I am an electrical and mechanical engineer who's been in this hobby for 26 years now.  Our system is entirely dedicated to our love of music and we listen critically every day. Our 1500 CDs and SACDs, and countless digital files comprise just about every type of music you can think of.  We also use Tidal streaming extensively these days.  I believe that achieving highest quality sound is primarily dependent on setup execution, and not on component cost.

The Nanos are extremely efficient, making concerns about amplifier power irrelevant, and, most importantly, guarantees that nothing is ever lost in translation. Their resolution is so clear, so musical, and so right, that music entrances me for hours on end. Now that I've experienced their sound of life, I don’'t think I could ever go back to conventional speakers.

I own a wide variety of amplifiers because the Nanos allow each one’'s personality to shine through, and getting to know them in otherwise the same system (speaker/room/human) is great fun and highly instructive. It has given me the opportunity to expertly hone my hearing and to delight in a new sound experience every month or so when I change amps. There is no one best amplifier anyway; just like there isn’'t one best musician.

I find that high value is an elegant guide to attaining my desired result. I also feel that a huge amount of experimentation is needed to establish a true reference point.  Here is a list of past equipment I've had in my little music room that has led me to what I have today:

Lavardin IS Reference
BPT BP-1 Signature Plus
Devialet Expert 120
Aesthetix Calypso
MBL 1431 
Nordost El Dorado
Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck
Nottingham Ace Space tonearm
Dynavector Karat 19A mk2
Audio Research SP6-C1
Threshold S/150 mk2
Acoustic Research XA
Finale Audio 2A3M-FFX
McIntosh MX110Z
LTA Berning ZOTL10
McIntosh C48
Triode Labs 2A3 SET
Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE
Audio Research LS26
Kora Flash
Primare Systems A30.1 
Marantz PM6004
Kora Galaxy
Kora Eclipse B/C
Triode Labs 2A3S
Rogue Stereo 90 with 6550
Ayre C5xe mp
Finale Audio F168R 6BM8
Transcendent Mini Beast OTL
Pass Labs XA30.5
Conrad-Johnson Classic I
McIntosh MC452
BC Acoustique A3
Atoll IN-100
Wright Sound WLA12A
Tom Evans Linear A
Classe Delta CA-2200
Plinius SA-50 Mk3 
McIntosh C46
McIntosh MC122
Audio Aero Prima Mk2
Unison S2K
Cairn Fog v3
Kora Titan monoblocks
Cairn Fog v2
Ayre AX-7e
Kora Eclipse version A
Kora Galaxy Reference (x2)
Cairn KO2
Pass Labs Aleph 30
McIntosh C42
Kora Eclipse version C
Kora Eclipse version B
47 Labs Shigaraki 4717  
Focal JM Lab Electra 926
Reference 3A MM DeCapo i
MIT AVt 1 non-biwire
Monitor Audio RS1
Innersound i-Pre
Zu Birth
McIntosh MC202
KEF iQ10
van den Hul Orchid XLR
Rega Apollo
Sony SCD-C333ES
Cayin CD-50T
QED Silver Anniversary XT
Gutwire Basic 2
Van den Hul First Ultimate mk2
QED Qunex 1
Cary SLP-98
Triangle Antal ESw
Kimber Select KS1121
B&W Nautilus 804
MIT T2 biwires
Rogue Audio Magnum 99
Kimber Kable 8TC
Belles GR8 passive
Energy Connoisseur C8
Monitor Audio Silver RS6
MIT AVT2 biwire
Primare CD31
MIT Shotgun S3
Sony SCD-XA777ES
Pro-Ject RM 6 SB, Blue Point #2
McIntosh MC7100
Cambridge Audio 640C
Audio Research LS3b
Classe CP50 (x2)
Epos ELS3
California Audio Labs Icon MkII
Omega Loudspeakers TS1
Music Hall CD25
McIntosh C712 (x2)
Sony ST-550ES
McIntosh MA6500
Consonance CD2.2
Guerrilla Hyper
DH Labs Q10
McIntosh MC2125
Jolida 302b
Conrad Johnson PV10a
Marantz SA-8260
Odyssey Stratos
Arcam CD72
Sony SCD-CE595
McIntosh MC7200 (x2)
Classe DR10
Paradigm Reference 100.2
Elac 101
Triangle Comete ES
Classe CA200
Nordost Flatline Mk2
Nordost Solar Winds
Kimber KCAG
Atlas All Cu Navigator
van den Hul Orchid RCA
Bryston 4B
Adcom GFA-545 mk2
Jolida JD100
Yamaha TT-400U
Krell KSA100
Krell KAV250
Conrad Johnson MV55
Kora Explorer 90SI
Granite 657
Jolida 1701A
Totem Acoustic Hawks
3A Master Control
Kora Explorer 150SB
Myryad Z140
Klipsch Heresys
van den Hul The Second
van den Hul D352
van den Hul Mainsstream
NAD C740
Rotel RCD-1072
Signal Classic cables

Room Details

Dimensions: 33’ × 20’  X large
Ceiling: 8’

Components Toggle details

    • Avantgarde Uno Nano speakers
    German ultra-high-efficiency speaker with full dynamic range. The active-design approach and ideal sensitivity maximize dynamic headroom in the most natural and logical way possible. The result is music is never lost in translation. It's the most incredible sound I've ever heard from a speaker. So alive and so clear! They make most other speakers sound like "cones-in-a-box" by comparison. Having the lowest possible distortion allows the personalities of each amp to shine through like no other speakers in my experience. Avantgarde manufactures everything either in-house or locally for their speakers. This has become a rare thing these days, but it's critical when making top-level equipment since it allows them to fully optimize every component, as well as the sum total. And not only that - they offer impeccable customer service too. Their entire business model achieves the goal of combining precision engineering with a wholistic understanding of gestalt and purpose. The end result is priceless.
    • Velodyne DD-15 subwoofer
    Finally got a subwoofer. Ever since I'd left my little room at my old house, I'd noticed my bass wasn't as fleshed out or as deep since I now have insignificant room reinforcement. But the Nanos were good enough that I was able to overlook it until the right deal fell from the sky. And now it has. Bought a Velodyne Direct Digital 15" with a 1250W switching amplifier and man what a difference it has made! Everything is better, all the way up to the treble. It is a terrific addition. The Nanos have two "subwoofers" already but the speakers are designed to sound "of a piece" rather than "two horns with a sub." This is to preserve the speed needed to have a smooth midrange transition. So now the DD15 does the heavy lifting and its graphical interface for optimization of the sub is brilliant. My response is perfectly integrated, and it sounds like it.
    • Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe preamplifier
    TEAD's preamp, considered to be the world's best by a couple 6moons reviewers. All I can say is that after going through 16 preamps, the Vibe is the only solid-state piece I've fallen in love with. The TEAD Lithos regulators allow for huge bandwidth and huge dynamic range that yield equally superlative sound. It's an amazing design that only Tom Evans seems able to come up with in a simple and elegant way. Mega-detailed, mega-transparent, and mega-musical.  It's so good that it sounds completely different with each amplifier I hook up to it.  I've never had a preamp like this before.
    • Tom Evans Audio Design Pulse power supply
    Optional power supply for the TEAD Vibe preamp. One box houses Lithos regulators and capacitor banks while the other box houses a custom-made 70VA transformer that Tom and his team designed for this preamp. I've opened it up and was surprised to see so many parts in both boxes! Very very complex for what is badged as a "simple" power supply. It's no wonder it costs so much. I also think it looks much nicer than the new Pulse 2 supply.
    • Kora Electronics Crescendo tube preamplifier
    French-made, fully-balanced, single-gain-stage vacuum tube preamplifier. It was designed for use with Aries monoblocks, and what a wonderful combo they are, but this preamplifier is unbelievably good with all my amps, whether run balanced or single-ended (a rarity). The Vibe is killer solid state, but there is something very special about the sound of this preamp. It balances extreme clarity and resolution with a friendliness and sophistication that is unique in my experience. It's such a shame that so few people will ever get to know this design. This is the second one I've owned - I kicked myself for years for selling my first one, and I thank my lucky stars I found another!  Current tubes: pair of 1957 Raytheon black plate 12BH7
    • Kora Electronics Aries hybrid monoblocks
    Totally unique French design using a 12BH7 to feed 2 HEXFETs in single-ended parallel. On paper, it looks like it'd never work, but in fact these little amps sound magical. What is special about these amps is their wonderful coherence and the accuracy of their timing. They have an ease about them and yet the treble information is all there. Jazz suits them perfectly. I call it "Kora Coherence" because all the Koras exhibit this trait no matter how different the design - and Kora has made quite a range of designs, unlike 95% of hifi companies. They were true hifi artisans and these little monoblocks make that imminently clear. Current tubes: 1960 GE gray plate 12BH7A.
    • McIntosh MC152
    After a bad experience with the MC452, I decided to give McIntosh one last chance.  It is hard for me to get by without blue eyes after all these years, and I will forever remember the sound of my MC7200.  I came to the conclusion that the phase irregularities of the 452 might be due to the fact the circuit is optimized for a power level above what my speakers require.  After all, it's very hard to perfectly balance so many transistors, especially at low-power outputs.

    It turns out that reducing the transistor count by 75% does the trick!  The 152 is by far the finest solid-state amp I've had in my system.  It's incredible.  It's smooth and rich, yet fast and delicate.  It's really rare to find an amp that can combine such clear resolution with enveloping musicality, but this one does it better than any I've experienced so far.  The 7200 has been resurrected - and this time with autoformers!  I'm in love with this little amp.
    • Unison Research S2 SEP
    Italian single-ended pentode amp using EL34 tubes. I recently recapped the entire thing with upgraded capacitors, and optimized the operating point for even better performance.  It basically runs as a "mostly-triode" amplifier with lower plate current.  The sound has gotten even more musical, without hurting resolution whatsoever, and as a bonus my tubes will last much longer.  Downside is that now it only makes about 4W (instead of 10), but my speakers don't care.

    This amp loves to boogie!  Tons of fun to listen to and get this - it has the most potent bass of any of my amps!  It can shake the walls if the recording has enough extension. It often feels like my favorite amp since it is unfailingly musical with terrific detail and a deliciously smooth presentation.  It's similar to the F138FFX but with an even bigger soundstage and more nuanced image separation. I want to point out too that it has foil-wound output transformers - the cheap transformers in the new versions of this amp don't even come close to this level of quality.  Current tubes: Psvane 6CA7 TII, NOS Philips 6189W.
    • Rogue Audio Model 88 amplifier
    I recently stumbled upon this most incredible amplifier.  It is actually a Tempest integrated but I'm running it in "preamp bypass" mode so it acts like a regular amplifier (Stereo 88 version 4) since the preamp is passive.  It sounds phenomenal with my solid-state TEAD Vibe preamp (it doesn't really get along with the Crescendo for some reason).  

    It clearly sounds best in triode mode, 30 Wpc, and I'm currently using my preferred EH KT88 in it, and 8 Ohm taps.  My comments relate only to this arrangement.  The pentode mode lacks microdynamics, and the treble is crude in comparison.  It's a completely different amp in triode.

    Simply put, this is the only amp that truly rivals the 152.  Resolution is as good, though restitution is not, but then dynamics are surprisingly similar, and it makes everything sound so alive!  Not the finest in soundstaging, but everything else is superb.  One of the cheapest amps I've ever owned, and yet in terms of "hifi," it's nearly the best.  What a find!

    PS, I tried a Rogue Stereo 90 just to see, and even after I had optimized the circuit and run in a new set of tubes, it just didn't have the magic of the 88.  It runs the tubes too hard and everything falls on its face in the vain attempt of making it barely more powerful.  The 88 is way better.
    • McIntosh MC240 push-pull amp
    The classic 1961 MC240 needs no introduction. After 50 years of use, it naturally needed a complete overhaul so I spent two solid weeks rebuilding it to perfection by replacing all the capacitors, diodes, rectifiers and bias resistors with proper parts, and tweaking all the voltages to exactly match specification. It is no surprise this amplifier is a legend when you hear it play music. It's warm and relaxed with tremendous inner detail. Full tube sound at its finest. Current tubes: quad of TAD 6L6GC-STR, pair of GE gray 12BH7s, pair of clear-top RCA 12AU7s, trio of Electro-Harmonix 12AX7s
    • Finale Audio F138 FFX
    This amp uses one EL84 per channel in pentode mode with tube rectification, pure Class A. I have optimized its design for my speakers to get unbelievable performance gains over the stock design.  In this new configuration, it only puts out about 3W (instead of 6) but sounds like 500W - its bass can shake the walls!  It sounds the way I'd hoped my McIntosh MC452 would have sounded.

    I got a full suite of fancy Hashimoto magnetics because the heart of a tube amp is its transformers. It's so coherent, so rich, so detailed, so musical - it really has zero drawbacks now that I've modified it. Forget SET - SEP is where it's at.  It doesn't quite have the resolution of the Tempest/88 or 152, but it has wonderful musicality similar to the S2 that's augmented by the clean treble extension the EL84 is famous for.

    Currently using: 6P14P-EV, EH 12AX7, 1969 Mullard Blackburn GZ34 rectifier.
    • Electrocompaniet AW60 FTT
    Giving solid-state another try, this time a 60W amp from Norway. It is very revealing and exposes the different recording styles in a very clear way. The highs aren't quite as nuanced as my tube amps, but for solid-state, it has a very impressive soundstage and liquid midrange that isn't easy to find at any price. It's no wonder their flagship models are so revered - these designers really know what they are doing.
    • McIntosh MCD301 sacd player
    The CD player that has it all: body, dynamics, tone, subtlety, extension, potent bass, natural midrange and airy highs. It allows the performance of the music being played to come alive like no other sources I've heard, whether vinyl or CD based. It has psychedelic imaging and a walk-in soundstage that I still can't believe to this day.  I recently A/B tested it against an Ayre C5xemp and it was no contest.  I don't understand why the C5xe is so loved by reviewers because in my system it sounds constricted and small in comparison to my 301.
    • Audioengine D2 wireless DAC
    This is the way to stream music!! Great DAC, great signal strength, and way-better sound than the Airport Express. I cannot believe how good this thing sounds for only $600. There is nothing out there with this amount of simplicity and ease of use for the money. I feel this product is highly underrated based on its features/abilities and it's superlative sound. I feel lucky to have come across it!
    • DIY tube amp for iPhone/Macbook using 6N6P
    A lot of people feel the aural inadequacies of music files are because of inferior DACs. This, in fact, isn't the big problem. Even expensive DACs are actually cheap parts. The big problem is a weak power supply in the device that makes the sound anemic. Making high-current drive is big, bulky and expensive - 3 things that are not conducive to MP3 players. So I took advantage of knowing this to improve the sound of my Audioengine D2. I designed a tube output stage for it based on the rare (i.e., cheap) Russian 6N6P, as a cathode-follower buffer. This circuit makes it a transconductance amplifier which does nothing to the voltage (it's already sufficient) but boosts current drive a huge amount to correct this characteristic inadequacy. It took a good bit of tweaking to get the most of the design but the outcome is shocking. The amount of microdynamic detail and decay of the notes that was 'restored,' or whatever, is really amazing. Downloaded music files have gone from terrible to sublime. It's made a believer out of me and my friends (for whom I've had to build similar ones :).
    • Piega P-4L mkII ribbon speakers
    Fantastic Swiss speakers that have an aluminum cabinet. Effortless sound and shockingly powerful bass from such a small tower, which makes it perfect for TV room use. It's very hard to beat a ribbon tweeter when it comes to articulate highs. These little speakers revolutionized the TV watching experience. I've placed them near the back wall so the bass is just right - I've had people ask where the subwoofer is, but there isn't one!
    • Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC preamp
    Really slick design with analog input and fully-balanced circuitry to match the Cairn KO2. I use its built-in DAC for iTunes, Bluray, and DirectTV. Warm and inviting sound that is clear and composed. Hope to score a Cairn Nitro with DAC board eventually to replace it.
    • Cairn KO2 Class A/AB solid-state amp
    French-made fully-balanced solid-state amp that now drives the Piegas in the TV room. Super powerful, fantastic build quality, terrific soundstaging, a bargain on the used market, can be switched between Class A and AB (10W versus 100W), and has an "auto-on" feature that is super handy for the TV room.
    • I.C.E. Model 473-3 AC line filter
    CM and DM noise filter. None of the audiophile frills and hooplah - this is electrical engineering at its finest. It filters out a massive bandwidth and cannot restrict current flow. $4,000 performance for $80. Everyone should have one of these. I have one feeding each system.
    • MIT Z-strip with circuit breakers
    8 outlets with single-cap parallel filtering and circuit breaker protection. I really have this for the circuit breaker as the filtering is minimal compared to the ICE.
    • van den Hul, Blue Circle, and MIT power cords
    A variety, each with a job and purpose. I particularly love the BC power cords and want to get more of them.
    • van den Hul and Cardas interconnects
    AJ van den Hul and George Cardas are the cable wizards of the world, in my opinion. They truly understand what they are doing.
    • Cardas speaker cables
    It's really hard to beat George's cables, but eventually I want to get van den Hul speaker cables - if I can ever figure out which one to get!
    • DIY rubber eraser cable lifters
    Found these very-soft erasers at a craft store for $2 each. One thing is for sure about their performance - I can't feel the vibration on the cables with my hand anymore!
    • Dedicated power circuit with hospital outlets
    it makes a difference...
    • VTI BL503 and BL404 audio racks
    My audio racks, super nice for the money. They are the best deal going, hands down. I got the silver poles, silver caps and black shelves. Price is for both racks.

Comments 183

Thank you! I have always had a soft spot for McIntosh, from the very beginning. With the right speakers they are generally fantastic, and most importantly always enjoyable. After all, isn't that how it's supposed to be?

When I had my Focal 926s, I lusted after the MA6600. Today I have horns that prefer my vintage MC240, which is good because it sounds like the legend it is.

All the while I'm using my MCD301. It has the best combination of attributes I've heard to date. People get caught up buying the next bigger number, always wanting it but never exactly knowing why. The thing I've learned is that there is a price for everything, and it's rarely solely a monetary one. Increase resolution, lose texture. Increase speed, lose emotion. Nothing is perfect - the trick is to first know why, then how to best work with it.

Enjoy that 6600! It's a real beauty in every sense of the word.


System edited: Continuing the buying spree

Aball, I think you have a problem.....


Enjoyed seeming the pictures and reading your comments. Love the speakers and the McIntosh gear.


System edited: Continuing the buying spree - got a Finale Audio F-168R using the super-cool 6BM8 tube from the wonder workers at Triode Labs, replete with Audio Note transformers and Mundorf caps. Frank and his team are not only great designers, but great people too. This amp is all about perfect timing and timbre. Definition and detail are irrelevant when you hear this little amp make music. It recreates jazz and brass ensembles like no other amp I own. I played the saxophone for 6 years, and hearing that instrument through this amp brings tears to my eyes and floods of memories. It's been a revelation that only the Japanese seem to know about. I also bought another one of my old favorites that I always regretted having sold: The Kora Crescendo tube preamp. Its very-simple fully-balanced topology is designed to sing with the Aries monoblocks, and boy does it ever. I'm excited to cycle it through my other amps and see how it fares with them. It also sets the stage for the balanced BAT VK-55 I want to get at some point.


System edited: I bought my old Flash back and it was one of the best moves I've ever made. Way better than the 452 - it's not even close. This thing has unbelievable resolution. I've never heard anything like it. Ever. I also repaired the S2 and have it back up and running now with new JJ KT77 tubes. I used the old Shuguang Treasures too long and someone put the wrong fuses inside the amp so the cathode resistors fried. While I was at it, I replaced all the electrolytics with ultra-low ESR 5000+hr 105C types for a new lease on life. It's a very quiet amp, and I can say that Dr. Sacchetti did a beautiful job with the circuit design. It's no wonder this amp is on its fourth generation basically unchanged - it really is that great.


Hi Paul

You got very similar results as I did with my McIntosh MC452's meters. They have a very practical "hold" feature that slows the needle down so you can clearly see the peaks. The readings I got were generally 0.1W for 85dB, 1W for 90dB, and 4W for 95dB, aka the nightclub. Based on that I determined I don't really need more than a 4W amplifier.

I love Patricia Barber, especially the album Companion. You've inspired me to dig it out this weekend - I haven't heard it a long time.



Hi Arthur, I am certainly not surprised to read your comment:

I can't believe that this 4W amp can turn my 600 sqft room into a nightclub

To substantiate this I have done a little experiment in my room with my UNOS and my Accuphase A-65 power amp (whose meters are extremely accurate according to a respectable German magazine). I've played a random song (which happened to be Patricia Barber’s interpretation of “Light my Fire” from Modern Cool) and monitored the peak levels in my room (using a digital RadioShack SPL meter) vs. the power output of my amp. The loudest peak for the chosen volume setting was 85 dB which to me sounded extremely loud. The power output for the respective passage (as indicated by the amp meters) was 0.077 watts, i.e. less than a hundredth of a watt. (The settings of the SPL meter were: Fast response and C weighting; my room is 4.7 x 6.7 x 2.4 meters).


" measuring natural responses i.e. human ones" that effectively says all that really matters. I respect scientific method and its many obvious contributions but music and our interactions with it are intricate and complex. I have realized that the components and systems that are the most satisfying are those that communicate deep emotions and induce involvement. What ever their measurements or specifications might reasonably predict.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that your "4 watt amp" is serving you so well, it is the "natural and human" measurements that hold the key to musical bliss." I'm glad you found it.


Yeah they do put out a ton of heat. But I bet all that inefficiency is well spent. It's like my 2A3 amp - the engineer in me never would have guessed that 2.7% efficiency could have such high performance. It really makes it obvious that mathematical metrics used to describe electronics don't hold water when it comes to measuring natural responses, i.e., human ones.

But then again, I can't believe that this 4W amp can turn my 600 sqft room into a nightclub. So I suppose the speakers' efficiency does make up for it on some level. The upshot is that it's really all about compatibility, as any one in a relationship knows, and as you say. Why should we expect any different from another system based on electrical impulses? And yet audio reviewers spend their time proclaiming absolutes based on one single chance combination, when we all know that not all dates work out. Applying math to those sorts of situations doesn't work out either. Those dang blasted humans screw that up too. Ah, life, gotta love it!


I have thought about OTLs as well. I lusted after the Joule Rites of Passage but was afraid of the heat. I did try the 140W Atmaspheres. They did some things very well and I can understand why people like them. They were not the right match for my speakers at the time.


Thanks guys for the compliments. I’m very happy to finally be able to enjoy SET.

Andy - In addition to bandwidth, phase relationships are the most important secondary factor, and there are numerous types whose interactions are not well characterized. Without getting into geek talk about open loop and closed loop responses, just in the amplifier stage there can be 180 degrees of shift across the bandwidth of the amp, and that's before you even take cables, crossovers, driver magnets, speakers dispersion characteristics, room acoustics, and human hearing non-linearities into account, all of which can contribute significant amounts of shift in all sorts of directions.

But if all else is held constant and only the amp is changed, the overall impact is still difficult to predict. I remain a firm believer in headroom (I could write a treatise on headroom as it pertains to vacuum tubes, which is a whole other world compared to transistors and cannot be compared directly) but my current logic is that it's tough to make so many BJTs march to the beat of the drum, especially at low powers. I love BJTs, but they are tough to deal with compared to MOSFETs. The ThermalTraks are a big improvement, but I surmise only really at higher power. At low power, other factors dominate and these are the ones I was hearing. Ultimately it is not a criticism of the 452 as much as it is a speaker/amp incompatibility.

It wasn't apparent in my old room because this problem was masked by room reflections. But in the new space, it’s the next-biggest problem that surfaces…. I had the 452 hooked up for the first three months and never felt like the sound was quite right. I was determined the problem stemmed from speaker placement and room interactions, so I moved the speakers all over the place, played with room treatments and woofer settings, and at times I could get great sound, and at other times, it simply wasn't. Then I changed amps. My Kora Aries instantly made it clear the problem wasn't speaker placement - it was the 452. My big beauty became a big bummer. Ah well, it was a good learning experience.

I do want to test out an ultra-high bandwidth amplifier design and see how that goes. My Tom Evans preamp is already of this ilk, and Goldmund definitely springs to mind as a similar mate, so I’m seriously considering a Job 225. But for now, I’m hooked on low-power tubes and want to experience an OTL next. I think I’ll build a Transcendent Mini Beast as my first foray into OTL, though something with 6C33s will be next if the Beast pans out.


Arthur, we had conversations in the past about the issue of "headroom" in context of higher sensitivity speakers. You told me that the Mcintosh, despite being "overkill" for the Duos, was able to better recreate the explosive transients of live music. I did similar experiments when I owned the Emerald Physics CS2.7s which were 100 dB efficient. I preferred, at the time, high powered SS (TRL Samsons...300 watts) to low powered SS (First Watt) and SETs (Agape labs 8W). I wonder what specific parameters are in play other than simply speaker sensitivity, watts, listening distance. and SPLs produced.

The image no longer gelled and timing issues
crept up.

Regarding timing errors, I can reference some interesting verbiage that I just harvested on the Goldmund site:

"In order to eliminate time distortion— an unnatural delay of higher audio frequencies relative to lower ones— Goldmund amplifiers have a bandwidth of approximately 3 MHz, roughly 100 times that of a typical audio amplifier. Through a Goldmund amplifier, a 20 kHz tone is delayed only 100 ps relative to a 20 Hz tone. This is a performance no other audio amplifiers can match."

Dale Pitcher at ID has created high bandwidth SS designs as well which I owned (Coordinate Monoblocks), and it was the finest and most organic and correct SS I have owned. I would try to buy his older Essence SS amps used if I could but cannot find nor afford them.


Aball, congratulations on the new amplifier. It doesn't surprise me that you
are getting the excellent results you've described. You have the ideal
speakers that will take full advantage of what the SET amps have to offer
(which is very considerable). I think what you have done is a definite
improvement and you'll derive even more enjoyment and deeper musical
involvement. This isn't intended as knock on your Mac amplifier either. Just
that a high quality 2A3 SETwith the right speaker match is a very different
presentation from the previous amp. I bet your system sounds wonderful.

The big unexpected bonus with SET is as you've found, transparency, speed
and timing. The clichés/ stereotypes about SET amps would have you to
expect, slow, with redundant warmth and overt coloration, nope, this isn't
the case at all.
By the way Aball your new room looks beautiful!


I love the look of your new room... looks like a great place to spend quality time.


System edited: Well I decided to sell my big McIntosh, the one I wanted
for about 16 years. It was great in my old room, but in the new room,
resolution had increased to a point that was no longer suitable for an
amp with 32 transistors. The image no longer gelled and timing issues
crept up. It came as a big surprise, despite the fact I had it mated to
speakers it wasn't designed for. So now I've gone clear to the
opposite end of the spectrum - a puny lightweight, 4W SET amp, and
man does it ever rock! Now I know why SET amps have such a cult
following, and I also now fully understand why the 2A3 is considered
the clarity champ. Soundstaging is wonderful, timing is perfect, and the
sound is fast, transparent, warm and rich. I was expecting some sort of
deficiency somewhere, but haven't found any so far.


Two comments on the cat! Yes, that's Martin, or as I call him, Bubby. He loves music and sits on the Stressless Ekornes along with me. He too finds it to be an equally satisfying place to spend a good amount of time.... Maybe we're morphing into similar beings. Yikes! Perhaps we're there already.

We have two fur balls, love them to death. I think my stress level would go up 100% if we did not have them. They do stupid things that make me laugh, far more fun than the crap that passes for entertainment on TV.
Albert Porter! I remember you from my days of posting in the forum. Bubby actually has some pretty good attributes for acoustics. His panis is a good energy sink! Don't tell him I said so. He gets very upset when I make it flop back and forth as he walks by.
Kitties live in their own world and are convinced that humans are there to provide service. For some reason that makes me laugh, I can't get mad at them.
That's the beauty of these speakers: They never cease to amaze, and yet it's never at the expense of reproducing music. For me, that's the ideal balance I sought all along.

That's what's important, enjoying the set up and discovering what's necessary to make the music better. Sometimes I think we are in such a rush to find "breakthrough" technology we forget about the little things.

Thanks for posting a beautiful system.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Two comments on the cat! Yes, that's Martin, or as I call him, Bubby. He loves music and sits on the Stressless Ekornes along with me. He too finds it to be an equally satisfying place to spend a good amount of time.... Maybe we're morphing into similar beings. Yikes! Perhaps we're there already.

The great Albert Porter! I remember you from my days of posting in the forum. Bubby actually has some pretty good attributes for acoustics. His panis is a good energy sink! Don't tell him I said so. He gets very upset when I make it flop back and forth as he walks by.

He is indoor/outdoor so he never claws anything in the house. Thank goodness too because most of my furniture was purchased to endure a lifetime. He has however slept on my MC7200 because it had a smooth finely-perforated cover and ran at just the right temperature to be his ideal napping spot, but luckily none of the other amps have suited His Highness well enough.

I used to sit 3 meters from the speakers in my old room and I can tell you that 4 meters is ideal. AG likes to say 3 because it covers a broader range of potential owners, especially outside the US, but in reality physics dictate a bit more distance. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them in the old small room - soundstaging was truly immersive with tubes - but in the new room, resolution has increased dramatically, and everything else along with it. I didn't know they could sound this good! That's the beauty of these speakers: They never cease to amaze, and yet it's never at the expense of reproducing music. For me, that's the ideal balance I sought all along.


Hi Arthur, sorry for the late replay. Driver separation is/was a bit of concern for me too. (I did some careful measurements, even took out one of the tweeters to see how far inside the cabinet is situated, and it turned our that my ears should be at 2.3 meters above the ground in order to be equally distant from the tweeter and midrange driver. :) ). In spite of this, the speakers image holographically and have a very wide and deep sound stage.

I am currently thinking to move my system in our living room so I can listen to it all day, but also because I am curios to hear how they will sound when sitting at 3.5 - 4 meters away from the speakers (now I sit at roughly 3 meters away from them). However, I did not find yet a good solution for dealing with our cat (which is in fact mostly my cat). She will have no mercy for the speakers grills and/or woofers, plus I am rather sure she might also find the class A power amp I have as the ideal place for sleeping.


It's like circuit designers who build amplifiers that end up having a certain degree of their own personality built into the sound. How does that happen?? The million Dollar question

I have had that same thought. Like looking like your spouse after so many years of being married. Spooky.

You and I tend to prefer the path less traveled...

and the pain that often comes with it!

They remind me of the Goldmunds and, for a tiny fraction of the price, encompass most of their design concept. If Dale's purported personality comes through in his design, you're in for a treat.

Yes indeed. They are VERY similar. I had forgotten about Goldmund. There is something to time alignment and serious mechanical grounding that transforms a speaker. Dale has been at it for over 30 years as well.


Hey I just noticed that furry addition to your system,
audiophile kitty

I know he helps your psyche but what about acoustics? :^).

Seriously, very beautiful system, your hard work shows and I'm sure sounds equally wonderful.

Ag insider logo xs@2xalbertporter

Wonderful looking new room...and StressLess couch and better sound !!! Congratulations !


Ah yes! Viva. Those Italians do have a certain flair, don't they? It seems to permeate everything they do. It's like circuit designers who build amplifiers that end up having a certain degree of their own personality built into the sound. How does that happen?? The million Dollar question.... Roy Gregory (one of my idols) says that speakers by and large sound the way they look. I find that interesting too.

I haven't tried one but a buddy of mine loved his Solista. It's been on the list ever since then. I do however have a Unison Research S2 (same as the Simply 2, which has now been resurrected 3 times). It currently has a toasted cathode bias resistor so I can't use it until I free up time to repair it, but it sounds glorious with the right tubes. It has a propensity for throwing care to the wind, and having a great time doing it! Some would say that isn't accurate, but then again they can't ever convince me that their reference should be any better.

You and I tend to prefer the path less traveled, and Delta Summits fit that bill. They remind me of the Goldmunds and, for a tiny fraction of the price, encompass most of their design concept. If Dale's purported personality comes through in his design, you're in for a treat, indeed.


Debussy said that "music is the space between the notes."

Beautifully poetic. Another way to say that is "music is the space between your ears where the notes go...."

It's like those people who have to
do something because they don't know what else to do. Eventually all that
fidgeting gets annoying.

and Audiogon is their parallel universe....

In all seriousness and in the spirit of which you speak (I agree with your sentiments 100%), I recently purchased a Viva Solista integrated 22W SET amp from Italy. Its an experiment I wanted to try since my next speakers from Intuitive Design are going to be 8 Ohm and 93dB efficient. One of the main flag waivers for this amp is a Danish dude who also owns your speakers. Its a great little amp with dynamics, bass and yet with a subtle SET sweetness


I often hear that Avantgardes require your head to be "locked in a
vise" for imaging to be right. I want to address this notion now that
I've lived with AGs for years, and have tried a large variety of amplifiers
during that time. My conclusion is that it's, in fact, not really the case.

Having 104dB sensitivity changes things. A lot. Changes in volume are
clearly audible; much moreso than with a normal-sensitivity speaker. Tiny
inflections come out of the background, instead of being the background.
It's all about resolution at the end of the day, and this means that any
difference in sound is clear, in both the time and frequency domains.

The issue is that most recordings do not have a central image. Recording
engineers don't really pay that much attention to it. They're too busy
twisting knobs, adjusting mic's, and pushing slides to realize they're slightly
off balance. When I was a kid, I got interested in making quality recordings
on magnetic tape. It always came as a shock to me how many recordings
were off balance. And some were off a lot! The meters clearly told me so.
Sometimes right, but most often the left channel was the hotter one.

Fast forward to the Nanos. It's as if I was a kid again, except it isn't
presicion VU meters telling me, it's my stereo. Is that a bad thing? I don't
think so - I see it as information, truth, and reality, in equal measure. The
goal after all is to enjoy the music, and I don't find that this information
detracts from the fun -- particularly if you use the right amp.

Debussy said that "music is the space between the notes." The
corollary to this is that not all amplifiers make music. Some are more
interested in making a frenetic stream of sounds. If that's the case, then
there's precious little to listen to other than channel imbalance, treble, bass,
etc.; essentially all the mechanical stuff. It's like those people who have to
do something because they don't know what else to do. Eventually all that
fidgeting gets annoying. You find yourself longing for composed and
thoughtful responses, with natural control, like the ones good tube amps
can offer. When that happens, a shifted central image is no more
concerning than seeing someone off center in your field of vision. It's simply
part of reality. Once that's clear, all that's left to do is listen to the music,
and contemplate its spaces.




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