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Summits and a 15w Tube Amp?

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Craig

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A friend of mine was generous enough to let me borrow his Cary CAD-300-SEI Integrated tube amp for a couple of days to see how it would work with my Summits. The CAD-300-SEI is a 300B Single Ended amp that puts out a mere 15 watts and designed for use with very efficient speakers and is probably one of the best headphones amps around (unfortunately, I don't own headphones so I didn't have the opportunity to check that out). Since the Summits have a built-in amp for the woofer and are rated at 92dB sensitivity I was curious to see if such a low wattage SET amp would have a chance with these speakers.

I hooked up the Cary 300SEI to the Summits and after letting it warm up I turned the volume up past to about the 1 O'clock position thinking it was going take just about all the power the amp could put out. The sound at that level was noticeably grainy and not something I cared to listen to, not even for a minute. I thought, sure enough it's not nearly enough power for these electrostats. My initial reaction was that this amp wasn't going to work, even with the internally amped Summits. I then turned the volume down to about the 10 O'clock position and started to listen. I found it was actually pretty good at that level. The more I listened the more I liked what I was hearing.

Several CDs later (and then some...) I was quite impressed with the 300-SEI and convinced that I could live with these speakers being powered with 300B tubes. It was very musical and pleasing to me but only as long as I kept the volume at low to moderate levels. However, I usually play at low to moderate anyway. Only on a rare occasion do I crank it up. What I would say that was missing the most was that the dynamics were somewhat lacking but the imaging, soundstage and mid-range were great and satisfying to listen to.

You can't biamp Summits or Vantage speakers because they have an internal amp. However, they are literally biamped anyway when you think about it. Any amp connected to them are only driving the panels. The bass was still good with the Cary SEI and I didn't have to readjust the bass controls on the Summits. As long as the speakers are getting a good bass signal they will play very tight and robust bass.

After seeing what this amp could do with the Summits I then tried using the 15w 300B amp on my Ascents. Common sense tells me that this combination won't work. We'll, common sense was right. It will not work with Ascents (or probably any other traditional ML electrostat speaker). It did produce sound through the panels but it was very, very thin with almost no bass what so ever. Obviously, not even close to having enough power to drive Ascents. Maybe if it was biamped it would work but I have my doubts and didn't bother to go any further with that experiment.

I do have a 50watt Jolida 501A Integrated Tube amp with 4 KT-88 tubes and it works well with the Ascents. But, I'm sure it would perform even better with more power.

I was impressed that I could drive the Summits with a 15W 300B tube amp. However, let me caveat that with this statement; The 15W 300B tube will sound nice with the Summits but it's certainly not the best amp to use if you want more dynamics or a more robust volume level. But it did sound good enough to me that I could live with it for a while. The fact that it works at all with a model (or two) of electrostats is very significant in my opinion. I would now really like to hear these Summits powered with Cary's 805 50w mono amps or something similiar.
 

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Spike

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I asked Dennis Had similar questions when looking for a Cary amplifier to drive the panels on my ReQuests and he did not think the 300B-based tube amplifiers would work. Just because these amplifiers were designed with very simple circuitry to drive a very benign load of high-efficiency speakers. The rationale being that the simplicity of the circuitry works towards being as transparent as possible. Benign load is not a trait of ML speakers (even just panels only). For Logans, Dennis recommended something beefier, V12R (or a pair of SixPacs), 850C or a pair of 211 :) I remember having the same discussion with another member here and he was very happy with 805C driving his Vantage. Good luck with your search.

Spike
 

Craig

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I asked Dennis Had similar questions when looking for a Cary amplifier to drive the panels on my ReQuests and he did not think the 300B-based tube amplifiers would work.
Spike,
I wonder if Dennis Had considered the new Summit and Vantage when he said the 300B based tube amp would not work. I tried it on the Ascents and couldn't come close to driving them. However, their was a big difference when driving the Summits. It did work on the Summits but just barely. The Summits appear to be much more efficient over the Ascents than the specs indicate. I would recommend a higher powered amp than 15w of tubes for the Summits but in my opinion you could get by with it for low level listening. 15w on the Ascents or similiar...forget it, not even at low levels or biamped.
 

Craig

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In addition: Glad you mentioned more robust Cary amps are recommended because the same friend who loaned me the Cary CAD-300-SEI also has several other Cary amps to include a pair of 50W 805 mono blocks (Anniversery Edition?) and a pair of Cary solid state 500B mono blocks that are 500w of pure muscle each (1000w at 8 ohms). He has never heard Martin Logan electrostats so I offered to haul my Ascents over to his house so he can hear how they would sound powered with those amps individualy and then biamped with the 805s on the panels and the 500Bs on the woofers. Of course I'm anxious to hear these setups as well. Not to mention the front-end is top-rate Cary as well. I'll let you know how it goes.
 

MarkNewbie

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Craig said:
In addition: Glad you mentioned more robust Cary amps are recommended because the same friend who loaned me the Cary CAD-300-SEI also has several other Cary amps to include a pair of 50W 805 mono blocks (Anniversery Edition?) and a pair of Cary solid state 500B mono blocks that are 500w of pure muscle each (1000w at 8 ohms). He has never heard Martin Logan electrostats so I offered to haul my Ascents over to his house so he can hear how they would sound powered with those amps individualy and then biamped with the 805s on the panels and the 500Bs on the woofers. Of course I'm anxious to hear these setups as well. Not to mention the front-end is top-rate Cary as well. I'll let you know how it goes.
Wowsa! What do those 500B's do into 4 ohms and 2 ohm loads? I would hate to know the cost of those monsters! I have always liked Cary but the price vs output wattage always kept me away. Maybe it also has to do with my "Tim, the Toolman Taylor" attitude! urr, urr urr! :D
 

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Craig said:
What I would say that was missing the most was that the dynamics were somewhat lacking but the imaging, soundstage and mid-range were great and satisfying to listen to..
Thanks for the review, we were all curious about these new speaker to power amp combinations/possiblities.
 

Craig

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The Specs only show the wattage output at 8 and 4 ohms. 500 and 1000 respectively. If it continues to double-down then 2000w at 2 ohms perhaps? I'm sure there's a lot of untapped power that won't be used unless you're driving E2 Statements. Will see if the street lights dim and flicker when we crank it up.Cary 500B amp Cary 500B amp review
 

MarkNewbie

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Craig said:
The Specs only show the wattage output at 8 and 4 ohms. 500 and 1000 respectively. If it continues to double-down then 2000w at 2 ohms perhaps? I'm sure there's a lot of untapped power that won't be used unless you're driving E2 Statements. Will see if the street lights dim and flicker when we crank it up.Cary 500B amp Cary 500B amp review
Hey thanks for the links! As Cary's history has been one of "Tube" expertise, I thought these were tube amps and not solid state. In my mind I was trying to imagine what they had to look like to put out that kind of power with tubes. So I am sure you can imagine my dissappointment when I hit the hyperlinks. Just the thought of that much power from a tube amp had me salivating. It's that "power" thing that lead me to Pass...urr, urr, urr! :cool: Again, thanks for the links and reviews.
 

Spike

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Craig said:
I wonder if Dennis Had considered the new Summit and Vantage when he said the 300B based tube amp would not work. I tried it on the Ascents and couldn't come close to driving them.
I asked this question a couple of years ago, summer of 2004, before the Summit came out. But I specifically asked whether his amplifiers would work driving only the panels in a bi-amplifying configuration. Dennis said that at 15wpc, it's a stretch for the 300B-tube amp(s) to drive the panels. Specifically for the panels, Dennis, Victor K. (of BAT), Mick Maloney (of SupraTek), and a few other designers converged on the figure of SOLID 30wpc as the minimum.
However, their was a big difference when driving the Summits. It did work on the Summits but just barely.
This is confirming Dennis' point on the 300B-tube amp being "stretched".

Regarding the 805C driving the Logans, take a look at the following thread
"bought some vantages" and see Steve's preliminary review (on page 3) of the Cary 805C driving the Vantages.

On the topic of the Cary 500 monoblocs driving the woofers in a bi-amping configuration, I think that is way overkill for the caliber of the amps. A good "gently owned' Bryston or Krell is more than enough to provide the vise-grip control on the woofer at a MUCH lower cost.

Spike
 

Robin

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Cary Audio SS amplifiers...

Craig said:
The Specs only show the wattage output at 8 and 4 ohms. 500 and 1000 respectively. If it continues to double-down then 2000w at 2 ohms perhaps? I'm sure there's a lot of untapped power that won't be used unless you're driving E2 Statements. Will see if the street lights dim and flicker when we crank it up.Cary 500B amp Cary 500B amp review
Craig,

I was pleasantly suprised by the control and power of the Cary Cinema X, during my audition of amplifiers awhile back. I like the fact that Cary Audio has excellent tubed amplifiers as well. Cary delivers excellent audio. I just loved the more sonically revealing imagery of the Anthem Statement amplifiers. I would be interested to know how the Ascent i's would sound with the Cary 500 Mono Block amplifier attached to them. Let us know how it all truns out... :D
 
S

Steve Daigneault

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hey craig... i've got the cary 805c w/ my vantages, and they easily handle them. very open, transparent, liquid, smooth, with incredible inner detail, i can hear deep into the music, subtle small sounds, like a page turning, or someone stepping, or taking a breath. incredible. for vocal, jazz, piano, r&b, rock, i felt like they had plenty of power, the sound never strained or gritty.

i did feel like they were a bit closed in, and at times, maybe not able to delineate the different players and singers in the soundstage. transparent, but when things got busy, maybe a little muddy.

i've since swapped out the electroharmonix w/ some KR balloon 300bs, and that improved the tone. better balance from top to bottom, opened things up even more. but things still felt a little muddied sometimes. and the midrange felt exagerated at times. that was with GE 211s or the stock 845s (my amps were modified to Cary to take either 211 or 845).

I then got a pair of SuperTNT 845Ms, and SNAP! no more muddiness, no more midrange exageration. just totally clear, totally balanced, controlled (not like SS grip, but still decent), while retaining all the liquid magic, the detail, and the ease of presentation. really stunning amps. i have owned the VAC 70/70 mk3, and that is a truly stunning amp as well, and i didn't think the cary 805c was it's equal, but after swapping out some tubes, i think it's better in some areas (midrange, wholeness of presentation, inner detail, soundstaging), maybe not as good in others (power, music is even more at ease, i could tell i had power in reserves).

i'm very very happy. i've still got some ECC35s on the way, and i think things will improve even more. right now i'm using Sylvania 6SL7 WGTs, and they are excellent, but i think the mullard ecc35s will outshine them. we'll see, i'll post an update, and some pictures (tomorrow i'm goin to try to get my camera out and finally update my system!).

oh, btw, the vantages totally outclass the Aerius i in woofer/panel integration, and obviously in bass, both in depth and in musicality. i never thought i was a big bass freak, but you know, hearing the vantage has really helped me appreciate how low, deep, powerful and musical bass can make a big difference. the real highlight though is how well they integrated the panel with the woofer... what an improvement, it's a huge step forward.
 

Craig

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I did get to try out the Cary 805 Anniversary amp as well as the Cary 500MB on the Ascents. It wasn't the best conditions for an audition since we were both pressed for time and the speakers were in a completely different room and setup than mine. Also, we played music that I never heard before. Regardless, the 805 Anniversary amps were awesome but I'm sure I didn't hear them at thier full potential. The only way to do that would have been me to take them home for a few days.

The most significant difference between the 805 and the CAD 500MB was that the 500 had complete control over the bass. Not that the 805 was bad it's just that the 500MB was better. 50 watts vs 500 watts probably had a lot to do with that. I'm very confident that bass would not be an issue with Summits or the Vantage. The bass from the Summits was great even with the 15 watt CAD-300SEI I auditioned.

I also thought the 500MB sounded very good overall if not better than the 805. But then, this was a short listening test in conditions that weren't optimal for a valid comparison. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to try these out but I don't think I would haul the Ascents again unless we knew we had more time to make it worthwhile. But it was fun while it lasted.
 

Spike

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Result was expected

Craig said:
I did get to try out the Cary 805 Anniversary amp as well as the Cary 500MB on the Ascents...
Not that the 805 was bad it's just that the 500MB was better. 50 watts vs 500 watts probably had a lot to do with that....
I also thought the 500MB sounded very good overall if not better than the 805.
I'm not surprised that you found the 500MB "better" than the 805 Anniversaries driving the Ascents full-range. In my previous posts, I was trying to be carefull by stating that the low-powered tube amps should be utilized to drive the panels only. Trying to get the 805s to drive the Ascents full-range is not a realistic goal for the 805s were not designed for such load. Now, if you can convince your friend to haul the 805s and the 500MB to your place for a real audition:

  1. 805 monoblocs driving the Summits.
  2. 500MB driving the Summits.
  3. Bi-Amp Ascents with 805s on the panels and 500MB on the woofers.

Happy auditioning!
Spike
 

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