Going to try a tube integrated.


This past week I was traveling on business and I ran across a audio dealer that sold Focal speakers. They happened to have a pair of Focal Sopra 3s connected to a Octave v80se integrated tube amplifier. Since these are the speakers I own, I had to sit down and listen. I was really impressed with the laid back presentation and nice warmth in the mids. I’ve always been a solid state guy.

So since then I have been thinking of getting a tube integrated amp a try. Another Focal dealer today told me that the VAC sigma 170i is a terrific match with the Sopra 3s as well, however, that particular dealer is not close so it is not easy for me to hear the speakers with that particular amp.

Is there anyone that can give me some advice on this? Thoughts on the VAC sigma 170i vs the Octave V80se? This is my first foray in to tubes so I don’t have a lot of experience.

Thanks!
rshad0000
What are you using currently?
If the VAC Sigma 170i sounds anything like the Phi 200 power amp, it will sound full bodied with a solid bass foundation, but lacking on transparency, sparkle and air in the mids and highs.  I liked the Phi 200 with classical, jazz and blues, but found it lacking with female vocals and midrange magic.  I'd be more inclined to search for a vintage VAC Avatar or Avatar Super with quality EL34 tubes... its a classic amp with a cult following for its midrange magic!  If I ever go back to an integrated, the Avatar will be on my short list.

I've not heard any Octave products, but if you found the synergy to be exceptional with your speaker,  keep it on your short list.  Other tube integrated brands to consider:  Line Magnetic, Cayin, Prima Luna and Jadis.
I currently have a Gryphon Diablo 300, which I love.   I use it for home theater and listening to two channel.   I don’t plan on getting rid or replacing it.  Just looking for a different sound occasionally.

I do like female vocals so, pdreher, your comments are interesting.  That is what I liked about the Octave that I listened to.
 Good for you. It’s an exciting journey. I’ve use the Viva Solosta which is a robust and full sounding integrated but a total space heater. I’m now use the Trafomatic 300B integrated with Sophia Blue tubes and it sounds wonderful on my Trenner & Fried RA loudspeakers.   If you can try before you buy, that’s optimal. Try and find a dealer who can allow you that luxury. 
If you can find a Primaluna to demo do it. I currently run the Primaluna Dialogue HP with KT150s. Awesome amp! Powerful and tight bass and mids that are very close to the EL34s. 
One of the best things I ever did...

you will never regret trying tubes and you will never go back to SS...
Whatever you get make sure you confirm how it is biased/metered..Auto Bias or Test points & biasing adjustments that are easy to use,NOT stuck deep inside the amp...
How big is the room?Is it acoustically treated,musical taste & how loud normally?When is the last time you heard live,unamplified music?You can’t judge how anything really sounds if you don’t have a base to compare to,go listen to live music ASAP.
Look at Rogue Audio,Raven Audio,Cayin & Prima Luna..

I love my tubes, probably never going back.
Thanks for all of the advice and recommendations!

I was emailing back and forth with the Octave dealer late this afternoon and went ahead and purchased the v80 se with the super box power supply.  I’m very excited and will see where down this road tubes take me.

freediver-my room is 20 x30 and is not acoustically treated but I do have rugs and curtains strategically placed.  From what I am told and read the Octave should be easy to bias. I do not listen to music very loudly- 80 to 85 dB.
rshad0000 OP
I was really impressed with the laid back presentation and nice warmth in the mids. I’ve always been a solid state guy.



Your spearkers impedance v -phase angle graph. Very hard to drive for any tube  60hz to 150hz.
https://www.stereophile.com/images/417FSop3fig1.jpg

Your Octave amps frequency response (black line) into a much milder (compared to your Focals) Kanton simulated speaker load.
https://www.stereophile.com/images/917octave.Oct80fig01.jpg

I predict you’ll tire of this sound very quick and go back to the Diablo 300.

Cheers George
First try Jadis even,Audio Note, Diablo, VAC, Cayin . More priced: Zanden, DartzeeL
Primaluna and Octave is ( for me) second option. But you have to hear in on your speakers. It must be “a match”.
You might consider not doing an integrated. They rarely match the
sound quality of a good separate system. I have an Allnic
L-7000 SE preamp and Allnic M-3000 MK2 mono blocks. The pair will run any speaker with really superior sound including excellent bass. Right now I have Dynaudio Evidence Platinum speakers
and this system easily handles these very demanding low impedance speakers. 
Allnic makes a tube integrated about 70 - to 100 watts for anniversary model. Great gear. 
This comment probably will not be much help, but VTL makes some great sounding gear. I heard a stereo amp in someone's system (about 80-100W/ch) years ago and it sounded really excellent. Made me think about investing in tube equipment for awhile. I am still a SS guy, but for the right person I would agree it's pretty wonderful sounding. VTL used to make an inexpensive (sometimes free)  booklet going through advantages of tube HiFi in detail. As long as they're working at an optimal level, I think tubes were "made" for jazz records. Just my 2 cents worth. 
I have a pair of VTL Deluxe 225 monoblocks and full complement of KT90 tubes that I'm not using now if anyone's interested.
If your speaker is not easy to drive you might find yourself listening to the music that sounds best through your systems and neglecting other selections.  There is nothing wrong with this but could be indicate an imbalance.  This is something I’ve found true of my own systems over time but is part of the hobby.
bjesien,  I agree.  I’m sure like many audiophiles, I listen to all sorts of music-rock, dance, classical, country, etc.  Different speakers and different amps do various things well and others not so much.

For me it was what this amp did for female vocalists.   Very nice.

I’m keeping my Gryphon though.