I would say that power, in a sense, is a factor of compatibility. To answer your first question, higher sensitivity speakers would be a good start. Beyond that, I think your question is too general.
14 responses Add your response
Power is much less an issue than the impedance curve of the speaker. Some speakers, like Coincident, present a smooth load to an amp. This is much more important with tubed amps since they tend to have a much higher output impedance than solid state amps. Higher the output impedance the greater influence the speaker's impedance curve has on the amp's frequency response.
So, yes, speakers with a smooth impedance curve lend themselves to tubed amps. The majority of speakers today seem to be designed for solid state amps and their low output impedance.
Ho big is your budget? How much for the amp? etc.
Yes of course there is fidelity between tube amps and speakers. I agree with Mr. Reynolds the best speaker regardless of the tube amp in question is one that holds a steady high impedance. However the trump card is forever and always the speaker you like best. If you want an example how about dual 7-8 inch woofers each ported with 5.5 inch midrange and the inverted tweeters separately compartmented on my JM lab Electra 936s. Their rated sensitivity of 91 db/w/m and a promised impedance of only 3.6 ohm but nominal 8 ohms. Doesn't look like a great match but it's sounding better than any system should using Opera Consonance 800 monos for amps. They are rated as all of 78 wpc but have a 4 Ohm speaker tap on the output transformer which is what I use. Nevermind the four large bottle 6CA7s and the 80 lbs of mostly tranies per side.
My even less potent DA-60 again with 8 output tubes and rated at 60wpc doing a great job on VR2s a floorstander rated sensitivity of 88db/w/m which holds a very steady 8 ohms and over.It sound very nice and dpoesn't have any problem getting loud.
Some speakers are built intentionally for use with SET flea watt tube amps . These are frequently Single Driver back loaded horn designs to max the bass. Horns of nearly every stripe can be used but without active woofer amping are tonally imbalanced.
The question though is do you really want that sound?
Thus again learn your real preferred sound and build a system to suit.
To Bob Reynolds and Mechans
Thanks for your knowledgable input, much appreciated.
I am currently using a MingDa MC34 AB tube amp which has 8 EL34 output tubes and is rated at 75 wt/ch in ultralinear mode. I like this amp.
If I were to match this with some tower speakers in the $3000 to $4000 range, do you have recommendations in addition to Coincident and the others mentioned?
With 75 watts/ch, you can drive most of the speakers available. It would help for you to describe the type of music you listen to, then others can make better suggestions.
As offered above, tubes are happier when the impedance curve is pretty flat, so you might read some reviews that offer those measurements. For example:
I went to a B&W dealer to hear the 803D. They had them hooked up to a 75 watt Mac tube integrated. I didn't know the speaker, but it was obviously struggling to produce low bass and a coherent sound. This threw off the soundstage and made a quality three way design sound like a poorly designed three way speaker.
Next, I heard them with the Ayre MX-R amps, and the reality in the room completely changed. The speakers came to life and I was able experience the music instead of just hearing a random account of sounds.
The employee at the dealer preferred the tube amp. I liked the SS on this speaker. I say get out and listen to different combinations and make a good decision based on your own conclusions.
In response to your question I've heard great results with tubes with wilson, verity, magico, vs. better SS with b&w, rockport,avalon, dynaudio.
My favorites (All out) to listen to are Verity, Rockport and Magico. All are sligtly different and very special. I personally will climb the Verity ladder some day.
I agree completely with the comments from Bjesien that reflect how tube electronics work quite well with Verity speakers. I started out driving my Verity Fidelio Encores with a Mark Levinson 334. Although the results were quite good, I was not hearing everything that I knew the speakers were capable of. When I switched from the Levinson to my Accuphase P-3000 (from my secondary system), although the Accuphase is still SS, I feel it has some "tube-like" qualities, and it certainly made the FE's sound more musical. Ultimately I went all tubes with my primary system - ARC REF 3, ARC CD7, and Luxman MQ-88, and the result is stunningly musical. The same combination of electronics also works very well with my Sonus Faber speakers in my secondary system.
And also like Bjesien suggests, taking the time to audition different combinations, preferably in your own listening room, will tell you everything you need to know about compatibility!
Do many of you have that option of "auditioning different combinations, preferably in your own listening area"? Man, I know I don't. There is probably only one High End dealer here in NH, with essentially all SS gear, and of course no Verity, Rockport or Magico.
I suspect there are many of us putting together systems based on reviews and tech specs. Less than optimal for sure.
Do you ever lug in an 80 pound tube amp and say to the dealer....hook this up to those speakers?
To Rsasso & Others:
I have been a customer of Don Better (Don Better Audio, Cleveland, OH) for the past year. Don is a fabulous person to work with. He has allowed me to audition various combinations of gear (mine and/or his) at my home and his home. Although it wasn't necessary for the auditions that involved my hopefully soon to be sold ML 334, I did have the option of bringing the amp to his home for auditions. Glad it wasn't necessary as it weighs ~ 100 lbs. and is not easy to grip for lifting.
I realize I am fortunate to have these audition options that Don allows. I suppose he is the exception in this regard for High End gear in Northeast Ohio. I hope that I did not offend you or any others WRT my comment about home auditioning when possible.
Rsasso...i am not sure where you are in Vermont but if you are interested in auditioning Verity, Rockport, and Magico with both solid state (Boulder/Simaudio) or tube (ARC, Nagra, Luxman) gear, Goodwins High End in Waltham, MA (30 mins from Boston) carry all these brands. Additionally Spearit Sound (Boston) and Natural Sound (Framingham, MA) carry a wide variety of brands of speakers and electronics. Hope this helps in terms of your auditioning blues...