I have my III burning in 24/7 with my older "B" system right now. As soon as I hit around 400 hours I will put it into the main system, then I'll get back to you.
The other amps I've owned: CJ Premier 11, Premier 11A, Orpheus Labs, Sonic Frontiers Power 2, ASR Emitter Exclusive Version Blue (still own), Granite Audio, Spectron Musician 2, Separo 300B, Counterpoint SA220, Counterpoint NPS 400, Arnov Stereo Tube, Kora Galaxy Tube, Mark Levinson 23.5, Sim Audio W5, CJ MF2300, Joule Electra Stargate tube amps, Agape 2A3, Fisher 500C, Holfi NBS, and a few others. I guess this kinda makes me an amp junkie?
Not really Darrell, just an "afflicted" audio-nut like the rest of us.
Good to see the list of what other amps you've owned as I am finally learning that the only way to tell if an "impression" or review (pro or otherwise) is worth considering, is by what other components one has owned.
Would be interesting to do a poll to see which of us nut cases has owned the most amps over the years. Seems to be (look at the thread count) the most often changed component in most peoples' systems.
My past amp affairs over the years (just for sh#*ts & grins);
B&K Sonota M200
CJ Evolution 2000
AMC CVT2100s mono's
Llano Trinity 400R
Spectron Musician II
TAS 1000 mono's
Bel Canto EVP 200.2
I'm interested in an ASR emitter Darrel. They are supposed to be amazing aren't they? Only in europe though.
Why did you keep the ASR? Is the Spectron much better?
Also for such sensitive speakers isn't the rule of thumb to go with tubes? Only ask as I got some Esoteric Speaker Products Harp speakers and everyone says go with tubes...? :)
The Spectron M3 is better than the M2 in every single way! The bass is even better in that it sounds more organic. The midrange on the M2 has more grain & hardness while the M3 is fully fleshed out and the voices have more body to them. The treble is the biggest improvment, totally grain free and much more transparent. No contest....the M3 spanks the M2! Dump the M2 while you can & get an M3 before word gets out on how much better the M3 is.
I have auditioned the Spectron Musician 3 Signature for several hours at Chang Audio Network (303-470-7077)( owned by Steve Chang (audiogoner SCHANG) in Denver last fall. Words that come to mind when thinking about that wonderful experience with the Spectron are nimbleness, authority, grace, staging, harmonic development, and lack of grain. The only other switching amp that I have enjoyed as much is the Rowland 312.
I've got mine for about 3 months now. I liked what it does in my system so much that I have a second one coming up in a few weeks. They'll be set in mono-block configuration to drive my Maggies 3.6. This is the most transparent audio gear that I have ever experienced! Right out of the box, one can tell that this is a very special amp. The first thing to notice is the super clean sound, extension and control at both ends of the frequency, and how fast it reacts to input signal. All this turns into glorious sound after the burn-in period.
I can easily say that this is the amp deal of the 21st century!
Can the Spectrons be bridged? As a switching amp, I would think that it is already operating in a bridged mode. This can be checked by (with power off and speakers disconnected) taking an ohm meter and measuring if there is continuity between the 2 channel's low side (Black) terminals. If they are not tied together then it is already in bridge mode. Bridging allows for 2x the voltage to the speaker but no increase in current compared to amps that have the low terminal at ground. Bridged amps (especially switching ones) usually have only 1 (positive) power supply while non-bridged amps have 2 (1 positive V and 1 negative V) supplies that are equal magnitude volts.
Below are the instructions sent to me by Spectron for setting up two Musician III.
Procedure: To use Musician 3 Amplifier in Balanced Monoblock Mode
Using a Musician 3 in balanced monoblock mode requires one Musician 3 for the left channel and a second Musician 3 for the right channel. Fully balanced monoblock has a common mode rejection of more that 60db. This means that buzz and noise picked up upstream are substantially attenuation. In addition, this block of operation doubles the slew rate and bandwidth by virtue of the out of phase transmission. The distortions also will be greatly diminished. The major advantage is: there will be a noticeable improvement in dynamics and resolution of details in the music as well as liquidity and finesse. Finally, while not necessarily an advantage in every speaker, it triples the power and doubles the head room.
1. Connect the right channel output of the Pre-amp to both inputs of the right channel amplifier. Do the same for the left channel, preamp left channel output to both inputs of left channel amplifier. If the preamp has two output jacks in parallel, run two cables, either RCA or XLR. If the preamp only has one output, a cable with a Y connection at the amplifier's end will be required.
2. Connect the speaker to the two high (red) amplifier's binding posts. By convention, use the right channel of each amplifier for the speaker high (red) binding post. There are no connections to either of the two low (black) posts.
3. Flip the phase switch on the left amplifier channel from in-phase to out-of-phase.
4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 for the second (left channel) amplifier.
5. Reduce volume control to adjust for substantially increased sound pressure
The system is now ready for operation in the balanced monoblock mode
Can you imagine what would happen if Spectron decides to make an upgraded version of the amplifier with state of the art components, like Mundorf caps, Jensen coils, and so on...
And of course: another chassis, made of solid slabs of aluminium, treated with various damping materials. Maybe even an external power supply. It would double the price, but it would be better than two bridged Musician III's. Just kidding...
I just got my Musician III SE and wow what can I say right out of the box compared to my BAT VK60 I used before ! I was so concerned about lossing the liquid mid, high and holographic imaging that BAT are well know of. But after I switched to the M3SE, I notice I am not loosing any of these but improved upon on all round. Of course, I do not have to mention anymore on the bass improvement.
Simon said, there may be an upgrade option in the future to upgrade to Vcaps just like the power pac upgrade option provided by BAT for their amp and preamp equipment. I am looking forward to see this will become available in the near future. May be more people showing interests to Simon for this option will make this come sooner !
Here is from review of Don Shaulis in Stereo Times:
"Some would describe the Spectron as tube-like. Tube fans would cryNo! The operative word here is like. While the Spectron does not have the full bloom (or exaggeration) of tube amplifiers, neither does it have the dry and clinical presentation of many solid-state amplifiers. What it does have is a well-balanced and even presentation with engaging warmth. I think of it as a neutral presentation with a smile. The top end is extended but not edgy or harsh. The middle range is full-bodied, detailed, and intimate. At the lower end there is power and control for remarkably solid, well-defined bass slam as well as the finesse to define an upright bass with all its subtleties and nuances. I found the soundstage to be spacious and deep but clearly defined and reflective of the respective recordings.
The Spectron virtually carves audio scrimshaw at all octaves while providing the power to drive difficult speaker loads with exceptional dynamic range. But dynamics without control is just noise. For all the dynamics displayed by the Spectron, it never ran wild or became harsh. It exhibited absolute control over my speakers where other amplifiers failed. I never experienced listener fatigue (if you dont count the sleep lost by listening to more music instead of going to bed)."
I feel that this reviewer put in words exactly what I feel.
All The Best,
I will be taking a delivery on a Musicain III SE within a week or two. Regarding the tweaks available out there in the market place...does anyone have experience with one of the following "packages?"
(1) Walker Audio SST and HFT fuses
(2) Extreme Audio Quicksilver Gold and (4) HFT Fuses
I guess the nature of the audiophile is to always be looking for ways to make the best even better, which is a respectable goal...to a point.
Guidocorona: Right you are. The way I initially came across the fuse tweaks options was through another Mus3 owner who had spoken to Simon at Spectron. The least expensive fuse tweak option is somewhere between $100-150...a relatively small price for a bump in performance...unless there is already experience out there to the contrary.
Mdrummer01,took a look inside the 4 fuses on the cap boards were regular fuses,only the main fuse in the back is a Hi-Fi tuning fuse.
Does anybody's transformer make a slight buzzing sound on their unit? Before I sent my M3 for the SE mods it was dead quite. I'll let it break in for a several hundred hours and see what happens.
Spoke to Spectron today, they did some circuit changes and no longer needed the Hi-Fi fuses on the cap board. The one in the main fuse socket made the most difference. Sorry for the misinformation.
Took a quick listen the sound already is improving from about 10 hours ago. Once it breaks in about a month I'll post my impressions.
I finally got the second Musisican III SE up and running in balanced mono-block configuration. When I ordered the second one, I was simply expecting a small improvement over using a single amp with my Maggies 3.6. I was wrong, very wrong. I don't like to quantify the quality of sound, but if I had to, I'd have to say that adding another amp more than doubles the listening pleasure.
A single SE produces a very articulate, taught and well controlled sound from top to bottom. Two amps in balanced mode bring all these qualities to a whole new level of performance that I honestly didn't expect. The sound is now more articulate, more effortless and way more three-dimensional than using a single amp. There is a more defined and refined sense of space between the instruments. This is something that a single amp is really good at. What is added to this is the depth of each instrument and their position in reference to the listener.
Instrument spaces are clearly defined with a single amp, but with these two amps in bridged mono-block configuration, the instruments are layered and coordinated much more precisely. I don't want to imply that a single amp does not provide this level of definition, it's just that two in balanced mode will orchestrate and coordinate each instrument in such a way the makes it quite easy to "see" exactly where each instrument is located in the soundstage. I can now tell precisely if the contrabass guitar is left and in front of the drums, or if the piano is in front and to the right in the soundstage. I can almost get up and measure the size of each instrument and how much space there is between them. That's how articulate the sound is now. I've listened to systems costing up to 150k and this is a phenomenon I had not experience before. This is quite an accomplishment IMHO.
It'll take some burn-in time before the two Spectron amps can sing together. I first started just burning-in the new one for about a week. Then I just couldn't resist and connected the two in balanced mode. The sound didn't settle in until after 3 weeks of playing music for about 14 hrs a day. After that, they really started singing together. Once you listen to them in balanced mode for a couple of weeks, there is no going back to a single amp. The images will be more focused and much better defined than using one amp. And then there is that easiness of the sound that's so addictive.
I completely agree with you. I think that mono-blocks should be a natural evolution for Spectron amplifiers.
We can do internal connection of input(s): XLR and/or RCA - its not a big deal for production - provided its ordered prior to amplifiers assembly.
However, the end user must realize that going from stereo to monoblock mode (by any manufacturer) does require INTERNAL or EXTERNAL connection and then question arise - who will do it - manufacturer internally and for modest fee or user, externally, by adding additional pair of interconnects. On the surface, the answer is simple: manufacturer. However, as the rule, we do not use input wire - from inputs the signal goes directly to the boards, thus, we introduce our own hook up wire for this connection, and its OBVIOUS that the sound quality will be better if all input wires will be the same i.e. two pairs of interconnects - rather then pair of interconnects made of silver wire and our connection made of different metal or alloy.
Another negative against manufacturer's solution is loss of flexibility - If you use two pair of interconnects then your amp can go from stereo to mono and... back anytime you choose. If we use internal connection then this input can be used ONLY as monoblock (well there is another input you still can use in stereo).
In summary, if someone is ordering monoblocks and want to make us internal connection we will gladly do it. I spoke a while ago with production and arranged it including the small fee for material and additional labor.
Yet, nobody who ordered monoblocks and talked to me about alternatives - ordered internal connection - everybody wanted to have flexibility and choice of their wire.... so far including even iSanchez.
I hope that you will not ask us to adjust gain, flip phase switch etc.
My philosophy is to give the end user as much freedom as possible but if somebody knows what he wants and want to exchange some degree of freedom for convenience - its fine with me too.
As a rule, I want to work with our users.
Hope it helps.
Thanks for explaining the pros and cons of the different mono-block configurations. The only thing I wasn't aware of, or didn't remember, was how the internal wiring is done to bridge the amps internally, as opposed of doing this eternally by the end user via an extra pair of ICs. It's clear now that the external connection will be the obvious one here.
I decided on not using internal connections mostly because of flexibility. I thought that I could have assemble a simple system in my office with the other amp, or if something ever happens to one amp, which I much doubt considering the built quality, I can keep going with one while the other one is out.
I'm not an engineer so I may be wrong here, but my reading of this is that the internal wiring will add to the signal path, whereas the use of the extra interconnect will not change anything internally for the signal, hence producing a shorter way for the signal to travel. Now that this is more clear to me, I'm even happier with my decision.
One thing that still puzzles me, and perhaps Spectron can answer, is why there is so much improvement with these amps in balanced mode. I know that based on the specs the power triples and the headroom doubles. In my experience with other brands however, more power alone and more headroom alone do not guarantee better and/or more efficient performance. I've heard another brand of amps in a similar configuration and I remember hearing more noise when the amps doubled, and a quieter sound with half the power. With the M3 SE, I hear the opposite. The sound is better timed, which yields better control of the silence between musical notes.
Its true balanced mode and if I recall correctly, rejection of noise and buzz was measured as more then 60 dB (don't hold me to this number!). Plus, amplifier intrinsic distortions, as small as they are now have opposed signs and thus largely canceled.
If you would look on our web site - John Ulrick and I wrote the article (http://spectronaudio.com/tech1.htm) representing my and his philosophy - you start building the amp first by understanding your engineering goals and then by achieving the best specs you can possibly to achieve. Then and only then you can think about "soul" of music and go from engineering into music - if you recall I am also concert pianist by education and it helps me immensely but ONLY after engineeringly we are both happy.
So, in this article, we proposed that amplifier distortion, as pleasant for the ear it could be (e.g. poorly designed tube amplifier produce huge euphonic 2nd order harmonics) - is not only "pleasant" garbage and irritant - to my ears at least (and I am a tube-man!!!) but also is a murky ugly veil between you and music.
Now, you removed largely whatever distortion Musician had and window into music is opened wider - you can hear its sweetness, detail etc of music, blackness between notes etc etc.
That was (part of the) theory and as I understand from you and few other early adoptees of the monoblock approach - it seems to work.
I hope I am right. However, even if I am wrong I am immensely happy with early reports I have.
Hi Simon, now I understand. Would a board-level topology redesign let you optimize a model for mono operation instead? I am concerned that the addition of a 'Y" splitter may also cause some degradation because of the additional connector. One more solution is to ask the manufacturer of the ICs from Pre to amp to create a long "Y" split wire that would split just at the connector plugged into the pre. . . no extra connectors that way, but this may add some semi-significant cost to the setup. G.
As I wrote above it is my belief that there is no free lunch, still...
I have had interesting discussion, yesterday, with the buyer (D.Y. New York) who was ordering monoblocks and did not want to spent a fortune to pay for the second pair of his very expensive interconnects. Nor did he wanted to use "Y" connector since, in his opinion, additional termination would degrade sound.
We agreed that the optimum solution is for us to make connection between XLR inputs making the monoblock for XLR yet keep RCA inputs disconnected keeping them in stereo mode.
The advantages in this solution is that if he cannot use one amplifier for one or another reason then he always can use the second one in stereo mode.
Secondly, our policy today is that vast majority of repairs (nearly 95%) do not require sending the entire amplifier to us - amp is modular, and most of the user can un-plug modules and ship them to us by air. Another change in policy is that factory repair takes precedence over production - thus we fix it almost same day and ship back by air, and when user receive them, in a few days, he plug them in and end of the story... so disadvantage of having hardwired connections can be felt only for a few days at most.
Finally, I have had, yesterday, additional discussion with production (as you know I am not production engineer) and now, when requested, we can remove this connection without much "danger" to amplifier itself.
I think that our approach to yesterday's D.Y. request is the best illustration of our philosophy to work with each user individually (when needed, of course) until non-superficial solution is reached.
Thank you - I hope I explained our minimalistic approach to this kind of problems.
I also took delivery of a pair of Spectron M3 SE but I haven't had the chance to hook them up in monoblock mode. In fact, I'm just listening to a single amp in stereo mode at the moment. The first thing I noticed when connecting the amp was how quiet it was. Perfectly quiet, absolutely no transformer noise, and only very, very minimal hiss from the tweeters when standing with my ear to within 1ft distance from the tweeter. I have some really "dirty" city electrical power supplied to my home in Cleveland, OH, I've had amps ranging from 20 Wpc (a tube amp) up to 600 Wpc (an older version of Spectron M3 amp) and several in between and always had some kind of transformer noise. Not this time. Likewise, I always had some hiss audible up to 3 ft distance from the tweeters, not bad but still there, again not this time.
Second impression: there was a blackness between instruments, an organic, meat on bones feeling to each audible sound, a precision in extracting the last detail and presenting it in an utterly unforced, natural manner that was very addictive.
I lack the necessary cabling to wire the amps in monoblock mode, but for now I'm happy with what I'm getting as it is.
The rest of the system: von Schweikert VR7 mk2 speakers, the older style one piece model, Audio Logic MXL34 DAC, Benchmark DAC1 USB, Pioneer transport, PC music server, nude resistor volume control, Acoustic Zen and BNC cabling. I listen to jazz, classical (wide variety, from choral to orchestral and everything in between), electronica, down tempo, trip hop.
I will post a formal review of this really awesome amp at some point in the hopefully near future.
As much as I like my other components, I have to admit that the Spectrons are in a different league sonically and I warmly recommend them to anyone in the market for a mid to high power amp, regardless of topology. Be sure to ask about the v-cap option (the so called "signature Edition Plus"), highly recommended.
I have my upgraded SE amp for a couple of months now, and can honestly say that in its upgraded status it is excellent!
Smooth,dynamic,detailed,transparent with a deep and wide soundstage.It has an ease and grain-free sound even when the music gets loud and complicated which is uncanny,like it's just coasting along.
I like to tip my hat to John,Toni,and Simon at Spectron for not sitting on their laurels and
improving an already top-class amp,bravo!
I too heard the Spectron M3 SE at Steves house in Denver last October RMAF '07.
This was at the premiere of the SP-TECH Revelation new crossovers. Wow, what an unlimited resource of purity and power, never constrained or congested regardless of the
barrage of music we put through the system.
I didn't get to hear the Mono setup Steve later had, but I can only imagine "the more is better" manifest.
When looking at amps that can change from stereo to mono, there are several methods in the marketplace.
The John Iverson Eagle 200 became a new mono block (with factory inside changes) called the Eagle 400... a dedicated change over with no variable to switchback except with factory change.
The BEL 1001 amps switch from mono to stereo but RCA inputs
Of course the Bryston SST designs are bridged to make monos at inception, and some can be changed from voltage to current bridging but with factory only changes.
Probably the most elegant way is what Simon has devised for the music lover from New York per above.
This is what MBL and Belles have for stereo to mono change over, RCA for 2 channel stereo amp, and Balanced XLR for the mono amp.
This I think will have the broadest appeal, to me too!
I'm a long time Spectron user. I've had the Digital One and the Musician II (not to mention a flirtation with the Musician II Hybrid, which- btw - is an incredible value) as well as a plethora of other amplifiers - both tube and solid state. About a month ago I took delivery of my Musician III SE Plus (capacitor upgrade). I was a very restrained and immediately plugged the new amp into my computer system to break in. Well, I finally put the amp into the main system. I must say, it's quite a piece of work.
I believe Simon has a lot to do with this new direction that Spectron has taken. When I got my first Digital One, I approached John (Ulrick) about possibly changing some of the parts in the circuit to higher quality "boutique" components because of my experience with rebuilding tube amps and speaker crossovers etc. __My__ ears heard a difference. Well, he wasn't to open to the idea at the time. Well times change, and it's obvious that along with a brilliant design, now Spectron has taken that next step in to creating something truly superlative. Again, I think Simon has been instrumental in this final stage. Bravo!
Most of the professional reviews I read of the amplifier sound a little milquetoast to me. What's funny is that - as far as I know- at least 2 of these professional reviewers have purchased an MIII. After hearing the amp for myself, I can better understand why the reviews read the way that they did.
This amplifier is soooo even handed about how balances its attributes that it might come off as sounding non distinctive. It's not juicy, it's not obviously airy (although it's certainly not lacking), it's not weighty/meaty (like some Krells can sound in the nether regions) but it's bass is probably the best I've ever heard. Although I've heard a more glamorous midrange with some tube amps (my dabbling with a VAC Renaissance 30/30 comes to mind), I've never heard anything that got the midrange this __incredibly__ good without drastically messing up something else (soggy bass, rolled off highs etc etc.) The dynamics of the amp are truly amazing. I've never ever heard a solid state amp this dynamic, especially the micro. I've heard some tube amps that were maybe a little bit more suave (colored?) with the small gestures, but nowhere near as able to track complex orchestral micro dynamics. The bass has really taken me a while to wrap my head around. At first I could see where someone might think it was lean. It's not. After listening to things with complex bass lines I've come to the realization that I'm used to hearing the bass with more distortion. Even complex lines come across with appropriate (and plenty of it!) weight, but without any of the bloat, blurring, or overhang I'd gotten used to hearing.
I could go on, but this post is already rediculously long. Let's just say that despite having good expectations of the MIII SE Plus, I'm still pleasantly surprised with just how good it is.
Great post above! Good to hear your impressions.
Did you get the bybee upgrade too?
I am looking forward to the arrival of
a new born Plus coming into my household.
Bravo to Simon for the genetic improvements as you describe,
and standing over the arduous labor and delivery,
insuring a healthy arrival.
I am quite the demanding and worried father
but find each post reassuring as well as the kid glove handling by Simon.
After I heard the Bybee Super Effect Speaker Bullets this winter(a jaw dropping audio experience), I had a chance to test the Bybee Super Effect Ultra Power Cord.
My review is here on Agon.
I spoke with Jack Bybee about this new device of his,
a generational leap compared to his other products.
I did jump at the chance of Simon's upgrade to put
Super Effect in my Signature Edition Plus.
Time will tell!
I have to add my two cents about Spectron philosophy/practice and upgrading an already fine amplifier. I bought a pre-owned Musician IIISE about two months ago from a member here on Audiogon. The unit did not work properly upon arrival; I have no reason to believe the (reputable) previous owner had any problems with it. With the warranty in effect I shipped it from Minneapolis to California. The total turn around time, including shipping, was 12 days and I followed the shipping progress to Spectrum Service from Minneapolis. According to my calculations, Spectron did not have it for more than a day .I could be a day off but I dont think so. Simon T. filled me on the option I had to purchase four HiFi Tuning fuses from a partnering business, which I did. Say what you want/read the other threads, but this tweak added substantial gain and detail to the amp. Goes with out saying I recommend this to any Spectron owner. Thank you Simon and the pit crew!