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
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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.
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.