Starting from Scratch -Please Help Pick 1 out of 3

Dear Friends,
Hope that all of you are well, in a moment of transitional evolutional state of mind i sold off my Rogue Cronus Integrated, my Tannoy Stirling Speakers ; well pretty much the spine of the entire system.

I wanted to start over, i listen to a lot of varied stuff ; usually very complex stuff ; i love the weight of solid state gear and the resolution of their baselines and the treble which intermittently sound "filled" ; i also love the midrange liquidity of tubes especially on vocals and the natural timbre of orchestras and drum snares.

So i had gone on a spree to audition some gears, some which couldn't be heard are also included as a part of the system (say, i listened to the power amp but not the pre) i couldn't get to some of these due to various difficulties but generally i've put a package of 4 different set ups - i hope learned pundits here can guide through this to build a good system which i will use for a long time.

I am not the type for frequent upgrades.
Thank you!

The Candidates

Group 1
Pre : Rennaisance Preamplifier MKIII by VAC (Valve Amplification Company)
Power : VAC Phi 200 Power Amplifiers (Valve Amplication Company)
Speakers : Harbeth SHL5 [or] Devore Fidelity The Nines (Please Pick)

Just love the look of this system!

Group 2
Pre : Modwright LS 100 or Ls36.5
Power : Pass Labs XA 60.5 (Class A 60 wpc) but can take a few months to save
up for Pass Labs XA100.5 (Class A 100 wpc) if it really matters.
but evidence shows otherwise :
Speakers : Magnepan 1.7
Which sounds great!

But Will the Modwright (semi-tube) impedance match with the pass'?

Group 3
Pre : Leben RS28CX Premium Preamplifier
Power : CS-660P Separate Power Amplifier
Speakers : Harbeth SHL5 (or) Devore Fidelity The Nines (or) Devore Fidelity Orang Utan

Group 4
Pre : Modwright LS100
Power : Pass Labs XA30.5 Monoblocks (30 watts Class A)
Speakers : Devore Fidelity Orang Utan

Also Please Feel Free to Mix-Match and Advice.

Music will be fed from my MAC to my DAC and to these.

Thank You!
Having owned VAC gear I would lean towards #1. You will get nice system synergy and a good dose of the VAC house sound. The speaker choice would be DeVore, but in addition to the Nines I would seriously consider the Orangutan.

System #3 is interesting as well. I have heard Leben on a few occasions and had some interest in them at one point, but went with VAC instead.
The VAC pre with the Pass amp.
I use a VAC Standard and find it provides a great sound to go with my Bryston 4B-SST2 and Magnepan 3.6

So go for the VAC pre. either Pass amp, and the magnepans..
You will LOVE the sound.

Personally i would up to the 3.7 Maggies, but the 1.7s do Ok too
Well since this is a forum solicitation for opinion/speculation of sonic results I`ll join the fun. My choice would be the VAC electronics driving the the Devore Orangutan speakers.High quality tube amplification with high effiency-easy to drive speaker(high load impedance/sensitivity). Your music will soar with dynamics and sound very natural.
I vote for number 2.
I vote #3
And I will add a luxman class A
Harbeth compact 7 pure satisfaction, specially analog.
Another vote for the VAC system. I cannot judge your two speaker choices though, because I haven't heard either of them. You can't go wrong with VAC electronics though, IMHO.
VAC pre and amp, then matched w any good, easy to drive speaker.
Thanks guys, really appreciate all your help - i am just so worried about weak bass with tube gear, hence the confusion about using "all tube set up" but i havent heard VAC enough or lived with them - infact i've only heard their preamp, i listen to a lot of weighty stuff (but not techno or anything like that) - lots of film scores which have everything interwoven - but i see that VAC is getting lots of love here - and i am leaning more towards it...
The 'weak bass' theory is waaaaay overplayed, IMHO. I was afraid of tube amps because of that old wives tale too. Since then I only recall thinking "Wow, that's a lot of bass, especially from a tube amp", when listening to BAT and VAC tube amps in my system. While I may not recommend driving a subwoofer with a tube amp, I have no issue at all recommending a tube amp for full range speakers.
I vote #1. You will not suffer lack of bass with VAC. I think Vac use Phi 200 driving KingSound King's at shows.
I would only say if you do choose a tube amp. remeber tube ams need a lot of 'care and feeding' to go along with playing music.
My Vac Standard pre is left on 24/7 three years now nad no tube degridation so far.
So that part is an easy tube use. 'no brainer' tubes and i am happy.
A tube amp is a totally different beast.
Jest saying.
I see that VAC is getting a lot of love here, having owned the rogue cronus magnum - perhaps puts me rather in the nether-league-:) ofcourse VAC gears are expensive and i am sure they do exude quality - i am just a little concerned about the type of music i play, which consist of film scores (a style known to mash up many genres into one i.e ethnic instruments and a little bit of r&b and maybe even a chamber orchestra mixed with a little bit of electronica) ; i really hope the VAC delivers, known that they do make DACs is a little bit comforting to know that they are very much in the loop - what speakers do you guys recommend for the VAC gears? Devore Fidelity Nines / Harbeth SHL5 or Something Else?
I would pick #1. I always like the VAC combination - they have a musical quality that it is hard to find somewhere else.
I like what you had.
I think you first need to determine what speakers really move you, because your amplification needs/options will vary greatly depending on this. I'd think you'd either prefer the planar sound or conventional cone drivers because they're quite different. I think you need to come to terms with that first, then it becomes much easier (and more productive) to figure the rest of the stuff out. Best of luck.
VAC will deliver the goods. They do have a signature or house sound, and the components you have specifically identified are well respected in the industry and among hobbyists. I played all types of music with my VAC gear and was never disappointed in the performance.

As for speakers the Phi 200 will drive many speaker models just fine. I think the DeVore's are a good choice. I used Spendor 1/2e and Audiokinesis Jazz Modules. The Spendor's were about 88 dB efficient and the Audiokinesis 92 dB. So even Harbeth might be a nice choice, although IMO they are on the warm side.
I think you first need to determine what type of speakers you prefer between planar and cones, because your amplification needs/options will vary greatly depending on this. They also sound very different and have different amplification requirements, so I would start by making that decision and then it becomes much easier (and more productive) to figure the rest of the stuff out. Best of luck.
I am just so worried about weak bass with tube gear, hence the confusion about using "all tube set up" but i havent heard VAC enough or lived with them - infact i've only heard their preamp, i listen to a lot of weighty stuff (but not techno or anything like that) - lots of film scores which have everything interwoven
If you are referring to deep bass extension, I'd be more concerned about the speakers than the amplifier. My impression is that the Orangutan is the only one of the speakers mentioned which will extend significantly into the bottom octave.

You might also want to consider the Daedalus Ulysses, which is rated to 28 Hz, and which several members here, myself included, have paired with VAC amplification with excellent results. It costs a few thousand dollars more than the Orangutan, but its 98 db efficiency means that you most likely wouldn't need anything near the 100W power capability of the Phi 200, and you could consider purchasing one of the older and lower powered Renaissance series 300B-based amplifiers used, at far lower cost. I'd feel certain that those amplifiers would also do fine with the Orangutan. Search posts by Audiogon member "Raquel" for lots of good info on the Renaissance amplifiers.

Best of luck, however you decide to proceed.

-- Al
I really enjoyed my Verity Audio Parsifal Encore's with my VAC preamp/amp. As I stated earlier, I haven't heard either the Harbeth SHL5 [or] Devore Fidelity The Nines.
Group #1 gets my vote! I would also consider a Coincident-Super Victory 2 loudspeaker.
Wow, VAC indeed is getting a lot of love, i guess something which as classic as VAC is always timeless - yes, i do lean more towards planars say magnepan 1.7 but that have to be teamed with solid state high powered amp like Pass Labs X60.5 Monoblocks ( minimum) and possibly combined with Modwright LS36.5 DM for that tube warmth - again i do not know if Pass Xp-20 is better, all i know i do like tubes a lot except for the lack of weighty bottom end (forgive my limited expressions) as i am still a novice!

Theres also a possibility of a match-matched impedance between Modwright
and Pass - with the VAC synergy is abundant and i have no qualms.

Yes, i must also consider other speakers other than Harbeth,Devore Fidelity and Magnepan but auditions are difficult to get to for others.

But all said and done, deep inside i know, i want a VAC but am not too sure if it can play "A.R.Rahman" well - :)

Due to work situation and finances , i lack the time or resources for frequent updates of my system - this system here will have to be the one i will take into the grave, and in that grave i have lots of different types of music from A.R.Rahman to Miles Davis to Shostakovich.
Theres also a possibility of a mis-matched impedance between Modwright and Pass.
That would not be a problem, at least with the LS 36.5. The LS 36.5 has transformer coupled outputs, which provide a very low output impedance and do not have the substantial output impedance rise at deep bass frequencies that is common among tube preamps having capacitively coupled outputs.

See this post by Dan Wright of Modwright.

I have no knowledge as to whether or not the same holds true for the LS 100, though.

Nevertheless, as I indicated earlier my vote is for VAC, with a suitably paired speaker that will give you the kind of bass reproduction you are looking for.

-- Al
Group 2 with a monkey wrench in your plans.

Swap the preamp for the Classe CP-800 (which has a DAC built in, including USB), and most importantly, it handles bass management like a champ.

Next - add in two JL Audio F110 subs (instead of upgrading from the xa60.5 to the can always do that later if you so desire, but the xa60.5's I heard have PLENTY of power).

I have owned the Maggie 1.7,s, I currently own the JL Audio F110's and the Classe CP-800....I have heard the Pass xa60.5 and LOVED much so that I am buying the xa160.5' I know of what I speak!

Forget the tube pre...the Pass amps will provide all the warmth and detail you need. The JL Audio F110's will round out the bottom end BEAUTIFULLY on the Maggies and the CP-800 will allow you to control everything - connecting up to two stereo subs, setting the crossover points, allowing you to use its DAC and so much more.

You should be able to negotiate hard on some of the prices. I paid $1400 each for my JL Audio F110's (new), $3400 for my CP-800 (new). Not sure of the cost of the Maggies or Pass xa60.5....but try to get 20-25 points off. Hope this helps.

Lastly, if you find yourself getting heavy into vinyl down the road, you can always add a separate phono stage later. However, digital is definitely the way to go with the setup described. Run a Mac Mini with all your CD's ripped to Apple Lossless, download some high res tracks from HD Tracks, add in a program like Audirvana + with iTunes, connect the Mac Mini USB to the USB on the CP-800, and control everything from your ipad (using Apple Remote). Sit back and soak it the tunes!

NOW you have a setup that will rock!


P.S. Classe is coming out with a software update for the CP-800 which will give it some additional functionality including AirPlay, etc. This may or may not matter....but just thought I would pass it along. See John Atkinson's review of the CP-800 in Stereophile if you don't believe me! :)
As others have advised choose your speakers first. In general terms if I opted for Maggies I would look for a high powered SS amp of at least 200wpc @8ohms that doubled that power into 4ohms.

If I were putting a system together for myself I would choose the Leben intergrated and my speaker choice would be either the M-Lore, Lore, or Pendragon (all from Tekton Design) depending on budget and room size.
I am not sure I would go with systems listed per OP. For example, I would probably go with the Devore loudspeakers, but if you want them to sound right (especially to play bass right) transistors are not a good idea. They are very tube friendly, and most transistor amps will overdamp the speaker, resulting in some punch but no definition or real impact.

You also don't need a great amount of power with that speaker. So you will have a lot of flexibility with the tube amp used.
Thannks guys i am reading all of your posts with much enthusiasm, any other speaker recommendation for the VAC gear - budget is around 4.5-5K.
and i am quite intrigued that - pass labs is getting no love at at all lol..
Pass Labs is very good gear......for solid state. Tubes give the music that "fuzz on the peach" quality that solid state cannot replicate, IMHO.
11-13-12: Thegoodarcher
and i am quite intrigued that - pass labs is getting no love at at all lol..
Thegoodarcher (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
From my experience, one is not better than the other but different. You can't go wrong with either. You can always go Vac pre and Pass amp. Tube amps do require more maintenance and cost per watt is higher.

Another reason I like Vac is they are built for real world applications. Amps can drive real world speakers and pre with low output impedance can drive virtual any amp you will ever own.
Mbovaird Thank you for your long and detailed response, really appreciate it.
I am quite really, not a subwoofer guy - i usually leave the music and tend to fiddle with the subwoofer in the middle of a track which takes away, the whole point of kicking back and listening to music, so woofers are not for me.

I rather look for something full range which handles bass well.

Quite frankly, i've tried classes before and always found them to be somewhat far the DAC goes ; i just bought a M2Tech Vaughan Super DAC (USD 7999) - i believe is right and and is ready fit for any matchup

The Vaughan DAC is fed by I2S connection via a HiFace Evo with Evo Supply.

So really not looking for any DAC at the moment.
For a Phonostage i have a Softone Model 4 from a Japanese Manufacturer,
which does everything right, so i do not need to walk down that avenue i believe at least for some time.
The goodarcher,
What type of sound/music reproduction do you really want?
The Pass Maggie combo is quite different from VAC with Devore. I doubt you`d like such different systems equally.

All VAC with full range Devore is getting many votes for a reason. Pass is a very good SS amp but if won`t duplicate a good tube power amp(nor will the tube amp mimic the Pass) if in fact that`s what you desire. They`re two different camps for sure.Warm SS amp does`nt = organic tube sound.Which one appeals to you more?
Dear Charles1dad,
Thank you for your reply, as a music lover - hands down - i do and always will prefer the sound of the valves - to me right now : it has not come down to Tube or Solid State its not even an even fight ; tubes have that rich intricacies that solid state just cannot offer, but some i believe like pass labs comes pretty close.

The reason, in my choices - i have partnered Pass Labs Amplifier with the Modwright LS36.5 (a tube based design)

The thing that worries me most, is the inability of most "tube amp" designs to translate modern music, such as film scores which has everything mixed in (sometimes even techno meets classical) as in some of Ryiuchi Sakamoto's work, but i can be so wrong - as my tube experience has only been through
a few amplifiers (The Rogue Cronus Magnum - being the closest champ) even
vs amplifiers costing 2x or 3x more.

I wish there was a dealer where i am, where i can experience VAC in its full effect, but alas - i had to go to a friends place to listen to the preamp, theres no dealer in my country, but i have spoken to a distributor who off late was seen carrying Pass Labs in their show, I've asked this guys to approach VAC, and i just have to see where it leads me to, for this reasons i have to be very
"Sure" when placing the order ; thats where good guys like you come in to advice, a country like India is a bad place for hifi, i hope new companies that have venture in open more up-to-date showroom with multiple system combination.
A vote for 4. On my hearing the Devore O93 and 096 sounded a lot better than the (good) Nines. For a few grand cheaper, I think the 93 a better value proposition than the 96.

At RMAF, John D. told me the low watt Pass class A made a good match with his boxes.

Why a Modwright pre instead of a matching pass?

Good troubles to have, do you.

I understand your circumstances and dilemma more clearly. In your case and given your desires, the Pass amp could be best for you(hard to say without actually hearing all this stuff).
I have a lot of experience with VAC components so I`m confident in suggesting them(with a tube friendly speaker). IMO this combination will play any and everything very well.It won`t do SS type bass'slam' if that is what you seek(you`ll get beautiful tube bass instead).Which do you prefer? Rogue is decent tube gear and value. However, VAC is simply on a higher sonic plane(and should be for the cost premium).

You`d likely be happy with any of the system choices you listed.
Best of Luck,
GoodArcher - you will not get the bass response with the 1.7's. I've owned them. They need subs. Failing that, look at other speakers (some in your list are good) which will give you full range. It sounds like you have some incredible gear already, so why 1.7's?

Other options - based on your music preference, what about a pair of Sonus Faber Stradivari's? There's a mint condition used pair floating around for $24Kish from a guy in North Carolina (I actually know him...he's a good guy). Strads are my current speakers and I think I'm done shopping for speakers. What about a pair of Sonus Faber Futuras?

If your budget can't handle these options, then there are plenty of great speakers like the Triton two's/three's in a much lower price point.

A pair of used Revel Salon 2's is another option (in the $10K range). I've also owned these speakers, and they are incredible for the money. But they require GOBS of power. 750 watts into 4 ohms minimum. They really sing once you get over 1000 watts into 4 ohms (Bryston 28BSST2).

Devore and Harbeth are good speakers too (not my first picks, but good!). Did you get to RMAF this year or did you hear these at a dealer?

Anyway - I'm sure you already have a good idea of what you're looking for.

Let me give you another idea (and just to further confuse you!) - Sonus Faber Anniversarios (there is a good looking pair for sale here on AG). Add in a pair of mint used McIntosh 2301's (call Mike at Audio Classics and mention my name). Add in a McIntosh 2300 Preamp (or C500T if your budget will allow). This would be a glorious sounding system IMO!

I used Audikinesis Jazz Modules with my VAC setup. Kevin Hayes uses Kingsound speakers. I believe he paired the Phi 200 with them at one of the past RMAF shows. You could email him and ask for speaker suggestions. He is a great guy to deal with.
My dealer in India, is approaching VAC - they are a very reputable company, and hopefully, they get the VAC in-fact and i am placing an opening order of their VAC Phi 200 and the Entry level Rennaisance Preamp MK3 after hearing the comments from you guys - hopefully they get this in - if their deal doesn't get through i'll take the XP60.5 Class A from Pass Labs from them and combine it with a tube amp so, i have the best of both worlds - in which case Modwright Ls36.5 or Aesthetix Calypso see..clearly plunging into a complete SS system sounds rather stale hence not the XP Preamp from Pass - ill be missing the glow of the tubes.
I do not know, if matching the Modwright Ls36.5 or The Calypso with the Pass would work, but i guess it sounds good atleast on paper...

Keeping my fingers crossed for the VAC.
Thanks for all the input Mbovaird, unfortunately, i am in INDIA! - theres a local dealer in Chennai (where i am at ) which carries specialist stuff - other than these guys (who are i think is a Malaysian based company) is the only reputable dealer i can find here, i am envious at the position of many who have access to great used gear, in my situation - i have none.

I called them too many times today lol, to hear about the VAC amps but looks like they haven't heard from from anyone from The Valve Amplication Company (VAC) - If their deal doesnt get through i have two choices.

1.To go with the Pass Labs
2.Go to Malaysia (where i have family, and live there for a bit) and buy and carry back the VAC from whoever the dealer is over there ; but i will really doubt option 2 since electronics are heavily taxed into India and further more
after sales support will be very difficult.

As far as speaker goes, yes you are correct 1.7 is weak, i heard it in my system for a short-while and i just hate using a sub!

I am also leaning towards Tannoy Glenair or Tannoy Turnberry (Anyone heard this before with Pass Gear or VAC or even Aesthetix Gear???)

I am just going bonkers, with no music!
Hey Guys just to keep you guys updated - VAC did not get back to my dealer, so that chapter is closed! looksl like i must lean towards a solid state/tube combo.

although pretty frustrating indeed, after taking of your input matching with the type of stuff i have access to, i've indeed come down to one out of these two choices :

Choice 1

Pass Labs XA60.5 Class A Monoblocks
Atma Spere M1 (Dual Chasis Tube Preamp)
Tannoy Turnberry / Tannoy Glenair 15 /Devore Fidelity Gibbons 10 or (X)
or PMC OB1i

Choice 2
Manley 250 Tube Monoblock
Atma Spere M1 (Dual Chasis Tube Preamp)
Tannoy Turnberry / Tannoy Turnberry Glenair 15 or PMC OB1i

On paper, i do prefer the much for expensive Choice No.2 but in reality, it seems like theres just too much tubes! if i were to swap Atma Spere with
Manley 300B RC Preamp which has lesser tubes (and cheaper unit too) it does
not have balanced connection) which i need for the long run of cable that needs to be run (balanced )from my dac to the preamp.

For speakers, i realize, i do not have much experience with many speakers
except for Tannoys,Devores and 1 PMC which i heard.

I am going to list the type of music i listen to so you pundits here can tell me
which is a more apt system, i listen to everything from soundtracks to rap to electronica,world music and jazz.

My music choices
1.A.R.Rahman (Indian Music / World Music)
2.Thaman S (Indian Music)
3.Chano Dominguez ( Flamenco / Jazz)
4.Trilok Gurtu ( World Music)
5.Joe Henderson (Jazz)
6.Dave Brubeck (Jazz)
7.Adrian Shwerwood (Electronica)
8.Funkadelic (Rock / Funk)
9.Concerto for Shakukachi (Classical)
10.Bela Fleck (Bluegrass / Jazz)
11.Guiseppe Tartini (Classical)

As you can see- varied seems like a shy word..
Thank you for your time, and am really pining my hopes on those who are in the know.
sorry for the typos and alienated english - meant to say, under Choice 2
Tannoy Gleanair 15 / Tannoy Turnberry / or PMC Obli - sorry for the typos and erroneous phrases.
"A pair of used Revel Salon 2's is another option (in the $10K range). I've also owned these speakers, and they are incredible for the money. But they require GOBS of power. 750 watts into 4 ohms minimum. They really sing once you get over 1000 watts into 4 ohms (Bryston 28BSST2)."

A minimum 750 watts into 4 ohms overstates Salon 2 requirements, IMO. In my reasonably large approx. 6000 s.f. room with a 17.5' vaulted ceiling, a Plinius SB-301 that output around 470 watts per channel into 4 ohms played them to concert levels with no problem at all. As do my current Symphonic Line Kraft 250 monos (that actually play quite a bit louder than the Plinius did, notwithstanding the putative 250 watts designation).

The key to driving them is to use fast high-current amplification. Although the Kraft 250s are even better, the Plinius was very good in this regard - the only reason I switched to the Kraft 250s was because I got an insane deal on an essentially new pair of the Kraft 250s and couldn't pass up world-class monos at that price.

I wouldn't want to use less than say 200 wpc with them (which would disqualify most tube power amps), but they don't need KW amps to drive them either.
Are you serious? Have you owned these speakers? I have. If you don't own these, then stop spreading misinformation. The Salon 2's demand MASSIVE amounts of power. I had 1.2kws on them, and it was "proper". My previous 600 watt amp was suffocating.
If you'd bothered to look at my virtual system you'd see that I do in fact own them. And sorry, but you're about the only person I've ever seen on here who claims that kilowatt amplification is absolutely necessary to drive them.
Group 1... VAC with Harbeth.
Go with group one.
I am curious. Why would you not consider an Atma-Sphere amp, such as the M-60 monoblocks, to go with the MP-1 preamp?

Also, perhaps you should try contacting VAC directly and encourage them to contact your dealer. Seems strange VAC did not respond to their inquiry.
Don't waste your time and money. Go the Leben harbeth combo.

Just heard my friends Harbeth SHL5 with the Leben Cs600.

Never heard better synergy in my life!!!!!

Just music.
Another idea. Pathos InPower monoblocks are excellent choice. 80W pure A Class hybrid INPOL design. Very warm, tube like sound with excellent bass control. Also they look amazing, Italian design. I paired them with Emotive Sira moded tube pre. Best sound wich I heared for sure. Hopefully you have Pathos dealer.
Sorry fellows, i really dont know how the Revel speaker topic got twisted here, as if you have would have read my posts - i have access to limited stuff.

I am going with the PASS AMPS, dealer just signed them in they say that it will take 1-2 months more for them to get the complete pass range in as they need to sample of the higher end ones, but i paid my advance and asked them to get mine in as fast as possible, theres no way iam waiting 1-2 more without any music..lets see..

as far as VAC goes - they seem very disinterested, my dealer says usually companies reply even if they are not keen, but VAC didnt even bother, so be it.

If my dealer gets me a discount i might even jump on the XA100.5 and for sometime will use my dac's preamp to connect directly to the power amp, as far as why not atma sphere amp - i have only access to a used m1 here in India, and on top of that - so many tubes scare the shit out of me - what if they explode and burn down the house!