SS Amp to replace VAC 300.1 in a side-ways move?

I've owned several very nice high-end solid state amplifiers. But, nothing has given me the same musical enjoyment as my VAC-300.1, which is a tube design.

I may be making some changes in my home, in which a tube amp will no longer be very practical.

Now being so hooked on that VAC tube "magic," I am concerned that I just will not be as satisfied, if I go back to a solid state amp.

I am not necessarily looking for a big list of SS amp recommendations to check out. More specifically, I am looking to hear from folks who have gone from the 300.1 (or similar class of tube amp, VTL, etc) to a solid state amp, AND BEEN HAPPY WITH THEIR SS SELECTION, over the long-haul.

Is there a solid state power amp that truely has the magic of a tube amplifier?

1. Don't make the changes, OR
2. Figure out a way to accommodate the 300.1 if changes made, +/or
3. Get a 2nd 300.1. If you can fit 1, you can probably fit 2 and the improvement is jaw-dropping, depending on your system.

Had a McCormack DNA-500 before my first 300.1. To my surprise, no contest. I've tried a number of expensive SS amps since and instead just ended up getting a 2nd VAC 300.1. Guess this doesn't help you too much, but I don't think you'll be satisfied changing to ANY SS amp at this point after VAC. Just my opinion....

They are not very practical for me either (close to the floor, exposed to big dogs in my living room, wedged into tight places, etc), but the sound more than compensates for the inconvenience. So far, no dogs burned, no tubes shorted by dog hair, no fires, and many happy hours of listening.
Is there a solid state power amp that truely has the magic of a tube amplifier?

IMHO, no.

There are SS amps that have qualities that you may value in a tube amp, while possessing other qualities (and weaknesses) of their own.

The only time I've heard VAC was at RMAF and that was very impressive, as I recall. I honestly don't know if was the same amp you have. If you really love that sound, I'm with Fplanner2010: try to stick with it for a while rather than selling something you'll regret losing.

That said, I was hooked on tubes for many years and didn't think I'd ever go back to SS. The Modwright KWA 150 was the amp that did it for me. That amp possesses the midrange magic of tubes while adding the extension and power of SS. I'd put it on your short list. Disclaimer: Dan Wright is a client - I do his photography and graphic design. I would certainly look into the usual suspects too in the high-achiever SS club led off by Pass. I have also enjoyed hearing Ayre as well as Edge. I don't know that any of those have really brought tubes to mind on listening, as the KWA does for me, but I wouldn't kick'em out of bed either. I do prefer the elements of midrange palpability and soundstage prowess and the KWA excels there.....but again, I haven't heard any SS amps that sound just like a tube amp in every which way. Then again, there are so many amps and so little time - mine is only one opinion with very limited exposure to what you are asking about. There are all kinds of SS amps that strive for that quality and I certainly haven't heard a tiny fraction of what is out there. The VAC you have will undoubtedly leave big shoes to fill if you give it up. If you can do some comparisons without giving up your current amp, I would go that route.
I know what you mean, a few months ago I sold my BAT 150s se only because they put out way too much heat during the summer months. I truly love the way that amp sounded, and didn’t want to part with them. At present I’m living with a Krell 402 EVO, it’s not tube like, but I can live with this for awhile in fact it sounds pretty good for a SS Amp.
So far the responses are exactly what I expected. Thanks guys.

Any other thoughts/suggestions?
I once had a Plinius SA100 MKIII (class A design) and sometimes it was close to tubes in the midrange but still not the real thing

There are some excellent solid state choices that are able to portray the harmonic richness, texture, and depth of music in a compelling way. In addition, good solid state can bring some distinct advantages to the music as well.

Some brands that come to mind include Pass, Karan, Lamm, FM Acoustics, and Kraft.

Good solid state needs alot of attention to detail and synergy. I cannot overstate this, and I have learned alot about system synergy over the past year. In particular, a quality tubed preamp and the proper cables are really important to create long-term satisfaction and that magic.
I have heard no SS amp that has the same same sound as a top shelf, dialed-in VAC amp. However, there are SS options that offer qualities similar to tube amps, while also offering additional benefits (bass control and extension for example). Several of those SS options have already been mentioned.

IMO, you will not find an apples-to-apples amplifier. There will be differences. It'll be up to you whether the differences are deal makers or deal breakers.
i have lots of tube lovers visit my room and they seem to be just fine with my darTZeel NHB-108 Stereo amp. recently, i upgraded it with new boards, which added 'slam', improved the sense of ease and control, and lowered the noise level. the dart is a sealed amp and does not get very warm so it's particularly well designed for challenging installations. typical Swiss jewel like perfectionist construction.

i've heard various VAC amps and i think the dart would come as close as any ss to the VAC's strenghts, and improve it in some places; the darTZeel has a very natural character, it's sweet and extended in the highs, delicate and transparent in the mids, and it would have lower noise floor. it will be more linear in the bottom end. the dart won't quite bloom with the VAC, but it will equal or better the ambient retrieval and 'air'.

most importantly, the dart 'swings' and 'boogies' with wonderful microdynamics and nuance.

the dart does not sound solid state or 'like tubes'......but it might be worth considering.

oh and btw; my reference for 4 years was the 75 watt Tenor OTL monoblocks; which were quite the wonderous tube amps. the darTZeel has much in common with the Tenor.
Well, my friend and I auditioned the VAC 300 Phi stereo amp in his system. (He was looking to see how it compared to his hybrid Lamm M2.2 (220 wpc) monoblock amps. (The Lamm M2.2 amps have been the best fit with his Rockport Antares speakers that he has been able to find. The Rockport’s are a true full range speaker and need a lot of power. The Lamm's have a touch of tubes in the treble and mid-range, combined with a deep and tight bass response.) I will be completely honest and state that up until the VAC 300, I had never heard an amp that could compare to the Lamm M2.2, and that includes direct comparisons to:
The DarTZeel NHB 108,
The VTL MB 450,
The BAT 150,
The Kora Cosmos,
The Classe 401,
And a couple of others,

I can not state that one is better than the other, but both units have different strengths and weaknesses, (albeit their weaknesses are really just of the nitpicking type!). Both amps soundstage and image incredibly well, and as good or better than any amp I have ever heard. Neither adds any grain to the music at all. These are literally the two best amps I have ever heard.

(Note: Due to some of the music my friend and I like to listen to, (rock, and large symphonic pieces), we both have somewhat inefficient speakers, in order to get rock solid bass response, so neither of us have ever gotten into the SET type of amps.)

With that said, here are the differences between the two:

The mid-range and treble of the VAC unit was very lush, and wonderful to listen to. Listening to vocals on the VAC was a real treat due to the lushness of the mid-range. It is tough to actually say the VAC's mid-range was better than the Lamm, as the Lamm seemed a bit more neutral, but I will say that the VAC's mid-range was intoxicating nonetheless. (Six of one, half a dozen of the other!). However, the treble response was remarkably well extended and airy, and actually was slightly better than the Lamm. (Which was surprising, as I had never heard an amp better the Lamm before in the treble response.) However, the VAC's bass response was not quite as deep and tight as the Lamm's was. (It could be that this was due to the difference between the amps as the VAC is a stereo amp and the Lamm is a monoblock design, and the limited power supply of the VAC stereo unit may have come into play. That is my guess anyway.) In addition, on percussive instruments, it seemed that the VAC was slightly slower than the Lamm in presenting that initial attack. (Such as on drums, and even on piano key strokes.) It was not a lot, but it was definitely there. This is what kept both my friend from switching to the VAC, and what led to his friend ultimately selling the VAC.
(However, my friend seriously thought about buying the VAC just to listen to vocal music, it was that intoxicating. However it was just too expensive at the time to seriously contemplate.)

There was one other minor difference. The VAC ran really hot, raising the temperature in the room several degrees. The Lamm's ran really warm, so the room only raised the temperature a few degrees. (The Lamm does not get hot enough that you can not put you hand on the unit, but it is very warm to the touch.) This was another influencing reason my friend did not switch to the VAC, as his room is not air-conditioned.

So there you have my take on the similarities and differences between the two units. As I stated quite clearly, both of these amps are the best of the best, and you will have a tough time equaling the performance when, (and if), you decide to switch.

Good Luck!
I owned the phi 300.1 and the Luxman M800a. The Luxman has a very similar tonal balance as the VAC with better macrodynamics. The VAC is slightly smoother a triode mode.

Both these amps are much better in mono config. and i was surprised because I have 93db speakers.
additional note on the darTZeel. if listeners have not heard a darTZeel NHB-102 with the new upgraded circuit boards (based in the new darTZeel 500 watt monoblocks to be introduced at CES) they have not heard what it can do. it's quite an upgrade to an already wonderful amp.

over the last few years i've compared the darTZeel NHB-108 to all the amps mentioned in this thread (except the VAC 300.1) and while i prefered the dart there were trade-offs in many cases. with the new circuit those trade-offs are eliminated or greatly reduced.

no amp is perfect; but the upgraded darTZeel NHB-102 is worth investigating for those listners who had previously formed opinions about it.
My opinion will differ based on my past experience. Went from Canary CA339 tube monoblock amps - 300B push/pull amps with premium tubes throughout. NOS RCA's purchased from Andy at Vintage Tube Services and Sophia Electric Princess Mech Plate 300B tubes. Also had several other top notch tube amps. I am a huge tube fan and never thought I would change long term.

One SS amp changed that. TRL Samson monoblock amps. I have a review here on the Gon. Only $5500 brand new direct from Paul. They bettered my past tube amps in many areas.

I pair them with a great tube preamp and feel I not only gave nothing up, but actually gained.

The McIntosh MC402 and top of the line Electrocompaniet amps are also wonderful and will leave you wanting nothing.

The TRL amp however is the best of the group.

Tube amps are so wonderful, but you CAN find SS amps today that will leave you 100% SATISFIED and not missing a tube amp.

The key is careful system matching including the wire. I'm afraid just changing the amp alone may not get you there. I worked at dialing in the sound with my preamp and wire. For me, a dynamic tube preamp with warm and full bodied wire finished the quest.

I no longer need to deal with tube heat, hassle, biasing, when to replace, cost etc. I can leave my TRL amps on 24/7 with no worries and little cost. They are always cool to the touch and 100% hassle free and always warmed up and ready to go!

The only VAC amps I have owned are the Musicbloc 70's. The Canary 339's greatly outclassed them in my system. I have not heard your amp however.

I suppose a small % of us simply cannot give up a tube amp and I respect that. Just sharing my experience.
Well, as long as Mike made an additional note to his comment, I will do the same! :-)

I should state that my friend replaced the single stock Sovtek 6922 tube in each Lamm amp with a NOS 6922 Amperex U.S. pinched waist PQ white label. These tubes took the Lamms up a notch from a high level contender to the champs that they are now. (So if you get the Lamms, be ready to upgrade the stock tubes.)

I should also state that his system is pretty incredible, and uses very high level of components, to a similar, (but different), caliber as Mike Lavigne's system, (which is pretty damn impressive Mike! Man, I love that room!)

And, since Mike brought it up, the DarTZeel NHB 108 that we compared the Lamm to was indeed the older version, so it probably does not compare to the current version. Therefore, take what I said with a grain of salt. (Although I will state that IMHO the DarTZeel NHB 108, (a 100 wpc stereo amp), does not have the power reserves to handle the bass response of a power hungry speaker like the Rockport Antares.) And I believe that Mike's speakers, (the Evolution Acoustics MM3, right?) are actually partially active speakers, (powered by an internal 1000W amp for the bass response), so his use of the DarTZeel amp is limited to the mid-range and the treble. I will also state that the DarTZeel's mid-range was the equal of the Lamm M2.2s, (which was surprising for a true solid state amp), but I preferred the treble of the M2.2. (Again though, that was comparing the older version.)
I have gone from tube to SS back to tube. The SS gear was very good but it was not in the tube league. I have heard your amp and it is in the upper level of tube gear and will be hard to beat. I will no longer be tempted to look at SS gear.
To offer some perspective about how people choose differently, Grannyring and Bobheinatz have owned the same model SS amplifier, yet their decisions are opposite.

I'm going to toss another amp into the mix, and one that replaced my VAC Phi 110/110 due to its superior bass reproduction in my system: Moscode 401HR. There is a new Moscode model now. The Moscode retains much of the benefits of a tube amp, while adding the benefits of solid state.

It can be auditioned with a home trial.
To also add a brief comment - the VAC 300.1 has deeper and tighter bass response than the VAC 300.
Bobheinatz amp was not the same to clarify. Mine had TRL's ground breaking new power supply that was just developed. The 225 amps were still very good, but the power supply in the latest Samson amps are a revelation.

The other thing is one just can't swap an amp and then compare. A new component needs to be dialed into a system to know its real capabilities in that system. Changing a tube in a preamp, new IC, power cord, speaker cables, tweeks etc.....

I cannot overstate this point. My comments are based on keeping the same speakers and dialing in around that.

This stuff really changes things and one
Want to add more to my above points. When switching from one amp to another, just changing an IC can make all the difference in the world.All of a sudden the things one missed in the new amp are now much better etc... Remember, a system is just that - a collect of the individual parts.

My Samson amps just plain work wonderfully with the same builders tube preamp and his wire. Another my have the same amp with different results based on system set-up and synergy. We also have yet to talk about the room .....

Bottom line point is that with some effort a music lover, tube amp lover, can find bliss with an SS amp dialed into his SYSTEM.
I have not heard the DarTZeel, but I'm sure it is a good option. The best SS I have heard that had some tube-like character was the Pass XA.5 series of amps. I think the SS gear from Symphonic Line is also suppose to be a great SS amp that can satisfy those accustomed to tubes. That being said, even the Pass wasn't a tube amp, it just doesn't seem like you can really have an SS tube amp. If you like tubes, and the VAC is really fine example, I think it just is awfully hard to be totally satisfied with an SS option unless you happen to own a speaker that really needs SS current and drive, where tubes may not be at their best.
If I were forced to change from my Phi 300.1's, I would likely have to give serious consideration to the Lamm 2.1 or 2.2's. I have only heard the 2.1 and thought they were pretty darn nice sounding....I do need to hear the Dart's someday though, I only have briefly and could not get a feel for them due to time contraint...

Owning the Lamm M2.1s, and having heard, and coveted the M2.2s, I can tell you that while the M2.1s are top contenders, the M2.2s are the champ. (So if for some reason you were to change amps, the M2.2s would be the ones you would want, as they are the equal to the VAC 300, whereas the M2.1 is merely a close second.) The M2.2s are just a bit more transparent, and have a significantly better treble response. (The M2.1s have just a smidge of darkness to them, whereas the M2.2s have a wonderfully extended and airy treble response, only beaten by the aforementioned VAC 300, and even then, the VAC is only very slightly better.)

The darkness of the M2.1s can be mitigated through the use of NOS tubes, and really good speaker cables. (I too use the Amperex PQ Pinched Waist 6922s, and the Nordost Valhalla speaker cables are a perfect match for the M2.1s.) The darkness that is left is merely a hint of darkness, and most people listening to my system don't even notice it. It is only because I am so used to the M2.2s in my friend's system, that I even notice it myself.

With that being said, when a used pair of Lamm M2.2s show up here on Audiogon, I hope to be in a position to buy them. (However, they rarely, if ever, show up here.) The M1.2s seem to be much less of a rarity on th eused market, and I might give them a shot, even though I think they might just be just a bit underpowered for my system, as I use the EgglestonWorks Andra II speakers which are pretty power hungry. (Although, I know that Paul Bolin uses them with his Andra IIs, which is why I might consider them.)
Thanks Kurt, good input and perspective. I'm going to see Vlad and Lamm at CES, it will be interesting to hear current versions of his line and his opinions. Also looking forward at CES to seeing/hearing what Kevin Hayes is working on! Remember, I said I would have to be forced to change from my 300.1's... :-)
Great input guys-thanks!

I just came out of a 2+ hour session in my listening room and I have to confess that getting rid of my 300.1 will be a last resort decision, for sure.

Damn, I love that amplifier!

The dog learned to "take care of business" outside. Maybe she'll learn to stay away from the amp too.
Barrelchief, one of the best systems I ever assembled was with a VAC Phi 110/110. As I mentioned earlier, I replaced the VAC with a Moscode 401HR, and areas of the system improved enough for me to keep the Mocode, but other areas suffered...the three dimensional VAC midrange for one.

IMO, you will be hard pressed to replace the VAC 300.1 if you are as enthralled with it as you seem to be.

The grass isn't always greener...just a different shade of green.
Having owned both the 300.1 and Lamm Ref 1.2 and ML1 I can tell you the Ref 2.1 would be my last choice. Both the 300.1 and the ML1 are much better then the Ref 1.2. I think the Ref 1.2 are underpowered and just didn't sound right. Both the 300.1 and the ML1 are very natural and very powerful given there ratings. 300.1 has a lot of gain so preamp matching is important.

Don't sell the tube amp if you can help it....
I hope I am not to late to jump on this thread. After owning tons, I mean tons of amps, I just purchased a VAC 300.1. All I can say is I have finally found hat I was looking for. I get plenty of bass slam with the glory of tubes but no darkness. I am gushing. Yes $18,000 for an amp is up there but just AWESOME. Thinking about getting another one to run them mono.Running with a REF 5
Bstefano- The addition of a 2nd 300.1 in my system took it to a level far beyond what I had expected. My system really came "alive". Don't put the 2nd amp in unless you are prepared to keep it, because you will!!
Tvad, I know this is a tad late and off-topic, but how do you like the Moscode? Vrey interesting amp.
05-11-10: Shredder
Tvad, I know this is a tad late and off-topic, but how do you like the Moscode?
Shredder, when I owned the Moscode, I loved it. It provided a terrific blend of tube clarity and imaging with solid state control of the bass.

I sold it because I sold the speakers it drove. Had I not changed speakers, I'd probably still have it.
Thanks Tvad. Any thoughts on how it compares to the Modwright KWA150 and/or Spectron Musician? Very different designs, I know, but I have read similar descriptions of the sound (best of tube and ss).
05-11-10: Shredder
Thanks Tvad. Any thoughts on how it compares to the Modwright KWA150 and/or Spectron Musician?
No idea, but only the Moscode offers the flexibility of changing the sonic flavor by tube rolling.
It is intriguing.

I have heard the VAC 300.1 and it may be the best amp I have ever heard. I certainly understand that the Moscode mid-range doesn't compare to the VAC's, but how big is the difference? Were you able to narrow the gap through tube rolloing?
The Moscode's midrange does not approach the VAC midrange. The advantage the Moscode has is in the bass control and tonal balance. The mids are excellent, but not to the level of the VAC.

The performance of the Moscode in my system was good enough in relation to the VAC Phi 110/110 that I chose the Moscode because of the areas of improvement the Moscode brought to my system. However, I always recognized that I was missing the midrange magic of the VAC amp.

If you want VAC mids, then go with a VAC.
I own Aerial Model 9s, 90 db sensitive, 4ohms, 4 7" bass drivers. Rep for needing lots of power. Does the 300.1 have enough juice?
What about the Joule Electra/ Spectron combo. I went from a tube power amp to the Spectron with Vcaps and ByBee filters. I am going on 3 weeks and I am very happy with the change.
The problem with the 150wpc VAC 300.1 and the 90dB sensitive Aerial 9 speakers becomes running out of power during dynamic peaks *if* you listen at levels that approach live.

For example, the VAC 300.1 will run out of steam at about 111dB peaks (measured 1 meter from the drivers).

So, if you listen at around 84dB measured from your listen seat, then you will have enough power for 105dB peaks.

Use this as a guide and determine if it will be sufficient based on your room and listening preferences.

I have a small to medium sized room and I listen at about 8 feet from the drivers. I often listen at nominal levels above 90dB, so the VAC 300.1 with Aerial 9 speakers may not quite get the job done to suit me.
Thanks Tvad, very helpful.
agree with Tvad- having owned Aerial speakers many years ago, solid state worked best...