Finally stepping into the hobby after 30 years of watching from the sidelines


Ok, so I hope you are all ok with a longwinded post from a first time user of the forum.  I have been obsessed with vinyl and tubes since my dad played records for me as a 5 year old.  My wife and I are finally in a place that we can take the leap into the scene.  We want to grow our system over time and may even create 2-3 systems along the way as we have a bed and breakfast where we want to make analog part of the theme. 

We have made up our mind that our first speakers will be Vandersteen 2CE sigs.  That is about as far as we have gotten.  We definitely want to power them with tubes and have very little idea of where to start.  Obviously the mainstream option would be a Mcintosh mc275 and our local HiFi salesman would LOVE to sell us a pair of those.  However, we know that there are several cheeper/better options out there and would love some input from the board.  We'd like to keep the first amp under $3,000, but we aren't locked into that.  Keep in mind that we are ok starting with a single amp and then adding a second one along the way to mono them.  Also, we would love some help with a table/arm/cartridge!  One with an integrated phono stage is fine to start with and we would again be open to upgrading and adding a stand alone phono stage later on.  

We will be doing some electrical work soon to run a 40 amp fuse to the BnBs espresso machine and would be open to setting up a dedicated line for our main system at that time so that we can have clean power.  Has any one had any experience with this?  Any ideas or recommendations that you may have would be a big help here! 

Thank you all in advance, and we are really excited to finally be part of the scene! 
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128cottguy
Welcome to the wonderland of passion memories and mythology.
Please tell us more of what you would like to accomplish, your music and sound preferences etc. Judging by your choice of speakers and the wish for a tube amp, you prefer very warm cozy relaxed sound, and you probably do not intend on playing music very loudly. How big is the room where the system will be?
Dealers will love you...!

Certainly look on the used market & try to minimize upgrading by using your absolute maximum budget. 
Room acoustics..... :)
Thanks inna!  We are primarily into piano heavy jazz and vocals.  Orchestra isn't our thing, so huge amounts of power shouldn't be a concern.  You were right when you said we want a warm cozy relaxed sound, but we also want to make sure we have decent clarity with tight bass.  Due to the nature of the BnB, we won't be able to accommodate face melting volume, so again you are right on with that assumption.  

The room is large.  It is approximately 20 x 40.  The speakers will be placed at about the mid point of the room facing one of the walls.  So the listening area will be about 20x20 with the kitchen area BEHIND the speakers.  Leaving a 20x20 space behind the listening area.  We know that this isn't optimal, but it's what we have for now.  The ceiling is 11 ft tall.  

If I didn't address your questions properly, please let me know as I'm still learning :-)
Infection, I already have a decent amount of dislike for dealers.  I can't believe how they go out of their way not to help you.  

Erik_squires, room acoustics is something we are already planning to work on and will be trying to improve them as we go.  
That is a large room for the Vandy 2's, I would consider getting the 3a sigs-at the least, with the 2w/wq subs. or the Quattros used. 
If you are set with the 2's, then get a pair of Vandy subs. For a room that size, you are going to need some bass augmentation.
For amps/preamps/DAC, I recommend McCormack, which pair nicely with Vandersteen's and don't cost an arm and a leg.
I would also contact Johnny R at Audioconnection, he is a Agon member, and a Vandy Dealer, and he won't steer you wrong.
(Audioconnection is his member name).
Bob
gdnrbob, unfortunately, that addresses a concern that we had about the 2's.  Keep in mind, that this is our first system.  We will probably upgrade to the quattros in the future and move these speakers to another room where they will be better suited.  Thanks for the recommendation for Audioconnection!  I'll be sure to reach out to him! 
cottguy,

If you haven't done this already you might go to the Virtual Systems page and type in Vandersteen 2ce at the top of that page, this will bring up systems of folks who have those speakers. You click on the system picture and the next page will give you the system components being used by that member. Also, this enables you to indentify members that you might want to directly contact. Good luck
" face melting volume", I think it would depend on guests, some of them might deserve it.
Tight bass with tubes, especially at this level, is a very tough task to accomplish. Whether you decide to get Rogue Cronus Magnum II or something else, you might want to install New Old Stock tubes that are not too mellow, the ones that would give you more dynamics and bass control. You would have to consult with those in the know about which tubes. Speaker cables are going to be long?

2 channel systems have a sweet spot for optimal listening. Some sweet spots are narrower than others. Rotating guests on the best seat in the house might be awkward at times. You might want to consider different speakers that have better off-axis sound reproduction - such as omni-directional - or perhaps, multi-channel. This would benefit guests who are sitting off to the side.
cottguy  Have you given any consideration to a top flight integrated amp?  One chassis rather than two and you eliminate a pair of interconnects.  Lots of good vibes on this forum for the Rogue Audio Pharaoh integrated amp.  It has 12AU7 tubes in the preamp stage and a class D solid state output.  It also has an integrated adjustable phono stage.  I have never had the privilege of hearing it, but if I was looking to put together a new system I really would consider it!  It should mate up well with the Vandy 2CE Sigs.  There are reviews online that should give you a decent sense of it.  Just a thought.  I really love the system I have spent all these years assembling, but were I to do it all over again, I would go with an excellent integrated at the heart of my system.  

Good luck with your audio adventure.  As you read more and more from members here I'm confident you'll sense the joy that the pursuit of audio excellence gives us.  Welcome aboard.
People want tubes not hybrids. It is more difficult but may be rewarding if done right. Cables are very important too.
As for table/arm/cartridge, a lot would depend on funds. Not many choices at the entry level.
Here is another option to consider based on your described room and budget.

Have you looked at the Magneplanar 1.7 speakers by chance? I think those and nice JL Audio Sub would be a nice setup in that room for starters.

You would probably be a little over the cost of the Vandy setup but I think the end result would be much better. In fact, I Bet this in combo with that McIntosh Amp you previously described would be as impressive sounding as it would be crowd pleasing :)
They have already chosen speakers. 
3rd + on the Rogue Audio suggestion. The Cronus Magnum 2 is a killer. 100 watts of real tube power per Channel and a built-in moving magnet phono stage will make you happy. Full disclosure I am a rogue audio dealer and if you have no one local I would love to make you a deal.
@inna What "people"? I have a tube line stage and solid state power amp so in a sense a hybrid set-up in two chassis.
I also will recommend Audioconnection, He's a Vandy dealer and he knows his stuff.
I agree with finding a good radial speaker design for that room. I would also look at Linear Tube Audio's new ZOTL40. The tightest bass. All tube design by David Berning. It drives my 87db Janszens with power a plenty. 
Hifiman5, people who started the thread. To experience tube sound fully you need tube power amp not only tube preamp.
Choice of dealers is important but not the most important and certainly not in the very beginning.
I think that the Rogue Cronus Magnum is worth looking at. It is tubed integrated with phono stage. The Rogue offers lots of power and since you are in a big room with speakers that are not very efficient I think you might want more than 25-40 wpc which is going to be typical for under $3k.

Right now good deals are available on Rega RP Turntables since they are  refreshing the line. These are great tables, easy to use and easy to set up. The rp3 is a table that you could likely live with forever. 
Sorry, did not see the post regarding the Cronus above until now!
I would look used for power , turntable and cartridge. Put aside some cash for room treatment ,one of the biggest upgrades i,ve ever done .
Good luck
Oh Ya spend some money on vinyl ,and stay away from remasters


I took a quick look, and it appears that within this price range there is nothing with phono stage and decent power except Rogue.
Does anyone know anything about Icon Audio or Cayin ? But no phono stage and less power.than Rogue Cronus Magnum. Rogue must be selling those by the truck loads.
Quicksilver Audio 120 Mono's. New a little outside your budget but worth looking into. Probably not much luck finding a used pair.

Not tubes, but I'll throw this out. Used ModWright KWA 100 SE. Will sound sweet on Vandy's, with no heat or tube replacement cost over the years. Add a ModWright LS100 preamp and you're good to go, especially if you pick one up with the phono option. Vandy 2Ce's are already sweet sounding speakers so don't be afraid to throw a great SS amp on them, especially with a tube preamp.
the cayins are nice ,wasnt there an arc for around that ,without phono though
I had the 2CE sigs and powered them satisfactorily with a Conrad Johnson CAV50. I now use a Manley Stingray for Thiel 2.4s. This would be plenty of power for the Vandersteens and will sound terrific.
If thinking of an integrated amplifier and want an all tube system I agree with the Rogue Cronus suggestion. Within budget, has phonostage, and would mate well with the Vandys.

If willing to go the hybrid route, another option is the Vincent 237 integrated. It has tube pre and SS amp and delivers 150wpc at 8 ohms, 300 at 4 ohms. A great sounding unit, lacks phonostage however. 
Rogue Cronus has high power because you have to run the snot out of the tubes which will cause premature replacement.  IMHO, PrimaLuna, although less power, offers up a better audio experience than Rogue.  A good entry level, no frills TT would be a Rega RP2 or Planar 2(new version) with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.
Can you share the name and location of the B+B?   Sounds like the kind of place I'd like to hang out in.  :^)
That's what tubes are for, like candles, to be replaced with another set.
Wow, thank you all for your responses!  I've been going through all of your recommendations and trying to research them to the best of my ability with the resources that I know of at this time.  

I do want to reiterate something at this point so that you are all aware of my plan moving forward.  This is my introductory system.  I know that it may not be 100% optimal for the room it is going in at this point in time.  I do plan to upgrade as it makes sense moving forward.  We have been building the BnB over the last year and want to make audio a main part of the experience for our guests and plan on having a very nice option in all the rooms.  I'm sorry if I was unclear about that up front.  

@facten I was not aware of the virtual systems page.  Thank you very much for pointing that out and I've already spent a good amount of time checking it out.  That is a phenomenal resource! 

@inna I've been looking into the Cronus Magnum II and it looks like a very solid option and right along the lines of what we are looking for.  Speaker cables shouldn't have to be over 10ft.  We are ok with an "entry" level table, and are ok spending around $1-2K give or take at this point.  

@robr45 the rp3 is compelling and right in the sweet spot for our current price range.  My local shop already tried to deal with me on an rp1, so maybe they will extend that to the 3.  

@oleschool buying used is a scary proposition for me.  I'm not saying I'm against it, but I would like a solid recommendation or two on places that you might suggest to look for used gear.  

@stevecham Those are both really nice options, were you left wanting for power at all?  

@mapman We are in Denver...I'm afraid it will be a while till it will be up to an audiophiles standards though :-) We used to own a cafe, so it's a much more relaxing way to do what we love!  

Thank you all for your responses.  If I didn't mention you, it's probably because I'm still digging into what you had to say.  

I'm currently visiting Minneapolis, do any of you have a recommendation on a shop or two that I should visit?  


The gon is a great place .. Expecially for turntables and cart imo there are some heavyweights here that roll through alot of stuff . I bought my vpi classic 1 from a member here xcountry . Couldnt be more pleased . I have bought all my interconnects used here . Just reach out and message the sellers . I can say getting in tune with the gear people have had success with those vandys will save you alot of pain and cash ..I personnally wouldnt hesitate to buy from an established member here or a cple places . I have got things from music room too they always work deals on there used gear . Stay inside the states imo i have had problems.. You can spend 2k and have a 4k table .. 3500 and get a 5-6 k tube integrated. Jmo .. Treatment my freinds i like gik panels myself they helped me take pics and fill out there form bryan is cool ..
Good luck
. Use your ears for your sound , dont get lost in the opinions and hype . Take a trip and listen  to some stuff with your music
Cottguy, I, too, just started back into stereo after a long hiatus.
A lot has changed, but thanks to the internet, I have bought a pretty nice system 2nd hand, most of it bought here on Audiogon.
I, too, was afraid I might get scammed with defective merchandise, but to the contrary, Audiogon members, for the most part, are honest, stand up folk. Many will let you come to their homes and listen to the equipment before buying.
So, don't be afraid of buying used equipment. You can get great deals and save a ton of money-eventually getting a much higher end system than you would have if you bought new.
Cottguy, if you do take a risk and decide to buy used here, there is an older VAC Avatar integrated with phono stage. This would be my choice. VAC is a top level company, you cannot compare it to mass-market Rogue. If you do get it, don't rush with cables, this would require a careful thought and possibly consulting with VAC. Yes, no way would I go with Rogue, any Rogue, instead of VAC.
Cottguy,

Check out my Thorens td150, that I modded and maxed out on my virtual page. It is my second table and seems to hit all the buttons you have identified. I would part with it, for the right price, if you are interested. If, you are within reasonable distance you can audition it and or I would deliver and set it up for you.

The best Tubes for the money go to Rogue. I would check them out if I were you. Their 100 watt integrated with phono might be just the ticket for you to begin with.
This will give you nice sound and meet your desires for a classic system.

I love your plan and what you are doing. Enjoy.

Hate to be a kill joy but it sounds like you might have a system turned on many hours of the day, many days of the week.   
I think you'd go through tubes rather quickly with that many hours of usage each week.  Maybe a hybrid design would give you the warm sound you're looking for with less tube issues.  
While vinyl might be a nice thing to do at certain times, I'd also add in a music server  you Can load play lists and let our  do its thing for hours while guests come and go.  
Or they could add their own choices via ipad.  
The point someone made about the sweet spot is a good observation.  
Also I'd do 4 subs around the room for even bass with less nodes.  
Good point on the run time . I would think a server at a b&b would be a given except on vinyl night : ). 

X2 on the vac there serious amps  
I would definitely spend money on room treatment. Especially for a room that size. You could have a $100K system in there and it would sound like crap without room treatment. Try audimute.com or gikacoustics.com . As far as components go....what sounds good to me, May not sound good to you. Buy what pleases you! Buy clean sound over power.
Ok, so I was able to go to the Needle Doctor in Minneapolis yesterday.  I was pleasantly surprised with how I was treated by their staff.  It was the first time in over 15 years that I had an audio salesman who actually was into the hobby and not just there to sell me on the most expensive gear.  I dealt with Brad and would highly recommend him if you are in the area.  The showroom wasn't anything special, but they did have plenty of gear to audition and he actually knew what he was talking about when I asked questions.  This was a completely different experience than dealing with Listen Up in Denver.  They have a beautiful store, but no substance or support.  
I was able to audition the Cronus Magnum II and was really happy with what I heard!  Once I get back to Colorado, I'm going to head up to Fort Collins to visit The Audio Alternative to audition some Vandys and to pick their brain.  Unfortunately, I think it is going to be hard to get the Rogue and Vandys together.  

@oleschool  and @gdnrbob Thanks for the reassurance on buying used, it's a leap of faith, but I think I'll be ok.

@inna that VAC looks amazing, I'm not ready to buy just yet, so I hope it is around in another month or two! 

@raymonda thanks for the offer on the Thorens!  It looks like an awesome table and if it's around in another month or two, I may make you an offer :-)

@emailists I appreciate your concern on burn out and ease of use.  However, keep in mind that people are coming to Denver to spend time in the mountains, go out to dinners/bars, and enjoy the local cannabis scene.  Most of our guests spend very little time in our home.  Also, there is no way in hell that we will be allowing people to operate the system themselves.  This is my full time job, so I will always be home to cook for them when they want and since our kitchen is part of our living room, we thought this would be a great way to incorporate a passion of ours into their experience.  Once we have the system(s) dialed in, we will make it more of a fixture in the BnB experience.  If we burn through tubes, I'm fine with that because that would mean that I'm surround by beautiful music all day long :-)

@polkalover Room treatments will definitely happen as soon as possible!  Thanks for the recommendation on treatments! 

I'm going to be attending the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival in October.  If any of you will be in town for it, I'd love to pick your brains in person and listen to some awesome gear together!  I'd offer up our BnB for you to stay in, but we are already booked solid till November.  


Cottguy, VAC Avatar is a very rare find. I heard that the company is great to deal with.
I'm going to advise against Rogue Audio and class D unless you hear it first. The hypex sound is very sterile and cold by default...Rogue Audio tries to fix this issue with a tube preamp, but I'm not sure that the end result is what you are looking for. 
The Cronus Magnum ii is a complete 100 watt, KT120 integrated tube amp. They will drive most speakers and give great tube sound. There is no need to go with a hybrid, not that there is anything wrong with that, too.

I'm going to follow this thread and vicariously enjoy the new system build. Cottguy you are in for a lot of fun.
Vandersteen is a good choice....I'd be more open to solid state of I were you.  If you can find used Ayre, you'd make a find.  Be careful about getting hooked into the upgrade sickness. Buy from companies that are solid...with great customer support.  Buy what you like and enjoy the music.
Cottguy, thanks for the kind words.
I still recommend McCormack for your peripherals, not Tube, but good sounding. And, they are the nicest people to deal with.
Get the vac man . It would be mine if i had the scratch 
No it would be mine !
Ok, so I'm strongly considering going with a set of used vandy 3a sigs.  Same price as new 2ce sig II, so why not?  I have found a couple of used sets online, but I'm waiting to hear back from the sellers on details.  One seller is apparently a member here, but hasn't replied to my text or PM yet.  I have been digging to try to figure out if the 3a's have changed at all over the years.  I know that the 2s have and that their name has changed slightly to reflect the upgrades.  However, it seems that the 3a sigs haven't gone through any upgrades?  Does any one have any light to shed on this for me?  I just want to make sure I don't buy something that isn't what I think it is.  

@inna after doing a bunch of research on the VAC, I'm leaning that direction.  Sounds like a phenomenal piece of kit.  You already know that, but I had to poke around myself.  The only downside is I won't be able to audition it :-/ 


Jolida makes a line of very nice tube amps with a modern snappy sound and they're utterly reliable (I use a 502p with factory mods, runs all day) and beautifully made. Under 2 grand easy (new). Note that anything in a room is actually "room treatment" and you can have GREAT sound without worrying about that…room reflection (some speakers are designed to actually use reflections) isn't such a sound killer as some feel it is, and using some common sense in the setup of the system can obviate any minor issues. Get a good used sub or two someplace to further make things sound more lively and then ENJOY.
Hi Cottguy, I have a room ca 20 x 30 feet. After much experimenting I found out that the system plays best in the longest axis of the room. Also, fairly symmetrically placed (on one of the shorter walls). I started with solid-state and big speakers in order to fill the room, but later switched to tubes, and have liked it more. I use Atma-sphere MA-1 monoblocs with Audiokinesis speakers. It doesn't quite push the sound like big solid-state can do, but to my ears it is more musical.
Cottguy, I would not rush with the turntable. I believe that the source should always be a strong link in the chain. If you get VAC Avatar and Vandersteen 3 Sig. it is highly unlikely that you will be satisfied with any $1000 table/arm/cartridge package, though it will sound good. Buying turntables used is something of a double risk: damage in shipping and that table may have thousands of hours on it regardless of how it looks. I myself took those risks because I wanted an excellent table and could not afford it new. I got very lucky with the seller - a very honest man.