Tube Curious

Hello fellow forum members. I've owned a Simaudio Moon I-5 for a liitle over a year and just two weeks ago also acquired an Electrocompaniet ECI-3. My small system also consists of a Theta Pearl transport, Bel Canto DAC 1.1, ProAc Tablette 50 Signatures and an NHT SW3P sub.

I've been having a great time comparing these two integrateds, each has its own strengths and in certain ways are strangely similar. Both produce very similar soundstages which are wide and fairly deep. Surprisingly, the ECI-3 is almost as dynamic as the I-5. The differences are in the extremes. The I-5 is more extended on top and recreates top hats and cymbals with more realism. The ECI-3 has much more controlled and powerful bass. In certain vocal and instrumental extremes the I-5 can sound glassy, whereas the ECI-3 will handle the same passage much more smoothly. The ECI-3 tames bright recordings. The I-5 brings life to dull ones.

I'm having such a tough time picking one over the other that I thought up a kooky idea. What if I were to keep the I-5 which I believe is more transparent and has a more appealing design to me, and buy a tube amp. Something I could hookup to the I-5 when I have the urge. I've never owned a tube amp and have always been wary of the added complexity of tube rolling and replacing tubes when they go out.

Given my associated equipment and my strange mood swings would any of the following candidates make good choices as a nice alternate? Sonic Frontiers Power 1 or 2. BAT VK-60. Rogue 88. Or even some low powered SETs. From the specs I've checked it doesn't seem like I'll run into any impedance matching problems using the I-5 as a preamp with these amps. These days I tend to favor jazz instrumentals and female vocals, but occasionally have the urge to boogie a little. My room is only 12' x 14', and both integrateds play quite loud in it.

Forgive me for what may be a basic or oddball question, but I wanted to tap the knowleadge of the forum before making any rash purchases. Thanks!
BAT VK60 is THE amplifier of all three that you've mentioned.
It's worth to experiment with low powered SETs since your speakers as far as I know quite efficient. From that list try integrated Unison Research ARIA or higher priced models.
Thanks for the info Marakanetz. From what I've been reading it seems the BAT is more sensitive than others to the quality of the AC it receives. Is this something I should be overly concerned with?
the good thing people dont realise with tubes is when they wear out pop in a new one. when ss wears out put it on a ups truck for repair. you wont be sorry.i had the bat also. i liked it. i also had the power 3s they sound a little more ss , but still nice.
Kirk930: Yes replace your tubes -but when??? Audio Research says "replace you VT-100 power tubes every 2000 hours"... When the heck is that? You've got to have deep pockets (currently $800+ for full replacement) or nerves of steel to deal with tubes. From what I hear, a tube can just "blow out" and take your circuits with it!! This does not increase my music listening enjoyment!! An ARC dealer recently told me "if your tube still lights up and/or is not cloudy or obviously making bad sounds, it doesn't need replacing... Tubes take time to break in"!!! What a fiend! Yes, this audio business is not for the faint of heart...
BAT has a very complicated circuitry that allowes tubes to wear equally and at the same time without damaging other tubes while oscilation -- trully "balanced" design! It has a dynamic "solid-state" bass and well defined tube midrange.
It works in triode or tetrode mode depending on the input from preamp. Instant switching from SET mode to push-pull without any switches so dynamics is well controlled for ANY KIND of music to be listened NO EXCEPTIONS! BATs aren't music depended.
Conserning AC the best for BAT is dedicated power line wall socket. That will be the best power tweak for almost any power amplifier.
The only negative part of BATs is non-transferrable warranty which means if you buy used you will have to take care yourself for any circuit malfunctions and that is $$$$. But on the other side to outperform ~$2K BAT VK60, you'll need at least x3 of your budget for SS
dweller i have had the same tubes running for 4 years + no problems. i also leave them running 24/7. i have never sent my amps back nor have my two friends that own tube research amps and preamps . ss also has to break in. but when the transistors get old the amp gets weaker. until it finally fails . i have some dead mac amps laying around i know. it is your ear but i could not live with ss.
I am looking to sell my Bat vk60 only to get a powerfull ss amp to drive Avalons. Let me know if your interested Gunbei, i'll cut you a good deal. -kale
I have owned my current Tube Research Amps (mono 100's) for 3 1/2 years without failure, nor need for tube replacement. (I've checked on TV/7 and Hickok 752A tube testers). Before this, I had Tube Research 300 Mono's for 6 years, once again, no failure, no need for replacement. I, like Kirk 930, run mine 24/7. And, they work well with my Avalon Ascents, Sound Lab, and JM Lab.
Dweller, ARC charges four times as much for their 6550 tubes . The same brand of 8 matched 6550's can be had for about $240 w/o even shopping for best price.

2000 hours tube life divided by 9-hours of listening per week = 222 weeks, divided by 52 weeks in a year = more than 4 years of tube life. $240 divided by 4.25 years is less than $60 per year in tube cost. And this only applies to the power tubes as the small tubes and preamp tubes last much longer.

Now if you leave the tube amp on for long extended periods without ever turning it off (spewing out background music all day long, every day), that might be costly. That's why I have a cheap SS receiver to satisfy my need for constant background noise. ;-)
Streetdaddy, I'm curious about your BAT + Avalon setup. I listened to a pair of rather large Avalon speakers (don't recall the model) driven by a Conrad-Johnson Premier 11a 70w/ch tube amp in a dealer show room. I didn't think it was a good match. It seemed constrained, lacking bass, and sounded like the music had a sheet over it. I suspect the Avalon's needed more power. Is this what you're hearing with your current setup? I brought the CJ Premier 11a home to try with my smaller Thiel CS 1.5's and they matched very nicely.
I'm selling the Bat in order to get a ss amp. I don't have the Avalons yet. Kale