What are the best tube amps for Klipschorns?

I hav a pair of Klipschorns and a pair of LaScalas used together. With sensitivity of 104dB each, these don't need much power. I have a 125wpc Mark Levinson 334 ss amp now that has to be attenuated 20dB before it reaches the preamp. I'm after the bass punch and extreme detail of the ML, but in a lower powered, lower weight tube amp.
I had a friend over last week with a 2 1/2 watt 2A3 based SET integrated. It is amazing to me, what 2 1/2 watts can do with a Klipschorn corner horn. It doesn't take much to get thunder from those monsters!
I'm after the bass punch and extreme detail of the ML, but in a lower powered, lower weight tube amp.
I've owned the La Scala's & now own the Klipschorns. I've heard many tube amps with them, and none would I describe as having the "bass punch and extreme detail" of a Levinson amp. In fact, I've never heard a tube amp that could mimic the bass & hyper detail of a good SS amp. That isn't to dismiss them by any means, because they bring other qualities to the music that SS cannot. But if you are wanting to maintain the bass & detail that your current amps provide, I don't think tube amps are going to deliver, and certainly not a lower powered, low weight amp. Sure, 2.5 watts powering those speakers will make your ears bleed, but not with the weight & detail that you are hearing now...not even close. May I suggest you consider a good tube preamp to go with your Levinsons? Or is it something other than warmth you are wanting to bring into the system?
Boa2, I've been told that tubes provide smoothness and warmth that can't be found in ss amps. On the other hand, I don't want to give up the punch and detail found in the Mark Levinson ss amp. I was hoping that I could have my cake and eat it too. If no such animal exists, perhaps I could power the Khorns with the ML amp for punch and detail and get a smooth sounding tube amp for the LaScalas in the center. The problem is would the different sound of the two amps fight each other?
I've been told that tubes provide smoothness and warmth that can't be found in ss amps.
I would certainly agree with that statement. Yet because it is specifically punch & detail that you don't want to give up, I would advise sticking with SS. Others will tell you "my tube amp drives like mad, has incredible detail, etc.", but they won't equal your Levinson in either department. In fact, as much as I love McIntosh as an ideal match with Klipsch, even their SS amps won't be as detailed--nor are they quite as sculpted in the bottom end--as your Levinson. But they would be smoother & warmer.

I think your idea of using a tube amp for the La Scalas is certainly worth trying. What sort of budget are you thinking? I'm thinking that a push/pull tube amp might be best, only because of the relative 'speeds' of the amps. Others may have a different opinion. Again, the addition of a tube preamp can also help greatly to infuse that smoothness and warmth you are wanting.
Actually I have two Levinson 334 amps...one for each side. Perhaps I could sell one, and use that $3000 income for a tube amp. I could also kick in an extra couple grand if necessary.

I am using Placette straight line attenuaters instead of a preamp. The last thing these monsters need is additional buffering. The Placettes allow ALL of the detail through.
Sounds to me like you are very happy with what you have and are just wondering if there is any way to make it better. You could try Pass if the itch is unbearable. My Aleph 30 is ultra detailed and very musical. Dick Olsher (toob man) once wrote that it was the first SS amp he had ever heard that would allow him to forego tubes.
Personally, I'd leave well enough alone. Why tamper with success?
the amp they grew up with...the mac mc275
As Paul Klipsch used to say, "what the world needs is a good one watt amplifier. I do not recall what the efficiency of the Klipschorns are but it is probably over 100db. I was very happy with my 1.56 watt SET 45 tube amp when I had speaker of such efficiency.

I am living happily with my 150 watt LSA Statement amp on my 93db efficient speakers, but I still suspect that I would be happier with more efficient speakers and use my 8 watt Reimyo 300B amp. The only low powered ss amp I ever had on my efficient speakers was the 25 watt 47 Labs Gain Cell.
The salesman that provided me with the Khorns 30 years ago also introduced me to the Levinson amp. To me it's a winning combination. However, every other salesman I know, and every Goner say just the opposite...I need tubes to smooth out and soften the horns. Am I the only one in the world that's right, and everyone else wrong? Something smells fishy. I shared this dilemma with the same saleman. He said that he still recomends the Levinson, but would also recommend the Mac mc275 as a tube alternative. Jaybo provided the same idea. It seems like a solution is beginning to take shape. I'm going to borrow the store's mc275 and experiment with the Levinson and the Mac. Perhaps a combination of the two will work.

I have learned a lot today. Thanks for all of your help and suggestions.
You might also consider vertical bi-amping, keeping your Levinsons on the bass, and purchase some tube amps for your mids and highs. It would be a bit more complex to setup and balance out, but it may give you the results you want.

A friend of mine who is a Klipsch authority has recently been trying out some very serious modifications of his Khorns, including the Crites crossovers (I think Boa2 is happily using those as well), as well as the wood horns and Beyma tweeter replacement endorsed by Al Klappenberg. He tells me those modifications have made a very significant improvement over the already outstanding Khorns, and that he'll never go back to stock. He was also a friend of PWK and tells me that Klipsch always wanted to use wood for the mid-horns but manufacturing costs made it impractical. Check those mods out at the Martinelli Website who actually manufactures the horns. The Beyma CP25 is the drop-in replacement for the Klipsch tweeter and will also make a significant difference in pulling out detail. It is larger than the stock tweet so you'll either have to put it on top of the cabinet or do some significant mods to the mounts.

Good luck.

PS In case I wasn't clear those mods are intended to give you more detail and resolution. They will not necessarily boost your bass response. They may alter the perceived bass response in altering the rest of the range. You could consider replacing the bass driver with a better one as well. Not sure of the drop-in replacement there, but I'm sure there is one. You may search the Klipsch forum for more input. It does sound like you are already content with the bass though. You can also replace the stock wiring harness, which is essentially copper zip cord, with some quality silver wiring to get further detail. This requires a long break-in period but it was worth it in my LaScalas.
From what I understand, the horn/tweeter swap also dramatically smooths out the highs. So Marco, that could be the best suggestion yet!
Marco, wooden horns make this a whole new ball game. I'm going to check into this now.

I've thought about vertical biamping before. However, with all of the attenuators and interconnects required, this will probably turn into one expensive, counterproductive mess. I guess you know what the K.I.S.S. acronym means.

I got Al's ALK crossover for the Khorns which sounds better. I have never heard of the Crites crossover. Is that better than ALK?

I improved the bass of the Khorn in a different way. I built a false corner for each Khorn and turned the corners inward directly facing the sweetspot. This allowed me to move the Khorns in closer together to form an equalateral triangle with the sweetspot as all speakers should be. I don't know if silver wiring will make any difference in bass due to the large wavelength. However, thicker oxygen free copper wire should make an improvement.

The larger wooden horns would be no problem. All of my speaker enclosures are raw and behind a large screen made from high end speaker grill cloth.

Now it's time to check out the wooden horns.
I got Al's ALK crossover for the Khorns which sounds better. I have never heard of the Crites crossover. Is that better than ALK?

"Better" is entirely relative to who's making the call. I can't speak for the Khorns, as I have only had LaScalas. The Crites crossovers are supposed to duplicate the best of PWK's original vintage crossovers, but using modern ("better") parts. The sound will be more akin to the stock crossover, and what PWK designed. ALK's crossovers alter the original design and the resulting balance, curves, slopes, etc., significantly so the sound is quite different from stock. On my LaScalas in a smaller space I actually preferred the stock AA crosovers. In a much larger space the laser focus of the ALK's won me over, and didn't sound as hardened as they had in my home. My advice would be to try them each out if you can, and or seek more input from those who have direct experience. My friend who has done the mods with the Wood horns has used both as well as stock. He hates the ALK's, and much prefers the Crites. With the Scalas the ALK's are less forgiving, more focused and detail, and can have a harder edge than the stock AA's. The AA's are a bit softer, and easier on the ears in a smaller space. The ALK's also have provisions for selectively changing the attenuation on the mid-horn. The Crites do not have that provision as I understand. I have fooled around with that and it does alter the sound, but I found myself coming back to what was essentially slightly up from stock. YMMV depending largely on your setup and your expectations.

I think I still have pictures of my friend's installation of his wood horns. If you ping me off the thread I'd be happy to forward them so you can get some idea as to what is involved in doing such a modification. On my LaScalas, changing the tweeter made a huge difference (improvement), so I'm betting that's a good bet for you as well with your Khorns.

Good luck.

Hi Redwoodgarden,

I was wondering what transpired with your search for a tube amp that could match the Levinson 334?? Did you replace your existing pre amp and find something better?? Sorry for my being nosey but I have Klipschorns and a Levinson 334 and I'm also looking to find a pre amp that can go toe to toe with the 334.

In answer to your question: Wyetech.
Additional comment: Agree to consider warm tube preamp, would add to consider hybrid amps - Blue Circle, Butler, even Counterpoint/Alta Vista, et. al.
I can't imagine how a transistor amp could be preferred on a speaker like the Klipsch- unless one has never heard a decent tube amp! First off the Klipsch doesn't really play the bottom octave, so the idea that a tube amp would have less punch is irrelevant, not just because of the frequencies that are audible but also because the Klipsch is a very easy load for tube amps so there is no advantage that a transistor amp will have with 'current' *or* bandwidth.

Perhaps you might actually try a few of the better tube amps- Klipsch speakers certainly have the reputation that justifies a decent amp for them. Good quality output transformers are rated to 5Hz and a lower powered amp (under 50 watts) will have no trouble having bandwidth.

The idea that transistors play bass better than tubes is a myth from the bad old days- 2 or 3 decades ago. If you allow a story like that into your head you will miss a whole world of possibility.
At the risk of being accused of picking a fight with God, I respectfully disagree, Atmasphere. :-)

We have paired our Klipschorns with quite a few different amplifiers (Quicksilver, Audion, George Wright, McIntosh, Art Audio, etc.), both tube and SS. We happen to enjoy both. Yet there are distinct differences between them, particularly when it comes to the impact and definition of the bass, where SS has bested tubes every time. In addition, the SS lends a greater sense of speed and separation to the music, whereas tubes excel at humanizing tone. Does SS have the emotional impact that the tube amps do? No, not to my ear. On the other hand, while tubes/Klipschorns are distinctly more engaging during active listening, SS sounds remarkably more even and cohesive from anywhere outside the listening room, save perhaps a solo instrumentalist. When listening to Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, U2, or even big band, despite the fact that a 1W amp will drive the speakers to ear-bleeding volume level, the SS amp (we pair ours with a tube preamp) is much better at approaching lifelike dynamic heft than any tube amp I have tried, even 60W or better.

So it's settled...we need two systems!
No, its even simpler.. Top end and mids maybe should have low power tubes for best dimension, and Big bass drivers should have solid state.. This seperates power supplies, and frequency demands of the weak points on both technologies, well its not perfect, but as close as we can come with a little experimentation.. I will be running my full range hopefully in the next 2 weeks with Pure Class A tubes on the mids up, and my Bass Line arrays on 700 watts of Solid state... In order to get that type of power and control on woofers for about 100 hz down would seem that it is a waste of time, money, Heat and Dozens of tubes to do what a cheaper solid state can do to take full control of bass drive for no heat, very little money, and just as good of tone down low, pure reliability with plenty of impact.
You may want to consider the best of both worlds. An amp like the HK Citation II @ 60 wpc. It has solid state rectification with tube output. These amps give the great bass punch that you get from SS combined with the warm, revealing mids that you get with tubes. Good compromise choice.
Thanks for your replys guys!!!!!!

I was wondering what tube pre amps you've paired with a SS amp & Klipschorns and the results you've encountered?

Of the tube preamps we've tried, we like the Lamm LL2 Deluxe most. It is not for the analytical listener, in my opinion, because you distinctly hear the music and not signature of the component. Reviewers describe it as organic sounding, and I would agree. Like great musicians, I tend to lean toward audio components that are so good at playing to the song that they don't stand out in the group.

Hope that helps.
Hi Boa2, you're certainly not in trouble with me! I can't say about whatever god(s) :)

OTOH, I have to admit that I am used to slightly different tube amps than the ones you describe. With full power down to 1 or 2 Hz I have yet to hear a transistor amp that comes even close. I totally get that its not about the power (despite that I find that putting an amp with excess power on a speaker like this helps even if you never use the power). I find when I put a good transistor amp on the speaker that I am turning up the volume in vain to try to get it to play punch. The tubes do it effortlessly at any volume, and I have run this comparison many times and in different environments.

So we have been hearing very different things, but the amps that I use didn't appear in your list.

All the Best

OTOH, I have to admit that I am used to slightly different tube amps than the ones you describe
Are you speaking primarily of your designs, Ralph? I'm really intrigued to hear them, as listener comments have only been favorable.
Yes- I was listening to them before I got into the business 29 years ago (I was a tinkerer and probably the retailer's worst nightmare). I've played bass and keyboards since I was about four- in orchestras, jazz and bluegrass combos and rock bands. I have to have the bass right- I got spoiled by the real thing?

Getting rid of the output transformer unlocks a lot of performance that tubes have always had. The only thing that you have to be careful of is to mind the impedance of the load (smaller OTLs need at least 8 ohms which is easy); Klipschorns are no worries!