I had used the AT ATM3s with 34s and liked the sound better than the much more expensive Viva Verona XLs.I just never took a liking to the 845s,even driven by a 211.Seemed to lose that tube magic.Oh well.
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I went from Conrad Johnson Premier 12s (140 wpc pp, 6550 output tubes) to a friend's design SET monoblocks (12 wpc 845 outputs, EL34 drivers, 6N7 inputs) because the 845 SETs sounded MORE powerful and open, with exceptional dynamics and just plain musicality. That was 4 years ago and I never regretted the change for a minute.
I'm using metal plate 845Ws, no longer available, if only temporarily. The input and driver tubes make a big sonic difference too, and the Mullard xf1 EL-34s I formerly used have given way to much less expensive reissue Russian KT77s by Genelex/Gold Lion. These are sensational tubes, IMO.
Bottom line: Yes, moving to 845 SET monoblocks will be a major upgrade IF they have robust trannies. Mine are humongous Magnequests. Good luck, Dave
Actually the common wisdom is that triodes are more 'beautiful' and truthful than pentodes (or anything else), and directly-heated triodes doubly so. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with EL34s (especially strapped triode) but you aren't going to lose "beauty" with a good DHT amp (of basically any sort).
It seems to me that the closer you get to an 'ideal' amp the more tubes sound similar, the more single-ended sounds like push-pull, tubes sound like transistors, having output tranformers sounds like OTL, and so forth. For example, a Viva Solista 845 SET amp would be hard to nail as an 845 SET since it doesn't sound fuzzy, rounded, or rolled-off like most of them (excluding top brands). At all. But it still does have a bit of DHT glow, which is why I suspect the designer uses DHTs.
The Gold Lion KT77s surprised the heck out of me. I had earlier tried JJ KT77s TWICE (the first pair plagued by various well-known teething problems) and assumed the Gold Lions would be similar. Instead, they took all the best qualities of the Mullard xf1's and bettered them -- better dynamics, clarity, openness, with no downsides I can find. I should point out, though, that my Mullards were not exactly fresh tubes (unknown hours) and tested just barely into the "good" range on my Eico tester.
Paul, I've never heard an 845 SET amp sound "fuzzy, rounded, or rolled off," but I guess if you say so, they must be out there. Wimpy trannies maybe?
"can it match the natural 'beauty' inherent to the EL-34?"
I won't say that the 845 isn't a quality tube capable of making beautiful music in the right design, but to answer your question very specifically, and with the understanding that "beauty" is in the ears of the listener: When I hear someone ask for a beautiful sounding tube, the 845 doesn't spring to the forefront of my thoughts. One might call it a different beauty, somewhat akin to the difference between incandescent light and the flickering light of a fire.
Now there is an outstanding point.
I've heard a few EL34 based amps and all have had a quite different sonic signature. One set in triode, two others in Pentode, Not sure which #34 tubes in each. JJ's or someother popular brand I think... nothing high priced or NOS.
To date... the Thor 30wpc mono with two 34s in each block running in tri, have been the ones to beat IMHO!
Thanks for the tips on the 77s.
It's like I said earlier - an 845 will (in almost any implementation) have that "lit from within" DHT glow in the midrange. For many, that is the ultimate in beauty.
EL34s have a sort of creamy midrange too, one that is possibly more euphonic, but not as clear.
I would argue the DHSET mid is both more transparent (clear) and more beautiful.
The CJ MV-60 is a fave amp of mine, with a 'glowing', beautiful midrange, but there's no doubt it's euphonic (cloudy) as well.
You really need to hear the amps for yourself. These things can't be adequately put into words.
>> EL34s have a sort of creamy midrange too, one that is possibly more euphonic, but not as clear. <<
As I've no doubt that is your exp, I have to say I feel the context of the application will determeine more so the qualities of the presentation... not merely the tubes being implemented.
Triode, triode, triode. I feel that is where the truly intrinsic differences in the sound of tubes begins. I've not had the opportunity to hear 300b, or 845 designs. Not in single tube operation or in PP.
From what I've heard recently of CJ and some other's, I also must say what I'm hearing over the past few years is a decided bent on becoming more SS like. Finding a glorious harmonic sound being presented from a tube amp today seems the exception.
In my ultralinear configured amps using CED winged C EL34 tubes, I can discern as much if not more detail and resolution with them as I did using any SS or Hybrid amp... in truth, I feel a bit more perhaps. Their midband is very well appointed and supplies a great deal of speed and immediacy. All the subtleties and nuamsce are there and easily revealed. Little euphony lives in that ultralinear configuration.
Perhaps more to the point is how tubes should sound or differ within a certain context, in particular, a certain amp. Or in a particular design topology. I tend to think these CED winged Cs run in triode would sound much different than they do running in ultralinear.
I could be far off the path here but I'd venture a guess that some other triode only tubes sound different when in Push Pull. or that with significant negative feedback a tube which sounds one way without any, might sound quite different with some.
Lastly ... what one designer can do with a tube is at times beyond what another can do with the exact same tube in terms of sound alone. Tubes by their very nature determine output. I've found so far, brand and vintage more of a thunbprint for tubes than merely their type.