Tubes, Maggies, VTL - heaven. Confirmed

Hey folks,

I posted back in August, asking for recommendations on tube amps like the Rogue Zeus and VTLs to power a pair of Maggie 3.6Rs. You folks responded with a ton of information on all sorts of amps.

I am happy to report that I just scored a used pair of VTL MB 450s locally (through A-gon) and couldn't be happier with them! They're about six years old and don't have the Infinicaps (yet!), but they do appear to have been well cared for. I auditioned them with an old pair of Apogees and they sounded quite good (seemed like a reasonable barometer).

I brought them home and hooked them up to my Maggies. I'm using a VTL 2.5 pre-amp, and I also finally broke down and picked up a Shanling 200 tube CD (also through A-gon).

The music is simply amazing! I'm hearing details I've never heard before, even from CDs that I've listened to for many years. Triode mode is spectacular for most of the range of music I listen to - instrumental, vocal, jazz, instrumental rock. I switched to tetrode for my hard rock selections and the sound is definitely harder and punchier. Under normal circumstances, I'll probably keep the amps in triode.

The instruments and the voices are clear. There is lots of air around them. Harmonicas sound as though they were smoking. For the first time, I didn't feel that I was missing something in the sound. The lows, mids and highs were all rock solid.

Although alot of readers talk about needing really high power to drive the Maggies, the VTL 450s seem more than sufficient for my musical taste. I don't think I could ask for more. Though, some time, when the opportunity arises, it would be interesting to hear what extreme power does for the Maggies.

So, among the Rogue Zeus, ASL Hurricanes, Jolida 3000s, lower power Jolida amps, Moon 5s, CJ, Classe, and Musical Fidelity, my choice for a tube amp for the Maggies would be VTL.

The only other amps I would like to have tried are VAC and Wolcott.... if I could find them.
Good review, I currently have a CJ Prenuer 11A and am thinking of upgrading, VTL has been one I have been curious about along with Kora, your review helped me. Thanks Michael
It's great to hear you have found the musicality in the Magnepans that so many of their owners do not experience with solid state amps. I ran 3.5's with Wolcotts with great success. The 3-dimensionality of these speakers really comes out with tube amps...even lower powered models. But the higher powered units like the VTL 450s in triode, the Wolcotts and the CAT JL-3's at their 150w rating takes the Magnepans to new frontiers.

As for finding the Wolcotts, I had a pair here for sale for several weeks, had numerous offers but all too low what I felt they were worth so I have held onto them. They are sitting on the sidelines for now so I think I will ship them back to Wolcott to have them fully upgraded to current specs. This would be a good backup amp if I need one. If you lived in the Minneapolis area, I'd let you borrow them to hear how they work vs. the VTLs.

Hey John,

I think I saw your Wolcott ad and was truly tempted. But I live on the west coast, and when I checked your zip code I realized Minneapolis was a non starter as far as an audition was concerned.... unless I also wanted to visit that giant mall!

I am thoroughly enjoying the VTLs. And keep in mind, they're not latest and greatest -no Infinicaps, no KT88s (I think approx. 6 years old). So, at the moment, I don't even know what I'm missing. I figure I'll enjoy them as is, and then I'll throw some money for upgrades into them when they need servicing.

Oh, I would also throw ARC and Krell into the "also ran" category.

One more thing.... do you play SACDs? I received a demo SACD with the Shanling. Wow!!! I played an orchestral composition that knocked my socks off. I will be searching for SACDs with great interest going forward.
Angelsmtn: You make an excellent comment that we often don't know what we are missing. This is of course until we hear a product bring on a level of musicality and resolution we had not heard before in our system. This came for me when I got the Wolcotts, but even much more so when they were replaced by the JL-3's.

Your strategy to upgrade the VTLs when they need servicing is a good one. My older Wolcotts need the same kind of attention as your VTLs. And yes, look into trying KT88's. When I switched the 6550s to KT88s in my ARC VT130, wow, midrange bloom and harmonic richness. It was unfortunate the Tesla KT88 tubes I had were so unreliable.

I have not gotten into SACD or DVD-A formats yet. I am still very much a vinyl fan and I feel my CD playback sounds mighty good up against the vinyl setup. When the digital formats settle down a little more, I'd like to get such a player, maybe a universal player, that is also a big step up over my Pioneer PD65 as a transport. As a redbook DAC, the Manley Reference is so incredible and tough to beat except perhaps by an all out assault modern design tube-based unit. I tried many DACs, some incredibly musical, but the Manley was it for me a few years back when I bought it. Much has changed since then of course.