SHATTERED GLASS … No more tubes – Class D all the way baby and loving it!

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Wind Chaser

I kid you not, despite having always been somewhat partial to tubes and tube amps, single ended triodes in particular; I think it’s safe to say once and for all I am done with tubes!

Why? Because the very best sounding tube amps (SETs) are not up to the task of properly driving my speakers. My speakers (Spatial M3 Turbo S) produce 94 decibels of sound pressure with just one watt, so it’s not an issue of power or a lack thereof. No it’s more of a matter of control and stability. The SET (a SET, any SET) cannot cope with the Spatial load, and as a consequence it sadly lacks bass and the little bass there is, well let’s say it’s not what anyone would call good bass. This isn’t something that can be fixed with a sub or by other means of augmentation. Crappy bass is crappy bass. Then there were also significant issues with respect to soundstaging and imaging; the very thing tube amps (SETs in particular) are supposed to excel at.

All of this was made manifest by a very small and inexpensive Texas Instruments TPA3116 Class D amp. At first I was shocked, absolutely gobsmacked by how much better it mated with my speakers than the much more expensive tube amp. In comparison the bass is much more present, deeper, defined and tonally richer with the Class D amp. Also the issues the tubes had with respect soundstaging and imaging vanished. Instead an upfront in your face aggressive presentation, the Class D amp sounded far more relaxed and at ease with much better localization and spatial cues. I’m not talking about a subtle or incremental difference, no I’m talking in terms of sheer musicality, Class D crushes the tubes in virtually every respect making music much more enjoyable.

That’s quite a feat for solid state amp, never mind an inexpensive Class D amp that can be had for small fraction of what the Coincident tube amp costs. So it seemed clear to me the way going forward would definitely be Class D.

Enter the Maraschino King mono-blocks. I’ve had these amps for a few months now. They are quite small, but not as small as The TPA3116. Unlike the TPA3116, the Maraschino Kings are fully balanced, much more powerful and absolutely dead quiet. They are also much more musically refined than the 3116 and they don't shut down when pushed to the limit The control they have over the 4 x 15” Spatial drivers is amazing. Even with the volume turned up super loud at the threshold of clipping, the 4 large woofers hardly appear to be in motion. And because these amps are mono-blocks, I am able to separate each channel well away from each other and place them next to the speakers and run short speaker cables... something that makes stereo amps in one chassis seem like such a compromise.

These amps do not exhibit any characteristics in the way of their own flavor. There is nothing I can point to and say that’s a trait of the amp. No they just get out of the way and amplify the signal without adding or taking anything away. From the lowest low to the highest high with everything else in between is perfectly intact, nothing seems or sounds accentuated or artificial, and nothing sounds diminished. That’s just what an amplifier is supposed to do. They sound absolutely neutral.

I like the fact that I don’t ever have to wait for these amps to warm up. They are so energy efficient I leave them on 24/7. Waiting for an amp to warm up is now a thing of the past. If I only want to listen to one song, the system is up and ready to roll.

In short, these amps are so good I’m not the slightest bit curious about anything else out there. If you are a tube aficionado like I was, you’d do well to check these out. Chances are you’ll like them a lot more than your beloved tube amp.  :wink:

zoom25

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I like the fact that I don’t ever have to wait for these amps to warm up. They are so energy efficient I leave them on 24/7. Waiting for an amp to warm up is now a thing of the past. If I only want to listen to one song, the system is up and ready to roll.

I agree. With Class D, it's finally possible to leave the entire rig running 24/7. Same consistent sound 24/7. I find my ears agree with the sound more when the system has been warmed up. More liquid and smooth.

The energy footprint and the bill is also much better.

Tyson

I am also a tube lover and the DAC amps are the only digital amps I've heard that I could live with.  They are really great sounding and the best digital amps I've heard.

S Clark

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When our member Trung sold gave away his Dodd monoblock 300b amps about a week ago, I considered buying them, but...
I've been so enamored with Jeremy's  TDA7297 amp that I didn't even make an offer.   I've got a pair of EL84 amps that Gary D built for me that I'll keep as log as I can hear, but I'm not in the market to buy.  Chip amps are the real deal, and the bang for the buck is unmatchable.   

Delta77

Wind Chaser,
 Do you mind if I ask ,what are using for your  pre-amp .. Were you using the same pre-amp with you tube amp.??

Nordkapp

I've owned several tube/SS amps and preamps over my 2 decades of fooling around with this stuff. I went class D about 4 years ago and haven't missed anything from the other designs. My first class D product was a Bel Canto integrated but am now running Channel Islands class D monoblocks fed by a fully digital preamp! Unequivocally the best sound I've achieved to date. I have no further plans to change anything.
« Last Edit: 9 Dec 2017, 01:47 am by Nordkapp »

Goosepond

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Wind Chaser,
 Do you mind if I ask ,what are using for your  pre-amp .. Were you using the same pre-amp with you tube amp.??

+1!

mfsoa

I put my VAC PA 100/100 up for sale as soon as I heard my first DAC amp, a big 'ol Cherry PLus.  It was obvious how much information simply wasn't coming out of the tube amp compared to the DAC, which had such vastly superior resolution top to bottom. Especially bottom. Yeah...the bottom of those big transformers...

The new generation Maraschino is quite a bit better, though, with greater refinement up top and a tighter but not so stump-pulley bass as the old amps.

I never turn mine off and the sleep function works perfectly. The first click of the preamp and they both jump to life and as Wind said they are off and running immediately. It's kinda weird to not really think about your amps for months on end, unless it's "Dayummmm..."

I'm between preamps now and have drafted in a 30 year old Forte solid state pre and the amps still sound great. Thinking Brooklyn Dac + direct to amps...


Nordkapp

I put my VAC PA 100/100 up for sale as soon as I heard my first DAC amp, a big 'ol Cherry PLus.  It was obvious how much information simply wasn't coming out of the tube amp compared to the DAC, which had such vastly superior resolution top to bottom. Especially bottom. Yeah...the bottom of those big transformers...

The new generation Maraschino is quite a bit better, though, with greater refinement up top and a tighter but not so stump-pulley bass as the old amps.

I never turn mine off and the sleep function works perfectly. The first click of the preamp and they both jump to life and as Wind said they are off and running immediately. It's kinda weird to not really think about your amps for months on end, unless it's "Dayummmm..."

I'm between preamps now and have drafted in a 30 year old Forte solid state pre and the amps still sound great. Thinking Brooklyn Dac + direct to amps...
I was really unsure how things would sound and also the functionality of a digital pre w/class D. I couldn't have imagined the end results! Try the Brooklyn...

Freo-1

Class D has improved remarkably over the years.  My current primary setup is a Devialet 400 connected to a pair of Dynaudio Focus 360 speakers.  The Devialet all in one approach makes a lot of sense, in that it is has a DAC, preamp, and power amp are all in one package.  Hi resolution digital symphonic recordings are reproduced with an amazing sense of realism. 


Still, some of my friends prefer the tube gear driving the Focus 360's.  I also own a set of custom 110 watt mono-block power amps that sport a quad of 1625 output tubes, driven by a pair of 6BL7 input/driver tubes.  The preamp is a Thomas Meyer 6AH4 clone, complete with transformer coupled output to the power amp.  For tubes, the setup is remarkably quiet, and very dynamic.  A friend who is a musician prefers the tube setup to the Devialet with live rock/blues recordings. 


So, in summary, it's safe to say the the current offerings of Class D can and do provide excellent performance and satisfaction, along with trouble free usage.  Tubes have their strong points from a sonic perspective as well, but they do need extra care to maintain optimum performance.   


mfsoa

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Try the Brooklyn...

200w HDPlex is on the way...

Nordkapp

200w HDPlex is on the way...
Awesome! Good luck!

Wind Chaser

I am also a tube lover and the DAC amps are the only digital amps I've heard that I could live with.  They are really great sounding and the best digital amps I've heard.

Since these amps receive an analogue input signal and amplify in the analogue domain, I don't think they can be classified as digital amps.
Here's an insightful look at the breakdown of the various approaches to amplification. The article was written six years ago.

Wind Chaser

I've been so enamored with Jeremy's  TDA7297 amp that I didn't even make an offer.   I've got a pair of EL84 amps that Gary D built for me that I'll keep as log as I can hear, but I'm not in the market to buy.  Chip amps are the real deal, and the bang for the buck is unmatchable.

I was so taken back by how much better the TI amp sounded over the Coincident SET I considered just keeping it and calling it a day, but it was too noisy and it would shut down or go into protection mode if pushed hard. The Maraschino's answer both those problems and are a whole lot more refined and musical.  :thumb:

Wind Chaser

Wind Chaser,
 Do you mind if I ask ,what are using for your  pre-amp .. Were you using the same pre-amp with you tube amp.??

The source (sans preamp) was the same for both the Coincident SET and the Texas Instruments board. I'm now using a Nuprime DAC-10 which has a very clean integrated preamp. I know it's hard to comprehend, much less accept that a $20 amp could kick to the curb a very highly regarded tube amp with some of the best tubes available.  :whip:

Wind Chaser

I put my VAC PA 100/100 up for sale as soon as I heard my first DAC amp, a big 'ol Cherry PLus.  It was obvious how much information simply wasn't coming out of the tube amp compared to the DAC, which had such vastly superior resolution top to bottom.

Yeah, for all the love tube amps get, what's up with that? 


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The new generation Maraschino is quite a bit better, though, with greater refinement up top and a tighter but not so stump-pulley bass as the old amps.

I haven't heard the original Cherry's, but find the Maraschinos do great justice to the bottom end. On the Spatial M3ts it seems almost as if I have infinite power reserves as I have as of yet been unable to clip the Maraschinos. And believe me, it's not for a lack of trying.  :lol:

mfsoa

Wind,

If you are considering moving to the Triode Masters, I just asked Tommy how the the amps do with a 16 ohm load.

He says the Maraschino loves 16 ohms - THD super low, like < 0.0009% (not official DAC statement - just a snippet from a conversation...)

fyi

Wind Chaser

Class D has improved remarkably over the years...

About 10 years ago I heard 4 Nuforce mono-blocks and to be honest, I thought they were okay, but nothing really special. We compared them to some old vintage SAE amps designed by the late legendary James Bongiorno and we could hardly detect a difference in SQ.


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Tubes have their strong points from a sonic perspective as well...

Not so sure about that any more. 

Wind Chaser

Wind,

If you are considering moving to the Triode Masters, I just asked Tommy how the the amps do with a 16 ohm load.

I did consider the Triode Masters, but I chose to put that money (and then some) into cable upgrades.  The next step up will be either the X-1, or the X-2, or perhaps even the Lumina.

As far as the Maraschinos go, impedance whether it be high or low is a non issue.

Tyson

I did consider the Triode Masters, but I chose to put that money (and then some) into cable upgrades.  The next step up will be either the X-1, or the X-2, or perhaps even the Lumina.

As far as the Maraschinos go, impedance whether it be high or low is a non issue.

The X-2 would get my vote.  It uses probably the best tweeter/mid on the planet.  IMO it's Spatial's 'home run' speaker.