Gord's Saturns are $6,000, so all three amps are comparable in price. The only other PX25 I've heard of is the Tron, made in the UK - I don't know if it's available over here.
I obviously have an Audion bias, but I'd think long and hard about the Art Audio. Joe Fratus was the first to build a commercial amp around the modern KR PX25 tube, and he is one seriously good amp designer. Gord Rankin swears by the new TJ tube, but in my amp they are notably inferior to the KRs - I don't know if they have different operating points though. I haven't seen many comments on the Saturns.
Joe and Gord are both on this continent and are very approachable, why not give them each a call and let them talk about their babies? While you're at it, call Randy Bankert at OSS Audio - the NA distributor for Audion.
Based on other Art Audio amps I've heard, the two Audion PX25's I've had in my system, and my Wavelength amps - I'd bet hard cash on all of the three amps being very good.
Factor in dealer support as well. If you can find a local dealer for any of the lines it will really help. If not, buying from a manufacturer on this continent is a hedge against disaster. I had shipping damage in my Audion, and without a competent local dealer I'd have been in trouble.
Be very careful, not all well reviewed amplifiers, no matter at what price are necessarily that good. A lot of the members of the hifi listening public and reviewers alike are sold mainly on the hifi nature of the sound, not its musicality. Musicality seems to be a more after thought when pieces of equipment are described. Indeed I think the idea of musicality is a word that many believe they understand but donot in my opinion fully appreciate.
In which case I believe your choice is very limited. There are only two or three companies whose name comes under the banner of sounding musical time after time and I own them.Jadis and audio note.
It is a joy to not have to analyse the system and just be absorbed and overwhelmed by what the musicaians are trying to do. Indeed if this bit of the hi fi process is done correctly then the rest of the hi fi bits not suprisingly will also be right too.
I think any one of the 3 you mentioned would be among the best with each designer putting his voicing signature on it. I personally like Art Audio, the product, and the man, Joe Fratus.
Thanks all for your comments. I know of one Audiogon member that had terrible luck with an Audion product and worse luck trying to get the distributor and manufacturer to resolve it (but I guess every company has one skeletan in the closet) so I'm a bit leary but on the other hand Gliderguider does speak hightly of his Ottawa dealer. Tron is almost non-existent here so reselling would be difficult. Which leaves Art Audio and Wavelength. Given the stellar reputation of Gords designs I'm surprised that there aren't and reviews of his PX25 amps . . .
Paul - by the way, I did speak with Gord at Wavelength the other day and he suggested that for our FAB Model 1 speakers that his Cardinal X2 amp would be better for it than his Triton Blue amp (but he didn't elaborate as to why). Just something I thought you'd find interesting . . .
Anyone else have PX25 experience or recommendations?
I've listened to the Art Audio and Audion PX25 amps in my home. Where are you located? If you are buying in the US, Audion's US distributor here in Los Angeles has an excellent local technician and he stands solidly behind everything he sells. You should not worry about Audion reliability. I have 6 Audion products in my various systems and have had no problems with them.
Of the two amps, the Art Audio is the more romantic sounding. It is warm and euphonic, certainly very good. The Audion is the more accurate however. It is fast and defined, highly resolving, especially the hand-wired Mark II version. I've heard it with KR PX25 tubes and it was sensational if you prefer an objective presentation of fidelity. The bass from this amp is about the tightest I've heard from a triode tube amp and in fact it didn't sound triodey at all -- very much better on the bottom than any 300B. The PX25 is a slightly lean sounding tube, not lush like the 300B on top. But mids are breathtakingly clear, an Audion strength. I'd go with the Audion.
agreed with Kenzoe- I ordered an Audion preamp a couple of years ago, and there was delay after delay. The distributor actually refused to refund my $$, saying 'the order had already been placed' over in the UK, even though it was months later the product arrived- whatever- point is, I will not deal with Audion again- besides, there are better products out there...
We owned an Audion amp for eight months, during which time it was 'repaired' four times, the last of which took over three months. Eventually, the amp was returned to us in worse condition than it was when we had driven six hours to hand-deliver it for repair. I won't go into further detail--Kevinzoe, you already know the story--but this was the worst customer service experience I've ever had, bar none. They were downright ruthless, both the manufacturer as well as the distributor. It was unfortunate, because the amp sounded great...when it played. Joe Fratus (Art Audio) and Gordon Rankin (Wavelength) have outstanding reputations for good reason. That's where I would put my money.
After a bit more thought, I'll throw up a more concrete opinion. Unless you have a good local dealer with excellent technical capabilities I'd be wary of buying Audion. My story turned out OK in the end, but there were serious bumps in the road. The amp arrived with both assembly and shipping damage that required replacement parts ( a cap and power transformer) to be obtained from Audion. That added about two months to the already extended delivery time. Fortunately the repairs were done here and didn't require the amp to make two more Atlantic crossings. If I hadn't had such a good dealer I'd have been in real trouble. I'm glad the things turned out well, because the amp I got is exceptional in every way, but I'd be hard pressed to recommend that someone else expose themselves to this kind of risk.
I have no way of choosing between Wavelength and Art Audio, but if I had to do it again I would definitely choose one of them.
Boa2 - thanks again for sharing your experience. Certainly a case of buyer beware . . .
Gliderguider - I wasn't aware of your extended waiting period (memories of the Blowtorch preamp, eed gad) followed by the dissapointing realization that it now needed some repair work - man, you must have been mad as hell. Thanks for sharing the 'war' story.
I spoke with Joe of Art Audio today - what a nice guy. He talked about the differences between the PX25 tube in his PX25 amp and the 300B in the Symphany II amp saying that the extra power of his 300B amp would produce more dynamics but that the PX25 was better in pretty much all other areas including frequency extremes, noise level, resolution and maybe 1 or 2 more metrics I've missed. We also discuss what he saw as the differences between his PX25 amp and Gordon's at Wavelength. The guy's a real gentleman and had nothing but praise for his competitor's (Wavelength) product and designer. A class act . . . unlike what Boa2 experienced from Audion . . .
Tomorrow I hope to have a fireside chat with Gordon of Wavelength.
Thanks for keeping us updated, Kevin. You'll end up with a superb amp, no doubt. Deciding between the PX25 and the 300B can be difficult. Quite a different sound, to my ear.
All the best,
After speaking with Gordon at Wavelength today it seems like its now down to his Cardinal amp (US$7.5K) vs Art Audio PX25 (US$6.5K) which is a 300B vs PX25 choice. Gordon's Saturn PX25 amp is good for 8-16 ohm speakers and mine are a nominal 6 ohms dropping to 4 ohms so he advises against the PX25 and recommends the Cardinal instead which can accommodate 4, 8 ohms. He said that the 4 ohm load of my speakers is in the bass and that takes lots of current which I guess a 6 watt PX25 can't provide. I now need to double check with Joe @ Art Audio that his PX25 will perform with my speaker ohm load. Also, Gordon opinion of the KR Audio PX25 tube is that it has a tipped-up frequency extremes and sounds like a 300B and therefore isn't a genuine PX25 tube so he uses a TJ Mesh tube instead. But this is all water under the bridge if the Saturn amp won't work with my speakers . . .
Audion is now off the short list due to too many "war stories."
Gliderguider - how does your Audion Silver Night PX25 amp work with the 4 ohm load of our speakers? Does the amp have a 4 ohm tap or do you not worry about it and use the subwoofer to augment any shortcomings the amp may have in the low bass?
My understanding is that the Model One is essentially a 6 ohm load. Am I misinformed? Be that as it may, I have absolutely no issues with the bass on my amp with its 8 ohm output, down to the limits of the speakers. The subs make up for the speakers' shortcomings, not the amp's. I hear no difference in bass extension between my PX25 and my Triton 300B amps, though the bass resolution is better with the PX25.
On the question of tubes, I just dont like the TJ PX25 that Gordon swears by. I find it overly warm, too bloomy and rolled off. I think the KR tube is far more neutral, transparent and extended - at least in my amp. Maybe that means I don't like "real" PX25's? So be it. The KR tube in my amp is a stone killer. Get Joe Fratus' opinion as well of the two brands before you make up your mind.
After discussions with key Audiogon members above, and a few others, in addition to Joe at Art Audio and Gordon at Wavelength, I've made the decision to purchase an Art Audio PX25 amp! I expect that it may be shipped out late this week and arrive sometime next week.
Will keep members posted of my thoughts on it.
Thanks to each person who took the time to write thoughtful responses to this thread - I greatly appreciate your insights and experiences.
I beleive you are going to be very happy with the Art Audio amp. Joe Fratus is one of the good guys. Outstanding customer support and service. Look forward to your impressions. Happy listening.
Nicely done Kevin. Wait til you see that Art Audio in a dark room. The 2 things I look forward to with my Symphony II is turning it on and waiting for night. Joe Fratus may have a few equals but none better. Enjoy.
Well, the PX25 arrived today . . .
In a nut shell, it was worth the wait. Joe at Art Audio has been excellent to deal with - very customer focused and a man of his word.
In short, here are my initial thoughts based only on one night of listening (thats my caveat):
* very, very detailed - Track 3 on Jacintha's "Here to Ben" CD has an odd clicking sound at the 9 second mark just as she begins to sing which I've never heard before!?
* great soundstaging - Brian Bromberg's "Jaco" tribute CD has an amazing solo on track 9 in which you can clearly place 2 different sounding basses just inside the right and left speakers trading licks back and forth.
* very good bass control and deep too - take Bela Felck's track 4 from the "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" in which Victor Wooton plays some kind of a double-down device alowing him to play an octave lower which gets down in the 30'ish hertz I'd guess. Or track 3 from Michael Wolff's CD of the same name ("Michael Wolf") in which a synth bass is one of the lowest basses in music I've heard.
* for 6 watts, very good dynamics - Jacintha's voice builds to a double forte on the "Here's To Ben" CD, especialy on Danny Boy and Somewhere Over the Rainbow tracks.
And it plays plenty loud for 6 watts . . . my First Sound preamp isn't much above 4 on the volume dial . . . probably more to do with the preamp's high gain. . .
Thanks to all who helped me find this very fine product and company.
Well... you've had the PX-25 SE Amp for about a month.
Lots of us wonder if things are still sounding great!
Gee some of these asian over-seas SE amps look good & also inexpensive. Not sure how they might sound.
Did you try any?
Ron - thanks for your post reply. I didn't come across any asian SET amps that caught my eye or that I found here to audition, so no I didn't hear any for comparison purposes.
Yes it's been a month already and the amp still sounds as wonderful as it did from day 1 . . . Now I'm experimenting with the 4 and 6 ohm taps on the amp and also the Sophia 274B.
Are you interested in SET amps? Any Art Audio specific questions or anything else I can address?