Consider the Coincident Frankenstein MK II or the Wavelength Cardinal and outfit them with the brilliant Takatsuki-TA 300b tubes.Stunning sound for far less money.
You have very good taste. I had been admiring them from afar as well. I compromised with a pair of Wavelength Cardinal XS Signatures. My whole system was purchased here used, with the exception of a some cable sets. If you would consider pre-owned they are possibly within your reach. I'm sure you would be happy!
My understanding is the actual sound of SET amps is perhaps the most variable of any amp type, based largely on their relative high harmonic distortion measurements and how a particular design actually distorts accordingly. Also the potential cost for producing those few precious watts varies widely as well.
So I wonder where the point of diminishing returns is with SET amps? How much should a really good one really cost? How much of the cost with some is due to the brand name or other boutique-like factors? Do the better ones really distort less, or just in a more desirable way for whatever reason?
Given the variability, does one really end up paying for better sound, or just a specialized favorite flavor of SET sound?
Also I wonder which brands are reliable over teh long term and require less maintenance to keep running optimally.
IS there such a thing as a vanilla sounding SET? OR do they all have more distinct flavors of sound compared to other kinds of amps and real life music or sound based on how they distort?
Or is it more that some prefer a certain more esoteric flavor of sound and a SET amp is the design that perhaps has the best chance of delivering it?
Of course, most SET amps are way cool looking IMHO so I would expect that visual aesthetics is a big part of the equation in choosing a SET.
Mapman, A good SET amp is at least as reliable as a push-pull tube amp, and in many cases a SET is about as reliable and trouble-free amp there is. For instance, my SE amps use a 46 output tube and a Western Electric 403b driver tube. Neither tube has any adjustments and each tube should last for many, many years with zero maintenance. The only control is a power switch. How easy and trouble-free is that?
A SET amp is possibly more "variable" due to speaker compatability but I can't think of any other reason why someone would say this. It is certainly not due to "how a particular design distorts."
SET amps vary all across the map in terms of circuit complexity and parts quality and this results in a wide variance in price. This is also true, however, for push-pull tube amps and solid-state amps.
The real reason for choosing a SET amp should be its sound quality, and with the right speaker the sound quality of a single-ended amp can be very special.
What an accurate answer, I agree with your response. It`s funny, people point out the 2nd order harmonics(which vary significantly from one SET to another). A good designed/built SET sounds more realistic and natural with music reproduction then 'any' other type of amplifier I`ve heard in the all my time in high end audio(that`s what won me over to this genre). Maybe I`m just sensitive to the odd order distortion(artificial/canned) of some SS and other non SET amplifiers in comparison(we all have different perceptions of how sound affects us).After 3 years of SET amp ownership I`m still amazed by it`s pure and honest tone and dynamics with acoustic instruments and human voices, spooky good.It comes to what`s most convincing for us individually. SET does it best for me YMMV.
"A good designed/built SET sounds more realistic and natural with music reproduction then 'any' other type of amplifier I`ve heard in the all my time in high end audio(that`s what won me over to this genre)."
So what are the good ones that accomplish this rather than vary off in some other direction? How much of an investment is required to avoid a "flavor of the day" type SET?
IS the Wavac a good example? If so what less expensive SETs can compete and why?
Good questions, I`m just a consumer and certainly have`nt heard every competent SET available. I can say that the SET amps mentioned in the above posts are very good. Personally I can speak from experience with the Coincident Frankenstein MK II(retail 6,000.00 USD).It`s truely a superb 300b amplifier and improves further with the best brand output tubes(for example Takatsuki or Sophia Royal Princess). But there are others as well. There are top quality 845 amps(I`m less familliar with these). I`d say 5-12,000 USD retail(obviously less if used prices) would buy a top level SET with high quality transformers, parts and power supply.
I don`t doubt the performance of the Wavac EC 300b at 30K, but I don`t feel the other suggested amps would be embarrassed at all head to head IMO.
THe Shindo Cortese was my first foray in SET land and like Charles1dad the SET sound fits my listening preference. I'd like to eventually upgrade to a higher efficiency speaker to really let them shine but even with my 90db efficient DeVore Nines in a not so great room environment i can get sucked in for hours, more than i can say for any other tube or SS gear I've used in my setup.
"I can get sucked in for hours"
Jcote,This won`t change over time and if anything your appreciation will actually grow deeper. It will be difficult to return to other types of amplifiers once you`ve found the right SET system(as you apparently have).They seem to get to the pure and innate beauty and emotion of music like nothing I`ve experience yet.I have a 100 watt push-pull amplifier that`s really very good(even excellent) but just pales in comparison with my SET amp. It just can`t pull off the same degree of realism and sheer presence factor.
Your hunch to obtain a higher efficiency speaker is correct,things will improve further and bring out the best in your Shindo SET amplifier. The higher the ohm load the more these amps like it(not just increasrd sensitivity).
You are right, long listening sessions become the norm.