Nola Viper Owners, Lend Me Your Amps

Hey all, I've been trying to do this on my own without a whole lot of success. I even sent Nola an email about amplification and got no response. I guess Carl didn't want to come off as biased towards one product or another, and that's cool.

I have been going back and forth between tubes and solid state gear for my Nola Viper IIa's. I've heard all the claims that Nola/Alons sound best or are viced with tubes, but I see that they also require a good deal of power to sound their best. As a result, I have been strongly considering the tube preamp, solid state power amp combo.

I'd like to know a couple of things; if I go tube power amp, how much tube power is required for the Nolas. If I go solid state can say, 125 watts do the job? Also, what are you guys using, all tubes, tube/ss combo, all solid state, and why?

For some info, I listen to all types of music, but I am a huge fusion fan where I listen to Jean Luc Ponty, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke and the like, so the music is hard driving and dynamic a lot of the time. However, I like my vocals too, both male and female, so the midrange has to be up to snuff as well.

Amps I've considered so far: Rogue, Dehavilland, Primaluna, Musical fidelity, McCormack, McIntosh, Primare and Emotiva. The only one that I have not heard is Primaluna.

Budget? I'm really trying to buy used but I will cough up the new price dough if there is a piece of gear that I decide that I have to have.

Thanks for looking and I look forward to responses.
Carl always uses (only?) Audio Research at shows, no? That is a pretty good indication of what he would recommend.
"I even sent Nola an email about amplification and got no response." Hopefully, he is just slow to respond, or maybe out of town.
"I guess Carl didn't want to come off as biased towards one product or another, and that's cool."
IMHO, this would not be a valid excuse.
I recently heard a Pathos Hybrid amp on a pair of Avalons.
It is one of the best non-tubed amps I have heard.
Best of luck in your search.
I have the Alon Lotus Elite, which are the predecessors to your Nola Vipers. I'm using a Classe 15 & Cary SLP-2002 to good effect right now.

I've also used Threshold Stasis 2, Jeff Rowland Model 3s, & Belles 350A for amps. All had plenty of power and musically involving with the Lotus.

I've also used the following preamps: Threshold SL-10, Belles 28A, Jeff Rowland Consonance, McCormack RLD-1, Rogue 99 Magnum and Threshold Fet 1 to good effect. The Belles was the best of that lot and may yet stay. Still have some other preamp candidates to try.

Haven't tried a tube amp, but I have a Rogue 88 Magnum that I'm going to try. But having a tube pre and ss amp seems to make a lot of sense with them. IMO, high-powered tube amps are just too difficult to deal with for the most part.

Hope that helped!

Thanks for your responses. Pubul, didn't really know that Carl used Audio Research exclusively at shows, but thats good to know.

FJN, I have started to explore Pathos, thanks for the tip.

Willie, you've got a lot of experience with a lot of equipment. Is the tube pre ss power your favorite combo?
I am not sure if it is only ARC, but at two recent shows that is what he was using - the REF series.

I've only played with SS amps, so my preference right now is tube pre over SS pre.

I'm very limited in the positioning of the speakers and they are very close to the rear walls. This seems to fatten the bass a the edge of acceptability. I'm afraid that using a tube amp will push it over the edge. I've got to dig out my Rogue one of these days to see what really happens.

The SS pres have all been very listenable, but the tube pres have the added presence in the midrange. They are just more relaxed.

The Belles 28A though is awful close. I really liked it and it has a great sounding MC/MM phono stage buit-in. Definitely the best SS pre I've had in my system, but also the most expensive.

As usual, YMMV.
I also have the Lotus Elites (predecessor to the Vipers).

My impression has been that Carl voices these speakers with a eye towards tube amps rather than SS. I alternate between a Conrad-Johnson MV-60 (EL34 version) amp and an Audio Research VT-100 Mk2 (6550), depending on whether I'm in the mood for the luscious EL34 midrange of the CJ vs the extended frequency extension of the ARC.

I have tried SS in the form of the Creek 53530SE as well; always ended up preferring the tube amps. Yeah, the Creek is not in the same weight class as the ARC, but it is no slouch.

Good luck with your search...
I too once owned the Elites and I must say they worked quite well with the Pass Aleph 3s (30 watts, Class A), you might think it would be underpowered, but it did not seem that way. Are the Vipers as "tube-friendly" in terms of impedances as the Elites? Are they as sensitive? If so, I don't think you need the 125 watts mentioned in the OP, I think 10 watts was the recommended minimum - they were not power hungry or in need of much current. If true, a 60 watt tube amp would seem more than enough power to drive these speakers to very loud levels.
Very helpful thoughts, guys. The Nola Vipers are not very sensitive (86db) I believe, so I know I need some current to push them. If 60 tube watts is all I need to properly drive them, then I will begin concentrating on some tube integrateds, or lower powered tube power amps.
I noticed that their manual online says they need 10 watts minimum, but that does seem awfully low if they are really 86db, though I still think 60 tube watts should be enough power for most listening in average size rooms at sane levels. I would give Carl a call, but 60 tube watts is alot of power for speakers with smooth, highish impedance.
Carl sent me an email and stated that 55 watts or so, should be good for average listening in a medium size room. However, if I want to crank it up, 100 watts are preferred. I would err to the side of having too much than too little.
The many times I heard Alons at my dealer's (years ago, but the same type of designs), they sounded excellent with VTL amplification. I'd suggest you add that brand to your list for auditioning.
Prince, I thanks for the info. I have been looking at VTL as well. I will have to limit my choices, though, as we all know there are so many options out there. It can drive you crazy!
Being a long time Alon/Nola owner including 2 pairs of Alon 1's, 1 pair of Alon Lotus SE mk ll's and Nola Vipers 1X's, I can tell you they all sound their best IE natural with tube amps although a Pass Labs Aleph 3 did very well with the Alon 1's. I am currently using a McIntosh MC 275 mk V with the Nola Vipers with MIT speaker cables and can say it has plenty of headroom for even a die hard rock and roller such as myself and is musically articulate. The Lotus' are being driven by a rebuilt EICO 2050 integrated tube amp with equal aplomb and also use MIT speaker cables which are a killer match... much better than the stock Alon Black Orpheus cables although they are very, very good but lack an organic wholeness and bass slam the MIT's provide.

The best I've ever heard the Alon 1's and the Lotus' sound was with an EL34 output tube based tube amp but this was with a softer bottom end but the harmonic beauty was undeniable. By the way, a 30 WPC tube amp is plenty for both the Alon and Nola speakers but just make sure you experiment with the different output taps to get the best power transfer.
Thanks for your response, Prince. Its been a while since I've been to the site and just saw this. Im a little surprised with 30 watts being sufficient, but based on what you've owned you seem to be well versed with the Alon/Nola sound and what makes them sound their best.
Has anyone ever heard/tried the Manley gear with Alon/Nola speakers? Please share your thoughts.
Its been 4 years since I started this thread. Im updating to inform that I have a de Havilland Ultraverve 3 pre and McIntosh mc7150, good for 150 watts per channel. I can honestly say that this is the best that I've heard mysystem. I wont be cchanging either amp any time soon.
Hawk28 I just bought the KO's and will be running them with audiovalve challenger 180 mono's.
Are you still running your vipers; if so what speaker cables are you using?
I bought Nola blue thunder cables and have Transparent's Musicwave super to play with so far.