I've always liked what I heard from the Air Tight integrateds..also I am told the Rogue tube amps are very good and the new integrated Cronus should be something worth checking out. Also try the Rega integrateds, the Brio and the Mira, very relaxed, clear, open sound good at low volumes IMHO. Low volume speakers? My second pair of Spica tc-50's going on 20 yrs. now sound great at low volumes but no usable low bass to speak of. There are going to be a million opinions on speakers -- Rogers, Spendors, Harbeths, Linn, Epos, Heck an old pair of Epicure 10's.
Tubes compress dynamics which clearly helps at low/med volume. I also enjoy my Quad subwoofer, which has a remote and four volume/crossover memories. At few DB boost at low volume can help a lot on some recordings.
I second the general notion that English loudspeakers are more likely to be low volume friendly by design than domestic production.
No question - 45 SET amp with nearfield speakers.
I am enjoying my Primaluna Prologue 2 with Reference 3a
De Capo i speakers . This set up is in a small room but the same principles apply for any size room , just gage your speaker size and amp power accordingly .
You want to look for highly resolving speakers that don't require too much power and are designed for tube use . Look for efficiency in the 90db. range with a fairly flat impedence curve .
Find an amplifier that has good micro details , extension and dynamics .
Your source will also be an important part of the set up . Here look for the same characteristics as the amp .
When auditioning , if it sounds better when you turn it up
it is not the system for your purpose .
Good luck .
Owning both tubed and solid state amps, I find that the tubes do perform better at lower volume levels than does MY solid state amp. My tubes are mono BATs and my solid state is a Mark Levinson 331.5 (BATs during the colder months, ML during A/C months).
I think a good combo is tubes with high efficiency speakers supported by a sub (even a small Q series from Rel) would help deliver a little umph at the bottom.
everyone can give suggetions all day long but what is comes down to is that you go to a dealer that knows what they are doing and have been in the business a long time. find someone you fell you can trust. then listen until your ears find something they cant live without. dont buy until you found exacly what you want
With out a doubt I'd check into Quad esl's...
In my experience, the best for low volume listening are slightly-bright speakers that have very good analytical power and sensitivity. The amps don't matter as much as the speakers do so you need to tackle the speaker choice first. Triangles are a great candidate. I have never heard any speakers sound as good as they do at low volumes.
Tube amps are a good choice as well. I find that SS amps' lose bass at low volumes whereas tube amps don't. The Fletcher Muson curve will tell you that human hearing needs extra bass at low volume to get a linear response. So keep that in mind.
As some have already pointed out. Bass is an issue. You need to use the equivalent of a "loudness" button at low levels or you will lose the bass response due to reduced hearing sensitivity.
If you refuse to have any tone controls whatsoever (often an audiophile affliction) then you need to find a speaker with warm resonant harmonic distortion in the bass. You could also look for a tube amplifier or something with high output impedance that will boost the speaker at the woofer resonance point (more bass) and increase harmonic distortion (you can create this by overdriving slightly a tube amp without sounding too loud. SS amps can't do this as they sound awful when overdriven).
Remember that sounds seem louder or better defined if they are rich in harmonics...perceptively this means that the tone or note sounds "fuller". You lose some accuracy in terms of true timbre of the instruments but you gain in having a system that you can enjoy at quite low levels without disturbing others.
Listening at low volume is a high priority of mine also.
I'm using a BAT 300X-SE with Thiel 1.6 and Harmonic Technology Pro-9/Magic-I.
The low noise-floor of this system is remarkable.
The BAT maintains musical integrity all the way down to "1" on the volume control.
I find that SS amps' lose bass at low volumes whereas tube amps don't. The Fletcher Muson curve will tell you that human hearing needs extra bass at low volume to get a linear response.
Here's a perfect example of how ignorance spreads fast in free sites like Audiogon. It should be obvious that the Fletcher-Munson curves have nothing to do with the type of amplifying device, but rather with the sound pressure level.
I say go with a sub/sattelite system so you can increase the bass for a full sound at low volume. Or if doing a digital only system you can use a computer to a USB DAC and use Itunes (or similar) EQ to increase the bass.
Jmaldanado - I wasn't referring to any amplifying device, only of relative sound level. You confused two different sentences. Go to your pay sites instead and leave us alone. Thanks
I was chasing low volume wholeness for a long time. My startling success came with the purchase of my current speakers powered by either a linear solid state or switching amplifiers. The mechanical noise from my tube amplifier becomes distracting if it's a really quiet time of the day.
All the amplifiers provide a full bodied presentation at low volume but I would say the switching amps sound the fullest. In my system/room the Eidolons get 98% of the credit for the improvement in quality low volume presentation and not the electronics.
Check my response to
Rnbowers, at low to moderate levels imho tubes cannot be beat. Haven't heard single end triodes and horns, but Sam Tellig likes the ESL's and tubes and he listens to more combinations than any of us probably have. Good idea to find a dealer you can trust, which is easier said than done, especially one that carries the combination of brands your interested in.
HP once noted that speakers also have signal to noise ratios, but one rarely sees any specs on the subject. This remark was made during a review of the Pristine ESL (Soundlab). The ESL's which I have had always struck me as very quiet - perfect for late night listening. Tube amps also helped, but only if the transformers did not buzz (a very common problem).
I don't know why in general, successful reproduction at low levels, is'nt a clear priority in assessing a system. Reviewers talk of neutrality, dynamics etc, but never low volumes. To many people, it is a real priority, we have families and neighbours to consider. I happen to agree about about tubes and relatively efficient speakers with flat impedence. Big SS amps and low efficiency multi driver speakers, seem to get going at higher volumes. I think though that most systems will shrink the soundstage at low volumes and lose some dynamics.
I always audition speakers at low volume at some point during an audition.
I think dealers/ salesman don't like when I do this.
I totally agree with David12. Everytime I audition a system, even at a friend's house, the volume is turned up way too loud for my tastes. I normally listen to <70db, more like 60-65db. I do this not only for my kids and neighbors but I find this volume to be more relaxing. Every once in a while I will crank it up, but this is never for critical listening.
For me, I needed to find a speaker that had driver technology that was light and dynamic, allowing it to produce music with low levels of power. I found the Usher beryllium mid and tweeter to fit this bill. The Eton woofer is also fast. For the amp, I chose something with Pure Class A power so there would be distortion and no change in power regardless of what volume I used. Another thing to consider that I have had a hard time getting is a preamp that has adequate volume adjustability at the lower end. I have found most preamps to be too loud for me even at the lowest volume settings thus not allowing me enough sensitivity in terms of incremental adjustments.
Intrestingly, I find my Krell sounds better at low volumes especially in the bass regions. I concluded that this is due to one or both of two things. First the Krell has a kind of what some term as a forward sound or dynamics. Therefore it kind of makes the music stand out at lower volumes compared to other amps. Secondly I think my low-efficiency Aerials (85 dB) may just be more than the 400Xi can drive at high volumes. I know it's a 200 watt amp but it seems lose some of it's clarity at higher volumes. This may be the room dynamics too - some cancellation going on. Still at low volumes the instrument separation is just amazing. I've heard the same speakers driven by high-powered Thetas and frankly it seems like the Aerials need a large amount of power if you want to really throw them around. regards, David