The Best Tube Amplifiers vs Spectron ?


Before I bought Spectron stereo amp for my Watt/Puppy 8 I used McIntosh 2202, excellent tube amp and one of the best I ever owned. However, Spectron was better or even much better in all respects, most interesting - harmonic richness of midrange closely approximated the real music. The key is that this amp need very long time to fully break-in.

Today, I have read the latest Spectron's review (see http://spectronaudio.com/reviews.htm) where reviewer preferred Spectrons over state-of-the-art $50k VTL Siegfrieds!!! Amazingly, he wrote "The Musician III Mk II monoblocks have a crystalline purity in the reproduction of every voice and instrument that sounds more to me like the essence of live, unamplified music -- which I attend, on average, more than once a week year-round -- than any other amplifiers -- at any cost, based on any technology-- that I have ever heard."

I must agree with him (plus with Spectron you have no output tube maintenance, no heat, no huge weight) and I wonder if others have similar experience.

Mike.
michael_moskowich
Hi Michael, not trying to rain on your parade regarding looking for others who believe that the Spectron amps are the "BEST" in the world, however their is no "BEST" of anything in the crazy world of high end audio. You always have to take in consideration system synergy and personnal taste with any specific piece of gear.

I have heard the Spectrons in many different systems, including the author of the review system you mentioned in your post, and have found them quite good, but not head and shoulders above some of the other great SS and tube amps I have listened to. I still have not heard a D amp that impressed me to the point I would be highly motivated to replace my class A SS monoblock amps in my system.
Hi Mike,

I also compared Siegfried against Musician III SE and I posted the details ( http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1180897750&read&keyw&zzspectron ). In brief, from my prospective of cello player, Spectron was more accurate in reproduction of the cello I used to hear all my life.

Teajay, I agree with you that we "...have to take in consideration system synergy and personnal taste.."

Regarding sysem synergy I feel that when we acquire better component it opens previously covered deficiencies and requires further investment.

Regarding the personal taste - many people like overly rich sound like found in many tube gear e.g. older CJ stuff. There is nothing wrong here, absolutely! One likes that one likes! Therefore people must know what they are buying. If I want most realistic acoustic music representation as I hear alive then with my budget, Spectron is the "BEST". If I love "heavenly violin bloom - better then Stradivarius" I will have to choose something else (e.g. TYPICAL single ended triode amp) and its my right too !!!!

All The Best
Rafael
Teejay though I with you, I am withholding my comments for fear of the "Spectron Guards".
F- the Spectron guards. It is what it is. The Spectrons are amazing amplifiers and do some things amazingly well. In the end I preferred the BAT 600 Monos. To me and my ears the Spectrons had a very slight "digital" sound to everything. The BATs were more like a tube amp if you will. Images were better fleshed out and everything sounded more palatable. I also preferred the soundstage of the BATs. It gave me a nice layering and depth that wasn't there with the Spectron. I think the Spectrons are fun and eye opening at first but for me over the long haul I would prefer something different. Yes I am one of the old tube guys that were talked about earlier. I can see what musicians would like about the Spectrons as they are very accurate. To each his own. Enjoy!
Hello Bruceeboy.

There is no need to F- anyone, please. I am interested in your comparison beween Spectrons and BAT 600SE monos. Incidently, I know recording engineer in L.A. who compared both and preferred Spectron, may be again, as you said, he preferred that musician preferred. At any rate , when you said that Spectron has very slight "digital" sound I wonder if you have auditioned them with V-cap [oil/teflon] cap upgrade? BAT600 has similar optional upgarde of oil caps in the power supply for $3k and in monos its $6k. Spectron has its upgrade for $3k for its monos - so may be they should add more oil capacitors...

I am sure we(Spectron owners) will learn something interesting from your reply.

Thank you in advance.

Rafael
Compared against the 'best' tube amps? There are a lot of tube amps out there (more manufacturers in the US now than in 1958). Did you listen to all of them :) ??
Hi Rafael,

My audition was with the MKIII with the V-cap option. The BATs also have all the upgrades. I also preferred Ralph's Atma-Sphere MA-2's over the Spectrons. Again I can't describe it other than to say, to me the BAT's and the Atma-Spheres sound more like real music then the Spectrons. More organic maybe while the Spectron while sweet enough are more sterile sounding. Again personal preferences. Thanks.
It's quite interesting that several posters have found a SS (class D no less) that seems to stand up with some of the top designs. I have heard the Sigfreids on several occasions and found them to be excellent.

But looking over StereoMojo's review, James Darby provides some insight into why one may want to choose this amp, and why in some circumstances, another may be a better choice.

-------------------
FACT A: If you have speakers that are legitimately very efficient with high sensitivity (those specs are dodgy as well), you do not need these amps. Or probably even one of them. Examples are single-horn types or full-range models like those by Coincident which have good sensitivity and benign, amp friendly impendence curves.

FACT B: If you have 100 or 200 wpc amp (specs are tricky here, too!) driving rather inefficient speakers with impendence curves that range all over the place and you listen at moderately loud to loud levels to music other than harpsichord solos in a largish room, you are probably listening to large amount of distortion and/or clipping.
The size of the speaker does not matter. Some small speakers (like Brit monitors) are notoriously hard to drive.
I believe emailist is right on the money. I have a Spectron amp with Gallo 3.1 speakers. Beautiful match. Would I use the Spectron amp with, for example, Wilson speakers...not sure. From what I have read BAT tube amps may be the way to go.

I see many people with planar speakers who love the Spectrons. Must be a good match. Teajay, you might want to check them out in your system.

One other note to Spectron owners. Check out the levitation isolation devices that Simon sells.
" I can see what musicians would like about the Spectrons as they are very accurate. To each his own. Enjoy!"

Thank you Bruce. You are probably right why musicians, recording engineers, speakers designers (at least ones listed on Spectron web site like Gallo and von Schweikert) and other professionals like Spectrons.

I would add only avid concert goers like myself because as Wayne Donnelly so correctly (for my ears) wrote:

"The Musician III Mk II monoblocks have a crystalline purity in the reproduction of every voice and instrument that sounds more to me like the essence of live, unamplified music -- which I attend, on average, more than once a week year-round -- than any other amplifiers -- at any cost, based on any technology-- that I have ever heard."

And in no way I was comparing Spectrons to class A ss amplifiers. I am a (mostly) "toob" man and I always believed that the best tube amp ONLY can approximate the magic and sweetness of real unamplified acoustic music

"......To each his own. Enjoy!" Yes!

Mike
I had the Spectron Musician 3 in my system (with Maggies), and it sounded a bit bright. Maybe I didn't give it enough time to break in before I got rid of it. Also, I had a SS preamp at the time, maybe if I had my current Cary Preamp there would have been a better match. It replaced some Innersound monoblocks there were AMAZING. Fast, tons of bass, and extended highs. With the exception of the current amps I have, the Innersounds (now Sanders Sound) were the best amps I have ever heard with Maggies. Although, the Brystons are great too.

It really is a synergy thing with amps and speakers especially. I was very excited to get some McIntosh 501's a little more than a year ago, and they sounded aweful when I put them in my system. I tried different cables of all types, to no effect. I called McIntosh (great and very helpful) the guys asked what type of speaker I had, then said try them on another speaker to see if there was anything wrong before sending them back.

A buddy has some B&W Nautilus', so I hauled those bad boys over to his house, and hooked them up, and man, his system never sounded so good. In fact, those amps are at his house to this day in a great sounding system.

I guess the point is, between subjectivity in preference, and nuances in differnt equipment, there is never going to be a 'best anything'.

Well except for Magnepan speakers!!
" ...Compared against the 'best' tube amps? There are a lot of tube amps out there. Did you listen to all of them :) ??"

Hello Athmaspere,

No, I did not. However, Wayne Donnelley being so many years music reviewer and audio equipment reviewer probably did enough listening to conclude:

"The Musician III Mk II monoblocks have a crystalline purity in the reproduction of every voice and instrument that sounds more to me like the essence of live, unamplified music -- which I attend, on average, more than once a week year-round -- than any other amplifiers -- at any cost, based on any technology-- that I have ever heard."

All my life I used tube amplifiers and I was surprised that its not only I who found Spectrons so life-like - similar and even better then the limited amount of the best tubes amps I owned and/or auditioned. That's all.

Thank you.

Mike
I have heard the same system with Teajay and he is being incredibly charitable.
Michael, there is no rigorous testing that one needs pass in order to qualify as a audio reviewer. True, they do have more access to equipment than the average audiophile, but in the end, they all bring their own set of values and biases to an audition, just like us. I think that most of those who rely on the opinions of reviewers would be amazed at what some of these guys consider state of the art sound. I also heard that same system as Teajay and Baranyi and, uh, well... the reviewer was a gracious host and seemed to have a pleasant personality.
I do not think that there is a best tube amp or best solid state amp. Any piece of equipment must be carefully integrated into your system and the synergy that many have mentioned must exist in order for you to enjoy the music.

I do know from experience that each one of these technologies are great for what they can do. I also know that modern technology has allowed the envelope of tubes and solid state amps to sound even better then before.

The new Octave mono tube amps, MRE130, which just recently became part of the Dynaudio chain, can drive speakers as low as 2ohms. They are designed with the capability to drive low impedance from the start and with the outboard power rectifying supply upgrade, tube owners will not have to worry about driving "Hard to drive speakers". I know, I have a set of B&W N800's and they sound great, make great music and sound realistic in regards to the portrayal of music with these tube amps. Layering. I have auditioned Mark Levinson, Krell and Burmester, and none offer me the sense of spaciousness on my system that I hear with the Octave MRE130's. Others willl probably have different results and that is the one thing that makes finding the "the best tube amp" versus Spectron hard, there are so many options. You might have just found the best synergy for your system. Great.
Ciao,
Audioquest4life
comparisons between live and recorded music are in valid and hence unreliable. audible memory is very short.

if you want to come close(R) to a maningful comparison, you will have to make a recording yourself in your listening room asnd then substitute amps.

i suspect that amomg serious listeners there will be disagreement as to which amp minimizes inaccuracy. there are many variables entailed in the notion of accuracy and thus such comparisons are dubious, at best.
Michael_moskowich, I doubt that Wayne has heard everything out there either. A lot also depends on the speaker that is used with the amp- if designed for an amp that does *not* double power as impedance is cut in half, you will get tonal anomalies if you use an amp that can. So it gets tricky making a comparison between the two, unless you are working with a speaker that works equally well with tubes or transistors, and you would be surprised at how few fall into that category.

For more info see:

http://www.atma-sphere.com/papers/paradigm_paper2.html
"...comparisons between live and recorded music are in valid and hence unreliable. audible memory is very short."

Rarely, I have read more horses..t then this.

First, SHORT-TERM audible (or other) memory is "very" short, indeed. I took word "very" in quotation because for different people this duration will vary and should be prolonged with training.

Long term audioble memory - the memory that music critic has, that professional musicians have, the memory of recording engineers, the memory of speaker designers like vom Schweikerts and Gallo... is short???? People who work decades and decades in audio environment, environmemt where luck of attention will cost you your job or success or both? These people have....excellent audioble memory. I am NOT saying that each of these people's memory is identical -it would depend on their "internal" ear-brain systems.

Mike asked simple albeit somewhat naive question. Initial critics correctly stated, IMO, that Spectron is not the only one amp "in the desert" (actually, if you like GOOD tube amps, hate weight and hate heat then ...yes, "one in the desert", IMHO only) there are other excellent amps, both solid states and tube. Also - not that many excellent amps around (Athmasphere is one of these few - my hat off to you, sir).

I feel that Brycee has summirized it excellently:
"I can see what musicians would like about the Spectrons as they are very accurate. To each his own. Enjoy!"

So, lets enjoy music "alive" and....re-created.

All The Best
Rafael
i made a suggestion for comparing amplifiers, namely making a recording of a live performance and then comparing the live performance to that which is genenerated by a stereo system,. this is a three part experimenet. live, stereo system with spectron amp and stereo system with some other amp. it would seem that this empirical approach makes more sense than the pronouncement of experts. i still maintain that the multi-dimensional nature of live music makes it difficult to compare live vs a reproduced music.

but i agree that one can select a favorite amplifier and enjoy the music regradless of the inaccuracies.
If your going to this years Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, VMPS is going to be doing a lot of live music in a big room using the RM-60 speakers, several vmps subs, and Atmasphere amps and preamp.

Good chance to do the live vs recorded ear test.

Dave
MrT, that is what we did in the old days to develop our reference system- so we could know what the heck we were up to!
Nothing compares with the H2O. Ask Muralman1 :-)
Eldartford,

That was too funny! :-)

As for the discussion topic...I was lucky enough to get an extended audition of a stock (no upgrades) Spectron Musician 3 MK II SE and compare it to my reference amps (Atma-Sphere MA-1's) on two different sets of speakers:

Vandersteen 5A's

Emerald Physics CS2's

While the Spectron clearly is more green and friendly towards more electricity bill, doesn't have tubes to replace, and can be left on and forgotten, it just didn't click with me in the same way the MA-1's do.

While the Spectron was a very nice amp, I didn't find the top end to be as clean and pure as others have stated. I am not saying that the others are wrong, just that I hear a top end that still is a little grainy and hazzy when compared to the MA-1's.

I agree with what Teejay said...there is no "BEST" amp and I am definitely not replacing my Class A tube mono blocks.

George
Hence, the adage, to each his own.

I did the same A\B using my Cary MB 500 CAD and the Spectron and the Cary stayed.

If the Spectron works for you, great, enjoy it, that is the whole purpose of this hobby.
The current Spectron stereo amp without upgrades is no doubt a very nice amp, particularly for difficult loads. However, comparisons with the best amps out there should be against the Spectron monoblocks with both available upgrades.
Off topic, but I was just reading one of the reviews from the link at the top, and the reviewer has Apogee Stages.

I was a little surprised that the Spectron mono's can't drive the Apogee Scintilla speakers....(they are rated 1400 watts@.5ohms).

We have had two members of the Apogee forum try them...they went into shutdown both times, with repair needed once?

Of course, most amps can't drive the Scintilla.

Dave
"I was a little surprised that the Spectron mono's can't drive the Apogee Scintilla speakers....(they are rated 1400 watts@.5ohms)."

Hello,

If you mentioned Spectron rating then it has 1400 watts into 2 Ohm and not into 0.5Ohm load - to the best of my knowledge.

I know that Spectron stereo would have difficulties to drive Apogee Scintilla but I have no doubr what so ever that two monoblocks can drive these speakers.

I heard about one case then person expected from Spectron monos the same effortless presentation as he had with easier load speakers - of course, he couldn't get it. Next, he switched monos into two stereos and here he had some problems. I would presume that anyone having difficult situation woild call manufacturer for advise first.

Regards
Rafael
Rafael

No, these were the monoblocks. I can point you to the thread at the Apogee forum if you like?

The manufacturer is aware, and was surprised. I think I took that power rating from the review I read, it must be wrong.

No disrespect intended towards the Spectron...most amps won't drive the Scintilla.

Dave