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  • Low-output, Vacuum Tube SET Amps

    I’m interested in getting a two-channel, vacuum tube SET power amp with at least 10 wpc but no more necessary than about 35 wpc. My system is mostly Audio Note UK. I have heard amps with dual-parallel 2A3’s, 300B’s, and 211’s and I liked them all but none were perfect. The 2A3’s had a beautiful and subjectively linear tone but lacked bass definition. The 300B’s blossomed a bit too much in the midrange for me. The 211’s has the most subjectively authentic reproduction (to me) but sounded a little thick and less engaging than the 2A3’s. My speakers are Audio Note AN-E SEC Silvers and the preamp will most likely be an Audio Note M3 Phono. Does anyone have any observations or opinions about these kind of power amp’s?
    Transrotor Rossini Turntable w/Jelco SA-750DB
    Audio Note Io Gold Cart. w/AN-S9 SUT
    Audio Note CDT-Four Transport/Woo WDS-1 DAC
    Ayre QX-5 Twenty Dig. Hub & 13” MacBook Pro w/Roon w/Melco N1A NAS
    AN OTO Phono SE Signature Int. Amp w/AN-E SEC Silver Speakers w/Murata Super Tweeters
    Purple J-Corder 1520 R2R and Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck
    PSAudio P10 AC Regen./Equi=Tech Bal. Transformer
    Harmonic Technology, Audio Note, Kondo Sound Labs, Stealth, AQ Cables
    Woo GES w/Sfax SR-507 Headphones

  • #2
    Isnt 10-35 Watts more like medium to high output for a SET amp?
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Shelter 501 Mark II Cart (St) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (St) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (St) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (M) , Luxman Tonearm (M) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (M) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-300 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

    Comment


    • Galileo
      Galileo commented
      Editing a comment
      It’s low compared to most other types of amps out there.

  • #3
    Single output tube SET amps typically use three types of triodes which produce the following wattage: 45 - around two watts per channel, 2A3 - around five watts; and the 300b - around eight watts. To get the wattage you want you would need an amplifier that utilizes a 211 / 845 power triode which can get costly due to the power transformers required. You can also go down the parallel SET route which basically doubles the output of the tube employed but "can" add additional distortion when compared to a single output tube.

    Comment


    • Galileo
      Galileo commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, but I know those things. I was looking for a more qualitative assessment of the sound of different kinds of SET power tubes than a quantitative one.

  • #4
    Check out Line Magnetic. In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones, " You might get just what you need".
    Main System: VPI Prime, Ortofon A95, Bob's Devices VPI SUT, Bottlehead Eros Phono-pre, Phoenix Eagle and Roadrunner Tach, Vinyl Nirvana TD160 Super, Ortofon 2M Mono, Cambridge Azur Universal Disc Player, Blusound Vault 2i, Apple Airport Express, Mytek Liberty DAC, PrimaLuna Prologue PreAmp and Monoblocks, Martin Logan Summit X's. Bottlehead Crack w. Speedball Headphone Amp, Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones, PS Audio PP12.

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    • #5
      2a3 like extension with bass definition oodles of fluidity in between, Lamm ML2.2. 18wpc using a single 6c33 power tube per monoblock. The other 6c33s aren't in parallel, they are V regulators. Tube rolling is easy with 12ax7 inputs bringing the bulk of the sound changes. Expensive but these days, not SUPER expensive.

      Comment


      • #6
        Al is telling me in my PAP thread a powerful amp reigns king. A bit of paraphrasing there. There are powerful amps and flea amps, and everything inbeteen. I have an inbeteeen amp at 60 watts and it's the best I have had in my system. Yet I still wonder about SET. I have looked at Decware for a ling time. $1,100 stereo or $2,500 monoblocks. Very affordable,

        lets say someone has an average 90db speaker. Maybe even more like 92db or 94db. What benefit do you get from 200watt to 400watt. So many people say 2.5 watts is plenty. I feel I hear the SET crowd wax poetic over how great the bass is. Tight, fast and deep. If that is the case, what does more power do. Is more power really for low efficiency speakers. I doubt SET owners will say they don't get an effortless, airy, natural presentation.

        Why does SET seem to work so well.
        PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
        Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
        Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

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        • #7
          Hi - I own the Audio Note E/SPx AlNiCo speakers and reviewed them for dagogo. I run the Audio Note M3 Phono Balanced preamp with Audio Note's 2a3 Parallel Single Ended Empress Silver monoblocks.

          I can answer this in generality because within Audio Note's vast array of amplifiers - parts quality matters and it matters a helluva lot. Most of their amplifiers come in three versions - an affordable Empress with EI transformers - a Silver version which has no silver but uses C-Core transformers and a super hiB core version with silver.

          The problem Audio Now customers have is that very few dealers can actually stock all three versions of the 2a3 Empress amplifier for you to be able to try. Plus they have 45, 300B and they have different versions of those: 2a3 Vindicator mono at 3.5 watts - three versions of it, and Empress - 3 versions of it, and Neiro 2a3 which is level 4 and another model at level 5. Ditto for the 300B amps.

          There is no perfect amplifier. I have sat in the same room and compared the "silver" version which is the mid model of Audio Note's 45 (paladin), 2a3 (vindicator and empress) and Quest Silver. I have also compared the Jinro 211 used as a power amplifier.

          I can tell you that each of them makes a strong case for itself. The 45 at 2 watts per channel on first glance with modestly HE speakers like the AN E and AN J sounded in some respects the best of the lot. It is also the most affordable amp from the power amp group. But as I listen to some AC/DC and music like it - enough of the time - it's just not a practical amplifier to be my main amplifier - but man what it does it does so spectacularly well that if I ever see one used I may go for it - it may not hold its value as well as some of the other amps because of that ultra low power.

          The Vindicator 3.5 watt 2a3 sounded far more powerful to me which is odd since it.s a while 1.5 watts more powerful but 2a3 is generally known as the ballsier of the low power amps. The 300B is referred to by several audiophiles her in Hong Kong as the "lady amplifier" in that it has a seductive but gentle presentation.

          More power isn't going to solve the issue - there is a reason Audio Note has 3 versions of the same amplifiers and there is a significant sonic improvement - including bass response - as you move up the line.

          At the California Audio Show in July - Audio Note introduced their new Meishu Tonmeister and were playing hard hitting bass trance music at high levels - this is easily the best 300B amp I have ever heard because it retains what is good about the 300B amp but adding 211 and 845 balls to the mix. I am not a big fan of the 300B nor was I big fan of the previous Meishu because of the "Lady Like" quality. So I would try and listen to the new Meishu (the update will eventually come to the monoblock versions)- and the Empress Silver or Silver Signature if money allows.

          Also - you may want to post to the huge Audio Note thread on the Steve Hoffman forum where a lot of AN owners and dealers and Steve (who also owns Audio Note for his recording and mastering studio) can be of help https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threa...ote-uk.422880/






          Senior Reviewer at dagogo.
          Speakers: Audio Note AN E/Spx HE Alnico, & AX Two, KEF LS-50, Wharfedale Vanguard, Tannoy CR650
          Pre: Audio Note M3MKiii Phono Balanced
          Power: Kingko KA 101, Rotel RB 1050
          Analog: Audio Note TT2 (two motor), Arm 1(V2), IQ1 MM
          Digital: Audio Note DAC 0.1x, Line Magnetic 215CD & 502CA DAC
          Cables: Audio Note Vx silver and Lx copper ICs, AN-Spe spker cables

          Comment


          • Kingrex
            Kingrex commented
            Editing a comment
            Good overview. Thanks for the link.

            Have you heard the Decware. They use a 6P15P so a much different output tube.

          • Richard Austen
            Richard Austen commented
            Editing a comment
            Hi - without hearing it with AN E speakers I can't comment on Decware - I have only heard one model once and I try to audition stuff three times in three locations with different great before I say anything. As I live in Hong Kong - I have access to a lot of gear not available in the USA but the reverse also holds true where smaller outfits I have less access to. Decware is certainly up my ally and I'd like to try it out at home.

        • #8
          The Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B from Manley Labs might give you some versatility.
          https://www.manley.com/hifi/nsepp

          12W SE and 25W PP

          Comment


          • #9
            May is ask what is the eff of your speakers ?
            how big is your room.
            how loud and how dynamic is your music.
            playing a very uncompressed dynamic track takes much more power then a compressed track even if playing loud.
            when you get it right an set is the sound to try to best. Trouble is most only get part of the way.
            An set amp if done well and matched to speakers is an amazing sound. But if the amp is not up to the task the sound falls off or even clips. You can bi amp set amps buy or use two stereo ones.
            the woofer is one and the mid and upper is the Second
            as for tube sounds the 2A3 is a neutral tube so if it’s bass is less look to why. A 300b is bass heavy and may Bloat the bass.
            a 45 is leaner on bass. My point is match amp to speakers
            and voice tubes to your needs or find other ways to get your tonal bal right.
            speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
            mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
            digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
            Dacs lampi various

            Comment


            • #10
              The AN E is a fairly high sensitive speakers - if you go by Sterophile they are an easy load 92.5dB speaker but Stereophile measures middle of a room and only one speaker driven. Audio Note designs speakers for corners and measures their speakers middle of the room but with both speakers driven and from a corner. So they get from 94-98.5dB depending on the speaker.

              A second speaker adds 3dB and a corner adds 3dB (and 18dB to bass - 9dB for each conrer) which is why there is a discrepancy.

              Most Audio Note amps are 8watts per channel. They're a match.

              I generally prefer separates - since the OP has an M3 preamp - I would go for the best sounding tube he likes and then if you really want to play loud with bass and knock paintings off walls - then buy a second hand SS amplifier as they usually have massive depreciation. Find an Accuphase or Pass Labs. This way you have an amp for all the sheer brutal brawn you like but when listening to beautiful music - you can switch. In other words you can get beauty and the beast. Cake and eat it too.

              Dynamic range can be high with classical music but it does depend on where the baseline volume level is - it's not like the quiet passage is being played at 80dB and needs 30 dB of headroom - the quiet passage is 55-60dB.


              Senior Reviewer at dagogo.
              Speakers: Audio Note AN E/Spx HE Alnico, & AX Two, KEF LS-50, Wharfedale Vanguard, Tannoy CR650
              Pre: Audio Note M3MKiii Phono Balanced
              Power: Kingko KA 101, Rotel RB 1050
              Analog: Audio Note TT2 (two motor), Arm 1(V2), IQ1 MM
              Digital: Audio Note DAC 0.1x, Line Magnetic 215CD & 502CA DAC
              Cables: Audio Note Vx silver and Lx copper ICs, AN-Spe spker cables

              Comment


              • #11
                https://audiophilereview.com/amps/ho...is-enough.html

                above is a link to why amps may adversely effect the sound. It’s not that more power solves the problems. It’s more of facts that limit how we listen. While my setup needs large power smaller setups that are much more eff can use far less. And a good set amp has great virtues most SS amps don’t have. How the room is used , where we sit , how loud we listen also have big effects too.
                a tiny amp plays on my speakers too but limits it’s ability.
                even when I had my Aragon 4004 it stained and clipped even at low volumes if you know what to listen for.
                I love tubes but even these amps might not be enough

                https://www.ebay.com/itm/Pair-of-McI...-/321540647983

                many times I hear amps clip or roll off highs or have muddy bass or bad tone balance due to the amp limits.
                Again I feel when done well it’s amazing but few make it fit.
                speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                Dacs lampi various

                Comment


                • #12
                  I think it often really comes down to the speaker - take the review of the Klipsch K-horn recently reviewed by Stereophile - it is a 105dB sensitive loudspeaker that is in a number of ways harder to drive than the Audio Note E in terms of the sorts of amplifiers that can run the speakers. As a guy who began in this hobby with the bomb proof high power amps that I was salivating over it was a tough thing to trust my ears and go with a low powered SET amp. No feedback amplifiers tend to sound better but no feedback amplifiers with high power are cost prohibitive.

                  I've been through the doubling power for 3dB gains for over two decades and yes the amplifiers may clip but our hearing is simply not good at 110dB and that is not the "volume intent" of most audiophiles anyway. I advise people to download an SPL meter onto their phone and sit in their chair and listen - and if possible get one that can lock the peak SPL. I am betting most people won't typically get 90dB let alone 110dB. 65-75dB will be typical.

                  The trick is to find a SS or high power tube amplifier that actually sounds as good as a SET at the smaller scale music passages which is where the vast majority of the signal is. I will take some compression at 105dB on the Rite of Spring if I get A+ sound quality (as opposed to B or below for most SS amps regardless of price) for Loreena McKennitt or the Moonlight Sonata. But like I say - you can own both. SS amps typically drop 70%+ after a few years and once they come out with the usual replacement model to get back through the review cycle.
                  Senior Reviewer at dagogo.
                  Speakers: Audio Note AN E/Spx HE Alnico, & AX Two, KEF LS-50, Wharfedale Vanguard, Tannoy CR650
                  Pre: Audio Note M3MKiii Phono Balanced
                  Power: Kingko KA 101, Rotel RB 1050
                  Analog: Audio Note TT2 (two motor), Arm 1(V2), IQ1 MM
                  Digital: Audio Note DAC 0.1x, Line Magnetic 215CD & 502CA DAC
                  Cables: Audio Note Vx silver and Lx copper ICs, AN-Spe spker cables

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    A very well made reply.
                    now there is one comment you keep saying that is very misleading.
                    no one here or anywhere listens at 110 dB. I who have a massive system with almost limitless wattage like krell from the forbidden planet movie gdt to maybe 100 dB for brief peaks.
                    but if a soft passage is at 50 dB and loud is 90 db do the math. So let’s say ur hi eff speakers are using 1 watt and this maybe high. How many more watts do you need at a peak ? it’s staggering how much more.
                    tubes esp set have no reserve to go to it’s plates just limit and saturate. A SS amp has a big reserve and gets its limit there.
                    again set rule but I wonder how much of the rule is the sounds a tube shows bu it’s many shirt comings.
                    How often I hear a female vocal clip or piano strike ring
                    many don’t hear or until it’s fixed then say there sound was better lol.
                    if you read that one article it lays the why.
                    but again and set amp setup well does rule in ways few mega SS amps can get close to.
                    speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                    mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                    digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                    Dacs lampi various

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      I'm running a SET amp with 9 Watts and 98dB speakers in a moderate sized room for about 6 months. It's my second system in my Bed room/Office. I've never noticed clipping. Actually, I'm very torn about this, because I think I'm enjoying it more than my big rig.
                      Main System: VPI Prime, Ortofon A95, Bob's Devices VPI SUT, Bottlehead Eros Phono-pre, Phoenix Eagle and Roadrunner Tach, Vinyl Nirvana TD160 Super, Ortofon 2M Mono, Cambridge Azur Universal Disc Player, Blusound Vault 2i, Apple Airport Express, Mytek Liberty DAC, PrimaLuna Prologue PreAmp and Monoblocks, Martin Logan Summit X's. Bottlehead Crack w. Speedball Headphone Amp, Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones, PS Audio PP12.

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        Room size and volume levels you require are big factors but in general with High efficiency speakers you are almost always running less than 1 watt of power - regardless of whether you use a 1000 watt SS amp or an 8 watt amplifier - but if the amplifier is not class A or single ended - SS amplifiers tend to sound worse as the level goes down - there is a reason the industry likes to measure SS at 80% of full power - because that is where SS measures best - as the amplifier goes down into the fractions of fractions of watts they sound worse and they measure worse. SET amps measure worse as level increase but measure best at those fractions of fractions of watts. Remember also that SS amplifiers are measured "after" the feedback loop is engaged which makes them look pretty but is unrelated to reality.

                        95dB sensitive speaker is typically measured at 1 watt 1 meter (and would typically require 2 watts at 2 meters).

                        If you are listening to music and you are mostly sitting 6-9 feet from your stereo and you are not a headbanger - you are very likely listening at 70db and unlikely to be listening above 90dB to 95dB with peaks. So even with peaks to 95dB your amplifier still isn't using it's first watt of power at 1 meter. The AN E at 95dB sensitive with an 8 watt amplifier is capable of:
                        95dB @ 1w
                        98dB @ 2w
                        101dB @ 4w
                        104dB @ 8 w

                        Audio Note claims their amplifiers can go 50-100% more when required but even without that you really still have a LOT of headroom here at 104db. Now you will get more with SS - or higher power tubes or indeed, higher power SET amps. I will not argue that at all - let's follow it through

                        107dB @16w
                        110dB @32 w
                        113dB @ 64w
                        116dB @ 128w
                        119dB @ 256w

                        While these numbers are fun we must also check the speakers maximum power handling - the speaker can compress too not just the amplifiers. In my AN E's case the maximum power handling is 150 watts per channel.

                        So you can make the case that with a 150 watt amplifier you can achieve 117dB versus only 104dB with 8 watt SET - but Audio Note also provides a spec noting that distortion on the speaker becomes noticeable at 107dB. Still - you are sacrificing 13dB of dynamic headroom going with an 8 watt SET versus a 150 watt solid state or other amplifier. I mean I agree you can't get away from the math. Plus the SS amplifier will sound its best at these high levels while the SET will sound its worst at these high levels.

                        But the reverse is true - SETs sound better at lower levels than SS and what you often get and hear stories about is folks who will say - Speaker XYZ sounds good when the volume is turned up - yes - it's not the speakers however. The reason people always want to turn the speakers up is because SS typically sounds poor at low level so they constantly need to crank the speakers up.

                        I grew up with SS gear and was always salivating over the big hefty high power amps - and SET amps are laughable turds when one looks at the dollar for watts. I get all that but it just became hard to ignore what I was hearing versus what I was reading. When the transient attack inner detail, decay and tonal qualities on amp A flatly trounced the big name SS separates I had to just accept the kooky goofball triode amps' sound. Compression and gross impracticality and all. They really aren't for most people.
                        Senior Reviewer at dagogo.
                        Speakers: Audio Note AN E/Spx HE Alnico, & AX Two, KEF LS-50, Wharfedale Vanguard, Tannoy CR650
                        Pre: Audio Note M3MKiii Phono Balanced
                        Power: Kingko KA 101, Rotel RB 1050
                        Analog: Audio Note TT2 (two motor), Arm 1(V2), IQ1 MM
                        Digital: Audio Note DAC 0.1x, Line Magnetic 215CD & 502CA DAC
                        Cables: Audio Note Vx silver and Lx copper ICs, AN-Spe spker cables

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