I too love the sound of the VTL 450s, but the thing that has always kept me from getting them is a slight lack of bass slam (I said slight, so no flames!), but primarily the amount of heat that they generate. Living in a warm state like California, (or one with high humidity), especially without A/C, can make amplifiers like these (and pure Class A Solid State amplifiers like the Pass Labs Aleph and XA series, the other amplifiers I really desire), problematic.
If you either live in a cooler climate or have A/C, I would not hesitate to get the VTL 450s, as they are sonically a great amp. (My friend uses the 450's with his Eidolons, and they sound great in his system! We sometimes have to cut our listening sessions short though, due to the heat build up in the room. It gets into the low 80's, which is a bit too hot for me anyway.) I just wanted to point out the heat element to these amps in case you did not realize the implications.
I have not heard the Parsounds, so I won't pass along any judgement on them. (But I have not read the same glowing reviews, especially from owners here and on Audio Asylum, regarding them, that I have about the 450s).
Good Luck in your search!
The two amps you are considering are very different beasts, although both are excellent units. Because the two amps will produce quite different results in your system, you really should audition both in your home before making a purchase.
I think the more relevant point, however, is whether to upgrade your current speakers first. As regular readers of this forum know (maybe all too well), I'm a long-time fan of Vandersteen speakers. Hence, it may seem out of character to suggest that you ought to replace your Vandy 2CE's before you buy either of the two power amps. Here's my reasoning:
Both the VTL and Parasound amps are capable of significantly better performance than you will hear through the 2CE's, so I suggest you consider upgrading your speakers first. If you like your Vandies, then move up to the 3A Signatures, which are a much better speaker than the 2CE Sig's (particularly if you add a pair of 2Wq subs), or maybe even look for a used pair of Vandy Model 5's (which would sing with either of the two amps you're thinking about).
You haven't read any glowing reviews on the JC-1's???
Are you living under a rock??? :)
I went from Manley Neo-Classic 250's to JC-1's. While I loved my Manley's dearly, I could never go back.
I know they are not VTL 450's, but sonically, they're probably very similar.
Braro, the first thing to look at is, what kind of music do you listen to? That's what's going to drive which direction you go. I listen mostly to rock, blues and some jazz fusion. But these JC-1's are so sweet and mellow I've even gotten into female vocalist's, thanks to my girlfriend. Even horns, which I often find unlistenable with SS amps, are wonderful. Now the JC-1's still don't do vocals and horns as well as big tube amps, but the dynamics, bass slam and sheer power of these amps are worth the (slight) trade off.
I'm telling you, with the proper gear, these amps are amazing and smooth and sweet.
They DO take a long time to break-in, upwards of 1400 hours, and that is fact, not fiction.
Also, to realize the full potential of these wonderful amps, it is imperative to run them in balanced mode.
Mine have over 1700 hours on them and they continue to open up and get better and better.
And I KNOW I won't be upgrading for a long time, if ever.
Do your homework and spend your money wisely.
Wayne Donnelly compared his VTLs with the JC-1s in review someplace a year or so ago. He was surprised as we were that the JC-1s did fine next to the 450s. The JC-1 is what it is, a very powerful machine made amplifier that happens to sound pretty darned good. It wasn't intended to beat up everything out there, but it has credible performance that doesn't cost a fortune. We could build a better amplifier if we had lots more money to spend and if folks were willing to buy them, but we were given parameters when we designed the JC-1 and it is a successful product.
Kurt_tank, Sdcampbell, Perfectionist, Rcrump. Thanks for your thoughts. I neglected to mention Im also running stereo Vandy 2WQ subs with the model 5 xover. I know the 2CEs are the weekest link right now but Im still amazed how they reflect every improvement Ive made down stream. They have served me well but I am looking forward to new speakers down the road a bit. For now I want to adress the scale. The soundstage is much to small with a somewhat harsh upper midrange and a rather lean sound. I think my VTL MB 125s are just to small to to drive a 15x30 room to realistc levels. After auditioning the larger VTLs this became apparent. To my ears the larger VTLs are better in every respect. I listen to all types of music so I want an amp that does everything well but if I had to narrow it down I would say my prioritys are as follows: Huge 3D sound stage with good image focus (doesnt have to be lazer accurate). Excellent rythem, pace and sweet tone with lots of detail. Does this sound more like a JC-1 or VTL 450?
I would agree with Sdcampbell suggestion time for a speaker upgrade..
Another option...How about upgrading to the Vandy 4's with the built in powered sub and get a lower powered tube amp that is triode switchable and get the best of both worlds...
I've heard both the VTL-450's and the JC-1 both are good in their own right, but the JC-1 requires careful matching with an outstanding preamp (which is what you already have). The VTL is more foregiving due to the nature of tubes. Which one is best would be depending on whether you listen to jazz or Rock.
Hey I just happen to own both of those amps as we speak. I had the VTL 450s first and have them paired with a CJ Premier 17LS preamp. I don't think this is the best pair in the world. I have been bothered by 2 things with the 450s. First is the heat, they put off a ton of it, they actually cause my heater in the house to not run very much, so I can imagine they are gonna be really annoying in the summer. Second they seem to be lacking in the bass department. They are super extended in the top and never fatiguing, they have the classic tube virtues, which to a tube lover is immdiately recognizable.
The JC-1s I got in hopes of replacing the 450s. They too are hot, but probably only 1/4th the heat of the 450s. They can be left on continuously, where the 450s have to be turned on and off. I'm using these in my second system, so I'm looking for a hassel free situation and still have great sound.
The JC-1s do a lot better in the bass than the 450s, tons of slam and very precise imaging. They seem ultra detailed, but at the same time are very easy on the ears. The background is black and quiet with these babies. The JC-1s hit me more in the head than in the heart, like most solid state gear always has. I can see the argument for the JC-1s easily over the 450s and can imagine many listeners prefering them.
The 450s are tube amps, so there you go. I think if you are a tube amp lover at heart it would be hard to pick the JC-1s over the 450s. They just have that tube magic, that if you know what you are hearing it is hard to do without. The JC-1s seem more accurate, but at the same time seem a little flat and sterile compared to the 450s. The JC-1s are no slouch and I may just decide to live with them based soley on convenience. I have a dedicated room with tube amps, so I can always get my fix if I need to. If the convenience factor was even between the JC-1s and the 450s, I'd choose the 450s. I think what you are looking for sounds more like the 450s.
Have bit heard either amp but in my experience tubes and solid state always sound like tubes and solid state no matter how good so purchase accordingly if you can not listen to them.
Ejlif. Are your 450's current?. ie signature transformer, upgraded caps, balanced input etc.
wondering if any of these upgrades would/have made your 450's better in the bass.
I agree with Sdcampbell, upgrade the speakers. The 2ce's will not allow that much of an improvement to come through with the better amps. They are not nearly as defined as the 3a Sigs. I just feel you would be wasting money throwing that kind of amp at the 2ce's.
My vote goes for the VTL's by the way. I never really warmed up to the JC-1's. I can't exactly put my finger on it but they sounded a little wrong to me. Music didn't seem to have that real naturalness and/or the soundstage depth seemed slightly shy.
I currently use an Ayre V5x which, while not offering the slam of the JC-1(which I don't need with the subs) nor the brute strength(which to me is the JC-1's forte), gives the presentation a more natural feeling (refined like a tube amp.) I personally think it has to do with the negative feedback in the JC-1 vs the zero feedback Ayre. I think it is in the way both amps handle phase and timing issues. However, for the money, the JC-1 offers a lot and I can see people liking it. I just don't think it is the best choice for Vandersteen's IMO.
At any rate, I use the 3A Sigs and 2Wq's. It offers a large advantage of the 2Ce's. When I was contemplating the switch from the 2Ce Sigs, Vandersteen himself convinced me the 3A Sigs were the way to go before any other changes.
Also have to agree with EJLIF. I also owned a pair of JC-1's, and while they were the best solid state amps I have ever personally owned, they still did not offer that last degree of "there-ness" that I was able to get with ASL Hurricanes.
Really does depend on what your ultimately trying to achieve, what type of music you listen to, room, ancillaries, etc.
Having said that, I hate to generalize and oversimplify, but as you (Braro) said in your post that "I heard the VTL's and loved them.." I personally would stick in the tube camp, - OR - if you go with the JC-1's, at least incorprate a nice tube preamp with it.
My 450s are an 01 model and they are the 450 signatures, I don't know about the other upgrades you mentioned. If I was to keep these I would probably see about getting all the updates done. I am running them as well as the JC-1s unbalanced from the CJ 17.
I would like to know how the 450s compare to the Hurricanes and the CJ premiere 140, those would be some other amps to consider as well.
haven't heard the 450's and although i own a pair of JC-1s
which have given me much satisfaction,i also believe as others have stated that you should probably lean towards your preference for tube amps.
the JC-1s seem to favor balanced SS preamps and your Supratek may or may not give you the ideal synergy.
also it is my belief that the amp should be chosen in accordance with your speakers strengths,weaknesses and requirements.in this case both options appear as overkill.
Thanks to everyone for the great input. I think that I will probably upgrade to the Vandy 3A. I listened to them at a dealer and liked them quite a bit. I also checked out the Thiel (I think it was the 3.6) Although both the Vandy and Theil were powered by an Ayer amp so I have no reference to VTL or Parasound. I have to believe the character of the 3As is similar to the 2CE powered with VTL but more refined. So at this point Im thiking VTL and Vandy 3A. How does that combo sound?
The 3A Sigs are capable of a very high level of resolution WHEN set up correctly. They perform very well with tubes. In fact, the big man himself generally uses tubes.
Be careful with cable matching and all should be well indeed.
I think if you like what you have, this combo will take you over the top. Let the speakers break in for a while also.
As a side note, Ayre uses 3A sigs in their sound room. I think there is an obvious synergy with their equipment.