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.