Let's start with the basics. Forget any brands for now. List your listening criteria. How big is your room? What is your budget? How fast or how slow do you want to move?
Putting that aside, I have recommendations based upon power, price and components. You start and I will follow with nothing but tube recommendations.
It all depends on your budget. How much can you spend?
The other replies are right. You need to narrow it down to a manageable list. So first, determine your absolute budget for all components (including cables). Then determine some basic requirements. What is the minimum power needed for optimal performance from your speakers? What features are important in each component? You may have to ask a lot of questions just to determine this. What are the predominant charcteristics of your speakers, and which brands or types of components will enhance this? Are looks important? Do you want to buy new, or is used acceptable? Does building all or part of your system appeal to you? I'd suggest you spend some time reading through the archives here and at AudioAsylum.com until you get a sense of what's important to you. Then you can start to narrow it down. Try not to buy anything you can't listen to in your own home first.
Good luck, and enjoy the ride!
Take a look at the Rogue Audio line up. The 99 pre amp and the M120's would make an incredible system. At a reasonable price.
If you want to keep your sonic's pure as you say,forget the tubes,that is not what they are about. The tube sound that you will get is not pure in any way shape or form. Don't get me wrong,tubes can sound very good but if you want a clear and pure sound as you say then you will need to go with a passive volume control. I would get a good ss amp to keep things tight on the bottom end so their size stays big in sound for bookshelf's as you say and let the passive keep things pure. Some how this and a few other sites can get people thinking that if you just get some tubes you will be in hifi heaven,that is not the case at all.
I have to agree with Sogood51. I have always liked my Mistral integrated amp but thought that I was missing something since I didn't have tubes (After all, I much prefer tube guitar amps over ss). But then I bought a PS Audio P300 Powerplant and plugged my tt, tt preamp, and cdp, and even the amp into it, and I can now say that I don't need tubes anytime soon. Turns out, I had been missing the exceptional performance that my "budget" integrated amp can provide because I was drawing dirty, uneven power. That said, sounds like you are about to embark on a journey--have fun!
Why don't you tell us about everything you're running now, and maybe also some things you might have heard which got you thinking about upgrading in the first place. And despite what sogood51 would have you believe, the first rule is that there are no rules, and there most certainly do exist tube components which can give very high-purity sound - and others which cannot, and the same with solid-state. One thing I might say to you first though, would be not to necessarily rule out a speaker upgrade as well - I'm not familiar with your speakers, but speakers in general have come a long way since you bought yours.
I'm driving my Signums with a Krell KAV 300i. This integrated has performed very well with other monitors in the Sonus Faber line as well. A double run of OCOS speaker cable really works well with this setup, as does a REL subwoofer. In my room, the sub allows me to locate the speaker a little closer to the wall which makes the detail quite vivid. In my large room, I am trading off some soundstage, and orchestral punch, for this precision, but that's my current focus.
Thank you for the many suggestions. The first thing I've done is to start to explore the reviews on the Rogue Audio pre-amps and amps. I'm intrigued with these and have emailed the company to find out who carries these in Northern New England/Boston area. To respond to some of your threads, I'd say that I could spend between 3,000 to 4,000 for the pre-amp and amp combination. The room is a fairly large living room, and dining area. Jdombrow mentioned cables which I haven't considered, and at this point I'm totally in the dark about these important accessories. When you talk about minimum power for an amp versus the speaker requirement, are you saying that the amp should be able to power no higher than the power rating for the speakers? I purchased the Sonus Faber Signums used (over eBay) and there weren't any spec sheets on a manual with them so at this point I don't know the minimum power needs are. The Signums are from 98/99. I'm running a Luxman 200 watt amp M-117, which the Signums seem to be handling. I don't mind buying used at all. In fact I like the idea of getting the original owners input on the equipment. Sogood51 and Crazyblues indicate to forget the tubes and remain solid-state, which from what I've seen so far pits the tubers against the solids with each having very strong feelings about which way to go. It must be the endless audio debate. Your continued input is very helpful. Thank you!
I stand corrected on the speakers' vintage...
The speakers are fine and I do not think you need to change them out just now. They will hold their own for some time to come. You will want an amp with a minimum of 50 wpc given the speaker and room size. Your budget gives you lots of options. Rouge as you mentioned. Cary, CJ and Manley. What type of music do you listen to? This will help narrow the field for the amps.
Cellorover's asks about yr musical tastes. This is important.If you listen to classical/jazz (i.e., lots of acoustic instruments) I can indicate certain products that match very well with the SF speaker line/sound.
Please note that this is NOT exhaustive, there are many excellent products out there (& your ears are the ultimate decision-maker) -- but these electronics have been used to demonstrate SF speakers (used, within your budget):
*YBA Passion (ss; integrated or separates)
*Jadis integrated (tube; the separates are very expensive)
*Symphonic Line integrated (ss; various models, the smaller ones will drive the Signums, but the bigger & more expensive ones are much better).
*Spectral (ss; difficult to find within yr budget -- but not impossible)
Many, many other choices. Your speakers are very "euphonic", lush, & musical. They like amps that offer lots of detail, speed, and control. Cheers
For Sogood and Crazy: JCBach maybe doesn't want to be in "hi-fi heaven," he just might want "music heaven?"
Yes Eldragon, "music heaven" would be terrific to live with considering I'm a music educator and my high school band occasionally sounds like the opposite of music heaven. To answer Cellorover and Gregm, my music interests are very eclectic, from classical, jazz, rock, world, techno, etc. but I would say the focus is jazz and classical first. When one suggests they are into clasical though, isn't that misleading, as there are so many forms and styles? I'm thinking that the Gymnopedies for piano by Erik Satie would demand something different from the equipment than the last dance movement of The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky or even The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss, as examples. Is there equipment in the area of amps that is known for being able to reproduce and handle the wide variety of sonic demands that classical music puts upon the ear? Thanks again for all the input.
Eldragon: Not sure what you're getting at, but I was really just trying to suggest to JCBACH that his search for the right equipment is more complex than ss vs. tube (or maybe you don't like the PS Audio product?); there will be surprises along the way. The bottom line is that each of us must make our own choices based on listening, and it's a good idea to do that by first casting off any prejudices such as ss=better bass, tube=detail, more $=better sound.
Zaikesman, I was not trying to have Jcbach belive anything. In his post he stated his goals for his system and I gave him my advice on how to reach those goals. He stated that he did not care about hihg volume levels and wanted his system to sound sonicly pure, (I thought people bought tubes to get some of that tube sound?) I like tubes and I like the tube sound but he did not ask how to get that tube sound,he said (sonicly pure)and I gave him the best answer I could to reach his goals. For you to try to make him think that he can reach those goals by just getting tube gear that has no tube sound (why would someone want tube gear with no tube sound anyway) is bad advice on your part. I have no problem with anyone that wants to add what tubes can do for their system, sounds like you may have a problem with what a passive can do for a system though. If you and Eldragon think he can get a more pure sound with tubes than he can with a good passive,then more power to ya, I would never give anyone that kind of advice when their goal was sonicly pure.
Jc - I just saw this thread, I have the Signums and I have been very happy with them, amazing speakers. I auditioned them in a local audio store with SS and tube amps, and felt there was a huge difference, much more involving sound with the tubes.
The amps that I auditioned with were a pair of used Golden Tube Audio SE-40 set up as mono amps, so 80 w per speaker.(I had been auditioning electrostatic speakers for weeks but was so impressed that I bought the signums along with the used GTAs).
I've heard that the Sonus Faber do need a lot of power considering their small size...which maybe makes sense given that they produce a great sound for the size. Let me know if you need info from the manual - I can make a copy for you.