Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG

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AMF

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Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« on: 9 Apr 2014, 08:41 pm »
Hello, I am new here and this is my first post so go easy on me :)  I am not an electrical engineer or pretend to be one.

In the interest of full disclosure, the following is content from an email I sent to Vinnie Rossi.  He asked me to post this because the information may be interesting to others and start a a conversation.  I have no ties with RWA or Vinnie other than I own a Signature 16 purchased through an authorized dealer.

The Magnepan bug bit me and I decided on a whim to buy a pair of MMGs.  I figured I could always sell them quickly if I didn’t like them.

I auditioned them with the following amps:

Krell s-300i (300 watts into 4 ohms)

Cayin A-88T (45 watts ultra linear mode 4 ohm taps)

Luxman SQ-N10 (17 watts per channel, 6 ohms)

Red Wine Audio Signature 16

Tests were done without a subwoofer.  My listening room (living room in a brownstone) is 14 x 18 with 9 foot ceilings with some acoustic treatment.

To no surprise the Luxman was pretty weak with the MMGs (I normally use it as a headphone amp).  The Cayin wasn’t much better — great midrange, but weak and flabby bass.  I had big hopes for the Cayin since I have read others report success with Magnepans.   The Krell has an extremely tight grip on the bass and smooth (almost too smooth) mids and highs.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, just for kicks I tried the Signature 16.  Amazingly, the Signature 16 really compliments the MMGs.  The bass is tight but slightly fuller than the Krell, but the midrange is liquid and has a deep sound stage (dare I say SET like).  I listened to the combination at no louder than 80 db or so.  I don’t want to melt the MMGs as I bypassed the fuse and the jumper.  The MMG stock sounds veiled in comparison my modded version —for the price it is worth the risk.

So in conclusion, the Signature 16 can drive the the MMG and sound incredible— better than the Krell - but I only tried it at lower volumes only.  I also tried the Signature 16 as a preamp with the Krell used as a power amp.  That’s a pretty good combo also— but not as good.  The magic of the Signature 16 comes from not just the tube buffer!

My question is this:  There is all this talk on the forums about how tube amps sound more powerful than solid state with equal specs.  My uneducated guess is that the battery in the Signature 16 allows more current draw than the transformer of the moderately priced (but good quality) Chinese amp?  At lower volume, (around 70db) the Signature 16 seems a bit more powerful and in control than the Krell.  But the main thing is that it makes the MMGs more engaging and lively (the Signature 16 has the opposite effect with the in-your-face Zu Soul).  I am not anti-tube, rather I love 'em, so I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the little Signature 16.

I’m writing this because I am wondering if the Signature 57 is a worthwhile replacement due to its increased power.  It seems that most people would still say that it isn’t enough.

The question: Why does the Signature 16 drive the MMGs so well?

PS:  I like the MMGs even though they are far from perfect (for a different topic)

Vinnie R.

Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #1 on: 10 Apr 2014, 12:04 am »
Hi AMF,

Welcome to Audiocircle and the RWA forum!  Thanks for your posting your email here.

MMGs are one of the best sounding speakers out there for the money.  They sure LOVE high current amplifiers, which
the Signature 16 is, and it delivers 32 watts per channel into the 4-ohm MMGs.  Yes, it CAN drive them (and most other speakers)... as long as you are not looking to play it LOUD.  But at lower to "normal" listening levels, the Signature 16 will do fine with them as you have
found out.  :)

Quote
My question is this:  There is all this talk on the forums about how tube amps sound more powerful than solid state with equal specs. 

The main reason why some people say this is because when a tube amp starts to clip (distorts), the distortion is softer and not so "grungy" like a solid-state amp distortion, so you don't notice it as much, and by the time you do notice it (when it does get grungy), you are probably outputting more power than what the tube amp is spec's to output ("clean" power rating).  This is not the case with all tube amps, but some of them can sound like they have more power than what they are rated for. 

I think another reason why some people think they have more power is because they have lower damping factor and the bass tends to be heavier with a tube amp (more quantity of bass, but not necessarily better quality of bass).  Tube amps with transformer outputs don't have very low output impedance, and this is why the damping factor is usually low, and this can reduce an amp's grip over the drivers.  Combine that with a power supply that has high output impedance, and you can get flabby, muddy bass response. 

I am NOT saying this is the case with all tube amps - but there are plenty of them that have this issue, just like there are plenty of solid-state amps with their "sonic issues."

Quote
My uneducated guess is that the battery in the Signature 16 allows more current draw than the transformer of the moderately priced (but good quality) Chinese amp?  At lower volume, (around 70db) the Signature 16 seems a bit more powerful and in control than the Krell.

The LiFePO4 battery pack in the Signature 16 has very low output impedance.  There is no power supply transformer and its associated inductance that chokes instantaneous current delivery.  There is not rectifier stage adding more impedance to the power supply in its ac/dc conversion process.  No need for C-R-C filtering to reduce hum, no voltage regulation needed.  So you can get a lot more instantaneous current on demand due to the significantly lower (less than 40 thousandths of 1 ohm) output impedance of the LiFePO4 battery supply, and the low impedance Class AB MOSFET output stage.  This is one of the main reasons why the bass has more articulation and control vs. the others you listed, including the much more powerful Krell. 

Quote
  I am not anti-tube, rather I love 'em, so I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the little Signature 16.

I also love both tubes and solid-state!  I just tend to prefer the tubes for the lower voltage signals (source, preamp, amp input stage) and solid state for speaker output stages.  When well implemented, I find that this does help get the best of what tubes and solid state topologies offer, and much less of what they don't do as well. 

Quote
I’m writing this because I am wondering if the Signature 57 is a worthwhile replacement due to its increased power.  It seems that most people would still say that it isn’t enough.

The Signature 57 with the tubed input stage will give you all the goodness of the Signature 16 sonic signature, AND MORE!  You'll get 115wpc into 4-ohms, way more current, and into speakers like the MMG, that will not only allow for louder playback, but you'll get much better attack and decay, even tighter, snappier bass, and bigger dynamics.  I suspect you'll even notice better performance at lower listening levels due to the even lower output impedance of this amplifier.  The dual mono design of the tubed Signature 57 also throws an even bigger soundstage (but the Sig 16 is pretty darn good in that regard already  :wink:).   When the times comes, and if you want a very noticeable upgrade, I would definitely consider trading-in your Sig 16 towards a tubed Signature 57.  As always, feel free to call or email me regarding this.

Thanks again for your post - and happy listening!

Vinnie

AMF

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Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #2 on: 10 Apr 2014, 12:33 am »
Vinnie,

Thanks for the explanation.  Another nice thing about use of the battery is that my ground loop hum problems are gone once and for all! 

Andrew

Slee ZZ

  • Jr. Member
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Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #3 on: 7 Aug 2014, 07:49 pm »
Hi, Vinnie,

I've been very intrigued by your products for some time, and the Sig 57 in particular.  The battery power, tons of customization options all in one box (I'm a huge fan of integrated amps), and the high WAF are the main reasons why.  Only problem is, as a MN resident, I haven't had a chance to hear them!  And like any reasonable consumer, I won't buy anything that costs over $50 without hearing it first.  To take care of that problem, I've booked my ticket to RMAF in October, and Red Wine is at the very top of my list of exhibition rooms to visit.

Until then, to temporarily satisfy my curiosity, have any of you folks run a Red Wine integrated on any of the larger Magnepan speakers?  I own the 1.7s.  I am utterly addicted to the Magnepan sound, and will probably never get rid of my 1.7s unless it is for a larger or updated model of Magnepans.

That said, many of you also know the weaknesses of Magnepans: Room placement, need lots of current, clean but weak bass, etc.  Can Red Wine amps drive these suckers properly?  My listening room is 16' x 12', but does open up into a similarly-sized room.  On occasion, I do like to crank them to headbanging levels, but those occasions are few and far between since I have a wife and a preschooler in the same house.  Clarity and a wide, deep soundstage are the two sound attributes that are most important to me.  Like most of you, I listen to all kinds of music, but jazz, classic- and indie-rock, and small-scale classical (solo piano, solo guitar, chamber quartets) are the big three genres.  Some acoustical bluegrass and blues, too.

I'd love to hear folks' opinions--especially Vinnie's--on Red Wine amps driving larger Magnepans.  I realize this is a Red Wine forum, and so I don't expect total objectivity, but am interested nonetheless.

Thanks,
Zach

Vinnie R.

Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #4 on: 8 Aug 2014, 10:25 pm »
Hi Zach,

Welcome to audiocircle and the RWA forum!

The Signature 57 can, without a doubt, drive the Magenpan 1.7s.  Sig 57 is fine with dips down to 2-ohm, and the 4-ohm load of the 1.7s means you are looking at 115wpc.  More importantly, the output impedance is low on the output stage AND power supply (battery), and the output current is high.  This is how you want to feed Maggies  8)

Looking forward to seeing you at RMAF!

Vinnie

Stercom

Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #5 on: 9 Aug 2014, 01:43 am »
I'd love to hear folks' opinions--

Zach - I own a Signature 57 and use Philharmonic 3 speakers that present a 85db/4ohm load which is very comparable to the 86db/4ohm load of the Maggie 1.7.  It drives my speakers with ease. I don't think you'd have a problem.

Slee ZZ

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  • Posts: 5
Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #6 on: 11 Aug 2014, 02:37 am »
Thanks for the info, Vinnie and stercom!  Much appreciated.  Glad to hear the good news.  I'm investigating three or four other amps (Peachtree, Luxman, and Vincent integrateds) with a plan to buy a new one sometime next year.  The Sig 57 is right at the top of the list, though I'd probably ask Vinnie to give me the Liliana upgrade.  The Magnepan 1.7s will love the extra power, I'm guessing, and if I ever go with larger Magnepans, they'll only appreciate it that much more.

My one and only wish for a Red Wine integrated would be tone controls.  I know a lot of purists feel they are unnecessary and/or anachronistic, but I really appreciate a quality tone control--particularly on lousier recordings through the Magnepans where the bass is already a bit weak.

I'm also debating whether to include the DAC and headphone amp within the Sig 57--or just go with the new Oppo HA-1.  All of Oppos other products have always completely blown me away, and I'm guessing this is no exception.  I'm certain Vinnie makes a very fine DAC and headphone amp, and I love the idea of having the DAC right with the amp instead of a separate box, interconnects, etc., but man, Oppo really makes great stuff.

Anyway, just my ramblings.  I spend way too much of my time internally debating these choices, and so I appreciate any input from any of you.  Love the forum!

HPDJ

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 44
Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #7 on: 11 Aug 2014, 09:12 am »
Hey Slee ZZ,

I have a Signature 16 with the headphone output and I use my Audeze LCD 2's with it and they make my music sound awesome together! I'm super glad I got the headphone option as I have no need for a separate "box" to drive my headphones now. So one unit powers my speakers and my headphones (already have a great separate DAC). Keeps things nice and simple and I'm not left feeling like RWA had to cut corners sound wise to make the two available in the same box. Vinnie's stand alone headphone amp is highly regarded (find threads on head-fi) and he uses the same parts when he includes it in the same enclosure as the speaker amp. **Cost effective** It's a win win situation for me for sure.

If I was in the market for a headphone amp right now I would definitely be considering the Oppo HA-1 as well, as it just looks bad ass and has some super cool features. But there as some other things that are important to me besides sound quality and the amount of features a product has....like the warranty the company offers and also how they show that they care about the customers business and how they take care of you. In this regard for me RWA would still be the way I would go right now because they offer so much for the customer. I can really "grow" with my amp as upgrades become available or if I ever decide to trade up for one of their more powerful amps...or if there is ever an issue with it I know they stand behind their products from personal experience.

It's also just nice to get the head honcho on the phone and chat with him or email him with any questions or concerns. It makes the whole process more personal. I know everyone does not care for that level of service. All this helps me feel more solid about my investment in the long run.  :D

Vinnie R.

Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #8 on: 11 Aug 2014, 03:14 pm »
Hi Stercom and HPDJ,

Thank you for your feedback - much appreciated, and you are enjoying your RWA components!  :notworthy:

Be well,

Vinnie

Slee ZZ

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 5
Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #9 on: 21 Aug 2014, 02:01 am »
Thanks, HPDJ.  There is no doubt that the all-in-one box and the top-notch customer service are a HUGE draw to Red Wine.  I like every single vibe I get out of the reviews and from Vinnie himself.  Those features will play heavily into my decision.

Vinnie, I look forward to meeting in person at RMAF and finally getting a chance to really listen to a Red Wine product!

Thanks,
Zach

Vinnie R.

Re: Signature 16 and other amps with Magnepan MMG
« Reply #10 on: 9 Sep 2014, 01:54 am »
Thanks, HPDJ.  There is no doubt that the all-in-one box and the top-notch customer service are a HUGE draw to Red Wine.  I like every single vibe I get out of the reviews and from Vinnie himself.  Those features will play heavily into my decision.

Vinnie, I look forward to meeting in person at RMAF and finally getting a chance to really listen to a Red Wine product!

Thanks,
Zach

Hi Zach,

Thank you, and see you at RMAF!  It is going to be a great show!  :wink:

Vinnie