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Steely164
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Tube versus Solid State

       I'm looking to build a new system for the living room. Relatively small, say 15x22. I've never had a tube amp and would love to get into the market but know I would need a hefty chunk of money to get anything worth while. In the 3-5000 dollar range are great ss amps from Bel Canto, Hegel, Primaire and Rouge. They all have amazing products that I could easily live with but I'm still very curious when I hear people say things like,"Tubes are the only way to go". Thats a tall statement. Is there an integrated tube amp in that price range that is reliable and sonically pleasing? Is the buzz with tube stuff over rated? I have a decent record collection and a VPi Traveler. Just looking for something to play it through. I'm leaning toward the Haberth 30.1 or an equvilent DeVore speaker. Do I need to get a 10,000 dollar tube amp to get that warm tube experience?A great system can be had for 6-8000 dollars. It's not in my foreseeable future to have 50,000 dollars to spend on a pair of tube monoblocks. I have heard systems that rival 100,000 dollar sytems for a fraction of the money.  Am I making to much out of all this?  Thanks for your feed back.

audiophile2000
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Don't Think Right and Wrong

I don't think its a prerequisite that you go tube. I was talking to a dealer once and he mentioned something to me that changed the way I think. There is no right or wrong way to think about things. Let me put it to you this way. Ferrari and Rolls Royce are both high end cars and with that said, they are designed for completely different things. Doesn't make one better or worse, just makes them different. Put another way a Ferrari will never be a Rolls Royce and Rolls Royce will never be a Ferrari. The same is true with most high end audio gear but the distinction between the two isn't as clear. Despite all the reviews and options out there, many systems are just different and its up to each person to decided what they like. 

For me, I love the sound of Sim Audio and it sounds like their stuff would be in your price range. Not trying to push my own gear but always found Sim to do a nice job of having a warm sound but maintain the detail. Its certainly not the only brand in the game but i would recommend listening. 

With the above said, I have heard some tube amps that cost significantly more than my equipment that i have not liked. Again it doesn't make it wrong it just doesn't match my tastes as I know others that love those same amps. I have also heard some SS amps / preamps that sound harsh and bright. All of which is clearly in the high end world and has a huge following. (hence why im not mentioning the brands)

Hope that helps a bit.

audiophile2000
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Don't Think Right and Wrong

I don't think its a prerequisite that you go tube. I was talking to a dealer once and he mentioned something to me that changed the way I think. There is no right or wrong way to think about things. Let me put it to you this way. Ferrari and Rolls Royce are both high end cars and with that said, they are designed for completely different things. Doesn't make one better or worse, just makes them different. Put another way a Ferrari will never be a Rolls Royce and Rolls Royce will never be a Ferrari. The same is true with most high end audio gear but the distinction between the two isn't as clear. Despite all the reviews and options out there, many systems are just different and its up to each person to decided what they like. 

For me, I love the sound of Sim Audio and it sounds like their stuff would be in your price range. Not trying to push my own gear but always found Sim to do a nice job of having a warm sound but maintain the detail. Its certainly not the only brand in the game but i would recommend listening. 

With the above said, I have heard some tube amps that cost significantly more than my equipment that i have not liked. Again it doesn't make it wrong it just doesn't match my tastes as I know others that love those same amps. I have also heard some SS amps / preamps that sound harsh and bright. All of which is clearly in the high end world and has a huge following. (hence why im not mentioning the brands)

Hope that helps a bit.

commsysman
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AMPLIFIER

Tubes are very good-sounding in the midrange, but tend to be  a little rolled offf at the high end and a bit soft and lacking defintion in the lower bass. The problem is that output transformers need to be really massive and heavy in order to pass the lowest frequencies, and even the biggest and best have limiits.

For $5000, though, you can get the Audio Research VSi60 integrated amplifier, which has a minimum of these defects. there was a recent article on it in either Stereophile or the Absolute Sound; within the last 3 months. It has only 50-60 watts, which might be a problem with some speakers (like my Vandersteen Treos) which have low sensitivity, but it would be fine for most.

That is a really outstanding amplifier.

On the Other hand, you could get an Audio Research preamp and the Musical Fidelity M6PRX amplifier, which would total around $7000, and have the best of both worlds; a fabulous preamp and an amplifier that is wonderful-sounding and has 6 times as much power and bass like you can't believe! That is what I have, and it is sound to die for.

geoffkait
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Tubes vs solid state

I don't think anything quite sums up the whole tubes vs solid state debate better than headphone amps, especially the single ended triode variety that's so ubiquitous these days.  The beauty of these sub one watt wonders is the naturalness, frequency extension on both ends, bass performance in terms of detail, explosiveness, did in mention extension?  And who wouldn't want to use a high power SET headphone amp to drive some nice horn speakers?

 

Cheers, geoff kait @ Machina Dynamica

Steely164
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Don't think wrong and right

   It would be best for me just to get out there and listen to a bunch of different amps. I know with my first amp( Adcom 555-II ), that I thought the sound was amazing compared to the Kenwood system I had through high school. Ten years later I had a pair of B&K monoblocks with a set of Thiels and couldn't believe how harsh and bright my old stuff sounded.  Maybe I should just slow down and enjoy the journey of trying new components and set ups. My local store had a set up of Cello electronics and Dunleavy speakers back in the late 80's.  It started me on this journey and made my system at home almost unbearable. After hearing something like that, well, it's kind of hard to put that genie back in the bottle. Both good and bad I guess. Is being an audiophile a kind of unwritten agreement to always be dissatisfied? This all started because I love music and has lead to something entirely different. Different but rewarding as well.  Thanks for all the responses. 

Catch22
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Tubes require a little more thought with speakers

Tube amps need to be mated with speakers with a little more attention being paid to the specifications of each due to the higher output impedence of a tube amp, generally. This is the primary cause for the misnomer that tube amps aren't great at the frequency extremes. They are great, just not with the wrong speaker.

wkhanna
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Tube Power Amps

i am speaking in generalized terms, so let it be known that anyone could find exception to anything i am about to say.

Tube power amps are at times finicky, requiring regular maintenance especially if they are not self biasing, & power tube life is finite requiring regular replacement dependent on the number of hours of use. I am not trying to dissuade you from pursuing valve power, only pointing out that you should be aware of their nature ahead of time.

Good advice already given that getting a match between the speaker & amp is a critical factor with tube power amps.

An alternative (one which I personally employ) is using a tube pre-amp with a SS power amp. I find this a V effective alternative for getting a valve type character in my system with both digital & vinyl sources without dealing with the associated extra long term costs & maintenance required by  a full tube system. 

What ever route you end up taking, I would think you could find great sound in the size room you have for $3k - $5k whether it be via all tube or just a tube pre or tube power amp.

commsysman
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AMPLIFIER

The Audio Research VS115 is an amplifier that I could live with. The problem is that it is just too big and heavy.

It has 120 watts per channel, which is enough for my low-sensitivity speakers, and Audio Research tube amps are much more reliable than most.

It is $7000, and might be good for someone who has plenty of room for it and doesn't mind the heat output.

michael green
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yep, go slow

Go slow and learn what makes good sound in that particular space of yours. Put a system in there and make note of the good and bad, then come up and say "here's what I got sound wise, here's what I want sound wise". People sometimes go way too fast and end up not where they wanted to be and get stuck in a place of compromise.

A $1000.00 system could blow your mind if you did everything right, so I wouldn't spend tons before I knew tons was going to take me somewhere.

Keep in mind, high end audio is about playing music not owning equipment. I'm one of those who went to the top of the ladder only to find myself turning around and going back down to find music.

good luck

michael green
MGA/RoomTune

Doctor Fine
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AVA Ultravalve and Model Nine

For partnering with the Harbeth Monitor 30s or Devore speakers and UNDER $5000.

Very much a late model version of the venerable Dynaco Stereo 70, this amp and pre amp will meet your price point while offering that "tube sound" everyone craves.

Frank builds traditional products which are reasonably well made and the circuits are classic. The sound has a lot of palpable midrange presence and authority. And the preamp is offered with a few add-ons to make life with old fashioned tubes a bit easier to bear.

Frankly I own a pair of Harbeth Monitor 30s and found happiness with a class A solid state preamp from Bryston mated to the John Curl designed A21 solid state amp.

The Harbeths will play at surprising levels without distress when partnered with enough grunt. But you declared a hunger for tubes so here 'tis...

BRuggles
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Go American...

I used to think I liked the "euphonic" nonlinearities of tubes. But overtly "tubey" tube amps bother me. As it turns out, my favorite tube amps I've heard are the least tubey - like Audio Research (like their Ref610T - magical) and others like that. Turns out I like accurate and sweet.

Anyway, check out Rogue Audio's Cronus Magnum. It is a KT120-powered 100 WPC integrated for well under your budget. It can thump down low, and it sounds great up top. I have heard a little of their Class-D powered, tube-front-end hybrid integrateds, the Sphinx and the Pharoah, especially the Pharaoh, and it sounds so great. The Pharoah is about $3500, has a tube preamp, and the power section makes some great music. And you would get to support an American company -designed and built - with reportedly great customer service. But really, it sounds fantastic for decent money. That all-tube (except SS phono pre) Cronus Magnum has my eye...

Edit: the Sphinx has a 100 WPC digital power section, and the Pharaoh a 185/350 WPC for 8/4 ohms, respectively. That tube pre does work some pretty magic. Make sure to let us know which way you go...

shp
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Steely, what amp did you pick

Steely, what amp did you pick in the end?

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