Considering Large Tube PushPulls... Advice!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by jkull, Jun 30, 2020 at 3:18 PM.

  1. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    So, I stick to one audio system, in my designated listening room. Currently LS50W’s, utilizing the built in preamps, and DACS and all. A great all in one system and a total 180 from my previous system, which included an LM219ia, tubes rolled to my liking, through a pair of cornwalls (SET & high efficiency speakers).

    I enjoyed the LM219IA for all of its sonic attributes, however.. I decided ultimately it was not practical to please my listening habits. I listen to a wide range of music, from female vocal driven stuff, to classical at times, soft rock, etc., but also plenty of heavier, dynamic stuff as well. I am an active musician involved in music of this sort and the majority of my record collection is of this sort of genre. Clarity in my SET system was excellent, but it was not fit to serve in ‘fullness’ and slam/impact that drives this sort of heavier music properly. Those who know, understand what I mean. SETS can do some wonderful things, but they are not always the optimal choice for us all.. Unfortuately.

    I sold this system and kept things completely simple by grabbing the KEFs. The KEFs really are great. They punch and slam well with their little 5.5” drivers due to DSP and the engineering behind mating their amplifiers specifically to the driver etc.

    Now....
    I am considering tubes again. If I go back to tubes, it will be bigger power, push pull topology... So, I figure I’ll go right to larger monoblocks, with big, heavy iron, which would be more to my needs. Faster, better for dynamic swings, more power etc. I do like what tubes do as far as imaging, bringBut the music to life, and enhancing a live, in the room feel. I would love these attributes, but I also don’t want be longing for more slam or impact.

    I am well aware of what tubes prefer as far as controlling drivers and delivering dynamics vs transistors. I’m also well aware that impedance and the impedance curve are actually more important in this matter than just looking for high sensitivity for tubes, as tube amps are designed to work at higher impedance, where as SS struggle a bit in that range and are happiest in the lower inpedance.. (EX. Tubes delivering stronger and more controlled bass than SS with ESL’s, being they hover in that higher 16ohm range etc, where SS struggles and outputs less power etc).

    I was considering a pair of rogue m-180 monoblocks. 180 watts each, nice power supplies, and SS rectification. Should do the job. I am also, however, talking to a seller with VTL 450mb’s. 425w in tetrode, nice power supplies etc.

    I would be opt for a new pair of tekton speakers for either. Likely a pair of Lore’s. Those familiar with tekton know they are very tube friendly. Generally ranging 93-98db. Lores are around 98db at 8ohms, and apparently stay pretty stable at that higher impedance. 10” driver etc. Ideal speakers for tubes, in fact the amps I know, are more power than I need for these, but let that be. I would rather have the power on hand for dynamics and so on.

    My question is, those who use tubes for hard rock, or heavier listening at times, with volume, can I maintain sufficient slam/impact with tube friend speakers like this, with obvious large tube power behind them?
    I do not like fat, boomy, One note bass like one might desire for hip hop, or EDM, etc. I prefer tighter, defined, and tonal bass. But with just enough deliver to still ‘hit’. Think kick pedals beating the bass drum with speed... Solid impactful thud, not ‘boom’....

    Would I be better off sticking to ss or will plans detailed as above, with tubes, be able to give be the tube midrange benefits etc., and still the drive and punch for my listening needs? Thanks
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020 at 3:24 PM
  2. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I hear you. I think you can. I'm out on a bit of a limb, however. The company that makes my amp is done and the guy who designed my speakers has resorted to using a different driver. I'm really on the hairy edge of being able to play heavy music and keep it together, but it works. To my thinking, I started out with a very good push-pull amp with very good transformers. It's rated at 40 watts with the KT88s, but with KT120s it pushes it into the sweet spot of having super controlled bass and I guess it's probably closer to 48 watts fitted with those tubes. My speakers are biggish stand mounts that use two 6.5" drivers. One thing that makes a world of difference is that one of those drivers is acoustic suspension, so the sealed cabinet is providing some control. The other driver is mated with a transmission line and although it looks the same from the front, the magnet is different and designed for a semi-ported enclosure. This one drives a small transmission line. So, lean amp with very good transformers mated with acoustic suspension, which also produces a lean, tight bass; and you can push it with dense heavy beats and saturated bass and it does not fall apart. The drivers are made of TPX, which is a very light polymer that has a super fast recovery. Now IF you push the amp very hard and you are looking for louder than 90dB, it starts to get a little fuzzy.

    To put a finer point on it, I get strong peaks in the 40 Hz band with very good control. The drivers start and stop on a dime and the music simply hangs together very persistently. At 32 Hz, I'm way down—nothing much to mention.

    The downside, maybe, is that thinner recordings that are not all that great to start with really get laid bare. There's no romantic tube loveliness to save the day. That's partly the negative feedback, but all-in-all, I was kinda after what you describe. After living with a 30 watt EL34 amp and Vandersteens for decades, I feel like I have some of the tube charm in terms of soundstage, but I can also listen to the heavy music I like without it turning to mush.

    I'd think about stronger push-pull amps that maybe work with the KT120s and I'd look at speaker designs that use acoustic suspension. That's what works for me.

    If I had all the money, I'd be looking at a VAC integrated. Don't know what speakers.
     
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  3. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Location:
    Toronto
    Best to choose a specific component that'll perform as you want it to. Some tube amps sound more neutral than others.

    Keep in mind the specific tubes used in those amps has a huge impact on the end result. In my Line Magnetic 508IA, for instance, I've been able to get anywhere from an airy bass-shy presentation all the way to a bloated smokey one with a mere tube change.

    Personally, for the sound you're describing, I wouldn't keep the KEFs but it is entirely up to you. IMHO, it's best to choose components for what they naturally can do instead of trying to squeeze blood out of stone.
     
    jkull likes this.
  4. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    hey strat. Yes I swapped tubes plenty in my 219ia and found would I liked for sure in that amp. Also as a long time guitar amp player with about 6 vintage tube amps, yes, very familiar It sounds like you think sticking with authoritative SS would be wisest.
     
  5. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    thanks for the response. It sounds like you feel you can play heavier music but it’s not it’s strong-suit necessarily. Let me Ask what Speakers are you talking about?
     
  6. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    The hardest thing is going to be getting a tube amp which has the kind of bass authority which you seem to desire. Even the very best tubes do not have as precise a thwack to the bass drum as will a very good Sand amp.

    You can still get a very strong, dynamic, and non-mushy thwack from the bass drum, and any good tube amp should have deep extended bass. But you won't get the kind of bass where you can almost count the cycles, like you can with some Sand amps, if you know what I mean. I would say that if you are either a Drummer or a bass player you might not be completely satisfied. Most any other instrument, and you be in heaven though.
     
    jkull likes this.
  7. Jim Hodgson

    Jim Hodgson Active Member

    Location:
    New York City
    I’m not sure you defined tube midrange benefits (apologies if I missed it) ... but, if you want to retain them, and you also want tighter, more defined bass than tubes seem to offer, why don’t you consider multi-amping? You could use SS below and tubes above and potentially derive the benefits of both.

    What I know about Tekton is that Eric Alexander comes from a pro-sound background. So, he’d probably be an ideal guide through a project like this (with multi-amping being not the exception but the rule in that world).
     
  8. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    i did not define them, correct. I am really not desiring bi-amping at this time, while I realized it would come up as a possible recommended alternative in this thread. Thank you
     
  9. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    Yes I understand. This is a helpful response. Basically the bass will go deep yes, but definition may be a little hairier around the edges, and things maybe bleed together a bit more than would with SS...
     
  10. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I would not say that the sounds bleed together more. No, not even a little bit with a really good tube amp. A good tube amp will separate the instruments and make them sound more distinct, not less, It's just that the bass drum thwack will be ever so slightly less impactful, and the bass will be somewhat less precisely defined. But this by no means implies one-note bass.

    But rock still sounds great! If you are into techno though, the bass might not satisfy with some of those low synth tones which will come out warmer than they went in.
     
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  11. BillWojo

    BillWojo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Burlington, NJ
    Big tube amps are very expensive to buy and to maintain. Plus they give off a lot of heat.
    I to like PP tube amps, SE tube amps always leaves me wanting. And I use Altec's, very sensitive horn speakers.
    Depending on if you have enough room, a set of Altec A-7's argumented with some subs may be just the ticket. Run the subs off a big SS amp and use something like a Audio Research VT-100 for the A-7's.
    Those A-7's are VERY dynamic, as a musician you should be familiar with them. I grew up with them, they were a staple at most rock concerts.

    BillWojo
     
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  12. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    In my profile, but NSMT PSM monitors. MTM with a silk dome tweeter and super simple cap n coil crossovers. I think the acoustic suspension design and a little compromise on driver size give a clarity to the bass that is missing in even ss or class d amps. My old tube amp had ss mono bass, and el34s on the minds and highs. Nowhere near the tightness in bass control I am thinking of. What I have now reminds me of listening to Wilson Alexa IIs with a very nice class d amp and turntable source. Drivers themselves have limitations that no amp can avoid.

    I was looking at Dunlavy and Lipinski when I went this direction.
     
  13. allied333

    allied333 TUBE AMPLIFIER REBUILDER - inquire

    Location:
    MI
    The VTL amps are very powerful. I think a pair of KT-88 per channel would produce enough power. Get a quality KT-88 amp. I would pass on Bob Latino KT-88 as they 'stretched' the ST-70 with KT-88 beyond making great sound. My opinion and a few others. The best tube amp I ever heard is Marantz model 8 with Mullard tubes. It needs a separate phono amp. It has cathode feedback windings in the audio transformer that reduces distortion and especiaaly so in the bass. Very few amps use cathode feedback windings in the audio transformers and appears to be a lost art now.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020 at 7:47 PM
  14. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    If I moved on amps, it would be big vtl’s yes
     
  15. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Have you considered a very good tube preamp with a very good Class A SS amp? Something like Pass Labs or Sugden? That way you can get the flavor of tubes and the dynamics of SS in Class A - the closest thing to tubes that SS is capable of.

    Vinnie Rossi (expensive!) and Transcendent Sound (reasonably priced) both make a 300B based preamp.

    Just my two cents.
     
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  16. Last edited: Jul 1, 2020 at 9:25 AM
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  17. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    thanks for the recommendation. Atmasphere’s amps are intriguing, no question. To get a bigger power otl like that 140w one may be a pit of a stretch on my budget however. If I go for tubes it will be the pair of vtl 450mb’s mentioned above. SS rectified, as most modern tube amps are, (good for my needs), and with 425wpc would give me tons of headroom for dynamic swing and woofer control. I am still up in the air here.. I read that vtl’s amps are neutral, and fast. I just want to know that there would be decent impact and speed/transient with these, with compatible tube friend speakers of course, for my hard rock and heavy metal needs, when called for..
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020 at 6:09 PM
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  18. 5-String

    5-String Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    IMO you won't get what you are looking for from tubes only. I was about to suggest what @Benzion suggested above.
    A tube preamp with a SS amp works wonders IMO again.
     
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  19. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    you’ve got some nice equipment.. jadis monos which have a good amount of tube power behind them, thus this is quality advice. I suppose I consider I’ve never heard ‘big power’ push pull tube amps, which is why I assumed that perhaps the vtl450’s may be different and get the job done, better than say one of the many 70-100wpc tube stereo amps etc. But general response so far, is that even with big power tube mono’s, things like speed and impact may very well in my heavier/louder listening.
     
  20. 5-String

    5-String Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    Thanks, I have not heard the VTL 450 so it might be what you are looking for, I don't know. In this hobby experimentation is the key, which always makes things more complicated since a lot of these equipment are expensive and “try before you buy” is not always an option.

    If I understand correctly the sound you describe, you won't find it in Jadis no matter how many watts they produce. I am turning to Jadis when I am looking for elegance and smoothness. The “tube magic” as they say.
    But when I am looking for speed, power, control and dynamics together with a reasonable amount of smoothness I turn to my McIntosh C2600 tube preamp combined with an Macintosh MA6600 200 w/channel power amp.
    I really think going with a tube pre+ss amp seems like a great suggestion. In a way, you get the best of both worlds.

    As always, take everything I write with a grain of salt, what works for me or for someone else might not always work for you and vice versa.
     
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  21. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I think that a Tube preamp SS amp is a good suggestion as well. Jadis is definitely NOT what the OP is asking for here. These produce some beautiful tones, but not tight bass. But some VTL amps might fit the bill, depending upon just how much slam the OP is expecting.

    But when doing this type of combination, I recommend going for a somewhat more tubey tone from the preamp. The Mac C2600 is not a tubey sounding preamp at all.
     
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  22. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters Thread Starter

    Location:
    NJ
    I am planning on tekton floorstanders. Anything from the Lore up to possibly the double impact. So 8-10” woofers. Standard 4ohms but can be equipped with 8 at request (obviously a better load for tube amplification). Impact in the sense of drums punching, with nice woofer control.
     
  23. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    Hmmm. Ported box with paper drivers. I hope you get what you want. I recall being somewhat disappointed listening to a system driven by AR 750s recently, but I see how your logic works though. I suspect that speaker design rather than more tube watts is where you'll find the most success.

    Notice on those VTL monos how you can adjust the damping factor? I think the more the box design can do to help the amp control the drivers the better off you are in that scenario.
     
  24. enginedr

    enginedr Well-Known Member

    Location:
    New York
    I found the type of sound I think you would like . I use a pair of Klang & Ton NADA Madasound kit speakers in Lee Taylor cabinets . I use them sealed . The key to having your cake and eating it is distributed bass . Yes I have 5 subs in my room . The tube mono blocks are Woodside MA 100 s 4 - KT -120 and make 140 watts per @ 4 ohms . My previous amps were VTL 100s the VTLs just did not control the woofers as well . The amp speaker match is very important to get right . Having too much power is ok if you want to deal with a lot of tubes
     
  25. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    Yes. KT-120 and acoustic suspension (or sealed box) mid-woofers. That combo works. Not many speaker designers go with acoustic suspension designs anymore, and some of those have resonant cabinets and other design parameters that tailor the sound. Human does some nice sealed boxes. Lots of smaller shops, and NHT too, I believe. You've got to do something about the bass, as you mention. The Lipinski monitors are as dry and lean as can be, but they don't go low. I can get along with a transmission line, but again, takes a long time to get that right.

    Was listening to the newish Blood Incantation last night. Lots of 16th note kick with heavy, thick bass and guitar over. It's hard to get a system that can deliver that @ 90dB and also do vocal jazz and Classical. Followed that up with Penderecki—Canticum Canticorum. Just lovely. Harbeth riffs off the TPX on their drivers. I think that super fast sound is not the best on all music, but I can live with it.
     
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