Pre + Amplifier Recommendation


Hello All,

First let me say I have spent countless hours researching what may or may not be the right combo for me and my listening preferences - the reality is that there are so many options I am likely more confused now than before, though not from a lack of effort.

So, I have Dali Helicon 400's and listen primarily to rock / folk indie primarily, but do listen to most genres. I have a Cary SLI-80 with upgraded tubes and it sounds great, but lacks a bit of power when i want to turn it up and i am wondering if in addition to increased power i could move up the food chain a bit and get something even better, so long as better is not in the five digits.

I prefer tube sound to any solid state I've owned or heard to date, and my primary concern is being engaged in the music not hearing every last detail, thought that is neat as well.

Was thinking maybe a set of used Cary 805AE units, but fear they may not have enough power. VAC ? BAT ? Quicksilver ? Coincident ?

Or should I start over with new speakers as well? Daedalus Argos look pretty cool and are seemingly more efficient, may open up the options on amplification?

Look forward to your suggestions and thanks in advance.
juggernaut850
I have kept the same speakers but seen a few preamps &
power amps come and go. By the way they are very efficient
speakers (102 db) and these were the ticket to getting the
most out of lower powered tube gear. I drove them with a
tube amp that put out 8 watts per channel and I could reach
higher than moderate levels without overdriving the amp. In
addition this also eliminates having to buy the much more
expensive & high wattage power amps. So my opinion is to
invest in different, more efficient speakers because your
Cary gear is considered to be very excellent by many.
I don't like low power tubes with high sensitivity speakers,the sound is not heavy or visceral enough for me. I find the combo of a tube preamp with solid state power provides the best of both worlds. If you like to listen loud and FEEL the music as well as hear it ,you might try this combo.
+1 For Mattmiller. I too use a hybrid combo and its the best sound for me by far.
Mattmiller, I would agree and I no longer have the tube amp but I used it as an example that speakers that are very efficient don't require alot of watts to drive them. I currently use 150 watts per channel amp and that sounds even better.
My experience is the polar opposite of what Mattmiller finds. It has been
the low to moderate power tube amplifiers with high efficiency speakers
that are noticeably more convincing and visceral in music communication
and "feel". But we all can recognize and accept that these
differences are expected. I understand why the OP has his preference for
tube power amplifiers. Which ever path is taken there exist many choices.
Juggernaut850 your idea to move to more efficient speakers is a wise one.
Best of luck.
Charles,
You need to go through the trouble of choosing your components. If you don't, you'll never be happy. Here's why:

"10-14-14: Mattmiller
I don't like low power tubes with high sensitivity speakers,the sound is not heavy or visceral enough for me."

"My experience is the polar opposite of what Mattmiller finds."

Its a matter of personal preference. Only you can make the decision.
Zd542,
Yes, no argument with that fact.
Q. Any ideas on finding decent tube tester for less than an arm and leg ?
Zero fun for a old man playing whose got the hissss with 8 tube pre.
You can't measure hiss on a tube tester- the best way to test tubes for noise is to listen to them. Or get known quiet tubes from a source (the manufacturer of the unit?) to send you a set.

eBay is a good source of tube testers. There are some modern testers too- like the Sophia, that do allow you to listen to the tubes. But your equipment is always the final arbiter.
How do listen to one tube when there are 8 of them ?

NO test on a tube tester that will give you a clue?
Turning a tube pre on and off all day switching tubes has got to be hard on your pre and amp.


I completly understand the comments of using my own ears, and appreciate how something like audio can bring about two completely polar opposite opinions on the same subject since this is such a qualitative hobby. That said I value the opinions of those who have been down the road before in hopes of saving me a few miles of detours on my path.

Appreciate the responses guys.

Maybe speakers will be the next move...
If changing speakers is on your radar now or in the near future -- and it appears it is -- just do that first. You know why. Best of luck.
Adding a powered sub or two might be the most practical ticket you need to get more out of what you already have.
Schubert, you might check with the manufacturer to see if removing and installing tubes while the unit is on is a problem. With our preamps, as long as you take certain precautions, its easily done. But I can imagine not all preamps are like that.

But listening to tubes is the best way to grade them, however tedious.

You might also check with the manufacturer to see if there are particular tubes that contribute more to noise. You may not have to be swapping all 8 of them to sort it out!
I would look for an Ayre integrated amp and keep the speakers. The AX-7 or AX-7e is a fantastic sounding amp and I'll bet it would be a good match with your speakers.
"10-15-14: Juggernaut850

I completly understand the comments of using my own ears, and appreciate how something like audio can bring about two completely polar opposite opinions on the same subject since this is such a qualitative hobby. That said I value the opinions of those who have been down the road before in hopes of saving me a few miles of detours on my path.

Appreciate the responses guys.

Maybe speakers will be the next move..."

I understand that you want to get some opinions to point you in the right direction. Your approach, I think, is a little too vague and open ended. Now you are thinking about speakers. Asking this way, the only thing you'll get is a list of favorites, many of which will be polar opposites. What don't you like about your current speakers and where do you need to improve? What types of speakers don't you like? Is there a speaker you do like very much but its out of your price range? If so, maybe we can suggest a similar, less expensive, alternative.

The better the info you supply, the better the recommendations will be.
My experience with a lot of people that listen to low watt tubes with high sensitive speakers is that most don't turn it up very loud. In fact they listen at a very low level a lot of the time. This is not me. And I would love to hear some examples of gear that I need to listen to that would make me switch from my beloved Dynaudios and a McIntosh SS Amp! This system with a Modwright pre amp is capable of conveying tonal beauty, huge soundstage, effortless highs, gorgeous midrange did I mention TONE O yeah I did, and a rhythmic drive and quickness that rocks the house whenever I want with tuneful solid bass. I don't have uber bucks spent and I always look for a good deal when it comes to equipment, but like anything you love you don't mind spending $$ on it. At the end of the day its about listening to music and being happy with what your hearing. Not all this gear stuff!......RIGHT? ...lol
I don't think it's a competition between system types and who's approach is better. Rather people can hear the same sound presentation and have vastly different opinions. I don't know who in particular are the low power amp guys referenced, but I imagine listening levels vary amongst them as any other group. Listening loud is just one's personal choice and to do as often as they feel necessary. Some systems need to blast or crank it up to sound their best and some don't (sound superb at moderate SPL). Really it is truly choice and why we're satisfied with our individual routes to Rome.
Charles,
Mattmiller, from your description I would guess most with SET systems don't listen to the same music as you.
Recreating live acoustic un-amplified is difficult.
If you listen to music that ,live, is played though a glorified PA system, then you are correct, there is no consideration other than your own taste.
O that's not true....I listen to very simple acoustic to solo piano and jazz and rock and classical...name a classical musician from old and I have it on vinyl. My point is: That a lot of people will obtain very high quality gear/sound and they don't listen to it...they just don't listen past the 1st 10 watts. So I think they are really missing out on the true musical event. Thanks.

Matt M
"10-17-14: Mattmiller
O that's not true....I listen to very simple acoustic to solo piano and jazz and rock and classical...name a classical musician from old and I have it on vinyl. My point is: That a lot of people will obtain very high quality gear/sound and they don't listen to it...they just don't listen past the 1st 10 watts. So I think they are really missing out on the true musical event. Thanks.

Matt M"

I'm not sure what you are saying here. If someone goes out and buys very high quality, expensive equipment,why wouldn't they listen to it? Most people aren't even aware high end audio exists.
My point is: That a lot of people will obtain very high quality gear/sound and they don't listen to it...they just don't listen past the 1st 10 watts.
I’m sure he is saying they listen at a low level, however the reference to 10 watts is only correct with a low sensitivity speaker. 10 watts on a high sensitivity speaker would be very loud.
I have a Cary SLI-80 with upgraded tubes and it sounds great, but lacks a bit of power when i want to turn it up
Juggernaut850, keep in mind that the speaker/power relationship is not linear and works on a logarithmic scale. To achieve a 3db increase requires a double of amp power. So going from the 80w Cary to a different 100w tube amp will not solve the problem. That is an increase of less than 1db, and will have little to no effect on the underpowered problem.
Maybe speakers will be the next move...
Using a speaker with a higher sensitivity can solve the problem. The sensitivity of the Daedalus Argos is 9db higher than the Dali Helicon 400, 97db compared to 88db. Now if you use the 80w Cary on the Daedalus, this will have the same relationship as 640 watts on the Dali’s. So, even using the Cary in the 40w triode mode would still be plenty of power for the Daedalus if you want to turn it up.
May be can try audio research ls17se + bryston 4bsst2 combo? This combo should get you tube sound with enough power for most speakers... Each item is under 5 figure. You can choose to upgrade in phases.
"Juggernaut850, keep in mind that the speaker/power relationship is not linear and works on a logarithmic scale. To achieve a 3db increase requires a double of amp power. So going from the 80w Cary to a different 100w tube amp will not solve the problem. That is an increase of less than 1db, and will have little to no effect on the underpowered problem."

For that to hold true in a real application, the amps would have to be built and measured exactly the same way. For example, 2 different 100 watt amps made by different companies will not put out the same amount of power. Also, there are other factors involved in volume than just doubling the power to get 3 db more.
Tls49,
+1. Depending on the speaker used, 1-10 watts is all you'd ever require. On the other hand there are speakers where 300 watts of power is inadequate under certain conditions. High current capability is sometimes more of a factor than the wattage of an amplifier. The speaker's design characteristics determine the appropriate matching amplifier.
Charles,
For that to hold true in a real application, the amps would have to be built and measured exactly the same way. For example, 2 different 100 watt amps made by different companies will not put out the same amount of power.
Zd542, Not sure what you mean by this. Can you explain?
Also, there are other factors involved in volume than just doubling the power to get 3 db more.
Other than room and listening distance, then what?