I've narrowed it down...

So my first venture into tube equipment will be an integrated amp based on the recommendations of this fine group of enthusiasts. I have narrowed the field to the Rogue Audio Tempest III, Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum, the Cayin H-80 and Cary SLI-80.

All of this is based on what I have read and what fits in my budget. The Cary is a little over but for something I think I'll have for a lifetime I'm willing to go a little over...

I will be driving B&W 602S3's until more $$$ are available for something else.

My intent is to listen to vinyl then maybe venture into CD's or digital music. Any feedback or suggestions are appreciated.

Going somewhere to listen to any of these is not an option for me, and room size is undetermined as I am in the process of moving.

Fine choices. Just my $0.02: I used to have B+W 603S3s and while they were great speakers, they did not pair well with tubes in my opinion. They sounded best with solid state equipment. Try to demo one or more of the amps you're looking at with your speakers, if you can.

I'm a dealer for both Rogue and Cary. The Rogue and Cary pieces are each very nice integrateds that are very flexible but certainly have different sonic characteristics b/t the brands.

Do you have any particular questions on them?

As you probably already know, the Cronus Magnum will have an on-board phono stage where as the other 2 will require a phono stage purchase.

Mike makes a good point.I prefer tube amplifiers, BUT be certain your speakers will be 'compatible' or you`ll be disappointed and likely blame the tube amp.
I agree with Mike, B&W's seem to work better with ss.
"for something I think I'll have for a lifetime"

I have told myself this before but it did not happen...

The first thing I thought when I read your post is that the amps may not suit the speakers, being a tube guy myself I would buy one of the amps and get rid of the B&Ws when you can - but that is just me.

good luck and take your time and do a little research in the archives is my advice
what is it that makes one speaker sound better on ss and another on tubes? Is this an experience item or are there specs I can look at?
I've also noted that B&Ws seem to like transistors better. Perhaps this is because of the complex crossovers in most of the B&W models.

Your list of tube amps is a good one, don't think you can go wrong there. Note that these models don't all sound the same though! Another make you might add is Audio Space. They are easily the equal of the Cayins in build quality.
B&W is not generally a tube-friendly load.
Crossover? Well, electrically, most B&W are a very reactive load...meaning it looks like a capacitor or inductor to the amp. Large impedance swings aren't fun for tubes, either.

SS is best.
Yes, do change speakers, I'm biased toward the Cary's (own or have owned several different models over the years). You might want to read the chat on Zu vs Tekton Lore.
With all due respect to some of the other posters, I suggest buying amps for speakers, not speakers for amps. I suggest that one find the speakers one likes, and then buy the appropriate amplification.
I suggest auditioning speakers WITH proposed amps.

Buying speakers for amps OR amps for speakers is the short way to madness.
Buying / auditioning together, especially for people just learning, is best done in a shop with some experienced guidance.
Online? Well, that's much more of a risk, IMO. Unless, of course, some background exists to ease the choice / reduce risk. Others have the 'buy it used and test it' philosophy, thinking they can sell whatever for pretty much what they paid for it.
The online approach is, to me, anyway, for the more experienced or those with deeper pockets.

Un, with much more experience can target into a class or perhaps even a brand of amp which has very high probability of satisfaction.

Overall, I'd say to buy the source first. That'll make run of mill stuff sound better and perhaps even survive a few upgrade cycles.
I agree completely with unsound, as far as picking a tube
Amp? Once you find the speaker that
You like, find the impedance chart for that
Speaker and look specifically at phase angles.
The dips or capacitive angles are what give tube
Amps a hard time
Speaker then amp or amp then speaker,'either' method works out . In the end they both have to match, chicken or the egg.I based my system on a move to a SET amplifier and it worked out fabulously, you just have to have a well thought out plan.
Unsound, what you say is normally correct, but if a person wishes to go the tube route and has incompatible speakers for tubes shouldn't fellow members here tell the potential tube buyer that information? Then he can go find the speakers that he likes that are synergistic with tubes; and by-the-way, many people know for example that they prefer tubes to SS after hearing tubes, but might not understand that their current speakers are not a match made in heaven, so, the reverse of your normally correct theory is reversed. As the old saying goes, " more than one way to skin a cat."

I knew that I wanted SET 300B sound, loved the Cary house sound, bought the amp and went out and found the right speakers to match up with them, not more difficult to do than the other way around.
I think that a tube upgrade would certainly increase the quality of the sound I currently have, the question now is would my existing speakers cause damage to an integrated tube amp? When you say hard on a tube amp what does that mean? Will i need to replace 5000 hour tubes in 20 hours or after 4500 hours?

Once I have the integrated I want/can afford, I will consider speaker replacement provided I wont do damage to the integrated tube amp driving my existing speakers.

Phase angles? Dips? Capacitive angles? What is this you speak of?
and... what is a reasonable amount of power to consider? is 20w/ch enough are tube w/ch different than ss w/ch?

I think a tube amp will sound fine but it will not be especially robust because the impedance of the B&W is too low which robs some of the power of the amp, also it may exhibit some of the traditional 'tube' amp characteristics which is big bass and/or rolled off high end.

I do not know the electrical end of it so others might help here.
Phase angle? Well, a resistor is sort of a pure load. Any energy stored is generally as heat. Voltage and current rise and fall together.

With capacitive or inductive loads, voltage and current do NOT rise and fall together. Tubes typically do not like driving a load which looks too much like a capacitor. Both inductance and capacitance are 'stored' energy = reactance.

There is some math involved, but basically, the angle between voltage and current determines how much power is actually available from the amp TO the load to do actual work. At 90degrees, NO power is available. So, in a high reactivity load you may not get 'advertised' power.
B&W is demanding of an amp because it is reactive at some frequencies.

Look up Power Factor. The Wiki article is simple and has illustrations.

As for impedance, lower also makes more demands on an amp. Speakers are rated at a 'nominal' value, but can vary a LOT from that value. At the more power demanding end of the spectrum, say below 300hz, a large dip in impedance at the same place as a large phase angle will result in large demands on an amp.

Here is link to the power cube way of measuring amplifier performance. Note how some 'poor' amps fall down when asked to drive hi phase angle at low impedance. Even some good amps don't necessarily shine in this test.

Make it Cayin, great sound, great value.
Mikirob, speakers will have a greater effect on sound than amplifiers, therefore it makes more sense to start with speakers.
Buying an amp for your current speakers with plans to replace those speakers is not the best idea.
"speakers will have a greater effect on sound than amplifiers..." And not by small margin IMHO. OP, what is your budget for an amp and speaker transition? Even if done in stages?
2K for integrated amp.

No budget yet for speakers.

My current (HT) setup...
Reciever; Pioneer VSX-94txh
Front; B&W 602 S3
Rear; B&W 601 S3
Center; B&W LCR 600 S3
Sub; Outlaw LFM-1

The 602 S3's will act as the speakers for the time being until I make the dedicated 2ch speaker purchase...

what is a reasonable amount of power to consider? is 20w/ch enough? are tube w/ch different than ss w/ch?

I think that a tube upgrade would certainly increase the quality of the sound I currently have, the question now is would my existing speakers cause damage to an integrated tube amp?

When you say hard on a tube amp what does that mean? Will i need to replace 5000 hour tubes in 20 hours or after 4500 hours?
Unsound, you don't get it, or misread my post, where I basically agreed with your premise under ideal conditions. So, let me give you another example where it might not work out that way.

Let's say I'm a newby like we all were at one time. I put good money into a SS amp like Threshold, SS Pre, big name brand inefficient speakers and ancillaries. Then, over time after listening to many pals systems, going to some dealers in my area and the big Audiophile shows I realized I liked the sound of low-powered SET tubes best of all and wanted to make the transition from SS to tubes.

What to do? I have a bunch of funds tied up in my SS rig and modest funds available to me, yet since I've done some preliminary thinking, at least I know I want tubes, I'm going to liquidate my SS stuff on Audiogon and elsewhere. While I'm in the process of doing that selling, a friend offers me a really good name brand SET tube amp, that I have heard and really like with various speakers, the price is good and I can afford it. I take the plunge and purchase it. Now I have the amp and know I must find a synergistic speaker match for my listening room and my listening preferences. Of course I have a pretty good idea where to Start.

So, in short the chicken or egg can go in either direction. It might depend on your individual circumstances. So, what is the big deal about auditioning speakers with an amp I know I already like. Not any harder than buying the speaker first and finding an amplifier IMHO.
I don't think that 20 watts is adequate to drive the B+Ws, regardless of the amplifier's implementation. The ones that you mentioned in your original post put out around 70 to 90 watts, and that should be fine. I don't think that you'd shorten the life of a tube amp (or the tubes themselves) by using one with the B+Ws, that was not the experience that I had. It just didn't sound good; in my case, everything just sounded flat. You mentioned that you're moving, so maybe the thing to do is wait for a bit, get settled first, figure out your 2-ch listening space and then look into buying an amp and speakers at the same time.

I agree no harm would come to the amp, but I think tubes do wear out faster when asked to drive more difficult loads, not sure by how much, but that is my understanding (though I could be wrong, but I'm sure the more technically adept would be able to say more definitively).
I think tubes do wear out faster when asked to drive more difficult loads

That very well could be. I ended up selling the B+Ws shortly after I got the tube amp, I had gotten the upgrade bug by that point anyway.
Mikrrob, I get it and didn't misread your post, I just disagree. I don't think one should buy speakers for amps. I think one should decide on speakers before choosing amplification.
Your example is my historical reality! My first high end systems for competely SS gear.Over time I was introduced to tube amps and preferred them by a consideable degree.
Once exposued to the genre of SET amps if was all over,I found them much more natural and closer to what I hear with live music.

I bought a 300b amp built my system around it and it exceeded my high expectations. I enjoy the best music reproduction I`ve ever had(by far). Absolutely either a amplifier or speaker can be the building block for an audio system. I know I`m not the only one who has sucessfully done it this way.
Best Regards,
Unsound, so why don't you give some concrete scientific back-up to that reasoning. In the real-world what I stated is the more likely scenario as to Charles1Dad attests; this is also my real-world scenario. My father and uncles all had great tube systems in their day. Me, I started with SS, was very unhappy, something was always missing, it just wasn't right for me. The more tube systems I heard, the more I understood what I was missing. My parents and several relatives are musicians, I am also, among other things, know what "real" music sounds like. In the professional music world I and most of my colleagues didn't ' select speakers first, we bought the guitars, musical instruments we liked, then the Marshals, Vox, etc.

How and why should a person say, oh, I must, it's mandatory to go speaker first? Say you inherit an amp. You don't take it because you don't have your ideal speakers? When I got my first SET amp I had big inefficient speakers that I had to change. No big deal, no harder to do that than doing it the other way around.

How and why do you believe this theory of yours?
I don`t want this to disintergrate into another tube vs SS (again, sigh)I freely admit amp'or' speaker first appraoch can work out well.

When it comes specifically to SET amplifiers you 'most' often will begin with the amp you like and just find a good efficient-easy load speaker to match.Fortunately on the current market there are many to choose from.
If you want to own SETs, you do proabably have to make that decision first and the find appropriate speakers and I suppose in the real world this might very well happen. However, if I were advising someone, I would still tell them to find the speaker the love first and then find an amp to drive it since I think the speaker has a much greater impact on the sonic signature of a systems than any other component, and then tweaked a bit through the selection of electronics, but the recording, speaker and room are at the heart of a system's core performance and sonic attributes IMHO. Of course you could find an amp first, but that would limit speakers you could audition and fall in love with - though some speakers may need high powered SS or tubes, and yes even sometimes SETs to sound their best.
Hi Pubul57,
The reality is we`re both obvious exmaples that either way is fine,it`s really no big deal. If Botit gets a tube amp first then an appropriate speaker his chances for sucess are as good as mine were. He will do well.
what is it that makes one speaker sound better on ss and another on tubes? Is this an experience item or are there specs I can look at?

Maybe you should look here first:


In a nutshell tubes drive speakers differently than transistors tend to, although you can make them do it if you add enough feedback. The problem is that when you do this, you will also rob them of the music. IOW, its not so much a transistor/tubes debate as it is whether or not making an amplifier into a Voltage Source is a good thing or not.

To this end I don't agree with Unsound, as the research that has been done in the last 45 years points to the fact that the human ear is very sensitive to the use of feedback in an amplifier, and also that it hears harmonic distortion as tonality. Another way to putting this is that you will have a very difficult time to get the equipment to sound like music and run feedback at the same time.

The B&Ws require that the amplifier be a constant voltage source which is why they don't work so well with tubes.

So if you want tubes, you *have* to find a speaker that works with them. If you go with the speaker first, you may be forced into using a transistor amp. Since most transistor amps use a fair amount of feedback, its nearly impossible to get such a combination to sound like real music- at best it will sound like a good hifi. Its that last nuanced difference that brings home the bacon!

Now you could try using transistor amps that have no feedback; there are a few around like the Pass Labs and Ayre. The problem is that transistors have non-linear capacitive aspects in the junctions of the device itself. This contributes to odd-ordered harmonics- the very thing that the ear uses to sort out sound pressure (volume of a sound).

Another way to put this is that the more the equipment obeys human perceptual/hearing rules, the more it will sound like real music. In a nutshell its easier to do that with tubes than with transistors- I am not saying that its impossible with transistors, just that its several orders of magnitude more difficult.
Hi all ! I think I did it backwards too . I decided on a 4wpc otl tube amp then ordered the speakers . Perfect match ! In reality it can work out fine both ways .
That's the point, it goes either way depending on fiat and personal circumstances for most people. If I were a newby like everyone once was, I'd likely would first have to ask myself this question: SS or tubes? Say I chose SS. Ok, what speakers? For argument sake say, Maggie's 1.7. OK, I do research and work with dealer to try stuff that is good, synergistic match. I purchase super duper power house amp that Jonathan Valin has blessed as it sounds great in my room to my ears also.

Another scenario: I'm a newby, hear a friends system, it's a Rotel integrated, with Sound Dynamic 300 ti speaker and associated friend shows you Absolute Sound Mag and Harry Pearson article, great speaker to price ratio recessed midrange like electrostatic speaker A. Newby asks, "what's a electrostatic?" Friend explains, adding lots of mumbo jumbo newby doesn't understand, but knows he wants a system like his friend for music. Newby buys most of audio mags, reads all the articles and reviews and talks to his 1 friend that has a decent stereo. Newby travels to the 2 high end dealers he found out about, 100 miles apart and a 2 hr. drive either way. Newby makes the drive to each dealer, one is worse than the other and he finds out his $5,000.00 budget is crap and he is a worthless human being, they, the dealers, have little time for him and brush him off. Newby leaves humiliated and humbled. After some research he learns about John Rutan at Audio Connection in Verona NJ, 3 hrs away; he makes the drive. John is totally unlike the previous dealers, spends tons of time talking and listening with said newby. No sale today, but newby comes back another time and learns more, listens more, knows more. John has been kind and patient. Newby walks out with Vandersteen 2ces, Rotel like his friend, cd player. Newby now knows better amps will make those Vandy's sing better, he just doesn't have the $$$$ dollars yet. But he has learned the Vandy's can go with him through a number of amp upgrades before he'll want to move up the Vandy's food chain and/or other components in his system.

These and other scenarios are more real world process rather than the blanket Speakers First approach, although it works well its not the only way nor necessarily the fastest way to audio nirvana. It's a process, many intended and unintended consequences occur along the way.
Obviously, I agree with Atmasphere here since I am a tube guy; but the discussion is not SS vs Tubes, but what component do you buy first? Speakers or Amp? The real question is SS or tubes to contradict myself. After that decision is made then it's what speaker type will be best.
What you explain in technical terms make plenty of sense. Some would say you`re obviously bias toward tubes(the products you build and sell). How do you debate with equally renowned SS builders i.e. Pass,Gryphon,Vitus,Boulder.Soulution etc. who would I`m sure insist their products produce music as'real' as any tube component and possibly better? My ears lead me to tubes but I could`nt make an arguement with a technical viewpoint as you are able to do.
Mikirob, I humbly suggest you check the archives. I've been down this road many times before with other fellow Audigoners. Unlike Atmasphere I don't have a commercial interest in this field with a website to hyplerlink to whenever this subject comes up. If you do such a search, you'll see that despite numerous requests, Atmasphere has yet to provide these research papers he repeatedly refers to. I wasn't suggesting that it was the only way, just the better way. I only brought it up again as it seemed especially relevant to the OP.
No, I don't want to go on and on so I won't be checking the archives as it does't really matter that much. I trust the original poster can read between the lines and shall make whatever decision he makes and goes on a similar path as most all audiophiles and music lovers. Best of luck Botit...
Charles1Dad, all one has to do is trust one's own ears in ones own listening room.
Unsound, I have also outlined how anyone with modest test equipment can prove what I have said for themselves. There are even 'goners that have set up the test themselves and come up with the same conclusion. Check the archives; your statement to the contrary, I've not seen 'numerous requests'; please refrain from misleading statements.

How do you debate with equally renowned SS builders i.e. Pass,Gryphon,Vitus,Boulder.Soulution etc. who would I`m sure insist their products produce music as'real' as any tube component and possibly better?

Nelson and I are often on the same page. I often refer people to the distortion article on his website:

In it we see that adding negative feedback does enhance odd-ordered harmonics, which *maybe* you could sort out by having even more feedback, although you would need to add more gain to do that, likely requiring even more feedback...

The fact that feedback does have this effect of increasing odd orders was also documented by Norman Crowhurst 50-some years ago. You can find his articles on http://www.tubebooks.org (vol. 3 of Basic Audio).

I totally concede I have a bias towards tubes, although if you were to check the archives I have often mentioned that I think we can get to the same performance with transistors, but they often fall short on account of its a lot easier to build a linear circuit with no feedback using tubes than it is with transistors. With regards to the other manufacturers, the debate has not actually occurred as most of the ones you mention are not active on this or other forums that I frequent. However I would likely point to past work at the links I dropped above for starters.

As far as the human hearing rules, the fact that we use the odd orders to determine how loud a sound is is easily proven with modest test equipment. I'm happy to provide the test procedure if you like; Unsound that goes for you too.
Atmasphere, I am not making misleading statements. I myself have repeatedly made such requests. In the past you have referenced Crowhurst, upon reading those links, one would discover that Crowhurst actually suggested that some feedback could be beneficial. But...we're getting of topic now.
This has been very enlightening. Since I am only replacing one of the 2 options (amp or speakers) I think I'm in a do-loop... Upgrading the speakers first would give me an improvement in sound now and more improvement when I purchase the amp, and likewise if I purchase the amp now. I understand that my process may not be ideal. I have learned a great deal on this thread and appreciative of your willingness to share your knowledge and experience.

Thank You.

Oh I very much trust my ears(there`s no better way) That`s how I got to SET amplifiers. My question for Atmasphere was academic in nature,tube amp designer vs competent SS designer.
Yes Botit, I think that is very true, changing speakers will change the sound of your system in a much more obvious way than changing amps, and down the road you get the amp that will take your speakers to a higher level. That would be my approach if you are looking to make a real change in the sound of your system and if you have to do one thing first and the second down the road.
If you are willing to commit to a new pair of speakers, are you willing to spend $2700 for a set that are flexible enough to be used with tube (SET, PP, OTL) or solid state amps, and still sound outstanding? That can handle a wide range of power output (5 - 500 watts)? That also provide for flexible room placement? If so:


If you're willing to go a bit higher:

Great posts, I see what Atmosphere is trying to convey. I personally like tubes better than solid state, but I think some local feedback is needed with most speakers to control the back wave of the woofer. When I say some feedback I mean very little like 4-10 dbs. I am not sure if any amp made is truly zero feedback. Maybe globally, but locally I think all amps need a little feedback to work.
I believe you are correct for the most part,but it really depends on the speaker you intend to drive. I do 'think' that some lower power SET amplifiers(I think my 300b amp is one example)operate without'any' negative feedback at all. This may be possible due to their inherent linear character. If this is the case then of course appropriate speaker selection is a must. I`ll check with the builder of my amp to be sure.