Slam possible with Tubes instead of SS ??

I like the sound of tubes having a Sonic Frontiers tube pre amp. Is it possible to get that good SS slam I like from a a reasonably priced tube amp? Using an aragon 8002 ss amp at present. Looking to spend about $2 K max if I decide to jump the fence. Yes i do like to feel the bass and do want want to give that up.
Given your Snell Type C/V speakers, and their 87dB sensitivity and uneven impedance curve, see the measurements here, I would say no, you will not get the slam from tubes that you enjoy from solid state.

Your speakers are not a particularly good match for tube amplification.
Yes, I see no reason why. I own a VTL ST85 tube amp 85watts tetrode ,35 triode and i have no problem with bass, i use Merlin speakers, very revealing.
Hello Blueskiespbd .. Some of the tubes I've have , had good frequency extension and weight , but I would not use the word slam . I'm sure there are tubes out there that would give you what you want , but at a price . You may be able to get the slam you want , at the above price , with S.S.
thanks for the good information...
So can you recommend a ss amp that would have the tube sound and work well with the Snells?
So can you recommend a ss amp that would have the tube sound and work well with the Snells?
Blueskiespbd (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I can't, no.

I'm not one who believes there are solid state amps that sound like tubes.

My favorite solid state amps are the Pass Labs XA-.5 series, but they are not in your budget. A used XA-30.5 sells for around $3000. They have much of the treble and midrange clarity of a god tube amp, but they still do not have the three dimensionality of a tube amp.

You might be able to arrange to purchase a demo/used unit from RenoHifi with the *possibility* of a return (I can't say for certain).
Tube amps with slam include the higher powered ARC and VTL amps, even with cone speakers. My own Quickslver M-135s definitely do the "slam thing".
I am in the boat with Tvad on that issue as well;it is probally best to try and audition amps if you can in your own system;if you can not then try to get to a dealer and audition the amps there. Solid state amps that performed for me were: mccormack dna-1 monoblocks,B&K m200 sonata monoblocks,forte model 4 and the amps I have now Jeff Roland model 6 monoblocks.
There are solid state amps that do get close but in my opinion they miss the mark on the tube sound.
I replaced a McIntosh MC402 (SS) with a VTL ST150 (6550 tubes) and was blown away by how much better the ST150 sounded all round. Lots of slam for 1/2 the price.

But each person/stereo is different and what works for me may not work for you.
Not with your speakers for any kind or reasonable cost probably I would think for teh reasons Tvad mentioned..

The speakers in my system are similar.

I've gotten excellent results overall including slam using the Bel Canto ref100m amps.

I go for clean, uncolored sound with good detail and excellent dynamics including slam.

I use a relatively inexpensive but good quality ARC tube pre-amplifier in my rig to very good effect.

I have experimented with both tube and SS DACs. This is another area that can be experimented with to getting a tubelike sound with little or no compromise in the dynamics including slam.
Solid state is capable of high output, hence volume. But, to me "slam" is more meaningful when one is talking about dynamics at reasonable volume levels. In that case, I think it is much harder to find solid state amps that sound dynamic and deliver "slam"--many sound lifeless and bloodless, particularly at lower volume.

Want to hear real dynamics? Try listening to an OTL amp (e.g., Joule, Atmasphere, but NOT the Tenor). If one is using extremely efficient speakers, one can hear a surprising level of "slam" from good SET amps pumping out less than 10 watts.
Are amps using KT88's and 6550's particularly good choices (all other things being equal...) for listeners seeking more "slam" (whatever that really is) than certain other configurations?
12-20-10: Petscan
Are amps using KT88's and 6550's particularly good choices (all other things being equal...) for listeners seeking more "slam" (whatever that really is) than certain other configurations?
It depends entirely on the specifications of the speakers being used.
so, looks like I will stay the course for now. Still tweaking the room and speaker placement for best effect.
In the end I want it all, ie: slam, detail, musicality, warmth etc. and of course I want a deal on the gear. Others have done this right here in 'Gon Land. It could happen.....
I suppose it is a matter of personal taste, but, I tend to find most higher powered KT88 and 6550 amps to sound brittle, with an artificial edginess (someone else might consider the "edge" (hard initial attack of the note) to be a part of "slam," and hence, desirable. One has to judge these things for one's self.

If I had speakers that demanded higher levels of power, I would actually look first at OTL amps (there may be issues with impedance and bass response, but often such concerns are more theoretical than actual), and then at solid state amps. I also find that most people overestimate how much power they really need. A lot of speakers could be driven by low powered tube or solid state amps which are reasonably priced. I've seen many demonstrations where the listener thought that a high quality/low powered tube amp sounded much louder than a higher powered alternative; I don't think the lower powered amp really did sound louder, but, it sounded more satisfying at a given volume so one was less inclined to increase volume to compensate for deficiencies.
Blueskiespbd - I would look into some better speakers before an amp personally. I just got an Octave V70se (70w@4ohm) integrated to replace my Bryston B100 (180w@4ohm)and it kicks the snot out of the Bryston. That being said I bought the B100 before I ever heard a dynaudio speaker. I was so impressed with the confidence C1 I bought them. As good as I thought it sounded until I got an in home demo of the Octave did I realize the B100 wasn't the best choice for the C1's. So what I'm trying to say since I personally believe the speaker is the most important piece of a system start there and work to get the sound characteristics your looking for.

Good luck
I like my speakers Just want to match them to best amp
12-20-10: Blueskiespbd
I like my speakers Just want to match them to best amp

I think if you were able to raise your target price to $3000 and acquire a used Pass XA-30.5 you would be very happy. It runs in Class A all the way up to 59 watts, and then it switches to Class A/B at 60 watts.
I'm of a like mind with Rleff. I recently purchased my first piece of Jeff Rowland gear, a Model 5 power amp. It is a warmer sounding SS amp, somewhat lush in the midrange that has tremendous "slam". In other words, it has a great power supply, rated at 40 amps out continuous. It may just float your boat.

Now, it isn't a tube amp. I have owned OTL's in the not too distant past, Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk2.3's (along with the MP-1 MkII preamp). Those amps had some slam, but at a cost, both financial and heat-wise. They were also crystal clear top to bottom, absolutely remarkable. But, I hardly used them in the summer r/t to the heat they produced.

I can't recommend the JRDG amps highly enough. There are a couple of Model 5's for sale on Agon right now. I have no affiliation with the sellers or JRDG, just a happy customer.

Tvad, Look at the sensitivity and impedance curve of an electrostatic speaker and tell me if it is a good match for tubes.
12-21-10: Rrog
Tvad, Look at the sensitivity and impedance curve of an electrostatic speaker and tell me if it is a good match for tubes.
Rrog, I don't have any experience with electrostatic speakers.

I'm aware that some electrostatic speakers like the Quad ESL have historically been driven by PP tube amps. A friend used a VAC PP tube amp to drive Soundlab electrostatic speakers.

Beyond that, I can't comment further.
Pass Labs are great sounding amps and i'm sure Blueskiespbd would be happy with them , but bass impact was not one of there strong points .
So. Do the pass and Rowland amps provide slam bass ?
Rrog I am driving soundlab m2's with audiovalve challanger 180 mono's using 6550c's with great results;this is a class A amp push pull.
Electrostatics can be matched with tubes you just need to do some careful matching and it can be done;another match
would be Atmasphere's ma1's or above;that is supposed to be a very very good match for electrostatics and its OTL tubes as well.
Blueskiespbd what is your definition of slam bass? I run my rolands on 2 sets of speakers;usher rw729's this is a monitor so they can only go so low;but the bass is tight and defined;on my other speakers the soundlab m2's they play down lower; results being a very tight bass with definition;such as a stand up bass,kettle drum,and organ;I am interested to hear your definition of slam though.
To me slam bass is the systems ability to handle all bass effectively. Tight, well defined. You are sitting on the sofa and you feel the bass energy physically traveling thru the seat cushions and thru the sofa arms. This can occur at lower volume levels. I have always wanted a pair of Soundlabs.' Are you happy with the amount of bass they deliver?
So. Do the pass and Rowland amps provide slam bass ?
Blueskiespbd (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I like bass slam. I was a drummer for a while in an earlier life.

I think the Pass XA-.5 series provide excellent bass slam with properly mated speakers, but I'm of the opinion that the speaker has more influence over slam than does the amp provided they are correctly matched.

The best slam I have had in my system was from Von Schweikert VR4 Hen III HSE speakers driven by either Moscode 401HR or Bryston 14B SST amps. I once used VAC Phi 110/110 tube amps with excellent results, but the slam was not as pronounced as it was with either the Moscode or Bryston amps. Those speakers have great slam.

Some tube amp/speaker combinations provide terrific slam. I'm thinking of Zu Audio speakers with some tube amps I've heard, and Classic Audio Reproductions T-1 with Atma-Sphere amplifiers. Both are high sensitivity designs with large woofers.
Blueskiespbd I am very happy with my soundlab m2's and they handle bass very well in my system;my sub is not used for 2 channel but only for LFE in home theater;I am that happy with the low freq in 2 channel audio.
FWIW Sound Labs have a high impedance at low frequencies which is why tube amps are preferred if you want them to play bass right. You can get them to play bass with transistors, but I think you will find that the way to do that involves having the speaker too close to the rear wall so you get some reinforcement. The problem is you wind up with a one-note bass.

The high impedance we are talking about is enough that a 600-watt transistor amp will only make 75-150 watts at certain bass frequencies. Sound Labs like some power though, so you really need about 150-200 watts to really make them play.
Santa says Slam. Slam Slam.
Larger or multiple drivers optimally driven by the right matching amp is always the key to "slam".

Larger rooms will require more, so room size and acoustics to some extent ( I call this the "listening environment") is another key factor.
Best bass slam I ever heard was the GR Audio open baffle 12" high eff co-ax w dual powered on-bard subs (ss on the subs, 18 wpc tube amp on the co-ax) @ RMAF 2009. So the answer is....maybe??????
The official sensitivity rating for the Snell C/V is 90db @ 1 meter with 2.83vrms. Nominal impedance 8 ohms, minimum 5 ohms.
12-21-10: Reb1208
The official sensitivity rating for the Snell C/V is 90db @ 1 meter with 2.83vrms. Nominal impedance 8 ohms, minimum 5 ohms.
Actual test measurements like those done by John Atkinson of Stereophile often provide a more realistic presentation of the actual specs of the speakers.

If you look at the link in my first post, you'll see the test figures differ by a fair amount from the official factory published specs...enough to make a difference when mating them with a tube amp.

Blueskies, I'm using both a tube VAC PA 35.35, EL 34 amp, and a Plinius SA 100 MKIII. Both provide good slam with my speakers, 12" custom Tannoys, but the Plinius has it all, smooth, very powerful (the dynamics will scare hell out of you), great imaging and soundstage. I bought both amps here on A'gon for $2400. You can get one or the other, or both! I do think you would be happy with th Plinius, though. My 2cents worth.


Plinius has it all, smooth, very powerful (the dynamics will scare hell out of you), great imaging and soundstage

ahhh now that sounds like my kind of amp. Put on diaper.....
turn up to 11 !
While considering that every HiFi system is different, you still might want to take a look at this current thread from a Plinius SA 100 MkIII amp owner.

Take a look at Stringreen's 12/21/10 post.

Due diligence is important.
Rleff, Isn't it true electrostatics typically sound best with tubes?
My Soundlab A1 speakers seem to really open up with a very powerful SS amp. I am currently using a Sunfire Signature 600 x 2 amp that is amazing on this speaker. I know some will think no way a Carver amp can sound this amazing with SL speakers, but it does! 600 watts per channel into 8 ohms and all the way up to 4000 watts into 1 ohm!

By far the best amp I have had on my Soundlab's. OTL amps like Atmasphere also work nice as I have tried an Atmasphere MA1. An MA2 is really needed to drive this speaker to louder levels (over 92 db with a good amount of remaining headroom) based on my experience. The Sunfire amp just opens up this speaker and runs them unlike anything else I have tried. Bass is outstanding and the mids and highs are open and so rich and warm. Quite special really.

Point is careful matching and trial may be needed for the best speaker and amp match. I have found tube amps have slam in spades when matched with the right speaker only! Typically this should be speakers with higher efficiency and minimum impedance not below 6 ohms.

I read once that Soundlab speakers do bass well with SS amps that are designed with a large number of output devices per channel. The Sunfire Signature does and my past SS amps have not had near as many output devices. Perhaps this is why the Sunfire SS amp mates so wonderfully with Soundlab speakers.
This is a good example of what I was talking about with regards to Sound Lab- if you are going to use transistors you need something that has a lot of power. 600 watts is about the minimum.

Now if you do your math, one thing that becomes apparent right away is that a speaker that needs 600 watts must be really inefficient. But that is not the case here- you need that power because in a transistor amplifier they won't be able to make nearly that power into the lower frequencies.
Atmasphere is 100% correct. I tried 200 and 300 watt SS amps on my Soundlabs and needed more power! My other SS amps rated up to 300 watts per side started to sound tilted up in the highs and a little bass shy as I turned up the volume over 80db or so.

The wonderful Atmasphere MA1 drove my Soundlab speakers with very deep and powerful bass. The problem was in the highs where the SL's can dip as low as 2 ohms! To listen at sound levels above 90 db with ease I needed more OTL power. I would have loved to try the MA2's, but they were a bit to expensive for me with two in college :-)

In terms of sound the Atmasphere amps were clearly better and more nuanced then my current Sunfire Signature amp. However, the power of the Sunfire really worked nice with the A1's. This is why I am sure the larger MA2 amps would have been heaven. Maybe someday
Rrog personally I believe it is but notice that Ralph from Atmasphere is qualifying the use of a solid state on electrostatics as well.
Maggies may be similar to Soundlabs in regards to drive ability via SS or tube amps.

Were I to go the Maggie route again someday, I think a tube amp would be the ticket.
Grannyring imagine what the A1's would sound like with MA2's or MA3's what a great sound that must be;maybe I will head down to Atlantic City and see if I can get some $$$'s out of Trumps pocket.Did you consider a larger tube amp like a VTL,Vac,Audiovalve or Manley's?
Rleff, yes I did consider those as well as the Wolcott P400's. I could not afford both the A1's and those big tube amps right now. I decided to try a used Sunfire Signature for $1500 and I was and continue to be amazed.

I doubt any SS amp could make these SL's sing any better to be frank. I see one for sale for $1750 now. Mine, like the one for sale, is the original one that is 19 inches wide and weights more than the 2nd version. I modified it to accept an IEC. I also sent it into Rita's Repair Service (authorized Sunfire repair shop) to have it checked out. It did need new power supply caps and some other things. It cost me $375 plus shipping to do this, but I am good to go for years now.

All of these Sunfire Signature amps should go to Rita's as they do have to be updated with newer parts based on comments from Rita's Repair. Consider this in the purchase price. They were made in 1998 or so and the power supply caps seem to have a fixed life. Rita's puts larger caps in so as to avoid any future issues. They also double check to rail voltages to be sure the amp is in spec assuring great imaging etc...

Trust me when I say this amp is magic on our SL speakers. Not at all typical SS sounding. It is very rich and full bodied with wonderful stage size and what seems to be limitless power delivery. Bass is scary good and the music is simply beautiful. My seller paid for 1/2 the repair bill so in the end the amp cost me about $1500.

Bob Carver made a great one here and for the money it is perfect on my A1's.
I just read the thread posted by Tvad about the noise problems associated with Plinius amps. Yes, they are a bit noisier than a lot of amps, but in my situation, the noise level is far enough below the threshold of hearing it at normal listening volume (and up), it's a non-issue for me. I do use a passive line stage, as suggested in the thread, this may help in lowering the noise floor.

The performance of this amp is so good, I don't mind a bit of extra noise, which I don't hear at all when playing music. The two trannies do hum, though, even when the amp is in mute mode. Though not perfect, the way they make music sound far outweighs their deficiencies, at least for me.

The performance of this amp is so good, I don't mind a bit of extra noise, which I don't hear at all when playing music.
Islandmandan (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I want to comment on this only to raise a point. My intent is not at all to be argumentative. I have no dog in this hunt.

In the various iterations of my system, including variations that included amps that I considered to be absolutely dead silent, I have heard so many improvements when items have been added that reduced the system's noise floor (and understand this was when there was no perceptible noise to begin with), that I think we sometimes fool ourselves with the notion that if we can't hear noise when music is playing then the noise level must be acceptable.

These improvements are often evident in the common experiences of larger image, or deeper image, or the manifestation of the system *playing louder* at the same volume control setting on a preamp.

If improvements with noise floor reduction a dead-nuts-silent system can be so evident, then a noisy component isn't that benign or desirable, IMO.
I am very tolerant of many different flavors of system sound, but I have very low tolerance for noise of any kind.

If I put my ear up to the speaker and hear anything other than silence when the system is on even if only at higher than normal volumes and nothing is playing, I consider it a potential problem, even if practically it is not apparent during normal listening.

I agree with Tvad that noise can and often does have a negative effect on overall sonic performance when present even if virtually impossible to hear flat out.
Interesting points on noise. While I tend to agree with Tvad and Mapman as noise through my speakers drives me crazy....

What about all the noises in one's listening room that are certainly louder then some hiss trough speakers or mechanical transformer hum. Things like...

- home noises like a heater, blower, refrigerator,noise from another room, person in the house in another room etc..

- my own breathing, pages turning etc...

- outside wind, rain etc...

- many recordings have some background hiss and still sound great

- goodness what about all the record surface noise and clicks and pops of dust and dirt

Well you get my point. A little speaker noise is certainly no worse and often times far better then life noise in and around our music rooms?

Now, if we are talking about lack of distortion, silence and space between instruments and those other nuances that great gear does so well, then yes I am in 100% agreement.

Right now I am trying to silence some panel noise in my SoundLab speakers. No, I can't hear it when the music is playing, but it bothers me still. I sat down and told myself the things I mentioned above and said "Grannyring just enjoy". Is that panel noise really getting in the way of the music or rather is it my quest for perfection? In this case perfection means silencing every single little noise.

Could be a good topic for further comments...
Defending my position of championing Plinus was not my objective, though it might not have come out that way. I think it's unfortunate that Blueskies is having problems with the amps in his system, and I hope he resolves the problem quickly and painlessly. In audio, as we all know, what works for one guy (or gal), may not work for another.

Best wishes to all,
You can get slam with tubes. I have 1 watt Serious Stereo monoblocks that have plenty of slam with my highly efficient Altec 604 drivers. These amps though are more than your price range. As far as system noise the Serious Stereo 2A3's do have a small bit of tube hum. This could be mostly eliminated by humbucking resistors which most manufacturers put in their amps. The problem is that there is no way to eliminate hum noise without taking some of the music along with it. Serious Stereo feels the trade off is not worth it. I have to agree as these are the best sounding amps I have had in my system by far. Once the music is playing you do not hear it. I have addressed other noise related issues though and must say that controlling the ground on your system is an incredible upgrade. Audio Magic makes a ground disrupter that eliminates ground noise throughout your system and it seems to really work well. There are other similar products out there and it is worth checking out.