Tube Amp for Magnepan 3.6 - Rogue Zeus/VTL-MB450

Hey Audiogoners,

First post to A-gon and I need your advice! I've researched this site extensively, read thousands of your threads, and purchased good product through you folks. So here goes.....

Bought a used pair of Maggie 3.6Rs -absolutely love them! [Chose over ML Odyssey, Ascent i (also liked), Maggie 1.6] They're accompanied w/Supernal tweeters and an AMC B1-20 sub. I'm upgrading my stack from ss to tubes. Caught the addiction! Having listened to tubes while auditioning e-stats/planars, I've concluded that they just make the sound more "real life" -at least for my taste (go to alot of live shows). I just love that sound!

Also picked up a used VTL 2.5 tube pre-amp along with the 3.6s. Had no prior knowledge of VTL. The 2.5 presents a beautiful large deep soundstage (3D), brings everything to life, sounds tubey -not overly tubey. I've heard some pre-amps I like better (Viva Linea), but at a much higher price point.

So, I want to upgrade two things -Amp and CD


Having had such good experience with VTL, I'm tempted to pick up a used pair of VTL-MB450s (at half list), never having heard them. Also considering Rogue Zeus (used)-listened through modest set of electronics/speakers. The Zeus is so powerful that it actually carried the entire system. Bass is tremendous -best I've heard in a tube amp so far. Could have been a tad more articulate in the mid/highs, and didn't present a deep soundstage, but I'm tending to attribute these limitations to the electronics/speakers that accompanied the setup. My sense is that the Zeus could power my 3.6s very well, and drive them to their potential. Zeus is also very well made. Liked the warm standby switchable mode as well as built-in tube biasing. Knocks -it's So friggin' heavy (even more of a monster in real life), & pumps out a ton of heat. Definitely an Uber-amp.

Is there anyone out there in Audiogondom who has listened to both the Rogue Zeus AND the VTL-MB450, and can give me a real life comparison???.....

Other products I've auditioned give a sense of my listening tastes (please DO NOT BE OFFENDED as I'm not trying to knock a brand of gear you may own; it's all good):

ASL Hurricanes - listened opposite Zeus, w/better electronics/speakers. Found them to be more articulate (tubey) in the mids (real nice), lean highs, definitely light bass (compared to Zeus).

Jolida 3000 monos - sounded decent w/3.6s. Tad syrupy. Definitely not the bass slam/quickness of Zeus. Good sound none the less.

Sim Audio Moon W-5 (I know it's ss, but comes highly recommended with the 3.6s) - listened while auditioning Metronome tube CD (w/Moon stack, Triangles). The whole setup disappointed me. The sound was flat, not dimensional. Maybe it was the setup. I'm still stumped.

Can't find Wolcotts in my area. Haven't auditioned VAC.

So, VTL-450 or Rogue Zeus? And why?

Second question, CD.


I really like the Shanling 200 sound, but have heard consistently horrible stories (from 3 of 4 dealers) about reliability. Heard they've addressed firmware issues, but still leary about dropping bucks on a unit with double digit failure rate.

Metronome CDv2 demo - just sounded flat an uninspiring (maybe it was the system).
Jolida 100 modified - sounded good; lively, crisp, warm but not too tubey.
AMC DB6 modified (with an AMC DAC9 modified) - decent, but not as articulate or sweet as Shanling, not as crisp as Jolida, and didn't seem all that well built. I do like the DAC9 by itself though.
Eastern Electric Mini Max -good for the money, well built, but simply can't compare to Shanling sound.
Audio Research top loader -didn't enjoy w/Krell stack
Musical Fidelity 308 -beautiful crisp highs; maybe should audition w/tube stack.
Wadia 861, McCormick ($3K) -just didn't enjoy them

So, I'm stuck. I like the Shanling sound, but not its Word Of Mouth reliability.

Any other suggestions? Next on my audition list is the Cary 308t. Remember, I'm looking for that warm, lively, beautifully finished sound -but not too analytical.

Sim Audio Moon Eclipe? Rega Jupiter? Other?

Thank you folks.
I am a little confused about one thing-
They're accompanied w/Supernal tweeters and an AMC B1-20 sub.
Are you using a sub AND a "super tweeter"? If so and your getting "good" results something is seriously wrong.

I don't think either tube amp will offer enough power to really open the speaker up. A VTL750 would be more like the minimum VTL I would use. The problem with these big tube amps is they are expensive to purchase and maintain.

As far as CD players go I am not sure what your looking for, however, in your price range(or what I am guessing is your price range) I would look into the Resolution Audio Opus.
can't see why the VTL 450 wouldn't be enough power. get the infini cap version 450 it's considerably better than the Mit version
Classe cam mono 350's..... very sweet ss amp and a good match on the maggies.
Hey Justin- I know its shocking but with a speaker that technically is 84dB efficiency you real need LOTS of power- the more the better(as long as its clean). When I went from 450 high current watts to 600 high current watts the soundstage gained depth, and grew on each side substantially not to mention better bass response and many other benefits. I've heard other who have had the exact same experience with these speakers- if you can afford 1000+ watts of clean amplification go for it!
Tim, are you sure it's the power rating. I know the sensitivity is the low 80s, but jeez how much power headroom is enough? To me it almost seems that it might be another design spec that is at work here. (power supply? current? energy storage?)Though I do respect your advice. You seem to have more experience at this than I do. But with good sounding amps being costly, and the more power the costlier, it's hard to when to stop and be satisfied.

I was really hoping 200wpc world-class tube amps would be enough for 3.6s or 20.1s. :-(
Hello Aroc- Sadly I know 200wpc(even high quality tube watts) will really not do justice to the large magnepans. Its so bad I have a friend with 20.1's who's seriously thinking of getting another classe omicron for 2400 watts per channel or something insane like that. He has used the same amps that I am using and then went back to his omicron(800 or 900 watts in dual mono configuration) and the results were amazing- he has friends that confirm his crazy ideas so I have no choice but to believe him, and the fact it matches my experiences. I have tried BAT VK-120 mono's and while its not 200 watts, it was horrible! The midrange was so involving and full of body, but everything else was a large compromise. With mods and lots of power I am getting flat response to 28hz, with his mods and more power and 20.1's he is below or at 20hz. The other thing people complain about is dynamics with magnepans and while this is the biggest problem with the speaker it becomes less o an issue with gobs of power, they really come to life. Its a shame most people stop with "lower" power amps because they are never really experiencing what the speakers are capable of. If I could deal with the heat and expense of a Wotan I am sure it would be down right sublime!
Hi Aroc:
In addition to the low sensitivity of the Magnepans, they also present an almost purely resistive load as opposed to reactive, which means that the driving amp must be able to supply lots of current. This is really not the forte of tube amps - even of the higher powered ones - unless you were to go with something BIG like the MB-750 or better yet the MB-1250.

You would probably be able to get away with using the amps you mentioned if your listening is mostly done at low volume levels, but there the Maggies are not performing at their best. These speakers need to be turned up a bit for them to start showing off their stuff. The 3.6R's are of a single ended driver design (they are driven by a set of magnets on one side of the element) with a relatively "heavy" membrane of a large surface area who 's either pushed or pulled. This makes it tougher on the amplifier to control the speaker and I am not talking about only the lower frequencies. This is what gives maggies' their less than stellar reputation on dynamics, (I repeat: lack of bynamics through-out the frequency range not just the bass) as stated above by Tireguy as well as attested to by many a Maggie lover.

Fortunately this is the one characteristic that can go from the minus column over to the positive in a decisive manner with the use of a very high powered SS amp. Some months ago there was a review I think in Ultra Audio (web based e-zine, you can do a search)on a high powered Innersound amp which the reviewer was impressed with when pairing it with the 3.6R's. I think he was more impressed with the Maggies rather than the amps in that particular pairing, which I think confirms that these speakers do really require huge amounts of power to truly shine. This was also my experience to some extent with the 1.6QR's when I fed them with more powerful amps; more liveliness, transparency, control (never tried them with 800W per side though - wish I could).
hello Tim I can understand your viewpoint now 100% I previously owned the bat vk-120 mono blocks the stereophile power measurement results were little over 60w @ 8ohms at 1% distortion level I believe anyway they couldn't drive my Dunlavy 5 speakers 91 db 4 ohms nominal load they blew fuses every 5 minutes bat went throgh the amps couple of times same results bat eventually refunded my money after talking about calling the FTC regarding their advertised power ratings accuracy.the 450 VTL I know is not even comparable to the bat powerwise.
At modest price points the higher powered amps sacrifice at a lot of purity compared to lower powered amps (tubes or soldistate) in my experience. I have no experience with the more expensive designs. Maybe purity is no longer a problem at those price points. With some amps it seems that you "sell your soul to the devil" as you get better frequency extremes, but the midrange may suffer. I love my maggies, but the tradeoffs in design and amplifier parings are causing me handfulls of hair. :-(
Aroc, I can't add anything new to this thread, only to reinforce what has already been said, particularly Tireguy's comments relating to high powered amps and specifically their capacity to deliver current.
I learned the hard way with my 3.6's, being stubborn as a mule I ignored peoples advice here, and splurged on a pair of Cary V12i Monoblocks, thinking that 200 tube watts would be plenty. Well the midrange sounded great, but the sound just wouldn't open up - stage depth and width were constricted and the sound was a little lifeless and bland.
I even tried vertical biamping with a pair of Perreaux amps, providing more watts than the Cary's, but still not enough!!
I even had a SS Mac 252 on home demo that puts out 250w into 4 and 8 ohms, I gave myself a hernia carrying it into the living room and the blasted thing shut down on thermal overload after 5 minutes of playing at moderate levels.
I'm now using a Krell FPB200, and although it technically is still only rated at 400w into 4 ohms, it does a much better job of opening the speaker up than anything previous. Based on my experience with the 200w Cary, I would guess that even a 450w amp like the VTL Mono's might be marginal. Remember also that as soon as the amp starts clipping you are going to start blowing fuses in the speakers.....I blew a dozen tweeter fuses using the Cary's and Perreaux's, even at modest volumes and even though the amps didn't sound strained in any way. I haven't lost a fuse yet with the Krell, (touch wood) and I play at even louder volumes.
Sell your soul to the devil, do what ever it takes, but get a pair of VTL 750w Mono's or bigger!!

I have the 20.1s and would recommend a high-powered solidstate amp with clean power. I don't believe you can have too much power with these speakers. Incidentally, I have tremendous dynamics and it's not true that the speakers have to be played loudly--as long as you have a powerful amp.
Hey folks, being the one who started this discussion, perhaps I should chime in for a moment. First, thanks for the threads so far, and keep them coming.

From what's been stated above, and as well as from private comments I've received through email, the nod would go the the VTL 450 over the Rogue Zues. It is suggested that the VTL will be more articulate, provide that tube presence and air I'm looking for, and it's well made. The Zeus, although well made, presents a thicker sound and is less articulate in the mids/highs.

What I didn't expect to hear is you folks tell me that I'd need more power than a 450! On the one hand, I'm sure you're right. Every retailer and A-goner I've spoken with says more power will not hurt a 3.6. But perhaps I should level set you so that you understand where I coming from. First, I've never had the chance to listen to the 3.6s with huge power. I've listened to the 3.6s biamplified with Joilda 3000 monoblocks (200/w 8Ohms?) and they sounded good. Lots of air, lots of realism, but not alot of slam (errr). The Viva pre-amp probably didn't hurt things any. I listened to Maggie 20s with the same stack -definitely not as good. [1.6s on the same stack also didn't sound as good.] Although they had more musical presence (than the 3.6), the 20s definitely need more power. I've listened to the 3.6s on a Musical Fidelity stack (can't remember if it was the 308 or 3.2) and it sounded good -just not my taste; the power and articulation were there, highs were beautiful, but it didn't present the same soundstage or air between the instruments (...which I may rightly or wrongly attribute to the sound I'm really looking for). The guy who sold me the 3.6s had them biamped with Jolida 801 integrated amps (80w) (I know, it sounds strange); the system sounded muddy, and I've never heard Maggies sound muddy before. I knew that my old existing ss amp would sound better.... and it did. I have a 15 year old B&K 442 dual mono (350w@4ohms?), and just picked up a used VTL 2.5 pre. So, you see, from where I am, I'm thinking something on order of a VTL 450 is a huge step up in performance.

On tubes vs solid state, I still think I'm giving the nod to tubes at the moment. I just love that soft polished sound. And I haven't found that sound yet in a ss amp. The Sim Audio W5 disappointed me. Classe has been mentioned. Every time I add something tubey into my system (pre, DAC), it sounds better (at least, for my taste).

Comments? Suggestions?

Onto the CD question for a moment.....

Do any of you have experience with this Lector .05? The A-gon threads seem to speak highly of it. Also, this Audio Aero Mk II -is it really worth all that money? Tireguy suggested I check out the Resolution (415 area code is near me, so I will track this one down). Also, how about the Oricle CD2500? Any experience here? Cary 308t?

What will give me Shanling sound, but with better reliability?
I have heard all of the players you mention. The Lector is good for the money, but for similar $$ audio aero prima will offer up 85+% the performance of the audio aero capitole mkII(which I used to own). While the Capitole MKII is hard to beat in a one box configuration(in particular for the money and what it is capable of doing) for a wee bit more the Emm labs puts it to shame and is well worth the price of admission if its with in reach. I prefer the sound of the Shanling over the cary and oracle. I have not heard about much for problems with the shanling, however for similar $ I would look more into the prima or lector. If you can squeeze a little more out of your budget Resolution Audio Opus is good, a bit more cash Audio Aero Capitole mkII and even a little more Emm Labs DCC2/CDSD combo. The lector, shanling, and capitole mkII have tube outputs the prima may, however, I am not positive.
The Bryston 4BST and SST and 7Bst sound very good as do the Rowland Concentra II. The ARC D300 is a great match also. Tubes that sound good are the EAR 509's, the Music Reference RM9 MKII and the RM200. The last are magical with that speaker. The clear, clean sound is marvelous. You are doing the right thing many don't do...using your ears and listening to all you can. Jallen
Can anyone provide a comparison between the VAC Phi 220s and the VTL MB450s?
Greetings, There is no question that any Maggie is going to "come alive" with gobs of power. I have the 1.6's, and I thought I had good sound running a Threshold T-50 (50w class A). Man was I wrong! Lately I bought a 5 channel Outlaw at 200wpc. For fun, I bi-amped each speaker, for a total of 800w on the 1.6s. I was astonished, flabbergasted, etc. And the sound became much more tube-like, smooth,etc.
Also, you may want to consider the impact of interconnects. I have switched to the new Audioquest dbs line, and the Maggies have taken another leap in sound reproduction.
Frankly, I was going to consider tube amps in the future, but all the postings are reinforcing my concern; any kind of economical tube amp won't cut it for driving Maggies.
I would suggest you do a demo at home with at least 1000w of power running into your mains prior to making a purchase of tube amps. You might possibly obtain best results bi-amping at about 300wpc.

have fun; aren't these the best kinds of problems to have?
For a CD player try a used Musical Fidelity NuVista 3D ($3700), a Musical Fidelity TriVista ($6,500), or a Krell SACD standard ($4,000).

To add slam to the Maggies, try a pair of Vandersteen 2wq subwoofers or a pair of Cambridge Soundworks Newton P-1000s. These subs are very fast, cheap, and blend very well.

I would choose the VTL MB-450. It has enough power. Call Stereo Unlimited in Walnut Creek, CA to discuss that combination. They sell Maggies and VTL.

How did you like the sound of the Jolida JD3000A? How was the build quality?
What about some of the ARC monoblocks? I have a stereo D250mkII with 250 tube watts, I am certain it could drive nearly anything and to my ears bettered Krell 700watt monos. These can be found relatively cheaply but are a beast to retube and ship.
Where do Magnepans peak as far as power is concerned?
I just tried the Carver ZR1600 with the 3.6R. I started off using 2 Carvers in bridged mono version, running biwired. These amps double their output when impedance is halved and are rated 1600w into 4 ohms. If I'm understanding this correctly, with my biwire configuration, each amp is seeing a 2ohm load, and therefore putting out 3200 watts per channel(potentially)!!
After getting a handle on the sound for a few hours, I changed over to one amp in stereo running biwired, which, according to the spec's is now 800 watts per channel. I couldn't detect any advantage between stereo with one amp and bridged Mono with two. Stage width and depth, bass extension etc appeared to be the same.
So at some point the speakers seem to peak, in terms of giving them 'as much power as possible'.

My previous amp was a Krell FPB200, outputting 400w into 4 ohms. I can't honestly say at this point that the Carvers 3200 watts 'opened up' the speakers any more than the Krell did. There is a small issue of break-in, since the Carvers only have about 30hrs on them, but I haven't heard any real noticable changes over the past 10 hrs or so. The Krell offered all the 'grip' that the Carvers do, and if anything, the stage width was a little wider with the Krell. Bass control and extension is similar, which is a remarkable achievement given the Carvers sticker price compared to the Krell.

So the question is, at what point do the 3.6's stop benefitting from more power?
The point/context of the question is: shouldn't a 450 watt tube amp like the VTL be enough, (delivering 500 watts into 4 ohms), if, as it seems, the speakers stop benefiting from more power somewhere around the 400 - 500 watt range?
What I'm trying to do is convince myself that the 450w VTL's will be man enough to handle the Maggie's, and that more watts are not really necessary.
How good a job am I doing of pulling the wool over my own eye'!
Rooze...The bridged zr1600 is good for 1600 watts into 4 ohms, and biwire makes no difference.

However, neither the Carver or the Krell is delivering anything like this power. If it did, I don't know if your ears or your speakers would blow out first! There are characteristics of an amp that just naturally go along with high power capability, and these characteristics, rather than the high power per se, are what makes a high powered amp sound better.

I tend to believe that the 600 watt capability of the Carver is enough of a good thing for your Maggies, and that bridging them is overkill. I am not surprised that you found the single stereo amp configuration equal to the bridged one. The only rational use for the second Carver would be biamping, using an electronic crossover.

I think that the "giant killer" description refers to a modified Carver. There is a lot of low level signal processing that is useful for the pro sound application but unnecessary for home audio. This circuitry is easily bypassed.

However, even in stock form I think that it's a damn good amp, and using it instead of one of those "giants" makes it possible for those with limited funds to spend several grand more on speakers. Such a speaker upgrade more than equals any subtle improvement through other amps.
Eldartford, I think I would have to agree with you, though some might argue that the smaller amps provide some inner detail that the bigger amps tend to mask.
However, this exercise has helped to illuminate the power requirement curve of the 3.6 and indicate at what point the benefits of more power start to taper off. I'm feeling a little more confident about trying something like the VTL 450, with 500w into 4 ohms. Then again I may try the EA mod on the Carver and see how that sounds!
Rooze,,,A Mod to the Carver will cost a lot less than the VTL 450. I would be most interested in more info on zr1600 mods. I really think that a simple inexpensive mod to bupass of all the low level signal processing circuitry, and upgrade of a couple of capacitors and OP amps would get you most of the Mod benefits. I can live without silver wire and new binding posts. I would almost do it myself, except that the circuitry is all surface mount and tiny components that make the physical job a lot harder than what would appear on the schematic.

Do you know that on the Carverpro website you can download schematics of the zr1600, and see what we are dealing with?

How do you deal with fan noise? I have three of the super low noise fans to install in my amps, but I have never got around to doing it because my amps are located in the cellar and I can't hear the fans anyway.
Eldartford, from what I've learned at audiocircle there are two companies offering different upgrades (some common changes, but overall very different sonic results) and the preferred one seems to Empirical Audio (
Their mod is $1650 with shipping on top. So assuming about $25.00 each way, that would be $1700 plus the $750 for the amp, $2450
A pair of used VTL 450's could be had for about $3750
So it's a case of which is going to sound better.

On the audiocircle website there is a shootout between 2 modified ZR's and an ARC VT200, and though somewhat inconclusive, the ARC appears to come out on top against criteria such as midrange and musicality. Given that the VTL 450 is probably a better sounding amp than the ARC, it suggests an even wider margin may exist between the modified Carver and the VTL’s, in favor of the VTL.

This is the dilemma that I have. I don’t want to have second best for the sake of spending another $1300 bucks. I realize all this is subjective and down to personal taste, and that the methodology of arriving at these observations is flawed, however, with an audition of both a VTL and modified Carver being impossible for me, it’s the only method I have to make a decision.

Which way would you go, given the above?
El..Just to add to the above comment, I think a lot of people would enjoy the process that I've been going through this past year, trying out different amps. So far I've had 9 amps in a year and counting.

I kind of enjoyed it for a while but it's now gotten to be a real pain in the butt, not to mention the back and other parts of my fragile anatomy. In fact, I've been walking around with a permanent stoop from carrying too many 100LB+ amps in and out of the house!!
On Monday, I sprouted a third testicle whilst lifting a Krell FPB200 out of the trunk of my little Dodge Stratus R/T at the UPS station....The woman on the desk asked if I was having a seizure when I walked in. She asked the same question just after she quoted me $467.00 for shipping to my buyer in Sweden.
The Carver sure would be easier on my back and balls, not to mention my wallet.


Rooze...If I were you (which I am not) and I needed to spend some more money, I would Mod one of my Carver amps, buy a Marchand Electronics crossover, and biamp my Maggies, with the Mod amp on top.

You already have the Carver amp, so the cost is $1700, not $2450. Can you really get the pair of VTL 450 for $3750, Used already. Are you ready for the upkeep costs of a big tube amp? I am sure you will want to upgrade all the tubes right away.

Are you having fun yet?
And furthermore...I still think that a much simpler mod (that what EA and RAM are doing) would be almost as good. Parts...$200. Labor...$200. Profit...$300. Total cost $700. Maybe I will play around with one of my amps after all.
The Music Reference RM-9 MK 2 has awesome sound and has bulletproor reliability.I have planar speakers and the sound is the just awesome.I have a cal sigma 2 dac that i am also happy with.
While I can't suggest a tube amp, the ss Innersound esl amp is quite a bargain, especially if you can find one on the used market. I use one with my 1.6's and couldn't be happier.
I am using the Shanling SCDT 200 CD player and I have had it for over a year without any incidents. It is a nice player that I upgraded from a Mac 7007. There are a number of reviews on this and a few demo versions out their for under 2K. I power my maggies with Aragon Palladium 1Ks and find the combination with the maggies to be very appealing. They are not tube amp, but have a lot of power, and handle the maggies with ease. Great bass in my opinion and a great value. They are well built and have provided me with lots of listening pleasure. You can get them for 3K. I use a Bat Vk 3i preamp with upgraded tubes and they sound great together. I have heard the VTL 2.5 and would also think they would be a great match for the Aragon Amps.
Hmmmm, reading all thse threads is facinating. So here goes...Zeus amp running stock Kt88's w Mullard cv4003's an 2 Tele Gold Pin 12ax7's....wonderful amp. Pre and CD are both Eastern electric w Mixture of those damn habit forming NOS tubes after months of experimentation, All cabling Kimber and speakers big Maggie 3.3's. Sound is so liquid compared to my old Krell gear it is not up some 3.6's. The combo drives the planars WONDERFULLY and a Logan sub fills any void in the low end. Thank God I think I am near the end....