Matching an amp to the Vandersteen 3a signatures


Hello all! I just purchased a used pair of Vandersteen 3A signatures and need to find some amplification to drive them. The problem I'm having is my budget. I've seen a number of people recommending amps for these speakers such as Audio Research and and Ayre amps, but these tend to fall outside of my budget range. I'm looking for something in the $3000 or under range new, or under 2300 dollars used. This would need to cover both power amplification and linestage pre-amplification. I will be sitting about 8 feet from the speakers, and like to listen to a lot of rock and modern pop. I tend to like a detailed but relaxed, laid back sound with plenty of bass. I'd like to have some tubes in my system if possible, but realize that this might not be practical at my price point. I've been thinking about maybe a Cayin A100T or maybe a Rogue Tempest, but don't think that would provide enough power. What do people who can't afford ARC gear use with their 3A Vandies? Any advice is appreciated.
robshrode
Vandersteen are really great speakers. The better you feed them, the better they sound.
My brother has the Vandy 3A-Sigs, LS25 preamp, and a 100.2 and loves it.

Not sure you can get the LS25, but the 100.2 will do the job and leave lots left over for a good preamp. You can find them for $800-1,200. Also consider a BAT VK preamp.
I listened to the 3a’s in a shop that was using the parasound a21 and the parasound jc2. Transparent is the word. Fantastic! In fact I am in the process of saving to eventually get that set-up.

Joe in Mobile
Parasound, Odyssey Audio are two products that come to mind and can be frequently found here on Audiogon. I had Vandersteen 2ce speakers for many years powered with a 175wpc Classe amp. As good as it sounded, when I replaced the Classe with an Odyssey Stratos Extreme amp, it really livened up the sound. For Rock I would go with a really good solid state amp from 100-200wpc and if you like Jazz and Classical, go with a tube amp. A tube amp on the Vandersteen 3a's will not do rock anywhere near it's potential.

A Parasound Halo 21 amp goes for around 1300-1500 on Audiogon and an Odyssey amp goes for anywhere from 500-2500 on Audiogon and both come up frequently.

Bob
I want to second what Darkmoebius said. I was familiar with the 3a Sigs from hearing them at a shop several times with tube amps. One day a few years back, I went again and heard them with the Audio Research 100.2. That is an absolutely majic combination. Super transparent, but not edgy at all, and full of life and energy. I still remember how great it was.
Quicksilver V4s match well, in fact I think Richard used them at home, but I would get his feedback on it, I think it is one of his favourite tube amp brands and the V4s should be in that range used. Obviosuly on the SS side he seems to favor Ayre, at least based on his latest shows. If you google Richard Hardesty and Vandersteen you should find some good commentary on the 3As and he also has a review of the Ayre gear.
Another good choice would be McCormack DNAs. If you can find an SMcAudio modified DNA 1.0 that would be a good choice for a little over $1K, leaving about the same for a good tube pre. I had the 3A sigs w SMc-modded 1.0 and vertical bi-amped w a pair of SMc DNA 0.5s. If your room is not too large and/or you don't push the volume too hard, maybe get as good a 0.5 mod as you can find, and put the extra to a better pre. Then when you can dig up another $700 or so, add the Vandy 2WQ sub, w the proper fixed x-over.
I had forgotten the McCormack, it does seem there have been an awful lot of happy folks with that combination. I also think Swampwalker's recommendation for using the 2Wq with the 3A is good advice, not so much for significantly deeper bass, though there is some of that, but to me it seemed the midrange took a significant step forward when the lowest bass was removed from the main speakers and moved to a separate sub, which integrates beautifully with the 3As.
I'll "third" Swampwalker's and Pubul57's McCormack suggestion. Mine make terrific music with a DNA 0.5 Deluxe.
ARC D 200, D D300, 100.2, or Quick V 4s, all have a friendly 100 K input imp for a Tube pre amp which will optimize the low and hi frequency extremes.
I would try a Music Reference RM10 mk I or II as the amp ... if one is not enough (@ 35w per ch), a second can be purchsed in the future. This is a GREAT amp with Vandy speakers. Used the Mk II is @ $900; I picked up a MK I on ebay a number of years ago for $450

Mate it with a nice tube pre from Audio Research, Belles or PSE and you will be set!

Jeff
I love the RM10, but I just can't see driving the 3As, I think you would need to get an RM200 or older RM9s - though maybe in the monoblock configuration.
While I agree that the McCormack amps work beautifuly with the Vandy's, one has to be careful when matching them with a tube pre. Some of the higher powered McCormack amps have low input impedance's, and some of the lower powered McCormack amps might be to sensitive for the typically high out-put of most tube pres. It can be done, and done well, but it needs to be done carefully.
Thanks for the responses. I'm going to do some reading up on the McCormack DNA-125 and the Audio Research 100.2. Does anyone have an idea about how the Vincent Audio 236 MKII or SP-331 might work with the Vandersteens? I imagine that the Music reference, Quicksilver, and Ayre amps probably sound great, but I just don't think the ones rated at or above 100 W are in my price range. I'll also look into the BAT pre's. Does anyone have any additional opinions on what pre's to run, or do I need to decide on a power amp first? Thanks again for the input. It's very helpful.

Rob
I'm using an ARC SP16 w phono and it sounds great. Not to pricey and they come up every now and then. Mating it with a Bryston 3BST at the moment in conjunction with SCE Harmonic Recovery System to help with impedance matching. I also swap out to Quicksilver V4 Mono's. Different sounding amps for sure, but each have their strong points. Still experimenting myself. Cables make a difference as well. Good luck with your research.
I really think you need a high current, or at least a high(er) power tube (>100wpc), amp to get the best out of the 3A-Sigs for rock and large scale music w/ drive.

Having said that, check out these amps for rockin': Rogue M-120 monoblocks(w/KT-88's), VTL 125 MB Monoblocks, and definitely these Manley Snappers
My 3A Sigs sounded great with a pair of Krell 250 Mono Blocks. Currently running VTL 450 Mono's and loving it. All purchased used.
I'm running my 3A Sigs with Manley Snapper monoblocks - quite excellent! Way more than enough power in my small room. The Snappers can be had used for ~$2200/pair. My preamp is a Cary SLP-05 - sublime (but outside of your stated price tag).
I've been very pleased with a Belles 150A Ref amp with my 3A Sigs. It is SS but has a more mellow "tube sound". They show up used at 1500-2000. Long term, I agree that adding 1 (or even better 2) 2Wq subs is desirable. It really opens up the midrange and presents a much easier load for your amp to drive. With the subs, you could definitely get by with a lower powered amp.
I appreciate all of the input guys. I've been looking a bit more at the manley products recently. I'm not sure if the snappers will end up being in my budget or not, but I've started to look into the manley shrimp. It seems to have gotten some good reviews. I thought about maybe matching that to a BAT 125 watt amp or maybe a McCormack DNA-125 (I'm a bit leery about doing this because of the advice above about matching tubes to the McCormack). I've also started thinking about the PrimaLuna Prologue 3 as well a some of the suggestions you guys have made. Am I correct in thinking that I should be splitting the budget about 40% preamp and 60% amp given the amount of wattage that I need? Also are there any other preamp suggestions? I never thought I'd be considering some of these brands like VTL or Manley. Thanks again.
Robshrode, that amp mentioned by Stevenday (Belles 150 Ref or "Hot Rod") should certainly be on your shortlist, they are excellent and should be well within your price range. Not sure it is smart to think in terms of % between gear, it depends. The Belles amps all have 100Kohm input imepedances (I think) and that will work with almost any tube preamplifier. If we can establish the $ you will have for a preamp, and whether you need phono or not, it will be easier to make recommedation to the price point. A tube pre/ SS amp may very well be your best bang for the buck, and I think 3As work particularly well with SS, or expensive tube amps.
Pubul57 the 2300 used or 3000 new needs to incorporate both the power amp and the preamp. I'll take a close look at the Belles. I was thinking about trying to get a preamp in the 1000 to 1500 range. I have an outboard phono pre that I really like and consequently don't need a phono pre in the preamp. Thanks.
I think you could get and Audible Illusions pre and a Belles amp in that price range. The other amps are proabably fine, but the input impedance of the Belles makes it tube pre friendly and I think at you price point that is the way to go. The 3As need a good amount of power and at that price SS is proabably you best bet. In fact there is a Belles tube preamp up for sale for $750, I imagine it would match well with their amp.
08-20-10: Pubul57
The other amps are proabably fine, but the input impedance of the Belles makes it tube pre friendly
The solid state Audio Research 100.2 has a single-ended input impedance of 150K ohms Single-ended, 300K ohms Balanced Differential making it tube preamp friendly, too
The solid state Audio Research 100.2
Amen
Johnnyr
John, do you prefer that ARC/3A combo over the V4/3A combo - since you sell both....?
(((Hello all! I just purchased a used pair of Vandersteen 3A signatures and need to find some amplification to drive them. The problem I'm having is my budget. I've seen a number of people recommending amps for these speakers such as Audio Research and and Ayre amps, but these tend to fall outside of my budget range. I'm looking for something in the $3000 or under range new, or under 2300 dollars used.)))
The 100.2 was my best recommendation for his range.
I have 3a sigs and I use Threshold 4000 or stasis 2... 200wpc class a. at first i tried a 400a 100wpc but liked the difference i heard going to 200wpc.
I've heard the 3A's in a high end shop being played through Rogue pre and power amp (not sure which models)-sounded very nice. Have also heard them with the Belles equipment, and although I dont have the speakers, I do have a Belles 350A amplifier in my system and can heartily recommend it for both sound and reliability, so a 350A or the 150A might work for you.--Mrmitch
I use a Krell 300iL with my 3A's. Tons of power(200wpc) and is very transparent. Pair it with a good balanced tube CD player and you'll have a system that will be extremely satisfying.
I second whatever John says especially when it comes to Vandersteens. He also has one of the best ears I know of. I have bought many things off of him without hearing them and he has hit the nail on the head every time balancing budget, performance and most important matching what I already had in my system.