Congratulations, you have an excellent foundation for a superb system.You can`t go wrong with the big Tannoy driven by that beautiful sounding Viva 845 tubed amplifier.
I`m bias towards a top quality tube preamp but why not try both tube and solid state and just listen? With your fine amp-speaker duo it won`t take long to sort out what sounds best to you.
Fantastic speakers! One good preamp choice is the Canary C900 four-chassis monoblock preamp, comprised of two power supplies and two preamps. Works especially well with complex symphonic and choral music.
Tannoys are pretty flexible. I think your on the right track with the Viva's.
I don't think ARC would be my first choice for pre amp.
I used electrostats pretty much exclusively from around 1973, until I switched to horns (Avantgardes) in around 2006. The amp change sounds right to me; on the preamp, I think it's all about synergy, why not try the Ref 5 for a while, and see how it works? It sure isn't a bad place to start and I gather that the upgrade for the Ref 5 is sonically worthwhile. Once you settle in with your new system, and get set-up nailed, you can easily experiment with a few other line stages, and you are not forced to evaluate too many variables at once. Just curious why you are contemplating a solid state line stage in the first place (not that there is anything wrong with that :)). And, what phono stage will you be using?
Hi Whart - I am hearing something that smacks of IM. It may just be a tube in the REF 5. The tubes are <200 hours old. I'm adjusting to the difference in sound reproduction. To me, the sound of electro-statics are forward in the soundstage. My impression of the Westminister speakers is the sound is 'pushed back' (?) further. My experience with ES speakers is the need for big powerful amps with tubes somewhere in the food chain - like tube pre-amps. The thought came to me that maybe Westministers are the reverse, optimizing with tube amps and solid-state pre-amps. I really don't know what to expect with the big Tannoys.
Wylmars - I own have owned Tannoy's for 20 years. I use tube preamp with solid state power amp. I would suggest you try some alternatives out - do not assume anything. The Tannoys are very revealing of amplifiers, many highly regarded amps both tube and solid state have been seen off by "lesser" amps in my experience. The less forward presentation you describe is the Tannoy 15" sound with most amps. Personally I only use tube preamps but dont mind solid state or tubes for power amps provided they are transparent and maintain excellent timing and coherence with the chosen speaker.
First off, I congratulate you on your Westminister Royals. While I have never had the chance to hear the Royals, I have been using Tannoys since 1971. My first pair were 12" Monitor Golds, back in 1971, and most recently, HPD 315's (12" Dual Concentric, ca 1975), which have been optimized with custom cabinets, crossovers, and woofers upgraded to the current Prestige "Hard Edge" surrounds.
I have used various combinations of preamps/amplifiers, most recently a transformer-based passive line stage, in conjunction with either a VAC PA 35.35, (a push-pull EL 34 amp that has had factory upgrades), and a Plinus SA 100 MKIII amp.
I find the VAC much better paired with the Tannoys than the solid state Plinius.
I point this information out to show that Tannoys can be used successfully with many different combinations of preamps/power amps. You pretty much have to work at it, to have an unsatisfactory result.
Dover's advice is on the money. Enjoy trying out different combos until you find what best suits you. You will be in store for many, many, years of musical bliss.
Best regards, and enjoy,
I am a dealer for Tannoy speakers as well as deHavilland Electronics. I would be remiss if I did not recommend highly the deHavilland Mercury 3. You can purchase directly from the manufacture in Vancouver Washington.......or me.
I want to thank you all for your advice and comments. Regarding Whart's question about a phono-stage, I am considering the ARC REF2 SE. Jburidan's Cary C900 comments has also piqued my interest. And Lokie's hint that ARC might not be a first choice linestage has also caught my attention. Dover's comment regarding Tannoy 15" soundstage sound with most amps is intriquing. The adjective "most" is leading me to believe certain amps used with the Tannoy might pull the soundstage "forward"? I'm certain you have all detected my bias toward ARC. That may change with the Westminister speakers and your comments. All of your comments are most helpful ... thanks to all of you.
Wylmars, please note that it's Canary C900, not Cary.
Jburidan ... Ops, I knew it was Canary C900, not Cary, but my fingers typed Cary ignoring my brain. I am reviewing the online material regarding Canary C900. Thanks for your help.
Sounds Real Audio ... I will look at the online material for deHavilland Electronics. I am not familiar with the deHavilland Mercury 3. Thank you for alerting me to the deHavilland equipment.
Although considerably more efficient than ESLs, the Westminsters are what I would call 'moderately high' efficiency- which means you will need some power to show them off.
20 watts will not do it unless you have a smaller room. I recommend a bit more; 50 watts is a good minimum. OTOH you don't need a huge power amp; with 50-60 watts I imagine you can shake the building and not clip the amps, which is the ideal situation.
The speaker is very tube-friendly so you have a wide range of amps to try. However as pointed out it is also very revealing, stick with a tube preamp too!
Atmasphere ... The power requirement (50-60 watts) is a concern, as is the tube pre-amp question. Your advice, then, is tubes on both the amp and pre-amp?
Well our stuff works fine with the Westminsters! But any tube amp that can make 50-80 watts should work fine also. If I were you I would look for one that is zero feedback as it will sound smoother, and triode is nice for the same reason (less distortion).
At power levels like this, SETs have trouble making bass but the Westminster does not. Something to think about. Push-pull triode amps are out there but they are not particularly common. But the Westminster isn't either- IMO it is worth the search.
Now if you had about 6-10 db more efficiency then an SET would be a nice alternative. But I am of the opinion that if you **really** want to hear what an SET does, you really do need efficient speakers. Others do not agree, so I will characterize my position as 'conservative'. I don't like distortion as the ear treats it as coloration which is what I hear in a lot of SET installations (I don't hear that so much if the speaker is really efficient though). Most SETs will distort at the levels it sounds like you need with this speaker. So I recommend something that can do the power without strain.
Now another alternative would be an ultra-linear amplifier if you could find one that has a properly designed output transformer. But from what I have seen of most of them the ultra-linear taps on the transformer are not in the right place to really take advantage of the effect. This is likely because of the legacy of the ultra-linear patent; manufacturers got around the patent by misplacing the tap slightly, but they also lost the triode linearity that comes with the right tap position on the transformer's winding. This is why you read so much disparate comments about ultra-linear operation!
I respect the opinions of Atmasphere but we all have our own experiences.Sure,by all means try an amp like he suggests, but please give that Viva SET a good listen with your music and form your impression.IMO that wonderful sounding 845 amp will just sing with your Tannoys.There`s only one way to really know,listen.
Who owns the ultra-linear patent?