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What To Do When New Information Changes Your Existing Systems Requirements?


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It would seem my audio situation has changed, and unexpectedly. I have been happy with my existing audio system since a year ago when I acquired some much sought after speakers at a price that allowed me to afford something I never would have dreamed I could. I have also been extremely pleased with my truly excellent SET power amplifier, although, there have been occasional times where I wondered how it could truly drive speakers the size of mine, and with so many drivers and if it was getting everything they were capable of out of them.Based on the numbers, it should have all been ideal. However, it turns out that there was indeed more to be had from them. It would seem that the power requirements of my speakers are not quite as advertised and they are significantly less sensitive than rated, in the real world.

I became aware of all of this when I recently stumbled across a comment in one of the audio forums concerning ideal amplifiers to match up with my speakers that shed this entirely new light on the scenario. The comment came from a very respected manufacturer of fine amplifiers who partnered with the maker of my speakers at a number of CES shows, providing them with amplifiers for their speakers. The owner of that company also purchased a pair of those same speakers for his own use, and in his showroom and knows them extremely well. He stated that while the could operate fairly well with a SET amp of 8-15 watts (like mine), the speakers did not truly open up and perform without 50-60wpc. I then had a conversation with the amplifier maker and he verified all of the above to me.

So, it would seem that I am now going to be in search of a another high quality amplifier that provides 50-60wpc. That certainly rules out SET's, which I love, and leaves me in a real quandary. It now appears that I have a lot of research and thought ahead of me in attempting to identify the ideal 50-60wpc tube amplifier that will provide solid bass performance, and still retain that liquid, golden mid-range that SET's are so prized for. And, as additional difficulty, there aren't many push pull amps that impress me, at least ones that don't literally cost a kings ransom.

 

JC

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It would seem my audio situation has changed, and unexpectedly. I have been happy with my existing audio system since a year ago when I acquired some much sought after speakers at a price that allowed me to afford something I never would have dreamed I could. I have also been extremely pleased with my truly excellent SET power amplifier, although, there have been occasional times where I wondered how it could truly drive speakers the size of mine, and with so many drivers and if it was getting everything they were capable of out of them.Based on the numbers, it should have all been ideal. However, it turns out that there was indeed more to be had from them. It would seem that the power requirements of my speakers are not quite as advertised and they are significantly less sensitive than rated, in the real world.

I became aware of all of this when I recently stumbled across a comment in one of the audio forums concerning ideal amplifiers to match up with my speakers that shed this entirely new light on the scenario. The comment came from a very respected manufacturer of fine amplifiers who partnered with the maker of my speakers at a number of CES shows, providing them with amplifiers for their speakers. The owner of that company also purchased a pair of those same speakers for his own use, and in his showroom and knows them extremely well. He stated that while the could operate fairly well with a SET amp of 8-15 watts (like mine), the speakers did not truly open up and perform without 50-60wpc. I then had a conversation with the amplifier maker and he verified all of the above to me.

So, it would seem that I am now going to be in search of a another high quality amplifier that provides 50-60wpc. That certainly rules out SET's, which I love, and leaves me in a real quandary. It now appears that I have a lot of research and thought ahead of me in attempting to identify the ideal 50-60wpc tube amplifier that will provide solid bass performance, and still retain that liquid, golden mid-range that SET's are so prized for. And, as additional difficulty, there aren't many push pull amps that impress me, at least ones that don't literally cost a kings ransom.

 

JC

I'll just say this. There are SET amps that produce that much power. They use transmitter tubes produce that power. So don't despair.

George

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He stated that while the could operate fairly well with a SET amp of 8-15 watts (like mine), the speakers did not truly open up and perform without 50-60wpc. I then had a conversation with the amplifier maker and he verified all of the above to me.

So, it would seem that I am now going to be in search of a another high quality amplifier that provides 50-60wpc. That certainly rules out SET's, which I love, and leaves me in a real quandary. It now appears that I have a lot of research and thought ahead of me in attempting to identify the ideal 50-60wpc tube amplifier that will provide solid bass performance, and still retain that liquid, golden mid-range that SET's are so prized for. And, as additional difficulty, there aren't many push pull amps that impress me, at least ones that don't literally cost a kings ransom.

 

Great sound used to be like that in older years: low-power SET tube amp, but with highly-efficient speakers.

 

Nowadays, it's all the numbers game: very high-power SS amps needed to drive low-efficiency Speakers. More often than not, the SS amp has a string of Opamps whereas the SET Tube amp is one of the most simple circuits ever.

 

We are particularly sensitive to voice and mid-range intonations, which is where SET Tube amps shine.

 

So, instead of trying to shoe-horn another high-power amplifier because your speakers appear to be less efficient than needed with a low-power SET Tube amp, try the other way...

 

...Try the way of the low-power SET Tube amp together with high-efficiency speakers. There's a whole segment of audiophiles who do this. And further within that segment, there's another sub-section who swear by a single full-range driver per speaker rather than a 2-way or multi-way. (and then again, there are the Open-Baffle people ;) )

 

Architect your system around letting the SET do its uncanny and stellar reproduction at low power, find new speakers which are at least 95dB efficient or so.

 

If you really crave power in the bass, then consider active bi-amping, with either a Push-Pull Tube amp for the bass or a very good SS amp for the bass.

 

Yes, you can also get yourself a more powerful SET Tube amp but there is a reason having to do with distortion why some swear by the Low-power SET Tube Amp + High-Efficiency Speakers setup.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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Reject the new information, or at least recognize it as expectation bias.

Maybe use REW or something to measure your speakers + room to see if there are deficiencies.

 

The information was accurate, as I knew it was, coming from a very respected person in the audio industry, with direct experience of this speaker and it's amplification needs. I had a discussion with an audiophile friend in the area last night. He was curious enough to bring over highly respected (60wpc class A) monoblocks tonight to see what we found. No question, the power brought the speakers to life in a way I had not experienced.

 

JC

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Thanks to everyone who has responded, the information is immensely appreciated, and I will be looking into every suggestion. I probably should have pointed out that my budget for the new amplifier is a maximum of $8k (though holding it to $6-7K would be of great help). Obviously, buying used would maximize what I can purchase.

 

 

JC

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We are particularly sensitive to voice and mid-range intonations, which is where SET Tube amps shine.

So, instead of trying to shoe-horn another high-power amplifier because your speakers appear to be less efficient than needed with a low-power SET Tube amp, try the other way......Try the way of the low-power SET Tube amp together with high-efficiency speakers. There's a whole segment of audiophiles who do this. And further within that segment, there's another sub-section who swear by a single full-range driver per speaker rather than a 2-way or multi-way. (and then again, there are the Open-Baffle people ;) ) Architect your system around letting the SET do its uncanny and stellar reproduction at low power, find new speakers which are at least 95dB efficient or so.

 

Very good advice, and what I had intended all along when I put together the system. My current speakers are "rated" at 97 db sensitivity. However, as noted, things aren't always what they seem. I suspect that I am limited to keeping these speakers and trying to find an amp that will work simply because I cannot remotely afford anything that would come close to equalling those I now own. Serious high efficiency speakers are a very expensive proposition and these have been rated as the best under $20k.

 

JC

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People will now spam their favourite tube amp, I will do the same. :)

 

Octave are to my ears one of the best tube amps there are.

 

Thanks to both you and Chris for this suggestion. I've heard nothing but great things about their amplifiers. Unfortunately, the least expensive power amplifier is $10k, and well above my budget. Given their quality, I have seldom seen one offered for resale.

 

JC

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Thanks to everyone who has responded, the information is immensely appreciated, and I will be looking into every suggestion. I probably should have pointed out that my budget for the new amplifier is a maximum of $8k (though holding it to $6-7K would be of great help). Obviously, buying used would maximize what I can purchase.

 

Risking repetition, you need to pair a SET amp with highly-efficient speakers. Buy the latter.

 

You don't need to buy a new more powerful SET amp...

 

Imagine you have a bottle of Champagne at hand and a paper cup, but you're looking for the best experience possible.

 

The paper cup manufacturer tells you his paper cup is known to hold liquid very well indeed and that to show this, you should put more liquid into it.

 

Other tell you "Buy those bigger Champagne bottles!".

 

The best thing to do is to buy a couple of Champagne flutes: the form has function, bringing the aroma to your nostrils, the elongated shape showing the fine bubbles characteristic of Champagne, the transparency allowing the golden liquid to also interplay with the Christmas lights around, evoking magical things and souvenirs in the eyes of your loved one, and she smiles. In turn, you smile knowingly while savouring a sip of that fine bottle.

 

In other words, prefer matching your SET to high-efficiency speakers, rather than try to shoe-horn a bigger SET amp to speakers made to match with higher-power SS amps.

 

Trying to match a SET to non-efficient speakers which are built for the plethora of high-powered SS amps is doing it 'upside-down' so to speak...

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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Very good advice, and what I had intended all along when I put together the system. My current speakers are "rated" at 97 db sensitivity. However, as noted, things aren't always what they seem. I suspect that I am limited to keeping these speakers and trying to find an amp that will work simply because I cannot remotely afford anything that would come close to equalling those I now own. Serious high efficiency speakers are a very expensive proposition and these have been rated as the best under $20k.

 

I guess I was replying at the same time as you! :D

 

97dB looks good on paper, but you must also check the impedance profile: if I remember correctly, for SETs, the profile should be smoother for it to be well-adapted to SET Tube amps.

 

Other than that, I don't know what could be the issue in your setup.

 

There's certainly no need to spend an enormous amount on high-efficiency speakers.

 

Anyway, good luck with your endeavours, and hopefully I'll get to read what changes you did to your system to make it sound great again.

 

There's no reason why you can't make a great system with your SET and high-efficiency speakers and then actually drink a bottle of Champagne for Christmas.

 

If you're in the mood for experiments, try Open-Baffles and the single Full-Range drivers. I certainly would try to pair the Amp with other HE speakers and listen comparatively!

 

I'll be in the process on building my own OB speakers because I am following my own advice of architecting my sound around my SET Tube Amp. I believe it does 8W/channel with KT88s.

 

It sounds flabbergasting, but here again, I need to give it the high-efficiency speakers so that it can shine fully.

 

Best.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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About all I have found so far is this as a viable option within my price range:

 

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/tube-ayon-audio-helios-power-amp-class-a-best-of-show-8-years-2016-11-22-amplifiers-85258-scottsdale-az

 

It's a brand new amplifier in their line and there is really no information yet about it. I spoke with a gentleman at what appears to be the only US dealer and he says four units are currently out for review. With no information to go on, I likely still have to keep looking at options. I've read the rave reviews of the Ayon stuff, but have no experience personally with it.

 

I also got feedback that the Cary 805E, another option I was considering, and within my budget,used, does not pair well with my speakers.

 

JC

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There will always be something "better".

Regardless, take a look at the Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP or if they're within your budget, the larger Zen amps from Decware.

 

Thanks for the suggestion. I'm quite a fan of PrimaLuna and own their Prologue Premium for my office system. My main system's preamp, which the new amp would be paired with, is a Dialogue Premium Preamp. That preamplifier is an absolute steal for the money, and competitive with units up to $10k. The power amp, while also an outstanding value, it not the sonic equal of my existing amplifier, and it would obviously be very difficult to lower the performance level that I could accept.

 

I will look into the larger amps from Decware. I had not realized they had any amplifiers that could deliver 50 wpc.

 

JC

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Food for thought, still on my line of reasoning, meaning, I'd rather listen to other HE speakers with the amp as opposed to finding new higher Wattage SET Amps:

 

BTW Not all High efficient 90db or more speakers sound their best with lower watts. It also got to do with the load, impedance and esp. the size of said speakers, that ask for higher currents to deliver all the bass slam possible or to really come alive and throw a large sound stage.

You wil be in for a surprise when you hear how fat and large a good compact speaker with 6 or 8 Ohm can sound driven by 10, 12 or 15 watts of real tube power, let alone 25 or 30 watts !

Try before you buy and trust in what your ears receive and your heart tells you about a certain amp speaker combo !

 

Efficiency is a strange thing - sometimes the numbers look good on paper but the real world (listening room, music tastes, etc) have a big effect. For example my big ol' UREI 813A speakers are massive with two 15" drivers each and are rated at "89dB" - but they sound good with 5Ws of EL84 single-ended pentode power. They sound even better with 10-15Ws, the amps only beginning to compress at sound levels too high for comfort.

 

You are so correct that efficiency does not begin to tell the story. I have heard the Rogers Ls3/5a (15 ohm) sound terrific with 15 watts or so of tube power and they are extremely inefficient (something like 83 db/w) while the Wilson 6 turns out to be extremely tube unfriendly even though it is rated at something like 95 db/w (nominally a 4 ohm speaker). To me, a high and flat impedance curve and low phase angle between power and current (easy to drive) is more meaningful that the supposed efficiency of the speaker when it comes to playing well with tubes.

 

Looks like the last few sentences are important on top of high-efficiency.

 

These are from this thread over at the Steve Hoffman forum.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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Food for thought, still on my line of reasoning, meaning, I'd rather listen to other HE speakers with the amp as opposed to finding new higher Wattage SET Amps:

Looks like the last few sentences are important on top of high-efficiency.

These are from this thread over at the Steve Hoffman forum.

 

I understand where you are coming from, truly. I do have some experience with high efficiency speakers, and mine are prominent on Salvatore's list. I have owned, or listened extensively to Audio Note, Zingali, Decware, and the uber expensive Avantgarde. and have owned the very nice Zu Druids. The problem is that improving on, or even equalling my existing speakers in terms of performance would run me a great deal more money than I have. Thus the reason I need to change out the amp. And, trust me, I truly wish I didn't have to do that.

 

JC

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I understand where you are coming from, truly. I do have some experience with high efficiency speakers, and mine are prominent on Salvatore's list. I have owned, or listened extensively to Audio Note, Zingali, Decware, and the uber expensive Avantgarde. and have owned the very nice Zu Druids. The problem is that improving on, or even equalling my existing speakers in terms of performance would run me a great deal more money than I have. Thus the reason I need to change out the amp. And, trust me, I truly wish I didn't have to do that.

 

I like Salvatore's writings and I really like to read Dr. Gizmo's writings. I sometimes re-read Dr. Gizmo's articles. It's quite interesting how both arrive to similar pursuits and reference systems.

 

 

Not sure if you mentioned the brand and model of the speakers, but not knowing what they are, I'd probably consider selling them actually rather than getting a new amp if they're not working well with tubes.

 

 

Do we have a chart of their impedance profile? Independent measurements and reviews?

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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I like Salvatore's writings and I really like to read Dr. Gizmo's writings. I sometimes re-read Dr. Gizmo's articles. It's quite interesting how both arrive to similar pursuits and reference systems.

Not sure if you mentioned the brand and model of the speakers, but not knowing what they are, I'd probably consider selling them actually rather than getting a new amp if they're not working well with tubes.

Do we have a chart of their impedance profile? Independent measurements and reviews?

 

The speakers are rated, as I noted before, at 97db sensitivity. They are 10 ohms impedance, and, I am told, do not drop below 8.

 

JC

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