Try to find a used Innersound ESL amp. These are made specifically to run electrostatic loudspeakers. You could by a new Sanders ESL amp, (same as Innersound, but updated).
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Get a McIntosh Mc-2300 7270 or 7300 300/watts/ch 1500-2000 in excellent condition and will drive any impedance curve the Monoliths can through at it
ARC is also a great amp for the Monoliths but they will be pricier being tube amps with the same output
You may want to consider Bi-amping the Monoliths they do sound better with an electronic crossover configuration
If you want good sound from your Monoliths get tubes.
Everything shows up for sale eventually. You have to decide on what you want and be patient.
When buying used equipment there is no other choice. I don't like buying substitutes with anything whether it is stereo equipment or a dish for my cat. I would rather do without.
Find a used Mark Levinson 23 or 23.5 or 27.5 and you are there. I have an Audio Research REF 3 pre-amp that goes to two AR VTM 120 Monoblocks for the upper panels of my Monolith IIIs and a Mark Levinson ML3 for the bass drivers.
I also use an ultra modified Bedini 250/250 MK II (that I modified) and it is also wonderful on the upper panels. Do not, I repeat, do not let tube bias steer you away from excellent and cost effective sound.
The ML 23.5 is still one of the best amps out there and for the money, you can't touch it tube or solid state.
Rrog; Oh I'm there all right. I don't have a tube vs. solid state bias. I have listened to many amps over the years and built up my system. I am not in the amp of the month club and don't change because some "new and better" amp came around. Because most times, the new stuff really isn't "better". Don't get me wrong. There is some great equipment out there. But, I will not change equipment just because something reportedly new and better came along. Most times manufacturers will cancel a piece of equipment and come out with something new, not because it really is better, but because equipment reviewers and magazines won't review older equipment, even if they are still being produced. And for some audiophiles, if the equipment isn't reviewed recently, they won't buy it. However, for tube amps and pre-amps, I recommend cleaning the connectors, changing the tubes with new tubes and rebiasing and then listening again before considering changing components. for example. I wanted to investigate a new pre-amp that was remote controlled (getting lazy) that was at or better than my Audio Research SP11. The SP11 is probably one of the better pre-amps around, even now. So, what I did was purchase new tubes and burned them in and listened. Wow! was it great. Then I went to my favorite stereo store and borrowed an AR SP 17 and SP 16 to listen to, along with a Krell pre-amp. They weren't close to the SP 11 in sound quality, and if I sold my SP11 it would basically pay for any one of them. So, finally, I listened to a demo model REF 3 pre-amp. Took it home for two weeks (yes, they let me). and it was better, not much better, but better than my SP11. I didn't think that the cost of the REF3 was low enough to justify purchasing it over the sound of my SP11, but I weighed it for days and finally negotiated a very good price for it, sold my SP11 for a very competitive price and I am good. I don't do that often. I know what music is suppose to sound like. I played classical violin, oboe, bassoon, etc. I know what live music sounds like also. So, my system is very close. Such that to upgrade is not cost justified for the incremental increase in sound quality. So, Yes, I'm there. It can always get better, no question. But I don't feel that anything is really missing or lacking in the music reproduction.
Minor1, I'd say another set of VTM 120s and you'll be there. I'm a stickler for coherent sound.
I totally agree with you. Newer is not always better and sometimes newer is not as good.
I also owned an SP-11 MKII. I used it with a Levinson 23 to drive the big Duntechs and later I owned a 23.5.
I am a long time fan of Audio Research both new and old. I have owned everything from an SP-3A-1 and ST-70 C3 up to the Classic Series amplifiers. After that I switched to Quicksilver to drive my CLS and then the ESP Concert Grands. There is a pair listed on Audiogon with some good photos if you have never seen them.
I don't know about the product of the month because I don't read magazines anymore. We eventually reach a point where we realize the manufacturers and reviewers are not gods and we begin to trust our ears for what is good sound.
I would call myself a tube lover, but some of the best sound I have heard was with high quality Class A solid state monos like the Levinson Model 20s. I also like the John Curl Levinson gear like your ML3 with the preamp of the same vintage.
I am sure your system is very there. It sounds like you have an awesome system.
Please tell me you kept your ML 23.5. That is one amp that I would not get rid of. I would keep it even if I bought other equipment. I've heard it many times, and it was a very good, wonderful amp. Hmmm, four VTM 120 monos huh? Well, the Martin Logan Monolith III's that I have use the Martin Logan electronic crossover that adjust the gains of each amp to match with switches in the rear of the crossover. But, tube amps for the bass drivers? Hmmmm. What would that sound like? The VTM 120's are very good amps that didn't get very high positive reviews and were cancelled. The AR rep and stereo salesmen that I spoke with told me they were cancelled because at that time, people were moving away from Mono blocks and wanted stereo amps. In any case, useing them to drive the upper panels of the Monolith IIIs takes much of the load away from the amps with the ML 3 on the base drivers, the VTM 120's absolutely shine.
Recommendation: Eliane Elias' Something for you disc. the Blue in Green cut is simply wonderful.
Over the years, on my SL3s I've run an old Adcom GFA-585LE (only until I bought something else), the Threshold T200, an early Edge, MacCormack DNA 1, and currently the Muse Model 300 monoblocks. Only the Edge continually overheated and wouldn't run the speakers (gave it back). Even the 100w T200 had plenty of stuff (although it was a tad bright I thought). The Model 300s (300w/500w) work fine and are the best I've had for bass response. Good luck.
Minor1, I wish I could tell you I kept my 23.5, but I didn't. Wouldn't it be great if we still had every piece of stereo equipment we ever owned. I simply don't have the room.
Just think, with 4 VTM 120 monos you wouldn't have to worry about being cold in the winter.
Stereo amplifiers are less expensive and the VT 100 made a big hit, but I have always preferred mono amplifiers for their big soundstage. The Audio Research M 300 monos worked very well on the Monoliths full range.
Thanks for the recommendation, I will give it a listen.
Eliane Elias is brilliant. My Foolish Heart and Tangerine, also on that disc are great.
Are you familiar with Grant Green? On his CD, "Idle Moments", Blue Note, listen to the title track, almost 15 minutes long. This recording really says something about the resolving power of the big Martin Logan panels. Through my CLS while each musician takes their turn, there is a strange sound coming from the right speaker before the sax begins his solo. It is Joe Henderson blowing air through his horn to the tune of the song while he is warming up for his solo and it was picked up by his mic. I'm sure this was not audible during the recording session or by any other speaker for that matter.
Okay, Grant Green, Idle Moments is my next purchase.
Thanks for the recommendation. You know, the fun part of this is that I can actually borrow equipment from my favorite store in San Diego and they let me take it home for extended listening. I may borrow some AR Amps and take them home to listen. I am not in the amp of the month club, I'm not, I'm not!
It's great you can borrow equipment from your local dealer. It would be a good way to find out if your system would be more coherent with all tubes and if it is meaningful to you.
I was runnig the Dunlavy SC IV speakers with Audio Research tube electronics. Dunlavy never believed in bi-wiring, but the dealers and reviewers pressured him until he started offering binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amping. I tried the speakers both ways and I preferred the sound with single wire because the speakers were much more coherent.
I will be interested to know if you try another pair of tube amplifiers on the bottom and the results. Please keep me posted.
See, the problem with not being in the amp of the month club is that if I go to my favorite stereo equipment dealer, Stereo Design in San Diego, borrow two mono tube amps and take them home and use them instead of the ML3, and they sound better (which I really doubt by-the-way), then I'm in a situation where I may be stupid (for me) enough to buy them, when I really don't need to do that at this time. This year, I'm suppose to be saving money and not spending money (unnecessarily). Very subjective I know. I haven't heard a tube amp just powering bass woofers that really out do a very good solid state amp. They are typially slower and don't have the bass slam and bass realism that I hear from a good solid state amp. But, one day when I am very patient and have the strength to not do something stupid, I will do that. I wish I had friends nearby that I could borrow their amps and try this. But alas, no one nearby. My closest friend with massive VTL mono amps lives in northern California.
If you find one,the Streets 950 stereo power amp from the mid to late 80's drives those speakers with ease!!the Barry Streets design was one of the best,true dual regulated power supplies,the only other amp to state that claim is the famous Mark Levinson ML-2 -25 watt mono blocks that can fetch up to $5k in todays 2014 market if redone with new caps.etc...the Streets 950 was rated around 95-100 watts but with 7 times more current then traditional high watt amps,no voltage problems whatsoever and amps ran rather cool,like toast,featured a 2-speed internal fan with large side to side heat sinks.the Streets redone with new cap technology will blow away the current $10k to $15k amps!!
amps also just kill on Snell Type AIII speakers in bi-amp mode,the Snell's sound best by far with good solid-state amps due the speakers are extremely power hungry and need control.get in touch I just may have access to 1 or 2 of the Streets Electronic System model 950 power amp,timing is everything,here today gone tomorrow.