Tube Pre for Klipschorn

What tube preamp match well with Klipschorns; or should I be going the other way and use a SS pre and tube power amp(s)? If so, what tube power amp is a good match with the khorns (Quicksilver horn amps?). I trying to get rid of as much noise as possible. I'm currently using a Quicksilver fullfunction tube preamp, but it a little too noisy and I'm using a Citation XX SS poweramp.

Hi Calvin you have a difficult tradeoff situation here.
I think the decision depends upon your listening preferences: do you want tube holography & euphonics, or solid state speed--- slam/dynamics & iron fisted bass-control?
I've always preferred solid state with my PWK '78 vintage Belles because I want that kind of SS sound.
Myself I wouldn't be using those hot, inefficient, noisy, microphonic, unreliable, expensive, maintenance intensive tubes with horns. I've already tried that; they just never worked well for me; Tubed preamps are another story, yet tube's high idle noise (tube rush) & microphonics are so easily perceived with sensitive horn transducers that I've found them unbearable. Others do prefer tubes & if that works for them then it's all good - for *them*. For me, the lack of deep bass extension + control, & the softened highs are also problems I've noted w\ tube power amplification.
I've been running my pair of Belles with mosfet's - if you want to see the complete setup then just click on my username & scroll down below the bio to read all about it.
Mosfet based Luxman & Accuphase amps have provided the best results for me so far; 200 watts per channel is about right; when running at higher power levels 100 watts/ch seemes a bit underpowered during those power-demanding peaks. I like to have about 20dB of dynamic headroom, so at a 2watt/ch. listening level a 200 watt/ch amp is a good fit. Perreaux, Ayre, even McCormack Deluxe series amps also do a pretty good job, but generally I don't care for the sound of bipolars w\ horns. Mosfet amps w\ combined with MIT MH750-(xx) speaker cabling the synergy is very good.
When I experimented with tube preamps I found them to be objectionably noisy, just as you have found. That is the nature of tubes in general, but surely there must be some exceptions? I tried a top-line Cary pre (awful microphonic's & ringing) a Joule Electra, two VTL's (2.5 & 5.5) didn't like any of 'em. But I did find one Golden Tube Audio pre that sounded very quiet, fast, & it staged like crazy! That is the GTA SEP-2. They also made an SEP-3 that has the same audio stage circuitry but with an external power supply. The SEP-1 I didn't try (no remote control); these units all had optional internal phono stages. Solo Electronics' GTA is out of business now, but you can still find these units available used with some patience & detective work. Service & support is still reasonably available from selected shops.
I was driving a McCormack DNA-1 with the SEP-2 at that time & the pair was truly magical. Later I upgraded to a DNA-1 Deluxe which was even sweeter. I still have both of those pieces on hand as spares, although they're not presently in service. A pair of Accuphase is in their place at the moment.
If you want even more noise, just use a home theater processor as a pre like I'm doing with my La Scalas. Every one I've tried is noisy when hooked up to horns.

ps - I thought "tube rush" was an herbal remedy.
Use a SS pre with the Quicksilver horn amps. You might want to try an Adcom 750. Passive mode dead silent, active mode has gain and nearly so. Good combo unless you have to drive LONG interconnects between pre and amp...
Quicksilver amps are a great match with vintage Klipsch horn-loaded speakers IMO. I have LaScala's and Heresy's, and have also owned two sets of Forte II's. Of those the LaScala's are my favorites (same drivers as your Khorns, different housing) and I run those with Quicksilver 300B SET's (prototypes). I've also run Klipsch speakers with Quicksilver's Silver 90's (Pentodes), Mini-Mites (push/pulls), and another prototype set of EL34 Triodes made by Quicksilver. I prefer the triode combination with horns. The Pentodes were a bit too punchy for my tastes (still very nice amps), while the Mini-Mites are great little amps and a good compromise between punch and air. With the efficiency of your Khorns you can drive them with a smouldering match so power is really not much of an issue. I'd say a whole lot would depend on what kind of music you like to listen to. If you're into rock and roll and more dynamic material, go for punchy (though I wouldn't recommend SS - Bob_Bundus and I were just contributing our difference of opinion on this very subject in a recent thread on Klipschorns under the review section if you care to look it up). I've never heard that combination sound very good, but then again I haven't had that much exposure to variations on that theme. Bob's experiences have been different from mine, and he seems to like that combination very much, so I have no doubt that some may prefer it, but I have yet to hear it sound good to my ears. If you can swing the $5800 price tag Mike Sanders new 6C33C based amps, "The Triode", would likely be magic with your Khorns. They are not on his site but are available now. My friend back east uses them and tells me they are the best he's heard with his Klipschorns.

As far as a tube pre-amp, I do like my very simple Cary SLP-50A with my LaScala's and SET's. It works great for me, and is a real sleeper of a pre. It is a 2-tube linestage using two 6CG7's. The SLP-50B uses the more popular 6DJ8 family. I tried one for about a month with all forms of premium tubes and ended up selling it and sticking with the just sounded better in my system. I've found the ARC LS-2b (GNS modified) that I own to be too analytical sounding for the SET/horn combination while the Cary seems to let it 'breath' better. The ARC sounds good with the Push/Pull Mini-Mites though. Synergy.

Just my .02 cents.


You are probably right; everything I read seem to point to SET amps. I will continue to read and look for a decent priced SET amps. I would really like to hear an opinion on the Quicksilver horn amps, since they are designed for horn speakers. Will a tube amp cut down on the noise of my tube pre amp or is it that some tube preamps are quieter than others. I believe the gain on the my preamp is pretty high, which is why I hear the tube rush and the ringing when I touch the metal case.

Calvin- Sorry, but I have no direct experience with the Horn Mono's to speak of. They do have 18db less gain than most of the other Quicksilver amps and for that reason may adress some of the noise issues you are having with your pre. I assume you've checked all the tubes you are running in your pre to make sure they're all healthy(?). If not, tubes that are failing tend to get noisier as they age. You could also have a bad capacitor in your pre (at least it sounds like you've isolated it to your the noise gone when the preamp is shut down and your amp is running?..Is the noise in both channels or one?). The tube choice will also make some difference as I'm sure you know....some tubes within the same family are more microphonic than others. This is especially so with some of the smaller more delicate tubes like the 6922 family. My friend who owns the new Quicksilver "The Triode" amps does also use his full-function pre and has never complained about noise, but I'll ask him for you. He does like the way Mike's products work together (and this is someone who could afford a MUCH more expensive preamp, and owns several high-end amps and speakers). Mike Sanders (owner of Quicksilver) is very knowledgeable and approachable. If you give him a call and see if he has time to talk about your problem you may find he had a much better take on it than me. You can also try email but he tends to be pretty brief in his answers by email. I do know that he is pretty swamped with orders right now since I had the opportunity to correspond with him recently. Obviously he knows his products intimately.

I really love the SET/horn combination, but would qualify that you should definitely hear what it is like before selling your amp and investing in SET. The difference between SS and SET is most profound, and if you are like Bob and prefer the qualities that SS brings out of your music then you may not like the direction. I also don't know that going to SET would directly address the noise issues you are having. In fact, as I understand it, which is not to say very well, with the 300B designs there is the added issue of going to a directly heated tube that also can impart some tube noise to a very sensitive speaker. All of that said, I've never heard anything I like better, so it clearly works for me. Several Audiophile friends have also been very impressed with the sound. Two all-SS guys decided they had to try tubes when they heard my system. Mike Sanders (and some folks) on the other hand, do not like the harmonic distortions that SET imparts. After building several prototypes he decided he did not want to build them as production amps for those reasons (you can ask him about it if you talk to him or email him). For me the SET sound is heavenly! I'm using the WE 300B tubes in his amps, while I believe Mike only used Chinese 300B's to test them. I don't know if he knows how great these things can sound! To each their own! If you are ever in Seattle drop me an email and you'd be most welcome to listen for yourself Calvin. My only big compromise with that system right now is the room they are in, which is more a matter of keeping my system wife-friendly.

For those that are technically minded and interested in highly advanced tube designs that are both linear and built with common sense , try taking a look at Norm Koren's website. Just bring your "audiophile approved bullet-proof vests" with you as he's going to take a few pot-shots at those that are "tweak-o-philes".

Once you get past the initial "slagging" on the home page, i think that you'll find that Norm tries to design products that offer the best of both worlds i.e. the sonic characteristics of tubes with the linearity, low distortion and bandwidth of SS. The "extra cool part" about this is that he does so without any "trick" or custom made parts, so one can duplicate the circuits that he does use at very reasonable cost. One can even upgrade the components used to "tweaky audiophile" status if you feel the need.

Personally, i like Norm's "no nonsense / common sense" approach but have to disagree with some of his comments, especially those regarding passive parts quality and tweaking. Then again, if you could find someone that agreed with you on EVERY subject that you discussed, you should probably marry that person : ) Sean

I didn't get a name at Quicksilver when I called, but the person told me that the Quicksilver Fullfunction pre was not a good match with the K-horns because of the noise factor. I ask if this was just his preamp or would it be different with others like CJ and AR. He stated the noise would be there, but it could be more or less with other brands. He also stated that noise would be an issue with normal PP tube amps as well, but a combination of their horn with the Fullfunction pre (or others) would probably work due to the fact the the horn amp has less gain. The gain on my pre is 39db @ 1Kz, so I'm thinking a different pre might help a bit. When I was using the pre with Electrostacs, it was great, because they are very inefficient, so the gain really helped. Also, I have tried different tubes with the same results. I using a RCA 12FQ7, Telefunk 12AX7, and Mullard 12AU7.


Thanks for the info, I'll check out the web site; I'm always interested in hearing others opinions.

Wow, that's a surprising input on the compatibility issue. I'll have to check in with my friend as he's never mentioned that issue to me and I know he has Khorns (as well as Belles and LaScalas). Glad you were able to get some input from the good folks there. The gain on your pre is significantly higher than mine (mine is 18db unbalanced, and 24db balanced on my work system going into the Mini-Mites pushing Heresy's which are only 94db efficient). I'm not sure what the gain is at home with my Cary SLP-50A. The only noise issue I have is with my Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 phono stage which has a 37db output in the MM stage which I'm using. With that I have identical tube noise issues to what you describe with all kinds of tube combinations. This is going through the Mini-Mites which have the 18db higher gain then the Horn-Mono's (in my work system). I'll let you know if I hear back from my friend to see if he has similar issues. Thanks for posting your findings as it is useful information to me with my Sonic Frontiers issue!

Has anyone out there tried pure class A Solid State gear with their Khorns? I have heard that pure class A S/S can sound like "tubes without tears", ie maintenance, etc. Any opinions on this?
I've used various Mosfet based amps on several different pairs of Klipsch products with different levels of performance. With a modified B&K, the system was actually pretty dark sounding ( believe it or not ). With a Perreaux, the sound was both powerful and more tonally balanced but lacked open-ness and top end "sparkle". Using them with a Class A Forte' 1A, the sound was lean but not hard sounding. With a Classe' 70, the sound was VERY lean, bright and grating sounding. Other than that, i would think that the Pass Aleph series, Ayre and a handful of other SS amps might be good candidates for K-horns or other Klipsch "classics". Sean

Correction of the gain issue. My line stage is 27db and the phone is 39db.
Has anyone out there tried pure class A Solid State gear with their Khorns?
Yes the Ayre V3 works very well with Klipsch. in my experience. Combined w\ the GTA tubed preamp yields a nice holographic soundfield.
I've also tried Class A with Klipsch for a couple of months. My experience was with a Pass Labs Aleph 5 with vintage Heresy's. That combination also was very nice. Though it did have width and depth (first time I've heard SS have such depth) to the soundstage I would not have called it "holographic". With tubes (mini-mites) I do experience those same speakers as holographic. If I had to try to describe the difference between the two, the distinction would be in the airiness around the instruments/performers with the tube amplification. With the SS, it did indeed impart width and depth, but in comparison seemed a bit smeared and less defined in space. If I had to listen to SS with them the Aleph 5 would not be a bad choice, and if I didn't know how good Klipsch sounded with tubes I may stop right there.

In days of yore Mr. Mark Levinson used to run K-horns with his 25 watt Class A ML2s (designed principally by John Curl)before he developed the HQD system.

I agree with opinions of the Aleph 5 vs. the small quickilvers above. Marco is right on.

For low noise that sounds like music I would recommend a Pass X-1 or X 2.2(?) and the tube amps of your choice esp. if you can run all balanced. I use an X-1 with a pair of Wolcotts (no you don't need 200 watts) and the combo is quiet and sweetly musical.
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Good luck.