Gamut D200 is not a bad match; however, bass maybe somehting to be desired. Plinius amps are not a bad match. However, the Gamut will sound a lot better than any Plinius combination.
I have heard the SE version of your preamp matched to McCormack amps: either the DNA-2 DLX LAE or the DNA-225, speakers were Vandersteen 5 or JM Lab Mezzo Utopia. Either setup was superb, natural highs, lush mids and great, fast bass. The combination of tubes in the preamp and SS in the amp gives you the best in both worlds, so keep on searching. I am not any more because I bought the DNA-2 and gave a deposit on the SF Line 3 SE.
Have you considered that it may not be the amp? I know there are differences between the models, but in my SF Line 1 replacing the stock tubes with NOS 7308s changed the sound from similar to what you describe (I called it dry and somewhat brittle) to palpable and lush, though not to the point of being syrupy. It is not what I equate to a "tubey", but it is certainly less sterile and analytical than the stock sound.
It was also not necessary to use NOS tubes in all the sockets. Replacing the pair in the rearmost bank (final gain stage?) had 95% of the effect of replacing them all. At first I had Amperex World Globes in all three banks. Later, hearing about the "rear bank only" approach I replaced the two forward pairs with Sovteks. There was very little change. That this worked so well was important from an expense perspective as it allowed using better tubes without going broke in the process. Let's not even get into the problem of finding a quantity of a particular NOS tube!
If this is old news to you please accept my apology for burning bandwidth. In any case, good luck in finding a solution.
As some of you pointed out, replacing tubes will make a big difference. My Line 3SE came with Siemen NOS which should be million times better than Russian tubes, but I found the sound to be dry and thin at best. I put in some $8 Jan Philip 6922 and it instantly became warmer and fuller, but I had loud popping noise when I switch to mute and forced me to go back to Siemen. But my pre amp only has 30 hours of usage so far, maybe even less, so I am not sure if I am jumping the conclusion too early. It may have 200 hours of standby time, but I don't think standby current is enough to burn in the tubes.
So this Bel Canto thing is that good?
Usually if the unit doesn't sound OK with stock tubes and "needs" NOS it is poorly engineered unit. It's the same thing as I could say that I can play soccer good in Adidas boots but cannot play with Nike.
Stand-by current is good enough for tubes. On the new tubes it is essential to idle the amps even overnight and than start listening. Further-on idle the small signal tubes for 10...20 minutes before passing any signal and before every listening.
Aso try to damp your tubes with the tube dampers to see the result. Placement of your tube preamp maybe essential as well. Make sure it's not located above the power amplifier and mates only with small signal components.
IMO I love for the small signal SS and drive speakers with tubes. That's where you get passive-like transperency in the small signal and the signature of a tube drive.
You might also try Plinius M16 preamp with powerful tube amps such as VTL MB450, VTL MB250, Manley Reference 250 or ARC VT200 that will drive your speakers at ease.
In this case, Marakanetz, it's a combination of the current production, tizzy-sounding Sovtek 6922 tubes being put into equipment that was not intended to have a "tubey" sound in the first place. It is certainly not because Sonic Frontiers' products are poorly engineered.
Good suggestion on breaking in new tubes.
Fpeel, Sovtek 6922 tubes are currently in production. NOS equivalents may end its existance someday or more fake versions will appear within the time.
For every tube that is currently in production there can be the right place. 6922 is great for the low-input signals such as TT cartridge level and/or as a buffered input for the preamp. 6922 is not a good choice for the preamp output. NOS equivalents might sound "less tubey" but face the fact that if 6922 is tizzy-sounding why bother with 6922 design when you can use different tubes???
Marakanetz, don't get me wrong. My main interest was in passing on my first hand experience with a component from the same line as Semi's, not to get into a debate about design philosophies or the drying up of the NOS tube supply. The former is outside the scope of my limited knowledge and the latter is pretty much a given.
You have raised my curiosity about tube dampers. Are there specific ones you recommend? They might be a nice addition to my NOS tubes... ;-)
Mdomnick, follow this link for more information on the 6DJ8/6922/7308 family of tubes. It's the best articel I've yet to find. http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/scripts/d.pl?audio/faq/joes-tubes.html
I bought some tube dampers about 2 months ago, and to be honest I never really did anything to see if I heard a difference, but I was using them on telefunken tubes, so if there was a benefit to them, I'm sure it was negligable. I have since pulled the Telefunkens in order to send my amp in for repair, and will be trying them on my Amprex tubes in my Line 1 (rear bank). I'm excited to see if they really help. I bought an expensive set, heavy brass, nice quality and design, and to be honest probably spent too much ($100) but compared to the $10K in gear, it's a small purchase. I'll try to post the maker of the dampeners, but don't have the name as of right now and will let you know what I found on my Amprex.
Found the URL: