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Terry O and Cafad's Integrated Amp Challenge.


Cafad

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Some time ago Terry managed to get me a bit on the annoyed side when he mentioned something about tubes.  I don't recall exactly what it was but I reacted defensively since I am not of the belief that all my amplifier investigations could be solved just by hearing a good tubed amp (as many followers of the glowing tube seem to fervently believe). 

 

Things may have ended there but I met Terry at Mike Lenehan's last GTG and we got to talking, far easier to talk to someone without the great anonimiser of the internet in the way, and we both managed to explain which direction we were coming from (me just knee jerk reacting to someone who I thought was claiming tubes are always better than solid state and he from a point of view of having discovered a tube combo that he feels sounds more solid state than most solid state amps).  So anyway, long story short, we just had to have an integrated amp shoot out/comparison.  Just because.  And we have finally gotten around to it.

 

I'll put some pics up just as soon as I can work out how to from my phone, not my usual way of operating.  Details to come too, of course.

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22 minutes ago, Decky said:

Why did you put beer cans on that middle amp - to cool it down? ?

No, it just seemed like the thing to do after a long listening session.  And we did have the cans to spare.

 

19 minutes ago, aasza said:

I spy with my little eye a Sonneteer Orton ?

Correct.  It performed well.

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Hi, 

It would be great if you guys compare amps with the same popular songs and let us know what was the difference. My suggestion would be: 

Queen - Breakthrough 

Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal

Nils Lofgren bass & drum intro

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6 minutes ago, Irek said:

Hi, 

It would be great if you guys compare amps with the same popular songs and let us know what was the difference. My suggestion would be: 

Queen - Breakthrough 

Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal

Nils Lofgren bass & drum intro

Things are a bit more complicated than just choosing songs by request.  Terry has a room excitement issue so we're using some vocal tracks for fun and enjoyment but we're using Money for Nothing on each amp and with several tube changes on the prima luna to see just what we can do to understand and reduce the room effects.

We'll get more into the details once we've actually finished playing with tubes. 

I've got to get to the room sweeps yet, busy, busy, busy.

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Well Cafad has started off on his three hour drive home so I have some time to cause havoc before he can reply. ... :na:

 

First off it was great to finally be able to meet properly and get to do some serious comparing and try to figure out what's not working with my rooms Acoustics.

Yesterday afternoon Jeff came over and bought with him a very impressive list of amps and a couple I would be very happy to own, his upgraded ME240 was perhaps the biggest surprise for me. It is a truly lovely sounding amp and at the price they sell for they are a true bargain and one I will be looking out for. Surprisingly out of all the amps Jeff bought with him the little ME just worked with my Vienna Concert Grand speakers so well.

His big top of the line Sansui integrated is a almost mystical sounding creature, I knew the old Sansui's were good but could not imagine that they could possibly be that good, it just did everything so very right.

 

Initially Jeff and I wanted to have a gtg to compare amps and have spoken about doing this since Mike's gtg last year, since then I have bought a house, I expected given it had a dedicated purpose built HT room that I would finally get a great sounding room, anyone who has read some of my recent comments about my rooms acoustics would know that was not the case, so Jeff kindly offered to visit and do a room measurement which could also pass as out amp comparo gtg.

After listening to all of Jeffs amps we finally played the PL and what became obvious was my PL Integrated was, as strangely as this sounds, overpowering the room and at higher volumes really sounded a bit ordinary. Now this happens in our new room but in the previous three rooms in different house we have lived in over the last little while that has not been the case, the PL has sounded excellent in my system. 

Jeff and I discussed this quite a bit and he thinks given his experience with similar sounding rooms that chances are the correct room treatment will sort out these issues I have been having since first moving in. But as he added I may end up with a room that works a treat with the PL and might sound a bit dead with other amps.

 

I guess the challenge is to find the balance, hopefully affordably as well.

 

So last night while we were at it comparing amps we also compared CD players, I have a PL Prologue Classic and a Oppo 205 and Jeff bought along his impressive Denson CD player and to add another level of complication to our research while we were swapping between amps and sources we also managed to consume a reasonable quantity of Asahi at the same time, which made things even more interesting, who needs the often spoken about double blind tests, if you have Asahi, if you drink enough of it you end up having a blind test anyway.

 

So where did we end up, this time around I would say the Sansui has its nose in front of the PL in my sonically challenged room. So Jeff and I have agreed to have another gtg in a month or so and in the meantime I will try to get my room sorted properly and then we can have some more serious listening with some more Asahi and BBQ thrown in for good measure. Now that I'm looking forward too.

 

Below is a pic of a thorn between two roses. ... :winky:

 

cheers Terry

 

image.jpeg

Edited by TerryO
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As an addition to Terry's post above the little Sonneteer Orton sounded very nice (we started out with it), very clean and very clear but it didn't quite have the drive in the bass needed to get those Vienna Accoustics (great speakers by the way Terry) to behave when the music dove deep.  In the treble and mids though, loved it.

 

Then came the Retrothermionic.  I was confused by it as it didn't sound as warm as I remembered it being with my speakers back home.  It was lightly warm but only lightly and needed to be turned up to around 3 o'clock on the volume dial to get to the same sort of volume that the other amps managed at around midnight.  The unexpected nature of its sound had me distracted enough that I couldn't get a good read on it.  I'll have to get back to it later.

 

Then came the ME240, and it was awesome.  It suited those speakers like they were soul mates.  There was warmth there were dynamics and most of all there was musicality.  I think this little GTG of ours would have only been half as enjoyable as it was without the ME240, that's how well it worked.  It was certainly the amp that spent the longest time in use in one hit.  

 

Next up was the Sansui 907NRA, and it did not disappoint.  It felt both a little laid back and yet also significantly powerful at the same time.  Top end and mids that were a combination of the cleanliness of the Orton and the earthy, natural nature of the ME240 and a bottom end that was both tight and controlled but still just a little laid back.  

 

I had the intention of trying to sell Terry the Densen B420 cd player on this trip, only a soft sell of course, and it did perform well but I must say I thought it was only a little more musical than his Oppo turned out to be.  This was something of a shock to me as I've heard 3 or 4 Oppos now and I was of the opinion that they were a bit on the bright side, like a Rotel sort of brightness.  Not this time.  So the Densen had to come back home with me.  I'll tuck it into its box and put it back on the top of my cupboard until next time.  

 

The Prima Luna was something of a shock.  Keeping in mind the room issue, the Prima Luna actually had the tightest drums of all the amps listed.  It did not sound like a "tube amp" at all, at least not with the first set of tuning tubes.  I can't recall which tubes were what but Terry tried about 4 different sets and each one changed the sound of the amp massively.  One set had what I would have called the traditional tube sound with the nice holographic/fluid top end and unfocused drums, one set was more in the middle between the two.  It was a bit on the confusing side for a non-tube believer but it certainly did illustrate the potential inherent in tube rolling and why everybody seems to love doing it.

 

It was a bit strange to find out that the room effects Terry had been talking about recently seem to be 10 times as bad when he is using a tube amp as it is when using any of those solid state amps of mine.  Because "conventional wisdom"  says that tubes are good and solid state amps are bad.  Of course "conventional wisdom" can be a load of bollocks, and in this case it is.  In this case tubes are a big part of the problem.  We're just not sure why.

 

I was all set to do some room measurements and frequency sweeps but I stuffed up and took the wrong laptop with me.  I put the Anthem ARC software on my new laptop a while ago (when I was reviewing that STR integrated) and that was the computer I remembered when I offered to take it with me to Terry's place.  Unfortunately I had the generic software on this older laptop and the ARC wouldn't work without a specific microphone.  So the room measurement will have to wait until part 2 of this exercise.

 

Thanks again for the hospitality Terry, the beer and the rack of lamb was far better fare than I'm used to and the audio side of things was better than expected as well.  

Next time I'll have to bring the correct computer, the Technical Brain and Simon's Zeus integrated (and whatever else I have to hand of course).

Edited by Cafad
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This to me is what SNA should be about. Sharing of knowledge and equipment to garner the best possible outcome.

 

We all come with our own prejudices and preconceived ideas. We also come with a knowledge bank built from our own experiences. Rather than these pointless circular arguments of “my opinion is better than yours” , we should get together and listen to the products we are arguing about. The point of which is to increase our experience and knowledge and hopefully to improve our enjoyment of reproduced music.

 

In the end we still won’t agree about everything but in my experience improvements are usually fairly universally agreed upon. Such shared experiences help to break down our prejudices and open our minds to understand why others see things as they do.  This is true in all aspects of life and the world would be a better place  if we did it more.

 

Good work gentlemen.

 

Q: What is round and mean?

A: A vicious circle.

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8 minutes ago, gat474 said:

Damn, my ME240 is one product I wish I’d kept.

No one tell Zaph that I reckon the ME240 is pretty damn good otherwise I will never hear the end of it next time I getting on my tube high horse. ... :winky:

 

cheers Terry

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On 24/02/2019 at 5:34 PM, Cafad said:

The Prima Luna was something of a shock.  Keeping in mind the room issue, the Prima Luna actually had the tightest drums of all the amps listed.  It did not sound like a "tube amp" at all, at least not with the first set of tuning tubes.  I can't recall which tubes were what but Terry tried about 4 different sets and each one changed the sound of the amp massively.  One set had what I would have called the traditional tube sound with the nice holographic/fluid top end and unfocused drums, one set was more in the middle between the two.  It was a bit on the confusing side for a non-tube believer but it certainly did illustrate the potential inherent in tube rolling and why everybody seems to love doing it.

 

It was a bit strange to find out that the room effects Terry had been talking about recently seem to be 10 times as bad when he is using a tube amp as it is when using any of those solid state amps of mine.  Because "conventional wisdom"  says that tubes are good and solid state amps are bad.  Of course "conventional wisdom" can be a load of bollocks, and in this case it is.  In this case tubes are a big part of the problem.  We're just not sure why.

The tubes I rolled were into the centre 12au7's spots, the first pair that delivered the bass slam that Jeff speaks off was a pair of Tungsram  Tilburgs. To say they deliver detail and bass slam is a understatement, but that powerful delivery actually adds to this rooms issues if anything.

I also rolled in various other NOS 12au7's, from my favourite very musical RadioTechnique's to possibly the cleanest sounding 12au7's I own the 1960's Japanese NEC's which if anything calmed the PL down and had it sounding pretty reasonable.

I also rolled in some NOS E80CC's in place of the centre 12au7's, from the smooth sounding Dutch Philips MiniWatt's through to the power crazy Tungsrams  that make the  poor old PL sound like it is about to leap of off the floor and bounce around the room, having said that the sq they deliver is very impressive, though they lack the bass slam of the Tilburgs.

 

Add in KT150's (Beer cans) power tubes and the PL HP does deliver some very decent oomph that few SS people who have listened to this system believe is coming from a tube amp.

One consideration anyone looking at getting into tube amps has to think about is if I add up how much I have spent on the various NOS tubes then I could have bought another decent amp or two. Still once bitten by the tube bug it's hard to stop and as Jeff said changing tubes made a massive difference.

In fact the difference you get in sq from changing just those two little centre tubes in the PL has to be heard to be believed. 

 

Anyway I need to fix my room before taking on the big Sansui again.

 

Still either way I'm looking forward to our next little gtg, Jeff is a gentleman and we very much enjoyed his company.

 

...even if he can't help being a SS guy ... :winky:

 

cheers Terry

Edited by TerryO
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To be able to pick out the differences between the various 12au7 suggests to me that the Viennas must be a reasonably revealing speaker Terry. I'll add VA to my little bucket list of speakers-to-do. I'm not sure if we can get VA in Perth but will check it out.

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1 hour ago, Cafad said:

How long do you think it will take Terry to remember the Time Machine if we don't remind him?

I was actually going to leave it up to you to mention what the second system was like.

 

cheers Terry

 

 

Edited by TerryO
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20 hours ago, TerryO said:

I was actually going to leave it up to you to mention what the second system was like.

 

cheers Terry

 

 

Nicely hand-balled sir.  Ok then.

 

Terry has a Weston Time Machine integrated amp as well as his vicious, take no prisoners, Prima Luna that he uses in a second system in his TV room.  His second system also consists of an Oppo player and a pair of Vienna Accoustics speakers but the model down from the pair in his main rig.  This amp, for reasons that can only be described as component synergy, work really well with the smaller VA speakers but not so well with the larger ones.  Don't get me wrong it still sounds extremely good in the mids but it struggles with the bottom end.  On the smaller pair it does not.  So the Time Machine was also included in the Inaugural round of Terry O and Cafads Great and Wonderful Integrated Amp Challenge.  (Too much maybe?  It was just a thought., say it out loud a few times and let me know what you think.  It's not set in stone.)

 

Those 7 watts gave good Rock (in addition to good everything else of course) on the smaller Viennas but not so great on the larger ones.  On slower music the quality of presentation was up there with the best but it didn't have quite enough volume to satisfy and the bass was a little de-emphasized.  Still, 7 watts!!!!!!  

 

Now, if you'll all excuse me I have an Allan Taylor album to order from Amazon.com.  Several of Terry's test tracks seem to have stuck with me.

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Nice write up.

No surprise the Time Machine did not cut the mustard. The VAs are not suited for a 7 watt valve amplifier. With impedance dipping down to 2 ohms in the 100 hertz region you naturally will hear the bass giving up.

 

Thanks for sharing your experience non the less.

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2 hours ago, Ihearmusic said:

Nice write up.

No surprise the Time Machine did not cut the mustard. The VAs are not suited for a 7 watt valve amplifier. With impedance dipping down to 2 ohms in the 100 hertz region you naturally will hear the bass giving up.

 

Thanks for sharing your experience non the less.

Actually the 7watt's of Time Machine 2A3 amplification / VA Beethoven Baby Grand speakers / Oppo 205 combo works a real treat, no shortage of excellent sounding bass or volume at all and that is in a big (ish) high ceiling open room.

 

Take out the VA Baby Grands and swap them for VA Concert Grands in that system then that does not work.

 

The Baby Grands have always been big on bass, the Concert Grands are big on detail and need some decent hp to get good bass.

 

cheers Terry

Edited by TerryO
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Guest Muon N'
On 24/02/2019 at 12:30 PM, shogo33 said:

too hairy for my liking.. :P

My thought was I hope they are wearing pants! :o

 

 

 

Cool thread, Terry/Cafad :)

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