I had a Art Audio Carissa with my Zu Omen Defs ( same tweeter, caps, wiring as the def III) and it was a great pairing. Another option I would consider with be the Melody AN 211. There is a review out now paired with Zu's and I bet you the combination would be fantastic. I always dreamed of the Viva 845 and maybe if you're patient you'll find one used.....
A well-designed 845 amp that gives you dynamic muscle with Def III without losing any of the involving intimacy of SET is, for the most part, beyond your budget. If you get lucky in the used market, terrific. Any of the big glass amps that are designed well for the challenges of the tube tend to hold values above $3500, and integrateds are scarce. In the related 211 realm, the Melody 211 integrated drives Defs well, but it is a $6000 amp new, with used showings so far exceedingly scarce.
Definition - any version - poses specific challenges. Prime is that unlike pairing a tube amp to a Zu speaker limited to the low-end response of the Zu FRD, with Definition you have the sub section pushing out bass energy down to 20Hz or lower, with the internal amp deriving its input signal from the main amp output. So the sub takes on the bass characteristics of the main amp. A big-glass amp with insufficient power supply, or a lower power triode suffering bass bloat, will generally prove unusable with Def, while sounding perfectly fine with, say, Omen or Superfly.
At your price range, barring getting especially lucky in the used market for a suitable 845 or 211 find, consider abandoning the big glass at that price as well as an integrated. You can more readily find the next best thing: a pair of Quad II mono blocks (each of which is smaller than a shoebox) and add a decent preamp. With used Quad II pairs or used Quad II Classics from the current production line available on the used market in the $1200 - $2200 range, you have cash left over for a good preamp -- or a TVC (from diyhifisupply.com). The Quad II is the most SET-like push-pull tube amp I know of, and one of the simplest tube amp circuits available. Just tube it with the excellent Shuguang Treasure KT88 and find a NOS pair of EF86 input tubes, along with a good NOS rectifier. It has good bass control for Defs, especially since with Def3 you get the Def4 bass EQ.
You also might look into the Mystere tube integrateds, built for that brand by the Melody folks, if you must have an integrated.
If you have a front end with volume control, you can be patient an wait for a pair of the first-gen Sophia 845 mono blocks to show up on the used market. They're usually around $4000 used for the 206-driver version (less for the 6sn7 driver version) and bring the full game, including proper power supply, parts quality and transformers.
There are some alternatives that are well under your budget, as well. $3500 just happens to be something of a no-man's land for getting big glass + integrated + def-worthy design and build.
Btw, I know several Definition mk ii owners who own and love the Decware Torii including one person very close to the Zu "family" so to speak. It was my favorite amp paired with my Zu Omen Defs above many much more expensive and well known amps. It doesn't pair quite as well with my Tekton Pendragons, so I maybe selling soon, but you should check them out nonetheless as it is definitely within your budget.
There are a pair of Sophia Electic 845 monoblocks for sale on A'gon.
Phil,thanks for your wisdom,the viva is not something I can't live with for awhile if need be.
I really want the big glass so may have to wait a bit.I find a good integrated gets me close to separates and less cables and space taken up.
I am not unhappy with the viva 300p,it's just from what I've read a good 845 like master sound compact would be better suited for the def3 speakers.
I would get a used Mastersound Due Venti and buy Siemens EL34s. Stunning sound for the money and will be around $22-2500.
I really have a stunning sound with the Viva 300 p
I might regret trying the 845 but from all that I can gather its a sonic match made for the Zu Definition 3's
So I will probably save a little more and get a good 845 based integrated or maybe seperates.
Thanks for clarifying the difference on the bass output from the Omen Defs to the definitions. I always assumed that the bass signal was independent of the main amp output, so you make a most excellent point.
I will still stand by the decware as it has the set magic with an abundance of very transparent and well defined bass. It mated very well with the Omen Defs and again, I would recommend that the OP call Sean at Zu and see his take on it, and if you are near me in the Bay Area I will drive it over one day as I would love to hear this combo, as I came very close to pulling the trigger on the Def mk iii's before I decided the better idea was to buy a house so that I can turn up the speakers as loudly as I want, rather than waiting daily for the neighbors to storm my apartment with large clubs!
Regardless, please keep us posted on your impressions......
If you are already getting stunning sound, then how is it going to get better? What is better than stunning?
Admittedly a Viva fan, but I don't think that there's anything in the price range you are thinking of that will match the tonality of the Viva you own now. Yes, there are amps that will play louder, but if you value that "in the room" presence, you aren't getting it for 3K. I haven't heard the Mastersound 845 amp, but I did own a Due Trente and, while it was a very nice amp, was much more neutral (colorless?)than the Viva. Personally, I would not sell the Viva until you have something you think you like better. Best of luck.
I guess breathtakingly stunning is the step after?
Chayro, have you heard my amp?
Hey Morgan, what are your thoughts / comparison of the Torii on your Zu speakers vs. the Art Audio? I currently have the Art Audio Jota HC (running VV32B tubes) that is a great amp with my Zu Essence, but I am really interested in trying a Torii based on what I read. Anything you can share related to strengths and weaknesses of both setups will be helpful!
what about the art audio carrisa, with the attenuator? does that allow you to not have a preamp?
52Tiger - no, I haven't heard the 300B, but I have heard a few versions of the Solista and the LT and the smaller push-pull they make. All the ones I've heard have a very palpable presence that is extremely addictive once you get used to it. IMO, without that "in the room" sound, a hifi system is nothing but a glorified PA. I've heard some other very nice amps, by Jadis, the big Cary SETs and Shindo, but nothing in the price range you're talking about. Maybe you could pick up a used older Solista in the 5K price range, but what do you do if it breaks? But the old Solista was a damn nice amp. And it has 845s to boot.
Thats true,the amp does have that in the room sound. however I just wanted more of that.after moving my speakers closer to the front wall and reading your post about listening to loud, which I think I have been, I might be happy with this amp for awhile. thanks
I owned the Essence but I never had the Decware or the Art Audio paired with it at that time. I did have an Art Audio PX-25 and and AA 845 and a Decware Torii with the Omen Defs. I preferred the PX-25 to the 845 for its Increased transparency, speed, and PrAt and I would love to have the PX-25 in my possession now..... However the Torii was my favorite amp With the Omen Defs as it had the immediacy and in the room presence of the best set (which for me was a Coincident 300b with BT tubes), coupled with amazing transparency, and very deep and fast bass. The Torii has a lot less coloration than most other tube amps, is very detailed, and maybe a bit too transparent for some systems. It does seem to pair very well with Zu ( I know of four other Zu owners that were very happy with it), but it doesn't pair as well with my current Tekton Pendragons as the midbass is a bit overwhelming for my room.......that is in comparison to the Art Audio Carissa 845 which produced a big bold romantic sound. It was fantastic for jazz, but seemed to be less agile with faster paced music.......
I do hope this helps.....one huge pro of the Torii is that you can easily customize the bass and treble for your speakers, and the large number of tubes make it alot of fun to customize to meet your needs........
It does help Morgan, thx very much! I need to find a Torii III to put against my Jota. That will be a highly interesting and entertaining project...
If you do some digging for a demo Melody AN211, you could find one within a couple hundred dollars of your budget. I almost pulled the trigger on one yesterday and would have if I still had Zu speakers, but the 16watt rating scared me away for my VR-33 speakers which seem to like power.
I just acquired a pair of the Def 3's myself. Just curious, how did they sound right
out of the box? Zu claims some 400 factory hours of break-in on the Nonotech
drivers. Did you find them getting better with more time on them?