Try biamping or triamping..use SS to drive the woofers.
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I don't know your speakers but with tube power the key is what db efficiency rating and what nominal impedance...if the speakers are less than 8 ohm and 90 db then tube amping will become somewhat problematic...what are the speakers specs? Shadorne's suggestion to bi-amp is a possiblity but are the speakers biwireable and it will be hard to bi-amp for your budget.
Heres the specs I could dig up for the 1290's which are similar speakers just a bit smaller:
Impedence: 8 ohms nominal
Efficiency: 90 dB SPL from 2.8 VRMS.
They can be bi-amped but need to be done so with an external crossover. If I could figure out how to do that that would be great. Unfortunately I cannot just hook another amp directly to the other binding posts.
What you really need to know is the impedance curve of your speakers, i.e. impedance vs. frequency and phase angle vs. frequency. The voltage sensitivity of your speakers will make them a marginal load for a low-powered tube amp, especially a SET amp. They might well be a very good match for a higher-powered tube amp, especially since they are a nominal 8 ohm impedance. There are good tube offerings from Cary Audio, Audio Electronic Supply, Antique Electronics, and some of the new Chinese amps like Cayin.
90 Db is not bad. I uses a pair of 175 watt Conrad Johnson tubed monoblocks to drive a pair of speakers with only 86 dB sensitivity. Tubed does not mean low powered - witness the various monsters from VTL. For under 2 K, you shold be able to find some options. I owned a pair of Aronov monoblocks for a while which were pretty nice for the $$.
BTW, my current speakers are ~ 6 feet tall, and I use 18 wpc tubed amps to drive them. It helps that the speakers are 117 db efficient :-)
Shouldn't be any problem at all driving those speakers with tube amps. My speakers are 89 db and 8 ohm nominal rating, and my 75 wpc tube amp drives them easily.
As for tube amps, the Music Reference mentioned by Jig is a good one, as would be the Quicksilver V4 monoblocks, a Cary V-12 or a BAT VK-60. All should handle your speakers with ease.
Thanks for all your responses. It seems that my speakers are efficient enough to run with lower wattage amps from what I am gathering here. Anyone have any experience with the AES Monoblocs? I saw a couple on the gon here recently and they seem interesting and good price point for tube amp entry. Also, anyone have any experience with older McIntosh tube stuff or should it be avoided due to age....
I haven't heard the AES Sixpacs but had an AES AE-25 Superamp, the DJH signature version. Great sound for the money, not the last word in tube warmth but more on the neutral side and good bass. The fun thing about the Superamp was trying different output tubes. I ended up trying over 20 types of tubes, each of which significantly affected the sound. You might be able to do this also with the Sixpacs, which have more power output and probably better bass.
I would think with those specs and assuming a smooth impedance curve that 60 tube watts would be plenty of power to drive them as loud as I would ever want to hear them. That of course opens up a much wider selection of choices - though I could hardly recommend a better value with great sound than the Music Reference RM9MKII previously mentioned, or the Quicksilver V4s if you want a little, tiny bit more margin of error over 60 watts on ultimate volume. I run my Merlin VSMs (89db, smooth 8ohm) with 30 watts integrated tube - no volume issues.
With due respect to many of the contributors to this thread, a lot of the information here reflects a misunderstanding of tube amps and what is important in a tube amp.
The ability of a tube amp to properly drive speakers is not so much determined by its wattage rating, but rather, by the quality of its output transformers (which convert voltage to current, current being needed to drive speakers featuring low impedences in the bass frequencies) and the size of its power supplies. It is generally easy to determine whether a given tube amp has quality transformers and power supplies: if the amp is heavy as hell and expensive as hell, you generally have a fine tube amp, as high-quality output transformers are both extremely heavy and costly (power supplies are likewise heavier the bigger they are). To make a rough analogy, a high-powered tube amp with mediocre output transformers is like a high-horsepower engine mated to a bad transmission -- if you can't get the power to the wheels and to the road, it doesn't matter how many horses you have. There are some very well known, supposedly "high-powered" tube amps out there that cannot drive tough loads because mediocre output transformers were used.
Generally speaking, it is very hard to find a tube amp that retails for less than say, $15k, that will properly drive dynamic-driver, low-impedence speakers, and $20k+ is more typical. In my experience, the CAT amps are by far the best in this regard, my VAC Renaissance amps being somewhat less good but still very good.
In my opinion, unless you are willing to commit real money to tube amplification, you're usually better off running a good solid-state amp.
I don't know, my $AU3k Melody tube amp which is 40wpc drives my big Osborn Epitome speakers (90db) to ear bleeding volumes with control and it sounds great. I agree you need good transformers to make a good valve amp and power ratings are not a great guide but there are some good amps out there at reasonable prices.