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Whats better - Tube or Solid State Amp

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kamran

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I have a pair of Ascent-i. I bought a cheap amp just to test speakers. I am checked several other forums and magazines and now wondering what kind of amp I should buy.

The short list contains
Tube Amp:
Audio Research VSi55 or VS110
Quad's new valve amps

Solid State
Cambridge Azure 840a
Rotel RMB 1095 or Rotel 1080 with 1075
Sunfire Cinema Grand 200Wx5
Aragon 3005 (price a bit higher)

I have also heard that tubes have to be replaced after 5 years or so. Tube amps are also more expansive in general.

Bryston, Classe, and Anthem P5 are too expansive.

My questions are

What would be the top two choices from above?
Is there something better in the price range of above listed amps that I should seriously consider?

I can't audition them side by side for comparison but someone else on the forum may have done that, please share your epxerience.
 
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yogibear

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I think the decision to go with ss or tubes comes down to preference. I've owned both ss and tubes. I am, however, concerned about the current quality of tubes that are being produced. The ARC 55 and the Quad amp may be underpowered for your situation.
 

Robin

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Amplifiers...

kamran,

:D Welcome to the ML Club!
I would recommend auditioning for yourself before you buy. "Trust Your Ears". It's really a question of what you like to hear SS or Tube sound. What kind of media do you listen to most, what percentage of HT vs. Music? For instance, my plans are to eventually have a tubed system exclusively for music listening, as well as a SS system HT and DVD movies... :D
Having said that, I would recommend:

SS from your list for HT:

1). Rotel 1095
2). Sunfire Cinema Grand 200x5

Tube from your list for Music:

1). Audio Research VS110
2). Quad

Good luck on your audio quest... :D
 
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twich54

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your short list is different for SS than tubes in that you have two channel selection in ARC stuff and on the SS side your looking at multichannel Rotel and Sunfire gear.

First decide on your main goal ....multi channel HT or two channel. Regardless I believe you build a killer two channel set-up and add your "HT"/Surround from their. I have yet to hear a "multi-channel" amp that gets my spirits moving !
 

Rich

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Why not both?

Depending on cost considerations, you can do both. I have a pair of ascents that are bi-amped, with the panels driven by a tube amp and the woofers driven by SS monoblocs from Outlaw Audio. I highly recommend these monoblocs. Great quality for minimal dollars. Then you just find a tube amp that matches up well with them and you have a great sounding system. It would also probably allow you to go with a less-powerful tube amp.

One caveat with this idea. The voltage gain for the amps needs to be identical or you would need to introduce an attenuator. If you are interested in pursuing this path, you would want to do some research on bi-amping.

Good luck in your quest.
 

Robin

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Excellent advice and a Great option...

Rich said:
Depending on cost considerations, you can do both. I have a pair of ascents that are bi-amped, with the panels driven by a tube amp and the woofers driven by SS monoblocs from Outlaw Audio. I highly recommend these monoblocs. Great quality for minimal dollars. Then you just find a tube amp that matches up well with them and you have a great sounding system. It would also probably allow you to go with a less-powerful tube amp.

One caveat with this idea. The voltage gain for the amps needs to be identical or you would need to introduce an attenuator. If you are interested in pursuing this path, you would want to do some research on bi-amping.

Good luck in your quest.
Rich,

I concur. We have many here at the ML Club, who have bi-amp'ed ML with tube amp's driving the panels and SS amp's driving the woofers, as with your ML's. Excellent suggestion by-the-way... :D

Rich, I am assuming Summit's wouldn't require an attenuator if a tube amplifier is used to drive the panels? Knowing as we do, that the woofers of the Summits are driven by 400 watt, SS digital internal amplifiers... :confused:
 
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K

kamran

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I listen to Jaz, light rock and some pop music. The system will be used 50% music and 50% HT. I also want to reduce the number of equipment to minimize space. I have room for only one rack with 6 shelves.

Looking at tube most of them come only in stereo and multi-chanel ones are very expansive. I am looking at something good to begin with and perhaps do an upgrade after a year with something better.
 
K

kamran

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Robin you have a killer system. How many amps (CR 140 and outlaw monoblocks) do you have altogether.
 

Rich

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Robin said:
Rich,

I concur. We have many here at the ML Club, who have bi-amp'ed ML with tube amp's driving the panels and SS amp's driving the woofers, as with your ML's. Excellent suggestion by-the-way... :D

Rich, I am assuming Summit's wouldn't require an attenuator if a tube amplifier is used to drive the panels? Knowing as we do, that the woofers of the Summits are driven by 400 watt, SS digital internal amplifiers... :confused:
Thanks, Robin. You are right, I think, that the Summits wouldn't need an attenuator. They are designed to be bi-amped. Although, I don't quite understand why they have speaker level inputs for the bass instead of line level inputs like a subwoofer would have. Since I don't own any yet, I haven't had a chance to play with them and figure this out. Can anyone help me out on that one?

Kamran, I have one tube amp for the panels that outputs 140 watts per channel to two channels. I have two of the Outlaw monoblocs driving the woofers that each put out 200 watts of power to one channel. Basically, one stereo amp and two monoblocs for four channels of amplification.

The outlaw monoblocs are a great deal at two for $624. Here is the link for them:
http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/2200.html
 

Spike

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Kamran,
For jazz, light rock, and some pop, if you're not talking about heavy metal or rap, you should definitely go with tubes on the panels. Furthermore, if you have a weak spot, I meant preference for vocals & liquid midrange, definitely triode tubes on the panels. You're being vague on your budget, so I'm going to pick the top end of $5k being the selling price of the ARC VS110. As an example, for this price, you can spend $2500 to get a tube amplifiers (AES SixPacs, TAD-1000) for the panels, and $1500 for a used solid-state amplifier for the bass (Bryston, Classe', Threshold, etc...) option 2 is to get a hybrid amplifier like Monarchy Audio. Or you can go with a sweet class-A, solid-state amplifier like Plinius. Lots of choices...

Spike
 
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kamran

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Thanks Spike,

My budget was $5000 to build a 5.1 HT with two amplifier units. But it seems like it won't be possible to do that.

If I have to buy two amps (tube and SS) just to drive fronts (stereo) than I will need at least another 2 units to drive the center and rear.

I don't know anymore what to do.
 

DTB300

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kamran said:
Sunfire Cinema Grand 200Wx5
One of these on sale over at Audiogon for $2200. 5 Channel to drive all the speakers for now...But other amps later on....

That would leave you approx $2800 for Rear and Center channel speakers which is very do-able. You may just have to live with a lesser speaker for now until you have the cash for the Rear and Center Channel you really want.

Dan
 
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kamran

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Rich said:
I have a pair of ascents that are bi-amped, with the panels driven by a tube amp and the woofers driven by SS monoblocs from Outlaw Audio.
Good luck in your quest.
I am new to this stuff and am overwhelmed with the information from forums and going over specs of different brands people use. So, bare with me while I get aclamated with the technology.

At first I didn't quite understand what Rich meant by bi-amping fronts with tube and SS but now it makes sense.

I could buy a rotel or sunfire 200Watts 5 channel amp now and later add a tube to bi-amp the front with tube feeding the panel. One question though, are there three chanel good tube amps so I can power the center same way when I do get it later on. I read every where that front and center should be powered by same amp.
 

Rich

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kamran said:
I could buy a rotel or sunfire 200Watts 5 channel amp now and later add a tube to bi-amp the front with tube feeding the panel. One question though, are there three chanel good tube amps so I can power the center same way when I do get it later on. I read every where that front and center should be powered by same amp.
Absolutely, you could do that. It would give you a decent system now for music and movies, and a solid upgrade path as money permits. I am not personally familiar with any three channel tube amps, but you might be able to find three identical monoblocs, or a stereo amp and a monobloc with similar characteristics made by the same manufacturer. That's what I plan to do when I upgrade from 2.1 to 7.1 in the near future.
 

garmtz

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All good suggestions, but think to yourself how important movies are for you. If they are major important, please do buy a center channel and surround speakers from MartinLogan and partner them with either a Sunfire or Lexicon surround receiver. Having the same amplification on all channels make a HUGE difference in the surround experience. Believe me, I have been there trying to match surrounds and fronts with different brands of amplifiers. It just won't happen, despite what people say that are using different amps for 'stereo' and 'surround and center channel'.

If you value surround and don't mind second hand, look into Parasound multichannel power amplifiers. GREAT value for money and near unbeatable at the price. Sunfire is also a good choice. For surround processors, look at Meridian, Tag McLaren, Aragon, Lexicon.

If you don't value surround that much, you would be better off using a good 2-channel amplifier and connecting a surround receiver front pre-outs to one of its inputs with a fixed volume setting. This is cumbersome to say the least...

Why not keep a good 2-channel system and watching movies in stereo? Then you can buy a really good amplifier and front end.

Myself, I have never heard a good system with a mix of solid state and tubes. Both have different phase characteristics and different gain and you only would be lucky to get it right. very hard to do unless you know exactly what you are doing.
 

Spike

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kamran said:
One question though, are there three chanel good tube amps so I can power the center same way when I do get it later on. I read every where that front and center should be powered by same amp.
Do you REALLY need to match the center channel with the same tube amps as the L/R? At first, I firmly believed that the center channel needs to be exactly the same (hence my purchase of the Classe' amplifiers). But then, as I listened to my system over the years, I found that the center channel speaker (Cinema) is NOT the same as my ReQuests so having the exact same amplification does not yield the same sound signature. Furthermore, the center channel is only enabled for multi-channel music listening or movies where the sound is heavily mixed/processed (and I have not mentioned compression). So, with the environment involving the center channel is not as "pure" as 2-channel music, I am now leaning away from the requirement of having the exact matching amplification for the front 3 channels. For example, I am seriously considering the Monarchy Audio SM-70 running in monobloc mode for my center-channel to match with my bi-amped ReQuests.

Good luck
Spike
 

DTB300

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Spike said:
So, with the environment involving the center channel is not as "pure" as 2-channel music, I am now leaning away from the requirement of having the exact matching amplification for the front 3 channels. For example, I am seriously considering the Monarchy Audio SM-70 running in monobloc mode for my center-channel to match with my bi-amped ReQuests.
I had a friend who use to run the Monarchy on his tweeters in a Tri-Amp setup and he switched to the Aleph 30 and was blown away by the improvement. His reason for change was to run Class A with the Aleph on the tweeters to run with his Plinius SA-100 Class A on the midrange.

Here is a link for the Aleph review in case you or others are interested:
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0701/volksamp.htm

Dan
 

Spike

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Good suggestion on the Pass Aleph. The Aleph 3 was on my list but it could not be monobloc'ed to power the center channel. Furthermore, as I mentioned in my post, multi-channel music and movies are NOT that high on my list so the Monarchy will do fine. If the center channel was that important to me, I'd have a ReQuest, and another SixPacs + Classe' for the center :D

Spike
 
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kamran

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Hmmm... so if the center does need to have perfectly matching amp than it simplifies things a little. But the post from garmtz "I have never heard a good system with a mix of solid state and tubes" has me confused. But I will have to worry about it later.

I will add Parasound A51 to my list of SS amps.

What should I get for the Pre/pro? So far I have the following on list
Parasound C2 (I do not like the build quality)
Rotel 1068 (nice but lacks a little on bass)
Aragon Stage One (have yet to audition - little over budget)
Bryston SP 1.7 (Yet to audition - little over budget)
 

DTB300

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Spike said:
Good suggestion on the Pass Aleph. The Aleph 3 was on my list but it could not be monobloc'ed to power the center channel.
Sorry about that :rolleyes: my bad. Center channel....mono....engage brain :D

I had a friend of mine design a circut for an amp I had to be able to run stereo or mono - I needed it for a sub amp. Wonder if it could be done for the Aleph and not degrade the sound?

Furthermore, as I mentioned in my post, multi-channel music and movies are NOT that high on my list so the Monarchy will do fine. If the center channel was that important to me, I'd have a ReQuest, and another SixPacs + Classe' for the center :D
Same here...two channel first. I realize I could get improved sound with some better components for MCH and HT stuff. But I will live with what I have for now with higher priorities on $$$$ for kids....college tuition, room and board, etc.

Dan
 
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