I've used Spectral preamps successfully with many other amps.
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I use a full Spectral system - 30SS preamp, 260 power amp and 4000 pro CD player. I am pretty convinced of the system as a totality. I am not sure how well it works if you switch and swap.
As to Jegyed's slight acerbic comment. As most of the people who can afford high end will be beyond the first flush of youth they will, inevitably, have begun to experience high frequency loss. However, my experience with Spectral is nothing to do with the high frequencies. Rather it is a density of tone, a richness, that I have not heard anywhere else. Simply put it sound like music.
I'm not sure that Jegyed was being intentionally 'ascerbic', though it read that way.
I too have been in that camp of folks who did NOT like the HF presentation of Spectral, thinking it really forward and bright sounding. This, to me, was a product, after having been so anxious to hear it left me very disappointed...to the point of wondering what 'all the shoutin' was about.'
For those fans of Spectral, is there some magic combination of equipment that shows off what Spectral can do?
Given Spectral's ultra-wide bandwidth philosophy, I would expect the sonic performance of their components to vary significantly (and unpredictably) as a function of how well other components in the system can deal with low level ultrasonic or even rf frequencies, that may be introduced into the system by rfi effects, ground loop effects, wide bandwidth phono cartridges, etc.
Dear Larry and Al
My experience is that SPECTRAL is very set up sensitive, irritatingly so. However, when placed on solid - FINITE ELEMENTE- wooden shelving, with good power and the cables properly dressed - I hear delicacy and tonal accuracy. I have heard a great many high end audio systems. Valves, other solid state, integrated, CD, Vinyl and Computer and while I admire much that I've heard I haven't felt what I feel with the Spectral in that is just sounds, to my ears, right. I stop worrying about attack, detail etc and just listen to the music.
SPECTRAL is an odd company. Their marketing is nil', I'm not bowled over by their back up, but the machines do work. To my ears.
My system is the Spectral 30SS, DMA 260, 4000pro CD player and Magico V3.
All power cabling is MIT ORACLE.
All interconnects and speaker cable are SPECTRAL MIT
I'll expand my comments a bit having read the previous posts. Back in the '90s I used to visit George Merrill's Undergraound Sound store in Memphis. I was in graduate school at a nearby university and although I didn't have the funds to make any significant purchases, George was always gracious enough to let me spend a lot of time in his Spectral room. I must have gotten to listen to every Spectral product and I liked them all. I don't recall any emphasis on a particular part of the frequency spectrum. I enjoyed listening to music through all of the systems, and a soundstage that extended beyond the room walls.
I didn't get to know all of George's staff, but the ones I did get to know were all tube guys. I found their banter with George amusing although I was too inexperienced to understand it. One of the staff took me to his setup where he had a Spectral preamp (I don't recall the model number but I think it was a model 20 - I do recall that it was the $7500 preamp - the same one George had on his big rig). Anyway, he had the preamp connected to some recently released Marantz commemorative tube amps. I didn't listen to his system long, but I recall that it sounded pretty good.
My present home system is an all tube rig, but I still think about that Spectral preamp/tube amp setup. I doubt I'll ever get to try it, but the idea of the big Spectral preamp driving a VAC Renaissance 70/70 amplifier (if that is even possible) and my Silverline Bolero speakers resides in the back of my thoughts.
One final comment, however, is that I would not be inclined to buy a component at the price point we are discussing without hearing it first, at least in the shop, whether it's a "controversial" pairing or not. And whenever possible, I want to hear the component in my home.
Thank you all for the helpful advice. Based on what I've read, Spectral looks like a good option for a number of reasons. I will try to listen to their gear at a dealer. It's good to know that I can start with a preamp and go from there; I'm considering the 30SL pre and 260 stereo amp.
Paul (Punwin), are you using the MIT Z Powerbar with Oracle Z3 powercords? If so, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on how the Powerbar may affect the sound, and whether you have compared it to other power products. Thanks!
Spectral is to be used in a complete system. You really have to go all or none.
I was going to try a Spectral preamp as well---but its just not an optimal setup without the amps.
There are benefits to this---but the big problem is if you decide to change routes, your entire system has to be put up for sale.
As far as sound---its whitish to me and sterile as an entire system. That is why I was hoping just a preamp could be a great solution.
>>> "This, to me, was a product, after having been so anxious to hear it left me very disappointed...to the point of wondering what 'all the shoutin' was about.' For those fans of Spectral, is there some magic combination of equipment that shows off what Spectral can do? "
Yes and it includes high quality speakers - w/o a reference to what you heard we fans can't be really sure why you heard what you heard. So, for example, if you are used to speakers which tend to emphasize treble because they are meant to be paired with amps that roll-off highs (perhaps because the amps can't get the highs right), then switching to electronics that can get the treble right may sound too bright, and rightly so.
So when anyone says I heard X COMPONENT and the sound was such and such, there really is not enough context around it to say anything. Suggest you also discuss this at the [unofficial] Spectral forum at http://whatsbestforum.com
Here is the technical reason why Spectral electronics MUST be used with MIT cables:
Spectral's designers believe that for best sound, amps and preamps must be able to pass ultra-wide bandwidth, in the Mega Hertz range.
Their preamps have no RFI filters and their power amps have no filter (zobel) networks at the output, therefore, Spectral gear depends on outside filters to be unconditionally stable, hence the recommendation to use MIT cables.
MIT cables include "networks" at both ends, these are actually RFI filters, which prevent oscillation and filter out-of-band noise.
In summary, anyone who chooses to ignore Spectral's recommendation is doing so at his own (and hist tweeter's) risk.
Enjoy the music!
To amplify, no pun there, I have a story about MIT Cables which bears repeating.
Years ago, and I mean YEARS, when Bruce Brisson and Karen Sumner partnered in distributing the MIT cables, they quickly, because of her marketing genius, became very well regarded by the press AND the consumers out there.
I have to say that, at that time I tried them, even sold them for a while, as I had a connection with Ms. Sumner (later of Electrocompaniet).
Soon after my initial blush with the product, I became convinced that there was something 'tonally' about the cable that I didn't agree with. Then after long sessions, comparisons etc. it became 'apparent' to my ear that the cables were 'rolled off' on the high end and, to my ear, 'lumpy' and forward in the bass somehow.
After a cocktail reception at my store, Jim Thiel and Karen Sumner and I went to dinner. It was quite the evening...thank God for red wine.
After quite a bit of silence (uncomfortably so)by Jim Thiel, he finally confessed to the table, "I don't know what Bruce Brisson is talking about." Saying it in that quiet and sincere voice that only Jim had...yet with an authority and surety that only he could present.
"He's not practicing any Newtonian physics I've ever studied, so I'm confused at how he decides what to do, OR how he's doing it." One of Jim's basic complaints was that the cables was (this is a 25 year old memory, but presented honestly)that the cables were 'highly capicative', rolling off the higher frequencies, acting like a capacitor in line.
OK, that was 25 years ago, and everything, everyone, every product evolves over time, no doubt. As I recall, Karen Sumner and Bruce, disolved their relationship, which may only be faulty memory.
I do know this, and the point of this windy story is, that I've always suspected that the MIT Cables were coupled with the Spectral to 'mask' what I guessed was not just full bandwidth delivery, but a 'forward' high end on their products. Let's face it the 'problems' that I believe I'm hearing, are not in the Megahertz region, but octaves below that--and effect the harmonics of some mid range data.
I haven't heard the Spectral in the past couple of years, to be fair--so tell me I'm wrong, I'll believe it. Yet, the 'house sound' usually is a constant. If not, I'll give way to someone with more current info.
I have great respect for well engineered products, but could never warm up to the Spectral. BTW, Spectral is not the only product to present ultra-wide bandwidth information, so I'd like to hear from someone who's more informed about their designs.
I'm completely open to a new way of thinking about Spectral.
I once had a DMC-10, one of the earlier Spectral preamps and I used it with a Krell KSA-250. It always performed well and had no hi frequency side effects. I also had a Counterpoint SA-3 at the time and compared them to each other a few times and they sounded quite similar to me then. Although now they may not.
Although I know it's true, it seems very odd to that a company would design a product to have ultra wide bandwidth and then require special cables to tame the very thing they spent time and money creating. It sounds like something the government would do.
I don't think anyone is making a general recommendation on MIT cables. In fact, I completely dislike a large set of their cables - I also find them really colored - except as prescribed for the Spectral gear. The MIT/Spectral cables have been spec'ed by Spectral, and it's not really Bruce's creation (is my well informed understanding).
As Casouza said, their electronics contain no filters, and in addition, wide bandwidth designs operate optimally within a certain range (there are plenty of informative discussions about this on whatsbestforum.com's amplifier threads). The required filters for Spectral sit "in" the cables so their values can be optimized for the length purchased - simple as that. There is nothing "odd" (Rwwear) about this approach, they just optimize the entire chain by placing custom filters outside the boxes; in the end all the expected pars are there, just in slightly different places.
In the end, no electronics brand is for everyone, we all know that.