I think the Sttaf speakers powered by something like the 32 wpc EL34 Ars Sonum Filarmonia sold by Bobby P., owner of Merlin Music Systems, or the PrimaLuna Prologue II might be excellent matches.
Different price levels.
Different price levels.
The biggest issue that you will face is power. The Sttaff is rated at 88 db; in my room of 17'x 22' that means I'll need 250 watts the way I play things...
A speaker that will be a lot easier to play and is easy on the budget is the Decware full range- it is 97 db so you would only need about 25 watts to do the same job. Now the price tag that you want to pay is a little more realistic.
Tubes in general offer smoother sound with more detail, but to win that sound from the amp, its best to keep the impedance up (8 ohms or more) and the efficiency up too.
The Totem will sound fine with a 35 watt tube amp, but its not going to play very loud!
Jolida SJ 801-A (about 70w per channel-I think) used, might be in your budget. Very, very good peace and you can bring its performance even farther with a little modding letter.
Check out Jolida stuff......pick what fits you the best and start the hunt.
If I was you I would look for hybrid. TVAD and Atmasphere are absolutely right. Speakers with 88db rating aren't easy to drive. To get the best out of them you will need a min. 50-60 watts. Anything less will correspond to degradation of lo-level detail, dynamics and overall resolution/presentation. Choose wisely.
Isn't the sttaf one of the warmer sounding speakers in the Totem line up...if it is then try it first with what you have at home and see how you get along with it.
If after some listening in your room you find it is sounds to thin (especially in the bass) and you would prefer something more lush sounding then, only at that point, would I consider tubes. The advantage with AudiogoN is that you could try it (used) and then resell if you found it was not an imprvement for your setup.
Most Tubes in your price range tend to add warmth and coloration primarily due to the output transformer coupling with the speaker impedance (forms a kind of filter or tone control) => this is excellent and often produces a highly desirable effect => you need to want or like this nice sound and there can be too much of a good thing so it will depend on the speaker and your tastes too. Furthermore, in your price range you will surely be lacking in power or oomph in a tube amp with this speaker.
The exception would be OTL Tube design of course (no transformer) => these will add no coloration at all and will be highly accurate (and very low distortion) but I doubt this would be anywhere close to your price range simply because of the amount of materials (parallel tubes) involved, which greatly adds to the cost.
Another voice to agree with the first three posts, especially Atmaspheres. I have heard smaller Totem floorstanders sounding very good but they were in a small room and driven by SimAudio solid-state gear which delivered considerable current.
You didnt do so badly. You chose a speaker just because you liked itnothing wrong with that. If you are set on tubes, maybe you should just go for the highest-power tube amp you can afford and live with it for a while. Depending on the size of your room, you may not be able to fill it with sound. In that case you can listen in the near field, with your chair placed at one point of an equilateral triangle whose other two points are the speakers.
If you get to wondering later what an amp upgrade would do for the Totems, I can say that Ive heard them do very well with Conrad-Johnson tube gear.
BTW, you mention you have read a posts suggesting that one start with speakers and then find an amp for them. My own approach would be different: ideally, I would choose the very best possible source, then listen to it on a boombox or headphones while I saved for the best-value tube amp I could afford. Then I would choose speakers for that amp, since there are a lot of choices around in speakers.
Different strokes, FWIW... and anyway, things dont always work out the way you plan. You could chance on a pair of speakers you loved and have to build backwards :o) . That can work just as well.
Djh, my advice would be to try the Pioneer and if you are to make a change after that you should make the electronics (amp etc.) that were paired with the dealer's Staffs your first stop. I think it is a mistake to think that we can adquately judge speakers in isolation and the sound you heard was in large part also due to the amplifier. If the amp being used was too costly then see if that brand has a cheaper alternative that will have a similar sound and enough power to drive them in your room. Furthermore, I would proceed very cautiously into tube amplification on a budget of $500. You will need power (WPC) and you will need to hear several to get your bearings on what they offer you sonically.
First - no need to defend choosing the Sttafs. They're fantastic. I had Sttafs for ~ 2 years, and when upgraded to Mani-2s I still hated to part with the Staffs. Only after watching them collect dust did I sell them. Choosing speakers first then power is IMHO best.
You didn't mention your room size, and this may be important in considering the amp. The Sttafs will do better in a smaller room, and if your room isn't cavernous I think a ~30 wpc amp will do nicely. I normally powered mine with a SS amps, and experimented with many rated from 80 w/c to 200, but when I upgraded, I had them connected for a while to a vintage Fisher integrated rated at 30 w/c and was amazed how well the combo worked, and sounded. This was in a room that's 16x16 with low ceilings. It was plenty loud, but this is a relative statement. If you heard the Sttafs before your purchase, you must have been satisfied with the volume, but even with 250 w/c they DO NOT play loud in the sense hard rock fans define it. Aside from this I found them easy to drive - they liked any amp I connected them to.
If your room is modest size, you should do fine with the ~32 w/c amps recommended above, but if larger you may want to go with something a little more powerful (~70+ w/c).
I've heard the Sttaffs and like thme. I am always impressed with the sound Totem gets in a relativiley small packege and for a nice price.
I think you can do fine with a tube amp of 30wpc or more. A SS amp wil do fine also, but I'd do at least 50-100 wpc for that combination. As always, different SS amps will sound better or worse with your Totems, different tube amps will sound better or worse as well. The odd part is, you never quite know until you try them with your speakers in your room with your material whether or not they'll sound good to you.
If you buy used you can always get most or all of your money back to try something else without much financial loss.
Hey, thanks for the input. Obviously, I've got a lot to learn so I'll be reading these responses over and over. Spent the whole night listening to the Sttafs. Just a real treat, even with the old amp! I can only imagine what a modern amp and a good set of wires will do. My ears opened up when I played the first album I bought when I purchased my first stereo (HPM 60 speakers, Kenwood receiver, and a Duel turntable) - Dire Straits, Sultans of Swing. Funny, it felt like I was a teenager sitting in my bedroom again. The LP sounded just as warm and inviting as I remember. Kool!
I will probably keep my old Pioneer amp for a little while. I may eventually pick up a new SS integrated amp (perhaps a NAD). I really would like to experiment with the tubes though. My living room is 16x15x8' tall. Cozy enough for a lower wattage tube amp I think. I'm going to take my time exploring my options and learning more about tubes, wattages, amps, and impedances. I'll also keep my eyes on the used ads for some of the brands mentioned above.
Thanks again for your input.
I've found just the amp for you on A'gon - a TAD-60 (I have owned them) which can be used as an integrated amp with one input - has a volume control. The sound, with EL 34 tubes, is tremendous. It's reliable, easy to use and is a real tube amp. Parts Chinese, designer and assembler, American. Bizzybee.com (Paul Grzybek is the nicest guy to deal with). $750 obo on A'gon now. ($1500 new)
djh, if you're serious about a tube amp and can find the $ for the TAD, or a similar amp with volume control w/i your budget, here's an option: Use your Pioneer as a switch for your CD, Tuner, Phono. Connect the power amp to the Tape output of the Pioneer, and use the volume control on the power amp.
This is hardly an ideal rig, but accomplishes a couple of things -
1) bypasses much the preamp section of the pioneer sending the cleanest output to the amp. It will sound very nice.
2) gets you a better amp for your budget, and a better upgrade platform when you're ready to go to a separate preamp.
The other option to consider is a tube preamp with a SS power amp. You may be able to find a combination used in your budget range.
Finally - there's a lot of great used SS gear that may kill anything tube in this price range, and give you a very satisfying rig until you're ready for the next step. You may be able to get most of your investment back on resale that way. Also, you'll increase your options if you consider separate pre & power amps in addition to integrated amps
Djh, give Totem a call and ask them what amps they recommend.
I use 88db sensitive speaker with a 12wpc SE tube amp, but my speakers are designed to be used with tube amps and have both a high nominal impedance and a benign impedance curve.
Many speakers are not suitable for use with tube amps and to do so may lead you to dislike both your speakers and the tube amp you select.
You know what Pauly? That's probably the best thing for me to do. My heads swimming in all of this jargon. And it may be for naught. Now I will be VERY dissappointed if I'm advised not to use tubed amps. I so want to hear what the fuss is about. Perhaps I should have called BEFORE I bought the Sttafs. But they are sooo cute and sounded sooo nice;-) Too late now. I'll make the call and take it from there.
Surely I can at least plug in a tubed pre-amp! I'll make the call.
Thanks to all for the kind advise. Kept me busy searching the web's dictionaries and all the used amp sites. It's fun but I think my wife's on to me...