Spectron vs any good tube amp.

It's easy for me to understand how a SS person would rave about a Spectron amp. The weight, heat factor, and power have made me curious, but I'm a tube person, and I want to know what "tube" people think about Spectron?
Hi Orpheus,

I can honestly say that on the many occasions that I have heard Spectron amps I notice them and find them to be kinda annoying compared to great SS or tubes. In my system I use SS monoblocks but my preamp and DAC are tubed based.The Spectron just don't sound "musical" or natural to me. Some people swear by them which just proves it comes down to personal taste and system synergy.
Teajay, you told me what I wanted to know. The description you gave is precisely what I had theorized. The two most important words are "musical and natural".

Back when I was a child, and every thing was "tubes"; the table top radio was "musical and natural". Now I don't even need to audition Spectron
Hi Orpheus10,
If Teajay`s impression is accurate then It would`nt be for me either. If a component sounds artificial rather than 'natural/organic' it has no real value IMO. Why don`t you listen to one(if possible) and confirm or disagree based on your own experienced ears?
I've only heard the Spectron once at RMAF. It sounded nothing like a tube amp. I don't remember if they were using a tube pre or not. It was not my cup of tea. Maybe in a different setting it would shine I don't know. The best switching amp I've heard was the Jeff Rowland 301. Though I would not say it sounded like a tube amp it was quite natural sounding. It is also good at driving tough loads which most tube amps can't do.

Charles1dad, "sound" is one thing while "music" is another. People can become addicted to certain kinds of "sound", but is it music?

"They" sold us on SS, and we believed them. One day I asked myself, "If this is so good, why don't I feel what I use to feel". When I went back to tubes, I received the answer.

Tubes vary with the amplitude and frequency of the music constantly, while transistors turn on and off. They do this at such a rapid rate that your conscious mind thinks they're on all the time. When I listen to music, I listen with my third ear; that's kind of like that center channel in your listening room. My third ear is connected directly to my heart; if it doesn't hear, I won't feel.

My third ear rejects anything artificial, and the Spectron is artificial by design; consequently I believe it would be a waste of time "for me" to audition it; especially after teajay confirmed what I had theorized.
Hi Orpheus10,
You`re preaching to the choir(look at my system LOL!).It`s just that nothing beats your own audition when possible to do so. Personally SET tube amps are it for me,unsurpassed realism with my jazz music(they`re in the room or i`m in the club or studio).
Orpheus10, was your original question a rhetorical one?
No. SS people, and tube people; hear things so differently that one finds the other hard to believe, which is why I asked "what a tube person thought about the Spectron?"
It appears as though one post from a person that uses both ss and tubes made up (confirmed?) your mind. You then go on to comment about the switching nature of ss amplification and the artificial design of the Spectrum amps.
In your tube experience, have you listened to SET's?
No, I've never listened to an SET, but I would like to. Theoretically, I think it should be the best; especially the 300B SET.

I hate to use "abstract" words and at the same time speak in scientific terms, but I have no alternative in this case. My scientific theory coincides with the word "soul". I listen for the "soul" of the music. This is something that's different than the "sound" of the gear.
"I listen for the soul of the music"
Amen brother. Orpheus10,I believe you`d really love a good 300b SET amplifier my friend.
>>02-13-12: Orpheus10
I think it should be the best; especially the 300B SET.<<

I prefer the PX-25, 2A3, and 45 SET to a 300B whenever the speaker permits.
In the past I own McIntosh 2102 tube preamp and when I tried Spectron with my speakers (at that time WATT/Puppy 8) I felt much more musicality with Spectron and bought it and then another one and use them with my new speakers SASHA (its next generation of WATT/Puppy - mots power hungry) and all tube preamplifier Joule-Electra LA-300 and I am extremely happy.

I know that Enjoy The Music reviewer Wayne Donnely sent back his $50k Sigfried amplifierx back and use Spectron - and this guy attend weekly Chicago Philarmonic.

I can give you more examples but its all useless. Spectron provides free home trials why won;t you listen for yourself in your system with your firends etc.

There's certainly no doubt about the Joule-Electra LA-300. That will be my next Pre, but I'll have to try the 300B before I consider any thing else in regard to amp.

My present speakers are 92DB, 8 ohm; it seems that 300B's like 16 ohm, I don't understand that?

More information on speakers for 300B would be helpful.
A good 300b SET amp can handle an 8 ohm load(even 4 ohm if it stays relatively flat).There`re so many 300b amps available and the quality-performance spectrum is very wide.The key is selecting one with top quality transformers and also a 'stout power supply'. There`re plenty of upper quality built SET amps to choose from.
My speakers are 94 db efficient and the amp just seems to coast with them. My room is 25x14x8 and opens(no wall) into a 26x18 room. I listen to jazz(a whole lot!) big band and increasingly more classical music. Generally my listening levels are 75-83 db and 10 feet from the speakers. At those levels the amp is using perhaps 1/10 of a watt. so there`s much headroom available.
Best Regards,
"My present speakers are 92DB, 8 ohm "

You don;t need ss power amplifier, IMO, if you like tube. Its very benign load.

I don;t know well 300b SET tubes but regarding the power needed for reproduction of the musical peak - your speakers will need much, much more then 1/10 of the watt or even 10 watts. Read small article on the subject written by Simon Thacher of Spectron (He is also tube man and work with Jud Barber of Joule-Electra on OTL tube amps)


All The Best,
Mike ,
Hello, It always come down to individual preference and listening levels. Not everyone wants or seeks very loud levels or peaks of 100db or more to enjoy their music. Cubic volume of the room is a factor(that`s why I listed my room size). With reasonably normal hearing and a good resolving system I believe low 70s-low 80s db is plenty loud,comfortable and 'safe' long term for your ears. These levels still allow headroom for louder musical peaks in maintaining music`s ebb and flow.

For jazz and classical you don`t have to blast the music to enjoy it. If your interest is pop,rock,electronic,hip-hop etc. at very loud levels then of course you`ll want(and require) more power. Really high volume levels/peaks IMO are too risky to one`s ears, but that`s obviously a personal decision.

My point to Orpheus is that under reasonable conditions he should be fine with a high quality 300b SET amp that usally provide 8-10 watts of power. If he wants 105-110 db peaks he`ll want a different amp.I have on a few occasions listen at 95-100 db and the sound was unsressed and very clear but I would`nt do this on a regular basis. Of course I don`t know what Orpheus`s preferences are.
Charles1dad, just a FWIW: one of the reasons that you are less likely to listen to an SET at higher volume levels has to do with the way SETs make distortion as power increases.

As power levels drop towards zero the distortion becomes unmeasurable. As power increases, the lower-ordered harmonics (which are euphonic and so contribute to a 'lush' character in the amp) appear; somewhere at about 1/4 full power the higher-ordered harmonics come into play.

Now music has a lot of transients in it, so if the speaker is well matched to the amp these power levels will only be seen at the higher levels. The ear uses the 5th, 7th and 9th harmonics to figure out how loud a sound is, so when these distortions appear (and only on the transients) the result is that the ear perceives the sounds as louder than they really are and so there is no desire to turn it up any louder. This is why SETs have a reputation for being a lot more dynamic than their power capabilities would suggest.
Thank you Athmasphere for your posting. I always learn something new and ineresing from you.

However, my posting was completely misunderstood by Charles1dad (or, alernative I was unclear). I was not talking at all about loudness one would prefer in his own system and in his own room. Its subjective and I will not go there (but thank you again for explanation of what we hear when using SET)

I spoke ONLY about the reproduction of the musical peaks by real musical instruments. For example, I believe musical peak of Stenway is about 109 dB loudness at the position of about 10 feet from the piano.

So, if someone wants to reproduce accurate (i.e. not subjective) loudness of Steinway piano peak of 109 dB at 10 ft from speakers then one must produce appropriate and very specific power output from his/her power amplifier during this peak period. Measurments are provided by Simon from Spectron in his article but no way its 1/10 of the watt for 92 dB efficiency speaker with 8 Ohn nominal impedance.

The reason I don`t listen at what I consider to be loud volumes is due to potentially harming my hearing. Sadly I`ve treated/examined 'young patients' who have suffered permament hearing loss due to chronic loud noise/ sounds be it music,ocupational etc. It`s no coincident that many professional musicians do unfortunately develop diminished hearing as a result of their profession. My hearing is still very good and I won`t purposely jepardize it.Music does`nt have to be'loud' in order to connect and become involved emotionally.(IMO).

As I said in my earlier post, this is a personal choice.
Even at live venues with unamplified music it can get too loud(no PA system in use) at times. Our ears detect loudness in nature for a reason and in many instances are`nt related to electronic distortion at all.

A crying/screaming baby, irate,aggresive shouting people nearby or how about a thunder clap or loudly barking dogs?? All are just a few examples(non electronic) of our ear`s protective and survival mechanisms at work.In my case SET amplifiers provide stunning realism without the need to 'crank it up'.
No thanks I`ll take a pass on loud music. When your ears warn too loud I pay attetion. YMMV.
Best Regards,
I'm not into rock, and my days for "blasting" are long gone. I want to hear all the subtle nuances that make music beautiful. I like musicians that play music as opposed to notes. The right set up in a bedroom would work for me.

I'm going to give the 300B's a try with my present set up and listening room. I'll start shopping soon.
Mike there is no misunderstanding, your example of a piano reaching 109 db peaks at 10 feet means nothing in most listening enviroments. I have a piano in my living room and when played its volume can obviously be controlled(and is) by the player. most of the time the volume ranges in the 80s db level as to keep it comfortable for the surounding listeners in the room. Just because an instrument is'capable' of a certain max level does`nt compel the musician to play at that level. At church services,weddings school recitals etc. instruments are often played well below their maximum levels. When played at more subduded levels people seem to still enjoy these live performances immensely.When I practice scales on my trumpetI play at levels that are much below what the horn is capable of, what is the point of 'blasting' the sound level? live instruments sound quite beautiful even when played softly and at moderate levels.

I personally don`t except the notion that your home audio system has to match'peak' levels such as "109" db to sound realistic.That level of sound pressure is dangerous to our ears if done with any regularity.Why rely on atmasphere to 'tell' you what a SET amp(which one? there are many) sounds like, experience it yourself if you really want to know.

In reality we all attempt to achive what we want. If it`s your goal to reproduce that high db level, more power to you. We just simply have different priorities.Much of music`s beauty and soul is subtle and nuanced a good system should be able to communicate these emotional aspects.
Don't know the reason why Spectron was ever dragged into this. OP already had a pre-conceived notion which needed affirmation by only one poster. Bringing in Spectron seems gratuitous at best.
Charles1dad, you and I are on the same page when it comes to the 'too loud' thing. I for one value my hearing quite a lot- I think anyone here does as well. The point of my prior post was simply that SETs can create a 'too loud' experience at an *actual* sound pressure that is quite lower than it seems and I explained why that is.

Its my opinion that a system should be devoid of loudness artifacts, leaving that to the music instead. But- if you are concerned about hearing, than using SETs is a good way to go.
" Why rely on atmasphere to 'tell' you what a SET amp(which one? there are many) sounds like, experience it yourself if you really want to know."

Charles1dad: you do have some problem with reading AND understanding at the same time. Athmasphere explained NOT (Nyet!) what a SET amp sounds like. He explained the composition of odd and even harmonic distortions extressed as a function of ..., to put it in clearly understood terms, the poisition of given volume control. These facts I was anaware of and thankful to him for kind sharing or teaching.

I did listen to a SET amplifier and not a single one. With single exception of $60k unit in listening room of Stereophile reviewer ( we listened to Schubert Male Songs) - I HATE its sound as its full of distortions and bleed my gentle ears.

When I attend live concert I hear music at whatever level musicians play it, be it 109 dB or 79 dB and without any distortions whatsoever. No distortion. Period! This is exactly what I am seeking in my electronic stereo system - the accurate as technically possible reproduction of live sound as I remember it.

My system with Joule-Electra flagship "450" preamp, two Spectron monoblocks with all upgardes and David Wilson's Sasha speakers is very close to this ideal and is under my budget (I love Alexandria II but at $169k cannot afford these magic speakers).

You listen whatever you want and at any conditions you want - just specify its your PERSONAL preferences.
SET is definitely the way to go.It`s providing superb sound and certainly the most realism and natural sound I`ve heard so far from an amplifier. I hope Orpheus is able to experience one and form his own impresssion.

This is a "Tower of Babel" if there ever was one. "God confused their language, causing them to speak different languages so they would not understand each other".

The music we like, and every aspect of that music determines what gear we like best. It determines which cartridge, what speakers we like, and so on. We could sit in the same room, listening to the same music, emanating from the same gear; and hear two entirely different "songs". That is our "reality".

I learned quite some time ago how to get the most out of reviewers in regard to cartridges. When I picked the one who liked the same music as I did, I succeeded. When we speak in glowing terms of what we hear emanating from the gear we like best, and how good it is, and recommend it to other people; we are making far too many assumptions. For example: SS people speak in terms of "fast and definitive with bass slam". While tube people will speak in abstractions like "nuance", that aren't always easy to communicate; we live in two different worlds.

I hope these new elements I've injected into this conversation, will aid in our communications.
This last comment is wonderful, and explains why every thread should begin and end with "Let's agree to disagree." I had a friend whose ears stuck out from the side of his head like flaps. His audio system was so rolled off at the top as to beggar description. But if you cupped your hands behind your ears then listened to music, you got a taste of what he was hearing.

Our ears are different, our heads are different, the things that we need, sound vs music, are different. I just picked up some PrimaLuna ProLogue Seven monos. Love them. At the audition, the dealer, who was a recording engineer, preferred the sound of a solid-state amp, because it let him hear detail and engineer stuff. I preferred the PrimaLunas, because all I could think was that the singer has that "jump" factor.

"Music" people shouldn't feel superior to "sound" people, nor should the reverse be true. But like what you like, and love what you love. The trick is listening to, and respecting what someone else likes and loves. Through it all, it makes for much better (and much more helpful) debate.

In other words, we don't need to have someone like what we like. But we would like to have them understand why we like what we like. As long as that happens, it will all make sense.
PrimaLuna ProLogue Seven monos, with the right NOS tubes; are superior to the ARCS I've heard, which were my amps of choice before PrimaLuna.

300B SET's are amps I'm going to give a spin, not amps I've even heard before. "Theoretically", they could be better than "push pull". It's for sure they'll have to go a long way to beat PrimaLuna.
I'm amongst those that agree that for what ever reasons we have different priorities in the present imperfect world of audio reproduction, but I'm not inclined to accept that we have to reduce it to the "them & us" technological ideological camps.
Unsound, I looked for a definitive post to confirm your convictions in this "imperfect world of audio reproduction", and I couldn't find one. Do you have any convictions?
Good news is stereo equipment is not a zero sum game. Many of us have multiple amps and can enjoy the unique characteristics of each without needing to declare any particular amp "the winner". I happen to believe both SET and OTL's are wonderful topologies and think audiophiles need to experience listening to both. Long ago I fell hard for SET's and have acquired 45,2A3,300B,F2a & GM70's. While tonally the tubes are different from each other, they all share an amazing sense of presence. SET's simply put me into the music. More recently I have also acquired an Atma-sphere S30 and am continually amazed by this little OTL. While my SET's are colored to one degree or another, the S30 is crystal clear, has wonderful liquidity, yet also packs a bottom end punch that my SET's can't compete with.

Unless you need to rock out at high decibels, I would venture to guess that a SET or OTL would be a more satisfactory experience than a Spectron (which I've heard - it did nothing for me).
SS people speak in terms of "fast and definitive with bass slam".

Yes, however I have always felt that to be the province of the best tube amps :)

While tube people will speak in abstractions like "nuance", that aren't always easy to communicate; we live in two different worlds.

Yes, communication is an issue! Two audiophiles can use the exact same terms to describe the aspects of soundstage and definition of a $600 transistor amp or a $30,000 tube amp, someone looking on might not be able to discern that the two experiences are very different, as our language does have the terms, but not the expression of intensity.

No, I have never been convicted.
" Unless you need to rock out at high decibels, I would venture to guess that a SET or OTL would be a more satisfactory experience than a Spectron (which I've heard - it did nothing for me)."

Correction: With OTL you can reach very, very "high decibel". A friend of mine owns MBL 101E driven by Joule-Electra VZN-300 OTL amp monoblocks and its a heaven !!!!!!!!!

Actually, you are wrong with SET too, sorry - another friend of mine own Vladimir Lamm's SET which drive Duo Avangarde and it also has extraordinary dynamic range !

What you personally like is, of course, different matter.