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Choice of SET Tube Amp and MATCH Speakers


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As I posted elsewhere on the forum,  I decided to try tubes and bought a Muzishare X7 amp. Together with my new MHDT Orchid DAC I have been getting a great sound out of my system. A couple of weeks ago while on a long weekend off, I listened to a hand made 300b SET Amp in the manufacturer store in Valencia Spain. I could not believe a 8W amp could drive the pair of not so efficient (Wharfdale but don't remember the exact reference) speakers. The sound was just wow. Detailed and smooth and contrary to what I was lead to believe the amp could both jazz and rock which was why I thought I needed a push pull. That was the sound I was looking for! So I am thinking now to go get a SET amp.

I have been pretty much decided on the Line Magnetic 508 which seems to be an incredible value, but looking for some more feedback. My listening room is rather small (about 4 x 3 meters or 13 x 10 FT). I would love to get some recommendations - also for speaker matching. I am very happy with my Italian Audel Sonika speakers who deliver great detail and a huge 3d stage, but am looking for a bit bigger monitors which will give more body (while keeping this 3D). Understand I probably need to look at the more sensitive side (the Audel are 87db). 
 
 
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508/805 is a great amp and your story sounds similar to mine. I’m hooked on that SE sound.

I am using DIY Markaudio A11ms in a Sea Stack enclosure and it really spotlights the LM 805’s strengths.

@Grizzly could chime in here.

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I've tried a few speakers with 300b amps and you're room is reasonably similar in size. Personally I'm not a particularly loud listener so I've not had to turn mine up very much. 

 

The speakers I've tried vary from mid eighties to mid nineties in sensitivity. Spendors SP1 and SA1 have sounded fantastic, beautiful and lush. Yamaha ns1000 were ok but sounded better on push pull. They lost a bit of impact. Wharfedale Linton's were a reasonably harder load dropping below 4 ohm in places but still worked well. 

I think of you aren't needing huge volumes then your sensitivity will be fine. Unless the impedance really drops or does so in several places you'll also probably be fine.

 

It seems like you really like your speakers, I'd keep them and see how they go for a good while before trying anything else.

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi @al2813. Keep an eye out for a pair of WLM speakers from Austria. 

I have the Diva floorstanders (97db, 8ohm) and there is a large monitor model with similar efficiency.

The previous owner demoed the speakers for me using his 300B monoblocks (7wpc) and they went loud and proud with plenty in reserve. A good, fun all rounder, majoring in tone & timbre. 

Some speaker manufacturers inflate their sensitivity numbers but I get the impression that the Divas are pretty close to the claimed 97db. My 50w KT88 amp is in cruise mode the whole time. 

Edited by deanB
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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, deanB said:

Hi @al2813. Keep an eye out for a pair of WLM speakers from Austria. 

I have the Diva floorstanders (97db, 8ohm). The previous owner demoed the speakers for me using his 300B monoblocks (7wpc) and they went loud and proud with plenty in reserve. A good, fun all rounder, majoring in tone & timbre. 

Some speaker manufacturers inflate their sensitivity numbers but I get the impression that the Divas are pretty close to the claimed 97db. My 50w KT88 is in cruise mode the whole time. 

 

This pair would fit the bill nicely:

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/274466462328

Edited by xlr8or
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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

 

This pair would fit the bill nicely:

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/274466462328

Well done Kirk. The Makassar finish is just sooo nice. I think the finish of mine is called Tineo(?)

20210524_215109.thumb.jpg.c700c046c18018d746cd35f5549469e1.jpg

Edited by deanB
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2 minutes ago, deanB said:

Well done Kirk. The Makassar finish is just sooo nice. I think the finish of mine is called Tineo(?)

20210524_215109.thumb.jpg.c700c046c18018d746cd35f5549469e1.jpg

 

You are 100% correct that the solution lies with the speaker choice rather than the amp. These are gorgeous looking speakers to own and appear to have more than enough efficiency to run with any high quality 300B, 2A3, 45, 805, 211 or 845 SET amp. Any PP triode or UL design would also work nicely. 👍👍👍

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@al2813 great you like the SET sound as do I.

 

Have you heard an 805 amp? It won’t sound much like a 300B at all and neither will 211 or 845. I find the large transmitting tubes lacking compared to 45, 2A3 and 300B. 
 

I get it that you need the power but go and listen before buying. If you really end up digging SET sound then you’ll need to ditch your speakers IMO.
 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Gryffles said:

@al2813 great you like the SET sound as do I.

 

Have you heard an 805 amp? It won’t sound much like a 300B at all and neither will 211 or 845. I find the large transmitting tubes lacking compared to 45, 2A3 and 300B. 
 

I get it that you need the power but go and listen before buying. If you really end up digging SET sound then you’ll need to ditch your speakers IMO.
 

 

No I have not and this is exactly the point I was looking for feedback on. Thanks for raising this! The worse thing is that I am struggling to find a place where I could listen to both variants and make my own mind. The huge issue in Belgium (and I am happy to rant about this forever) is that finding a store that will lend you gear is not evident. The stores here prefer to have people listen in the store and then push them for the sale. Hate it!!!! 

Edited by al2813
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Yes common problem so decide if you are willing to buy used to try at prices you can resell if required.

 

I just had a quick look on Audiomarkt and I see options already:

 

Almarro A318b 1300 euro

 

Sounds very good and 18w 😊

 

There was also a NAT Audio Single and a KR Audio within budget. Obviously do your due diligence 

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18 hours ago, al2813 said:

 

They look incredible. Thanks for the tip! 

I've heard the Divas and they sound incredible

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On 25/05/2021 at 7:45 AM, Gryffles said:

Yes common problem so decide if you are willing to buy used to try at prices you can resell if required.

 

I just had a quick look on Audiomarkt and I see options already:

 

Almarro A318b 1300 euro

 

Sounds very good and 18w 😊

 

There was also a NAT Audio Single and a KR Audio within budget. Obviously do your due diligence 

The Almarrow is also absolutely beautiful in the flesh, the simple wooden outer chassis is a wonderful  design, perfect with the right wood combinations.

 

In Australia the WLM speakers show up at excellent prices second hand as the brand never got a strong foothold here. There are many variations and a thing called ‘diva control’. Some of their little boxes can act as passive preamps and eq. Let’s you Tailor your speaker to your tastes / room.

 

@Gryffles is absolutely right , a 300B amplifier is a different beast to the big transmitter valves. It would be very worthwhile hearing one, they might not deliver the magic you hear in the 300B.

 

Audion Silver Nights,  parallel single ended 300B’s, are fabulous. 18 Watts really extends your speaker choices and drives less extremely efficient speakers in ways that 8 Watts can stumble on. Early versions in a gold finish are elegant. The later versions have a far more masculine look. Personally I like the early look. More plentiful in Europe than here.

 

If the Divas and the Almarrow pair well you would have excellent sound and a beautiful system. Not only that the Almarrow is an integrated, the Silver Nights usually have passive pots so can be run directly from your DAC.

 

I have never heard either amp driving the Divas but on paper they should be a good match. If you buy wisely second hand re-selling with little or no loss should be possible if things don’t gel as expected.

 

Difficult decisions deciding whether to chase a new amp or new speakers. Even more difficult it you are unable to listen to any of the contenders. Speakers that excell with 300B’s are fairly rare. An early pair of AudioNote AN/E’s or J’s are the perfect match to the Silver Nights. 
 

Good Luck, read every bit of research you can lay your hands on. 

 

 


 

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Posted (edited)

I've have used the Diva Control between my Supratek preamp/Cymer KT88>>Divas. Kinda unnecessary and the amp

heats up with very little sonic upside. There's a tweeter control on the backplate as well, I leave it wide open as it eats into the upper midrange almost straight away.

Edited by deanB
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Regarding the sound of valves that you're chasing:

 

I own the Line Magnetic 518iA (845-based) and it's a marvel. I also have a McChanson 300B amp. I've lived with VAL 211 monoblocs over the years. And let's not get started on the beauties of single-ended pentodes...especially EL84.

 

My point is that I think there is no single right answer or amplifier when it comes to musical tastes. Blondes, brunettes and redheads all exist 🙃 I am not voting for one amplifier in my system--I am keeping them all. It's never an either/or decision for me.

 

I predict that in your musical life you might enjoy 300B and other topologies. I certainly understand the attraction of 300B sound! Many manufacturers make good 300B amps. Line Magnetic is one. Elekit is another. Audion too. The list goes on.

 

Pleasingly, the amplifier doesn't need to be super-expensive if it's got a good circuit--and you have the better 300B tubes. I'm currently enjoying the Gold Lion Genalex PX-300B as an 'all-rounder' satisfying tube (suggested by @xlr8or).

 

The thing right now is to match a great 300B amp--or SET amp more generally, if that appeals--to a great speaker. This marriage would please you most, in my opinion. 

 

You're getting close.

 

Just my 2c worth

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On 27/05/2021 at 12:08 AM, doogie44 said:

Regarding the sound of valves that you're chasing:

 

I own the Line Magnetic 518iA (845-based) and it's a marvel. I also have a McChanson 300B amp. I've lived with VAL 211 monoblocs over the years. And let's not get started on the beauties of single-ended pentodes...especially EL84.

 

My point is that I think there is no single right answer or amplifier when it comes to musical tastes. Blondes, brunettes and redheads all exist 🙃 I am not voting for one amplifier in my system--I am keeping them all. It's never an either/or decision for me.

 

I predict that in your musical life you might enjoy 300B and other topologies. I certainly understand the attraction of 300B sound! Many manufacturers make good 300B amps. Line Magnetic is one. Elekit is another. Audion too. The list goes on.

 

Pleasingly, the amplifier doesn't need to be super-expensive if it's got a good circuit--and you have the better 300B tubes. I'm currently enjoying the Gold Lion Genalex PX-300B as an 'all-rounder' satisfying tube (suggested by @xlr8or).

 

The thing right now is to match a great 300B amp--or SET amp more generally, if that appeals--to a great speaker. This marriage would please you most, in my opinion. 

 

You're getting close.

 

Just my 2c worth

 

 

I have continued my journey and indeed am no longer locked to 300b - I am also looking at speakers as indeed I got to the same conclusion that I need a pair match.  The problem is that I cannot afford (nor I think I will find a store allowing me to find both in a driving distance) to get both together. I need to source them separately, and I will hunt them in the second hand market. So speaker recommendations are welcome. I have been looking at a Proac Response D15 which I can get for 1100 EUR and which I see a lot of opinions saying they go very nicely with SET tube amps. For speakers I will not buy anything without listening that's for sure. This limits the choice. 

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SET amplifiers tend to have very high output impedance.That means they will not work well with with most modern speakers.Or rather they will not control or damp the bass  properly so you tend to get a loose and excessive or boomy bass.You need speakers with a flat impedance response through the bass region with impedance above about 6 ohms .Which is not common.Especially with most modern speakers being 4 ohm nominal.You need to look at the actual measured impedance curve of the speakers not their quoted nominal impedance.

And if you only have say 6 watts as in a 300B SET they also need to be efficient.

Speakers like vintage Tannoy dual concentrics have the right sort of impedance response but a 300B SET probably does not have enough power to get the best out of them.Even the Almarro 318B with more like 12 watts and some negative feedback struggles a bit.

 

Both Troels Gravesen and JLTI make kit speakers with benign impedance  curves that will suit SET amplifiers.

There are also some wide /full range driver type speakers that suit but they bring their own set of compromises and tend to be like two wrongs trying to make a right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Might want to look at ZU speakers as well, well suited for low power SET amps.

Most tube amps use some global negative feed back to reduce the output impedance and to widen the frequency response. 

Here something I copied from another website.

impedance.jpg.689964c9320dc06813411ac5f758e34d.jpg

 

Here we see a Clayton 300W monoblock compared to a 300B SET on the same speaker.  The Clayton is in blue, the 300B in red.  The largest and most audible difference can be seen where the impedance of the speaker drops to the 4 Ohm range.  There is a very noticeable drop in output from the 300B in that range which will be heard as a thinning of the sound, with vocals loosing a bit of "body."

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 28/05/2021 at 1:28 PM, THOMO said:

SET amplifiers tend to have very high output impedance.That means they will not work well with with most modern speakers.Or rather they will not control or damp the bass  properly so you tend to get a loose and excessive or boomy bass.You need speakers with a flat impedance response through the bass region with impedance above about 6 ohms .Which is not common.Especially with most modern speakers being 4 ohm nominal.You need to look at the actual measured impedance curve of the speakers not their quoted nominal impedance.

And if you only have say 6 watts as in a 300B SET they also need to be efficient.

Speakers like vintage Tannoy dual concentrics have the right sort of impedance response but a 300B SET probably does not have enough power to get the best out of them.Even the Almarro 318B with more like 12 watts and some negative feedback struggles a bit.

 

Both Troels Gravesen and JLTI make kit speakers with benign impedance  curves that will suit SET amplifiers.

There are also some wide /full range driver type speakers that suit but they bring their own set of compromises and tend to be like two wrongs trying to make a right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more I read, the SET and 300 seem more to be the type of amp I should use to drive the Cornwall IV. The LM 210a and Muzishare LX9 are in my radar. The X9 has better spec but that doesn't mean it is better sounding amp. The LX7 has some reviews but not the LX9. I would love to hear more on SET and especially owners of Muzishare amp.

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I think all SET amps should come with a variable negative feedback control.That way you greatly increase the chance of achieving reasonable control over your speakers.Some of them do have this feature.I would avoid those that do not.Especially those with zero negative feedback.

I had one of these installed in my Almarro 318B and it was hugely beneficial.That amp came with a moderate amount of negative feedback which helped it to drive/control more typical speakers but for some speakers it had too much and sounded much better with the amount of negative feedback dialed back.I never enjoyed it with zero negative feedback however .Just a hint with SET friendly speakers usually sounded best.It is also interesting to hear what happens to the imaging  and soundstage as you dial in too much negative feedback-it  shrinks .

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Here's a solution to the SET bass "problem".   I run a 6B4G/2A3 SET amp that puts out about 2 watts.  I drive Osborn Eclipse speakes (efficiency about 91 dB +), but I bi-amp them, and use a Tripath based class D amp  for the bass drivers.  The combination is just made to be.   The 2 watt SET is perfect for the mid/tweeters, and the class D amp is perfect for controlling the bass driver.  This combo will play music too loud for me if I turn it up.  It fills the house with music.   Can't see me changing anytime soon :) 

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