New tube amp for ML Prodigy CAT, VTL, ARC????

I am thinking of moving on from my ARC VT200 to another tube amp. Can anyone offer advise here? Some that I am considering are the BAT VK150, VTL 450's, CAT JL2, or maybe if I stretch a used pair of ARC Ref300's. I would love to include the Lamm ML1.1 (90 watts??) or the Nagra VPA's but am afraid they wouldn't drive my speakers very well.

Can anyone compare any of the above amps with what I am currently using to give some insight as to what might be gained with such a move? Should I just stand pat, as I think the VT200 sounds pretty darn good? Or, would there be a tremendous jump in performance? I would prefer to stay all balanced but am very limited when I add this into the mix. I like all kinds of music including loud R&R from time to time.

BTW, reliability and a company's track record are considerations.

Thanks for your help

Have you considered a pair of VAC Standard 220 monoblocks?
They are powerful and utilize (4) KT 88 output tubes. I have a pair running with balanced inputs and they seem to pack a powerful punch. They also have taps for low impedence loads and adjustable negative feedback controls.

Just one thought to add to your list.

Are you using a sub with the Prodigys or are you able to get sufficient bass response?
I had VT100 MKIII and recently upgraded to the VPA's. NO COMPARISON! As diferent to safe-sex and..... The VPA's will breath life to your recordings....recreates the recording sound space. Was just listening to a CD I hadn't heard for years (SINEAD O"CONNER)think I will need bryl-creme next time to keep the hairs from climbing up the back of my neck. There are some good deals used. I bought used on the ...GON, was so impressed that I exchanged for new at full price!

Thanks for the input. For some reason VAC amps are not really on my radar. I don't know much about them or thier "house" sound. Do you have any idea on how they might compare to my ARC? They are relative bargains compared to some of the other offerings though. To answer your question.......... I have tons of bass from my Prodigy's and had to buy some bass traps to tame it down a little. I think my speakers are probably a bit too big for my room but they sure sound good.
If possible the Cats will be quite a nice treat. Great base control and just super mids and liquid highs. I feel the Cats are more romantic than the arc amps. If your looking to spend the money do yourself a favor.
I have a very different take on the CAT vs. ARC than Bozo. But then again, that is no surprise as I have not had much in common with anybody with orange hair. 8-)

It's very difficult if not downright impossible to make any blanket statement about the sound of ARC preamps or amps as there has been no consistency or evolving refinements to an existing "house" sound here. I owned the Classic 60 and Classic 150s and these were very non-romantic. These amps can often sound analytical, forward, and in fact downright fatiguing....even in the context of an all-ARC setup. The ARC VT130 was a different beast altogether with incredibly full and rich midrange to die for. The bass was lacking the ultimate extension and control and the top end was not as resolving of low-level information, but this amp was incredibly musical. When I heard it compared to the VT100, the VT100 was much more tonally coherent but lacked the musical involvement for me. And fortunately, the VT100 did not have the "faults" of the Classic series. I would think that the VT200 which is essentially a bigger brother to the VT100 would have nearly identical sonics to the VT100. The VT130 (along with the VT150s) was indeed a more tubey sounding amp with its portrayal of dimensionality that it predecessors and successors simply did not have.

I have since gone through Counterpoint NPS400 (awesome amp) and Wolcott monos to now owning a pair of CAT JL-3 Signature amps. The CAT amps are NOT IN ANY WAY a romantic sounding tube amp. Their strengths include dynamic contrasts like few other amps (ss or tube) can do and they handle the leading edge of the notes with clarity and speed like few other amps as well. But tonally, they are rather flat in that they do not portray a fuller-than-life midrange (upper or lower) to bring on a "warmth".

The CAT amps are an awesome match with the Sounlab speakers as the resolution of each shows the capability of the other.


Have you heard the older CAT JL1 mono's (esp. the signature version)? Ken Stevens has reportedly said the newer models are better but those were supposedly incredible. What are the differences.

Does anyone know if the Atma-sphere MA-1 MKII.3 OTL's would drive these speakers?

I would love to go the route of Nagra but am afraid they wouldn't drive the Prodigy's with only 50 watts.

Thanks for the comments so far


I have not heard the JL-1's but yes, they have gotten much praise from the beginning. A pair of these sold several months ago here for around $8k. You don't see them here too often. But the JL-2 is often for sale here at this price and I have yet to read that anyone prefered the older JL-1 monos to this stereo amp. So it comes down to picking your poison.

As for the Atmasphere MA1 amps, I heard these last year driving Soundlab U1s and this was mightily impressive. These were the higher efficient U1s which the amps had no difficulty driving at all. Are the ML Prodigy's a similar load as the SL's?

John (Jafox): you tell it like it is - the JL1s will drive them very well, but the improvements in the JL2 make it preferable in most cases. Thanks for bringing your JL3 Signatures down to play on the U-1s, it was quite an experience. Would have liked to put the JL2 in, but as you know we didn't have time. Next month will be even more interesting, with the additional tweaks installed.

Chris (Cmo): you shoulda been there!

Unless s/thing has changed, the Prodigys are much more difficult than the new Soundlabs. So an OTL may run into unnecessary trouble driving them -- i.e. not perform at its intended best. This would be a shame as the "best" with Atma is indeed excellent.
But, I spose Atma themselves would know better than me.
Why not a CJ Premier Tube amp ?

(just curious)
THe ML present a fairly even 4ohm load up until around 10K as I understand. They are rated as 89db efficient so they seem as if they would be a fairly easy load.......... However, as I understand it they present some anamoly (sorry I'm not an EE so don't fully understand) in the load to an amplifier that makes them a bit harder to drive......... It seems they prefer an amp that can deliver A LOT of current. Can someone elaborate? Anyway, I think the OTL route might not be the best choice as I am starting to find out (What about autoformers though??).

Has anyone heard or (better yet) owned the ARC VTM200's??

Thanks for all the comments

I run Prodigy's with VTM200's, very good result. Previously ran them with VT100 Mk3, the VTMS have much better bass impact and extension.

I had a pair or Prodigys mated to a pair of ASL Hurricane amps with VERY good results. You might want to try these as a much more affordable alternative.
I used to drive Acoustat 2+2's with VTM200's, and they did a very credible job. They do not have the solid lower bass or overall authority of the CAT's, but they are very nice amps. They do tend to be heavily influenced by cable choice.
You might take a look at the Blue Circle Hybrid amp's, the 204 and 206. I'm using the 206 with my ML summits. Wonderful combination, especially with the Blue Circle pre-amp with the upgraded power supply. BC and ML are a good match.
Also, you should audition the NuForce Reference 9.02 mono blocks. I have them now on my Summits and the match up is pure magic. Because they also have been highly praised for their incredible bass reproduction as well, they should wrk wonders with the Prodigy's passive woofers.