All of the class A amps will generate the most heat. So you are on the right track.
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You might try McIntosh, Sunfire, Blue Circle, Mark Levinson, Jeff Rowland Design, Conrad-Johnson, Clayton, and Meridian.
My short list includes: Mark Levinson 432, Conrad-Johnson Premier 350, McIntosh MC402, and Sunfire Signature Stereo Amplifier II.
Then you might want to use Cardas Golden Cross cabling to further warm up the sound.
Tube amp sound is not always 'warm'...
I like a good tubed amp because they tend to sound 'alive' and 'open', while SS usually sounds 'canned' and 'dead' to me in comparison. The music can just vibrantly burst forth from tubes, while transistors often seem to only grudgingly squeeze it out in a leaden sort of way. Just my general opinion (based on not nearly enough experience ;^), and not one to be applied to SOTA offerings I'm sure...
'Warmth' is a different question than tubes vs. SS, and too much warmth usually means a loss of transparency and speed no matter which gain strategy is employed. I'd stay away from either a tube amp or a SS amp that offers a sound too cool or too warm, but rather stick to pursuing a more neutral balance combined with high resolution and natural harmonic structure.
How about a clear and resolving tube amp that offers this
definitely not dark
PRAT in spades
articulate, well defined and low bass (2hz at full power into an 8 ohm load)
power that belies its 70 watt rating
no glare, grit or grain in the upper frequencies
long tube life
exceptional value (if price correlates to performance)
Look at the Berning zh270 as an alternative to what you might expect from great ss and tubes combined. An amp that uses tubes but is not a tube amp in any conventional sense.
"I love the 3D effect, holografic sound,sound stage, the placement and the finest detail."
It doesn't get much better if it gets better at all than the Berning with proper system matching and providing it is within the power requirements of your speaker system. There are few speakers it can't drive.
I have been reading the threads under "Preamplifer of the Century," and respect your opinions. I am about half way through the 300 pages of output on the subject of Supratek preamps.
So, I have a question for you, do you have any experience with the VTL MB-450 for speaker systems that are less efficient and drop to 2 ohms in the upper midrange? Specifically, I am referring to a Martin Logan Ascent i. If I were using a more "tube-friendly" speaker, the 70-watt output from the Berning would be more than enough.
It's interesting to note that so many speakers today are not that tube friendly, but there is a growing number that are.
Thanks Artar for your trust in my opinions. What I try to convey in my opinions is a frame of reference to my experiences and nothing more. There are many superb products out there but the real juggling act in this hobby, as any experienced audiophile well knows, is finding the synergy and balance it takes to make a system come alive and breathe life into the music, not an easy task and quite time consuming.
No, I have no experience with the VTL MB-450 amplifier and low impedance loads and how it might work with a dip in the upper midrange. The charactistics of the transformer, the power of the amp and the speaker itself may not predict accurately how it would convey the music, only listening would. I couldn't even predict the tonal changes the Berning might affect on the sound and I know this amp quite well and have heard on several speakers none lower than 4 ohms at any point. 2 ohm loads and tube amps don't lend themselves to those kind of predictions, unfortunately.
What I will say is that the Berning by its design has overcome many of the limitations of transformer and OTL tube amps in many ways with the added virtue of retaining the best virtues of the latter, no small feat. The power of the zh270 is hard to fathom until you hear it. It doesn't break up or compress but of course it is not going to convey the same degree of power as a large high powered transformer coupled tube or OTL amp for that matter. What it will do is take longer to rear its ugly head if it has one. To date I haven't seen it. If a 10 lb 70 watt OTL tube amp can run Sound Labs M1 speakers without compressing or presenting any nasties, there is something intrinsically right about the design. I can't even imagine what this design might do with double the power. I expect it could drive just about anything with aplomb. With the Ascents, an audition would be mandatory before knowing if it has enough power suitable for that application.
I will have to agree with you about the number of great products out there today, and not all of them have to be expensive in order to enjoy great sound.
I like it that you attempt to provide a frame of reference for others to follow your experiences and opinions. I try to do the same.
For a long time I have tried to find the perfect amp or the perfect preamp and so forth. Now I'm more interested in the pure esthetics of reproduced sound rather than worrying whether it's the best or not. I am beginning to see audio components as works of art in terms of their physical build and, more importantly, in terms of their performance. This performance, in and of itself, is an art form worthy of appreciation and emotional fulfillment, among other things. If the performance is very close to a live sonic event, that's great, but if it's not my focus shifts to appreciating the component as part of a synergistic whole and as a facsimile or an interpretation of the real event. This facsimile, while not real, is an art in and of itself, and can be appreciated on its own merits rather than how well it perfectly mimics life. There have been some components I have enjoyed in the past that were not in any way neutral, well-balanced, and transparent; they offered instead a different appraisal of sound like a landscape painter depicting his or her emotional response to a bronze August morning. All to often those components that measure well, for example, sound sterile, two-dimensional, closed-in, and restrained, and those that don't measure well can sometimes sound gloriously wonderful. Tubed units often find themselves in this second category, something I have know for a number of years.
You are so right about the time-consuming aspect of system matching in order to bring a system to life. I'm not sure whether I am very good at creating sonic harmony within a given system but there is an enjoyment for me in attempting to build a musically satisfying setup. In pursuit of this goal I am coming to the belief that flexibility may be more important than finding the Holy Grail of line stages or the Golden Chalice of solid state amplifiers. It may well be impossible for many of us given the high cost of the ultrahigh end. For me I am now thinking in terms of buying multiple amps and preamps of reasonable cost to shuttle into and out of a given system as my mood and desires dictate. Even if we were to assemble the perfect system, do we want to hear it for the rest of our lives? Are we not growing and evolving individuals with musical tastes that change periodically? I know that even if I could order the perfect dinner I would not want to have it everyday for the rest of my life. I would want variety. And so it is with audio.
That brings me to my question about the Berning and the VTL MB-450. For the system in which I would consider either unit, in all likelihood I may choose neither, not because either unit is bad or wrong, but because I am considering another option that will optimize my flexibility. Beginning with the Berning, I could reserve that unit for another system that I have that does not present an "electrostatic" load. Because the Berning is only $4,500 and not $20,000, this option is left open to me for further exploration. Perhaps in this other system, it would be vinyl only, which would help differentiate it from the system that uses the Martin Logan Ascent i. With the Martin Logan system, I could use the Quicksilver V4 Monos for more intimate classical recordings, and for the really big symphonic events, I could use the soon-to-be-released Sunfire 600/2, which will still list for $3,500, the same price as its predecessor. This is only one example of the flexibility I am talking about. Of course in a more expensive setup, the Sunfire could be replaced by a tube unit like the Wolcott Presence-220.
On the other hand, the seventy-watt rating of the Berning is probably more than enough for many applications, if power is all we are concerned about. I for one do not listen to music at ear-shattering levels; 80 dB seems very loud to me, but I may be in the minority. With the Ascents' 4 ohm nominal rating, we can expect a 2-watt draw from the Berning to deliver the Ascents' 90 dB SPL at one meter spec. Like the Prodigy, however, there's a good chance the sensitivity of the Ascent is only 88 dB. Still only 2 watts RMS will produce a fairly loud sound. And if we assume that musical peaks require about 10 times that power, then transients in this situation will require only 20 watts, assuming of course that the Berning has no dynamic power rating whatsoever. I can further expand this relationship as follows:
2 watts RMS = 88 dB/SPL
4 watts RMS = 91 dB/SPL
8 watts RMS = 94 dB/SPL
16 watts RMS = 97 dB/SPL
I could continue the chart, but I'm sure you get the picture. With the Berning powering the Ascents, I can easily achieve 94 dB on a continuous basis, but would require about 80 watts for musical peaks, which I am sure the Berning could handle depending on the duration of those peaks. For me the 91 dB continuous rating would be enough and only 40 watts would be needed to handle most climaxes. These requirements are well within the power rating of the Berning. It's only when we want rock-concert levels of 100 dB/SPL on a continuous basis would be have a problem. But one would most likely not buy the Berning for this application, at least I wouldn't!