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I'm a lucky one. I have heard all of Roger's amps including the newly made 300b Ruby. Actually, I only heard 1 monoblock driving both speakers and it was still better than his two 211 Rubies. To my ears and all of that. I have been fond of the 300b sound for many years and had always settled on the Sapphires, but after hearing the Ruby 300b... it is hard for me to consider any other (and I've heard most of the top in sound and $$$). No word when both will be ready for a listen but for now I have to say I was enamoured with the single monoblock alone.
F1a, apologies for the delayed response. Having heard the 211 and 300b monos a dozen times if not more and the Sapphires at least double that, I can say that in Roger's system, all else being equal (meaning everything literally):
Sapphires - the 18W rating does not do the amps true justice. Peak power I have never actually heard, as even with the "relatively" low sensitivity of the Churchill's (95-97db rated, can handle 500W max RMS) and my Harbeth SHL5s (rated 86db, but measured closer to 93db), the room never needed more than 2-6W with rare 12+ peaks on major orchestral works. It has been a while since we measured dbls but I can say that I've never left Roger's place with my ears ringing, but I never fell asleep while listening either. The Sapphires always had heft and wonderful clarity. Having swapped in various amps over the years along side the Sapphires, I was never reminded of a mushy 300b sound. The bass is present with weight. The mids are rounded but even. There is a touch of sweetness but not saccharine-like syrup. I suppose what struck me the most early on was how the very top end of instruments, like a bell or a trumpet or a triangle (particularly triangles), the sound would hang for moments longer than I had heard on other systems and then floated off into the distance. That was my third jaw-dropping moment in my hi-fi adventures, but perhaps the most stunning and readily accessed from memory.
I began to crave the Sapphires as a final stop, at least with my Harbeths. If I ever change speakers, or want something different, my wife will insist I keep the SHL5s because of how natural they sound. Perhaps like many male audiophiles, I longed to engage my wife in at least a deeper appreciation for music and at best an ongoing aspiration for the best sound we could build in home and afford. The Sapphires worked perfectly with the SHL5s (I left them with Roger for a time so he could try them out given their lower rating but there incredibly stable impedance). We sat for hours and again, I felt as if I had heard the best I would ever hear in the context of that gear.
Then not so out of the blue, but certainly sooner than I had anticipated, Roger gave me a call and let me know the 211 prototype Ruby was all fired up and in the main system. Would I like to have a listen, swapping between the Sapphires and the 211s? .... no brainer response from me :)
I sat with Roger and another local audiophile who owns the Sapphires, the 211 Topaz, an Opal upgraded to the Ruby and I think he has the Ruby phono as well. Anyhow, he knows Wyetech gear better than I do because he has it all in two of his personal systems.
Before I commented on the differences I perceived, I let this audiophile comment. He was not confused, but stunned would be appropriate to use. His response: compared with the Topaz, from memory, the Rubies just do it all BETTER.
The speakers were all quite efficient (Zu Definitions I believe they were, 104db, Tannoy Churchill at 95-97db, the Harbeths at 92-93 as measured, listed at 86, Acoustic Technologies LLC Classics (95-98 db - can't recall the exact details)) all of these were smacking us with a dynamic and resolved wall of sound. The highest we saw the Sapphires go was 24W peak as a pure test. The Topaz could do that as well with ease. Still, the point is that these 211 Ruby monos were doing things better. More weight to the sound, the bottom end sounded more authoritative in the lower mid-bass and into the bass. The highs were crystal clear but there was a sweetness the Topaz never seemed to manage. The Topaz has been called clean but dry through the high frequencies. Not overly dry per se, but, at least for me, I always felt the Sapphires had a magic through the highs that the Topaz never matched. When I write this, I don't mean to indicate staggering differences. Get to the level these amps are at and although the subtleties for many are worth swapping between the 300bs and the 211s, without the Topaz and Sapphires available to A/B... well I doubt anyone would feel there was something missing (to a great extent anyway).
If I had to choose (and my current financial situation would require a decision), would and have always said: go with the Sapphires. Maybe it is 300b magic, or maybe the Sapphires, being a newer design, have some extras in there that just work for my ears (compared to the Topaz). Regardless, the Topaz would be a reasonably distant second to the Sapphires I want in my system.
Then came the Ruby monos. Because the first prototype was a 211 SET, I had an easier time comparing to the Topaz and yes, the Rubies just did everything better. The extension in the low end tended to have more of a grip running down the octaves. The Rubies presented the highs as if enveloped for a time, allowing the notes to hang just a bit longer and the balance was richer (meaning not as dry) up through the treble. No combination required much more than 8W and never needing more than 25W peaks. The reserves are greater and the dynamics were superior because if it (I assume). I never felt the sound was compressed or that the amps were working really hard. It means that people who are interested in a SET that has real power and control but want to use speakers that are 90db and lower, the Rubies will give them something to seriously consider.
Then, after a fairly long time, I heard the 300b Rubies and here I was, in the sweet spot and I experienced something I hadn't since hearing my first pair of extraordinary transducers. These 300bs had it all and I sat quiet and often with my mouth gaping wide, hopefully not drooling, but I can't be sure :)
These have more power and present with more power and control than the 211 Rubies. The magic of the 300b tube that many crave (as I do and loved when listening with Sapphires) was there. All there. But again, not slow, not thick or syrupy. There was a deeper soundstage and the treble was just so darn smooth. Even difficult albums up top were sounding grand. The notes just kept going and trailing off into the sunset as it were. Never etched, nor dry. The highs were extended but never strident nor pitchy. We just sat for hours listening to record after record, CD after CD. I didn't want to leave.
Wyetech pre/amps are overbuilt. They will easily pass to my grandkids (and I'm in my 30s). All of the offerings have that attention to detail and built-in safeties, that one could buy any product and be secure and happy.
But we are all here to discuss absolutes, right? :) If so, then I would buy the 300b Ruby if I had the scratch. They are quiet; they are stable; they have built-in safeties; they are powerful/authoritative and they are magical from top to bottom, but particularly in the mid-range (where I like to live most days). Both types of Rubies are accurate, but if one can start waxing about the small stuff that tends to be difficult to achieve and usually comes with a high price tag, then the 300b just did it better. Chasing the elusive last 5%, the 300b is racing and easily overtaking the 211 when comparing and desiring the minutia.
It seems to me that getting to 80-85% is pretty simple. Going into the 90s and the options are thinned out. Many around these parts, when raving about a product, are usually discussing what I would consider the last 10-5% and the "oh my what a world of difference" statements are naively and mistakenly broadcast as if the the lesser product is close to an AM radio vs. the other high-end products they are compared with.
I really like the Harbeth sound and I am considering the 40.1s at some point. They are massive compared to the SHL5s and need power to keep the bass well controlled. I would need the Rubies to deal with them fully. The Sapphires can do it, but initial power and particularly at peaks, the Rubies would handle it all but better.
Given the sensitivity of your speakers, a definite yes in the bass department. You are working with over double the power out of the gate (18W/ch vs. 38W/ch). The power is immediately apparent with speakers that require it. The bottom end has more substance and authority. The massive Churchill's can handle 500W and although I never felt there was a significant depression in the bass, Roger owns a nice JL Audio F113 that he would turn on now and again for demanding classical pieces. It was more of an experiment with the Topaz or Sapphires and when comparing the Tannoys with the Zu's or Coincident speakers he once had, the latter two were simply much more nimble (particularly the Zu's) because of their sensitivity, but without the powered woofers on the Zu's or the addition of the sub with the Coincidents, there were times that one might argue the lack of sub was noticeable. For us, (Roger and I) mainly listening to jazz and blues records, we rarely had the sub on, even with the Tannoys (those things have large dual concentric drivers that can really push the air) being a bit tougher to drive. We simply never felt a driving need.
That is until the Rubies were introduced into the system. Again, my impressions are meant to be taken in the context of an intra-comparison vs. an inter-comparison of other products. I have felt for years that the Sapphires are already a pair of wonderful amps that give far more than the 18W rating might suggest. The bass has always been there, deep with authority. Tight and fast lacking what some have said is a tell tale bloating of 300b SET designs. Pair the good bottom-end with a smooth and linear mid-range all the way up through the treble to achieve wonderful air and space around each sparkling note as it trails off (I'm convinced SETs do this best) into the distance... Just wonderful! So that's the Sapphire, now, subtract any notion that the bottom end needs help. Relax as one hits the highs of a brash high C on a trumpet. No squinting. No curled shoulders. It sounds pure and right. Not recessed and not bumped. And the mids... oh the wonderful mids. You get that with the Sapphires already, but now the coherence is better because of the greater control. At least on the Churchills, the cones can start and stop on a dime while providing the power to get that air pounding into your chest on the other side of the room. I feel it in the floor, through it, when I listen to his system now. Before, I needed the sub on to get that. Again, this isn't overdone. It's just there as it should be, with those speakers. For speakers in your sensitivity range, I would predict a similar bump in performance. The power supplies on these monos are incredible and as per his usual kit, overbuilt. There are power reserves after the power reserves have kicked in. We couldn't drive them to half their capability without overpowering the room. That or having the neighbours call the cops :)
The cost differential is substantial going from the Sapphire to the Ruby. For that amount, if you can swing it, I would suggest flying into Ottawa and having a listen. Roger has a practically new set of Sapphires well burned in. They were traded for a Ruby :) He has the Ruby as well of course, and given the lead time to build if he doesn't have a new pair ready to go, you would have the luxury of hearing it all before you buy.
I have a decent amount of experience with various rigs of all price and performance ranges. For my tastes, I had long ago determined SETs were the shortest distance to audio euphoria. Having listened to a dozen offerings, Wyetech monos of any model were getting me closest to what I wanted with the greatest frequency. I circled in on the Sapphires and that will likely be my final decision. If I could swing it financially, I would race towards the Rubies and never look back. More time to investigate music. No more gear chasing after that. I already have the Ruby Pre, it should would be nice to have the Ruby Monos to mate with it.
I find your comments on the Wyetech SET amplifiers quite interesting. This company has earned a very stellar reputation and I'd like to hear them one day. I share your opinion regarding the superb sound quality of SET amplifiers when implemented properly. They provide the highest level of realism in my experience without question.I hope one day you will be able to get the Wyetech Ruby amplifiers.
Thanks, Charles1dad. My wife, knowing how much I enjoy music and by extension - hi-fi, has said that if we could swing it sometime in the future, I should go for it. I don't hit the bars, my social life is rather sparse if one could call what I have going on a social life via any definition. She said they also match our living room. I latched onto that bit. She may be closer to opening up the possibility of "graduating" out from the basement :D
There are far too many high end models out there to say one is the best. We (Purity Audio Design) have an upper end pair of PSE 300B mono blocs that utilize never before seen output transformer technology among a few other things. Im not saying these are the best but many have put them as contenders.
there is also no way any given product can be considered the best. There is no such animal. What might be the best for one person would not even be a contender for the next. Whats best to me may not be to you.
Response34, I do hope your post wasn't directed at me. Charles1dad is right on the money, I wasn't claiming anything as the best. In the context of what I have heard (and I do have a pretty substantial amount of experience with high quality rigs of a very wide range of price points), Wyetech amps have provided me with what I want most, with the greatest frequency, no matter which product. As I listened over the years to upgrades or new designs, I have always been treated to an increase in the good stuff. That is, what I am searching for in this hobby. I haven't heard it all, and I could never (nor would) proclaim some product as the true best of the best. That said, given reasonable time restraints, and overall exposure and ease of access to wonderful products, Wyetech Labs have never left me clamouring for more. I can turn my OCD mind off for a while and sit back and enjoy album after album. I like to be in that headspace as often as I can be. If I can find products that will hold me there, nearly perpetually, I lose all deserve to hunt for "better." At the level this stuff is at, I can describe side steps in enjoyment and differences, but never full on "oh wow! that was so much better!" moments.
SET designs are wonderful but they do come with caviats attached: 81db speakers needing bi-amped 1000W beasts will never get going with a SET amp. Move into the world where SETs can perform handsomely, well... for many, and I'm in this camp - the magic is most easily identified and readily achieved.
No need or intention to turn this into a pointless debate about which amplifier is the best.I applaud all designers who recognize the natural beauty and honesty of simple SET circuits and build them to high standards. My enjoyment of listening to music in my home would be less if not for these talented builders with excellent ears.Both of these SET amplifiers appear to be "cost no object", "all out effort" designs and I suspect both sound fantastic. Wyetech Lab, Purity Audio and all the other committed SET builders, keep up the good work.I'm in the same camp with Zanth, "magic",musical communication and sheer emotional connection.