I loved every 45 tube SET I have had and thought the one 205 tube SET I have ever heard to be the best amp I ever heard. The problem, of course, is power. I find 2A3 in the next down level, but again low power. I hated most 300B amps I had, including WE91Bs but then heard the Exemplar and even better yet the Reimyo PAT777. Everything else that you mentioned in the instances where I tried them have failed to appeal to me.
I guess I will just have to limp along using the Reimyo on a 93db efficient speaker.
It is a common mistake to attribute the sound of a particular amplifier to the output tube. There are so many other factors including the power supply, the driver tubes, the amp topology, the quality/type of the passive components, the amount of power required by the speakers, the other components and cables in the system, the output transformers, and many others; that trying to describe the sound of an amp based only on the output tube requires extensive listening to a wide variety of amps in a wide variety of systems to even begin to form an opinion on a particular tube.
Given the above, I find the 45 amps I've heard to be on the soft and forgiving side of the spectrum. I can see why this would be appealing and in some systems may be the ideal tube.
Remember, it is a system.
I have found the Consonance Cyper 211 mono blocks increadably satisfying. Check out Dec issue of enjoythemusic.com for a most recient review of them. The reviewer compares them to 90K amps- retail however is about 5K.
Herman, while you are largely correct, at the first VSAC in Washington there was a demonstration of the sounds of different output tubes. The had a single channel rig that would allow swapping output tubes. The 45 tube won the greatest support for its sound.
My experience with the 300B, however, suggests the fundemental difficulty with the question. As I said, on many of the first 300B amps that I had or listened to, the tube sounded very good in the midrange but without extension at both ends. The Exemplar and Reimyo amps, however, proved that the tube could sing. One used a solid state supply and the other a classic tube supply.
My Reimyo was delivered with '96 production WE 300Bs, but substituting real '60s WE 300Bs proved to give enormous benefits in openness and transient attack. Nothing else was changed.
While its true its about the design and yes I know its a system [amps dont sound so hot without source cords loudspeakers etc.] But I have owned enofe amps and can tell what dif tubes bring to the party so to speak so the ?I dont find 45 to sound soft or forgiving and when in the rt design and with rt loudspeaker they can have great frequincy range that I havent heard from other tubes but the low power can limit this if the loudspeakers not rt. I have heard 211 nice sound for sure many ways to skin the audio cat but I dont think he would like any of them :)
The nod goes to the 45 as the best of the tubes you listed. My experiences are:
45=Very honest and sweet with the entire frequency spectrum.
VT52=No experience with this tube.
2A3=Great detail over the entire frequency spectrum -but too thin in the lower octaves.
300B=Exaggerates the presentation.
845=Very nice and honest presentation. Almost as sweet as the 45.
EL34=Very sweet and romantic performer, but simply cannot do what triodes do for the presentation.
6550=Sounds like a great stereo - not a real presentation.
KT88=Better than the 6550, but still not a real presentation.
My fav, is the WE300B, with Wavelength Cardinal X1, the bass, midbass is all there, the Mid range is holographic, and the treble, airy, without being rolled off. JMHO.
I love my Korneff especially with the addition of the Mullard ECC32=CV181 input drivers.. This combo is really nice. Although.. my overhauled and hotroded GTA Mono's using KR300BXLS Tubes is just as good and then some. The Korneff 45 is incredibly detailed and intimate. The GTA's sound equally delicate, but they have slightly lower floor noise with unbelievable power reserves. eg trumpet blat - which seems to come from now where, and just about pins you to the back wall. Large orchestal passages are explosive and stagering HUGE. The Korneff dosn't have that kind of explosive power. I am using Khorns -biamped.. They can be a bit forward.. so The Korneff is a bit well - a bit softer, easier to listen to .. I enjoy both amps immensely. The Korneff 45 is my daily choice. For real authority I connect the GTA's. But hold on for a ride.
Different horses for different courses. Aside from the difference in power output, the tubes do differ in ways that make one or the other more ideal in a particular application. I generally find the 45 tube to have an ideal tonal balance and beautiful sound, without the 300B tendency to be overly lush and wooly sounding. The 2a3 is much leaner than the 45, but it sounds very fast and detailed and has a beautifully extended and airy top end.
In my system, both 45s and 2a3s work well. I am currently running 2a3s in parallel single-end configuration, but I also have a pushpull 45 amp that sounds nice.
I am very very happy with my 45 SET.
You need very efficient speakers with it.
To summarise, "it aint what you do but the way that you do it". I confess I have'nt heard a 45, but all the rest in various manifestations. To me, there is more difference between amps, than between valves. It is the skill of the designer and quality of parts used, rather than the valve, that counts. Particularly of course, the quality and size of output transformers. To me the classical, euphonic, tube magic comes from the 300B, that is the amp which will grab you at a show, but may not pass a prolonged critical listen. Me, I use the 845 in a Viva Solista, just made Class A in stereophile. I know, I can hear the chorus of "so what" over here in the UK
"the 300B tendency to be overly lush and wooly sounding"
I think this is typical 300B experience for a lot of people, including myself, but I now attribute that primarily to circuit desing and implemetation instead of the tube.
My first 300B amp experience was with a Cary 300SEI, the epitome of "lush". But, I quickly realized that it sounded slow and bloated with exaggerated midrange and a flabby low frequencies. Most amps I heard after that were variations on that theme to a lesser degree.
Then, I got Welborne Labs DRD 300B(now Terraplane) monoblocks. They have none of those negatives. I would describe the sound as crystal clear, almost pure, without any exaggeration. The midrange is beautifully balanced withing the rest of the musical spectrum. The amps also reach down deep to dig out bass clean bass lines. ANd the high end extension is fantastic.
So, I'd agree with others that there implentation is a much bigger factor than output tube.
Having said that, my current favorite is both the Art Audio PX-25 and DRD 300B in my system. I loved Welborne's 45 Terraplanes driving Cogent field coils at the VTV show.
I've never had a chance to hear 2A3's, 50's, 205's, or VT52's. They are all on my list.
This is an interesting thread. I've sort of forgotten about a number of amps that posters here have brought up. I too, like the Art Audio PX-25 -- a nice and lively amp that sounds rich, without being bloated. I also like the Viva Solista.
On the crazy expensive front, the Audionote Gaku-On (211?)sound pretty good too.
Bahah mumbug, who are you trying to kid!
A properly designed and implimented 300B with decent tubes, can go toe to toe with the best amps in the world! To underestimate the completeness of the 300B tube is a mistake!!!!!
Wavelength Cardinal X1
Audio Note 300B
Welborn Labs diy