Audio Research to Ayre
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I agree with Grannyring that hybrid amps come the closest to the best (high
powered) tube amps I have heard.
I use the Lamm M2.1 monoblock amps myself, which are very close
sonically to the Lamm M2.2 amps that two of my friends use. (These use
just one 6922 tube in each amp.) The best high powered tube amp I ever
heard was the VAC 300.1, and the Lamm M2.2 came the closest to equally
it, (compared side by side in the same system). In fact they bettered it in
the bass response as well as speed, but was not as good in the mid-range
or the treble response.
My two cents worth.
The Great American Sound (GAS) Son of Ampzilla. This was my first amp in the high end arena and I have held onto it all these years. I have been through many others, both tube and solid state, and there has never been that feeling of, Oh, I just can't bear to part with it. After pulling the Son out of moth balls for so many years, I was able to establish what this amp did that others didn't; the entertainment factor of the Son was so much better. It was sent off to GAS Audio for a reference rebuild and it is so much better. It is so much better that I haven't even started work on my Golden Tube Audio SE 40 Special Edition putting in a full-tilt Sonic Craft mod.
Geoffkait hit it right on the sweet spot. Note how never have tube amps been called upon to sound like solid state amps but the other way round is ubiquitous. What chases what? Let's get real, the only advantages solid state amps have is longer term reliability before parts need servicing
And perhaps heat generation. I used to buy into the current doubling thing when I was in my Bryston, Krell phase, but that ship sailed a while ago. Tubes from here on or until they make them no more. Nothing sounds better to my ears, especially the midrange.
What's wrong with you people? Nobody's heard of Symphonic Line? I was also a tube fanatic, till I've heard their RG line of amps. I've progressed from an RG1 to my current RG7 MK4. In my humble opinion, these gems have the resolution, soul and transparency very few tube amps can match. The ones that do will cost you very dearly. Honestly, they don't sound tubey nor transistory, they just sound like music. Turn them on and never turn them off. Been saving for the Kraft. Just my two cents.
I am considering Ayre but have heard reports that they sound lean compared to Pass or even the older class A Krells (which are by no means tubey sounding). Friends tell me the midrange is very natural sounding and clear but lacks body. True?"
There's really no way to answer that question. Everyone has different tastes, systems and rooms. At this level you can't rely on others opinions. You'll need to hear it for yourself. I use Ayre in my system and and think it sounds different than what your friends say. There's no right or wrong; just different opinions.
I had a Pass 150.5, after experimenting with a Pathos
hybrid, which didn't have enough low end for me...The
Pass was fantastic, but hot and expensive to run; I am
now running a Bel Canto Ref500s which I enjoy
tremendously. It's paired up with a Cary tube Pre and
that seems to make for a very nice combo.
I loved my CJ MF2250. Sold it too soon...
Agree with others concerning ss amps versus tube amps and the fact that no ss amp will sound like a tube amp. But for me Pass XA series is a wonderful alternative and without the tube maintenance issues. Although they do kick out a lot of heat being class A biased. And if you have ever had a tube amp blow it isn't pretty.
Clarification to my post re the Hegel H200. I should have noted that I have not replaced tubed equipment with the Hegel. I still run and enjoy music using Consonance Cyber 800SEs (6CA7s) and an Opera Reference 50 (6H30s) pre-amp. However, for variety, I do switch to the H200 and find it has a sweet liquidity and dimensionality similar to hearing music with tube equipment. The Hegel is definitely a solid state amp that makes me smile.
There are many, many solid state amps that gave me the same musicality and kept me smiling. Too many to list. There are some absolutely wonderful solid state amps out there and some absolutely wonderful tube amps out there. A good designer/engineer is a good designer/engineer.
This tube vs solid state bias/arguments is really not the issue.
Does the music reproduction in your system sound as really as you can get/afford? Is there any listening fatigue? Does something drive you away from listening?
Or are you just sitting there for hours, smiling and enjoying the sound? Some people are too much into equipment and not the actual sound.
The speakers are a big factor in this solid state vs tube debate also. Ability to drive accurately the speakers is very important.
So many factors. I know many people that have tried tube amps and can't seem to get the impact from them that they get from SS amps. So, there!!
I also, know many people that absolutely love tube amps sound. So there!!
I'll take either. pick a price point. Pick specific speakers. Find tube amps and solid state amps that are designed to accurately drive those speakers. Play your favorite, revealing music and go at it. That and only that is the fair test. One may still prefer one sound over another, but this is the only way to really judge. Oh and by the way, stop screwing around with biases and do the test blind.
enjoy the music and the long trip to get where you want to be.
First: I think Minorl's comments are spot on.
Now, to my recent experience. For many years I've been running an all-tube system using upgraded MFA electronics. For those who are familiar with MFA, you know what I'm talking about.
The other day, on a whim, I purchased an NAD C272 power amp. In my system, mated with the Lumi preamp, the NAD is shockingly good. In some ways it's a better match with the Magnepan MMG's than my mono tube amps. Bass is cleaner and more articulate, and the speakers sound more "detailed". No, the NAD is not as 3-D nor "sweet" as the tube amps, but I'm blown away at how good it sounds. I was running a pair of small subs with the tube amps and disconnected them with the NAD because of the dramatic improvement in the bass.
And, FIY, both of the mono amps have been completely re-tubed recently.
In short, for just a few hundred bux, far less than a complete set of NOS amp tubes, the NAD has put a broad smile on my face.
I don't think I could ever give up my tube amps (TRL GT 200's) but if I was forced to for some unknown bizarro reason (like ???) I agree that a hybrid such as the big Lamm monos would be the best bet for me...I've heard them sound very impressive in a super revealing system.
Another friend has a lot of Pass Labs and it's all quite good but even if it doesn't scream SS like many can...it still "Whispers":'I AM still SS you know' and I can always hear it.
Haven't heard all the hyper expensive SS stuff such as T&A, Constellation, BALabao, etc. but for their price points I'd like to think they're remarkably 'satisfying'...
Personally at this point in time I don't see how SS can really replicate the tangible/lifelike character of a performance that a great tube amp can. Again, just my .02.
Ps your example with the NAD underscores Minorl's point of accurately driving the speakers. My bet is that the NAD is more electrically compatible with the MMGs than your tube amps. One can often be surprised by results that are totally unexpected. I'm not at all surprised by that result with Magenapan speakers UNLESS you are using high powered tube monoblocks.
"Ps your example with the NAD underscores Minorl's point of accurately driving the speakers. My bet is that the NAD is more electrically compatible with the MMGs than your tube amps. One can often be surprised by results that are totally unexpected. I'm not at all surprised by that result with Magenapan speakers UNLESS you are using high powered tube monoblocks."
Yes, this seems to be the case. The modest NAD amp is indeed a better match with the MMGs. A very pleasant surprise!
The MFA amps are rated @120 WPC into 8 ohms and I run 4 KT-88's Rubys in each. The Rubys are not as "punchy" as the last power tubes I used in the amps, Genalex Gold Lions, so perhaps the Gennies would be significantly better than the Rubys w/ the MMGs, but I sort of doubt it.
The tube amps sound glorious with my Sonus Faber Liuto monitors. I've yet to run the SF off the NAD because I'm enjoying the MMG's so much. If I had the budget, I'd love to try the MMG's with, say, a pair of Odyssey Stratos monos, for example. :) But it's highly unlikely I would ever sell my tube amps to finance that sort of move.
At any rate, I don't want to derail this thread, but clearly there is room in this tube lover's home for an SS amp, especially one that mates well with my Lumi preamp.
Expecting SS amps to sound like tubes could be due to the incessant use of the term "tube like" in the hype chosen by many SS amp manufacturers…actual tube circuits just have that "tubey thing" which has been described frequently by tubers (like me, and the peanut family of plants), and having experienced tube hifi as far back as the mid 60s I can safely say SS has obviously made its place as a more powerful (generally) and reliable (sometimes) thing. I heard a First Watt amp in a friend's system and it did seem to have some sonic warmth that was appealing as Pass is clearly a great designer…and listener…but certainly if you want "Bang for the Hifi Buck" you can't go wrong with tubes…unless you don't want the hastle of tubes…in which case many thousands of brands of SS amps obviously can sound fine. Just not so tubey...
Bel Canto ref1000m, Bel Canto C5i integrated, Tube Audio Design 125 Hibachi.
I like the sound of many tube amps but not having to deal with tubes so I do not have any tube amps. These are models I own or have owned recently that have succeeded in keeping me off of tubes. I could see owning a SET someday to get a pure taste of tube amp sound with not many tubes.
I find I love good sound in general. What technology is used to make it matters to me in other ways, like TCO, amount of maintenance required, power consumption, etc. So no tube amps for me so far.
The C5i is a wonderful design and does it all simply and efficiently. Within its 60 w/ch limitations of course. Its a simple joy to both set up and use. Just add speakers and a digital or analog source or two and most people would be done for a long time.
Well here are some things to ponder on this subject. Not all tube amps
sound like, well tube amps. What does a tube amp sound like? PP amp?
SET amp? DHT amp? parallel SET amp? No Negative feedback? Lots of
NF? Who designed it? What type of tubes does it use? Solid state or tube
rectified? Is it tube regulated? OTL amp? SS voltage regulated?
I think you get the point. They will all sound very different. SS amps also
come in near countless design forms. They all sound very different from
Also, we have to consider the fact that an amp makes no sound or music
on its own. To make music it must be part of a complete system. The amp
to speaker synergy plays a huge role. Preamp to amp synergy is also
important. The near countless combinations of these system pieces all
create differing sound. Certainly some complete system combinations
sound radically different then the very same amp would sound in another
system with a different set of accompanying components.
Oh my, I haven't even begun to unpack all the factors influencing the net
sound of a system and wether it sounds tube like or SS like........if one
thinks there is even such a thing. I am not sure there is based on my
experience with a host of amps over the years. I have certainly owned SS
amps and hybrid amps that sound very similar to some PP tube amps I
have owned. At least in the context of a static set of associated system
One final point. I recently became aware of wire that has incredibly
beautiful tone and a stunning 3D reach out and touch the performance
papability to it. I now use it as my speaker cable, internal speaker wire,
crossover wire and internal amp wire. To many on this thread that feel they
know and love the tube sound, this wire will make you smile big. Very big.
I am using it with a DHT 845 tube amp as well as a Lector Hybrid amp. I
can confidently tell you with the Lector amp in the system I am getting the
type of performance most would attribute to a full-on complete tube system.
However, the whole system only has two small signal tubes located in the
My point, wire also makes a difference in delivering the resulting sound and
wether it leans to a tube amp or SS sound for those who believe in such a
thing. The wire is Western Electric 16 gauge NOS stranded and tinned.
Only $1.49 a foot and so very special. Yeah, this wire has that DHT tube
sound. In my audio circles this wire is completely changing the way Aphiles
look at high end cabling. All have sold their high dollar wire and improved
their system's sound with this wire. Just a little tip to those open minded
enough to go there!