29 responses Add your response
Look at Modwright, Balanced Audio Technologies, Audio Research, McIntosh for XLR (big bucks)...IMO, I would dump the whole idea of going balanced with tube gear because a lot of the best sounding stuff does not provide balanced connections! Also, companies like Prima Luna make great integrated amps that I think would be a way more cost effective upgrade at this time. Doing away with separates simplifies and will sound much better as well.
If you’ve played through tubed guitar amps, you should know a 22 watt Fender Deluxe Reverb is plenty loud and can keep up with a heavy handed drummer.
A 20-30 watt amp through some average sensitivity speakers will do the job blasting Zeppelin or the Stones.
Unless your setup is in a huge ballroom, forget the notion you need massive amounts of tubed power. But, If you MUST have the wattage requirement those suggestions are probably a good start.
Music Reference RM-200, which goes for about $2000 used, the improved Mk.2 version for about $500 more (one sold just yesterday on Audiogon for $2400). One small signal tube and two KT88/120 output tubes per channel for 100 watts. That's right, 100 watts from two tubes, and not because the tubes are run hard, but because designer Roger Modjeski thinks outside the box. Currently in Class A/Tube category in Stereophile’s Recommended List (if that matters to you). Balanced/XLR inputs only.
The spec you are looking for is the output impedance of your pre. The input impedance of a audio device (in this case the amplifier) should be at least 10x (some say 20x) that of the device feeding it (your pre).
Given your budget, I am with mattmiller in the suggestion of considering an integrated.
As steakster indicated, research the compatibility of your speakers with tube amplification regarding impedance curve. Most 8 ohm speakers dip below 4 ohms somewhere in the lower frequencies.
I agree with meadowman above, Rogue Audio makes a great product. I originally posted a suggestion looking at the Rogue Audio Sphinx, but it's a hybrid integrated, and I see you're running separates. I have the Sphinx and it absolutely rocks (I listen to music loud too). I've heard nothing but good about their other products. Built in America, well made, actual people you can call and talk to, very decent prices, great power.
XLR give you more gain (loudness) but amplify any distortion. A good pair of RCAs will give better soundstage and imaging. I used to be an XLR lover (XLR are great when you have grounding issues) and now have switched to RCAs and love the holographic soundstage. This will open up your choices of tube gear if that is what you want to do. I purchased a Conrad Johnson Classic 2 SE for $2200 new and just loved the warmth, but only RCAs. I know have the Aesthetics Callisto pre eclipse and still just use RCAs, I just don't need the gain. - just to chime in on Rogue Audio - I have the hydra tubeD in a 3rd system and love the clarity and grace that it offers in an under 2K price.
For under 2 grand (around 1500 or so) you can buy a brand new Jolida 3502p with XLR inputs. I own the earlier 502p with XLRs and it’s likely not actually balanced (the 502p XLR inputs turn the XLR into single ended, but I forgive them and still like the XLRs anyway), but the 3502 has a balanced/single ended switch that indicates that maybe its XLR inputs are actually balanced. My "factory modded" 502p is a GREAT amp that has served me well with amazing tube tone and plenty of slam and power (my mains are maybe 89db although rated at 91) for over four years, and it holds up brilliantly when compared to more expensive stuff (I've done some "in home" shoot outs with higher powered tube amps from other makers and came away very pleased with my el cheapo amp which sounded as good or better). Interestingly (to me anyway) it’s quieter and clearer (maybe due to inherent tube harmonic characteristics) than most SS amps I’ve used with a surprisingly low noise floor and lack of hum. Note I have no connection with Jolida other than being as macho as Jason Statham (A Jolida owner...I talked to the dude who sold him his amp…see the original "The Mechanic" movie). A note on guitar amps…I currently use an 18 watt class A single ended Burriss el84 based head with a 12, or a 15 watt Reverend 6V6 combo with a 10, and both will tear up a club in a band situation no problemo.