Is there a Solid State amp that can satisfy a SET guy?
Have been a SET guy for so long I have forgotten what a good SS amp even sounds like. Just bought a pair of $33k speakers that will replace my current $16k speakers. Both are from the same designer and both are 92db and a flat 8 ohms. The new ones arrive in 4 days! My 300B based amps well drive my current speakers even though I do use the system nightly as a 2 channel home theater. Especially considering the HT usage, I think I may enjoy a SS amp with many times the horsepower. The speaker designer suggests using a Leema Hydra II. I have written to Leema telling them of my 300B preference and they assure me that their amp does not have the destructive harmonics that make a SS amp bright. There must be other SS amps that can satisfy?
I have heard Leemas quite a few times and they are. not harsh or cold - but they are very solid state. What are your speakers? the designer must know what he is talking about - they usually do. I use a Lavardin IT and that truly sounds like a valve in the best sense - but it is 55watts per channel. If you pick one up second hand a Hovland Radia or the Hovland Monoblocks are very much like a more powerful Lavardin IMHO. Why not just get a more powerful valve amp such as something from EAR or VTL?
I'm going to suggest you consider another alternative, that being OTL amps. My speakers (Coincident Super Victory II) are 92.5 dB with a benign impedance curve. I tried driving them in a medium sized room with Coincident Frankenstein 300B amps. For all the beauty of those amps, they just couldn't get it done. THD in the neighborhood of 10% with reasonable listening volumes. Just not providing the beauty of which those amps are capable. I made the move to OTL (Atma-sphere M-60), and I haven't looked back. With proper tube selection, and when the M-60's are driven by a DHT preamp, the result will not disappoint those who are SET lovers. I still own my Franks, and occasionally rotate them into my system. They don't stay long. If I had speakers in the 94-96+ dB range, it might be a different conversation, but I'm not sure. The M-60-'s are just so pure and so sweet!
Now, if I had to commit to SS, I'd probably be looking at First Watt, Pass, or Clayton. But don't rule out OTL with a DHT preamp. Special, in my humble opinion.
I know a lot of people speak highly of the dartzeel - but i've never liked them - too much of a golden sheen. I heard them back to back against Lavardin at the UKs' original importer and wasn't blown away. I've not heard constellation in my own system - but every set up i have heard with a constellation makes me consider saving my pennies - power, grip, effortless, not in the slightest bit cold - just right. Parasound share that DNA - probably coz John Curl worked on them as well. I may be courting controversy, but I find Audio Research boring, same with Musical Fidelity - NAim is definitive solid state...
Sad to hear about the Leema sounding very SS. The thing that, I think, bothered me the most about SS is the edge and brightness. And, I think, the thing I love most about SETs is the musicality. I heard the Dartzeels are amazing but I can’t afford one. And I understand the Line Magnetic is also good but I think I will gravely miss the 300B sound. Think the more power the less musicality. My speakers are Tetra 606s. Love the Tetra designer’s hear. So, maybe, his recommendation of the Leema is good. But talking with him about this, he used the phrase “what you like” referring to my 300Bs.
I've always been interested in this since hearing of the infamous 1985 Stereophile Bob Carver challenge.
For those unfamiliar, I won't spoil it, but their honest conclusion speaks volumes. Hey, it was the days of J. Gordon Holt. Different times.
"But whatever Bob, and others who can match his technical virtuosity, choose to do with the results of this project, I think that the field of high-end audio amplifier manufacture will never be quite the same again. High price and high status will continue to be handmaidens in audio, but the knowledge that high performance and high price need no longer be inseparable cannot help but impair the glamor of cost-no-object power amps.
We're still a little bewildered around here about how all this turned out. Not the way we expected. But that's the way it was."
I also have thought about looking for a pair of Dehavilland Aires mono blocks with 845s. They talk about how well the can handle even lower sensitivity than my 92 dB Tetras. But I tried a really good 845 based amp, the Viva Solista, and did not like it. BTW-if the Leema sounds very SS, what does that actually mean? I am sure that there are many good things about SS... ?
I have recently made the transition from 300B SET mono’s to Accuphase E-650 integrated. I must admit it certainly took bit of patience to truly appreciate the wonderful rich ‘house’ sound of Accuphase. The integrated is rated 30W in Class A and has a wonderful warmth, brilliance and a fabulous depth gradation. They have quite a few amps that can possibly fit your budget.
Luxman is also a great, but I believe Accuphase will get you much much closer to 300B musicality.
PM me If you would like to speak with my Accuphase dealer.
mglik, you and I use our systems in the same way. Although I do have a 500 Wpc Class D amp for my front speakers, I mostly listen using the newly-purchased 3C24 stereo amp built by Paul Birkeland.
This new amp has outclassed every other amp that came before it, including 300 Wpc Aragon, VAC 35.35, and even an SET 845 amp. Somehow, this low-power design has a similar sound to my sweet sounding SET 300 B, yet greater ability to deliver incredible impact when called upon. Best amp I've ever heard driving my Tannoy HPD 315 speakers, custom built, but they were originally made in 1975.
They have never sounded better. The amp can be seen on my Virtual System, if you care to look. Also, Paul is not my friend, but has had an enormous influence in making my system, at this time, how I've always wanted it to sound when I started this journey over forty years ago.
Air and sweetness......I understand, if that is what you are listening for. Talking about tubes giving air and sweetness, OTL is better, ime, with that, and, more. Much of this, still depends, on the music, and the actual recording, being listened to.
Sugden seems interesting. I do love the "BBC" take on audio. But "air and sweetness" or "musicality" and I like "a different paradigm, apples and watermelon". I like watermelon-lot of juice but "an apple a day... ". I don't think there are too many 805 tubes available. Not keen on Psvane. But after my experience with the Viva 845 amp, I have cold feet about going with one of the higher power SETs. I also owned a parallel 300B-close, but no banana. I owned an Atmosphere S30 and still own and enjoy a Berning MicroZotl (tomorrow I pick up my 45 SET from my tech who just modified it with a 1/4" jack and volume to use it for my headphones instead of my MicroZotl). The OTL sound is clear and musical but cool and SS sounding. And linear as in Linear Tube Audio. But there must be a SS amp that has qualities of a 300B and a lot of other great qualities that make it a sound that I can easily live with and love like my 300Bs??
I am in strong agreement with twoleftears. I believe you would be very satisfied with Sugden Masterclass. The amps and integrated amps have a sense of round wholeness and dimension, along with texture and color. I owned 300b for a long while (miss it!) and I think Sugden would be a worthy replacement.
I have two custom SET amps and have had solid state by pass, McIntosh,etc. I’ve never been a fan of class d and tried ps audio, and a few other brands. I recently heard dSonic’s new class d amps based upon pascal chips and they were fantastic. I’ve heard them with a variety of speakers including ATC, Revel, Focal and the dSonic was phenomenal with each. I’ll be buying one
I use the Pass XA25 with my 94 sensitivity Tannoy FSMs. Sold my Cary to move this direction after an audition. It is better than any of the First Watt products. Not sure why but the doubling down from 8-4-2ohms may be it. Tried Sudgen Masterclass- not engaging, Leben 600- good but not better, Lejonklou- now here is an interesting line I would like to own as a change of pace item. In the end Pass adds his "House Sound" to this amp and I find it to be very addictive with the Tannoys.
@mglik You might take a look at my system page (here on agon)... I went through this exact same journey when transitioning from Coincident Super eclipse III's to Coincident pure reference extremes. Had the 8w Coincident Frankenstein 300b set monos and adored them, but they just couldn't power the PREs. I tried a Lyngdorf tdai-3400, pass labs xa-25, and atmasphere m60s, but couldn't give up the Franks. Then I got a pair of first watt f4s and finally found my replacement.
The f4s are unique in that they are a very simple circuit that has no gain stage and only add current to the signal. They are very transparent and just sound like whatever you use to drive them. That can be a traditional preamp (i use a 6sn7 based pre), or even the output of a low wattage set amp. I find the f4 mono blocks to be very clear and quiet, with an amazing holographic soundstage, and a touch of beautiful sweetness. I had planned on using the f4s as booster amplifiers being driven by the Franks, but loved them by themselves and ended up selling the SETs.
As a slight aside, over the course of my amplifier journey I have become convinced that I prefer amplifiers that have a distortion characteristic that is dominated by the 2nd harmonic. That is true of SETs and the f4, but not of the xa-25 or m60s, both of which are 3rd order dominated.