VAC 30/70...pick your pre?


Considering a pair of VAC 30/70’s however concerned a bit about matching the Pre well; on the other hand, can’t spend another 5-6k on a line stage right now. Thoughts? Recs? Get a better integrated instead for now?  Ideas about Line Magnetic 219 vs. Allnic T2000; pushing Wharfedale Jade 5's (87db 6ohm)


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I recently purchased a pair of 30/70's and have it paired with an Aesthetix Calypso Signature.   Over the last 9 years or so, I've used either the standard Calypso or my current Calypso Signature with four different VAC amps:  30/30, 70/70 Signature, Phi 200 and my current 30/70's.  So I'm pretty comfortable in recommending Aesthetix with VAC Renaisance amps.  If you choose to go this route, I recommend you go the extra mile and use good low noise, matched NOS tubes in the preamp.    Brent Jessee Supply and Vintage Tube Services are good sources for good tubes.

Phaun16, 
You have good options available to you.  
The Line Magnetic 219ia or their 508ia would be very fine choices. 
If you go with the VAC 300b amplifier I'd look into the Linear Tube Audio MZ2 preamplifier and the Don Sachs preamplifier.  Either route will result in excellent sound quality in my opinion. 
Charles 
You do not say what your budget would be for a preamp.

You can find used VAC preamps for much less than $5-6K.
A VAC Standard LE usually goes for around $2K-$2.5K,
A VAC Renaissance Mk I or II could probably be had for $3K- $4.5K used.
I see you're also considering getting an integrated in another thread.  I think a VAC 160i would be a good choice, if you don't want to get the 30/70s.  If you go the separates route, I agree that the VAC Renaissance preamps are a very good match, if you can find one.
Out of what you're considering, I would go with the 30/70, especially if it's the Sig version. It's one hell of an amp. Don't let anyone try and tell you a KT88 amp is better than the Ren series. I don't know your speaker but the Vac 30/70 has very good transformers, and will drive a wide range of speakers. And if it so happens it doesn't drive your speaker, change to a different speaker. Seriously, that's a great amp. If you are stretching your budget, the LM amps are very nice as well. I have heard the 508, and was impressed, but the Vac 30/70 was...Did I say it's one hell of an amp (-: All that said, I am a believer in spreading out your funds so that your system is well balanced. Think system!!!!
I had the VAC 70/70 Renaissance (not the signature version) Mk III for several years, and it is an outstanding amp with that classic to-die-for VAC mid-range. After an ill-advised system overhaul, I started over--again--and ended up getting the Line Magnetic 508ia. The 508 sounds great with the stock tubes, but if you upgrade the 300B and 6SN7/6SL7 tubes, you can take it to another level and it is truly very, very special.

Let's put it this way, as good as the VAC was, I don't feel like I am missing a thing with the 508. I know these are famous last words for an audiophile, but this integrated is here to stay. It's a nice piece of eye candy, and it sounds even better than it looks.
Walter,
I'm familiar with the the sound of the excellent VAC REN 30/30 and 70/70 300b push pull amplifiers. Your insightful comments are high praise for the LM 508ia.  805 output tubes running in class A SET topology must sound wonderful in your system.
Charles  
Thanks all for the input:

Some additional info that may be helpful:

Current setup: Vinyl only (second digital setup to be built in next year or so)
-Melody SP3/6550 (heavily rolled with Winged C 6l6’s, NOS RCA triple plate ax7’s, NOS RCA clear top au7a’s, and have switched between either JJ 6922 or GE ecc88’s)
-Graham Slee Era Gold Mk V
-VPI TNT IV with SDS
-Benz H2 Wood Body cart
-Warfedale Jade 5’s (87db, 6ohms)


Listen to: acoustic/Folk, singer-songwriter, jazz, alt-co, and rock--nothing that heavy. Lately been into early 1900’s gospel, 60’s/70’s funk, New Orleans swing. So a wide range.

Budget: Currently really hoping to stay around 6k. The current options of the 30/70 mkIII monoblocks, Sigma i160, Allnic T2000 integrated, Line Magnetic 219ia and 508ia all fit (the first 4 used on on the board here). 508ia would have to be purchased new.

Regarding 30/70s; always have craved VAC based on reviews; looking to move to monos; really think I like the idea of 300b sound, but have little experience in anything other than EL34, 6550/6l6, KT88. Based on budget, would mean these would be sitting packed up for a bit. Don’t know if getting a sub 2k pre would do them justice (CJ ET3, etc). So they could be waiting for 6-12 months to pair up.

The i160 seems to be a great integrated based on the reviews, but price is the same as the 30/70 monos, so worth just waiting for a pre?

The LM line is very intriguing. Trying to read up on the 219 vs. 508. Both seem to work well with mid efficiency speakers, even at the 219’s lower power rating. I do like the idea of being able to add a pre to either of these, and the 219 running dual mono power is pretty nice option. But, the 508 appear based on reviews to work a bit better with music outside of jazz and female vocals.

The Allnic running KT150s in the triode mode is about 43wpc and has nice reviews but just havent seen much.

And yes, my next change will be speakers (have thought about adding subs too)

I have really appreciated this forum over the years and continue to appreciate the input as I don’t have the ability get or hear a lot of great equipment often (medical school loans suck).



Excellent comments by the others.

A caveat regarding the possibility you mentioned of combining a CJ ET3 with the VAC amps. Like many CJ preamps the ET3 has very high line stage gain, 25 db in this case. My perception has been that the unspecified gain of my VAC 70/70 is also somewhat high, especially in its zero feedback setting which I and most others seem to prefer (although that will be speaker-dependent). And I would presume the 30/70 is similar in that respect. While I suspect that the resulting overall gain would be ok with your vinyl source and 87 db speakers, you mentioned that you are considering eventually adding a digital source, and upgrading your speakers. The combination of a digital source, higher efficiency speakers, and the high gains of those two components would be likely to result in having to use the volume control on the CJ preamp undesirably close to the bottom of its range.

I’ll mention also that for a few years I used a Classe CP-60 solid state line stage preamp with my VAC 70/70, and I was happy with the combo. I purchased the CP-60 here in 2008 for only $1350.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Thanks Al, was worried about that too with a pre like the et3.  The digital system will be completely separate and my current speakers will go with that (possibly even solid state).  

Decisions decisions...esp hearing such good things about LM
Phaun16,
You have an excellent list of worthy choices. When I factor in the variables I’d give a "slight " preference towardthe LM 508ia.
1 It can meet your budget purchased new, this means a warranty (not insignificant).
2 Feedback from owners on various sites has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
3 Its U,S. Distributor is very stable and highly regarded, Tone Audio.
4 45 watts of SET class A power well implemented should sound sublime with the right speaker match.
5 Line Magnetic has earned a reputation for using high quality output transformers and power supplies (keys to SET amplifier success).
6  Tube upgrades make this fine Aamplifier perform even better. 
Charles
Don’t know if getting a sub 2k pre would do them justice (CJ ET3, etc). So they could be waiting for 6-12 months to pair up.

Well, to be fair, I'm not sure that the rest of your system would do justice for those VAC 30/70 amps either.

Your system, as listed, looks like a nice, balanced entry level system.
I'm don't think that dropping a pair of VAC 30/70 mono-block amps into that system would ever be doing justice without upgrading your analog front end, speakers, preamp, phono preamp, etc.

 You may be best to stay with an integrated amp at this point in time.
I would think that you may want an amp with more power, since your Wharfedale speakers are not an easy load.
I'm surprised that you are driving them with your Melody SP3 (38 wpc).

Do you have a small room, and/or listen at low levels? I see that Wharfedale recommends 50-200 wpc for their Jade 5 speakers.

Perhaps the Allnic T2000 may have enough drive for those speakers.
However, even that may be too much amp for your system.

IMHO, a well balanced system, like you have right now, works best.
Dropping one "much better" component into a system, whether it is speakers, amp, cartridge, phono, etc. won't raise the level all that much.

Unless you are ready to start moving up a level with the rest of your system, your best move might be to just look at a PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP Integrated. About half the price of the Allnic T2000, but still a very nice step up above your Melody integrated amp.

Offering up to 96 wpc using KT150 tubes, it should be more suitable to drive your Wharfedale jade 5 speakers too.

Well reasoned critique from John. However in my personal experiences I've heard good amplifiers significantly improve the sound of an audio system.  So I have a somewhat different take compared to John in this case. My suspicion is that the LM 805 tubed SET would in fact be a very viable upgrade with immediate improvement and one that could be built around in the future. 

Based on owner feedback with a variety of speakers I believe that the 508ia would work very well with the Whafedales IMHO. 
Charles 
Thanks John and Charles, 

I just upgraded my TT from a mmf 5 to the TNT.  I'll admit I didn't know the TNT was an entry level table (I know it's not a 20k table though too).  Perhaps I'm just to rookie (or poor) for this :) .

I did transfer my cart with a new retip from soundstage as I have been looking at a phono stage upgrade in the next yer or so and wanted to make sure those were a good pairing.  

Room is 11*18; set up in front third.  Listen at moderate volume...dial is up to about 66-75% on the melody.  

Ive thought about the primaluna, but many told me to stay away from it and go for LM, etc.  

Maybe I'll go demo the PL (dealer in philly) and then decide between that and the 508.  As similar to Charles, it does appear to have good reports of the 508 with 85-88 db speakers.  

Thanks all
While I'm usually in agreement with Jmcgrogan2, and do agree that keeping a system in balance is a good idea, IMHO the TNT sure ain't an entry-level turntable--it may be older, but it has held up nicely over the years.  It will not be out of place with any of the integrated amps you're considering.
I will agree that the VPI TNT IV w/ SDS is NOT entry level.
The cartridge, phono stage, Melody amp, and speakers are entry level though.

So you say that you just bought the TNT, a VAC 30/70 is a nice pair of amps IF you are planning to keep on the upgrade path.
Every step should add more to the music. However, I wouldn't take the step if I wasn't ready to commit to upgrade the rest of my system too. That's all I'm saying.

A VPI TNT table with a VAC 30/70 amp certainly will need better speakers, cartridge and phono stage to shine their brightest.
If you are taking steps, and there is nothing wrong with going about it that way, then the VAC's would make a very nice next step.

If you are concerned about not having money left for a preamp, then maybe you will be best served with staying with an integrated amp.
There are many fine integrated amps out there these days.

Cheers,
John
Last post by jmcgrogan2 sums up my thoughts as well. Spread the wealth
throughout the system. Unless you have another substantial amount of cash soon coming down the pike, don't sink as much in to your amp purchase.
Post removed 
As this discussion demonstrates! There are numerous approaches to improving one's audio system,. Spread  the wealth certainty has merit.  I probably feel more strongly about the impact of amplification than some others here.  If you obtain a very high quality intergrated amplifier you've effectively covered the vital electronics chain  (preamp and the power amp). That's a crucial step. 

I believe that the LM intergrated SETs admirably fill that role. At this point you have a quality source foundation  (TNT turn table) and high level electronics.  Now you have something to work with and steadily build upon over time. I'd at least take a look at the Tekton Double Impact speakers as a potential future replacement. 
Charles 
As this discussion demonstrates! There are numerous approaches to improving one's audio system,. Spread  the wealth certainty has merit.  I probably feel more strongly about the impact of amplification than some others here.

Charles, your take is par for the course for SET amp advocates.
There are many different ways to audio nirvana.

The most common mantra is the 'speakers first' crowd. While others will insist that the source is the key to audio heaven. Others, like yourself, mostly SET fans, insist that the amp is the key to the system. There are even a few outliers who will beat the drums that wire is the key to true happiness. Then there is my group preaching system balance.

Digital? Analog? Computer Audio? SET? Class D? Class A? Passive or active preamp? Tube or solid state? Cables matter, or not?  Tweaks??? Fuses???
So many choices. In the end, everyone must make their own personal choices as to what works best for them.

John, To be clear I don't believe that an amplifier is " the key" for an audio system's  success. Actually all aspects are of importance due to the fact that the "weakest link" of a system is the limiting factor. Balance of a system is no less a factor from my perspective. As we both have acknowledged there are  various ways to achieve the final goal or objective. Regarding SET amps yes I do believe they are wonderful but not in an isolated sense but rather as part of a total picture concept.

Charles

Thanks for clearing that up Charles. From you other posts, I've always taken you as an amp first guy, because you always seem to recommend SET amps, regardless of speaker selection.

Personally, I struggle to believe that the OP's Wharfedale Jade 5's (87 dB, 6 ohm) can be driven best by a SET amp.

Perhaps I have been misreading you. I also believe in the 'weakest link' methodology. So we are on the same page.
So I'm coming to believe that perhaps I should change my speakers first, and ones that are more efficient to allow for a greater breadth of amp choice.  I'm imagining 92db and greater then if I want to use SET down the line? A number I enjoyed yesterday, ATC, spendor, harbeth all seem to be right around my 87db rating.  
Yes, more efficient speakers would definitely help if you seek to run an SET amp.

Look for names like Daedalus Audio, DeVore Fidelity, and Coincident, are among a few manufacturers who make more SET friendly speakers.
I'm sure that Charles can recommend more lines.

Cheers,
John
Thanks John, I have looked at the Devore orangutan in the past and almost purchased, until I got the wharfedales as a demo for nearly 75% off. I guess I'm honestly not 100% set on SET, but have liked what I hear from a 300b.  Even in some of the pentode/triode/ul switchables, the triode is a preferred voicing to me unless it's bass heavier music (zeppelin, hendrix and some older funk).  I'm open to opinions there and everywhere.  Honestly just trying to make it all improve over time, may be quick or may take a year or so to rebuild it all.  Best, Paul 
I’m imagining 92db and greater then if I want to use SET down the line?
Another factor that is equally important is that the speaker’s impedance should have relatively minimal variation as a function of frequency, or should be relatively high at all frequencies. Or both.

The Daedalus Ulysses that I use, and that a couple of others who have posted above use or have used (also with VAC Renaissance push-pull 300B amplifiers), have a 6 ohm impedance but combine an extraordinarily flat impedance curve with 97.5 db efficiency and high power handling capability. Which makes them exceptionally versatile with respect to amplifier selection. However I believe they cost upwards of $16K presently, if purchased new. Some of their smaller models, though, having a bit less efficiency and somewhat less deep bass extension, can be had new for something like half that amount.

The various Coincident models, one of which Charles uses, are also very versatile with respect to amplifier selection, and are certainly worth considering. As well as the relatively low priced (~$3K) Tekton Double Impact he mentioned, which in addition to being a remarkable bargain seems likely to be friendly to many SETs (especially those having relatively low output impedance), despite its 4 ohm nominal impedance. You may want to take a look at the current thread in which it is discussed extensively, and comments are provided by many ecstatic users:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/tekton-double-impacts

Regards,
-- Al


Phaub16,

In my earlier post I said the VAC REN amps are "excellent amps and I'm very familiar with their sound/character. This is a 300b push pull design. Contray to popular belief I don't recommend SET amps regardless of the situation or speaker in question.


I do believe they have wider application than given credit but again it depends on the speaker and its load impedance, phase angles etc. As much as I enjoy my 300b SET I've discouraged some interested parties from pursuing it due to their current speakers. It is certainly a matter of the right and compatible match.


I do believe a robust 805 tubed SET such as the LM 508ia would be fine with your speaker based on owners of this amp who have similar speakers. Again the VAC REN would be an equally fine choice. 


There are pentode tube (KT 88, 120,150,6550,el 34 etc.) that would be fine. I just happen to think that DHT tubes are better sounding but that's just me.

Charles

Charles, thanks for the feedback. I actually talked to Eric from Tekton and David from Whetstone re: LM today. Was trying to PM you to avoid stretching this on here, but I can’t find that function. As to Al, John and the others as well, again much appreciated.  

Best,
Paul
Was trying to PM you to avoid stretching this on here, but I can’t find that function.

Click on his moniker 'charles1dad', then click on 'Details' from the drop down menu.
Above Charles System 'SET Bliss', click on the button 'Marketplace Feedback'.
This will open a new tab. In the new tab, click on 'Send Message'.
A small window will appear that will allow you to send Charles a PM.



Paul,
I have the LM 508 integrated and will very soon be auditioning the Double Impact speakers. I'll report back with some impressions once I take delivery. I ordered them last Wednesday, and Eric said then it would only take "a few days" to make them. If I am lucky, they may ship later this week or early next week. They would seem to be a great match with the 508, but we will find out soon enough.


Hi Walter, 
That sounds like a potentially stellar amplifier and speaker match. I look forward to reading your subsequent listening impressions.  This is an interesting development given that you currently own the highly regarded Daedalus Ulysses speakers.  By the way did you order the 4 or the 8 ohm version of the DI.  Congratulations!
Charles 
Hi Charles,
I just couldn't resist trying the DI speakers, as much as I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy my Ulysses speakers. I'm sort of playing a hunch, I guess. I have some time off on the horizon, so this is an ideal time for me to audition new speakers and conduct an intensive comparison between the mighty Ulysses and the upstart Double Impacts. I ordered the 4 ohm version, though the 508 should be fine with either version. It should be a lot of fun, really a can't lose proposition with Eric's 30-day trial period. I'll let you and others know what I think when they arrive and I have a little time to formulate some impressions. Thanks for your note!
Walter,
You have an excellent plan mapped out 😊. I find this discussion very significant given the implications of genuinely affordable (but not cheap) products that yield true upper tier sound quality. The Tekton DI has been very favorably compared to far more expensive speakers with established reputations for superior sound. Teajay’s comparison to the Lawrence Audio Cello and the Wilson Sasha.

Your Ulysses will be another high level reference point, so the bar remains high. What an exciting comparison it’d be, consider this,  the LM 508ia and the LTA ZOTL 40 driving the DIs. Similar amplifier power yet vastly different circuit/topologies.

What’s so intriguing is this experiment doesn’t require ultra level money expenditure. Excellent news for serious music lovers. Fun times! The notion that a 3000.00 dollar speaker can be the foundation of a superb sounding audio system is a reason to rejoice. Icing on the cake is this speaker permits a very wide range of amplifiers to be eligible for use.
Charles
Agreed Walter and Charles!  Looking forward to hearing back Walter re: the 508.  I was in touch with Whetstone, who has a 508 in stock.  Seems like almost a toss up between the 508 and 219 (with a higher efficiency speaker).  The 8ohm DI is interesting, but worth the extra $500ish...tough to know unless a trial set forth I would assume.  

I may be either ordering the DI (pending my room space allowance) or the LM soon myself. 
Phaun16, 
Generally speaking the 8 ohm speaker load impedance would ideally suit SET and tube amplifiers compared with the 4 ohm version.  However there are exceptions to most axioms.  Owners have reported much success with the LM 219ia and 508ia with some 4 ohm speakers.  

Walter's upcoming auditioning will shed considerable light as he's ordered the 4 ohm DI.  Obviously the 500.00 dollar up charge for the 8 ohm could affect certain budget decisions. 
Charles 
Walter,

Did you order them with the upgrades offered -  Cardas inputs, upgraded internal wiring, ClarityCap on the tweeter section, and an oversized Jantzen coil on the woofer section.?

I look forward to your feedback as well, I have the Daedalus Argos V2s. 

One thing, they sure don't look as good as Lou's speakers lol

Facten,

Yes, I sure did. I thought the cost of the upgrade made it well worth trying.

It is true that the Daedalus speakers are just beautiful to look at, as well as to listen through. I am at place in my life--with two children bearing down on college--where great value has become a priority to me, so I am trying to put together a great, musical, satisfying system for less money than I have invested in the past. Fortunately, as Charles has observed, there are some outstanding values out there right now that seem to compromise little, if anything, in terms of excellent sonics. I consider the Line Magnetic integrated amps--especially the 508-- to meet that criteria. I also consider the Teo Game Changer interconnects and Cerious Graphene power cords and speaker cables in the same category. 

I look forward to seeing whether the Double Impacts also belong in that category, as others here have indicated that they do. No doubt, the Ulysses will present some serious competition, as I have never heard a speaker that I prefer to them. It should be interesting and a lot of fun!
Walter, 
Excellent logic in deciding to get the speaker upgrade package.  There's no doubt in my mind that better quality wire, inductors  and capacitors can make a very noticeable improvement in the sound.  You might as well get it right initially is my perspective.  The up charge is quite reasonable for the higher quality parts. 
Charles 
Totally agree Walter about Line Magnetic, I have the 518IA as part of my main system, wonderfull sounding especially with insertion of NOS 6l6GCs, 5AR4 , anmd 5751s.


Previous owner of a Vac 160i as well which I really liked and have not heard any SQ deficiencies with my LM 508 IA. Those of you with the 508, have you tried any other 805 Tubes? I tried the Psvane which were better in every area but they only lasted about 3 mos; one tube failed to bias correctly...

Wig 
Wig, nice to hear as the 160 was on the list. Helping solidify the decision and now Im torn between the 508 and 219 at this point.  
Phaun16,
Is there a reasonable way for you to find a Line Magnetic dealer who has both amplifiers and plan a trip specifically to hear them? I feel it'd be well worth the effort.  I believe that you'll be very happy with with either amplifier. 
Charles 
Charles, 

I think I am going to try NYC as it's only a couple hours from Philly; I don't know if they currently carry either of them though.  Texas is a bit far, although I do have plenty of airline miles, but they currently only have the 508, as the guy that originally bought the 508 traded it out for the 219.  
I will only have about 5 inches of breathing room up with the 219. 
I will only have about 5 inches of breathing room up with the 219.
Hmm. Both amps are specified as consuming 400 watts of power. (Although I’m a bit surprised that the 219ia isn’t closer to something like 300 watts, or even a bit less). Nearly all of that power will be converted into heat, and radiated directly upward. Hopefully that space is open at both the rear and the front, and hopefully the material that is above the amps is heat resistant (and won’t conduct the heat into a component that may be above that surface). Otherwise, and possibly even given those conditions, I would have significant concern even with the 10 inches of clearance you would have with the 508ia.

Best regards,
-- Al


Al, 

The space is open to the front, back, and sides (I use a Salamander triple 20); and although my current amp (though only 6L6 and not 845s) has 10 inches of clearance with about 350W consumption, I have added a small sheet of thermal radiant barrier with good results of keep heat down.    
Good!

As a point of information, though, your Melody SP3 is a class AB amp, and the power it draws will therefore fluctuate with the dynamics of the music, and will be much less than 350 watts most of the time. While the power consumption of the class A biased LM SET amps will be essentially constant at all times.

What will be converted into heat by the LM amps will be the power it draws from the wall outlet (nominally 400 watts) minus the power it delivers to the speakers (which is likely to be just a few watts most of the time, or even less). It’s a different story with class AB amps.

Best regards,
-- Al

Thanks Al! Wonderfully helpful
Phuan16,

I live in TN, but if you are thinking of going up to NY you  might give In Living Stereo , which is I believe down towards the financial district,  a call to see if they have both the 219 & 508 in stock; webpage shows both