My Audion Sterling Premier integrated SET arrived yesterday. This is my first go 'round with tubes, so I have absolutely no referent. The sound is absolutely beautiful. I'm sure there are plenty of tubers out there who know this amp and know Audion, as well. Don't have to worry about biasing with an SET. Also, I'm sure you realize, Audion is not an household name, and I realize that is what you wanted, but it's these little guys from speakers to cables that some truely amazing things can be found. It's through Audiogoners that I, not only decided to run with tubes, but got introduced to Audion, as well......peace, warren
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Mike Sanders (Quicksilver) is working on putting the 300B SET amps, that I
have a prototype pair of, into production. Rumor I heard was that he may
have something by later this year. Not sure where he's aiming to put the
pricepoint. That would be worth the wait IMO - the amps I have are
outstanding, and they've kept me grinning for two years now. I've never
compared them to the Cary you have though so could not say how different
they may be. Otherwise he has not produced any other SET amps. Nor, for
that matter, has McIntosh or Conrad Johnson that I am aware of.
A few questions that may help others answer your query: Why are you
wanting to change - what are you hoping to gain? What speakers are you
going to be using?
If you are looking for something different than the 300B tube sound, you may
want to try an entirely different design. I liked the Bel Canto 40 when I heard
it and it may give you more versatility with the extra muscle. That uses a pair
of 845 tubes. You should be able to find one for your budget used. Or for
something completely different you might look into OTL amps. Just a few
PS Hey Warren - welcome to the dark side! Are you using the Audion with
your beloved Callistos? If so, how does that work out as a pairing off?
Marco, I loved the Caravelles, as you know, but I moved. New crib was much much larger, plus high ceilings. Not enough speaker for the space. Wanted a small foot print and a full range speaker. Almost impossible to find. And then came Zu. 101db left the door open for tubes. Wasn't even considering tubes. Was happy as anything with my YBA Passion, but another Definition and Druid owner encouraged me to rethink the idea of tubes. The rest was history. 53, and still teachable. These Definitions are very exciting. Never had an efficient speaker in my life. Tubes were never in the picture. Couldn't afford what it would take to drive what I had in the past. thanks for asking...good to see you back on the 'gon Marco...warren
The Cary SEI 300B was also my first in-home experience with SET's. It is instantaneously lush, rich, velvety smooth - enough to make most anyone drunk with SET envy. But, after a few weeks, I started to find the sound too lush and rich, almost exaggeratedly so. And the low frequencies tended to be flabby and underpowered with both my 90dB/4 ohm & 97dB/8ohm speakers.
Then, I got chance to hear some other great 300B amps which confirmed my impressions about the Cary's "signature sound". My current Welborne DRD 300B monoblocks are far more transparent, revealing, tonally accurate, and dynamic. The Cary seems bloated and slow in comparison. Cy Brennan's were another revelation about how 300B amps should sound. Both these amps better the Cary's peformance in all respects, especially it's low frequency response.
The good news is that there are several American made amps that offer better performance(depending on your preferences) below the price of what you can get for the Cary. A used set of Welborne DRD 300B monoblocks will run you ~$1,100 w/ TJ Meshplate tubes.
For some reason, I misread the thread and thought you had the 101dB Zu speakers (acutally Warrenh). Now, I realize that you've gone to a headphone system.
I have an Art Audio PX-25 amp (no volume control) and it is the greatest amp I have ever encountered. In my system, it is powerful, rich, textured, detailed, agile. Tonality and timbre are where it truly seperates itself from any other amp I've heard. Wood instruments have body and resonance. Cymbals have shimmer and decay. Percussion has snap. Whatever is asked of it gets delivered and it never runs out of steam.
But, I think it might be serious overkill for a headphone system unless you are looking to seriously push the envelope. Art Audio's are 70 lb. stainless steel beasts built to have the current capability of SET's on steroids.
In your situation, I would seriously look into an amp using a 45 tube or 2A3. Fantastic tonality in the 2 wpc range, yet still more than enough, I'd think. There is a used Fi 2A3/45 stereo amp(6Moons review) for sale right now at $1k that has "Sale Pending", you should seriously contact the seller to see if it is still available. If not, they sell for ~$2,650 brand new.
For background info, here is Enjoy The Music's 2004 review of it's predecessor amp Fi X 2A3/45 by Ian White. I've traded quite a few emails and posts on Audio Asylum with Ian over the years on a range of audio related topics. He fervently believes that Don Garber's amps cut directly to the soul of the music in a way no other amp comes close. I think he described them as an "emotional experience".
Here's a 2004 6Moons review of his Fi 2A3 monoblocks.
TNT Audio's 2002 review of his Fi X 2A3 stereo amp.
Don does business the old fashioned way, by phone and email strictly. Give him a call 718-625-7353 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, I used to have a pair of Cary SLM-100s which I rolled 6250s and KT88s in and out of so...sorta been there did that. Will probably like to stay in the SET scene for awhile. Works well for my type of music (lots of styles of acoustic). However, when, I add speakers to my system, I plan on listening to more larger orchestral pieces. I have a feeling for the slam-factor and to give me more options in speaker choice, I'll have to move to a EL34, KT88,etc. model. Maybe the Mcintosh 275??
But, please, throw something out if you have it!
Darkmobius, thanx for all the excellent info. I'be doing lots reading tonight.
BTW, please don't underestimate the AKG K1000s. Here is a thread I started today. Most people that understand the current requirements of the high impedance phones drive 'em with >100W Krells and Levinson's!!! And the headphones connect directly to the speaker terminals.
I ve owned and try just about all the cary SET out there.for the money,it ll be tough to get something better then the cary.I think it s time for you to try the welbornes experience.I think you ll love it. try to find the older moondog orlaurel if you can..there s something about the new DRD design that just didnt click with my ear.
Thanks for that link, I would have never thought Headgear could need that much current. Learn something new every week around here.
Since I have zero experience with headphones, take my suggestions with a big grain of salt. But, if you found the Cary somewhat satisfactory in the current/drive department, then an Art Audio will knock your socks off.
Consider the Art Audio Carissa which uses an 845 transmitting tube to deliver 16 wpc of rich, luscious, and powerful sound. Guanranteed to trump the Cary 300SEI in every respect. It sells for $4k new, but used amps pop up around here every month in the $1.7k-$2k range.
Positive Feedback review
Enjoy The Music Review
I dunno, in many ways I think Cary is the right choice for tube consumer types rather than us afficionados.
I would suggest an Airtight, which will be other varieties of tube SET; namely KT88 and EL34. Unfortunately it's definitely more than your Cary. I think the Airtight integrateds can go for eight grand, and no one ever seems to sell them (hmmm...). Airtight I have never heard "rocking" but I suspect they are capable of it.
Or maybe also as Moebius says, a 45 tube amp, like a Yammamoto. I have heard with the right speakers you don't absolutely have to go horns at 2 watts - I read a review in which a pair of Harbeths were used to good effect with the Yamamoto, and I suspect they would also work fine with Joseph Audio's RM7. Or your Zu's. You can find more info on them at 6 Moons, or look the Yam up on the internet (or on 'gon). They're imported to the States by a guy that owns a record store in Michigan. That's why I say things like, not good for the average consumer...
EAR also makes a 12AX7 integrated - actually uses the tubes as power tubes in parrallel, and with the "English Sound" and Groove Tubes reissuing Mullard reproduction 12AX7/ECC variant/6922's, how can you go wrong?
What about something like a used Graaf or going separates with an OTL if you are interested in seeing a different type of "date" entirely? OTL's are wildcats with the right speakers. And the Zu's are them.
These are all "used" suggestions as they are slightly above the stated price range. If you really want to date a number of girls, what about George Wright's pretty great equipment at a reasonable price? He does 2A3's and a number of others, and you could have them new, and sell when you want to move on to the next victim.