Neither tubes nor solid state do rock-n-roll better than the other, IMO.
It has everything to do with a correct speaker/amplifier match.
It has everything to do with a correct speaker/amplifier match.
...BTW, if you're planning to drive the Rockport Altair speakers, then my guess is they are not the best candidate for tubes: 4 ohm nominal impedance, ?? minimum impedance.
Do you know anyone using tubes to drive Altair speakers? If so, perhaps they'd be your best resource for info. If not, then use this as an indicator.
I thought the same with the Altairs + tubes but perhaps it does't matter with a monstrous tube amp like that VTL. If it were me, I'd be concerned going in, not just about sound quality, but reliability of a big tube amp like that driving a 4 ohm or less load. You might end up yearning for the good old simple days of care free SS amplification.
I'd listen to them together first before jumping for sure though, especially if rock with maximum possible impact is a desire! You are using big Krells now I believe? That should be hard to beat I would think!
I used to rock with VTL 300/Kef 107's when they first came out. I now run a Krell 300S/B&W N802 for reliability and cost unless you can afford to keep fresh tubes running. It is a fine line and each has desirable benefits to offer. I have enjoyed the speed, impact and dynamics of the Krell for the last decade, even tried others and came back. Tvad said it right first and match is always first.
I understand your thoughts and agree on some level. Just I have heard some tube base systems that have sounded fantastic. Not that SS ahd Krell specificly, does not sound great, just differant. As i said I am interested in making a final purchase. I am a music/vinyl two channel guy. While I have a TV in my room, 95% is music and 90% of that vinyl. Any thoughts from some one who has made the move?
How about setting up a less expensive second system in another room built around tube gear? Then you can live with it for a while and compare before making a big change that you may or may not regret later? If your room is smaller in particular, you may not need to spend near as much to get to a similar level of performance as your main system.
What about a tubed preamp with SS amp?
Look for something powerful, quiet, and with a well-regarded phono stage.
Much easier to demo, and it may get you entirely to where you want to go.
For a tubed amp, think CAT and BAT, in addition to the VTL. There are literally just a handful of tubed amps with power and bass.
I've dabbled with the idea of moving to a tube amp in my system, but I have determined their is little or nothing to gain. I think my situation is analogous to yours regarding tube amps because I wouldn't even consider it if I did not think tubes amps could do R&R to the max and we both have speakers that are not inherently tube friendly due to less than optimal impedance specifications to match to a tube amp. Then there is the maintenance and reliability issue which might be exacerbated with many tube amps being asked to drive a load they are not designed to do.
I think tubes and SS are both equally capable of doing R&R to the max. You need to match the amp to speakers first however, as Tvad indicated first early on.
If you are tired of the Krell and want to change (nothing wrong with that) but stay with your current speakers, then moving to a tube amp may be risky and harder to accomplish properly for the reasons already mentioned. If you are prepared to perhaps change speakers later as well in order to get the optimal match to a tube amp for R&R, then more power to you.
Even if someone comes back and says that the vtl tube amp sounds great with your speakers for R&R, that does not assure that things are optimal or even that you will think the same.
Bottom line: if you want to stay with your speakers, I'd be looking towards a different SS amp if you must. If you are willing to risk possibly have to change speakers afterwards in order to get the best performance possible, then go ahead and find a good powerful tube amp that is designed to drive 4 ohm loads optimally. That is the thing that may prove difficult or perhaps even impossible. Specs may insdicate the ability to drive 4 ohms but is it the optimal configuration for that amp? For a top notch system like yours, this could matter, Most good SS amps should be inherently capable, so you will have many choices as Audiofeil indicated.
Consider how many rock musicians/bands use tube amps. Any other questions?
Of course they will work but as others stated, most important is the match with your speakers. I'm not a fan of Krell, but then I only owned their amps/pre once. They offer good bass control (again depending on speaker match) but don't offer enough communication of the musical emotion for my taste. YMMV. I did own VTL 300 monos for a number of years and found them to be a great middle ground with characteristics of both tube (emotion, warmth, dimensionality) and SS (bass control, detail, clarity).
Pryso, I think musicians/bands often use tube amps as a means of introducing distortion in a controlled manner which is easier achieved with tubes than SS.
Same is true with use of tubes in home audio gear, but the goals of the listener of a home system is generally to avoid certain distortions, not apply it, which is different. BOth tubes and SS can accomplish this if done properly, whereas tubes are much better suited for introducing distortion into an electric guitar, etc.
Musicians use tubes because of their musical overload capabilities.
If you really want to try out a tube amplifier, and see it rock out properly, the first thing to understand is that tube power is more expensive than solid state. The second thing to understand is that (with transformer-coupled tube amps at least) the bigger the amp the less bandwidth, due to limitations of the output transformers. Rock, like all other forms of music, demands bandwidth!
So the speaker is the real issue: in the world of tubes, there are two critical variables: impedance and efficiency. Low impedance low efficiency speakers are popular today because 600-watt transistor amps abound, but such are anathema for tubes **if you really want to hear what they do**.
So I recommend a speaker that is at least 8 ohms, and efficiency that is at least 90db. That way, you will be able to achieve satisfying rock in most average rooms with about 200 watts or so. Keep in mind that for each 3db of increased efficiency is the same as doubling your amplifier power- that is why in the industry amplifier power is often referred to as 'gold plated decibels'. If your speaker is only 87db, you will need a prodigious amount of power (+400 W) to make it fly, and its just simple physics that tube amplifier output transformers will not be full bandwidth at those power levels.
The speakers I run (since I play lots of rock and I'm pretty demanding, regardless of the music) are 97 db and go down to 20Hz so I can shake the walls with only 60 watts. Yet at the same time these speakers are as revealing as the best ESLs, IOW I'm not sacrificing any musicality for the increased efficiency- rather it seems to me that most lower-efficiency speakers are the ones sacrificing musicality for their lower efficiency...
If I may make a suggestion, (or two):
Try the hybrid (220 wpc) Lamm M2.2 monoblocks.
Two of my friend both use these amps, and one of them uses the Rockport Antares speakers. (His system is the best system I have ever heard, bar none.)
We have directly compared his amps, in his system, against several other amplifiers, including:
Kora Cosmos (100 wpc tube monoblock amps)
BAT VK 150 (tube monoblock amps)
Manley Neoclassic 250 (tube monoblock amps)
VTL MB 450 (tube monoblock amps)
DarTZeel NHB 108 (100 wpc stereo solid state amp)
VAC Phi 300 (150 wpc stereo tube amp)
The Lamm was easily better than all of them, with two exceptions.
The DarTZeel was very good, but underpowered, especially in the bass response. However, it is a very good amp, with a great mid-range, which was the equal of the Lamm. However, the Lamm was better in the treble, slightly, and much better in the bass response. So while the Lamm was better than the DarTZeel, it was not "easily" better.
The VAC Phi 300 was as good as the Lamm M2.2s in some aspects, better in some, and not quite as good in others. Specifically:
The mid-range on both were great. (The VAC had a bit of tube bloom, which while not as neutral as the Lamm, was intoxicating and I consider them to be equals.)
The treble on the VAC was better than the Lamm actually, which surprised me, as I have never heard an amp better the Lamm in this aspect.)
However, in the bass response, the Lamm was a bit tighter and slightly deeper than the VAC. However, the VAC was very good, in fact, I'd say it was great for a tubed amp. In addition, the initial attack of percussion instruments, (i.e. The initial impact of drum stikes, as well as the initial key stroke of piano notes), was quicker on the Lamms. Overall, I would say that the VAC Phi 300 and the Lamm M2.2s are very close, and for me, about equal. (My friend loved the mid-range of the VAC, but just could not quite get past the slight lack of bass response and the slight lack of quickness, so he kept his Lamm amps. Having the Antares speakers meant that he had wonderful bass response, and the Lamms allowed this aspect to shine through.)
So, my first suggestion is to try the Lamm M2.2s. (And if you do, I also suggest substituting some nice NOS 6922 tubes for the stock Sovtek tubes. Each amp has only one tube, so tube rolling is both quick and easy and relatively inexpensive.)
My second suggestion is if you really want to try a tube amp, to try the VAC Phi 300.1 (the upgraded version of the amp we auditioned). If you don't need the last little bit of bass response, this amp will serve you very well. (Better yet, if you can afford it, is to buy two of them, and bridge them to use as monoblocks, which according to another audiogon member who does this, solves the slight lack of bass response, which would make these already great amps, even better! Possibly even the best?!!!)
My two cents worth.
Good Luck in your search!
Yes, tubes have a rock factor never incountered with SS. If you want the real crunch of a LP, then start with high power PP amps and fat sounding speakers. Bands like Tool and Alice in Chains sound awesome !! The mids just scream at ya. some purists my not like the in-your-face result, but i dig it !!
Listen to Atmasphere's advice.
I owned a pair of his MA-1 monos for about a year (100 wpc). They were probably the most magical/musical amps I listened to with my speakers at that time - but only with selected music. Those speakers were 90 dB and their impedance curve dropped to about 3 ohms at two frequency points. So I was limited to smaller group or vocal recordings to hear them at their best. When I wanted to play rock, large group jazz, or symphonic music, they fell short.
I believe the two most important considerations in audio are the room/speaker set up and the speaker/amp interface.
Well I spoke with Andrew Payor about the Vtl siegfried's. He said they were a great fit. He has customers with the arrakis who are using them and love the combination. He also has a pair and loves the design. He told me his biggest dealer in Asia matches the Siegfried and Rockports all the time and has the set up in there high end show room. He gave the amps his highest rating. That was enough for me! So it is to tubes I go. Specificly the VTL Siegfied's and the 7.5 series 11.
Tvad; acually I had not desided but was leaning. I do not take spending my hard earned money lightly. But I did answer your question on others with rockports using the Siegfried's. Also you went from tube to ss back to tubes? or did I read your post wrong? I spoke to a few others who I believe to be knowledgable in audio and they made me feel much more confortable with my desission. It is a BIG leap of faith. should arive in around 4 to 5 weeks. thaks for your input.
The final answer is YES! A resounding, unequivocal, with out hesitation YES! This is not to diminish SS. They achieve diferant yet similar results. Though I will say the siegfrieds are not bloomy like a lot of the lower watt tube amps. They are not harsh like a lot of SS amps. They are sweet like class A rated SS amps but with more bloom. They fall somewhere between SS and tubes, leaning toward tubes. They have that punch and power at the bottom end and finesse and sweetness for the mids and upper end sounds. They reproduce rock and acoustic music with, I believe, no added house sound. Just whats on the vinyl, with all the impact that exsists between the grooves. As far as their match with my altairs, no issues at all. They are a great fit! A FINAL DESTINATION!
I have thought of going with a tube amp or preamp myself and am still mulling it over. There is a difference in the sound from a tube amp as opposed to a solid state amp for home audio, but I doubt that you want the same quality that musicians are after. Tubes are prized in guitar amps because of the breakup when overdriven. The idea is to get the distortion and tube distortion, not solid state distortion, is what is sought after. Indeed, if one is not getting the tubes "hot" in a guitar amp there really is no point in going tube. Just look at the amps that clapton etc uses or used - typically Marshall and they are all tubes. It really depends on what you are after in a home listening enviornment. I can guarentee that you are not after the same effect as a rock guitarist- you defniitely do not want 'crunch' in a home sound system. If I do go with a tube pre or amp my goal is certainly not to get a sound that is accurate with respect to what is on the source (CD in my case but the same holds true for any source). Rather it is to get a somewhat different sound, a little toned down - as I am thinking of mating to horns for the high spl without the potential harshness.
Tubes work great for Guitars and stereo. I'll never go back to SS. I just sold a Marshall 100 watt JCM 800 Lead series signed by Jim Marshall to a friend that just bought a new Slant Stack. I took him 10 minutes to buy mine and 2 hours to sell his SS. If you can afford tubes go for it. Happy listening.