Seeking advice on tube amps

So, I have decided that I would like to step on over to tube amps. So far I have 2 different amps in mind

1. Genesis m60 monoblocks
I have heard great things about these amps from personal friends, to a great review in 6moons, although I have not heard them in my system.

2. McIntosh MC275 v4 or v5
I have heard this amp at a mc dealer but not in my own system.

My speakers are currently paradigm studio 60 v3 91db 8ohm.
They are the next thing to be upgraded after the amps.

So of those 2 choices, does anyone have any input of the 2?, or more amps to add to the list the fall into the same price point / performance level?

I have also entertained the idea of looking into SET amps with high efficiency speakers, but I don't want horns or some really funky looking speaker. I know some exist out there, I have just been finding it hard to find the information on it.
Are you sure you want to pick your next amplifier BEFORE you pick your next speakers?

I say that because you are possibly limiting your choice of speakers by doing so. I recommend auditioning the speakers first, and finding out what you really want in the way of speakers before you buy your amplifier. That way you know what type of amplifier will work best with your speakers. (IMHO, speakers have the most impact on the type of sound that we hear, and speakers are also the most personal of choices that we make for our systems.)

My two cents worth.
Good Luck in your search!
Well I do have a few ideas on which speakers I want eventually, but I think that the tubes may hold me over for a bit. Speakers I am considering.
In no particular order
Dali MS-4
Dali Helicon 400 MK2
Dynaudio S3.4
Focal 1027BE
Devore Super8s
Sonus Faber Cremona

I have heard a few of these, and will hopefully hear most of them before making my decision. Unfortunately it is difficult to pick the amp and speaker when you are purchasing them at separate times.
tube amps are vast in types of design and tubes used. tubes can limit your choice of speakers and each type of tube has a different sonic signature. it would make much more sense to pick the speakers first then go for the right amp....speakers that like tubes usually have a stable 8 ohm impedance and sensitivity in the 90's...some tube friendly designs are DeVore, Coincident, Silverline. I am a SET man using an 18 watt amp. On your speaker list on the devore's are tube friendly and the Dynaudio the least friendly.
agree..make the speaker change before ditching your amp.
It appears that both your current speakers and most of your future choices would call for a push-pull tube amp. No SET or even 300B tube amp would probably drive these speakers in a moderately to large room.

That being said, of your two choices, I would choose the McIntosh MC275 amp. Any future reco's would depend on your speaker choice. Of you speaker choices, I cannot claim to have heard them all, but I was very impressed with a pair of Dynaudio S3.4's that a friend of mine owns. As always, YMMV.

I philosophically agree with the three posts so far -- "find speakers you like first," etc. But these folks sound like they are "tube-experienced", and you are a toobie newbee; For that reason, my advice to someone like you, just "getting into it" would be a little different.

Above all, you want your first foray into tubes to be hassle-free. You don't want to have to spend time (at this stage I mean) messing with equipment that won't behave, or that's too high-maintenance for your skill level right now. Therefore, with all due respect for the logic of the previous suggestions, I recommend you focus on the amp first for now.

1. Select 2 or 3 high(er) quality amplifiers from well-known manufacturers (both for support and resale reasons -- this probably won't be your last tube amp ;-) And for now, go with conventional push-pull circuit design (no OTL, SET, etc.)
2. A single chassis (stereo) amp of around 100W/ch should be fine. Many of them can be turned into monoblocks later if, for instance, you bought bigger/different speakers and needed more power.

If you will follow these two suggestions in creating your short list, it will probably include amps from Conrad-Johnson, Cary, BAT, McIntosh, Audio Research. All the conventional 100W/ch amps from these manufacturers are quite capable of driving a wide variety of speakers (even my electrostats) without a fuss. Any more-or-less conventional speaker, like the ones you mention, will perform similarly with all of them. So then it's really a matter of selecting a speaker that sounds beSt to you (IN YOUR HOME IN YOUR SYSTEM!)\

If you will approach the project this way, you can quickly have a really decent tube system that doesn't break the bank yet fits your sonic preferences -- which is what you want right now.

Of the manufacturers I mentioned, probably the McIntosh MC275 (disclaimer: I have one) is the most user friendly AND speaker friendly too. It runs cool, tube bias is factory set and not critical. It puts out a real 95 watts/ch, with balanced circuits, and can be turned into a 180W monoblock at the flip of a switch. It's a really easy tube amp to live with.

Somewhat related. I was pleased that you are focusing on the speaker/amp combo. I believe that should always be the place to start; because IMO, those two elements, taken together, set the sonic character of a system. One can add/subtract different cables, sources, power devices, etc, but they will never override or displace the fundamental "sound" established by the speaker/amp combo.
I think you'r getting excellent advise from the speakers first camp.
Yes, speakers first. All else should wait.
Well this may not be the right order to do things in, but my main motivation for getting the amp first is that the price I am selling my amps for and what I can buy what I want is within a few hundred dollars of each other. Which can put to rest my temporary need for an upgrade! On the other hand the sale of my current speakers to what I want is a couple grand, so that is on the back burner for the time being. Taking this into consideration would you still go with the speakers first? Or just try to create a game plan overall by choosing speakers and amp at the same time.

Thank you all for your input!
Speakers first.

How many people have to say it before you'll listen?
T - unless you're willing to do the necessary auditions and then take a calculated risk, you may become paralyzed with indecision. Here's a way forward, taking into account your current finances: You say you can acquire a new amp right now -- so buy one! Listen to all your short list candidates (in as many environments/stores as possible); even if you can't hear them all with identical gear/conditions, try to level the playing field a bit by choosing to hear the different amps with speakers of similar type and size and driver complement, if not the same make.

Whatever you decide, the amp you take home will be used with your current speakers -- a great way to understand what the new amp can do, since you're so familiar with the old speakers. This experience will prove invaluable when you begin shopping for new speakers. And in the meantime, you will have enjoyed the sound of tubes, albeit with your current speakers. It's fine to have a vision of a complete system in your head. But it's no reason to defer ALL gratification when it's possible to begin putting some pieces in place now (the calculated risk part ;-) There is no evidence that putting together an entire system all at once yields better results! Often it doesn't, and there you are, with no plan B, because you'd been holding this specific vision in your head. Anyway, that's been my experience FWIW ;-)

having a bad day or something?
I believe giving more insight to my current situation can help people better understand where I am coming from and where I am trying to get to. I am no audio expert which is why I am here, trying to learn all that I can. I do not think my follow up post explaining this was out of line, and if you did ..........

thanks for all your input it has been very helpful. Looks like I got some speakers and amps to audition!
"Which can put to rest my temporary need for an upgrade!"

Without a plan this NEED (it 's not a need, it is a WANT) can cost you a lot of money. But it IS your money. Do what you want and what you feel is rigght. My idea when I upgrade is to first make sure I'm happy with my speakers. IF you are not, then you should deal with that first by finding a speaker you will want for awhile and then auditioning it in many settings. Only then will you know what amp to buy. Buying an amplifier because a friend has a bargain often is not a real bargin if it does not fit well with your future plans. Everything must coexist...
Perhaps you should listen to your prospective amps with what you think might be your future speaker?
It surprises me how often people avoid drinking once they've been led to the water.

I'll bet most of us who suggest speakers first will admit to doing it backwards and wasting lots of time and money in the process. I admit it.

It's painful to see someone potentially making the same mistake.

Find speakers you love first, and then buy an amp to drive them with good tonal balance. It may seem like it'll take longer, but you'll be satisfied sooner and you'll spend less money in the process.

There will be plenty of deals on amps down the road when you're ready.
Speakers first it is, then amp shortly after!
I'll keep everyone posted, but now this will be delayed a bit.
How can you pass-up the Genesis M60 Monoblocks if they are priced right?? Take them with you to audition speakers. If the dealer won't let you connect them to his demo speakers then eliminate that brand & model from the list. Dealers know the limitations of their products and won't willingly let you discover what those limitations are.
T, I relize you have now committed to the 'speaker first' process, which I highly indorse (like Tvad, I have wasted a lot of money trying speakers without paying enuf attention to proper amp matching, just using what I had on hand), but FWIW slowing down the process is a very good thing, because matching amps and speakers to get what YOU want to hear isn't a walk in the park.

Its easy to buy based on what you THINK you read in a review, but reviews can be a serious trap for the unwary, those who are unfamilar with the lingo, or the priorities assigned to the reviewer, and interpert them too literally. For example, I didn't think that 6moons review of the Genesis was all that much of a 'rave', in fact it convinced me that I didn't need to explore it further than the review, even though I was/am in the market for a high quality tube amp.

As I said, FWIW.
03-10-09: Commcat
How can you pass-up the Genesis M60 Monoblocks if they are priced right??
Easy. They may not properly drive the speakers one owns or wants to own. Then what?

Buying a component solely based on a "good deal" is a poor way to assemble an audio system, unless the good deal is well below the current market price and you're certain you can resell the item without a loss.

Yeah, we've all been in your shoes. Just enough money for one upgrade, but needing (well, wanting really!), to do two upgrades.

One thing I have done is to do the optimal upgrade first, and do it properly, and then do a "place-keeper" upgrade quickly thereafter. As an example, about 5 or 6 years ago, I wanted to upgrade my speakers first, and then my amplifier second. I finally settled upon the Revel Studio speakers, but I knew that my amplifer was not quite up to the task of driving the Studios, as it was not quite powerful enough. (At the time, I had a Mark Levinson No. 27 stereo amp, that was only a 100 wpc amp.) So what I did was buy the Studios, and live with the somewhat inferior sound for a couple of months, while I sold the Levinson No. 27 amp (for $1,500). As soon as I sold it, I quickly bought a "place-keeper" amp, a used Levinson No. 23, (for $2,000), which had 200 wpc, which was the proper power for those speakers.

FYI, what I mean by a "place-keeper" amp, is one that is of sufficient quality, (and more importantly "power", in this case 200 wpc), that it will work for the time being, but as soon as finances permit, will be upgraded to something more fitting the speakers you've chosen. Typically, using a vintage amp works best as they can be bought, and more importantly sold, for nearly the same price, so that you don't lose a significant amount of money, as you know you'll be upgrading it within the next year or so. Ultimately, I sold the Levinson No. 23, (for $1,800, which was only a 10% hit for two years of use), and I ended up with the Lamm M2.1 monoblock amplifiers, which drove the Revel Studios to their ultimate best sound. And in fact, the Lamms were so good, that I kept them when I finally upgraded beyond the Studios to my current speakers, the Eggleston Works Andra II speakers.)

That is my two cents worth anyway.
Good Luck in your search!
First... lots of great advice here that is backed up with meaningful reasoning and experiences .

But , my experience has shown me that the amp can affect how a particular speaker will sound especially if it is a neutral and revealing speaker .

Case in point , the particular speaker that I am now using sounded just wonderful with a tubed intergrated amp . And just terrible with a SS amp driven by a tubed pre . A different speaker was ok through the tubed pre/SS amp and really dark and muddy through the tubed int. ! A third brand of speaker barely showed any difference at all between the two different amp setups . These auditions were done in the same location with the same cables , source and music .

That day showed me the importance of system synergy .
Shop for your speakers first if you want but please pay attention to what is driving them !

Good luck .
03-12-09: Saki70
...the amp can affect how a particular speaker will sound especially if it is a neutral and revealing speaker .

Absolutely! Which is why it's important to choose the speakers first. If you own neutral speakers, then you can buy an amp to tailor the sound however you like...neutral or colored.

That day showed me the importance of system synergy .
Saki70 (Threads | Answers)

I'll bet synergy had a great deal to do with impedance match and whether the speakers were designed using the Voltage Paradigm or the Power Paradigm (see this white paper written by Ralph Karsten of Atma-Sphere).
I don't know that I necessarily buy all of this 'you must pick the speaker first' talk. I know many who choose the speaker around the amplifier....SET fans for instance. They choose to enjoy the SET sound, then go out and find speakers that cater to the flea-powered amps.

In a system, one does rely upon the other, amp and speakers, however, which one is the priority is up to the system coordinator.

John, those who assemble a SET system enter a very specific audio realm
where amplification and speakers are designed to work closely together. One
can safely assume speakers designed for SET amplification will work with
nearly any SET amplifier. It's easier to match gear, and comes with less risk. Do
you agree?

IMO, this is a different paradigm from someone searching for speakers to use
with push pull or OTL tube amplification where speakers designs are much
more varied.

I agree that one can select an amp first and buy speakers second IF the buyer
knows what to look for in a speaker that is tube friendly. Still, if one is starting
from scratch, why design a system around an amplifier rather than around the
sound of a speaker one likes (that is also tube friendly, if a tube amp will be
used)? This seems counterproductive to me.
To the OP, what source and preamp?,very important,if you are interested in say a Mac 275, what preamp and source will bedriving it ?, I have like 5 systems in my house, one of which is around a small pair of B&W cm2, a whopping $900/pair of book shelf speakers, I can dramatically change the sound with the electronics I have, I mean DRAMATICALLY,which shows me the speaker is at the mercy of what you feed it.

If someone is basically starting from scratch,they need to look ath the whole system as just that....a system, not just pick speakers and go from there.
There are many approaches with merit, and they can all work.

IMO, if you're going to go with Superhonestben's system approach, then it's
going to be a heck of a lot faster and easier to visit a couple dealers (or local
audiophiles) who have assembled systems, and done the matching. Listen
and pick a system you like and buy exactly what comprises the system.

Otherwise, there are too many variables and potential pitfalls. IMO.

My argument in favor of first identifying and buying a tube friendly speaker
you like eliminates the potential pitfall of buying an amplifier that does not
match well. A tube friendly speaker (high sensitivity...90+dB, nominal 8 ohm
impedance with dips no lower than 6 ohms), will successfully be driven by
just about any PP, or OTL tube amp, or SS amp. Then, if you want a certain
coloration, which is always personal preference, it's a matter of identifying an
amp that provides what you want. A tube friendly speaker will allow easier
experimentation with amplification, which is usually what happens with most
folks in this hobby. How many audiophiles do you know who buy a system
and leave it alone? I don't know one.

Perhaps the system approach, considering one that includes a tube friendly
speaker, is a worthwhile endeavor.

For the most part I agree with you. I'm just playing devil's advocate here, as I do know folks who have fell in love with the sound of a specific amplifier, and proceed to find speakers that best suit the amp. Granted, most do it the other way around, but as in all things audio, there are always exceptions to every

Exceptions. Absolutely.

I think the successful exceptions are usually accomplished by people who
have done a good amount experimentation and listening, or by people who
are well educated in component matching.

Having gone about it backasswards myself, next time I'd do it speakers first,
even though it's difficult to listen to many of the speaker brands out there
(actually a real PITA). In the long run I think it may save time and money.
I still want to remind all of you not to lose sight of the fact that the original poster, Mr. Tmesselt, is new to tubes and that your advice about "speakers first" though well intended and basically true, may cause problems for this individual, whose main interest right now is an entry-level TUBE experience. Not a speaker-shopping spree ;-)

What if he were to fall in love with some speakers that had special (not to say fussy) amp requirements, or were poor candidates for tube amplification in the first place? To avoid his selecting speakers that might not even work with a modest, user-friendly tube amp, or winding up with speakers requiring a tube amp that might be expensive, high maintenance, or not practical with a wide variety of speakers (i.e. not easy to resell) I remain convinced his first experience with tubes requires a more conservative approach.

Gaining basic general experience first, with a modest, predictable and trouble-free setup, insures better, more informed choices in the future. Even if the man has unlimited funds, if you want to advise him responsibly, make sure they will be well spent by providing him with a solid experience for making future purchases.

With all due respect to Tvad, I think the reverse approach is best for those people who have already gained some basic understanding about tube audio and have already defined/refined their personal sonic preferences.
Nsgarch, your point is well taken. Let me make my recommendation more
clearly than I have done thus far in this thread.

I suggest finding some tube friendly speakers first (90+ dB sensitivity, 8 ohm
nominal impedance with dips no lower than 6 ohms). Speakers like these are
not fussy and will allow flexibility in amplifier choice, whether tube or
otherwise. They will allow almost any amp to be put in front of them without
penalty. Yes, there are some amps that will be better matches than others,
but this will always be true.

With a speaker such as this, the OP could successfully use just about any tube
amp he wants (other than SET)...entry level or above. In addition, his speakers
could remain in the system while he moved up the tube amp ladder. Frankly, I
consider this the more conservative approach to building a system based on

I'm talking about speakers such as those from Audiokinesis, Reference 3A,
Devore, Merlin and Coincident (among others).

Consider the implication of doing the reverse: buying a tube amp first and
speakers second. If the OP buys an entry level tube amp, and his
present speakers can't be driven properly by the amp, and if he then he buys
speakers that still don't match properly because they have low sensitivity or
impedances that vary wildly isn't his experience going to be unfulfilling?
IMO, buying a tube amp that won't drive the OP's present speakers (or some
of the speakers on his wish list) will be a disappointing introduction to tube

This scenario can be avoided by buying tube friendly speakers before buying
a tube amp.

Grant (Tvad), you still may be scaring the OP from tubes (and we all know tubes rule).

From what he currently owns, and all that is on his list, he sounds like he is in the push-pull tube land. There really are very few speakers that some tube amp cannot drive.

For example, my speakers are rated at 89 db sensitivity, with a nominal load of 8 ohms, minimal load of 4 ohms. My room is 25X 15X 9. I find that a 80 wpc tube amp has PLENTY of power to drive these speakers in my room.

60-75 wpc should be plenty of power to drive his current speakers, and probably all of the speakers on his list, IMHO.

03-13-09: Jmcgrogan2
...he sounds like he is in the push-pull tube land. There really are very few
speakers that some tube amp cannot drive.

I disagree.

Driving speakers is more than an issue of plenty of power. It's also an issue of
balanced frequency response.

Ralph Karsten explains it better in his Atma-Sphere white papers, as does
Robert Harley in "The Complete Guide to High End Audio".

In your example of an 8 ohm nominal speaker dipping to 4 ohms, a tube amp
will produce less volume (decibels) into 4 ohms than it will into 8 ohms. The
difference to the untrained ear may be subtle, but the result will be a slight
tipped up sound that many describe as brightness. The reason the speakers
sound bright is that the bass response is not balanced due to the amp
producing less decibels in the bass frequencies relative to the high
frequencies. The highs are louder, thus the speaker sounds "bright". This
is why a solid state amplifier that doubles power as impedance is halved will
produce "better" bass on the same speakers. Since the SS doubles
power into 4 ohms, the decibel level of the bass frequencies typically found in
the lower impedances will be balanced with the decibel level of the higher
frequencies found in the 8 ohm region (and higher of course).

Yes, 60-75 wpc would probably be enough to produce very, very loud
volume on the 89dB speakers (depending on room size), but it will not
produce balanced frequency response on a speaker with a nominal
impedance of 8 ohms, and a minimum impedance of 4 ohms.

Balanced frequency response requires a speaker with a flatter impedance
curve, which is why Ralph Karsten recommends minimum impedance of 6
ohms on an 8 ohm nominal speaker.

Please refer to chapter 6 "Power and Integrated Amplifiers" in
Harley's book (Third Edition) for more information.

There's no reason to be afraid of tubes, nor is there any reason to be afraid to
shop for tube friendly speakers. There are many widely available options,
including some that are available with home trail periods. I have previously
mentioned several brands.
"I suggest finding some tube friendly speakers first (90+ dB sensitivity, 8 ohm
nominal impedance with dips no lower than 6 ohms)."

The fast track to happiness Tmesselt. Good luck.

I have owned a pair of B&W DM5 speakers for about 25 years. I powered these with a Yamaha CR 1020 receiver amp. I loved those speakers. While not producing tons of bass, for the music I listen to (jazz, classical) they produced to me, a very balanced smooth sound. The Yamy amp died some time back and was not economic to repair. I bought a cheap Pioneer one and the demise in sound quality was huge - the bass in particular had no definition. I then bought a NAD 3020A amp which improved things but still not to the level of the Yamy. Recently, the DM 5's also died. I have replaced them with a pair of B&W CDM1SE's. These are very different to the DM5's. Extraordinary definition - particularly in the mids and highs - I am hearing things in favourite recordings that I never knew were there. The stereo imaging is also very good. They are however to me, not as balanced as the DM5's and overall not as pleasant to listen to. The bottom end seems "veiled" in some way - almost hidden behind a layer of highs and mids. I realise that these speakers are probably not geared for lots of bass - I'm not looking for that but I would love a bit more overall balance and tonality. I am wondering if they really need a better/different amp to perform at their best. As you can probably gather, I am not on a huge budget. I listen to a lot of music but generally prefer to put money into my music collection than the hardware. I think I have pretty good ears though and have been a semi pro musician for many years. I am considering a Chinese tube amp like a Yaqin 10LMC which for $500 would perhaps be a bigger step up than what I could achieve with a solid state amp in the same price range? I have basic electronic knowledge so could probably handle the extra work required with maintaining a tube amp. I would welcome any thoughts/opinions/advice.