARC Ref 5 and Ref 150s at T.H.E. Show in Newport was compelling.
Ayre and ARC are often said to pair well with Vandersteen.
Thanks for remembering!
I have an Ayre V1xe amp and a K1xemp preamp into Vandersteen 5A's and are very pleased.
I like McCormack and Audio Research with Vandersteens.
I have the XP-10 pre and the X250.5 amp from Pass Labs with my Vandersteen 5A's. For my ears, an awesome combo.
When I owned the 3As, the Quciksilver V4s were a good match. I heard that for many years RV had Vandersteen at home. ARC sounded great at Rutans;s The CAT JL2 were a step up from the QS, but at 3-4x the price.
McCormack seems to be the long term SS recommendation, and the VS sure did sound spectacular with Ayre at RMAF. And the Aleph 2s sure were super with the 3As.
The surprise for me is Joe's mentioning the Music Reference RM10, not that it is not wonderful - I use it in the summer months with my Merlin VSMs - but I did not know the 2s were sensitive enough for 35 watts, but the RM10 is a gutsy little amp, relatively inexpensive, and reliable. Hardest thing would be to use amp that is so small, so cheap,l and allow yourself to believe it could do the job, but it might just surprise you and save you a lot of money.
Seems like you have a small coterie of brands to consider here.
I'm using a XP-10 with a McCormack DNA-225 with Quatro woods. The detail the Quatro's extract with this preamp is really nice. The buzzwords are micro dynamics and noise floor retrieval.
The only upgrade would maybe be a touch more bass impact. But, that's probably my "taste" and not accurate! To add bass and give-up the detail this preamp provides, no way.
Still, this unit is like a clear window to the music world, what's on the other side, and how it sounds, is up to the source quality. The XP-10 won't add make-up to even out the looks of your music, it plays it much more natural than my McCormack MAP-1, for instance. The MAP-1 is warmer on everything, but the color is acceptably smooth. Still it does require you to give-up the detail.
I will eventually try ODYSSEY KISMET amplifiers with my woods.
I just bought the McIntosh C220 tube pre.
I just upgraded my McIntosh C220 to C2300 with built it phono stage MM and MC