TRL Dude Dilemna

Based on all the high praise for the TRL Dude preamp here and other sites, I took a chance and bought one from a local A-goner to see if it could displace an Air Tight ATC-2 preamp currently in my system. The two amps I currently use are a McIntosh MC-402 and Viva 845 SET Monos. It turns out that the Dude is not compatible with either amps due to an impedance mismatch. So I only got to hear the Dude in a compromised performance mode.
I was not quite wanting to give up on the Dude yet given everyone else's enthusiasm about its performance. I am considering the Samson monos as a natural match. I can convince myself that the Samson's could be better than the MC402..My real issue is that I would have to give up the Vivas. Not sure I can make the leap that a solid state amp will satisfy me as much as those SET Vivas. Then there is the leap of faith that I cannot hear the Samsons with purchasing them....
Has anyone replaced their SET amp with Samsons and remained satisfied with the decision? My speakers are the Green Mountain Audio Continuum 3 which are about 90db efficient with an impedance 6.5 Ohms, +/- 0.75 Ohms 150Hz to 20kHz. Thanks for your input..
I have the Dude and Sampsons. Are you close to Maryland?
The Viva 845 is an excellent sounding amp, being tubed I would think The input impedance is rather high(50k or higher) and should work with the Dude.
I used the Dude linestage in my system recently and it worked well with my 300b SET amplifier.I`d be very hesitant to let the Viva go.
I would not sell two good amps just to justify the purchase of a preamp. I would not think the Sampson's are capable of matching the SET sound of your Viva 845.

Sell the Dude and consider buying the Aesthetix Calypso listed. Spend $400 on the right NOS tubes and you are set.
The Viva's have an input transformer, and while the designer would not tell me the input impedance...he did say that a pre-amp with a high output impedance would not work well.

I am located in Dallas. I do get to the Baltimore area frequently.
Well if that`s the case it comes down to Viva amp or the Dude. Since you own this wonderful amp I`d search for another preamp. I`ll admit a bias toward superb SET amplifiers compared to SS amps.
Good Luck,
Purchase the new GT160 mono blocks from TRL and be done! They're a smaller version of the GT200 and much less line with the Samsons.
Seems you should always choose your amp to match your speakers first, then find a preamp that works with you amp - just can't imagine taking the approach of making an amp decision on the basis of a preamp - especially if you already have amps you love that work with your speakers - unless you simply enjoy the tinkering and search.
Keep the Viva in my opinion you have one of the best amps out there. I would rather buy the Viva preamp or similar one than give up that beautiful Viva.
Also, have you contacted Paul @ TRL and see if he can change the impedance?
I have been in touch with Paul and he has been very helpful. We talked about using something like Jensen transformers, but he does not like the sound of them. We discussed altering the input impedance of the amps..but when we found out that the Viva has in an input transformer, we ruled that out.
Well you have learned a good lesson. The Mac has a very low input impedance and is a very poor match with the Dude. I own the Dude and have been shopping for the best amp to go with it and my Soundlab speakers.

1.) You want an amp with high input impedance. This is very important with the Dude. Most tube amps will work as well as many SS smps with at least 60k ohms or so input impedance. The higher the better.

2.) The Samson amps are wonderful, but they do NOT sound like tube SET amps. They will not sound like your current SET tube amps. I also owned the Samson amps with the Dude and while I loved the two, I would never mistake the Samson sound for tubes.

I have what I consider a perfect amp for the Dude and one that works very well with most speakers. The Aesthetix Atlas hybrid amp is simply wonderful. It has an input impedance of 475K ohms ! It uses the same 6sn7 input tubes. It has a very silky smooth tube sound with lots of power and ease. It would be a fine amp for your speakers.

I suggest tube or solid state amps with 100k ohms or more of input impedance for the very best results.
What is the input impedance of your Viva amps? Usually tube amps are 100k ohms or so?

I have owned both the Samsons and Mac 402 amps so I know how they differ. The Mac amps sound rather dull and lifeless compared to the Samson amps. I liked the 402, but my point is still accurate. The Samson amps offer improved resolution, detail, imaging and jump factor. The Samson amps also have tighter, more articulate bass. The 402 has a nice big and warm sound. The 402 is like taking a warm bath.

The Samson amps do have the ability to sound intimate like a SET amp, however they don't quite match the body, texture, tone and 3D dimension of a great SET amp. The Samson amps will play music with a greater sense of scale, impact and ease compared to your Viva amps however.
Good points, impedance matching matters.The Dude with my 300b SET was exceptional(once we replaced the 6sn7 tube in the power supply) very dynamic,lively and large scale with good tone. I feel the Viva with the proper speaker pairing would have excellent scale,impact and ease. It did with my 300b Frankenstein(right speaker match), I know it could with the 845 tybe based Viva.

I heard the Viva Verona paired with the Trenner-Friedl(97db efficient)speaker at CES 2010, it was outstanding in all sonic parameters, yes huge life like scale and utter ease and flow.

My point, proper amp-speaker match is crucial, not just how many watts an amplifier may have.
Best Regards,
I have also been thinking about the Atlas. I bought the MC-402 for when I use the system for home theater. It would be awesome if one amp could serve both home theater and two-channel...The Atlas also has the 12V trigger making it
home theater friendly.
I am totally smitten by this Atlas amp. It is very refined sounding and reveals the inner detail of music wonderfully. It has the best tone of any high power amp I have heard. It is not at all forward sounding, but rather more nuanced and in control.

You can buy one used for the same price you sell your 402. The 402 is an awesome amp, but the Atlas may very well be the better choice for your speakers and Dude.

Which Dude do you have? The older style or newer style? One or two 6sn7's per side? Thanks
"12-18-11: Charles1dad

Good points, impedance matching matters.The Dude with my 300b SET was exceptional(once we replaced the 6sn7 tube in the power supply) very dynamic,lively and large scale with good tone."

Did you give me back my original tube Charles? I see a Gold Aero 6SN7 tube in the power supply.
Bug, that was very nice of you to lend out the Dude. Great to see fellow Aphiles being generous with each other and learning.

Charles1dad, just read your comments on the Dude. Glad you liked it and had a chance to compare the two. I think you would agree that the Dude coming in cold after a long car trip and needing to settle into a new system would need more than one day? I have found that any gear I have purchased always has a settling in time into a new system. Usually at least a weekend.

For example, I just purchased a used Aesthetix Atlas amp and thought it sounded very good after coming in out of the cold and warming up for 6 hours of play. The amp however sounds better and different after settling into my system for the past 3 days. To really hear a component you must live with it over several days. This is a good start and fun for sure!

Also, I read above that you changed a tube (6sn7) in the tube regulated power supply. When this is done the power supply regulator voltage changes. That is why Paul has an adjustment pot in the Dude. You would need to once again dial it in for proper voltage operation and sound. I have personally found NOS tubes can differ from new production in the Dude in terms of potentially throwing off the voltage.

Just a couple of thoughts on this quick comparison.
The Dude I have has one 6SN7 per side, but it does have larger caps. It is the newer chassis design.
Someone mentioned Aesthetix gear. I spent a month auditioning a Janus $10k pre loaned to me just for play and it could not hold a candle to the Dude. Try as I might to give it every chance it was clean and clear but not 3 dimensional. And the bass could not even come close to the Dude.

I'll have to have Paul give me instructions to measure the voltage.
Isn't this what a buffer is for? The Burson AB-160 may be worth trying.

Anyway, I'll echo what others have said: I'd get rid of the Dude sooner than I'd abandon SET amplifiers. Although to be fair, I don't know why a different pair of SET amplifiers with a higher impedance wouldn't do the trick.
The Aesthetix Atlas amp is special and compares very well to the best amps out there. The Dude is much better then the Aesthetix preamps I have heard in my system however.
Pete, I returned the Dude exactly the way it was. While in my home jeff and I replaced your 6sn7(power supply) with a Slyvania version( even better we both thought) but then placed yours back in prior to repacking.Pete thanks again for the very generous loan.

Bill, we listened to the Dude over a period of 2 days,I think it was pretty warmed up by then.
The Dude is 'very fine'(it really did sing with the Fankensteins) as I said in my comparison post last week, it really responds to different tubes(we tried some Tungsols in the signal path also).I hope you have an opprotunity to hear the Coincident Statement Linestage one day in your system.
Best Regards,
Charles1dad, I hope to do just that. The more I "play" with gear the more I realize that total system synergy is very, very important. Perhaps I should just fork out the $$ and get TRL tube amps! I would love to hear your system should the opportunity present itself in the future.
Bill, would the TRL tube amps drive your Sound Labs?
If you`re ever visiting near Detroit please let me know.
I live about 25 minutes outside the city limits.
Well yes, TRL makes tube amps that will drive any speaker, but they cost more then my budget will allow. He makes tube amps that put out up to 400 watts per channel and will drive 2 ohm impedances in the highs.

I have two in college and kids must come before amps :-)
My current Atlas amp is very good however and more then I NEED.
Tellefsen, its a nice dilemma to have. I have heard your speakers in the distant past, and from sonic memory, they were fairly neutral. If your sonic bias is already titled towards tubes, a switch to SS may not be wise. Another phile who owns my speakers (Fried Reference) also owns the Viva monos along with a Viva pre-amp and loves them to death. I myself have fiddled with SET amplification (Kora Galaxy, 50W) with the Dude. As expected, it did some things better than the Samsons (in my system), including texture, and sound staging, but the Samsons are so dynamic and bristle with lifelike energy that they made the Kora sound pretty and polite...almost dead.

I think the obvious solution (stated above by Jtwrace) is to get Paul's new GT160s. You will bet the best of both worlds....
One thing I know,the Viva SET amps are`nt 'polite',tame or dead sounding(with the correct speakers). They are vivid,very dynamic and full of energy and presence.
Put any amplifier with the wrong speaker and the results won`t be satisfactory.

The TRL tube amps could be really fine, but push-pull and SET are two different sounds. Telefsen seems to love his Viva,I doubt these two amps sound similar.
It`s hard to make decisions without an audition and direct comparions.
My feeling I would rather have the Viva instead of the TRL tube. I have heard those in the past and they are a little too rich in the mids for my taste. I actually think the Vivas are more accurate than the TRL.
Based on his speakers, TRL tube amplification would be my choice. As for accuracy, that is a loaded term, and one that is not always synonymous with SETs. This is honestly a matter of taste at this point. Audio cooking....ciao.
Hi Agear,
I understand Jwm`s point, that Viva amp can sound very clear,open and transparent without overt coloration. No amplifier type can lay claim to more accuracy than another. Transistors, tubes(PP or SET) Class D etc.all have various degrees of some coloration.

For me it`s impossible to talk about an amp`s performance without factoring in the given speaker with it(can`t seperate the two). The TRL 'could' sound overly warm with one speaker yet near perfect with another, system context is everything.
I agree with the last two comments. That being said, I have a Dude fully balanced tube preamp. It replaced a VERY musical BAT VK51SE.The BAT was fast,transparent,with a very wide sound stage. It was coupled with Krell 650 monoblocks. The Dude was super quiet,dynamic,and made the music just a blast to listen to. It was not long till I realized that the Krells were holding me back. I bought the TRL GT200s. A match made in heaven. I do believe Paul can change the output impeedance to better match you current amp set up!
Charles, I agree. The system matching game is where real skill (and time) is needed. That is what makes the Coincident/Audionote/Shindo whole system approach so appealing.

As I stated above, I know someone who owns my speakers and adores the Viva gear.

I agree Doug. Have Paul adjust the Dude's output impedance!
Wow...thanks for all the good comments. In my fairly tale ending...I find some way to make the Dude and Viva's happy together by getting Paul to adjust the output impedance and then also get a pair of Samsons to replace the MC402......
There you go! Ask and ye shall receive....
I`m glad you`re keeping the Viva and hope that it and the Dude can become compatible audio mates.
Good Luck,
> I find some way to make the Dude and
> Viva's happy together by getting Paul to
> adjust the output impedance

As I was saying, this is what a buffer is for. The Burson comes to mind.
Wilsynet, good point. Duh.

I don't know the sonic pros and cons of that approach. Good question for Paul.
The benefit is that the impedances between the two components will be corrected. The drawback is that the Burson introduces some gain and may introduce unwanted coloration. Hard to tell if it's the dream fix without trying it. Anyway, $550 new, can probably sell it for $400 used. Not a bad experiment given that there seem to be few other options.

My personal opinion: You would be nuts to give up that lovely SET sound. Although perhaps there are other 845 based SET amplifiers that have a higher input impedance.
Tellefsen, how does you speaker behave with the two different amps? And what if anything is missing with the Airtight in the chain?

My speakers are a relatively similar load to yours, and even the more high powered SETs did not have the same "swing" as the Samsons. And this was not due to an input impedance issue as the Kora input impedance was around 81k
The Viva's have a purity to the sound and a "thereness" to the sound that the McIntosh does lack. The Viva's also seem to go deeper in the bass, but lack some control in comparison.
It just is not practical to use them all the time and certainly not for home theatre duty...They give off too much light that washes on my projector screen..not tom mention the heat.
I find myself more transported to the performance with the Viva's...
Understood. Have you ever heard the Vivas on more efficient speakers?
And when you say the Vivas lack control, do you mean the bass is a little loose or bloated?

Another solution would be to have 2 dedicated systems...and the AV side would not, IMO, need to be audiophile grade....something like Onkyo.
That "purity" and "thereness" you mention is very hard for most other types(non SET) of amplifiers to achieve, at lease when compared to the better built SETs.
The trade off is relatively lower power output, but is overcome with the right speaker choice.

The Viva with the Trenner-Friedl RA Box speaker I heard at CES 2010 was ultra dynamic,impactful,energetic and the most close to 'live' like sound at that show. I was there 3 full days and heard many different rooms/systems.

Bass control has much to do with speaker selection for a given amplifier. If I did`nt have my sublime Frankenstein mono amps, the Viva Verona would sure be on my to buy list. You have a very fine amplifier.
Take Care,
Viva La' Vivas!! (long live the Vivas).
Match to them. Good luck
TRL Dude Dilemna
Did the SET amps and did the Dude and OTL and must say they all were stellar. The OTL gave me what the SET lacked. 

For years I could not stand the SS amp sound I heard at shows but was interested in the ASR Emitter amp. Reading the 5 major reviews of this amp I still was not going to trust the positive feedback from the reviewers and buy/try it in my system. SS that does the SET sound. 3D soundstage with a Liquid midrange. Yea right. BS!

Took the hit and bought a used Emitter from a Gon member that is an amp fanatic and has had a zillion amps in system and he 
made very clear the reviews were correct. So In goes the ASR and sure enough this Emitter has been the amp I was looking for for 10 years.

The thought that reviewers talk and write from their A$$ is just not true with this amp.

Dude is gone and so are all the Pre amps and SET amps and OTL amps. The OTL comes close to the Emitter in what it does but living in FL. Way to much heat. So the Emitter is here for a long stay and is the foundation to my system.
by Glory


Sent from my iPhone
As usual it all comes down to what works best for you. People go from tubes to SS amps and viceversa. Taste and systems change and evolve and sometimes can become circular.What ever type componemt makes you happy, go for it.
Charles1dad you are spot on with your last comment. I will also add we Aphiles also change our minds on what we think is "awesome" sounding as time goes by. This is natural and expected.
I think you guys are missing the larger point here (one that is actually pertinent to the OP and cannot be sidestepped by bland philosopical posturing): SS amplification can and does achieve the "purity" and "thereness" of a SET. Gary/Glory has experienced it (Art Audio>Audionote>Atmasphere>Tenor>ASR). I have. SS (I include tube hybrids) amps now exist which produce little to no mechanical edge, no hi frequency fizz, 3D soundstaging and midrange palpability. There is lots to choose from depending on your budget, including Symphonic, Burmester, ASR, Ypsilon, Tenor, TRL, Neodio, Dhartzeel, Sovereign, just to name a few.

Grannyring, I presume this has been your experience as well....
Hi Agear,
I don`t believe any point is being missed at all. The fact of the matter is ultimately each person will choose what thy think is best(within their means).Glory,you and many others find complete satisfaction with SS amplifiers, perfectly understood.

Some other listeners like me have heard many SS amps but simply realize that certain tube amps just have unique qualities that in our opinion elude SS amps(others would dispute this of course) it really is personal.

I`ve heard the elite class of SS amps for example Dartzeel,Vitus,Solution,MBL,Tidal,Technical Brain etc. If I had to choose a SS amp the Dartzeel would likely be it. Yet none of these ultra SS amps do what my SET amp does at the same level(sense of uncanny presence,realism and tone). But hey that`s just one man`s impression,that`s all. There are many who would select any of those SS amps rather than mine, but again not me. I`d never tell someone my ears are better so my choice is right and yours is wrong, makes no sense.

Agear you could hear my system and perhaps not like it much, understood completely. My only point is a simple fact, we all hear differetly and and react emotionally to what our ear-brain axis processes, Thus class D amp for that guy,Otl,SET, or Class A or AB SS for that guy over there, like I said what ever pleases you most.
Best Regards,
Charles1dad well said.