Tube Amp Suggestions

I have had the audio affliction for about 10 years. I am finally ready to venture into the world of tube amps and would appreciate any ideas my fellow audiophiles might have. My current set up is theta basic II with a camelot uther IV going directly into a pass labs aleph 5 and audio physic virgo II speakers. All wiring is tara labs air 1. Budget is $2,000 to 3,000 new or used.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
I am not sure about the pairing with your speakers, but Atma-Sphere M-60's have done the trick for me.
Sensitivity and impedance of your speakers?
The Music Reference RM-200 would be an excellent match for your system. It provides in excess of 100 wpc into anything above 4 ohms, and even substantial output into lower impedances. Sonically, it yields a direct, unembellished presentation, with substantial soundstage dimensions, believable imaging, and robust dynamics. Unlike most of its tubular brethren, it can deliver the low end of the audible spectrum with real authority. It is attractive, quiet, and doesn't eat tubes. From time to time it can be found on Audiogon for $1,700-$2,400. Finally, I've heard it with Virgos, and I found that it brought that speaker's substantial attributes to full fruition.
How big is your room? I had a pair of Audio Physic Virgo II's in a 18x24 room with a BAT vk60. It sounded great. You can get the VK60 for around 16-1800 used. If you can go for a vk75 or 75se for a little more, than even better. I think the 75se is around 3600-4000 used.

Good luck
Atma-Sphere M-60s are a great amp with the right speaker and the Virgo II is not one them. The impedance of the Virgos drops too low for the Atma-Spheres and you will start to blow output tubes even at moderate level. I had this set up and to fix the problem I had to get Zero-Impedance boxes which better matched the speaker to the amp. It sounded pretty good. I have found that the near perfect match for the Virgos is Pass amps and current run the Aleph 2s with my Virgos. Vac amps also are good as well at BAT. Good luck.
For a little strech (3995$ list) you could get the ROGUE AUDIO m150 monoblocks new.They got 4 and 8 ohms output taps.
Great product
George a happy owner.
Thanks for the suggestions. To answer a couple of questions that have been posed. The virgo's have an 89db sensativity and pose a 4 ohm load. My room is 14'X20'X9'. Anyone had experience with the Rogue Magnum M120 with these speakers.

Thanks Again
Second the Music Reference RM200 recommendation.
My Meadowlark Shearwater Hot Rods have an efficiency close to your Virgos but are 8 ohm rated. I am using Shanling SP-80 monoblocs in stock form but with NOS driver tubes. This amp is the only one I know of which gets 50 real watts out of a pair of sweet-sounding EL34s. Mods are available from 2 or 3 places, looks are killer. Built-in remote-controlled preamp can be bypassed simply. MSRP $2495.

U.S. distributor's page
Agree with Rogue M150 suggestion. Great amps, used $3000. Cheaper would be older M120s, but self-bias circuit runs them hot. If you like the Aleph sound, I wouldn't recommend ARC sound, but the VT100 Mk II at $2000 is good value.
May I make an alternate suggestion, I use the Aleph 3 and find it hard to beat as a power amp into my admittedly sensitive Living Voice Avatar speakers. why not keep it and go for a valve pre. I recently changed to a Conrad J Premier17 and could'nt be happier. Wide detailed fatigue free soundstage etc. I am a great believer in the Valve pre, SS power route. I hope that is of help, probably just confused you more.
'Supposedly, there exist a few 'triode' (tube) amplifier designs of exceptional transparency. Usually their power output is below 20W and insufficient to drive most speakers'... most important are low output impedance (<0.4 ohm) and low distortion (<0.1%) of the amplifier over a 5 Hz to 50 kHz frequency range' (Seigfried Linkwitz).

The best I could find among the popular tube brands is 1-2% THD, and only over 20hz-20khz range. 'Rogue' looked better than any of those. But I am not sure the compromise in transparency (low distoriton) is worth the 'bloom' of tubes when you need more than 20w to power your mid and upper range drivers. (always use ss for woofers)

The ATI line of solid state amps are <0.005THD, for instance. As are the vintage Hafler DH-200/220, the Muse 160 (and Bry$ston, and the very $$ Jeff Rowland) solid state amps.

If you just want a 'warm', 'soft' sound, put cotton in your ears, or hang a blanket over your speakers. It will accomplish the same thing. Really.
In the 2 to 3k used price range you have your pick of all but the best tube amplifiers and even some quality single ended triode moderate powered amps suitable for your speakers (like the Cary 805b).

Cary 805B monoblocks are close to 3k used and give you 50 single ended class A watts..very good amplifiers..

McIntosh MC240 (40 watts), well with a 4 ohm load due to the McTransformers..nice sounding amps that will retain their value if you do not overpay. 1000 to 2500 used

Bruce Moore Dual 70 tube amp...I only remember this guy makes really good stuff is the reputation.

Air Tight ATM2..very good amps

Canary CA300 monoblocks..think this is a push/pull class A 300b amp that makes good power...

BAT VK60 about 2000 very good amp

Audio Research VT60, VS55

Melos Audio MAT180

Lots of choices; there were more. There are examples of all of these for sale as of this writing. A quality 845 single ended amp would make about 22 to 25 watts depending on design; that would be sufficient for your speakers as long as they do not present a low resistance that varies a lot.
The Cary 805 for instance, has a limited frequency range (only 20hz-20khz) and they do not even mention distortion in their specs. That cannot be good.

For inaudible distortion you want a min of <0.1% THD, IMD, over a 5hz-50khz frequency range. As well as Outut Impedance <0.4 ohms.

The Canary is more like it, but notice: 8w

McIntash models show <.5% THD but only over a 20hz-20khz

No mention in your post, but Rouge also has decent specs and ample power. That is, a 40w tube amp is approx equivelent to a 100w solid state.

It is not that easy to find distortion free amps, especially tubed units. By far the majority of mfgrs do not come close.

No wonder the myth is perpetuated that specs do not matter. So few meet minimum requirements for inaudible distortion. Insteade they glorify their distortion qualites in poetic terms and sell the dream preached by the 'connoisseurs of colorations' magazine reviewers.

I wonder how many mfgrs will advertise in a magazine that gives their products unfavorable reviews. It does not sound like good business.

I wonder how many reviewers will remain employed when mfgrs begin pulling their advertising based on their unfavorable reviews.
While the Canary CA-300 is an 8 wpc SET, their CA-301SE is a 22 wpc push-pull amp that has very attractive specs and build quality. It may be available used within the original poster's budget, but Canary 300B p-p amps seem to be rare on the used market. I can understand why - after my experience with them I'm very enthusiastic about the company and their products.
Though the CA-301SE is getting there, and better than most (the 10 Damping Factor is a good sign) still at THD <0.5% (over a very decent frequency range), it still is noticabley over a cutoff of <0.1% THD.

An excellent ss amp for instance is typically more like <0.005% THD, and IMD. And at 22w... what can it drive?

I mean, you do not HAVE to go tubes, and in my opinion, it cannot be worth to add distortion.
Agree with the comments on AtmaSphere, great amps, just not with these speakers. And, my experience with mine has shown me the Zero Autoformers that a lot of people will point low impedance speaker owners towards really bleaches out the sound and takes the magic of the Atmas away.

My other pair of tube monos, the Granite 861s would be flat out fantastic. I listen to a lot of gear, and this little company makes about as good a pair of tube monos that you will come across. I felt strong enough that I bought a pair.

Also like the Cary V12, which I have personally heard make nice music with Audio Physics. And the BAT VK60 must always be kept in mind whenever someone is looking for a nice tube amp.

Not that I am not a fan of Rogue 120 amps, but their level of refinement is a definite step or three down from the amps listed above.
Didactically, you've really gotta lessen your reliance on specs and do a bit more listening. Like you I was a SS addict for years. Then I heard my first really good tube amp - a SET design with all that distortion and the damping factor of a damp feather - and I was undone. I'll never go back to sand amps, because tubes just sound so much better - no matter what their shortcomings look like on paper.

The Canary push-pull amps in particular are simply exquisite.
My first high-end power amp was the ML 27.5 bought new 9 years ago and is still resting on it's spot on the floor.
Great sound .Then in Feb 2000 I bought my first tubed power amp the CJ MV55 .I swear the minute I turned it on I noticed beautiful sound coming out of it.Better than the ML in many areas.Not as powerfull but way more enjoyable sound.
This is my observation based on this experience.Now your screen name drives from greek "didaktikos" meaning "educational"but I kindly suggest to you to change it to "doctordistortion".I read many of your answers and noticed that you are obsessed with the specs and particularly the "distortion".
Happy listening
I am glad you are happy. I saw a guy once picking his nose and eating the booger. He was very content. I did not care to watch it, but I had no anamosity or resentment for the fellow, you know what I mean.

You listen to your tubes, I will listen to the music.

BTW, it is by listening that I discerned the more live like sonics of the amps with no distortion. Especially with transparent speakers laborously set up to get the most out them.

That is how I knew. At first I took a chance on the logic, and reasonableness of the science, i.e., the specs. That distoriton can be measured. That to the degree it is present in the system, it will interfer with what the music is that artists made in real life. At least as well as it got produced and engineered onto the recording.

Not much we can do about their end, except become intelligently discerning about the choices we make on what to support with our purchases.

But then again, if you have sufficient distortion in your system, however much you may be enjoying it, you will not hear how poor the recording is, so it will make no difference to you. That is the unacknowledged point, is it not.
Yes, I do not go over well with the 'connoisseurs of coloration'. My perspective is a pin that pops their 'preference-for-a-specific-distortion-chracteristics' bubble.

So they rant, shoot at the messenger as it were, instead of cry, and kick themselves for being so gullible, and begin listening for 'live' like sonics instead.

I uderstand. The hardest thing for a man to do is admit he is wrong. But a 'man' does, and has a happy wife. Boys do not, and their marriages are in trouble.

it sounds a bit extreme to me to say that tube-lovers are "boys" and "their marriages are in trouble." comments like this are childish and don't show you to a "man" as you proclaim. until recently, i was a diehard solid state fan as well (owned acurus amps, aragon amps, and most recently, a plinius sa-102) but i switched to tubes because i preferred the way the music sounded to me. you prefer the way the music sounds to you with solid state. no biggie. i can identify. to come on this forum and bash tube users because tube amps have higher distortion doesn't make sense. what the hell does it matter as long as we are both happy? i enjoy my setup. i'm certain you enjoy yours. there is no right or wrong....only what you enjoy.
Didactically, you are pretty emotionally involved in a debate that many, like myself, didn't even realize was still an issue with anyone.

As for your perspective, it is more like a sledge hammer missing its mark than a pin popping anyone's preferences. I did enjoy your last analogy, but don't see it as being applicable in any sense.
I think tubes are great. It is distortion that I do not like. It interfers with the music, which is what I prefer to hear rather than the system. (The 'connoissers of coloration' nothwithstanding :-)

For some reason fewer tube amps are made with distorion <0.1% at rated power, than solid state amps, which is ironic since it is more difficult to accomplish with solid state.

If you perfer to call that 'an issue', fine. But how could you expect 'it' to go away? That is, as long as there are those who's principal interest in audio is 'true to the original', rather then this preferance for that particual distortion characterist over that one, etc., even if typically described poetically.
Did you just miss the point, or is it a strategy to so erronously characterize what I actually said, or at least obviously meant.

I am not 'die hard' anything other than 'true to the original' as a principal in audio. Though I realize it is a departure from the 'connoisseur of coloration' to personal subjective taste approach.

I want to hear the music, not my system, and fully accept that audiophila is predominatly populated with those who perfer the latter, but there still exist some who prefer the former like me, and who tend to respond to my views quite differently.

AT any rate, if I could find a 40w tube amp with a maximum <0.1% THD/IMD at rated power over a 5hz-50khz frequency range... do you know of one? I would prefer it to drive the mids/treble of my system (ss is better for woofers).

Your posts to topics are growing quite old, are not very useful to anyone, and are boringly repetitious.

For someone whose moniker is "to teach", you are failing horribly. You may wish to review your teaching methods.


Didactically, here's one that you would love regardless of what the actual THD spec is.

Atma-Sphere M-60

You would be very happy with their bass performance as well provided they are paired with a suitable speaker/cable combination.
Didactically. I am just curious? Have you ever heard a pair of Cary 805c's or B's?
So why keep clicking on them, taking the trouble to read them, only to further bother to write critical, condescening, and insulting remarks.

What is that about.
They were looking so good ...then a THD of 1% showed up. I consider <0.1% a maximum standard. ATI ss amps for instance are <0.005% at rated power.

Oh, well. Thanks anyway.
They do not even list distortion, even in the manual. So they apparently are not proud of it. Contrare. So why bother listening. Nor do they show greater than 20hz-20khz frequency range. Though the Output Impendance is in line with what I consider a minimum standard. That of course is not near enough to validate an amp's accuracy.

If you know of one that meets standards for accuracy (distortion free), I would like to see it.
Didactically.I just asked one simple question. Were not in Math class here.
What, are you a lawyer, restricting me to 'yes' and 'no' responses? You are funny. 'Sig heil' :-)

Please do not ask me any more questions if have any agenda about the answer. I am free, and I am staying that way. You should try it. It can be fun. like 'live' like accuracy in a playback system.
ATI ss amps???.Do you really put the CARY 805 in the same class with ATI???I know ,I know the distortion is above the minimum standard of 0.1% at 20Hz-20KHz.Start your own audio equipment manufacturing .Teach those guys a lesson.Who are they kidding to sell inferior high distortion generating boat anchors.LOL
Didactically. Pardon me sir, I don't get it: are your ears painted on or what? Or perhaps this is some kind of puzzle?....Ahhhhhh...Now I get it.... a paint by numbers puzzle and I'm supposed to join all the lines together and paint over all the numbers. I just can't seem to find a colour chart number <.005 to paint the ears on the side your square head.
Quote: So why keep clicking on them, taking the trouble to read them, only to further bother to write critical, condescening, and insulting remarks.

Didactically, if you are referring to me, I apologize for any remarks construed to be insulting. Also, I didn't understand your reference "...why keep clicking on them, taking the trouble to read them."

Quote: What is that about.

Again, I am confused as to the context of your questions. I am not sure as to "who" or "what" your questions refer to.

On a different note, how much distortion do your speakers produce? Is it less than your minimum standard of 0.1?
I suspect Didactically is just having a bit of fun with us here. I wouldn't get too worked up over his obviously overstated absolutist position. We all know that what counts is enjoying the music. Time to go fire up those distortion-filled amps (and speakers!) and do some of that.
NO I do not put the Cary amp in the same catagory with ATI. They have too much distortion to qualify. I am trying to get distortion out of my system so I can hear the music instead.

Since discovering do not have to settle for distortion in an amp, I have no incentive to characterize it various poetic terms: 'sweet', 'warm', 'bloom', 'smooth', etc.

Your anchor analogy does fit the album producers. Not much we can do about the inferior sonic quality of so many recordings. Except become selective, which is easy once you actually hear the recording when it is not masked by the system/room setup distortions. That could put some demand on producers to go easy on the mixing console, and require more of incompetant engineering.

Did you know it is more difficult to design ss amps to lower distortion levels than tubes. Makes you wonder, doesn't it. I mean what the market really is for tube equipment. It appears the 'connoisseures of coloration' have it there.

Oh, well. Any discernable difference between the same low distortion in tubes vs ss would be very subtle indeed. Though I would prefer it, if it were availble (with enough power to drive my main panels at least --40w min).
You might want to look into a pair of Quicksilver V4's. They can be had for 2,000-2,500 used in excellent shape. Very solid design. You can tube roll if you wish. Plenty of power. Just a gorgeous sounding mid-range. Great amps at a reasonable price and built to last.
Distortion is measurable, as well as audible: just listen to the poetic terms the 'connoissers of coloration' use to describe it :-)

Those specs are a major conveniece in the auditioning process (when it is low enough that the mfgr will publish it for public scrutiny, that is).

Imagine a component with 'no' distortion. Whats to audition? Whats to listen to in order to discern and choose? It makes no sound to hear. Your choices then are size, price, build quality, or perhaps aesthetics. And Bob's your uncle, as they say.

I have been there: auditioning, creating terms to express what I hear, even though I find myself saying verbatim what everybody else says, about every product: even the component isolation device and the power cord.

Trading componets, over, and over again. Trying this, then that. Never satisfied. The absurdity which is mixing and matching distortion qualities. One to compensate for another. As though all that were rational, reasonale, and necessary. Or the worse, superior.

To those still in it, who have not found their way out, or who beleive and perhaps do no want out, mentioning'spec's has the same affect as light to Darcula. Or, the notion of 'blind test' as well.

You know what I am saying.
That is an amplifier spec. I guess what you want from speakers is transparency. It can be evaluated by using reference earphones (Shure ER2: $100, tested and reviewed at Reference Earphones link.

Listen to the recording, then compare what you hear in the room through your system. It can be disapointing, even discouaging, but like Dr Phil says, 'you cannot change what you do not acknowlege'.

Of course the first thing may be to work on setup. Making sure you are getting the most of what the speakers have to offer. You can just check the specs for the amp: to see if it is the culpret, or a participant.

But once you get those right, you will find the 'live' like quality of the music so involving, that there is little incentive to be so concerned about the top end components, cables, or tweaks.
If you have measurable amounts of distortion in your system, especially audible amounts, which get described in poetic terms by the 'connoisseurs of coloration', you will not hear the music. Even as much as actually got recorded on the source material. That is the whole point.

Reference earphones (Sure ER2: $100, tested and reviewed at Reference Earphones link) can be used to hear the recording. THen compare to what you hear in the room, through your system.

Of course there is not much to be done about how the recording was produced, except be selective in purchases. If more were, perhaps the labels would restrain the overuse of those 1/4 million dollar, room size, mixing consoles, and requrire more of the engineers, in capturing more of what the artists create on their instruments.

BTW there is a list of tested and proven sonically superior reference quality CD's in a variety of musical genres at the MUSIC link at
Beware of Didactically; he's like a computer virus! He showed up on Agon a few weeks ago, and has mastered the "clip and paste" technique quite well. All of his posts are a repeat of his dogma of "true to the source" and a cultist's belief in "published distortion figures". No matter what the thread's subject is, rest assured that these two irrelevant themes will be present! Seigfried Linkwitz is his audio God, whom he worships with blind devotion (or for his own financial gain?) and every other approach to the design or to the application of audio technology is HERESY. When asked questions about his listening experiences or a further explanation of his premises, rest assured that YOU WILL NOT GET AN ANSWER, merely incoherent psychobabble. This is actually quite funny, except that there are novices here on Agon who want to learn about high end audio, and they might make the mistake of taking him seriously. CAVEAT EMPTOR!!!
Perhaps one should consult the great Prof Lirpa in addition to Mr Linkwitz. The Great Men of high end audio must be heard.
Fatparrot has NAILED my concerns with this fellow in his last two statements! All audiophiles trying to learn PLEASE do not take didactically seriously if you would like we can post links to his other posts where he the same sales pitch.

Its almost as though Carl_eber has returned only he has been smoking crack for the last few years and well you see what we're stuck with. No offense to Carl should you read this, that comment was made in jest ;)
I actually give Didactically some credit for putting forth something in which he believes. Before Dida, I'd never heard of Linkwitz, and now I've done a quick read of his website. Hey, I learned something.

However, Dida is one-note, and dogmatic in his answers, and for some reason he can't put his thoughts into just one post, but finds it necessary to add two or three in a row to make his point. Sort of.

Anyway, more than one thread has recently been sent off course, and the focus seems to be in the wrong place, IMO.
Tvad. I'm not criticizing Seigfried Linkwitz, and I do intend to read the info at his website. There may indeed be some valuable information and theories posted there. But you are right...Dida is a one note zealot who is probably turning people OFF to anything that S.L. would have to say. It's sort of like an overly zealous and incredibly obnoxious evangelist who, in reality, actually turns people away from God! "I don't want any part of the same God Who belongs to such an annoying chowder head!", many will say.
Didactically.No big deal here.... It's a simple question. Have you ever really heard the cary 805 monos?
Ecclectique, don't expect a direct answer from Didactically. Always the same irrelevant answer, and he never responds by directly answering a question posed to him. Just redundant noxious waste that takes up space. I'm sure no one here knows what he's talking about, not even Didactically himself. Read all of his posts....always the same, always seeking justification as the "Bringer of the Ultimate Audio Truth".
I'd heard of Linkwitz (smart old me) and could even connect his name with that of Riley, except I always get them mixed up with the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction. Serves me right for reading sci-fi instead of hi-fi.

For Lirpa I had to do a search. Dr. E. Lirpa, right? Father of the wireless cable?

Other curious newbies check out Lirpa here

FTL travel buffs go here