Tube Integrated Amp to Drive Floorstanding Speakers?


forgive me, but i'm a relative newbie to audiophile concepts.  i am looking to build a 2 channel system for music that i can grow with.  currently i have a VPI Prime, Soundsmith MKIII cart.   I'm using a vintage kenwood KA-9100 driving Elac Uni F bookshelf speakers for my office.   

in the future, i plan on a listening room of 15x20, give or take.    I am intrigued by integrated tube amps - looking at all sorts, including PrimaLuna, VPI 299d, etc.   but these amps have lower WPC outputs.   I'd like to grow into a floorstanding set, something like the Monitor Gold, KEF R-series or PBS Imagine T3 range.    My tastes range from Classical to Classic Rock.   i do not blast music by any means.    Is an integrated tube amp (35-40 wpc) sufficient and will it leave room to grow?   ideally i'd like a home threater bypass should i decide to add TV that into the mix
mjb87062017
Think you're putting the cart before the horse here.  Figure out which speakers that really move you and do what you want and then look for the integrated that can drive them properly and synergize sonically with them.  This is particularly important if you're contemplating a tube amp.  Best of luck. 

+1 on the advice that soix gave you.

There is absolutely no reason to worry about finding a tube Intergrated before you pick the speakers that you want because you will have lots of good choices.

And yes 35 to 40 watts will be plenty of pwr for most average sensitivity speakers that are relatively easy to drive in your room size and musical tastes.

Best of luck to you,

Kenny.

I totally agree, pick your speakers first. Listen to everything you can and find speakers you love. Then choose an amp that will work well with them. An amp that does not have enough power will sound somewhat thin and closed in. I would not go for the bare minimum of power.

 Take your time. Make a long term plan as to what components you want and work toward that goal. Synergy is the most important thing. It does not matter how good or expensive the different pieces are if they don't work well together. Browse the forums and see what people are using together. And listen to everything you possibly can.

 
thank you all- i appreciate the input.  to be clear, i'm at the research stage, by no means ready to pull the trigger on anything.   I just wanted some input on the possibility of using a tube amp, and you've answered it.    where i live (Long Island), it is geographically difficult for me to demo speakers or amps, so i thought it might be wise to plan to acquire amp and speakers simultaneously as i'm sure i'll be working with an online dealer.   thanks 
Just make sure that "on line dealer" has a good return policy. What he recommends might not be to your tastes in sound or may not work well in the room you put this system in. IMHO.
You have a wonderful integrated already. Get it serviced/recapped and it will drive the speakers you are considering and do it with finesse.  Those Kennys are special.  The Primaluna amps not so much (at least the Prologues).
Dude, you live on Long Island NY and you think it's difficult to demo equipment???  Plenty of dealers on LI, and a quick trip to NYC opens up tons more options.  It doesn't get much better than that for hearing equipment.  C'mon man!!!
Well, there is Audio Den on Long Island and a whole bunch of dealers in Manhattan.
I would suggest contacting Audioconnection in Northern NJ. Johnny Rutan is one of the best dealers in the area.
Bob
Ha- Soix - where are these dealers on LI?  you got a 2 year old running around like i do?  manhattan is not the hop, skip n a jump that it used to be.  
Audio Den in Lake Grove, NY
Audio Breakthroughs in Manhasset

i

Hi!

Well, which way to paradise? Or how do I get to Oz from here and will I need the witches broom too?

80% of the music is made in the first 20 watts. Generally speaking.

Low power amps do a good job of limiting speaker choices. It does not mean however, it limits the end result.

To open the speaker door further, begin with a quality stable of 75 – 150wpc @ 8ohms,

Building a rig front to back, or back to front always seems the question. Back to front has apparently more subscribers than the front end to speakers devotees.

Regardless, either dedication will achieve the same result. Eventually. Unless….

The integrated amp has some power. Check out the BAT VK3000, or 3000SE. BAT used to provide an upgrade path for those who were unable or unwilling to go all in at the onset. Maybe they still do which makes the VK3000 a real upscale option as a very good starting INT arrangement.

VK-3000SE Amplifier
Number of Channels   2    
Output Power at 8Ω/4Ω   150W / 300W  
Frequency Response   2Hz to 180kHz
Inputs 2 XLR + 3 RCA  
Input Impedance   100 kΩ minimum each phase
HT pass thru
Volume control resolution   0.5db   Volume Control number of steps   140
Tube Complement   2 x 6H30  
Preamplifier Outputs   1 XLR balanced output
*XLR > RCA adapters here will allow for RCA amp usage.
Tape Output   1 RCA  
Speaker Outputs 2 pair gold-plated binding posts
Remote Control  
Standard   Options   Phono (MM/MC)
Color (black,silver/black)
Dimensions (WHD) Inches   19" x 5.75" x 15.5"   Weight   50 lbs

Add on an amp later. Go balanced front to back if desired, source to speakers.

Right off the speaker options are exponential with 150wpc @ 8, doubling to 300wpc @ 4. Regardless the room size. All but the most demanding panels will work well with this InT. bookshelfs, monitors, or FS, its your call.

I prefer the front to back pathway as it all begins with the signal in the first place.

Go out and buy the most speaker you can and essentially, your married to them and everything upstream has to meet their needs. Pricey squeakers will not perform optimally until the upstream components can feed them an equivalency in both POWER and Signal purity.

On the other hand, quite competent squeakers can and will deliver very satisfying accounts of themselves, provided what they are getting from the upstream items is at least decent or eventually, exceptional.

I’ve heard Reference level speakers sound ho hum, pretty good, very nice, with ho hum, pretty good, very nice front ends, but never have I heard top shelf speakers sound better than what is pushing them. EVER.

With the aforementioned front end plus top tier speakers, the most improvement in general was had from doing an upgrade to the source, or to the power train, and the best result came from both of these facets being improved upon. Although, improving upon the source device (S) gave the biggest bang for the buck. Thereafter, it was a matter of controlling the speakers with adequate power.

IMO, it seems a shame to have outstanding transducers sitting there, waiting for all the upstream appliances to come up to par.

I’ve personally experienced well more than once, an exceptional presentation which commanded a lot of ‘they are here’ using a pair of $4K retail FS quite popular so so speakers, once the source and power train was improved and obviously well in advance of the cost of the speakers. $8K source; $10K line pre; $7500 mono blocks; $$2K racks & stands; 7K wires and conditioners.

Naturally then, it was time to upgrade the speakers.

The predominate caveat in either philosophy will be the ‘synergy’, as previously stated. Finding a one size fits all speaker is nearly impossible. Especially if you have a spouse. One that lives with you. one that might even help out with the bills. Now there is the real caveat for acquiring ‘synergy’ in the system, and otherwise.

Shuffling in and out components is much easier than dragging around speakers, and as such, once one is satisfied with the front end, the room, and the speaker esthetics, the budget will pretty much dictate how deep into the speaker waters one will be able to wade. Meaning, speaker choices narrow rapidly once you have satisfied all the other areas of the rig… and perhaps the ‘relationship’, IMHO.

Were I ever to go down the ‘speakers’ first boulevard, they would have to be something I could live with for a very long time. A very long time indeed. Flexible3 enough as well to accommodate glass power too, not just Sand current.

The only path audiophiles hate to hear is to do their rooms first. Nobody likes that approach and it usually is the final piece of the puzzle that is addressed. I really feel if the room is addressed first, a lot of issues won’t be cropping up later or during the building process.

In any case, if you keep being smart, all roads lead to Rome… someday.

Be well, J

mjb, I can share my experience.  I have B&W 803N speakers, which have 89db sensitivity (I think), and are known to be "difficult to drive" and not "tube friendly".  I had a Primaluna Dialogue One Integrated Amp (38wpc) running them for three years.  A fellow forum member who lives near me came by one day.  He was astounded at how smooth and natural they sounded together.  I was very happy with the synergy, and I think they worked very well as a system.  So, I say poo-poo to those who say that towers have to be sensitive to work with tubes.  Maybe some tube amps... but not the PL.

From there, I liked the PL so much that I upgraded to the Dialogue Premium HP Integrated Amp.  Double the power, double the fun.  I love it, and people who come by to hear it agree.  It's great.  

So, to answer your original question, a Primaluna tube amp will run your tower speakers just fine.  I agree that you want to make sure the speakers and amp work well together, and you can determine this by taking your speakers to the store (I did), or by getting an in-home demo of the integrated amp.  Either way is a good thing to do so you can be more sure.  

And, further, yes, it will give you room to grow.  I upgraded from KT88 to KT120 in my Dialogue One, and later moved to the more powerful PL HP.  In that one, I upgraded from the stock EL34 to KT120s, and will soon move to KT150.  Plenty of room to grow.  In fact, much more room to grow than with any SS equipment I've owned.  All of these changes made my system incrementally better, without having to sell an expensive piece of gear to buy something else expensive.

WRT to the Primaluna, I have been on this journey for about 10 years now, and have been through several amps, preamps, and integrated amps.  I was very happy with the D-One, but got the bug to move up.  The PL HP is a definite keeper.  It's been a year and a half, and while I could consider other speakers, I see no reason to trade this integrated amp, ever.

Hope that's helpful.
sounderm- you had me a 'poo-poo' !!. thank you, that was exactly the analysis i was looking for.  I have read great things about the KT120s.  thanks again, enjoy your system.  
@oblgny , I would scratch Audio Breakthroughs from my list. It is a shadow of its' former self.
@mjb, Unless your are out on the twin forks, getting to Manhattan isn't exactly the hardest thing to do, especially if you want to audition before you buy.
B
I've had very good dealings with Audio Breakthroughs which is why I mentioned them - always a pleasure in my book. 


mjb, one other thing I’d say. I have used both the KT120s and the EL34s in my PL HP. After using them for a while, I moved back to the EL34s from the KT120s. The reason is that I notice a certain midrange "glare" that's most noticable on vocals with the KT120s that I don’t hear with the EL34s. Yes, the bass is better, and extension is better with the KT120s. But, I can’t seem to get past the midrange glare. The EL34s don’t have this at all. The overall sound is a bit smoother and more pleasant.

So, that’s why I plan to move to the KT150s. From what I’ve read, they seem to be closer to the EL34 sound balance with the KT120 sparkle and punch, but without that glare. We will see, soon as I scrape my pennies together.

One other thing I forgot to mention. My listening area is about 13x13. But one wall is open to a large room, approx 30x25. So, it’s sort of an L-shaped room, with the side area set up for more critical listening. But, in the larger room, it’s plenty loud, very clear, and overall plenty of power for the space. Sounds great, and everyone loves the PL and B&W match.
I can vouch for the Prima Luna Dialogue HP Integrated. It easily drives larger floorstanding speakers (like Proac D48R) that many tube amps will simply not get a grip on. I was impressed by the bass control and speed which I was not expecting from such a modestly priced unit. Check one out. You might well be pleasantly surprised as I was.
I’m going to add another voice in favor of the Primmaluna Dialogue HP Integrated. I upgraded to the KT 150’s and haven’t looked back. I have Dali Epicon 6’s and have rarely passed 12:00 on the volume. These 43 inch speakers are driven quite well by this integrated amp. The KT 150's have the midrange of the EL 34's with a great responsive bass without the shrillness in the upper range of the KT 120's.
You should look at the Line Magnetics 508ia. A great integrated with 48 watts of single ended, Class A power.
well, the 150s might be a solution!


soundermn
given you said a ??? set of KT 120s had an issue in the mids another set of ??? EL 34 did not demonstrate, have you been able to experiment with more than one brand of 120’s or 34s? and, or, different Eras of either?

different brands and or eras of tubes will definitely yield different results and or sonics, some quite noticeable, some more subtely. Even in a self biasing amp.

I only read a couple online reviews of the PL Dialog HP INt but liked what I read. Mostly. It has a large tube compliment on board which if one is prone to experiment with the wicked and magical world of tube rolling, can become quite expensive.
Six inputs and eight outputs? Hmmm.

When you left the 34s for the 120s, did you as well replace the 6SN7s, or before the switch of output tubes?

A note I saw in the reviews I read mentioned the longevity of tubes with a caveat: “provided the matching of the amp to speakers was optimal or close to it, tubes would last for years.” If not an optimal speaker & amp arrangement, the implication was tubes would have a quite shorter life span.

Sourcing tubes as NOS or current, especially given all the various subs and iterations of the same tube values can become quite involved. CED, Mullard, Jj, etc. And, ‘ ‘spensive. The output tubes aren’t the only ones which will alter the sonics either, merely the out put power.

I’ve owned several tube power amps and preamps. A couple had more tubes than the PL mentioned here. Self biased and manually biased. Stereo and mono blocks.

I’ve always gotten the impression, after a lot of tube rolling, makers deliver their products with what they feel is the best for a specific application, or range of speakers. As audio nuts we try to expand that range, or simply ignore it and attempt to feed speakers which are in fact not the best fit, but what we have an investment in already on hand.

I truly get it. Been there and done that too.

Having owned several BW models, all of them enjoyed more than double digit watts to perform well across the entire bandwidth. All were of the nautilus variety and below it.

Sometimes this ‘make it work’ with in house speakers theme isn’t always the best path, or we did not get the right or better, or even the best power amp for them…. Despite the notion we can up the out put power of the amp with altering the output tubes later on. It becomes still harder a thing to do, if the amp does not have different transformer taps, 2, 4, 6, or 8ohm for various speaker configs. Sometimes, even if it does have various output taps, getting it hooked to the speaker with an amenable or amp friendly impedance graph can be daunting.

Its always about the proposed speaker’s ‘impedance curves’ more than the speakers sensitivity the amp will see and have to deal with that provides the chance for an optimum amp to speaker connection, in bandwidth reproduction, control, and volume.

With a pair of Dodd 120wpc monos (running ultralinear) & Silverline Sonata IIIs a supposed 93db 8ohm speaker which did not dip below 4 ohms, I initially hooked it onto the 4 ohm taps to be safe. The sound was velvety smooth. 300B-ish sounding. Changing onto the 8 ohm tamps, was night and day different. Immensely better control and bass reproduction and slam. Better across the board sonically. Far more musically detailed.

To a point, in the volume levels. In a 14ft W x 21ft L arched ceiling fully enclosed room. It would play loudly for sure with a little ZZ, AC/DC, etc! As the volume escalated the bottom end thinned out though. A sub search was in order and done thereafter. Issue resolved.

The PL HP as I read it has an output for a sub. That might solve the lower range desire without more tube rolling and expense therein. Especially in an ‘opened’ non enclosed room… and if acquiring or trading out speakers is not an option.

Personally, I liked very much the accounts of the reviews on the PL D HP I read, and may well get one for my office next year, as I have some very amp friendly speakers on hand already which could be quite happy with less than 40wpc. We’ll see.

If the fun knob is not turned up, tons of amps work with tons of speakers in many rooms. Twisting the fun button up, and everything begins to show what’s up with the pairing. Every time.
Hopefully these experiences and insights can be helpful. Good luck.

If you don't need the headphone outputs...then you dont need to even bother with the Premium HP, just get the Premium, save $1000 for tubes, it's the same amplifier without the headphone option, less tubes to worry about also.

I saw info on a Wells Audio Int - "Majestic'. SS with all the amenities for $3500. a strong damping factor too so less eff speakers, and or dipping IMp curves could be addressed well so the bottom end remains solid.

voiced closely to what tube amps yeild harmonically.
Just a thought. be well.
Manley Stingray ipod ,great all around intergrated.Easy to bise,tube roll,nice headphone amp,and yes easy to listen to streaming.Great fexiblety in hookups with a sub out.The only thing I wish it had is a phono.It controls bass nice and voices are from heaven.It powers my Usher 6371's very well.
If you do not blast music by any means, a tube integrated of medium power will be plenty. Or get a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium power amp, and a Transformer Volume Control passive preamp.

The PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium can sound like anything, since it has 48 combinations to try, not including tube brands.

If folks' KT-120s have glare, switch to triode.