Gallo 3.Xs,Sonus Faber (WAF),Reference 3A/Veena (used).
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First abandon any reservation or fear of tubes or the rest will mean nothing.
Tube gear is not more problematic and difficult than SS is. All equipment fails tubes need replacement very infrequently and you dfon't need to do it. Send it in for a retube.
The only change I made to my big rig which stunned me thinking Something was wrong with me was, the use oif some new CYber 800s monoblocks. These are all tube power amps by Consonance. Many thanks to the previous importer, Trelja. Who told me these were my kind of amp. I like power and these seemed to fit the bill.
You might find them at a very affordable price.
Despite not having an admiration society,look up the reviews and awards. I cannot tell you how critical this change was. I have a system now that I think sounds stunningly great I can't and don't think anything will sound like this. Yes my NIRVANA.
I very strongly emphasize that being of utmost importance .
Then change just on a whim to go from my 12AX7 based ARC pre to an octal tube pre-amp. The Audio Electronics AE-3 made me think I had gone nuts it improved the sound I liked already.
The AE-3 original still costs a whopping $549.00. It
available brand new at Upscale Electronics by kevin Deal. The stock 6SN7s are just place holders. let Mr. Deal install a better pair from his stash . There are some good ones but the more admired an old tube the more expensive.
They have various upgraded more costly versions of the AE-3 I would advise you not to get anything more involved.
The soundstage in my setup is enormous or intimate depending on the what is being played, but always there. The stock tubes in the 800s are fine no rolling.
The pre amp I bought it here on the Gon used. Honestly just to sound test my collection of 6SN7s. It uses 2 tubes both are 6SN7s. The original used no separate rectifier tube. I found that any good 6SN7 will work really well but the more popular and costly tubes are magic . The owner of Cary/AE hints that rolling the stock tubes will make a difference. He speaks the truth.
Tube power amps are the only way to get the absolute magic imaging tubes are admired for.
It took 6 years and much, too much, money to discover this.
Certain warnings! Do not fall for "a tube anywhere in the chain" gives you the sound of tube gear, throughout, theory philosophy, it is not true not true at all. This bears repeating.
Those integrateds hybrids with a tube glowing in a window while everything else is ordinary SS will not and does not sound anything like power output tube amps.
The tube preamp, I tried that belief for years is all you need. Once again Not True at all. Get this no joke at all reallyn you can use a SS pre with tube power amps and get halographic imaging tube magic.
Ignore using an all tube pre and an ss power amp will do what tubes are really great at.
Try it Despite the widely beieved thinking that doing this is equivalent to using a tube power amp honestly it is utterly false. Even Using very good I mean really good tube preamps. You start to get a sense of it but it can only yield a forma fruste sound. That a biological term for not quite developed and not functional but obviously trying to be something recognizable.
So take my old friend Joe = Trelja's advice use tubed power amps . Even integrateds with tube output do what you want. I have a DA60 that is amazing.
You will be able to find a 2 channel tube integrated at many price points. The tube monblock power amp I think sounds better. Just do a little hunting for used here on the Gon at your price point.
You can even get a clean SS preamp of recent vintage and you will see. Remember the output stage has to be tube.
I own a pair of VonShcweickert VR2s which are currently not in production. They had been made in San Diego but had a stint of 2 or so years outsourced to China. These are remarkably musical speakers at a very low price if you can find some made before 2003 get them they stage very well. I use a Jadis DA-60 amp to drive them with Gold bLion reissue. very fancy input tubes and so on, but they sounded fine with my first little push pull amp.
I also liked the sound of the FJ line which I think Quest for sound is clearing out. They German and the rich warm but detailed type. Even though they are really German or that is the claim . And Anything made in Germany should cost more than regular people money. These are faily inexpensive. 3-4K Stephen Monte will generally talk price so ..
NOTE I am not recommending the DA 60. Because of cost otherwise it is the best amp I have known. It is way over the top for a WAF system but a lifetime goal product for me. They are ridiculously expensive but the quality and power the sweet music I get make me very happy.
They had an incredible lifetime in production. I think is still available but it and it's less popular, evidently, replacement the DA88s cost over $14K. I bought an older one 7th hand but perectly fine for nothing like that, but not exactly cheap. I lucked out,used are uncommon.
1. Use only tube power amps period
2. Get better speakers.
Tpsonic gave you a very nice list. Maybe you could add the floorstanding Spendors and the AV123 XStatic speakers to it.
All easy to drive, sound great, WAF-you're on your own.
Have heard all these speakers with the Reference 3As at the top of the list, the AV123 the best bargain. The Reference 3as are also a great bargain but in a far higher pricepoint.
Get any of these speakers and your next problem will be your amplification.
It's a vicious circle.
Sonus Faber, early models, are works of art, musical, easy to drive (smaller models - not Electa Amators or Extremas), will improve with the most expensive electronics and front end you can afford, and get snapped up quickly when they come up for resale. I did a quick search tonight and found the ad below - buy 'em and your search is over. Improve the rest of your system as you can.
Gallo Ref 3.1s. Image like crazy - beyond crazy - more like insane! Huge sweet spot - you won't believe it until you hear it for yourself. Surprisingly, my wife really likes the look w/o the covers on (but she is already taken :)
Your setup and music listening styles are very similar to mine. I am sitting "almost near field" and I swear I have to check to see if the SACD I'm listening to is stereo or surround. As often as not, it turns out to be stereo - and the grins begin. For example, on Heavy Weather, when they hit that that long low synth note about a quarter of the way in - it spreads from one end of the room to the other and around my ears for like a 270 degrees sonic field. Don't know how it happens, but it's glorious.
So if you can get WAF buy-in you'll be happy with a pair of these diminutive (and slim) loud speakers.