Upscaling Speakers, Downscaling Amp...What to Do?

A few months back, I purchased a pair of Joseph Audio Pulsars. I've enjoyed them so much that I've decided to upgrade to the new Perspectives. However, my better half hath decreed that no more money can go into audio, so I've made the extremely difficult decision to sell my amp (VAC Phi Beta 110i) in the near future. Its replacements will obviously be significantly less expensive, yet they must provide a similar listening experience. The preamp is already fixed - a Modwright LS 100 with phono stage. My question for the board is, what amp? Tube or solid state? Cost (used) needs to be around $3000-3500, and a minimum of 100 wpc. The obvious pairing is either the Modwright KWA 150 or KWA 100SE. I would welcome any another other suggestions, but if you do so, please tell me why. Thanks in advance.
An evening dress or LV purse in the gift box for your wife could probably save your VAC:-)
Well, you have a lot of fantastic options at that price point. I just wanted to butt in and say that I have just done the same thing at much lower price points. And even going to a sub $500 amp in order to upgrade speakers made a great improvement in my system.

First priority of the new amp will be matching with speakers. I'd ask Joseph Audio or your dealer what they recommend. Also get an impedance plot vs. freq for the speakers if possible. And I'd try to get an idea of what sort of damping factor the speakers might need. That would be my starting point.

The Modwright isn't a full-balanced design, so you won't see as big an advantage of going with a balanced amp as you might with a fully balanced pre (like the 36.5 or an Atmasphere pre, etc).

Then, turn your attention to the synergy between amp and preamp. Major rule of thumb is that the amp's input impedance should be at least 10x the output impedance of the preamp.
Do not upgrade your speakers and keep the VAC.
Listen to your wife, I suspect that she is correct. This is not about money. And give her a hug for such a good advice.
Marakanetz, I would agree with you if you were not so simplistic and expensive. LV purse? It's a few thousand dollars.
Inna, from dhgate you can get LV purse around $400... Wife wouldn't know about fake:-)
I'm sure you realize you are not just enjoying the Pulsars,you are enjoying your complete system.
You might be moving up speaker wise but you may lose the magic.
Keep your system as is until you can buy the new speakers without going backward in amplification.
And DO buy your wife something nice for Valentines Day
Sounds a lot like my better half. Patience is not a heralded virtue in audio but I would exercise it here. There is a real risk of going backwards or sideways at best. Save your pennies, and upgrade the speaks in the future. Buy your wife that nice bag to grease the wheels...
You see, most are in agreement here. Leave your system alone.
Marakanetz, yes, you can buy a very good fake In New York Chinatown but deception is no good in the long run.
Yeah, buy something nice for your wife but original.
I would never allow an amp to keep me from a pair of speakers I want. I say go for the speaker upgrade and then figure out the amp. Of course, at the very least you'll need to buy an appropriately matched (electrically speaking) amp for your system. Eventually, you may then be able to upgrade your amp as well (patience). There are always decent used amps for sale.
looks like you are married to the Grinch!!
Anyway, I 3rd, 4th, 5th, Nth the recommendation that you stay put w.r.t. to your speakers. No need to hurry up & buy the next level up speaker - you do NOT always get better sound as you climb up the model level. Climbing up the model level brings other issues such as the bigger speaker needing a totally diff amp to handle it - what works for the smaller speaker does not always work for the next bigger speaker. You could be opening up a larger can of worms w/ the purchase of the next bigger speaker.
Enjoy the music & revel in it rather than directing your energies into 'upgraditis'......
Well, thanks for the all of the advice. I guess I really didn't make myself very clear. The decision to move to the Perspectives has been made. Likewise, the Modwright preamp is now installed and ready to go. For those of you who fear that the system synergy will be too compromised...I've used 2 comparatively inexpensive and VERY different amps (Rogue Atlas Magnum and Innersound ESL-300) with the preamp and the Pulsars and am completely satisfied that I will gain more than I give up. So again, the real question is for suggestions for specific amps in the price range specified. I welcome all such suggestions.

By the way, after 37 years, I think I can manage to keep my lovely wife happy in the gift department. :)
Well, you`ve already made up your mind so I wish you good luck. Since you `ve placed this in an open forum,I`d would defiinitely keep the VAC amp. You won`t equal that amplifier with the stated budget. The amplifier contribution is important(I`m not a speaker is most important proponent). A high quality power amp is fundamental IMO.
Best of Luck,
No, actually I have not 'made up my mind'. Please go back and read my initial post. The question I asked has nothing to do with either the VAC or the Perspectives (apart from the obvious amp/speaker compatibility issue. I'm well aware that I won't equal the VAC. I'm also well aware that the Perspectives will better the Pulsars. Just a matter of priorities. Needless to say, we have a fundamental disagreement about where those priorites should lie. I truly do not understand why folks on these forums cannot stick to the subject when I've laid out the parameters as best I can. Best of luck to you too.

I was in a "high end emporium" where we were enjoying the most glorious music on ARC electronics and top of the line Thiel speakers. That was the most fantastic sound stage I have ever seen. The illusion was so complete, that I felt like I could reach out and touch the performers, and the instruments occupied stationary positions in space.

Someone came in and wanted to audition a Rotel amp. Once this "mid fi" amp was inserted, the illusion fell completely apart; no more 3D sound stage. Remember, top of the line Thiel and ARC pre were still in the chain. What do you conclude from that?
Well, personally I don't conclude anything since it was your experience, not mine. It's a false analogy, regardless. Remember that we're talking about a move from one of the best integrated amplifiers ever made, to a superb preamp and whatever $3000-3500 amp that I end up with. Hardly 'mid-fi'. Again, it's a question of priorities.
I agree with you 100%, especially since it's your money and not mine.
To paraphrase the OP: I few months ago I got an expensive speaker that I liked some much that I now want to take apart my system and rebuild it with another, even more expensive speaker.

What am I missing?
Orpheus, from your "high end emporium" statement I may conclude that
1. there are speakers that would throw 3d soundstage even with mid-fi Rotel.
2. there are alternate amps to ARC that would not compromise 3d sound stage of the same speakers you've described and so possible to say that there are number of alternatives (given quite substantial price range of OP) that would make to sound his new speakers great.
3. synergy is more important than particular brand of amp or speakers.
Given that the Perspectives' twin woofers will make a bigger demand on the amp's bass control, switching amps along with the speakers may be a good idea anyway. Since Rogue has already passed your "proof of concept" tests, check out a pair of Rogue 150w monoblocks on the A-gon classifieds at your price point.

Also, have you asked Joseph Audio for a recommendation? I notice that their online specs don't specify sensitivity or power handling. Power range and damping factor recommendations would be helpful.
Thank you for actually providing some reasonable input. The Rogues are an interesting choice.

Joseph has been showing the Perspectives with Bel Canto electronics. It may be just pure bias, but I have not liked the two Class D amps that I've heard.

The Pulsars were plenty sensitive for the 110 wpc VAC, hence my specification of 'at least 100 wpc' in the original post. Quite honestly, if a Sanders Magtech were to come up for sale, I would probably jump all over it. That statement is based on my experience with the Innersound amp. The Magtech is an updated and improved version of that amp.
Which class D amps have you heard? Just curious. I love ARC's tube gear, but I heard their new class D amp a couple years ago and wasn't all that impressed. I keep holding out hope that some class D's claims will be true. E.g., I'd love it if the Red Dragons truly deliver SET sound in a powerful class D amp.

Back to topic, hoever, given that you like tubes + Joseph speakers, you should probably stick with tubes or class A solid state, but finding affordable 100wpc+ class A SS could be a challenge.

If you like VAC, you'd probably also like VTL. I've head VTL with Wilson speakers and the combo was very impressive. Right now there's a pair of powerful VTL monoblocks on the A-gon classifieds in your price range.

Also the all-tube VTL-150 stereo amp is almost in your price range ($3750 list). You might find a demo or get a discount to put it into your range. It's 150 wpc into 8 ohms.
There`s no need to get snippy, you said you made the"extremely "difficult decision to sell the VAC amps(correct?) You`re seeking a less expensive amp to match with more expensive speakers(correct?) and hope to maintain at least current sound quality.
I was simply suggesting the lost of the VAC is significant IMO. The more expensive speaker with a possibly lesser amp'may' not be an upward move, again IMO.

You put forth the scenario, I like others are responding on a forum thread, opinions will of course vary. Nothing more, nothing less. By the way my good luck was sincere.
Save some money and have Jim Nicholls from JWN amps build you a custom tube amp that will rival amps many times their cost I just got my 6L6 kt88 amp today and this thing kicks some serious ass for 50 wpc and sounds great at low volumes as well. One of his amps were given a stellar review by Lynn Olson from Positive feedback in the latest issue
Marakanetz, mid-fi and 3D soundstage don't even go in the same sentence. There are numerous amps that would not compromise the 3D soundstage. It's not the brand, but the quality of the parts, which is why ARC or any other brand will have many different priced models.

If you replaced the parts in a Rotel with the best available, you might get a 3D soundstage; but then it would no longer be a "Rotel".

Both correct. And, IMO, this will be an upward move.

I was not aware that it's 'snippy' to point out that said opinions do not actually relate to the question being asked. Thanks for your response and good luck (sincerely).

I have auditioned a Wyred4Sound amp and the (much better but still not wonderful) H2O monos. The VTLs are definitely in the running. Thanks for your relevant and cogent response.

Man up dont sell the VAC big mistake!!
I couldn't hear a difference between these 'high end' hi-fi amps and my sub lo-fi Harman Kardon if my life depended on it. I am truly blessed. Don't forget, stress kills.
As has already been pretty well-stated, the main reason you like your speakers is because of what it DRIVING THEM. Based upon your responses above, I'm not so sure you realize this. Getting rid of your VAC will probably be a much worse move than you currently think it will be. I'd sell or trade something else to do the speaker upgrade you are seeking. Pretty simple and win/win instead of lose/win. :-)
Your point seems so obvious to many following this thread.I realize ultimately people do what they want to do and that`s fine.
Oh dear, we're going to keep on with this, are we? Well guys, I'm one of those who believes that transducers have significantly more effect on what you're experiencing than do electronics. It's an opinion, obviously, just as you have your own. And it's based on 35 years of listening experience, and owning some of the finest gear made (e.g. Ayre MX-R, SoundLabs, the Messenger preamp, the VAC, and so on).

I won't waste any further time on responding to such comments or suggestions, since they were not the subject of this thread. If anyone has something relevant to add - within the context of the original question - please feel free.
Marakanetz, mid-fi and 3D soundstage don't even go in the same sentence.
I do have my personal doubts on that statement.
I have 1996 Aerial 10t speakers driven with mid-fi Class T Sunfire SRA(250wpc/8Ohms continuous power) and can't stop enjoying them with all beauties of 3D slam, details.
I also know that I can greatly benefit if I upgrade the amp, but not ready to switch from my current $700 amp to $4,000 McIntosh(MC302...MC452). Going Pass, Krell, Classe or Plinius streets is even more pricey than McIntosh street for required power. Moreover for some reason despite prehistorical circuit designs even on modern units Macs to me sounded the best over much higher priced units.
For 35 years you sure don't show experience. The amp and everything else in the system matters equally. You put your foot in your mouth on this one and with your attitude I don't wish you luck in your endeavor.
I sure learned a lot from this thread. I was under the erroneous impression that soundstage was a function of speaker / room and the recording. I had no idea that amps played a part. just goes to show, you learn something everyday.

You are absolutely correct - speakers, their placement, and the room in which they are housed have the largest effect on soundstage. However, amps and preamps certainly play a significant part in soundstage reproduction. Tube gear is famous for it. Solid state has traditionally been the laggard here, but has caught up considerably. Take a listen to most 1980s solid state amps and you are likely to hear flat, two dimensional audio.

I state this as my opinion. Unlike some, who come off sounding quite ignorant and inexperienced, I do not promote my opinions as fact.

You made a very sensble statement. This is how I see it. If you have the best soundstage conceivable in a home setup, and then you move that system to a closet or the bathroom, does the soundstage change? Of course. Why? The output of the CD player / TT has not changed. The output of the amp has not changed. The vibrations being emitted from the speaker's cones has not changed. But the inter-action with the much different and confined room causes the soundstage to collaspe. That means the sound and spatial perception that reaches your ears has changed. i.e the changes you hear are a result of the sound waves inter-acting within a much smaller room. There are many other ways to cause a soundstage to collapse, i.e. distance between speakers too great etc... The point is, the electronics play no role. All of this assumes it's not a mono recording from the 30's and the amp is a good match for driving the speakers..
The blind leading the blind, what a sight.
If you have the best soundstage conceivable in a home setup, and then you move that system to a closet or the bathroom, does the soundstage change? Of course.

If you have the best soundstage conceivable in a home setup, and then you drop your amp from the top of a tall building, does the soundstage change? Of course.

More seriously, demonstrating the existence of one effect does not necessarily demonstrate the non-existence of another.


> The point is, the electronics play no role.

I did not say this, so I'm assuming it represents your own point of view? I simply said that the electronics are of relatively lesser importance.

If you ever have the opportunity to substitute one significantly different amp for another, with no other changes and with levels as closely matched as possible, I believe that you would hear quite a change in soundstage and imaging between, say, a Crown DC-300 and an Audio Research Ref 300.
All right, and for what it's worth, some of you have given me a few things to think about.

I will be keeping the VAC at least until I receive the Perspectives next week. They will be installed, and I'll then conduct a shoot out between the VAC, the LS 100 + Rogue, and the LS 100 + Innersound. Will make the decision at that time. It should be interesting.
"I did not say this, so I'm assuming it represents your own point of view? I simply said that the electronics are of relatively lesser importance."

Yes it is my view. Sorry, I did not mean to imply you said the same.
Curriemt11, your statement depends on what kind of listener you are, in regard to "electronics are of relatively lesser importance". People who like "Boom Bada Boom!" will always choose speakers, while people who listen for inner detail in music will choose electronics.

For most of us, this is determined by the weight we place on the economic scale. We all would like the "best" speakers and the "best" electronics, but our bank accounts won't allow this; therefore we have to put the two on a sliding scale. I demand very good electronics, and what's left for the rest.
A set of VAC PA-90 amps just came up for sale. Just under a 100 watts. I'm sure they will have that glorious VAC house sound. Might be worth looking into:
Mike, I agree with you that speakers trump electronics on a relative scale of influence. That being said, what about your room? I have heard many state that the room is the most important variable in the equation. What have you tried in terms of room treatments, etc? I know this question is tangential, but I am curious....

I have a good room to start with. It's quite large at 32' X 15' X 9' ('s vaulted). Room corners are complex since this is over my garage. The biggest factor is the Lyngdorf RP-1, using their RoomPerfect system. I would not even consider a system without it again. You can switch between 'Focus' (i.e. RoomPerfect is active) and 'Bypass' from the remote. The difference is quite remarkable.


01-30-12: Curriemt11
I have a good room to start with. It's quite large at 32' X 15' X 9' ('s vaulted). Room corners are complex since this is over my garage.
With a room that size, it's no wonder you'd want to go from the Pulsar (stand-mounted 2-way) to the Perspective (dual-woofer floorstander). As much as I love a good amp, there are some things an amp can't do, and that's one of them--increase the diaphragm area to fill a larger space.
> With a room that size, it's no wonder you'd want to go from the Pulsar (stand-mounted 2-way) to the Perspective (dual-woofer floorstander).

Well now, to be fair, I was using the Pulsars with a pair of excellent subs below 70 Hz. But you're quite right, it had its limitations regardless.
Mike, that is a nice size, particularly the ceiling height. From your system images, things looked tighter. I am not familiar with the Lyngdorf unit. I used one from DBX back when I was messing with an Emerald Physics speaker. It made a discernible impact. In speaking with room jocks, the standard line is that room correction software has more impact the worse your room gets....
Those photos are slightly misleading because my listening position is only about 18' from the front wall. This is where I find the optimal balance of soundstage, imaging, and impact.

I wouldn't doubt that there's a greater effect with poorer rooms, which is the reason I was so shocked by the improvement in my relatively good room. It's not subtle.

I actually purchased the Lyngdorf unit as much for the digital crossover as for RoomPerfect. The crossover works as it should (i.e. extremely well), but the room correction is a downright revelation. I would go so far as to say that, unless you have a professionally designed listening room, you really haven't heard your system at its best. My opinion, of course.
With that big of a room I'd still use the subs, but cross over around 40 Hz.
The dbx used with the EP speaker did x-over duty as well. Clayton Shaw (designer of the EP line) actually transitioned to software-based x-over and room correction that was supposed to be substantially more sophisticated (Spatial Computing). I never heard it since I bailed on that speaker. I know the Amarra (and

"I would go so far as to say that, unless you have a professionally designed listening room, you really haven't heard your system at its best."

I agree with that statement 100%.