Ayre V-3 200 watts/ch into 4 ohms
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I would go with a tube pre and see if that does it for you. you can get a pretty good preamp for less than $2,000. What do you have for a preamp right now? If you use a tube amp you will need one thats happy with the 4 ohm load of your supertowers and can control the large bass drivers. The supertowers thrive on power.
I will 2nd the Pass Labs X-250 recommendation, as I have speakers (MartinLogans) that 'appreciate a kind word' from an amp, while still needing bunches of SS dynamics & power to drive their difficult loads (down to 1.2ohms in the high frequencies at full punch).
I also like the Pass' balanced, differential, Zero-feedback design that keeps distortion under control during heavy transients.
There are a couple of Llano tube hybrids for sale on audiogon at this time in your price range, these will have no problem with your speakers. I don't think you can find a pass X-250 in your price range but I do agree as to it being a good choice. Plinius would also be a good choice but again hard to find at your price. Some people (not me) think Classe amps sound like a tube amp, maybe that would do it for you. I have a Krell Ksa-250 on my Supertowers with a Bent Audio passive for preamp, not tube like but very good midrange and soundstage with the passive in the mix.
I agree with Ncarv about the Levinson No. 27. (Although that has only 100W/ch).
The No. 23, which I upgraded to from the No. 27, does have 200W/ch. I paid $2000 for my used No. 23 about 5 months ago. (If you can afford it, I suggest buying the No. 23.5, although it usually goes for around $2,500).
It has a "touch" of that tube sound that sounds so good. I used to have a CJ MV 50 many years ago, before I upgraded to the Levinson No. 27, so I do know what the tube sound is all about. The bass in these Levinson units is very tight and deep.
You will not be disappointed in these units.
Levinson is NOT tube-like!!!! I have heard ML amps called a lot of flattering things but never that before... I like ML gear but just would never call their amps tube-like.
I honestly beleive that there is no such thing exactly as tube-like SS. I know that isn't helpful, because I've asked this same question before. My listening gave me the following close calls (in descending order): Boulder, Classe Omega >> Sim, Ayre, Marsh, and I guess tube hybrids. The Boulders sound like very expensive tube amps (they all seem to meet up on the very, very expensive side since LAMM doesn't sound very tubey either) - not "tubey" but musically enjoyable and somehow "right" for SS.
I have a more basic question, though: Why not do a VTL MB 450 or another high power tube amp. If you want high power amps that sound like tubes, why wouldn't you consider high power tube amps? What are you driving, incidentally? (this is the only place where I can ask this and not get "M3" or some other car as an answer!)
Just my $.02
Which apples taste the most like pears? Red Delicious, or Granny Smiths, or....?! If you like pears have a friggin' pear, why eat some imitation that is supposed to duplicate some of the qualities of one while diluting the taste with its own character. OK, so you're looking for something unique...the quest for the holy grail which posesses all qualities....Unfortunately the few tube amps I've heard that put out significant power don't really exhibit the qualities I love most about tubes which is the sense of airiness and holography they can impart to musical reproduction, along with that magical midrange you seek. I've also heard several of the ML amps mentioned (including two all-ML systems extensively) and absolutely none of them sounded tubelike to me (that comparison is also surprising to me). They had plenty of bass slam though, and speed and detail in spades. But none had the palpability of tubes that gets me where I live. If you just have to have apples that taste like pears well then I'd say Pass Labs Aleph series does a pretty good job, and would likely meet your criterium as far as mixing together the qualities of the sound of each. The Aleph 5 was the closest I've heard to that description, but it does not have nearly as much power as you ask for. At the power you need you'd be limited to the more expensive Aleph 1 (150wpc) or 2's (100wpc) which are both mono designs (used they would go for about $3500-5500 a pair for either with the 1's being more expensive). I guess if you really need the power you should check out their X series, as previously suggested, on which I cannot comment as I've not heard them. Don't necessarily rule out biamping because you haven't got a slot in your rack. Just put the amps on amp stands or sandboxes near (behind or beside) your speakers with a shorter speaker run and longer interconnect from pre to amp. You may even find that that works better with your system.
Good luck in your quest.
All of the recent McIntosh, Pass X150, CJ 2300 (and others of that era). I have to say that after listening to the Audio Research 100.2 several times in two systems, I don't think it is very tubey. I was surprised to see it listed here a few times. I may have to give it another try in yet another setup and see if it changed. Arthur
Pass Aleph series, Accuphase, Warner Imaging, vintage Jeff Rowland, and GamuT are my nominations for tube-like solid state. I have had all of these in my system at one time or another. I'm a dealer for GamuT, whose coherence is reminiscent of a good single-ended triode amp (they use a single output device in each channel - well, acutally a pair of humongous mosfets in push-pull, but the net result is a single voice rather than a chorus of voices, which is what you get with multiple output transistors no matter how closely matched).
As far as coming up with 200+ tube-like solid state watts for under two grand, well, best o' luck to ya!
Tube like transistor amps?
Surely you have to include the Lavardin amps! I have had a listen to one of those. The experience is just out of this world.
It is nothing I have heard before. The sound just flows out of the speakers without any grain or even a hint of an edge.
The ecstatic reviews in HiFI Plus and HIFI news were well deserved. My teenage boys and my wife cannot believe their ears and thought that the amp i was using was the monster Musical fidelity A308 pre/power in the room. They were insistant that I should get one. I would even say that the sound from Lavardin was superior to the A308 pre/power combo. It sure beats krell KAVs and other integrated in that price range.
It must rank as one of the best SS amps ever.
Thanks everyone for their help. I tried a little Cary AE 3 preamp and knew I was on the right track. Bought an Audio Research LS 16 pre and that was a bullseye, not too tubey and no ss nastiness like the Krell preamp. The Krell may be more detailed than the Cary at 1/10 it's price but certainly isn't as enjoyable to listen to. After thirty years I feel like I missed something just now getting into tube equipment. Went through 3 dacs trying to get to where I couldn't without the tubes in line. Many thanks.
Over on AC, there is one person using all AVA tube hybrid electronics on his RM40's who states he is is audio nirvana. While not tubey sounding, you can roll the tubes to suit your taste. Just my 2 cents. BTW, I own an AVA Transcendence 7 preamp, have just ordered the new AVA Fet Valve 550EXR power amp, and hope to purchase RM40's early next year.
The question is not "Which SS amps sound like a tube amp? but rather "Does any SS amp come close to sounding like a tube amp?
My answer would be NONE!If you want the SS amp to sound like a tube amp, why not go for the tube amp itself, maybe have one of both, which means best of both worlds! Some use two different pair of speakers and switch between the two from time to time, so why can't it be two amps?
Just my 0.02 cents with no offence to anyone who posted in this thread.