Something tells me you want another flavor of amplification to play with. It sounds like you're interested in Shindo or Wavac.
If you go SET please get a loudspeaker that will do justice to it a low eff loudspeaker just wont sound right on such low power.But if a SET is used with proper loudspeakers you get a synergy thats wonderful to say the least.
Per JohnK; I'd agree; if you try SET do it right. Matching the speakers to the amps are absolutely critical with low-powered SET - don't bother with those 89db sensitivity Merlins if that's what you are considering. The combination does not sound compatible unless all your listening is done below 75db or so (beyond that you're likely to get distortions you won't enjoy). OTOH, if you are looking at higher powered SET options, such as those using tubes in parallel or perhaps even those using 845 tubes in the output stage you might squeak by and like what you hear with your Merlins. I don't know your other gear to tell you with any authority how it may differ, but I'd speculate given only experience with low-powered SET and some exposure to the higher powered SET options. At it's best SET amplification seems to render the most holographic sound staging I've ever heard. The midrange is astounding giving a whole new meaning to "presence". Vocals sound particularly natural. Actually, "natural" is a very good descriptor where SET is concerned. Where it lacks traditionally is in a tight low-end. I'd imagine that in the realms of the level of gear you'd be considering you'll be sacrificing less down there, but I'd still speculate that your CAT would perform better in lows and highs (more so in the former), while I'd guess the SET (paired off with the right speakers) would excel in midrange magic and soundstaging abilities. What kinds of music do you listen to mostly? If you are into music with lots of vast dynamic shifts and slam, I think you'd be better served with the alternative. SET would not be my choice to listen to Symphonic scale music, or rock if I listened to that (dense music with great complexity). For vocals, intimate music, chamber music, acoustic stuff...more simple arrangements and those which feature vocals, SET is just wonderful, and certainly worth your consideration.
I've tried flea 2AE monoblocks with VSM-MXs and the sound was pale & underwhelming. Merlins present a stable high impedance that would appear to be SET-friendly, but they aren't sensitive enough for low-powered SETs. By comparison, I am able to get slightly more sensitive Watt Puppies to work well with 2A3s using autoformer impedance multipliers. This is surprising, knowing the uneven impedance curve and difficult phase angle of the Wilsons. However autoformers only degraded the sound of the Merlins with flea SETs.
You could probably make it at 20wpc.
I ran my VSM's with a WAVAC 572 for a while--apparently not their most popular model. Supposedly put out 50 WPC, although I talked to some people who said that was a bit optimistic of an estimate. Couldn't stand the bass, very loose and boomy. I much preferred the ZH270 to the Wavac.
So far I am not too encouraged. I was thinking of SETs in the 16-18 Watt range, but I suspect this may be pushing it with the Merlins (I'm not changing speakers). I was thinking something like the Art Audio Carissa (16 watts 845s) or Almarro 318B (18 watts 633CC) - something like that. While the Merlins (89dbs) have excellent phase specs and impedance for driving with tubes, I suspect SETs (even the "higher" power ones may be too much to ask. I listen mostly to acoustic jazz ('55-'65 hard bop), chamber music, and singer/songwriter and folk rock. I suppose I would be better off with something like Zu Defintions for speakers in this application, but the Merlins are staying. Thanks for you input so far.
I agree that flea powered SET need not apply for Merlins, BUT high-powered SET and Merlins are an awesome match. I run my Merlins with a pair of Cary 805 SET. No problem with bass and dynamics and I have power to spare.
I have also heard Merlins with J C Verdier 845 amps and that combo also sounded awesome.
Now those Cary's are 50 Watt or so? I was hoping to get away with 16-22 watts if possible. SOunds like high power requires 845 tube or possible 6CC33 - 2A3 and 300B are out of the picture.
I'm using Wyetech Labs Sapphires which use 300B's at 18 watts with VSM MM's and I'm quite satisfied with the sound. I don't listen at earsplitting levels but they will play the Allman Brothers loud enough to drown out my air guitar!
I use the Art Audio Carissa Signatures with the Merlins, this is a higher current iteration of the Carissa, plenty of oomph for the Merlins! Marco points out the advantages of SET's well. The sonic presentation is totally holographic, palpable, I would add immediate as well, performers in the room with you. Bass can be slightly problematic with the wrong partnering equipment, but a proper tonal balance is quite easy to come by.
I have heard the Merlins with the Joule amps quite extensively, and I formerly used Cary SLM 100's with my Merlins. The Joules are nice, but I'm happy enough with the Carissa so as to not feel as if I'm missing something. The Cary's were a bit analytical with the Merlins.
I used Merlin VSM mxe with audiopax 98(SET 30watts), fantastic medium and pristin high, but when I changed toaudio aero capitole PP 55 watts classe A, the sound became most robust , the bass controled and fast, I think melins likes 50 watts or high.
Canadiandog, are the Wytechs PP? Or dual output tubes? That is a lot of power for 300B
Snx, did you prefer the Joules?
Goergemg, that is the concern. You had pretty powerful SET, but ultimately seem to have preferred the 50 watt PP.
This makes me think that the CAT JL2 with 100 Watt Class A Triode, and the Ars Sonum which is mostly Class A and 30 Watts might not be improved upon with SET on the Merlins; without some sacrifice. I would make the move if the there was a signficant improvement in dimensionality without the cautious sense that I would be missing out on the full spectrum bass to highs.
The Art Audio Carissa and Jota have been recommended, but I'm not yet convinced they would offer something better than what I have. The other direction would be an Atmasphere MA-60 or Joule VZN80. But that is another kettle of fish.
I think that Bobby once wrote that he uses low power@home...try a search of the archives.
a clue, wattage is less important than the actual sound/tonal balance and bandwidth of the amp in question.
at 22 watts in pure class a, the fila flys!
so it is not that.
and georges amps are class a, another clue?
Pabul, I can't compare the Joule amps directly to the Carissa as I didn't use the Joules in my system. I can say I prefer the Carissa in my setup to the Joules in the systems I've heard, I suspect my fully treated room had much to do with this. I much preferred the dimensionality, holographic presentation over the mostly untreated rooms of the Joule systems.
I can't imagine you would have any bass issues with the Joule LA 150, I use the Joule LA100MK.III and bass is just fine for me.
You will only know if an SET is better for you by trying it in your system, I can guarantee it will sound different than any push/pull or OTL amp.
Pubul, dual output in a "quasi-parallel" circuit according to the manual.
I also use Wyetech Sapphire monoblocks: 18wpc parallel 300B SET with no negative feedback. They drive 88dB B&W Signature 805 monitors effortlessly in my 13'x19'x9' room with the same type of music you listen to. Stunning combo leads me to believe the Merlins would mate well.
I'm googling Wytech as soon as I finish typing this. The 300B has me a bit concerned regarding bandwidth, but I know the circuit design is important too.
I use similar sensitivity Acoustic Zen Adagio, 89 db, but equally important, a pretty flat 6ohm impedence. A benign impedence is probably more important than sensitivity with a SET. They sound just fine with a 22 watt Viva Solista 845 SET, real grip, good base and dynamics. I would say for 89db, at least 20watts, unless if you stck to Singer Songwriters, small Jazz combos. Me, I like a bit of Wagner and that certainly needs 22watts