VTL MB 450 sig v cj prem 8a's v Mac MC 501's

I sold my beloved prem 8a's last year and have been on a search for a SS replacement that would fix the short comings of the prem 8a (and take away the tube hassle). namely - bass not that well controlled when playing my Vienna Mahlers, upper bass a bit fat and smearing into the lower midrange, lack of transparency in those area's, and a bit noisy. from the upper mids to treble the prem 8a's are musical heaven.

So far I have listened to cj prem 350, krell 300 cx, bryston 7BSST, JC-1's, pass X350 and Mac MC501's, the 501's have been the best of the lot. Unfortunately the Mac's in my system exibit a bit of glare/brightness in the lower treble and when you turn the SS amps up loud they don't seem to be as effortless and muisical as my old tube amps.

I am now thinking that I just like tube amps and what they do. I have a VTL 7.5 pre and are looking at the VTL MB 450 signature's. Unfortunately I cannot listen to them before buying.
Would appreciate if anyone has had direct experience with the VTL's for your opinion if the 450 will eleviate some of the cj shortcomings - namely bass control and transparency, while keeping that tube mid and treble magic.

thanks Shane
Can;t speak to the VTL 450's but can speak to the Manley 350's with KT90's.

Bass is awesome, toob rolling currently as the amps are ever so slightly recessed in the mids, un-toob like.

Am currently driving with a SS amp, so hard to tell where the recession is coming from. Driving Maggies, and finding vintage toobs are realy perking things up.

Next will roll caps and am looking to hear the Juicy Music in my system, it's on the way.

I suggest if you need woof control and are dead set on toobs there are only a handful of choices, AR 300, CJ300, Manley and VTL's.

There may be others but not that I know of.

I can say that compared to my Threshold S300 II amp, the Manleys pick the Maggies up by the scruff of the neck and shake them.

Also so guy in Grand Rapids has VTL 300 MB's on the Gon for less than 2500, it would probably make a cheap experiment as you can probably get all of your money back if you want to sell them.

It's a 6550 based amp, and mine is KT90 based.


You are on the right track. The VTL 450s do have the bass slam that the Premier 8s do not and they do not have the slight Mid glare that the Mac 501s do. I work at a dealer that carries the VTL and Mcintosh new and we currently have a pair of CJ Premier 8as in our used room. Of the three, the VTL seems to hold its head higher with respect to even tonal balance, control of all frequencies and depth of stage and definition of image.
As you already have the 7.5 pre, a pair of MB 450s with the VTL SuperBalanced upgrade should be the exact ticket for you. We demo our 7.5 with the 450s that have been updated by VTL with a Balanced input board change. The result of the combo must be heard to be believed. We have had the Siegfrieds on the floor when Luke was touring the early production pair and I can tell you the 450s truly benefited from the new balanced board mod that was a "trickle down" from the design of the Siegfrieds.
I am not sure where you are located (Downunder?) but if you have no local VTL dealer, we would love to talk further to see if a pair of 450s is in your future. Good luck and good music to you.

Audio Alternative
I have the VTL 450s and just got a pair of Parasound Halos. I always felt that the bass was a bit weak on the 450s and that the speakers I'm using (Von Schweikert VR4Jrs) would benefit from high powered solid state. The bass is definately more there with the Halos, but you do give up the tube magic for solid state accuracy. Overall I'm not sure I could live with the solid state gear, but who knows over time I may warm up to the solid state sound. The Halos are not harsh or bright sounding by any margin. The Halos do run semi hot, but nothing compared to the massive amounts of heat rolling off the 450s. That is my main gripe with the 450s in fact after the weak bass.
Dear Shane:

It appears from your thread that you are home demo'ing various amps in your system, which is the hands down best way to demo equipment. Be very careful (i.e., skeptical) about other people's experiences with various amps in systems other than your own, as the amp/speaker interface is highly component-dependent -- how, for example, a VTL 450 performs on someone else's speakers in someone else's system is fairly well irrelevant to how it will work with your electronics running your Mahlers. The only way to know is to try a fully broken-in version of the amp in your system, the only variables introduced to the comparison being adjustments to speaker placement so as to correct for what the amps do to soundstaging and power delivery, and, being open to using speaker cables that are known to partner particularly well with the amp (the amp / speaker cable interface is more important than the speaker cable / speaker interface, incidentally*).

I use Mahlers in my second system and have tried three amps with them. A Bryston 4B-ST was fine. The VAC Renaissance 140/140's monoblocks that I use in my main system were much better (and the bass was fine, incidentally). The best match was Rowland Model 6 monoblocks with batteries, which had most of the bloom, all of the transparency and better bass control than the VAC's. The Rowlands were the most dynamic and really took a hold of all of those 10" woofers.

If you are committed to running tube amps with your Mahlers, I strongly suggest that you investigate the CAT amps, especially the monoblock versions. While they are limited to 100 (JL-1) or 200 watts (JL-3) per channel, the quality of the output transformers on the CAT's is generally known to be the highest in the industry, meaning that they really nail the voltage-to-current conversion such that they can handle tough-to-drive or tough-to-control speakers in a way that tube amps with much higher wattage ratings cannot touch. People misunderstand what is important for getting power and control out of a tube amp -- if the amp does not have great output transformers, all of the watts in the world will be wasted. Here is a thread that addresses the issue of tube amps and power in the context of the very hard to drive mbl omnidirectional speakers:


There are very, very few tube amps that are going to do the job on Mahlers, and you even have to be careful with solid-state amps (Tony Cordesman, in his review of the Mahlers for Audio, reported that his monstrous Pass 600's were not nearly as good at controlling the Mahlers' bass as Krell FPB 300 monoblocks). Extensive home demo'ing is definitely the way to go with these speakers.

*That said, I did a lot of research regarding speaker cables for the Mahlers because of the hard-to-control woofers, and Vienna Acoustic's U.S. distributor, Sumiko, directed me to Kimber Monacle. I bought Kimber Select 3033, which is a step up in the Kimber line from Monacle, and it really helped to make things fall into place. I also borrowed 3038, the all-silver version, from my main system to run with the Mahlers for awhile, and they were supurb.
Raquel, I fully understand the everything sounds different in your own system, unfortunately as I said I cannot demo the 450 sigs in my room, they need to be ordered from the factory. re the CTA amps, impossible to listen to in Sydney - living downunder does limit my ability to demo equipment.
Since I own Mahlers, buying another tube amp that may not control the speakers is a concern. however after trolling the web sites, it would seem that the VTL 450's control bass better than most tube amps. All the SS amps I have tried have not really had a problem controlling the bass,k but they don't sound as musical.

Ejlif. You maybe also experiencing some ineraction between the prem 17 and your tube power amp. I owned the prem 16 for 5 years and bass control was not its strong suite.

Mike. I beleive the current 450 version with the caps, new transformer and balanced input upgrades does give the VTL better bass control?.
Also, does the MC501 lose the slight glare in the upper mids, or is that a characteristic of the amp?.

thanks for the opinions so far.
You say you liked the McIntosh MC501s the best. Was that in your system?
Yes the MC501's are in my system currently. they sound the best out of all the SS amps, but don't quite sound like tube amps. they go back to the store in the next day or so.
You are going to regret going back to solid state I bet. Once you understand as you do what tube amps do that SS will never do, will never do, will never do- your hooked for life. Its the old accuracy verses beauty debate. I hope you don't change just to get rid of tube hassle.