Audio Note UK AN-E LX/Signature System

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by WriteFace, Jan 20, 2018.

  1. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Hello,

    My listening space is 19' wide, 23' long and my listening position is around 12' from the back wall. My listening preferences are Jazz/classical. I planned to get AN-E SPe HE and now I am leaning towards the LX/Signature speakers. I was going go purchase Oto SE Signature as the integrated amp (sources: Nottingham Spacedeck TT - which will get an AN TT3 arm soon + IQ3 cart and MacMini/Roon based digital system).

    Questions I have are:

    Is Oto a good match for this speaker or should I consider a higher model? Is Meishu a better option? Not sure what it costs.
    If I were to consider separates what preamp/amp choice will be a good choice?

    Thank you for your time.

    Wf
     
  2. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The room looks fairly big and personally I would prefer separates - AN amps have multiple versions of the same thing and I believe the Meishu runs between $8k to $17k.

    The OTO Sig is something like $5500 or so. ($3800 for the regular OTO Phono SE)

    The Meishu Phono uses the M2 Phono stage and the OTO uses the M1 Phono stage.

    So assuming you are going for a unit with the phono stage on board the

    M1 Phono $2300(regular M1 not SE). And will sound better than the M1 in the OTO (non SE) that shares a power supply with the power amp section. So take the difference - $3800-$2300 = $1500 for power amp

    (Note these are estimates on prices - my info is 2 years out of date and there was BREXIT). But in the ballpark.

    The M2 Phono is $4,000. And sounds better than the M2 inside an integrated amp(Meishu) sharing a power supply. AND you have the advantage of running a bunch of power amps. (This leaves $4000 on the power amp).

    The Conqueror 300B stereo power amp is $4300. So this and the M2 Phono - I can't really imagine the Meishu beating that.

    Audio Note


    The problem with the integrated amps is they have no preouts or prein so you can't use the Meishu or OTO as a power amp or a preamp. As good as they are - there is no upgrade path. With the preamp you can buy a 300B like the Conqueror but you may like to try a 2a3 amp down the line - you don't have to sell your preamp. Heck you can connect a Krell power amp for those big parties should you have one.

    Plus it's easier to lift and move around so as to not kill your back.
     
    Don Parkhurst likes this.
  3. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    1. The size of your room is not a factor. The Oto Sig has more power than you need. The Meishu is plenty powerful enough, although a bit better if you have the HE option (High Efficiency).

    2. A standard Oto is not the best match, sonically, with the two models of E you are looking at. But the Oto Signature is. The sound will be astounding with either choice of speaker.

    3. An Oto Signature versus a Meishu is not a matter of "which sounds better". They sound different, and the power tubes themselves are the reason.

    4. AN-E SPe HE and LX/Signature also don't sound "better", one vs the other. They just sound a little different and have some slightly different strengths.
     
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  4. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Richard & Warren: Thanks for your opinions.

    Just to clarify: I am getting the LX HE (High Efficiency) Signature version of the AN-E speakers.
     
  5. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Oh, good to hear you WILL have the HE, silver voice coils and hemp woofers. These will be AWESOME Audio Note speakers, in every way.
     
  6. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Warren,

    Thanks

    >3. An Oto Signature versus a Meishu is not a matter of "which sounds better". They sound different, and the power tubes themselves are the reason.

    Can you elaborate on what you see as the difference? Thanks
     
    beowulf likes this.
  7. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Another question related to HE in AN-E models:

    Are the high end models AN-E SEC silver, AN-E Spx Alnico, AN-E SEC Signature considered as "HE" (High Efficiency)? I don't see the model name having the HE tag.

    From the Speaker manual:

    Definition of AN-E SPx SE Signature has High Efficiency Hemp Bass Driver 98db efficient
    whereas definition of AN-E SEC Signature does not mention HE and is 96db efficient.
     
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

  9. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    I have never lived with a Meishu, so I am not the best person to be specific. I have only heard it in an unfamiliar environment, with different speakers than I've used with the Oto Signature. I can only say that EL-84 power tubes sound very different than 300B. Everyone must decide for themselves which set of strengths is more appealing to THAT individual listener.

    El-84 are accurate, extended in the bass and highs, very detailed, and clean. They are EXTREMELY popular in history for their technical excellence among tube amp designers, all the way back to the Heathkit mono days. Technically, tube designers have always respected them highly. Music Reference made a really fantastic amp using EL-84, and likewise the OTO is fantastic. But some people want a more glorious midrange, even at the expense of the EL-84 long list of technical and sonic strengths. I am not in that camp, but Steve might be. He LOVES a glorious midrange above almost anything.

    Many technical designers don't think 300B output tubes are all that great. It is a greater challenge to make them sound good. A standard OTO can be manufactured for a lower cost of materials, because the voltage and current requirements are easier. A Meishu is more expensive to make because it requires bigger and better components (particularly transformers) to satisfy Audio Notes standards of "correct sound". But many tube fanatics, from a listening point of view LOVE the 300B, even in the cheap amps from China that are VERY compromised. Usually people use them with very high efficiency speakers with limited capability in the bass and highs. That is why I recommend ONLY the AN/E-HE models with a Meishu, but with an OTO, any AN speakers sounds great with it.

    A standard Meishu definitely sounds better than a standard OTO. But an OTO Signature compared to a standard Meishu... hmmm... I am not sure. It is like apples and oranges, which is better? That is why Meishu is available in 3 levels: Standard, Signature, and Silver Signature. The parts quality make a gigantic difference with 300B output tubes.

    So if you want neutrality and accuracy, you will probably prefer the Oto Signature. If you want midrange magic to the maximum, and are willing to compromise the frequency extremes, you might like the Meishu better.

    Please ask some other Audio Note experts, who have their own opinions, and decide by hearing MANY opinions. Or, if you can, listen for yourself.

    The AN-E SEC silver is not HE. The AN-E SEC Signature is not HE. The AN-E SPx SE Signature is HE. Steve's AN-E Spx AlNiCO is HE.

    HE means hemp woofers (dark blue color cones instead of black) and silver voice coils, which together provide the higher efficiency.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
  10. tommylion

    tommylion Member

    Location:
    Burlington, VT
    Those models, because they use Alnico magnets, are a little bit different animals than the HEs.
     
  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
  12. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Thanks Steve, Warren, Tommylion and Richard

    Warren - Thanks for taking time to explain the difference between EL84 and 300B. I haven't been able to listen to Meishu and hence I asked. Now, I will move forward with Oto Se Sig.
     
  13. Don Parkhurst

    Don Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    Richard and Warren have given you some good advice here. I agree with almost everything exactly as they said it. I have just a slightly different opinion, based on the Audio Note gear that I have owned or have heard at friends houses/dealer’s listening rooms.

    For almost two years I owned a Meishu Silver integrated amp with upgraded tubes. I put NOS tubes in each and every location as I tuned the sound to my own personal preferences. I bought the Meishu Silver over an OTO, because it was recommended to me by two different dealers. The Silver version of the Meishu is the sweet spot of the Meishu line according to Peter Qvortrup. A dealer in London is good friends with Peter and he passed along that recommendation to me. Peter likes the Silver Signature model but feels that it is too expensive for what it is. He feels that at that price point a preamp/amp combo is money better spent. Same train of thought that Richard expressed higher up the thread.

    Before I bought my Meishu Silver I was worried that 9 watts wouldn’t be nearly enough power, but I was assured that it would be fine with my AN E SPE HEs. I can tell you that I had more than enough power and was able to play the music loud enough to ‘peel the paint’.

    I have a screen capture from my phone showing 101 dB peaks while playing the MFSL Brothers In Arms at a local HiFi show, where my system was used for three days. The room was about 15 feet wide and about 25 or so feet long with nine foot ceilings (I think - I’m going on memory!). I wasn’t the one in charge of the volume knob, so I might not have played it quite as loud, but it played cleanly and everyone in the crowded room was enjoying themselves. I mention this to give you an idea of how it can fill a larger room with plenty of volume.

    If you want even more power, the Soro SE Signature Phono has 22 watts and I enjoy hearing it every time I visit one of my HiFi friends. It is very musically enjoyable!

    Basically, the simplest system would use the integrated amp. I loved the Meishu Silver and I was really impressed with how it rewarded you every time you upgraded tubes inside. The Telefunken tubes that I put into the phono stage of the Meishu Silver were really rewarding!

    However, if you can afford it, I would recommend a separate amp and preamp. If you can find a nice clean used M3 Phono and Conquest amp combo, you would have a system that you will love for years and years. It would probably be more than a new Meishu Silver integrated, so keep that in mind. I have had several Audio Note owners tell me that they have loved that combination. I had the loan of an M2Phono for a couple of months while I waited for my M6 Phono to be built and while I liked it, the M3 Phono is quite a big step up from the M2 (in my experience). A very worthwhile step up.

    I would recommend letting your dealer know that you would be interested in clean, used amps and or preamps. These components are built to last a generation, so don’t worry if you see a preamp that is five or six years old. My Kassai mono block amps, CDT3 and DAC 4.1/x Balanced Signature are ten years old and work like new. They sound fantastic!

    Good luck with your decision.
     
    WriteFace likes this.
  14. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Of course, as we spend more money on higher-end Audio Note, it just keeps sounding better. But, the OP obviously has a budget in mind, and I think he will be very happy with an Oto Signature. I would NOT recommend a Soro to him. He does not need the power, and the 6L6 are truly not the most musical power tubes in the stable of choices from AN.
     
  15. John Mee

    John Mee New Member

    If you haven’t already, I suggest you ontact Nick Gowan at True Sound (tsound.com)in Campbell. He’s not only an authorized AN dealer but also the authorized factory service center. Additionally, you may wish to come to the California Audio show this summer,where you may be able to hear an Oto/E SPE HE system
     
  16. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    My only caveat here is the OP does mention his musical preference is jazz/classical and his room is on the large side.

    In spite of Audio Note's claim the OTO was measured by Hi-Fi Choice as being 4.2 watts per channel (undistorted) and the AN E HE speakers while 98dB sensitive are only 98dB with both speakers driven AND with being placed in corners (hard in corners). With my 94dB AN E/Lexus and my AN E/Spx AlNiCo speakers with my Line Magnetic 219IA I still managed to push the meters to 20 watts with AC/DC at high levels. And I live in Hong Kong in a room considerably smaller (albeit with high 11-12 foot ceilings.

    I remember when I first began with AN - the OTO was usually partnered with the AN J or K and the Soro on up were mated to the E. (this was before HE or Hemp). The OTO could run out of gas with the E and sound a little weedy at loud levels. Granted the big rooms at Soundhounds. Remember that a speaker's ease of drive isn't just sensitivity but impedance. The AN J doesn't dip below 5 ohms - the AN E dips under 4ohms so even though the E is 1-2dB more sensitive the J presents less of a challenge on amplifiers.

    And Jazz and classical are kind of big genres - if we're talking Diana Krall like jazz then no problem - if we're talking the Moonlight Sonata in classical then no problem.

    But if we're talking Big Band Jazz or Saint Saens/Stravinky's Rite of Spring and the like then there is some caution here.

    Sometimes the power has to be a factor depending what you listen to and how loud you want to play - perhaps why the SORO has been selling for 25+ years. I tend to agree with Warren and all the guys working for the AN dealer in Hong Kong that the OTO just sounds more beautiful and enticing and well "POSH" compared to the SORO (Have not heard the SE Sig version of the SORO though. (And my dealer at Soundhounds prefers the SORO to the OTO) - The OTO is an incredibly sophisticated sounding amp for the money or any money really. AN makes so many options really wanting you to choose what you like which makes it tough to blind buy. I know Peter loves the 211 the most and 45 and 2a3 next. 300B a distant 4th. But many others view the 300B the king. It is rather shocking how two amplifiers from Audio Note for the same price using the same quality of parts like the Empress and Quest can sound strikingly different - I like them both but I can see many people loving one and not being as thrilled with the other. (For me the Empress is the absolute bee's knees of power amplification in terms of sound quality and bang for the buck) - This amp should be advertised by Gal Galdot - There you have it - the Wonder Woman of the audio industry.

    Still I keep thinking why not the M1Phono and P1SE. This is the OTO (in separate form) - but you can at least add a big power amp for $300 on the used market "just in case" the OTO can't muster the BIG classical and jazz works. If buying kind of blind I feel this is the safer way to go. Granted you do have to buy an IC cable.

    Unfortunately my OTO is back in Canada otherwise I would test it out and put the big music on there to find out.

    PS if you go through a dealer with a fairly generous return policy - they may be able to give you a home trial and if it doesn't work out they may let you upgrade to something else.

    I think the OTO has enough power but people do play music at different levels. At the California Audio Show I drove all the AN show runners out of the room play Guns and Roses at very high levels. For the prices these days of Audio - I want to believe that my system is my ticket to the rock concert or the pop concert or the symphony etc. When you go on audio boards and ask questions you have to know if everyone is on the same page. A guy who listens to exclusively string quartets, light opera, single instruments may tell you the Quad ESL is capable of great bass, dynamics and volume - and it may satisfy his views on volume, bass, and dynamics - it is quite another if you listen to Nightwish, DIO, Metalica or Mahler. The Quad doesn't remotely cut it.
     
  17. Don Parkhurst

    Don Parkhurst Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    This is true, the OTO SE Signature should be sufficient, I had just noticed some awfully good deals on used Conquest amps over the last few years, as well as the odd M3. I don't want to talk the OP into spending more than he is comfortable with though.....

    I can't agree with you on the Soro though. Two of my friends have the Soro SE Signature and I quite like it. It has sounded really good in their apartments. I had been warned away from the Soro years ago from the dealer in London as he referred to the 6L6 as a guitar amp tube and not a high end hifi tube. He really got me interested in the Meishu Silver. But....I have to say that partnered with AN-J speakers and a TT-1 turntable, it sounds really good. I wouldn't have any problem recommending someone go listen to it and if they like it, to take it home.

    I will say that I definitely prefer the Meishu Silver Phono that I owned as I am one of those people who really enjoys the glorious 300B sound. I have four Western Electric 300B reissue tubes in my Kassai mono blocks. I REALLY like them, but I think that Steve is right. Some might not find them exciting enough.
     
  18. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fullerton, CA
    Since you really have heard AN's 6L6, EL-84, and 300B amplifiers, please try to break it all down for us, in terms of the sonic characteristics of these power tubes. What sonic qualities can you try to associate with each of these tubes, in the AN applications of them? What stand-out strengths and possible trade-offs?

    From your ears' experience, why do the 6L6 often get a tentative recommendation?

    In your opinion, do the AN amps truly maximize each power tube's character and idiocyncracies, or does AN just make ALL their amps sound great all-around?
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
  19. Sugar Man

    Sugar Man Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Hermosa Beach
    Warren,

    I believe the hemp and silver-coil AlNiCo's have lower efficiency, i.e., 95, not 98, as per the Audio Note manual...

     
  20. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The AlNiCo has better low level resolving capability IMO which means you can play lower without noticing the HE. I mean this stuff gets a bit overblown when talking in 3dB and under gains. 3dB isn't very noticeable. I also think it is a little bit more about the character of the amplifiers. In Hong Kong I auditioned the Empress monoblocks 7 watts versus the Quest monoblocks and found the Empress significantly more ballsy and powerful playing Peter's Split the Atom at high levels. The Empress IMO is far more adept with this sort of trance techno ballsy music than the Quest (same/similar watts). So something is going on beyond just watt numbers. Perhaps it's the way in which the tube distorts when pushed - Or just my personal preference for the 2a3.

    The AlNiCo on big music is where you notice the difference more readily over the non AlNiCo drivers - big Chinese drum music on special non dynamically limited CDs was absolutely striking - that experience was the main driver for me to go to the Alnico version. Driven with Kegon monoblocks. I think the HE speakers were made for the 2 to 3.5 watt amps that Audio Note makes. I mean the Paladin is an outstanding sounding amplifier if you can manage to get way with 2 watts and it's not as expensive as some of the other amps. It drove the AN J free standing (89.5dB sensitive) pretty darn well. Glorious actually. I love that AN makes these quirky amplifiers - they probably don't sell many of them and I never hear anyone talking about them - but the 45 is pretty special and if I had the money to buy multiple monoblocks the Paladin would be high on the list.
     
  21. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Not a fan of Diana Krall :-( Nothing against her, it is just not my cup of jazz. I like the usual suspects like Ray Brown, cannonball, Mingus, Miles, Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal (is my recent discovery - late but delightful), Charles Lloyd etc.
    Classical - I like to listen to various - Recent love is for our own SF symphony Michael Tilson Thomas' Schumann Symphonies. Fantastic!
     
  22. WriteFace

    WriteFace New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Don, Thanks for your insights into the amps.
    Warren, Richard: Thanks for the info on the high end models.
     
  23. rocky dennis

    rocky dennis Well-Known Member

    Location:
    norcal
    WriteFace, you're fortunate to live near two Audio Note dealers, Nick Gowan/True Sounds in Campbell and Neli Davis/Audio Federation in Palo Alto. Both are great people to talk to regarding Audio Note gear, albeit with different styles. I highly recommend contacting them about demoing AN gear you're interested in. Last year, each had limited stock at hand. I was looking for speakers and ended up ordering the AN-E Spe HE, which I'm extremely happy with. Someday I may look into getting an AN or Shindo amp, but for now I'm satisfied with my McIntosh MC275 driving the AN speakers. (Feel free to PM me if you'd like more details.)
     
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  24. sbsbsb

    sbsbsb Member

    After all of this, and I've posted about it in other threads as well, I'm still torn between whether an AN-J or AN-E is a better overall match for an Oto Sig? Particularly intrigued by Richard's claims that the impedance of the J assists with it being driven better than the E. At the end of the day, is the J with Hemp the best option for the Oto?
     
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    The thing to remember of course is that wi
    E.
     

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