Do you have any audiophile friends? If so, borrow a high powered amp and see if power is a problem. I discovered some years back that some of the distortion that I thought was on my recordings, was actually my 60 watt KT88 tube monoblocks overloading. Recordings with few dynamics sounded fine, but the stinkers were actually the ones that were the better recordings.
You could go either way, a good high power high current SS amp to optimally drive the Totems (maybe Class D/Icepower) or change to speakers that are more tube friendly. If you like tubes, then changing speakers would seem to be the way to go but first it would be nice to know what you are looking to accomplish in terms of the sound rather than the technology.
Hey Mapman, Thanks. I'd like to stay with tubes. As stated, my goals are more volume (getting to 85 - 90 db without things sounding strained), deeper and better controlled bass, higher resolution. Your reply is exactly the situation I'm in...go to a more sensitive speaker or up the amplification? I like the sound of the Forests so changing speakers seems a riskier route to follow but might ultimately be the best course. Thanks again.
Samujohn - You might have nailed it...at least what I'm suspecting. Mostly things sound great but occasionally, (Track 4 Snowbound of Donald Fagen's "Kamakiriad"... a couple of measures in) I'll hear some basss distortion. I'm wondering if more power will fix this. Thanks for your reply.
"I discovered some years back that some of the distortion that I thought was on my recordings, was actually my 60 watt KT88 tube monoblocks overloading. Recordings with few dynamics sounded fine, but the stinkers were actually the ones that were the better recordings."
I think that is actually a very common scenario many face and might not even realize it.
I believe underpowering power hungry speakers (like most Totems I am familiar with) has a bigger effect along this lines than most people, who never hear the same speakers being well driven, realize.
The other issue for many speakers these days, including Totems, is that tube amps are often not capable of handling low impedances at some (often lower) frequencies and that overall tonal balance suffers as a result. A high power, high current SS amp that doubles power into 4 and even 2 ohms is the best solution.
BTW, I think Totems are excellent speakers that I could even live with, but even the little Arros sound best with at least a couple hundred w/ch of good high current SS amplification.
Your speakers recommend a minimum of 120 WPC which suggests to me they were not designed around sounding their best with tubes. If in fact you need more power which sounds likely, your budget will not allow you to buy the proper tube amp. So if you want to keep the speakers I think you're stuck w/ SS designs. If you want to use tubes you should explore more efficient speakers.
I will add that the CJ 2500A @ 240 per channel will easily power almost any speaker and can be had for around $1500. The 2250A is similar, is also very powerful, and costs even less. An Alternative is a digital amp. I own a Tact and there is an S2150X for sale on Audiogon for $1350 which is plug and play (assuming it has the analog inputs) and can be upgraded to the S2150XDM (room correction software) for about $600 if desired.
There are many fine solid state amps, but these are among the more tube like, yet powerful and inexpensive.
Thanks. You are pretty much confirming what I've been thinking although I don't believe the minimum power requirement for the Forests is as high as mentioned. Please let me know if you've found some other info. See Forest specs from the Totem website...
Frequency Response: <33 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB (in room)
Impedance: 8 ohms (6.4 minimum)
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Recommended power: 50 - 200 W
I do think they'd benefit from more power, however. I've been bouncing around between trying to stay all tubes vs maybe a tube pre w/ss power amp. Thanks for the equipment suggestions.
If you really want to stick with tubes, one stereo tube amp I can recommend unreservedly is the Music Reference RM 200 or the older RM9.
It has been highly rated (class A) for years, as was the RM9 versions one and two, its predecessors. While it sells for about $2500 on Audiogon, it is unusual in that:
1. It has plenty of power and is stable into difficult loads, such as electrostatics
2. Uses only four output tubes
3. Can use all the major output tubes (KT88, 6550, EL34, 6L6, etc.)
4. Is well built and reliable
The RM200 is a hybrid while the RM 9 is not, unless you count the rectifier.
The RM9 uses 8 output tubes.
Sorry this sounds like a commercial, but I have had many tube amps and this one addresses most of my concerns, such as reliability and load tolerance, while sounding as good or better than the competition that I have owned (ARC,CJ,VTL, Quicksilver).
Minimum power requirements typically do not deliver maximum performance.
Also, power specs are often designed to maximize the potential market so that more people consider a product. Most people are not "audiophiles", so these specs often have little meaning to those looking to maximize performance. Totem fits this model very well I believe. They sound good in general when running off amps with power that match the specs, but best with those that deliver more power. Current is the key to getinng optimal sound as much as power in that Totems typically present a varying load at different frequencies that can drop to 4 ohms or perhaps even lower. High current SS or even Class D amps are the best match in this case.
BTW, its no slight against Totem, they make fine speakers. Many speakers these days fall into the same camp, including the OHMs in my system. The 500w/ch Icepower amps I currently am using took these to a higher level than anything I ran prior despite a high power and current amp like that is not mentioned or required anywhere.
I believe the consensus on the Totems would be that they fall into this category as well.
Maybe the Moscode 401hr would work for you and be the fit you are seeking;there are 2 for sale right now and price to me does not seem out of line.
Folks - thanks for your generosity in taking time to reply. No one seems to be saying dump the Forests - but rather more power appears to be the way to go (I'd been leaning in that direction). Samujohn and Mapman - I think you are both running Class D "digital amps"? What's your opinion about them with respect to sound stage, ambience, air & space? I appreciate the suggestions. Plenty of stuff to research. Thanks again.
I liked tubes for their musicality, and solid state for the power, but the Tact digital is impressively quiet and stunningly quick. Previously I had no idea how much low level detail was obscured by transistor noise, or how much tubes compress the dynamics. Nothing is perfect, so I might say that it is more literal, and less liquid and inviting than tubes. As for air; the white noise in conventional amps can give a false impression of ambiance, but it is not in the recording. After a bit of adjustment, I have come to like the Tact better because I can hear more actual detail, provided it is in the recording to begin with.
"I think you are both running Class D "digital amps"? What's your opinion about them with respect to sound stage, ambience, air & space?"
I have found mine to be top notch in all regards. Hard to fault in any way that I can hear.
I think it boils down to whether you see value in optimizing the sound of the Totems or not.
The specs indicate 6.4 ohm minimum impedance, which is not necessarily out of the realm of tube amps.
Maybe there are others who have experience running the Forests with higher power tube amps that can offer some input?
My only concern with say an Icepower amp is how well the high damping factor matches to the Forests. There might be potential for an amp with high damping to sound somewhat lean with some speakers, especially in comparison to a tube amplifier. Personal taste in sound comes into play. Maybe others have observations there as well.
Mapman - not to prolong this thread unecessarily, but your comment about "optimizing the sound of the Totems" has been my inclination (though possibly the easier path might be to find some higher sensitivity speakers). I suspect the Totems still have something to show and will benefit from better amplification. I'll keep browsing the equipment here to see what becomes available. I am also open now to the possibility of finding a more powerful hybrid integrated or going ss amp w/tube pre. Again, thanks for the time you (and others) took to reply.
I think you will do better regarding amplification with separates than integrated in your price range.
Reading archived threads seeking upgrade advice, I often find myself wondering what the OP ultimately did; so...an update for those interested:
I picked up a used pair of Consonance Cyber 800SE monoblocks and a demo Consonance Cyber 50 pre-amp. Thanks to Stephen Monte of Quest for Sound in Bensalem, PA for working with me to make this happen. I am REALLY enjoying the sound. The Cybers have certainly provided all that I felt was missing. The Forests never sounded better in my listening area.
Hope to re-post system photos soon.
Always nice to hear when things work out.