Has anyone tried SET tubes amps with maggie 1.6's

My long time ss amp died a few weeks ago, and I only had a tiny integrated, single ended pentode, 5 watt tube amp on hand, to run my maggie 1.6's. To my astonishment it worked!

The manufacturer of this tiny SET is no longer in business: Wright audio, there were 2 companies with the same name, this one was out of Seattle.

Of course the musical picture is not quite complete. There is a noticeable lack of punchy bass and dynamics are softened compared with a Plinius 8200 mk2 that I auditioned not long ago (of course that has 175 ss watts compared to 5 watts with my tube SEP).

However that aside, the sound is actually quite loud enough and the realism is nothing less than startling. Femal voices, for instance, have a warmth, body, tenderness, emotion and silky transparancy that melts your heart and often brings me to tears. Strings are rendered with a rich silky transparancy as well. Horns, woodwinds, and guitars seem to posses an extra dimension that is uncanny.

As you might suspect, when the music gathers to a complex transient pitch, the instruments muddy as the amp clips. And there is a bit of sibilance from time to time. Also the piano losses its authority as the all-over dynamics are restricted. The sound stage also softens somewhat and losses its potential perception of real depth.

However the sound reminds me of the new iteration of the older British Quads, the 998, which I heard recently. In fact the maggies with this SEP amp sounds better, more involving.

I should mention that I modified my maggies by using large Hovland capacitors, and huge copper coil inductors from Alpha Core, in place of the standard ones, which might be contributing to the maggies all over sense of refinement here.

I would deeply appreciate it, if anyone in our audiophile community, has had experience with an SET amp that had/has a bit more power than my 5 watt SEP, and what your results were on the maggie 1.6's. Especially in the area of dynamics, and low level resolution of complex musical passages.

If there is a not-to-terribly expensive SET amp that might work for the 1.6's, I will stop my search for an ss amp (which up until now is somewhat disapointing because of hardness of strings and the lack of real warmth to voices) and concentrate on auditioning SET's.

I would like to thank everyone in advance for your help and idease which I deeply appreciate.
I don't think a SET amp would do an adequate job driving Maggies. I would recommend at least a 100 wpc solid state amp.
Venture over to the Planar asylum at AA where maggie people hang out - all your questions will be answered...
Check out Wright sound Company out of Kent, Washington at http://www.wright-sound.com. This may be the manufacturer you're thinking of and they're still very much in business.
This sounds like a fun "band-aid" solution...but as you already know...Maggies need power...and the SET aint gonna cut it....Bryston amps are know for emphasizing bass output...and they mate real well with Mags...good luck...
On second thought the latest Magnepan speakers, which includes the 1.6, are more efficient due to the lighter and faster mylar diaphram. Also the 4 ohm load will double the power of a SET amplifier. If the SET amp sounds good I'd say go for it.
Maggies and tubes RULE period. Those choosing SS and especially 4BSTs are missing what their Maggies can do.

Yes ,the Maggies need power, their are many high powered tube amps out there.

Many many years ago every Maggie owner worth his salt used tubes, I have no Idea how and why SS became the current choice.

When I owned Maggies I tried a 150wpc SS and was disapointed
in overall sound and max volume. Later I swapped the SS for a small black box, a Mini -Mite 2 tube amp, 40 wpc, instant magic and more balls than the 150 SS.

PS In the good old days most bi-amped, with tubes on top and SS on bottom.
SET and Maggies1.6 may be a bit too compromised (I was somewhat happy witht my 7W SET with Maggies 1.6s though).

If I still own the 1.6s, my first choice is probably a good tube amp. One Cary Rocket 88 (20W?) reviewer was very happy with the amp driving a piar of 1.6s. I think it will come down to how loud you listen and how big the listening room you have. To me there is not much point to have 200W amp if you use only the first 10W for most of your listening session. Of course it helps for a peak dynamic.

Thanks everyone for kindly sharing your thoughts and experiences with me on this important issue.

It is very interesting Dennisj, that maggies used to be driven by tube amps and have now become identified with ss amps almost exclusively.

Your description of maggies using lighter myler, translating into a faster and more effecient load, sounds very interesting Bobgates. And could easily explain why my tiny intergrated 6 or 7 watt SEP (pentoid) amp works so effectively with them.

I will look into the Cary Rocket 88's, Ake. I understand they need a powerful preamp to run them, since they do not have the usual driver stage (Cary claims this results in a less distorted sound).

Thanks rgd for your suggestion about AA. I took your advice and tapped into that rich source of information. A great resource!

Thanks Flacre for your suggestion about Wright Audio. It turns out not to be the company I bought my amp from but they have very interesting amps and I am looking closely at them now.

Your new speaker looks totally awesome Ake. How do they sound?

I am also looking into so-called digital amps (ICE module or pulse width modulation types) which claim they are not affected by the load of the speaker. If this is true, they should be capable of easily driving a 4ohm speaker like the 1.6's (which are, never-the-less supposed to be fairly flat, i.e. stable), or any difficult speaker load. Of course the size of the transformer must still play a part in any digital amps ability to get the signal to effectively drive speakers.

I wish all of you a wonderful new year, filled with peace and joy.

Thanks again for your help. I deeply appreciate it. It's great to be a part of audiogone. A great community of real music lovers with a deep appreciation of what the right equipement can do to bring one closer to the magic of living music.
Maggie's can unravel the big climax in such a convincing manner that it is a shame not to be able to go there sometime. Solid state as gain some refinement over the years and I presume that a Golmund SRM would be a good recommendation.
Just caught your inquiry - I run an Audio Electronic Supply Super Amp Signature (20 watts/ch) into an mmg to very good effect. I spoke with Dennis Had about a year and a half ago and he mentioned that he voiced the Super Amp and Rocket 88 with the aid of 1.6's. My dedicated sound room is 12x17x8.
When I want a litle more volume I switch to my Pass Aleph 3. I do use a REL Storm 3 to augment the bottom octave and a half.
Hi Dh,

Thanks for the suggestion and information on your AESSAS. I will certainly look into it. If there is a particular sight you can suggest that would have more information that would be helpful as well.

I once had the occasion of speaking to Dennis Had of Cary Audio
as well, and found him a lovely person to talk to; accessable and honest and refreshingly candid. Nice experience.

I had no idea he used the maggie 1.6's to voice any of his amps and found that most interesting information.

I also read with interest your using the Aleph 3 on occasion with your maggie 1.6's because I have been contemplating purchasing a Aleph 30 (the successor to the Aleph 3 with "improvements" or so that is how it is described...I have not actually "heard" it yet) and wondered if anyone had any experience with it...

How would you describe the sound of the Aleph 3 with your maggies Dh?

Also, do you find that your REL Storm 3 to be "seamless" with your maggies, or is there a "sense" of the sound being (somewhat) "added on" (that is-slower)? And while we are discussing the use of a subwoofer with the maggies...do you feel they help to flesh out the voice region of the midrange? I have heard they can effect this area by "building" a foundation under which the "voice" can achieve a more perceived tonal presence...

Thanks again for your help and feedback Dh...if you can direct me to more information about your AESSAS, I would deeply appreciate it...

This might be of interest to you.

Thanks Emil,

I read with interest Set mans system on Audioasylum.

Seems he loves his 20 watt Welborn Labs Appollo DIY
amps for his maggie 1.5's.

My search for the right amp still continues...

Hey Richard,
I'm using MMGs not 1.6s - so mine are a little more efficient than the 1.6s. I would buy a used Aleph 3 before a 30, myself - the 30 is not the same. The Aleph 3 is pretty dynamic, great from top to bottom. It may be a little warm but not by much. Picked mine up from a guy that bought it and never used it - for a grand, right near where I live lucky enough. Best solid state amp I've ever owned, and I've owned a few. There are a few other amp manufacturers that use the mmg for voicing because it is so neutral. I got tired of going back and forth from ss to tube so I purchased one of each on the cheap; the AESsas was new of course but it is great sounding at full retail of $1500/no tax though(from Upscale Audio). I use the REL just to fill in the very bottom reaches. I run it straight off the amp's output terminals in order to capture the voice of the amp. It took a while to get it set up properly - it was moving a little slow in time behind the maggies which are pretty fast. But I finally dialed it in. You will have to adjust output level from time to time depending on what genre or quality of music you are g\feeding it. The REL is the best sub I've owned/auditioned - ever! They do give the soud a great foundation - when you have that last octave working in the system it just "Clicks" together - Complete. I swear it helps further up the range by filling in the lower registers of all the instruments; plus the venue/hall.
Talk to ya later,
Hi David,

Thanks for the information. You have cleared up a question I had
about the differences between the Aleph 3 and the newer iteration, the Aleph 30. There has been so much written about these two amps! It now appears that the company that actually manufactured
the Aleph 30 with (apparently) Nelson Pass's blessings, is out of
business(?!?!). I thought they were selling well.

It is amazing how many serious music lovers have deep
respect for the Aleph 3, and still love it as their amp of
choice in their systems.

I have been visiting audioasylum recently (yes...I know...
whatever must have come over me!) and picked up a thread
about the Carver Professional ZR series of "T" class digital
amps. It seems that Carver Professional uses the Tri-path
chips, like BelConto "digital" amps to perform signal matching
between the incoming signal and outgoing signal to make
certain they match correctly. There rate of pulsing is higher
than the PS Audio HCA-2 which could point to a higher
resolving of the audable signal, although this is not certain,
since in the realm of so-called-digital amplification there may
be a point where more is not neccessarily audible.

On the other hand speed of "pulsations" may become
a benchmark that amp designers may use in marketing
hype, not unlike bit depth in scanners.

If the tri-path chips can control mosfet transisters, which is
what is used in the Carver Professional ZR series, why can't
they be used to control tubes (yes...yes...I am commiting a
grievous crime here, saying chips and tubes in the same
breadth). David Berning, for instance uses radio waves
to "control" his tube sets in his ZH-270 "OTL" amp to great
advantage. Just a thought. But I feel it definitley will lie in the
future as a possible "controlling" factor in tube typology.

More later, my wife wants me to drive her to the Fed-Ex

I'm almost afraid to try a digital amp.
The ones I've heard sound fairly dry - I need something with a little texture.
I been reading some descriptions of a couple of products that may possess the character of sound I am looking for - somewhere between warm/romantic and accurate/analytical/dry. The first one is Merlin TSMs. Great reviews (mags and individuals) The individuals, actual clasical musicians (not rock), speak of the sound sounding the most authentic they have yet heard from reproduced/recorded music. This speaker got them interested in listening to recorded music 'again'.
The other is the Audiopax mono tube amps - quoted as "not being able to tell what amplifying device is being used, transistor or tube". It would probably take me a while to adjust to such neutrality - but I think I would like to see if I can handle what is termed 'accuracy that let's the emotion come thru' without the equipment placing it's own signature on it; it almost sounds boring - it's kind of hard to describe but - you know, natural, accurate w/o the life of the music/emotion being sucked out of it. I think it is attainable, but at what price? Ok...enough of my babbling - check ya later.
Hi Dh,

I am following your thinking very carefully and I believe that you find yourself exactly where many of us who listen critically find ourselves...what I mean is that you can locate more or less what you are looking for in reproduced sound...I can say in all honesty that it has taken me several years to identify what it is that I find in reproduced sound that stimulates the suggestion that I am experiencing the essence of the musical experience...

Music is ineffable...I have often pondered on the idea that of all the art forms that we take seriously, and place on a high level culturally, music is the most mysterious and incorporeal...unless we "play" it, whether we do it ourselves with a musical instrument, or through the "reproduction" of an already existing musical event, it has no real "existence." Of course "film" shares with music a similar lack of existence until it is "played." But film contains images that were once "real," even if they are transformed by film into something else, something more like texture and patterns perhaps. Although silent film could convincingly create a narrative through the juxtaposition of a sequence of events, it did depend on written text to "key" the viewer into story and music played live to give the film its pace and emotional cues.

Music seems to be a fundamental part of our expression of what it is to experience life as a human being; how we speak and laugh and cry has a powerful musical presence "built into it." It must be this ground, the emotional expression that is fundamental to speech and human communication that is the basis for musical form. Of course the animals make music as well. I recently saw a show of a certain species of primates that actually do sing during their courtship ceremonies, and to warn other primates to stay away from their territory. Birds sing to each other during courtship as well, and the best male "singers" of certain species of birds will get the girl (no kidding!). The wind sings through the trees, the ocean sings the sound of rippling surging water, the thunder roles like a giant drum across the skies; all of life makes music. It is not merely a coincidence that much of music replicates the heart beat, which we “hear” on the unconscious level every moment of our lives...perhaps even in our sleep!

In any former time I would have to have been rich to summon musicians to my house to play the masterpieces that I can hear now by carefully assembling an audio system that reproduces music with a good degree of realism. Of course in the great ages of music past, almost everyone played a musical instrument and could get together and play music for their own entertainment.

I have often pondered on the fact that if we allowed ourselves to be trained in musical accomplishment, like our conterparts in former times, our preoccupation in assembling an audio system might not have the passion that it does for us.

In any case, I am geniunly astounded that I can hear/play music from all over the earth and from the far reaches of musical history up to the present, including music made by my own contemporaries, just by purchasing a CD and playing it on my audio system. This is astounding to me and I do not take it for granted...ever.

Like many audiophiles/music lovers, I also have a facination with technology. However I think I am more interested in tracking down and "aquiring" information than I am in purchasing the latest and the greatest and making expenditures that I really can not afford (that is; that would make it impossible to do other things that I also find important to pursue). Can I imagine someone who might spend his/her life savings on audio eguipment because they love music to much it becomes their very "food" for life? Yes of course I can and I would respect them for it.

My interest is to spend the least money but to approach the "state fo the art" in musical reproduction. To that end I have no prejudice when it comes to amplifier or speaker design.

If a so-called digital amp can get me where I want to go, musically, I will not hesitate to purchase one. Admittedly, those of us who have had experience with well designed tube amps have developed a certain "romantic" connection with them, and this may well have something to do with the tubes themselves, which exhibit a certian "life" that we can connect with...they glow as if alive and they eventually die, like we do, and they have the look of an older technology that seems accessable and understandable. The fact that tube rolling can help us to "shape" our experience of how the music sounds is another plus.

Which leads me to believe that the technology of the future should allow us to shape the sound we would like to hear with infinite control and finesse...why should we accept the sound of any one amplifier designer...aren't they merely giving us what they "think" is the musically "correct" ideal, based on their personal experience? We so-called audiophiles know what we like and what we want. The amp of the future should give us the control we crave to shape our musical experience to fit our mood and temperment.

My rambling is entirely your fault Dh, your own thoughts have inspired me to wax a bit philosophical. Sorry!

Hello Richard,

I am currently doing much what you have done. I am running my Martin Logan's with a 7 Watt SET (Decware Integrated). I am experiencing much the same results as you. Overall, much more involving, but only so much volume on tap. It is hard to give up that magic. Clearly, not the best setup. I am probably going to try to find a more efficient speaker to match better with the SET and would like to get another tube amp around 20 Watts to run the Martin Logan's. I'll have 2 systems.

On the matter of subs, I have recently introduced a Hsu VTF-3 sub to my system. It integrates extremely well to my stats'. Although there is no knocking REL subs, the Hsu is incredible for the money. I would venture to state that it would hold its' own very well to the much more expensive REL subs at a small fraction of the price.

best wishes on your quest, Paul
Hi Paul,

I have been looking for an alternative to the expensive REL sub and perhaps your Hsu VTF-3 will fit the bill nicely.
Is there anywhere that I can get information about it easily? Otherwise I will try to research it a bit...the chance of hearing it where I live in south western New Mexico is pretty near impossible! Can the "crossover" on the Hsu VTF-3 be "dialed-in" to match the roll off of my maggies (or your Martin Logan's)?
I have consistantly read good things about the Hsu speaker line and I belive, here and there I have read a thing or two about his subs...but it has been quite a while and I cannot remember too much about it. I'll certainly check into it.

I deeply appreciate your recommendation Paul!

I do not know what your budget is for SET amp but I do have some suggestions...although I have never heard them personally...

Jud Barber makes a SET/OTL tube amp called the Stargate that puts out 30 watts and has been very favorably reviewed. It lists for $5,500. Yes...I know...that demands a bit of cash! Call Jud directly if you are interested...his company is called Joule Electra.
David Berning makes and OTL tube amp that uses radio signals to "control" the output signal of the tubes and puts out a wopping 70 watts. If you read audioasylum you will get a great deal of information about it. It sells for $4500. a bit less than the Stargates.

However niether of these amps have a "tube" sound (I read a great deal of reviews about these amps and I am extrapolating from them) in the sense of what most audio enthusiasts would imagine a SET to sound like. But they are worth cheching out if your budget can stand it.

I am seriously looking into the Carver Professional ZR 1600. It is one of the new digital amps, actually a mosfet amp that uses a tri-path chip to control the incoming and outgoing signal to maintain its "purity." I have read a great deal about it and I am in touch with several current owners (from audioasylum) that are very pleased with it and characterize the "sound" as being tube like, in the sense of it creating a rich bloom (one user said "bubble") of sound. It sells for well under a thousand dollers for 350 watts into 8 ohms and 600 into 4 ohms...that should give my maggie 1.6's the juice they need to sing. I have it on order and will certainly report what it sounds like. I should be getting it in 2 weeks or so, so check back here and I'll let you know what I find.

Again thanks for you suggestion of the Hsu VTF-3. Although many maggie 1.6 reviewers caution not using "any" sub with these speakers (they are so fast and "clean" that subs generally cannot keep up with them, for anyone interested see Davids remarks above). And yes... I agree with David that a good sub like his REL's help to build a firm foundation under the music and also help to flesh out the midrange giving the voice (for example) a more human and richer presence.

Try driving them with a clock radio! Probably about 1 watt. Surprisingly the radio sound will be quite good, but you won't get what you paid for from the Maggies.
Yes Eldartford,

I can see that the idea of using an "underpowered" amp must seem to you like an exercise in futility. Granted.

But what is going on here is an attempt to find the limits of what a modest, but beautifully crafted amp will do, with a supposedly "difficult to drive" speaker like the maggies 1.6.

Think of it as an experiment...we audiophiles need to cultivate a little tolerance. If only to allow the "spirit" of experimentation to thrive...exactly like the designers of the audio products we love do, when they set out to see if they can reinvent an existing topology.

I'm having a hard time comprehending what I'm reading, since it doesn't seem to match up with my experiences at all.

When I auditioned Maggie 3.6's, the dealer used a CJ Premier 17LS preamp and MV55 or MV60 power amp. At moderate volume, it was dreadfully obvious that the power amp was simply out of gas. The room was not large but did have a fairly high ceiling (12'?), although a lot of it was pretty live. And I didn't play almost anything that would call the maximum from the power amp, just a couple of fairly deep bass notes from a synthesizer. Now these are 3.6's, but they are spec'ed within 1dB of the 1.6s, and the 50+ wpc was clearly and obviously not enough. From what I heard, I don't think this is really an opinion - it was fact. But then, other folks seem to like it.

I'm also floored at the notion of running Martin Logans with SETs. My room is small (14x15) and my ML mains regularly pull at least 50-100W peaks out of my amps (and I'm measuring this, I'm not guessing even though my amps don't have meters). I can't imagine how even a 20W SET could fail to run out of gas. This is especially true since I am using a powerful sub to augment the bass.

Don't get me wrong - I understand the magic of SETs driving these planar speakers - but my experiences with them, especially with those 3.6's, is that anything except chamber music simply pulls too much power.
Hi Blw,

I think you suggested very clearly the limits of low powered SET amps or low powered SS amps like the beloved Pass Labs Alpha 3's (for example) when using them with planar and electrostatic speakers.

There are several thoughts I would like to share with you. One is that you are quite right that the music being listened to will certainly determine how well this type of amp will perform. The size of the room, the position of the listner to the speakers (nearness), and even the hour that the music is being heard. Late at night, the so-called "normal" parameters of most listners can change radically.

To illustrate this point, many years ago I built a rather full size Clavichord from a kit (Zuckermann). It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. As you may know the clavichord was not used for concerts (primarily) but rather for composition...Bach, for instance and Mozart (late at night!) used the clavichord to compose with. The clavichord uses tangents that stick up at the end of the (exposed) keys and strick copper strings stretched over them (allowing the player to "attenuate" the sound and even to change pitch). The sound is indescribable...the overtone "structure" far exceeds the piano by a substantial order of magnitude.

However...unless one listens to this instrument late at night or in extraordinary quiet circumstances what is heard seems rather insubstantial...nothing could be farther from the truth however.

A cousin of mine once visited me during the day to "hear" the clavichord which I played for him, first warning him that (sound) conditions were not ideal (read: too much noise!). He listened attentively and then gave me his judgdement: thin, insubstantial, lacking in dynamics, uninvolving and so on.

This same cousin visited me several years later...late at night! Again I played for him on the clavichord...his jaw dropped in wonder and surprise. He characterized the sound as "having the quality of human flesh...my whole body resonates like I myself am being played." He never forgot that experience.