No Bi-Amp but tubes for Maggies -- can it be done?

Someone please either put me out of my misery once and for all. Is there a tube amp that will drive Magneplanars (1.6 or 3.6). Most listened to are female Jazz vocals. If can get some real expert input I'll give up the dream and move on to the best cat coffins I can find or plunge into the world of electrostatic/ribbons. Thanks as always.

Well I hope you don't mind a dealer jumping at the chance to blow his horn about a product he peddles, but the Wolcott tube amps are superb on Maggies. They ain't cheap, though; fortunately, used ones show up from time to time.

I was once told by another dealer (who does not sell Wolcotts) that the best he'd ever heard a pair of 3.6's (if I recall correctly) sound was when driven by a pair of Wolcotts. And if you ever really lose your marbles and go for a pair of Sound Labs on down the road, you'll already be set as far as amplification goes.

I have a few other less expensive ideas in amplification for Maggies, if you want to e-mail me (I'm not a Maggie dealer but I'm a former owner and a big Maggie fan).

Best of luck in your quest!

Don't know if this is an option for you, but there are several hybrid amps out there that are worth considering. Llano and Counterpoint come to mind, plus a few more.

Sure. I'm driving the 3.6 model with a 100 watt per channel McIntosh tube amp (2102) and preamp (2200). Sounds great and I listen to a lot of vocal music of various kinds.

I had a pair of MG3A, that I was driving with a stereo pair of Audio research D-115MK2. Your talking 115w x 4. 1 stereo amp per speaker. This system kept me happy until I purchased Rowland mono blocs ang Apogee Diva ribbons. The ARC D115 can typically be purchased 1000--1300.00. Hope this helps, happy hunting
I like Duke's suggestion for the Wolcott's- but then again I like Dike because he's a really cool guy :) Another tube amp that would be able to handle maggies amp punishing capabalities are the VTL amps, anything bigger then a 450 should handle it(the 450 may not be enough for the 3.6, but I can not say for sure). I don't think its a lost cause there are a number of maggie users running tubes and they really seem to love it.

Given your listen taste are geared toward Jazz and female vocals there is hope although not cheap...

I currently run my 3.6R with VTL 225's that run in Class A Triode mode only. Midrange and highs are very sweet with plenty of air. Although these amps have very high current I could still use more power for those last octaves to come out. As mentioned getting large amounts of “Class A” tube power is not cheap. Used Wolcotts are below $6000. VTL depending or year and mods are in the similar price ranges.

Depending on your room size a “smaller” 200 watt tube amp will work nice. For the MG1.6 100-200 tube watts would work well as for the 3.6R 200-500 watts would make them that much better.

Good luck
I had a similar experience as Sscot1961. I drove a pair of Magnepan 1.6QRs with an ARC D-115MK2 and later a D-125. If your room isn't huge these amps provide plenty of power to make the Magnepans come to life. The midrange, especially on female vocals, is just glorious.

It CAN be done. It MUST be done.
You really shouldn't consider anything less than 100 watts/channel. However, to really make maggies sing, you should look for at least double that. Would you consider a hybrid like a moscode(tube gain, solid state output)? Regardless, be prepared to spend lots of $$$
If you are interested in other options, you might also consider Parasound JC-1s (disclaimer: I sell them). A customer who recently borrowed a pair from me to try with his MG 20.1s declared them the ones to beat, having tried quite a few other solid state amplifiers, some costing well into five figures. At some point he may biamp his speakers, which wouldn't be cost prohibitive to do with JC-1s. If you're committed to tubes, I agree with Duke's recommendation of the Wolcotts. Either way, you'll be a happy camper.

VTL 450 or 750 in Triode would be excellent the Walcott is excellent choice also.
Not a cheap option but the Atma-sphere MA 1 Mk II.2 works well with the Maggies and to my ears it is one the great amps period. It won't give you the bass slam of a BIG SS amp but you do get amazing transparency. I have not heard the Wolcotts but the MA 1 walks away from the VTL, Mac, Cary & ARC amps. The MA 1 is a bit of a room heater but it does not need spendy matched sets of output tubes. I would, however, do some tube rolling with the 6SN7s. It is also very reliable. The Atma-sphere amps do not have typical tube amp colorations so if you are looking for euphonic rather than transparent they may not be the right choice.
I think(have never tried them myself on maggies) the atma-sphere's would sound great, the only problem I have is that they are OTL's. Which means nothing is between your output tubes and your speaker, and in the maggies case may be dangerous if you did any work to them(i.e. if the fuses aren't in place, I wouldn't even think of trying an otl). Don't get me wrong I love otl amps, and ribbon tweeters are relatively cheap for magnepans, but your much more likely to have problems with this set up and it would get tiresome quickly- IMO. But if you have fuses there is much less at risk and I am sure the sound is first rate.
I HAVE tried the MA 1 Mk II.2 on Maggies and there are zero problems. True the Magneplanars do not present an ideal load for an OTL but there is not a hint of instability. The Atma-sphere is NOT a ribbon tweeter eater.
Greenman- Your missing what I said, the magnepan uses a ribbon tweeter- I sure hope your amp doesn't have a tweeter in it! I was merely pointing out that you are more likely to have a tube failure effect a ribbon(on the speaker) with an OTL then with any other type of amp. Some will never have a problem with output tubes but with a power hungry speaker the tubes are working over time. The load isn't a big deal its a stable 4 ohm load, but the maggies are still an 85dB with TONS of driver area that needs gobs of power(both watts and current) to make it happen. And as I said if you have not modified your speakers then this is not an issue but then again your not even hearing 30% of what your speakers are capable of with out modification. Does that clear up your confusion?
Tireguy, no confusion on my part. You're talking theory and I'm talking practice with unmodified Maggies. Try not to be so patronizing, especially when you lack first hand experience. I don't need a lecture on either Maggies or OTLs. I'm actually a fairly bright guy with 30 years of high audio experience.
If that's the case why did you think that I said your amps had ribbon tweeters in them? Just calling them like I see them. And I do have experience with OTL and maggies just not the atma-sphere's so try and relax this hobby is suppose to be fun ;)
Ease back there, Tireguy! Greenman said that the OTLs will not "eat" (damage) the Maggie's ribbon tweeters. He never said or implied anything about his Atma-Spheres having tweeters.

Reading comprehension is clearly not a strong-suit for you. Please, take your own advice and "...try and relax..."

Quit trying to save face...You're just digging yourself deeper.
Gullahisland- What seems to be your problem? He did clearly say
The Atma-sphere is NOT a ribbon tweeter eater.
I assume he meant either not eater. I have a great understanding of the English language and how to use it- appreciate your insight though. I don't think you could be further off base with your statements and yes I will defend my statements when they are clearly misunderstood(for those who have been around for a while I sort of feel like Carl_e here!). I don't care how long someone has been in this hobby there's always something new to learn, I don't claim to know everything, heck I don't claim to know much!. Any other comments? or am I still just digging myself deeper because I can comprehend what was said- either way I handle it, trust me ;)
Gullahisland is on the money. I'm quite capable of distinguishing between "either" and "eater" and can spell both. You assumed that I was an idiot, I'm not. I believe the well-mannered move at this point would be to apologize for an ill-considered assumption on your part.
I own the Magnepan 3.6 and have run them with the Atmasphere MA-1 mk2 with and without a Zero autotransformer; the Atmasphere MA-2 mk2 with and without the Zero autotransformer, and the Wolcott Presence 220 with and without the wideband transformer.

The Atmasphere MA-1 or 2 sound remarkably similar when used without the autotransformer in that there is quite a bit of midrange bloom with a slightly softened bass, treble and microdynamics. Harmonic richness is aplenty. I suspect that the output impedance of the Atmasphere causes a shift in the frequency response of the speaker that emphasizes the midrange.

With either the MA-1 or 2 amplifier, the insertion of the Paul speltz Zero autotransfomer will yield a very balanced, detailed and dynamic sound spectrum that retains the harmonic infrastructure that the Atmasphere is so known for, yet without the midrange emphasis. There is a liquid flow to the music spectrum, especially noticeable through the midrange, that will arrest one with how real it sounds. It encompasses a musicality that eludes the Wolcotts as well as all other amplifiers that I have tried on the 3.6s. It is in this configuration that one discovers the true meaning of "grainless". Even very good amplifiers such the Pass series exudes an ever so slightly strident flavor to the music that detracts from the musicality. Almost too squeaky clean I would say.

The Wolcotts are also excellent amplifiers. They sound very tight, dynamic and also clean. Frequency spectrum is full and extended. The sound on the Maggies was essentially the same with, or without the wideband transformer (this wideband feature is primarily for electrostatic speakers such as the Soundlabs). Although I liked the Wolcott, it never made an impression on me that the Atsmaphere did. I think it lacks a bit of harmonic richness (not bloom in this case)that the Atmasphere has in exactly the right amount. The Wolcott sounds like it is almost too much in control of things. It just does not let the music flow quite like the Atmaspheres do.

I could live happily with either, but I prefer the OTL. I do not play music loud so, things may be different if I let'em rip. I did notice that turning up the volume seem to cause the Atmasphere to struggle while the Wolcotts became ever more comfortable and, more dynamic. But, this is a moot point for me becuase I don't play it loud.
Tireguy - Would it have helped if he hyphenated the phrase "tweeter-eater"? Maybe a pictograph would be more helpful.

Tweeter-eater, as in "Peter, Peter Pumpkin-eater..." I'm a bit of a meat-eater, myself. (Carnivore...get it?)

Holy crap, (or should that be hyphenated as well?) you're quite the sensitive one. For the record, Greenman is the party who was misunderstood.

And yes, you are digging yourself deeper. Luckily, you can handle it though, right? ;)

On a positive note, I now know, definitively, whose advice to ignore.

As you said "...there's always something new to learn." Might I suggest that you take your own advice and learn when to keep your proverbial mouth shut?

You were wrong. You're still wrong. Trouble is, you're too prideful to admit it.

"You LOSE! You get NOTHING! Good day, sir!" - Willy Wonka

The only thing left to do is set the Everlasting Gobstopper on Mr. Wonka's desk and the Chocolate Factory will be yours.

Just apologize and be done with it.

BTW - Sorry, Greenman for stepping in the middle of your post.
Nice post Nealhead, your experience far exceeds mine. I enjoyed the comparison with the Wolcotts which I've never had the chance to audition.
I'm running 2 Counterpoint NP100s in monobloc biwiring MG IIBs (yeah, yeah, ancient equipment).
Female vocals can sound very good depending on recording (just
happen to have 2 Aboslute Sound-listed reference CDs). My CD front end
Nakamichi OMS 7 is on its last legs however.
Here's my two-penneth on 3.6R's and tubes, for what it's worth.

I bought my 3.6R's in October last year and have tried a few different amps, both tube and SS.

If you search old posts for Magnepan you'll see a few of mine, asking for help and advice and basically venting quite a bit of frustration along the way.

I'm still not happy with amps for these speakers, but I have a better understanding of what is required, through several months of trial and error.

First of all, the most important consideration when amping the 3.6's is room size.
If you have a larger than normal room, these speakers are capable of opening up and creating a huge soundstage (width), given powerful amps, particularly in the area of current delivery. Given power, the Maggies just dissapear in a large room and you feel the full scale of the music.

In a smaller room, you are just not going to recreate that scale, regardless of the power, and so you can look for a more sensibly rated amp.

I suspect that a lot of Maggie 3.6 owners have never really heard what these speakers are capable of producing in terms of soundstage, given the dimension constraints of the average listening space.

Tubes in my opinion are the only way to go with these speakers, if you can afford to buy adequately powered tube amps that is.

I've moved my speakers between two different listening rooms, one is 14X22, the other, my prefered room, is 45X28'
In the smaller room, a pair of 200 w/channel Cary V12i Monoblocks work great. Given the room constraints, you never really feel that you are missing out on scale, and the vocals, brass instruments, all just sounds so natural and pure. In this smaller room, the amp isn't being driven too hard, and everything sounds natural and in proportion.

Using the same amps in the larger space is a different matter. On smaller scale music, say an accoustic trio, or something along those lines, you still have that same 'musical rightness' that tubes deliver. But on larger scale music, say big band or classical, you start to feel that something is missing. I have my speakers about 14' apart along the 45' wall, and the sound doesn't open up much beyond the speaker edges when I use the 200w tube monoblocks.

When I add a solid state, with good current delivery, then the soundstage widens and the whole picture changes. However, with the SS amps that I've tried so far, I just can't get the same sense of 'musicality' as I can with tubes.

So, I think that in a larger room, the goal is still tubes, but they must be in the 400+ watt region, based on what I've heard so far.

In a smaller room, a good quality 200 w tube amp should work great, but I wouldn't go much lower than that.

The amps I've tried, with a quick run down:

Belles Integrated - great amp, good current delivery, just too bright and forward.
McIntosh 252 - big heavy powerful amp, started to sound pretty good until the cutouts kicked in at around 80db and the amps just shut down!
McIntosh 6500 Integrated - actually played louder than the more powerful 252 without shutting down, but forget it! 'colored' and completely lacking in transparancy. I read other posts where people claim the 6500 and bigger 6900 sound great with Maggies, well, each to their own.
Cary V12i Mono's - great sounding in a smaller room, just not quite up to the larger room.
Perreaux 2150b - I found one of these by accident at a bargain price, and it sounds pretty darn good. So much so that I bought a bigger 3150b but unfortunatelt that has a fault on it. The Perreux really opens up the soundtage on the 3.6, it's almost right but just lacks the tonal quality and liquidity of tubes.
CJ CAV 50 (45 watt tube integrated)...all the glory of tubes, just not enough watts).

Anyway, that's my story so far!....I'm going to dump off all of my amps and try to find something like a Manley 440 or a VTL 750.

I would recommend that anyone at least tries tubes with Maggies.
I usually get a bunch of flack when I post here, so I'm going off to find my safety hat, anyway, it's just my opinion.

Interesting thread. Have not heard Maggies in a long time, but as someone above posted, if you are looking for some tube magic, with lots of watts and current, try a Llano Trinity 300 or maybe bi-amaping with the Llano Phoenix with 2, 200 wpc current amps. These are both hybrid designs (tube voltage amp and mosfet current amp). Randy White the designer/builder is not the most accessible guy at times, but the amp may give you what you are looking for.