From tubes to SS amp : Ayre, Belles, Pass or else ?


I’m a vintage kind of listener and my sound could be defined as UK sound, with a clear preference for musicality and refinement over hyper detail or oomph (having lived with Rogers LS3/5a’s for over 30 years should tell you sth).
Having recently moved from ProAc response 3 to Audio Physic Virgo 2 (vintage, told you) I find myself at crossroads with my tube amplification.

Currently using an Audible Illusions M3A pre on ARC VT60 amp (50watts of 4x6550) it sounds beautiful and much to my liking although very different. But I’ve grown the habit of switching from tube to SS amplification to be tube savvy as I can be in and out of my room and don’t fancy leaving the ARC on just to warm up the room (32x19”). As an alternative amp for everyday casual listening I use a couple of Meridian blocks (auto switch on is a blessing) I find musical enough but with the arrival of the unforgiving Virgo2 they clearly show their limit, add to that I’m 80% vinyl and recently added a phasemation MC cart the meridian really sound their age.

As I don’t want to leave the 6550 on at all times I’m on hunt for an SS amp up to the 2000€ mark (but less is more) that would deliver the musicality I’m after and not having to worry about retuning every 6 months. Music wise I’m eclectic from Radiohead to Chet Baker or Beethoven sonatas.

On my radar in my price and geographic range (I’m in Europe) I have identified (but not heard) as possible candidates the Ayre V-5xe and the Belles SA-100, I have also been advised to look at Threshold or other Pass designs even a cheap Adcom GFA555 mk1. I know full class A could deliver but I’m reluctant for the heat and power consumption it implies. So your input is welcome, what would you look for ?

slabadabada
I've always been a fan and own Ayre equipment. Great service if needed.  The Ayre sound is a great cross between tubes and s/s
I replaced a VAC kt88 based power amp with the Ayre VX5/20. I retained my VAC tube preamp and the combination never fails to provide engaging ”music” with my Spendor speakers.  
I own an Ayre v5xe and love it.  Super musical.  No urge to “upgrade” whatsoever. 
I've owned three Simaudio Moon integrated amps at the same time as tube amps from Cary, Rogue and Cayin, swapping them out as my mood and/or the weather dictated. I think Simaudio would be worth your time to investigate.

what about another tube amp that gets about as warm or less than SS amps? in fact, under power you can touch the outputs with a bare hand!

bob Carver makes one '275' stereo amp with 75 wpc.

you can roll the tubes to suit .

price? $2500 to $2750USD, 'new'.

the only thing I am unsure of is if the power sup can deal with 240v 50hz.

it probably does. but I dunno for sure.

Google is your friend! I'd contact them and find out!

comes with a great warranty. 7 yrs on tubes! I think. at least five for sure.

I heard this amp drive a pr of KEF Blades II recently. it did a very, very nice job.

good luck.
After several years I have switched from Audio Research LS5MK2 + Audio Research Classic 30 to a different power amplifier, the old Krell KSA50, keeping the LS5MK2. Great, great sound and no regret for the 6550. Cheers. Maurizio. Italy
Happy transition here from Rogue to Belles (Aria).
twoleftears,
Which Rogue model did you transition from? Are you using Vandersteen Loudspeakers?
Cheers,
Tim
I like tubes but I wanted a cool running amp that had a tube flavor so I went with YBA. I'm using a YBA 3 amp with dual transformers into Vandersteen 2 speakers. I've heard YBA mate well with Audio Physics speakers and that may be something to consider.
Cronus Magnum II.

PMC Twenty.24.
@mr_m
Well, some Rowlands perhaps.
"or else": Lavardin IS (reference). As old model on used market should fit into the budget. Very smooth, natural and transparent.
I am very happy with my Lavardin ITx driving Living Voice
@ digepix
As the US Distributor of YBA, I wanted to add info that helps to understand why YBA is sometimes described as "tube-like".

Yves-Bernard André patented his "Class-A alpha" design that offers distinct features, as he describes:
1. The Power Supply remains in full "Class A" operation using an Ultra Linear UI-Core transformer of YBA design.
2. The output stage delivers only the power required by the music signal.
3.  "Therefore, you have the sonic quality of Class A operation
- linear output with current on demand - without the negatives."
4. "Therefore, our amplifiers run cool, which improves reliability and avoids thermal stress on the components and the resultant parasitic vibrations."

So with YBA offering sound purity of "normal" Class A solid state amplifiers, one can easily infer YBA amps have a tube-like sound quality...but with the control and extension of the best solid state designs.

Hope that helps....

PS: personally I still have my original Rogers LS3/5A in use in my office system but will sometimes move them to the reference YBA "Passion" system and drive them with the A650 (200w/ch) amplifier with extraordinary results. Those BBC engineers certainly knew what they were doing! 
 

I offer my reviews on Belles, Pass, First Watt and Gold Note amps at dagogo.com for interested parties. Among these four the most tube-like, imo, are the Belles and Gold Note.

The Gold Note PA-1175 Amp is unique in that it has a Damping Factor feature allowing switching between DF of 25 (like tube amp) and 250 (like Solid State amp). It's surprisingly effective at mimicking a tube amp, and retains the power structure of a SS. It opened my eyes to the influence of damping factor and its pervasive influence upon a speaker's sound. DF is considered by many to be a more benign aspect of amp design, but the PA-175 shows that is mistaken.

I built beautiful systems with all of them and recommend them all as fine brands.

I’m a Tube Guy. Through four years of attending RMAF, rooms featuring Ayre amplification have been the only ones which ever made me think I could live with transistors.

OK, that and a darTZeel setup which cost more than my house. That solid state sounded good, too.
Through four years of attending RMAF, rooms featuring Ayre amplification have been the only ones which ever made me think I could live with transistors.
Huh, I never thought about it that way but some of my other favorite amps are actually hybrids (ARC, Aesthetix). Among all solid state products, Ayre is the top of my list.
Many thanks for your input so far, good food for thought.
@sfar ar thanks had not thought of an integrated or Simaudio, I’ll look into those
@blindjim Thanks, but I’d rather do without tubes. also Carver has poor resale value here in Europe, and has to be imported so …
@maurip I hear you, not mentioned but is top of my list just worried about the power consumption when left on 18h/day :-/ I’d have to solarpower it.
@digepix @tmhaudio had not thought of YBA, had an alpha pre here not long ago to measure agains ARC and AI and it was just too dry and not engaging, maybe their power amps are different I’ll lend an ear to those, which one would you recommend, used, in a reasonable (-2000€)?
@inna had discarded them because of balanced inputs which I don’t have on my pre, may have been wrong though
@jmeinhar I’ve heard too many good things about IT and IS, yes it fits the bill and incidentally works well with LS3/5a which would make it a very flexible option for me.
@douglas_schroeder thanks for pointing the DP factor to me, I’ll read your reviews

Pass, Threshold, no one ?




@cymbop 5 votes for Ayre so far  but aren't Belles amps compared to darTZeel or am I confused ?
@slabadabada If you stretch your budget a bit, the YBA "Genesis A6" could fit quite nicely for you.

Interestingly you mentioned darTZeel. An owner of YBA "Passion" combo A650/Pre550 also owns darTZeel 18/108. He believed the YBA combo compared *VERY* closely to his MUCH more expensive darTZeels...and surpassed the darTZeels in some areas.

@douglas_schroeder Excellent point on how Damping for amplifiers can change the sound. The YBA "Passion" A650 has 2 sets of speaker outputs - each with different damping factors. The higher damping provides a more neutral sound whereas the lower damping output has a more organic, "tube-like" sound.
Thanks @tmhaudio that YBA looks interesting and I know a dealer not too far I'll lend it an ear …
@ Ayre users I've told it is much better in balanced mode which I unfortunately don't have, has anyone compared inputs ?
slabadabada

Another +vote for Ayre and backed with excellent customer service after the sell.  Happy Listening!
Well, the Ayre V5xe is fully balanced (my understanding is that each channel is really two amplifiers working on each phase of the balanced signal, which are combined at the output), so a single ended input will be converted to balanced pretty much immediately.  Doubt that using a single ended input will make a huge impact on the sound.
Luxman 507ux.
I came from a Primaluna Dialogue HP Premium integrated, most recently. I share your concerns about tubes.
I have owned Pass x250.5 , x2.5, x1, x10. Several ARC pieces, Spendor S8e, tons of Dynaudio latest. Very good cabling all around. My ears love a nice musical sound with detail, life, body, power, and emotion coming through the electronics.  The Luxman amp is incredibly compatible with these goals. 
My source is a Meitner MA1 v2 dac, and my speakers are Dynaudio contour 30. Wireworld cables for everything. After 25+ years in the hunt,  this is it for me. I found my absolute sound. I can only hope you try a Luxman. I suspect, after reading your excellent summary of experience and goals, this is the puzzle piece you are after.

32” x 19” room, you live in a doll house? What does “sth “ mean? 

This post was like a riddle 
@gochurchgo must have got my conversion wrong 50 sq meters 4m high, 10m x 5m x 4m  sth = something
viewmeters ! thanks @dpac996i over budget but I'll check that one