SET vs ICE vs GAINCLONE vs HYBRID vs other?

I'm looking for amp recommendations. Here's my situation:
I just gave up a nice JAS Array 2.1 int amp using 805's and 300B's. That amp was rated at 45W. I traded it in toward a Wyred 4 Sound ST-500. This amp is very nice.
I have no real complaints although I do notice the slight loss of intimacy and "wetness of sound" compared to the JAS and I feel the Wyred's top end to be slightly soft overall. Still, I'm quite satisfied with the sound and thrilled at not having the expense of tube replacement nor the insane amound of heat 805's put out.

The rest of my system unfolds like this: I run a Consonance Droplet directly into the amp (balanced) using Sunny Cables D1000X. The CDP and an a PS Audio P-600
get connected with Sunny Cables P600 power cords and the amp gets a 6Sons Audio Windigo. I have Porter Ports in the conditioner and the wall outlet. Speakers are custom-
jobbies similar to Legacy Focus using Eton drivers and I just had fellow Audiogonner M VanSloten upgrade the crossovers (thanks to another thread-good call!). I run Anti-cables directly into the speakers and connect them to the crossovers without binding posts. The soundstage is huge but very well focused and resolution is excellent.
Tone is colorful but not quite as rich as with the JAS.

So, my question to you ever-so-wise audio sages is how do I get the best of both amps without adding a preamp and not spending much more money than I can generate selling the Wyred ST-500? I absolutely need to maintain a high level of detail AND I must get excellent (almost) pinpoint imaging. I would also appreciate an extended top end but not too bright. My speakers are quite efficient. The 45W JAS almost was enough (efficiency in the mid 90db/1w).

I was considering gainclones such as the Patek or Audio Zone AMP1 or hybrids such as Pathos' Classic One MK II/III
or Valve Audio's Predator. I would greatly appreciate comments on the above listed amps especially if you can compare them to the Wyred amps. Thanks so much!
One more thing, I forgot to mention that transparency is a must. It's right up there with resolution and focus. Thanks again----LRC
How many hours of playing time have you put on the W4S this far?

Guido, What difference does the type of power supply have in the Class d amps. Some appear to have a bank of caps and some have regular torradial types. Also how does this affect break in time?
I see one company(Spectron) burns in their amps.
I've had the Wyred amp for most of this year and ran it several hours a day the first few weeks to burn it in. I've also ran it extensively burning in a pair of interconnects followed by the new crossovers so it has almost certainly been burned in. Thanks--
Lcherepkai, switch mode amps like Rowlands, Belcanto, and probably W4S seem to take an inordinate amount of time to break in. I'd make sure they have about 1200 hours of playing time before doing critical listening. One more interesting thing about ICEpower amps, is that they like to be left powered up between listening sessions to sound their best. If you turn off switch mode amps for a few hours, it might take them more than a day to revert back to top performance. Good news is that they tend to draw extremely little power when idling. Your W4S probably draw 9 to 10W each on idle. I turn off my Rowland 312 only when a thunderstorm is approaching, or I have to leave home for trip. G.
Don, a number of manufacturers are using switch mode power supplies in their class D amps because they are small, very fast, extremely energy efficient, and when properly executed yield wonderful musical results. Others are staying with traditional toroidal or linear power supplies that are a lot bulkier. Like with everything else, the difference is not so much in the underlying type of technology being used, but in how it is being implemented. A switch mode power supply is small and very agile, but it can also sound a little brittle when not done right. There are low cost switch mode power supplies for consumer level products. . . and there also very advanced and costly switch mode power supplies that are fast and quiet enough for aerospace and defense industry applications, that are used by some audio manufacturers in some reference products.

In the end, use your ears. . . if the amp sounds right to you, whatever the designer did with the power supply design must have worked. . . if it does not sound right, no matter the power supply technology used, the amp will remain unsatisfactory to you.

On the subject of break in, some manufacturers do a little burn in of their products before shipping. This is usually done as a final quality check. . . essentially to give the amp a chance to prove that it can perform its job. But the real break in process usually last hundreds of hours, and a manufacturer does not have the resources to lock its inventory for 6 to 8 weeks to do a complete break in before shipping. So, when you get an amp, and a switch mode amp like Spectron, be very patient and let it blossom. My suggestion is about 1200 hours to be safe, but some amps do take half as much. G.
Thanks for a direct answer. Some of these guys can take off on a tanget into outer space.
Hard to find these amps to demo.
Hi Don, best is to call the various manufacturers. Spectron, Bel Canto, and Rowland just to mention a few, all have dealer networks. Some dealers might even be able to arrange an at home demo. Other manufacturers sell directly to end customers and might be able to arrange for a demo directly.
I'll try the Wyred direct from the wall and leave it powered continuously and see where that leads. I hate to remove it from the PS Audio power plant--the regenerator really helps with focus. Still, that's a free sound experiment so it's worth a shot. Just a word though; I'm not in any way disatisfied with the sound I'm getting from the Wyred. I just find it ever-so-slightly less involving than the SET amp I just traded in. I was just wondering if those amps I've indicated might be a better choice(s).
If nothing comes of this thread, I still be mostly happy with my sound. Still, I wouldn't be an audiophile if I couldn't find something wrong. You know how it goes!

If you can find something wrong, then something is definitely wrong, because normally, even when you can't find anything wrong you can always substitute some piece of gear here or there that will make an improvement and probably improve on if not fix the defficiency entirely.

I don't know how to advise you because I don't know how large your room is or how loud you like to listen. I too have some interest in the Valve Audio Predator, and the Pathos may also be a good choice.

In my own system, the best amp I've heard lately with my Magnepan 1.6QR speakers is the discontinued QuickSilver GLA tube amp, which narrowly bested my PrimaLuna Dialogue Two, which sounds very similar. But my feeling is that I need more power with the Maggies, so I'm searching for a more powerful amp too. I have an order in for a pair of the TAD Hibachi mono amps, but won't know how they fare until I try them out in a few weeks.

If the Hibachi's don't work out then I may stay with the GLA and just watch the volume. I have EH KT88's in it presently and it sounds quite impressive. The 4 KT88's are spaced fairly wide apart and the amp runs warm, but on the cool side of warm for a tube amp.
Do you use class d amps?
Thanks again,
Hi Don, yes I use a class D amp. More specifically my reference amp is the Jeff Rowland 312 stereo amplifier. See:
I have published a brief article on the 312 on issue 188 of The Absolute Sound. You will find it as a sidebar of my review of the Vienna Mahler V1.5 speakers
It is an absolutely marvellously musical amplifier with great authority and control. . . and it runs as cool as a proverbial cucumber. I use it to drive the very Mahler speakers I have reviewed in the article. I discovered it almost 3 years ago at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. . . I was very disappointed about almost everything I was hearing at the show. . . until I popped into the Soundings HiFi room, where they had the 312 driving the Mahlers. . . jaw dropping experience. I went back 4 times during the show. . . every time I had the same emotional reaction to the system.
This does not mean of course that class-D is inherently superior to any other technology. Rather, to me it means that class-D is now mature enough to yield some designs that compete with the most musically sophisticated devices out there.
Just wanted to comment on the necessity of having ICE amps (the Wyred ST-500 in particular) powered continuously:
I ran the ST-500 for a couple of weeks directly from the wall using both the Sunny Cables and later, the Windigo (about a week each) continuously VS using the PS Audio P-600 and turning off the amp daily. NO CONTEST---I consider the P-600 essential. It brings a level of detail and focus that, even cold, sounds better than the ST-500 into the wall direct left on continuously for 1 week. I certainly hear an improvement when the amp has been powered up for a few hours but, I can't say I would be willing to eat the increased electric bill generated by leaving the PS-Audio power plant on all the time. Interesting experiment--thanks for the advice.
Can anyone comment on the Valve Audio Predator's resolution and transparency? I briefly had a SIM Audio I-5
LE in my system several months back and was quite dismayed at the opaque sound I was getting. I'd heard this was a transparent amp and, in my system, it was not. The resolution was very good though but NOT a keeper.

Comments outside of this thread lead me to believe that a good ICE amp sounds similar to a good chip amp. Anyone care to disagree? I'd love to hear some comments. Thanks.
Lcherepkai, you are right of course, PS Audio Power Plant is a major AC hog. Have you thought of using a more power efficient conditioner, such as an Exact power, a Shunyata, or a Furman? G.
It's been over a year since I originally posted this. I thought I'd offer my experience(s) since then.

The Wyred ST-500 is gone. It's excellent for the money and about as hassle-free as it gets but it's not SET nor is it close. I purchased a Pathos Classic MK III and pulled the stock tubes in favor of Ediswans. Reading Mr Tellig's review from Stereophile, you'd think the Pathos is a SET killer. I'd call the Pathos a good alternative but it is not as present or clear as the JAS Array I had. The Classic One MK III is also surprisingly weak for its stereo power rating. It would clip on vocal peaks such as Patricia Barber's "Alfie" from Nightclub. That didn't happen with the Wyred amp nor the JAS.

The stereo Pathos amp was nicely detailed and did a very good job with front-to-back imaging. But, it just didn't reach out and grab my attention. Even loud, it seemed like it was almost background music. I was slightly disappointed and considering my next amp purchase.

I'd read very good things about the bridged Classic Ones and communicated with Doug Schroeder about the Pathi. I had doubts that 2 would be much better than 1 but I didn't want to let the Pathos amp go as it is quite an attractive amp and easy to live with (only 2 tubes and it doesn't weigh a ton nor does it put out much heat).

I found another at a good price and took the plunge. I installed 1 Ediswan in the right tube socket and the stock EH 6922 in the left socket. The amps are up on vibrapods and power cords are Kaplan GS fitted with Oyaide 046 plugs. They are now serious contenders and can compete with the SET amp I had previously. The bridged pair is much more present, forward but in a good way, certainly not in-your-face. Detail is enhanced, rendering subtleties not previously heard in many recordings. Of course there is more power and clipping is no longer an issue though I prefer to biamp even now as it allows me to adjust the bass per recording. I hear a smoother vocal range with less sibilance than with a stereo Classic One MK III. The one area when a stereo amp is better than the bridged pair is in soundstage depth. With the more up-front sound of the bridged pair, the back of the soundstage also comes forward. It's not a BIG difference but it is there if you listen for it. I wouldn't consider it a deal breaker nor would I consider going back to a single stereo Classic One MK III-no way!

So, regarding the subject of this post, with my limited experience, I'd say SET is the best sounding amp technology. The 805 tube puts out 40-45 watts so it is suitable in many if not most applications. The ICE amp I used, the Wyred ST-500 has its strengths but sounds like an amp to me. The JAS breathed music into my room!! The bridged Pathos Classic One MK IIIs are close enough. The JAS was more palpable and transparent but the Pathi are almost there and offer more detail and much more power.
I don't see myself selling them anytime soon. What better commendation is there?
That's always been my experience with Class D in my audio system.Wonderful technology,energy friendly,no worries,but it just doesn't capture the expressiveness and artfullness of the music.
What a well written, coherent and interesting post describihng your experience with varius amp topologies. My conclusion is the same as yours regarding SET amplifiers, they are`nt universal in application and do require favorable speaker matching of load/efficiency,but with proper design and quaility part utilization I do find their sound superior. They are best at providing wonderful tone,timbre and that hard to get flesh and blood, living and breathing presence.After many years of SS and push-pull amps I`m firmly in the SET/DHT camp.
I know this is late but out of curiosity I have Two questions, if you will:
1. Why did you sell the JAS in the first place?
2. Did you ever tried to improve the JAS (tube rolling, capacitors upgrades, etc) before selling?

Take care,

Tube Audio Design 125 Hibachi mono blocks if available would seem to fit your bill and are worth investigating. You might even retain some spare change after selling the Wyred depending.
Try the DecWare Zen Select amp.

It drives my Ref 3A Grand Veenas, so it will do an even better job on your speakers.

It replaced a pair of very good D mono blocks(Red DRagon Leviathan sigs) and the Cary 300sei.
Tubes are cheap and plentiful to replace, the amp won't heat up the room, and it has a volume control that can be passive or variable.

And did I mention that it just sounds like music?

Amps that I auditioned were-AtmaSphere S 30,Art Audio Carissa,Mac 275 mk4,Pass Aleph 3,and the afore mentioned amps that I owned.

DecWare isn't an amp that shows up in Stereophile or Tas reviews,but it's as good (or better?) than most that do get reviewed.

And also, my amp was under $1000.00 brand new, lifetime warranty, and hand made in the USA.
Even has my name and date of manufacture on it.

Also, they have a free trial offer, but few are ever returned.
In general, I am sure it is the execution that matters, not the toplogy "it ain't what you do but the way that you do it2 I am using a SET and Pathos integrated amps at the moment.
I know SET amps are limited in power so speaker choice etc, but I find it hard to live without them. The only SS amps I could live with was a Pass Aleph 3 and Lavardin IT.
I have an Ayon Spark, 20 watt SET and Pathos Inpol2, 50 watt Class A hybrid. It is really difficult to choose between them, both are that good. The Pathos, with the Inpol circuitry has all the transparency, detail with smoothness that SET's give, with a little better sondstaging and imaging. The spark has the extra bit of richness in the tone, that tubes give you.
Having heard the Logos and being fairly unimpressed with it. I am sure it is the Inpol circuitry and Class A operation, that makes the difference, with Pathos amps. That is in the Inpol2 and TT integrated amps, I don't think it is in the Classic, but I may be wrong.
if you are going SET or all tube, I don't think you can go wrong with Ayon.
I have a W4s ST-250 and I know the sound and like it a lot, I also have a Virtue audio amp with an upgraded power supply(regulated PS)

The Virtue is sweeter and more liquid, with great power and has the clarity of the W4S... It could be your amp. There's nothing to dislike.
An important review:
>>06-03-11: Muralman1
An important review<<

Maybe to you but in the grand scheme, yawn.
Read it. Learn something Audiofeil.
It's low-fi muralboy.

Just like your system.

Get a life.
Now boys....
That is the whole point. The reviewer reported what I am hearing. What is pertinent is that the H2O was compared to the Wyred, and the latest Evo. The Fire preamp was compared to solid state and tube preamps. The folks interested in getting the best should read the review. It is enlightening.

I haven't posted on this in awhile but thought it worth updating for those interested. I sold the JAS because it was an absolute monster in size and put out a hellish amount of heat. I also had a hum issue with my main speakers which didn't materialize with other speakers I owned. I had both GE and RCA 805's, Sophia Meshplate 300B's, Ediswans 5358 and Amperex orange label/globe 6JD8's, and Tung Sol black glass 12au7 & Brimar 13D5 (12au7). I had no issues with sound aside from the hum.
Plus, of course, I'm an audiophile and absolutely MUST try other components, even when satisfied with the ones I own!

On to the Pathi....I mentioned a general satisfaction with a pair of bridged Pathos Classic MK III though not quite up to SET levels but close enough. Hogwash! The Pathi are quite nice-very good detail, nice, big holographic soundstage with very good focus, and a good overall musicality to them but they just aren't transparent enough.
After hearing a good 805/300B with a passive linestage, most amps sounds slightly to unequivacally opaque. Ditto for Pathi, unfortunately. Sold them and picked up a AudioSector Patek integrated on the cheap until I could do better. This is a very different sound from the Pathi but it looses nothing in terms of detail and presence though it isn't as up-front but it does get pretty close in transparency to the SET amp. It may well be the best affordable solid state option to SET lovers IF you have a system already balanced to the warm and full side. YMMV


I agree with the weight and the heat statements - therefore this amps is placed in my basement (doubling as area heater..:-).
I have very mild hum on the left side transformer but it is not coming from the speaker. Just the transformer itself (mechanical hum) and very mild so I cannot hear from my listening seat when it is idling or playing music.
A signal hum could be fixed as sometimes it is just a capacitor relocation (when a regulating/heater capacitor is too close to the signal path). Been there. Fixed it.

The reason I asked is because my experience is that with the right tubes and with capacitors changes (trial and error) this unit can move from being a "magical midrange producer" to a SOTA, top to bottom performer beating, with matching speakers, to my ears, units costing many many times its asking price.
When you buy a unit from Pathos, VTL, ARC, Macintosh etc,etc you are afraid to touch these units since it will not allow you to sell them in a modified state.
Good sound takes second place to resale-ability.
With a relatively low initial cost, a modified JAS is a lower risk and the sonic results are more than just surprising. After almost 3 years with this amp and after hearing many very expensive amplifiers, utilizing different topologies (SET, Push-Pull, OTL’s, Z-OTL’s) not to mention expensive solid state units, I have yet to find an amp that is emotionally communicative as this one (the goosebumps test).
When you read some audio history, you find that there is nothing new under the sun as far as amplifiers circuits. Most were invented and optimized prior to 1954 and most of today’s gains were made with better passive parts.
The best Japanese renditions of SET technology (WAVAC, Kondo, Yamamoto, to name a few) have mostly to do with better transformers, capacitors, signal wires, etc, etc.
In other words the dish becomes better when the chef uses the same old recipes but uses better ingredients.
Most commercial audio units (not just amps) cannot use the best tubes, capacitors, inductors, transformers due to cost/effectiveness and scarceness of supply, unless time and money are no object (custom built amplifiers from a designer) so they leave it to us, if we dare to experiment.

Just my two cents,

When you read some audio history, you find that there is nothing new under the sun as far as amplifiers circuits. Most were invented and optimized prior to 1954 and most of today’s gains were made with better passive parts.

This statement is not correct; there have been new patents issued on tube amplifier topologies since the 1950s. Also I don't know of any fully differential tube amps or preamps that were built in the 1950s; that is definitely something new (the first such preamps were made in 1989 and the first such amps only a few years earlier).
To an extent you are right in the sense that OTL's are relatively new. "SET OTL" Hybrids (Buttler MONAD) are somewhat new too and Z-OTL (David Berning) can be referred as such too but this is not reinventing the wheel. It is more like a variation on existing technologies and the funny part is that after all the so-called-advancement in audio, in the last 15 years there seem to be a retro movement to go back to tube technology and analogue sources.

Speaking about transparency,
I think OTL's and SET are the best I have heard but I will add that to my ears OTL sounded more effortless, extended, linear and SET sounded more lush (concentrated, immediate and textured midrange) and colorful ("expressionistic").
I would say it is almost like watching reality through two sets of transparent glasses but one is tinted so the picture could be rosy.
To each his own. I am SET guy but can appreciate OTL (technically, OTL can likely be better but emotionally it is a matter of taste/preference) and generally speaking to my ears, well implemented, these two topologies are at the top of the audio food chain, all things considered.