Tube or SS for Vocals/Strings

I am wondering if I should pair a tube amp with my arro's if most of my listening is classical? I also like opera, baroque, romantic, etc. I am a cellist and so I listen to a lot of strings but I also like vocals. Yann Tiersen is my favorite artist/composer and so I want something that boosts all the arros' strengths and is completely musically involving. ideas?
No brainer - Tubes.
I would agree with the previous poster in recommending tubes and IMO a cj premier 140, assuming your speakers are fairly efficient, would fit the bill quite nicely. I also love / enjoy baroque music and nothing does the midrange and high frequency realism like tubes do. Having said that I am very please with my cj premier 350ss driving my thiels with a tubed pre-amp.

"No brainer - Tubes."

ah, but which tubes? 6550s? EL34s? others?
300b, 45, 2a3. In that order.

Tubes, lush, great mids and good bass, sounds like real life

"No brainer - Tubes." Triodes- smooth with detail and consistant over time.
I'd agree with Pawlowski (but he probably wasn't considering your current speakers in his recommendation): Nothing like a fat bottle to make strings and vocals load your room with sound that's moist with sweat and slides across your senses like a lover's caress. Be very mindful of which components you bring together to accomplish this task. Mismatching low-powered, SET gear is an easy way to have you scratchin' your head wondering why the heck you listened to those clowns on A'gon in the first place. If you go that route get someone who knows what their doing to help you out in choosing gear within your price range that'll sing in harmony. Often the smaller, more approachable manufacturers are an outstanding resource for doing just that. Otherwise, take some time and read the archives here and on AudioAsylum (SETAsylum). Sorry, your Arro's would not make a good match for these tubes (in most configurations they're used in). You would need a different speaker if you were considering that route. I'd still push tubes though if your interest is vocals and strings. If you must stick with the Arros, go for Triodes if possible. With your speakers (87db sensitivity) in a moderate room I'd guess you'll need about 25-35wpc minimum of tube power. If you wanted to get more specific answers from folks you may want to add a budget and the size of your room to the thread, and wheter you were considering an integrated amp or separates.

Baroque lover

What exactly are the specs for your speakers? You make mention of arro's but I/we need to know specific's before anyone can recommend a power amp especially a tube power amp. Specs like efficency and impedence or impedence irregularities would be very helpful. I myself know nothing about arro's.
I'm sorry. Yes, I totally neglected your current speaker constraints.
Tubes sound more real. -from one musician to another.
I have both an all tube system and a solid state system. For the music you are mostly listening to tubes will the ticket to sustained listening enjoyment. EL34 should be added to the list of sweet sounding tubes.
Ask a silly question, get a bunch of silly answers. You need to listen to both types of amps to decide which distortion your prefer, because that is what the "tube" sound is. Your particular speakers are a far more relevant determiner of the sound you will hear than differences among competent tube or solid state amps. Ignor the kneejerk go-tubes replies.

I would suggest Pass Aleph 3. 60wpc into 4 0hm would be more than enough. You'd get pure class A sound without the tube failure hassle.

ImpedancE - 4 ohms
Sensitivity - 87 dB

Room size at the moment is really small, 10x12. I can only expect that the next room it will be in will be as small or a tad larger (15x12). Regardless these speakers will always be in a smaller room.
Having owned a couple of set-amps and several speakers in the last couple of years>> Well I kept my CJ8xs amps. Hi-power pp triode does it for me with the fewest compromises.
Given your room size, which is relatively small, and sticking with your Arro speakers, I'd look for a tube amp putting out about 35wpc, prefereably Triode. The choices then will be up to your budget. If you are not technically inclined, or don't want to hassle with adjustments, look for a self-biasing amp.

As far as "silly answers" and "knee-jerk reactions": I assumed, like most people asking questions here, that Baroque_lover was asking for OPINIONS from others who've had experience with both types of amplification. I would not assume that they, or anyone one else, would take the response to be anything more or less than that. By all means, use your own ears and choose your own tools. As far as distortion goes, as you can see by the overwhelming response here, and on many other similar threads, there are a huge number of Audiophiles and music lovers who overwhelmingly prefer the "distortion" of various modes of tube amplification (if you must isolate the qualities of the amp to that particular distinction). There are also those who prefer the qualities of SS. I've listened to and owned both in over 24 years in this hobby and it is my silly opinion that, for vocals and strings, there is no more rewarding form of amplification to give those sounds a more life-like presence than a well-selected tube system, especially a well assembled SET system. I currently own an SET rig as my main rig, and a SS rig as my secondary rig. I like both very much for their own qualities, but if you ask which I prefer to listen to vocals and strings on, well, you know what my answer would be. Whoops, there goes that damn knee again!

Welcome back, Marco. You've been missed.

Baroque_lover, just because I will give 2 cents.. Um tubes with a 4ohm load at 87 db is gonna be tuff.. I say look at Hybrid types, old counterpoint, newer Kora amps, I think LLano is a good one I have heard of.
Those arro speakers have similar characteristcs to my thiels and I can tell you that a flee power SET amp is not going to drive them. I had a cj premier 11a (70wpc) driving my thiels for a short time and while it did an admirable job it simply did not have the juice necessary to really make them sing. Therfore I still think a premier 140 (140wpc) would do a wonderful job driving your arros.

Thanks Grant. I hear you had a good time with Howard and the Green Man at the VTV show, although both Howard and Dean said the show was a bit disappointing other than the Edgarhorn room(?).

Baroque_lover - Do a search on the forums here under "arro" and you will find two or three threads where Arro owners recommend the amps they prefer. My bet is that you'd be very happy with one of the Prima Luna's, Cayin or Jolida selections which are all very affordable, and all are mentioned in those threads as being a good combination (I added the Prima Luna as it'd be a good bet too). Again, if you don't like tinkering choose an auto-biased option (the Jolida's are all manual-bias). A good observation that I missed from Avguygeorge - indeed there are compromises with does not do everything well, and does, as I said, require a very careful matching of components (good call). If you stray occasionally from vocals and strings, and want some 'impact' and mastery of more complex, layered music at a slight sacarafice in holography, I'd recommend a KT88 based amp. If you really hate any kind of hands-on with your components, and prefer to set-it and forget it, then I'd suggest you stick to an SS option and look for one that excels at vocals and strings (which would probably be touted here and elsewhere as a "tube-like" SS amp....hey, go figure!). In this case I'd push the Aleph 3/30 someone recommended already, or my own SS selection, a Portal Panache. Though they will bring some tube-like qualities to your listening experience, in my experience, silly as it may be, they do not posess the strengths of tubes in an undistilled form. On the other hand, they do bring to the table some SS strengths (very detailed, muscle to the low-end to write home about, as well as mastery of more complex, layered music), which you may appreciate in listening to orchestral and opera selections. IMO they won't do vocals and strings as well as a good tube amp. Damn, I practically jabbed my eye out with my knee that time. I'd better go get some ice to put on it!

Interesting in that I was not going to join this thread until it became evident that the room size and speaker efficiency of Baroque_lover's set-up is very close to mine. I have been using a 50 watt triode push-pull amp with my 88db speakers for some time now with very good results. I have also been pretty biased to tube systems for some time and agree with those who recommmend tubes based on the type of music Baroque_lover enjoys. However, in looking for a new amp I have listened to some flea powered SETs, as well as higher powered push-pull designs. I have to say that I do not believe a SET amp is a good choice here based on the speaker efficiency rating, unless you can get one upwards of 45 watts or so, and that could be difficult and/or expensive. The higher powered push-pull designs I believe would work well and there are many choices at different price points.

As for me. I'm going to give a solid state amp a try with my Spendor 1/2e speakers and compare it to my triode. I anticipate that there will be differences in sound but since I will be keeping tubes at the preamp and phono stage levels, I may succeed in maintaining warmth while tightening up the low end and driving my speakers to take full advantage of their dynamics. Only way to find out is to listen.
>>Welcome back, Marco. You've been missed<<

By whom? Do not speak for anybody but yourself please. Thanks for that consideration.

By whom? Do not speak for anybody but yourself please. Thanks for that consideration.
God, you're a jagoff, Stan. The drum major of the Audiogon Jagoff Parade.

I am speaking for myself. Whenever I express an opinion in these forums, it is always my personal opinion.
God, you're a jagoff, Stan. The drum major of the Audiogon Jagoff

I don't wann'a be around for that parade. Though it's amazing anyone can
play such a tiny instrument, much less a whole marching band. Be sure to
bring binoculars if you really must see what's going on. The slippery mess
they leave behind should give anyone pause from attending. My god, just
think of the floats!!!

....coming to a town near you!

LOL, this thread has turned into a funny!

Anyways, I emailed Totem personally and they said for my specific needs the Unison research S2K SET integrated would be the best match under $2000. They said they use it in Totems own personal showroom in Quebec. It offers 16w SET power. Because the mechanical limits of the Arro are a lot smaller than other larger loudspeakers with similiar impedence/sensitivety it allows the Arro's to match up really well with SET amps.

Thanks for the comments so far guys!
This is the first I've heard of the S2K. Looks like an interesting design using two KT88's in unison (pardon the pun). Well, if that is true about the match-up, that'd get my thumbs-up as worthy of consideration, with the caveat that Avguygeorge added - SET designs done right will certainly do vocals and strings like no other topology, but will not be as versatile as a push-pull when it comes to the wider range of applications. It doesn't bother me at all, but then I don't listen to much rock or electronic music, or other complex/demanding programming, nor do I use the SETs for home theatre. The match-up does surprise me though. Somehow I would have never thought 16watts could drive speakers with the specs of the Arros to gratifying levels. I've tried both 10 watts of push-pull and 17 watts of pentode with both 89db monitors and 90 db floor standers (both at 8 ohms). Granted, neither speaker resembled the Arros in size/shape nor drivers. Neither of those combinations really allowed me to push the speakers very hard. At modest levels (below 85db) those combinations were very nice indeed. That begs another good question - how loud do you typically like to listen?

How 'bout a tubed linestage and a single ended solid state. I forgot who, but just read a small blurb on one of their amps called, I think, the F2 in Dec05 stereophile. Reasonably priced too if I recall.
Hey Jax,

I normally listen at moderate levels. this setup will obviously be not used for any video. However, I am wondering if a REL Stampede will add to the setup for depth and perceived loudness especially on rock and electronic tracks. I wonder If that will give me the best of both worlds?
Marco seems offended by the characterization of differences in sound as distortion, but if not for distortion doesn't it follow that all systems would sound identical to the source. He happens to prefer the distortion tubes introduce, and given that not all tube amps yield the same distortion, he happens to prefer the distortion of particular tube amps, and some would suggest further particular amps with particular tubes, transformers, capacitors, resisters, and so forth.

That there is a predisposition on Audiogon to write as though tubes and vinyl are a panacea to achieve good sound seems obvious from the posts, thus the offending kneejerk comment.

I think the OP needs to listen for himself to select the distortion he prefers, not the distortion I or Marco might prefer -- I also love baroque music, especially that of Corelli.

The F2 I believe is the First Watt designed by Nelson Pass. The First Watt amps are getting very good press here and elsewhere. The Aleph J looks interesting as well.
Nope, not offended at all, but thanks for your concern.

I'll take your supposition a bit further: you can view any and all reproduction of an accoustic performance in a specific space as "distortion", from the very moment the sound travels away from the source. It will never be a "true" reproduction of the performance no matter what system/listening room combination you prefer. It is all relative. I took no offense at your using the word "distortion". I simply think defining the different forms of amplification by what type of distortion they are more prone towards, is, for the most part, well, silly! It's all distortion...why do you need to make that the operative distinguishing factor? As I said, I'd agree with your suggestion for anyone seeking out system components that suits them for their specific preferences make their own decisions using their own ears (they can't borrow mine anyway), in their own listening space. Obviously I see nothing silly about someone asking advice from others who may have similar tastes as you, and have had experience over many years with the subject they are asking advice on. So my question to you would be the same as the question that arose when I read your first post: what point, exactly, are you trying to make? Yep, there are a whole bunch of people who like the sound of tubes, and a whole bunch who get a hard-on over vinyl? Soooooooooooo? There's also a vastly larger majority of folks who buy their sound reproducing gear at Circuit City and Best Buy and couldn't care one wit about any of this. I presume that none of that has anything at all to do with the reason for Baroque_lover to ask their question in this particular forum. You seem to be warning them off tubes and now vinyl like they were in jeapordy of getting some disease from giving them a try. I've seen no such predispositions towards tubes here. Instead I've observed many folks in both camps, and those in between. I've observed lots of large egos that seem to be attached to personal choices, as well as those with no attachments. I've occasionally observed what's occured to me as really bad advice, as well as repeated sage advice from some members. I'll give those posting and reading here the benefit of the doubt that they can sort it all out for themselves and draw their own conclusions. It seems to me you are suggesting that every post should run with a bold disclaimer reading something like: "The following post contains some views which are only one person's opinion on the subject and should not necessarily be held as ultimate truth in the matter at hand..." I think most folks can figure that one out.


That was a very well thought-out and well written response that I think really gets to the core of what Audiogon is all about. We all love this hobby or we wouldn't be here discussing such things. Audiogon is a great place for like minded people to offer opinions and share their experiences and that's what it's all about. Thanks for taking the time to be a part of it, as it's a better place for that.

Yeah well thought out. Nice job. Glad you're back.
Ditto, Marco. Nice leadership, Stan.
Well, it's raining in Seattle (go figure), and I have a ton of computer time to spend on some work-related projects which involves a whole lot of waiting, so my gain is your loss! Thanks for the kind words!

One more thought on the subject; I'd be willing to wager my left testicle that the majority of folks posting to, and reading, these forums couldn't tell even-ordered harmonic distortion if it came up an bit them on the ass. I also believe that understanding and being able to differentiate between different modes of harmonic distortion has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to enjoy musical reproduction through a stereo system. You either like the way it does the job, or you do not. The system either involves you/brings you closer to the music, or it is easy to walk awy from. Because you can tell us all precisely why, in a vocabulary that is largely exclusive to recording engineers, acoustic designers, and some musicians, lends absolutely nothing to the enjoyment or involvement in the music. I'd venture to say that, for many folks it would actually take them away from the music to start to distinguish such components and identify them in the proper terms. That is really what it comes down to as far as what bugged me about using the distortion angle to distinguish types of amplification. Also, I don't get why take the time to post an answer to a question that basically reads; You've asked a silly question and got some silly answers, now go out and figure it out for yourself. Some like vanilla and others like chocolate, that's a need to point it out really.

Oh, and I love you too Stan! You light up my life...and give me hope to carry on!