I promised myself I'd never do this

You know the threads, where people ask for help matching this speaker to that amplifier (s)? Always seemed like wasted space in a lot of ways to me, but here I find myself pondering which way to go with my system. So, I break my own golden rule, and ask for your advice. The system: Oracle Delphi IV/SME345/Grado Reference, Magnum Dynalab Tuner, YBA CD Integre CD player, Audio Research SP14 Preamp, (2) Classe Audio DR8 amplifiers in bridged mode, Martin Logan Quest Z speakers bi-wired. Various quality IC's and power cords. I'm considering changing the amps, primarily due to a "live" listening room that would benefit from a more mellow sound, and the amps have more power than I'll ever need. Treating the room is out of the question, lawyers cost more than my rig. Naturally tubes come to mind, but the care and feeding of tube amps can be significant, solid state are plug and play and forget about 'em. I'd likely be looking to spend around $3k for a used amp, any suggestions on where to begin? Thanks in advance to any of you who take the time to respond, Jeff
Jeff- Without specifics about your cables and power cords, it's a little difficult to get the whole system approach. Obviously, great power cords (Shunyata KC, FIM GOLD, NBS 0) can make a HUGE difference. Darker/warmer cables could help. A warmer sounding pre-amp could also match better with your system. Tubes mate very well with the esl part of your MLs, but the bass may suffer. An area not often touched upon is isolation/coupling devices and how they effect system tonality. You could try softer units, like Navcom/Sorbothane and other polymers, for feet under the front end equipment to darken the sound. However, this will also effect imaging and soundstaging. Reduce toe-in of the speakers to start. I'm not trying to discourage you from getting into tube amp(s) since they will excel on panels. It's just that tube amps don't have to be dark or mellow sounding. The majority of the problem may exist else where. If you'd care to discuss this further, feel free to email me. Goodluck.
Jeff: You've got the right idea but I feel you are headed in the wrong direction. I'd lose the SP-14 first. Try a VK5i BAT preamp for short money, or VK30, 30SE. I lived with an SP-11 for a long time. Don't get me wrong, Audio Research is a great company, but they do have their own sound! The Classe amps you have are good for the long run, classe and M-L are a match made in heaven. I have Quest Z's myself! Best of luck! Paul
Food for thought guys, thanks. I'm using Synergistic Research AC Master Coupler power cords on the amps, a high-end YBA cord on the CD, fixed cord on the SP14, and the Oracle table needs it's own cord. I'm using Transparent and MIT IC's. I've reduced toe in to almost nil, helped a little bit, but not enough yet. I'm using Bright Star bases under pre and CD, and a Seismic Sink under the 'table. I'm about to try out an isolation base from Cambridge, basically a metal shelf and you stick 5 of their little balls under it. Not sure what the balls are made of, probably some sort of rubber or sorbothane. Interesting that Paul feels the pre could be improved, I figured any tube preamp would add just enough bloom to offset the solid state amps. Oh, about 90% of my listening is primarily rock, both old and new. I'll mull this over some, thanks!
I have an ARC SP14 also and really like it, but remember it is a hybrid and the only tube is in the phono stage. So when your line stage is activated, you are solid state all the way. Move the Logans out into the room as far as you can and away from the side walls. If you can, use spikes to couple the speakers to the floor. Also experiment with toe-in and tilt back. Martin Logans are a pain sometimes to position correctly and suffer from the "venetion blind effect" to a certain degree.
The BAT VK30 does look like a good piece of gear, I'd need to find one with a phono stage. Scouring the web, haven't seen one for sale, but patience is a virtue. What balanced interconnect would you recoommend? I'd need 20ft run from pre to amp. Thanks, Jeff
jeff, don't overlook a melos preamp, if you can find one used. i got a melos music director a few months ago, & it's fantastic! unbelievable dynamics, great frequency extension, plenty of gain (the current owner of melos sez ~25% of melos owners use soundlab speakers - wery hard-to-drive), very low output impedence - especially for a tubed preamp. these were awailable in all-balanced configuration, which mine is, but i'm using it single-ended, & *still* have no problems, w/a 20' interconnect between the preamp & the x-over between my amps (electrocompaniets). these pre's were awailable w/a fono-stage, but i'm using a solid-state pentagon ps-3 w/it.

re: speakers, if ya like the m-l's i'd suggest auditioning the newform research r645's - i'm going to! :>) they offer a 30-day in-home trial; yure only out shipping back to them, if ya don't like 'em. at $2265 delivered, they sound like a steal. check out their www:


reviews on audioreview:


regards, doug

ps - the *old* melos www is still up, w/info, even tho ya can't reach anyone at the fone/address...


Sedond,I considered Melos at one time, but have heard through many 'philes that their customer service record was horrible. If Melos really does give poor support, regardless of how good their product is, I'd steer clear of them. Perhaps the new & improved owners of Melos will make an effort to clear their name? Any experiences you can pass along? As for audtioning new spekaers, I'd rather avoid that. Too obvious a component upgrade, whereas the wife has no idea what the rest of my stuff is. Besides, ML's set up right, are just plainly terrific, hard to beat. Thanks, I do appreciate your opinion. Jeff
yup, i understand melos *was* extremely poor w/their customer service. when i bought my used m-d, it was on consignment from the original owner at the place of purchase - the audio outlet. it was represented as a ma-333, fully-upgraded to music-director status. the *current* melos even confirmed they had it for updating - one of the engineers bought the company. when i examined my unit, upon its arrival, i determined, w/the help of the current owners, that in fact, all the capacitors making it a *complete* m-d, were in fact never done. the current company agreed to do it for me at a much-reduced rate. i could have returned it, because it was not as represented, but it sounded so good that i wanted to keep it & have the complete capacitor upgrade. one channel was damaged during shipping, & they repaired it & pickerd up the tab for shipping as well. so, so far, i have no problems w/the new owners, & the equipment sounds terrific.

re: speakers, yup, gnu speeks are kinda hard to slip into a system un-noticed. especially the newforms - they *are* ugly! ;~) that said, i'm still gonna go for it - even if ya don't wanna sell the m-l's, i'd suggest reading the audioreview stuff. normally ya gotta take a lot of what's said there w/a grain of salt, but the overwhelmingly positive, well-thought-out comments, combined w/the impressive array of ancillary equipment used, other speeks considered, etc., have me convinced... money-back 30-day home trial doesn't hurt either! ;~) also, the owner, john meyer, bends over backwards to answer any & all questions ya mite have - he's called me a couple times to answer questions, on *his* dime, from western canada to maryland - 1st call was ~1 hour...

regards, doug

Jeff: Do yourself a favor. Find even a VK-5i BAT preamp to listen to. The ARC is good, but that's where your high-end sheen is coming from. Trust me on this one! Paul