Golden Tube Audio SE40
Okay, this is more about a total system rather than just this amp. However, I do want to report on the amp, which I find works really well with the new second system I've put together. I sold my Jolida 102 in order to purchase this amp, to run the Heresy (s) and to use as a head phone amp. I have found that I have now gone totally backwards in time to build this system. Gone is my Well Tempered Record Player.....which is a really nice spinner.........and in its place is a highly modified Thorens TD 166 MkII. Which, after building up as a project led me to separating from my long term relationship with the WTRP. Yes, it is really that nice and mates extremely well with my Sound Smith modified Benz Glider. It has gotten me back to listening to vinyl for hours on end. I suggest anyone considering a turntable to pursue this alternative.....you won't be disappointed. I bought a Music Hall speed controller, which added to the sonic mix of the system.
Needing a preamp I went with a passive that is made in China with excellent components and an extremely reasonable price of $135.00. I was going to build my own but after looking at the cost and finding this one I didn't have to since this is built to the standard I would have made and less than the price of the components purchase separately. It came with a chioce of pots.....ALPS Blue Velvet.......resistor based, stepped attenuator or SMD stepped attenuator. Wanting to try a SMD attenuator I went with that. If I didn't like it I would just replace it with a Dale stepped attenuator, however, at this point, I'm happy with the SMD. It comes with 4 inputs, 2 volume controled outputs and one fixed output, CMC RCA's and wired with sliver/teflon cable. Nicely done and it works well if you don't need gain.
I bought another MK MX150 for a good price. It needed a few toggles replaced to work again and the grill cloth needed to be replace (cosmetic) and now matches well with my other one. Many feel that you don't need two subs and that one is better but I wanted two in order to energize the room more evenly and feel that it is an incremental improvement that is worth the extra cabinet and set up.
I finally finished the Heresy modifications and now have a pair that I can listen to. It took a lot of work, as I feel, in stock form, the Heresy is problematic. As a reminder, I bought a 1982 vintage pair at a seriously reasonable price. When I ran them in stock form with the Jolida they were, to say the least, almost unlistenable. Shrill, hard and no bass best describes their sound. The first thing I did was replace all the caps in the crossover, as they were old and most likely drifted. I also replaced the stock internal cable with Teflon/Silver/Copper, as well as upgraded the binding posts. This made an improvement but not to the level needed for enjoyable listening. I then dampened the internal cabinet to extend the low end. I think I'm getting around 5-7hz more in the low end. Coupled with a sub continued to improve the speaker. These speakers require a sub, IMO, to be enjoyed, unless, you don't mind having only a 3 string bass....e.g. No low (E) and god forbid your recording has a five string bass with a low B. Things started to come together but still not there......so, I bought a pair of stands that raised them off the floor and gives me a better soundstage instead of feeling that I'm listening to the band from a 3rd tier balcony. The final two modifications were significant in creating a speaker that could be enjoyed. I replaced the tweeters diaphragm with new ones from Bob Crites. What a difference! Now the high end it more extended and easier to listen to. It sounds more real than the old ones.......not to the standards of my Maggie ribbons....but good enough. Gone is the sizzle that looses control when pushed above 85dbs. The last modification tamed a lot of the shoutiness of the mid horn. I took a SD wind screen coupled with a layer of wind screen foam and placed it in the throat of the horn. Ah, now everything sounds better and more seamless. They now can be pushed to loud volumes without totally assaulting your sonic sensibilities. I finished off the cabinets by sanding down the chipped birch, staining them in black ebony and paste waxing them so they look like a gloss, black piano finish. At a distance they look good.......at least good enough.
Anyway, I now have a second system that is a different spin from my Classe'/Maggie sound. Hand on heart, the Classe'/ Maggie is truer to timbre but the Golden Tube/Heresy is very enjoyable and brings some of the virtues and romance of systems of yore. Yes it needs a sub to give ultimate impact and low end but it is worth it.
BTW, combining to two systems together has given me a system that affords me attributes that individually both miss.......refinement, impact, truth to timbre and an incredible sound stage. When doings so, I run the Heresy (s) at a lowered volume in order to just blend them into the sound without smearing the soundstage or creating other undesirable artifacts. It works extremely well.
Back to the Golden Tube Audio SE 40. This is a long term keeper for me. With the Sonic Craft modifications this is a great SE tube amp and IMO sounds as good as the MacIntosh 275, which I had for 4 years but rarely listened to. To be honest, I never mated the 275 to a proper pair of speakers and I wouldn't suggest that anyone dump their 275 but rather, for those that want good tube sound......can get by on 40 watts.......and don't have the money to spend on a great amp, like the 275.........a Sonic Craft modified SE 40 is a viable way to go. Be cautioned though, a stock SE 40 is problematic and riddled with component failure. Yes it was a great sounding amp when it came out but over time caps and resistors that weren't up to spec failed causing many SE 40's to go down. Sonic Craft addressed this as a way to keep owners happy and to address the issues related to stock amps. A Sonic Craft modified SE-40 is as reliable as the best and the way to go for anyone looking to buy one. One with out mods is very risky and should only be purchase by someone willing to replace the 50 or so components that are addressed by the Sonic Craft mod. Those that are really good with an iron can come up with their own component replacements and may end up with an amp that sounds as good or better than what Sonic Craft has done.
BTW, I use to be down on Klipsch Heresy, but, now after the upgrades I give them two thumbs up and have been enjoying this second system. Late night listening is a gas and better than headphones......to some extent! The Maggies need to be goosed to sound good, where the Hersey(s)sound detailed and dynamic at 60-70dbs. Now I don't have to have my head in a vise to enjoy music while the family is sleeping!