Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?

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morganc

Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« on: 27 May 2022, 03:06 am »
I'm curious to hear from those of you who have heard and tried and auditioned different tube amps with your X series Spatials.  What was your absolute favorite and why?  Did it do a particular genre of music better for you?   If so, please elaborate. 

I'm reconfiguring miy system after a recent move and have a particular Amp in mind but am considering a few options now.

I would love to hear the top end LTA Ref 40 and the Allnic A 2000 and T2000, 30th Anniversary.  Also curious to hear about lower end Tube amps that fight above their price point, especially with a few mods.....

Basically....what if anything are you lusting over or are grinning ear to ear about :)

Daryl Zero

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #1 on: 27 May 2022, 04:07 am »
I don't have much experience with tube amps but I have the Rogers High Fidelity 65v-2 which I use EL34s with for my X5s and it sounds very nice. I also impulsively jumped on a used LTA Z40+ integrated with all the upgrades which arrives Saturday and I can't wait to hear what that sounds like.

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #2 on: 27 May 2022, 04:54 am »
I look forward to hearing about the LTA!  What solid state gear do you Use Daryl?

deadhead

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #3 on: 27 May 2022, 10:16 am »
I just had a 300b amp made by Toolshed Amps. Sound is spectacular.

TomS

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #4 on: 27 May 2022, 10:24 am »
I would love to try a McGary Audio SA-2 or even the smaller SA-1E.
Jim Salk speaks very highly of these amps.
Dr. Vinyl in Maryland sells them, seriously great dealer.
https://www.mcgaryaudio.com/product/sa-2-vacuum-tube-stereo-amplifier/

sjsfiveo

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #5 on: 27 May 2022, 11:18 am »
With my X5'S I had a Nat Audio Magnetic Preamp and Audio Research 75 SE excellent combo (I think the Nat audio had a lot to do with it excellent pairing). With my current X3'S I had a Don Sachs Valhalla integrated then I went to Don's separates which I truly love.

Daryl Zero

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #6 on: 27 May 2022, 12:13 pm »
I look forward to hearing about the LTA!  What solid state gear do you Use Daryl?

I was using some vintage stuff mainly a Nakamichi TA-4A which was recapped. It has a stasis amp based upon a design by Nelson Pass. Also a restored HK Citation 11 and 12 combo.

These were not bought for the Spatial X5s, they were just what I had bought on the cheap trying to drive Magnepans and they actually did a pretty decent job at it with the LRS and then the .7s.

After I got the X5s (used at a great price about a year ago), I realized that I had a different animal which needed a different diet of food so I investigated and saw that a lot of posters I respected had tube amplifiers. I had no experience with tubes so I bought the Reisong A10 just to see what it was about. I didn't like that amp very much so back it went.

My research showed some different alternatives and I looked into Rogers which was mentioned as an option by a poster. You really can see how some brands are advertised and sent out to reviewers and some aren't and then you are lucky to find anything on it. Anyhow, the background on it impressed me and I found a demo unit sold by the Rogers ebay site for less than 1/2 of full retail. It is built to military grade standards, has some good reviews by Absolute Sound, theaudiobeatnik and Stereophile, has a lifetime warranty and there are a few threads mainly in Audiogon forums of posters who really recommend it.

I bought it and it sounded great to me but I didn't have anything really to compare it to other than the Reisong (which sounded ok in the nearfield but not further out). I had another poster who lived near Tucson (and who has much more experience than I do) come out to hear it (because I had a 30 day trial period and I needed confirmation) and he thought it sounded pretty good.

I don't have an optimum set up in my room because it is my office right now but I have plans to retire and convert the room into a mancave so I wanted an amp to be able to handle everything and I've lusted after LTA stuff as Spatial Audio does its presentations with LTA equipment (and anticables) and has essentially recommended LTA along with other brands. There was this Z40 which had been upgraded to a + less than 2 years old with the advanced phono stage available on a website. I watched it for about a month as the price slowly went down and I made an offer which led to a purchase.
« Last Edit: 27 May 2022, 03:54 pm by Daryl Zero »

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #7 on: 27 May 2022, 04:31 pm »
With my X5'S I had a Nat Audio Magnetic Preamp and Audio Research 75 SE excellent combo (I think the Nat audio had a lot to do with it excellent pairing). With my current X3'S I had a Don Sachs Valhalla integrated then I went to Don's separates which I truly love.

Yes I sold my Sachs Amp last year when I moved and boy do I wish I had that one back!  If anyone has one to sell hit me up. 

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #8 on: 27 May 2022, 04:34 pm »
I was using some vintage stuff mainly a Nakamichi TA-4A which was recapped. It has a stasis amp based upon a design by Nelson Pass. Also a restored HK Citation 11 and 12 combo.

These were not bought for the Spatial X5s, they were just what I had bought on the cheap trying to drive Magnepans and they actually did a pretty decent job at it with the LRS and then the .7s.

After I got the X5s (used at a great price about a year ago), I realized that I had a different animal which needed a different diet of food so I investigated and saw that a lot of posters I respected had tube amplifiers. I had no experience with tubes so I bought the Reisong A10 just to see what it was about. I didn't like that amp very much so back it went.

My research showed some different alternatives and I looked into Rogers which was mentioned as an option by a poster. You really can see how some brands are advertised and sent out to reviewers and some aren't and then you are lucky to find anything on it. Anyhow, the background on it impressed me and I found a demo unit sold by the Rogers ebay site for less than 1/2 of full retail. It is built to military grade standards, has some good reviews by Absolute Sound, theaudiobeatnik and Stereophile, has a lifetime warranty and there are a few threads mainly in Audiogon forums of posters who really recommend it.

I bought it and it sounded great to me but I didn't have anything really to compare it to other than the Reisong (which sounded ok in the nearfield but not further out). I had another poster who lived near Tucson (and who has much more experience than I do) come out to hear it (because I had a 30 day trial period and I needed confirmation) and he thought it sounded pretty good.

I don't have an optimum set up in my room because it is my office right now but I have plans to retire and convert the room into a mancave so I wanted an amp to be able to handle everything and I've lusted after LTA stuff as Spatial Audio does its presentations with LTA equipment (and anticables) and has essentially recommended LTA along with other brands. There was this Z40 which had been upgraded to a + less than 2 years old with the advanced phono stage available on a website. I watched it for about a month as the price slowly went down and I made an offer which led to a purchase.

Thanks Daryl.  I'm up in Sedona and look forward to hearing your impressions on the Z40.  I've owned several Berning amps and I believe you will love the pairing though I have not heard the Z40.

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #9 on: 27 May 2022, 04:37 pm »
TomS:  wow that is a beauty! 

Tyson or anyone else in the know:  how do the Bob Latino ST 120's compare to the Don Sachs and other KT-88 based amps that have similar specs?   

geerock

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #10 on: 27 May 2022, 05:13 pm »
I have the LTA REFERENCE 40 PLUS paired with my X5's and going through the Don Sachs all in pre.  A wonderful combo.  My nephew brought me his Lampizator Baltic 3 DAC to try out and it was the last part of the puzzle, especially after Don bought a Lampi Big 7 and said it blew away everything else he has heard.  Including the Musical Paradise MP D2 that we were both using at the time.  The Baltic was so good in my system I ordered  Big 7 for myself and I'm awaiting its arrival any day.  I will also tell you this.... everyone who has tried Don's equipment with Spatials has loved it, including Clayton.  Yes....Clayton has a Valhalla in his showroom. 

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #11 on: 27 May 2022, 05:38 pm »
Top  choices:

Don Sachs Pre and Kooteny

Vs Allnic T-2500 Integrated

Vs LTA ZOTL 40 Integrated

Has anyone directly compared any of these ?

« Last Edit: 27 May 2022, 10:56 pm by morganc »

Tyson

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #12 on: 28 May 2022, 12:03 am »
I've had a bunch of tube gear through here and I've learned I just prefer the sound of octals as driver tubes.  Big, bold and dynamic.  And great at preserving tonal information.  My vote is for the Don Sachs.

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #13 on: 28 May 2022, 04:03 am »
I love the octals as well Tyson and tonal density is  :thumb:

However the LTA is intriguing due to Berning's unique technology.  I've only heard his older amps and loved them for their speed and dynamics though they were not quite as "meaty as I like". I was under the impression that the ZOTL 40 might fit this bill. 

And the Allnic Pre that I used to own was stellar! Though I also used it with 845 and 300B amps at that time. 

Sure is nice to have First world problems 😂

jnschneyer

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #14 on: 28 May 2022, 09:05 pm »
I've thrown my hat into this ring before in another post, so I'll be repeating myself a bit, but what the hell.  I suppose good things bear repeating.  I heard the X4s first at the Spatial shop with an LTA amp (I can't recall which iteration) and Benchmark DAC/pre, then, on a second visit, with the Don Sachs Valhalla.  I then, at someone's home, heard the X5s powered by an Atma-Sphere S-30 amp and MP-3 preamp.  While I was very impressed with my first listen of the X4/LTA/Benchmark setup, impressed enough to begin seriously considering revising my system, it was the second session, hearing the X4s driven by the Valhalla, that made my mind up and removed all doubt that what I was hearing was both better and different enough to warrant a wholesale (well, retail) revision of my system.  Hearing the X4s and X5s driven, respectively, by the Don Sachs and Atma-Sphere amps was, literally, life changing.  Not in the sense of making me a better person (too soon to tell; not for me to judge) or radically changing my world view, but in bringing about a fairly sweeping shift in my understanding of what hifi sound could be and causing me sell off this and barter that in order to accommodate my new understanding.  After ordering a pair of my own X5s, I had the chance to hear a well-broken-in pair of them with the Vahalla, again at Spatial Labs, and that session convinced me to go with that pairing.  I don't know that I could say with absolute confidence that the Valhalla is a better amp than the combination of S-30 and MP-3.  My final determination is the result of a very uncontrolled experiment, as I heard each combination at different times, with at least several days, and, in the case of the X5/Valhalla combo, several weeks, between sessions and in different rooms.  My no doubt unreliable aural memory tells me the presentation of the Vahalla was slightly (such cowardly adverbs themselves indicative of my uncertainty) more forward.  Not that the sound in any way lacked depth, but it seemed (more cowardice) to present itself more than did the S-30, which seemed (ugh) both darker and more laid back.  But these descriptors are wholly inadequate, possibly even deleterious, in that they imply, if forward, then shallow and bright and possibly fatiguing, if dark and laid back, then non-resolving and rounded off, none of which is the case.  So, take those descriptors as the inexact efforts that they are.  While I'm quite sure I could live happily with either setup, for those reasons, along with the craftsmanship of and parts used in it, and some other non-sound-related reasons, I decided to go with the Valhalla.  One thing I am confident of: to my ear, both the Don Sachs and the Atma-Sphere outshone the LTA.  One could object that the LTA was at a disadvantage being fed by the Benchmark.  To that, I have no answer, never having heard the LTA paired with anything else.  As with most advice on forums, I suspect this will more feed the flame of your uncertainty rather than do anything to douse it.  I suppose that's just the nature of mining others' opinions.  Then again, most decisions in life are made with insufficient data.  I hope this at least adds a little more clarity to the picture.  Good luck!     

Tyson

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #15 on: 28 May 2022, 09:52 pm »
Here's the thing with tube amps - there's very little innovation in their basic design and circuits.  If someone touts their 'new tube tech', they are probably lying.  Or simply exaggerating.

So, if basic circuits are more or less the same among different amps, what's left?  Execution and parts quality.  I've had many inexpensive amps that you open them up and the wiring and grounding schemes are astonishingly bad.  Resulting in noise and hum.  Which might not be a big deal if you are running box speakers less than 90 db efficient, but is a huge problem with 97db efficient speakers like the Spatials.  Moving up to the $3k to $6k range gets you much better wiring and basic circuit design layout etc.... Getting into the $10k and above range gets you all that PLUS much better parts quality including much better transformers, capacitors, wiring and connectors. 

Which is why I'm such a fan of the Don Sachs - he gives you that $10k+ level of quality and performance for a lot less.  Dennis Had with his "Inspire" amps is another that's really got a crazy good offering for very little $$, if you can run a single ended amp vs. a push-pull amp like the Sachs.

morganc

Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #16 on: 29 May 2022, 12:40 am »
jnschneyer:  thank you for your well expressed opinion.  What I've learned on forums is how to hear the subtleties in each person's thoughts and I appreciate your elaborating so much!

Tyson: your logic and experience is sound and appreciated.  And I know from past experience that whatever you call good, with your golden ears, I often love.

So here is what I am doing :  I found a LTA ZoTl 40 with the upgraded Mullards at a great price so
I'm going to get to hear that one here easily and so either I'm gonna love it or dowse those doubts :).

And if/when the kootenay appears I'll be able to directly compare them!  Hopefully I'll have a deal soon to make that happen. 

In the meantime the allnic will have to wait !


geerock

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #17 on: 29 May 2022, 08:45 pm »
I've thrown my hat into this ring before in another post, so I'll be repeating myself a bit, but what the hell.  I suppose good things bear repeating.  I heard the X4s first at the Spatial shop with an LTA amp (I can't recall which iteration) and Benchmark DAC/pre, then, on a second visit, with the Don Sachs Valhalla.  I then, at someone's home, heard the X5s powered by an Atma-Sphere S-30 amp and MP-3 preamp.  While I was very impressed with my first listen of the X4/LTA/Benchmark setup, impressed enough to begin seriously considering revising my system, it was the second session, hearing the X4s driven by the Valhalla, that made my mind up and removed all doubt that what I was hearing was both better and different enough to warrant a wholesale (well, retail) revision of my system.  Hearing the X4s and X5s driven, respectively, by the Don Sachs and Atma-Sphere amps was, literally, life changing.  Not in the sense of making me a better person (too soon to tell; not for me to judge) or radically changing my world view, but in bringing about a fairly sweeping shift in my understanding of what hifi sound could be and causing me sell off this and barter that in order to accommodate my new understanding.  After ordering a pair of my own X5s, I had the chance to hear a well-broken-in pair of them with the Vahalla, again at Spatial Labs, and that session convinced me to go with that pairing.  I don't know that I could say with absolute confidence that the Valhalla is a better amp than the combination of S-30 and MP-3.  My final determination is the result of a very uncontrolled experiment, as I heard each combination at different times, with at least several days, and, in the case of the X5/Valhalla combo, several weeks, between sessions and in different rooms.  My no doubt unreliable aural memory tells me the presentation of the Vahalla was slightly (such cowardly adverbs themselves indicative of my uncertainty) more forward.  Not that the sound in any way lacked depth, but it seemed (more cowardice) to present itself more than did the S-30, which seemed (ugh) both darker and more laid back.  But these descriptors are wholly inadequate, possibly even deleterious, in that they imply, if forward, then shallow and bright and possibly fatiguing, if dark and laid back, then non-resolving and rounded off, none of which is the case.  So, take those descriptors as the inexact efforts that they are.  While I'm quite sure I could live happily with either setup, for those reasons, along with the craftsmanship of and parts used in it, and some other non-sound-related reasons, I decided to go with the Valhalla.  One thing I am confident of: to my ear, both the Don Sachs and the Atma-Sphere outshone the LTA.  One could object that the LTA was at a disadvantage being fed by the Benchmark.  To that, I have no answer, never having heard the LTA paired with anything else.   

Just to be clear, the LTA Clayton has at his showroom is the 10.  The 40 reference plus is a long way ahead of the 10.  I believe my combo of the 40 with the DS pre is a killer combo.  Having said that I'm probably going with a second system for another home and seeing what Don can whip up for me.  DS equipment and Spatials are a special match.

jnschneyer

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #18 on: 29 May 2022, 11:55 pm »
Just to be clear, the LTA Clayton has at his showroom is the 10.  The 40 reference plus is a long way ahead of the 10.  I believe my combo of the 40 with the DS pre is a killer combo.  Having said that I'm probably going with a second system for another home and seeing what Don can whip up for me.  DS equipment and Spatials are a special match.

Thanks for the clarification. I couldn’t remember which model LTA it was. What you say makes sense, particularly as I heard the LTA driving the X4s, which, being passive and a bit lower sensitivity, are tougher to drive, relatively speaking, than the X5s. I hope it’s clear I wasn’t trying to denigrate the LTA at all. Just relating my own experience of the different combinations I heard. 

Daryl Zero

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Re: Top Tube Amp pairing with X3's?
« Reply #19 on: 30 May 2022, 12:37 am »
So I received the LTA Z40+ integrated yesterday but I've been moving my son into a new place. I set it up last night and listened some and I'm listening now.

My initial impressions and thoughts. First, I'm going to need to keep listening a while before I make a final opinion.

The Rogers High Fidelity 65V-2 has EL34s and I briefly tried other tubes to just see what they were like and I quickly went back to the EL34s. Additionally, I almost always listened on triode mode but last week started listening in ultralinear mode and realized I actually really like that. I got a ifi Dac recommended by Tyson with the tube change and then it turned out we had exactly the same settings. I then added Silversmith Fidelium Speaker Cables and I thought everything sounded really great.

So my first impression is now that the Rogers is a really good amp now that I've heard it compared to an amp that cost retail almost twice as much but in reality about 3 times as much.

Second, the Z40+ comes with either EL34s or KT77s. This is used and came with KT77s. I can upgrade to EL34s for $800. But I'm not used to the KT77s and it seems to move the entire sound into a higher range without the thick sweet midrange. I'm not used to that and so I'm not going to comment on it until I've had time to adjust to it. I could easily just order the EL34s but I have an amp with those and I want some variety. At some point if I can find a relatively inexpensive nice SET amp with 300b tubes I'd like to hear how that sounds.

Third, I do notice that this amp is faster and the music sounds more coherent and there is a greater separation of instruments. As to whether I like it 3 times better than the Rogers, (I know, I know, diminishing returns) I am going to have to give it some time.

So, yes this is a very good amp. Is it knocking my socks off? Not yet but that's probably because I had a pretty good set up and it's going to take some time for me to adjust to it and hear different music at different volumes.