I bought a new Cary SLI-80 to use with my custom Altec 604 based speakers, and have come to the realization that tubes aren’t for me. I’m sure experimenting with different tubes and such might make a difference, but I have to say I really miss my solid state electronics.
I plan to put the SLI-80 up for sale shortly, but before I do so, I’d be interested in some recommendations regarding a solid state replacement. I could go back to an amp/pre combination, or perhaps even a solid state integrated. The only absolute requirement is remote volume control, and I would prefer something in the 100wpc range or higher. I realize the efficiency of these drivers, but I’ve always found that there’s a benefit to having substantial headroom.
Any suggestions would be most appreciated. I'm not sure what the Cary SLI-80 is worth (has about 10 hours of use, and a custom dark blue laquer case), but I'd like to keep it so the "exchange" would be break-even at worst.
With only ten hours of use, you've hardly given your current set up a chance. Why don't you try listening to your system for a while, see what you like, or don't like, and then try to figure out what you want instead of looking for "spec power" that you won't even use. Is it possible that something is awry with the speakers you are using, are you a "big bass ball" afficionado, or is the "warm up time" really too much to bear? Maybe it is the upstream electronics that you are not happy with. Your currrent system should really excel in some areas and you should be well aware of them before you are so quick to trade them away. Just my 2 cents worth (if you are looking for solid state and your mind is made up, my YBA Integra DT that I use in my bedroom system is nice, clean sounding, and plenty powerful enough to drive my Martin Logan SL 3's, if you can find one, you may want to give that a listen), FWIW, just give it a little more time is my advise. You may be pleasently suprised with how your current system sounds after it has a chance to "grow on you." Happy Listening.
Your amp definately needs more time to break in as do the tubes assuming all is new with no time. Some tube gear and tube can sound dreadufl in the first 100 hours and as mentioned by Plilefreak SS typically needs longer to sound right.
I'm wondering what was wrong (or what were you looking for) with your previous SS amplification that made you go to tube?
The great thing about tubes is that once it is broken in and you have found any synergy issues or room for general improvement you can usually get that by rolling in tubes. With SS you are basically stuck to cabling tweaks etc or speaker rolls !
I believe you mostly a rock listening -phile? I had quite a few listening sessions with John Rutan from Audioconnection store in Verona NJ that carries and truly loves his Cary line of equipment. It really has everything: resolution, dynamics, clarity and presence, holography but doesn't have a speed(slew rate) that requires rock... For tubes IMHO it's only possible for OTL amps that are very expensive >30W/ch. Other than that for SS equipment I would personally like to give a try for wYred4sound integrated unit (wYred4sound.com). I believe that this equipment will be priced more than it's right now and you won't loose a dime using it.
While I can't argue with those who suggest the amp needs break in before switching back to solid state, I can relate to you situation. I tried a tube amp for the first time about a month ago. The sound was fine but my main complaint was how much heat it generated. Before listening I would turn it on for 20-30 minutes to let it warm up. If I stayed in the room it wasn't so noticeable. But if O left to do something else I felt the heat upon entering the room. After a cd or two my room seemed to be 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Just wasn't worth it to me. Honestly, I don't see how others tolerate it. As to your question for recommendations, I have owned quite a few integrateds including Classe, Portal, Audio Refinement and others. My favorite was the Bel Canto eVo2i. Absolutely nothing to complain about. Sonically pure, faultless operation, all the features I wanted and a wonderful remote control. Good luck with your search.
Once again. Try SS power amp with tube pre. I have lived with the combo for decades. SS power amps can be had for not much, but tube pre's with remote aren't cheap. My tube pre does not have remote. I don't know if there is a tube pre, SS power integrated with remote for right price. I know you want power, but the Altecs should have real volume at one watt.
My last set-up was a Parasound A-21 and a Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 (tube hybrid), which I originally had powering Von Schweikert VR-4's.
Many moons ago, I sold my Altec Model 19's, and have missed them ever since. I've gone through Thiel's, Magnepans, Martin Logan's, Legacy's, Von Schweikert's, etc., but none recreated that live environment that the Altec's did.
I bought a pair of Great Plains 604's, built cabinets based on a tested MLTL design, and currently have custom crossover's in the works.
I transitioned to tubes primarily because of the high output impedance, but I have two issues. One, I live in Florida, so no further explanation is necessary! Two, the amplifier sounds slow to me. I listen to quite a bit of jazz, some 80's stuff, and a little classic rock. OK, every now and then I'll throw in Tool or Prong, but that's rare.
There was something about the combination I had before that really made this system come alive. I know 250/wpc on 99db drivers is insane, but it worked. I had hoped the higher output impedance of the tubes would fill in the bass, but I'm now taking care of that via the crossover and some vent adjustments.
I guess I could give some more time. I'm sure the Cary, which I bought brand, spankin' new, isn't going to lose any more value in the next 6 months!
Do you know if your speakers have a smooth impedance curve. They certainly should be loud enough with 2-5 watts, but are they an easy load for tubes? If had 99db and smooth impedance speakers I would consider trying them with some low powered SETs, though not every speaker is a good match. I think Music Reference builds them and with a used passive from Placette (you certainly need no gain for CD)that might be an approach. Then again, you might just not like tubes.
Your Cary should serve you well with the Altec's - If you want more drive or tightness in your system you might try different driver tubes and or speaker cables - maybe your selection leans towards the "warm" side of the spectrum.
I might be worried that an SS amp will make your Altec's a little dry and/or edgy - that of course if you do not end up with a SS design that mimiks a tube amp sound (which would be worst I am afraid).
Thanks again for the responses. I just received the new bass circuit for my XO, so I'm going to experiment further with the Cary. I'm using the stock tubes that came with the unit, so maybe I won't give up on it quite yet.
Seadweller, You should also keep in mind that eficiency ratings are only taken at 1kHz frequency. Bass and speed is what you won't get from Cary. As to 2...5 Watts even onto sub-100db/w/m efficient speakers the amp will only 'see' normally vocal frequencies. As you've mentioned 250w/ch onto 99dB can only increase speed and bass and wouldn't do anything wrong.
There is nothing wrong with going back to solid state. We all eventually settle into what works. For myself and the various types of music I listen to, solid state does it for me, I need the slam & impact it provides but yet I still seek the suttle details, transparency, and 3D sound that tubes seem to excel in. The good news is there are solid state products that come ridiculously close but with the added benefits found in a well designed solid state product.
PHD, which ones come close? examples? I have noticed the same thing, but it also depends on speaker choices and what is front of them. I have heard some solid state gear sound dry and bright and that same gear can sound airy and open and even just the right touch of warmth with different stuff in front or different speakers. I agree that tube preamp is a good practice with solid state amps. There is also hybrid integrated too.
Kclone, your right, the speakers you choose coupled with your taste in music will dictate the type of gear & power requirements you will need and hopefully those particular speakers will lay the foundation for a musically satisfing system. My speakers are large but very efficient and can reveal the most suttle details. On the other hand they can sound excellent with both lower and higher powered amps for more impact. To be honest most all the solid state amps I have thrown at em sound pretty darn good, although a few have excelled in the areas of what most audiophiles seek & want.
One of those ss amps that come to mind and really stood out was the McCormack DNA-1 with a Revision B. This amp is very powerful & transparent but yet refined. It easily trumped the Odyssey Stratos in all areas which is by no means chopped liver either. Another relatively inexpensive ss amp I have been playing with is the Hafler DH500 (mine is the PRO500, same thing). One of the amps it (the DH500) compares to is the stock DNA-1 but with more depth & is slightly more refined than the stock McCormack. Upon insertion I was amazed how this old timer expanded the soundstage both in width and height. I think with a few minor upgrades it can compare to some the best ss amps out there but it definately is not a piece of audiophile jewelery. Got more cash to spend, the Gamut and some of Conrad Johnson solid state amps are excellent. There is not enough time to talk about each individual amp I have tried nor do I have the will.
On preamps, YS Audios remote controlled V2R tube preamp is an amazing sounding preamp even coupled to an ss amp. Unfortunately I sold it and the guy that purchased it told me he had no idea that such a relatively inexpensive tube preamp could sound better than most expensive tube preamps he has tried. Another, the VTL 2.5 offers a big but full sound however it is not tube rectified and depending on the amp it is connected to can be a slight bit grainy on the top end but considering how much it gets right, it represents a killer bargain. B&K PT3 preamp is another major bargain and thought it sounded as good as a stock McCormacks RLD-1 pre at several hundreds of dollars less but a RLD-1 with revision would kill it. I just mentioned a few good bargains.