For SET and Tube lovers - What SS Power amps do you like?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Richard Austen, Dec 5, 2017.

  1. GoldprintAudio

    GoldprintAudio Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lexington, NC
    Sugden was one of the first that came to mind (but you knocked them off the list due to power! lol)

    I noticed you mentioned Bel Canto in your "not impressed" comment, but have you heard the newer REF600m? They are quite good in my opinion.

    Spec Corporation is another SS company that has some very nice sounding gear. Also the BHK amps from PS Audio.
     
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  2. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville
    A Spectral/Avalon/MIT system is crazy good. Almost hyper real sounding. To really get the effect, you have to buy into their system philosophy. Not t everybod’s cup of tea, but the Spectral stuff that I have heard can compete with any high end tube or solid state system in the world.
     
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  3. Encore

    Encore Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Denmark
    The old YBA amplifiers, i.e. before the company came on Chinese hands, were fantastic amplifiers. I have a couple of the smaller integrateds, and despite their on paper meagre wattage, they sound very powerful, and I have driven 85 dB speakers with them with plenty of headroom. My little dt Integré will never leave my home. Add to that that they hardly use any power - 10 watts or so when not playing. They are meant to be switched on 24/7.

    The newer YBA amps sound good also. Very smooth and engaging. They are just not as physics-defying as the old ones.
     
  4. jeffmackwood

    jeffmackwood Member

    Location:
    Ottawa
    As I have previously stated, I have zero personal experience with owning tubes.

    However I have lots of experience with low impedance-capable amps.

    Here's a recommendation that you will love me for if you ever follow through: go out and buy a used NAD Model 2200 stereo amplifier. Then take it to a shop for a complete checking out / refurb as need be. All of that will cost you $200-500 and you'll then own one of the greatest low impedance driving amps ever. 2 Ohm load? It will eat it all day for breakfast. It's rated at 100 W/ch into 8 ohms, 200 W/ch into 4 Ohms, and 400 W/ch into 2 Ohms. But the real kicker is its claimed 6dB of headroom (into an 8 Ohm load)! In Stereo Review (October 1985) the late great Julian Hirsch reported that he ran it in his lab and obtained 6.5 dB of dynamic headroom into 8 Ohms. Its dynamic power output was 870 watts into 2 Ohms! Here's a great quote from his review: "For listening to music in a home environment, the NAD 2200 may well be the most powerful amplifier you can buy..." And if you want to go nuts, buy two of them and run each of them in bridged mono mode!

    Disclosure: I own one. :)

    Jeff
     
  5. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Hi just a note that I am looking for a current model amplifiers capable of driving difficult loads - why? Mainly as a tool for reviewing loudspeakers. It doesn't necessarily have to sound like a SET or be as good as a SET - because I've been at this for 25years and no solid state amplifier sounds, IMO, as good as a a good quality SET. Indeed some of the ones that try to emulate a SET often emulate stereotypes and those kind of bug me more than a straight shooter.

    I think I will look at Bryston, Pass Labs, Ayre and Spectral and first and Van Alstine a strong contender because of the direct pricing and claimed no feedback design which is intriguing.

    Knowing the supply chains of many companies his $2,000 amp should be competitive against any product selling through any dealer network at $6,000. So it's definitely an intriguing option but also the most difficult to audition before you buy.
     
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  6. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Bel Canto is appealing for a few major reasons - 600 watts per channel and 2 ohm stable AND it's only 15lbs (REF 600). So the great appeal of them is size, weight, and power. Now yes I was not a fan of Bel Canto but that was more than 15 years ago and I've had to step back on some of my commentary on older products largely because I knew less then than I know now. One of the major issues was making comparisons of overall systems and placing blame perhaps on the wrong things. For instance as much as I like Audio Note - if someone else doesn't like the speakers they may blame the DAC and the amplifiers on top when in fact they just don't like wide baffle speakers.

    So it goes with amplifiers and speakers - When I auditioned Bel Canto is was as memory served PMC and Martin Logans and a few others - but none of these speakers lit my fire much at the time. Plus this was a long while ago. And with my M3 preamp taking control - well that is on another level than most of the stuff I auditioned in the 90s.

    Lastly some of this may be dependent on which companies will extend me a review sample so I probably have to gather up 10 amps in the hopes that 3 will wish me to review them. Living in Hong Kong I can get certain things easily but some makers would rather send it to a reviewer in the States.
     
  7. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialist™

    Location:
    Greater Vancouver
    I have to ask Richard, which one? Sonic quality from Classe took a nose dive after the Seventy was released and David Reich left around 1991 IIRC. I have to admit a couple of others on your unimpressed list came as a surprise not that I have your experience of comparison. Sorry I can't be of any help in your quest. I'd sure like to give this one a try.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  8. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    RGA, arent you able to audition tons of SS amps in hong kong?
     
  9. beowulf

    beowulf Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chula Vista, CA
    There's a couple Spectral amps on the 'gon right now. A DMA-150 that is currently on auction and priced at $730 and a DMA-90 listed at $1750. There's also a pair of DMA-360 mono blocks listed for $8499 ~ these were limited production models and look to be very powerful.

    DMA-150
    @ 8 ohms - 150 Watts RMS
    @ 4 ohms - 300 Watts RMS
    @ 2 ohms - 570 Watts RMS
    [​IMG]

    DMA-90
    @ 8 ohms - 100 Watts RMS
    @ 4 ohms - 200 Watts RMS
    [​IMG]


    DMA-360
    @ 8 ohms - 300 Watts RMS,
    @ 4 ohms - 533 Watts RMS,
    @ 2 ohms - 680 Watts RMS! I think it's safe to say these beasts will drive most speakers out there ... :agree:
    [​IMG]

    The more I read about these the more interesting they become ... they are seriously overbuilt and ran in at the factory. J-FET, V-FET and VMOS-FET and that Power Vault incorporated into it's design looks pretty interesting. I don't think you could go wrong if you can pick one up at a good price.
     
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  10. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Please note that I am younger than some other reviewers as I am closing in on 44 this January - most of my experience with Audio gear came in the late 1980s and even then I graduated high school in 1992 so this may help you put a frame of reference around my comments. So when you read anything from me and if I make a "generalized" comment about sound of an amplifier or CD player brand you should probably take it as meaning products circa 1995 (a bit before) and beyond.

    I too have experienced brands that I quite liked and then felt they replaced stuff with lesser sounding gear - even in the 1990s when in 1996 I bought a Cambridge Audio CD6 and didn't much like what followed. Westlake of Pink Triangle designed the CD6 (formerly of Pink Triangle) and when he left so did his design. Obviously you feel the same way about Classe. Most of the Classe stuff I have heard was late 1990s through the 2010s (they have recently filed for bankruptcy i believe).

    This is also true with some B&W speakers where I liked several Matrix series but not so much the Nautilus series. I'm definitely with you on these things as even my AN E was based upon the original Peter Snell speakers not the Kevin Voecks designs that followed.

    I am not typically a fan of SS amplifiers since hearing quality SET amps in the early 2000s and it's difficult to go back. But SET has no power to drive average to low efficiency speakers. Good SS I don't hate but I guess I would say it doesn't speak to me at an emotional level. It was once described by reviewer Kevin Fiske that SET amps was the equivalent of natural light while SS is = to fluorescent light - both do the job but the latter is kind of soul crushing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  11. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Unlike the west - dealers do not allow home auditions - you have to buy it first to try it. And with most SS have piss poor resale value it becomes too expensive to be dropping $10,000 on an amp and it sucking and having to sell it for $3,000.
     
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  12. rednedtugent

    rednedtugent Member

    Location:
    Funk, Ohio
    This: "AND I also think that many of us who don't care for SS amps in particular need to remind ourselves if we often blamed the amplifier when in fact it could have been lousy speakers or even lousier CD players."

    My mono setup in studio one annex proved this out. I was using a Sony 5 disc (SACD) player into my Pioneer Elite VXS-09TX that feeds a Bozak 300/302a.
    I liked the sound of SACDs into my HT rig. However, something weird was happening to the bass in the above setup. Stumbled upon a Pioneer CLD-M90
    and problem solved.

    Please accuse the aside. This thread is very interesting!:angel:
     
  13. mr. scratchy esq

    mr. scratchy esq Well-Known Member

    Richard, as I see your AN M3 preamp has balanced outputs I would def. check out Pass Labs too... I was interested in Pass but they told me their amps were designed (optimized) to work with a balanced signal so I ruled them out as my Shindo pre is single ended output only...
     
  14. captwillard

    captwillard Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville
    I wouldn’t get a Spectral amp unless I was getting a Spectral pre and cables, too.
     
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  15. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    sony ta 707
    fet/jfet input, even the VAS stage is j-fet, separate rails for the front end, lateral mosfet output. the transformers are enormous.
    hard to go wrong once restaured. if 30 WPC is enough, I personally love my lm3875 gaincard. they were selling the desing 6k when new, now you can DIY one for 200$ and include many improvement such as jfet input, buffer, regulated linear PSU. ths is my winter project to miprove my gaincard.

    if you must spend a lot of money (which imo is quite ridiculous when you know how much money it cost to build a SS amp), Id look into jeff rowland discrete amps. id probably go Pass Labs and be done with it as its SOTA and not too outrageously expensive
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  16. macster

    macster Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego, Ca. USA
    Conrad Johnson (It just sounds right)

    IMHO, tIt's hard to beat a CJ SS amp, but of course I'm biased. the Premier 350 and my own MF2500A.

    M~
     
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  17. Encore

    Encore Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Denmark
    I had a Parasound A21, which was quite engaging when fed by its balanced inputs. Not the ultimate in resolution, but engaging and pleasant. And it had a practical standby function that used very little power, yet made sure that no warm-up time was needed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  18. Only SS amps I have heard that I liked were Sugden and DNM
    Some old Levinson stuff was impressive too.
     
  19. ZenMango

    ZenMango Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Florida
    I'll post impression of the FET Valve 400r upon receipt. I'm a "get the midrange right first" type, and decided to purchase based on impressive performance of an older van Alstine model, high current Insight 260hc, and Mr van Alstine told me his speakers of choice are low impedance planar magnetics. His amps are specially stable pumping current into very low impedance. High current capability and regulated output tube stage should do it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
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  20. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    What about Accuphase?
     
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  21. ejman

    ejman Member

    I think the older Conrad-Johnson in the MF series would fit the bill nicely. I have the MF 2300A and it's probably the closest to tubes sounding sand amp I've heard. My particular amp is 240 watts into 8 ohms and tested at over 450 watts at 4 ohms with JFET input stage and MOSFET output stage
     
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  22. Diskhound

    Diskhound Well-Known Member

    I think you could consider a Modwright KWA 100 SE or its big brother the KWA 150 Signature. Both amps will be exceptional into tougher loads. I now have the former amp after many years of tubes.
     
  23. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Then my preference may not be on par with Van Alstine as I am really not at all a fan of planar magnetics or in particular ribbons. I'd have to hear it first. I will attend the California Audio Show again in July and will focus more attention on SS. I am not in a huge rush as I want to finish building my system first.
     
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  24. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Yes a few people have mentioned that the cubed amps are significantly better sounding without the Bryston Sterility of previous efforts. In fact I enjoyed Bryston with PMC and felt that was a fine match but the amps didn't work with the higher efficiency speakers that I owned back in the day and now. I felt Bryston was more suited to long throw woofer types. The 4B is I believe $6,000 and has plenty of watts - they almost always do better than their watt ratings when measured. The 3B was 120 watts and I believed were measured as ~160 so you get what is advertised and then some. Plus given it is SS power I really don't want to spend a lot more than that if I don't have to - in that a lot of other amp makers cost more but don't necessarily sound better. I mean Pass Labs is nice and all but it still sounds like SS if you know what I mean. But Bryston doesn't mention if they are 2 ohm stable. I assume that they are but I can't see it on their website. But I may have missed it.
     
  25. ZenMango

    ZenMango Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Florida
    It was not so much a synergy w planars, rather ability to drive difficult, low impedance, loads (typical of planars). We'll see. My buddy that lent me his van Alstine runs Aerial Model 9's.
     

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